Utah-Arizona-Colorado Trip

Dec 8th, 2004, 10:31 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 9
Utah-Arizona-Colorado Trip

Looking for suggestions, ideas, places to see, things to do...for a trip next summer in late July in the great states of Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. We will be traveling cross country from the Michigan for the fourth time (I know we're crazy, but boy do we have fun).

We will be visiting friends in Flagstaff, Arizona. This is our second trip to this area. The first trip we drove down I-44 to I-40 and across to Flagstaff. We went to Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and the Grand Canyon. After a nice visit we continued on to Hoover Dam (took the tour just weeks before 9/11/01) and up to Las Vegas.

We spent a few days in Vegas and headed up I-15 and over to Zion. We were going to take I-15 up to I-70, but then we talked to a couple of people who just came from Bryce. Sounded like another spectacular park. So we drove over to Bryce to spend a day. From there we drove one of the most beautiful roads I've been on (and I've been on alot of America's scenic by-ways) the incredible highway 12. We drove 12 up to Torrey and took 24 up to I-70. We were nearly out of time and still had to make it back to Michigan, so we were not able to dip down off I-70 to Arches or Canyonlands (hopefully this trip).

Once on I-70 we headed east stopping at Mount Evans (14,200 feet high!) and spent a day going thru Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park and Estes Park. From there we headed home.

This past trip is just an overview of where we went. We spent a good amount of time at some of the parks and others just a few hours. Hopefully your suggestions can be of places we haven't been. We drive a Durango SUV (gas mileage stinks) but it has proven its worth. We haul a tent and do some camping with hotels along the way. We are not afraid to drive alot of miles between stops as we have set up our vehicle quite nicely with cargo carrier on the outside rear and roof. The inside is equipped with TV, VCR, DVD, playstation for the kids (and occasionally me). This enables us to travel huge distances thru the night hours to get "out west" in a good days drive. Once we reach the Rockies we slow it down to enjoy the trip.

My wife and me are fit and our three children are teens to late grade school age. We all love the outdoors and hiking. One of my daughters owns a horse so we love riding in the parks. Now that you know a little of our background, hopefully you have some great ideas I haven't found on the internet or other sources yet. The best source is you, the fellow travelers! I love the saying "See America, First". And that's what we love to do. So here we go again, a cross country family trip (Chevy Chase would be proud).

Our preliminary route this time is as follows: I-94 out of Michigan to I-80 to I-76 to Denver. Westward across Colorado to Utah (any places to stop not too far off I-70 in Colorado?). Just inside Utah take highway 128 down to Moab. We will make a base in or near Moab for a few days. This time we want to see Arches, Canyonlands and Deadhorse Point. Any suggestions on camping locations (we are not afraid of rustic as long as we can get our SUV in and out OK)? Also, I know this area is loaded with 4X4 trails. Are there any recommendations for trails our Durango could EASILY handle with no real danger of vehicle damage (We need to eventially get home)? I've heard there are some in Canyonlands. Also, we may want to white-water raft.

From here, our plan is to go back up to I-70 and west to I-15 and south to Las Vegas for a few days there, again. Any suggestions on more family oriented resorts? Utahtea, I know what you're thinking...go south toward Blanding out of Moab. Don't worry, read on. Remember we need a route back too! I have been told highway 89 off I-70 is really scenic. Is that so?

From Vegas we plan to head down and over to Flagstaff via a stop in Oatman, Arizona (read about it somewhere) and may take route 66 thru Seligman on our way to Flagstaff. We will visit our friends in Flag for a few days taking a day trip up to the Canyon.

From here we start our return trip via some more great places to stop. Our plan is to head north out of Flagstaff on 89 to 160 to 163 to Monument Valley. From there to 261 to 95 to 191 back south to 163. From here down to the four corners and up over to Cortez. A visit at Mesa Verde then over to Durango. If time permits, a ride on the railroad to Silverton (read about it somewhere) or continue east on 160 thru Pagosa Springs and Alamosa. Any suggestions on stuff to see and do along the way? Once we hit I-25 we will zig and zag northeast until we eventually hit I-70, then eastward back toward Michigan.

This trip may sound like much, but we have alot of fun along the way and don't try to do "everything" at every location. As we said ealier will be staying at friends in Flagstaff to break-up the driving. Some of the long stretches will be done thru the night as we now have three drivers. We have about 18 to 20 days for this big loop. We usually don't make reservations as we never really know where we will be and exactly when. That's half the fun of it, and we can always camp. Any and all ideas are welcome. I know utahtea and others are experts is this area, and can't wait for the replies. Thanks.
overtheroad is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 11:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,739
Hey overtheroad, welcome! You've come to the right place! And if you're 'crazy' you're in great company here; you sound ALOT like our family (altho we never camp) (We've taken 8 similar trips and are now planning our ninth trip for next summer). This forum is full of people who love long cross country road trips!

I would suggest doing a search here under 'trip report' where you'll find several of our trip reports plus those from many others who are regulars here. You'll be amazed how much you'll find of things to see and do.

There are tons of things i could suggest and don't really know where to start first....actually first, since you'll be so close, have you considered parts of California? Since you don't mind driving IMO i would cut your days in vegas to just one night as there are many cool things to explore in SoCa without venturing into LA. (altho wallyworld is also fairly close!)
Death Valley Nat'l Park and Joshua Tree Nat'l Park are just two options, and ARE doable in the summer, Palm Springs is a great break from the Nat'l Parks and you can stay in the best 5* resorts for a song.

Also, IMO you should call NOW and try to get ressies at Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley. It may be too late but it is a must do; seeing the sunset and sunrise from your balcony is stunning.

Lots to do off I 70, if just for a lunch / facilities break. Truman Museum and Presidential Library in Independence, KS, Glenwood Springs, CO - HUGE natural springs pool and historic Hotel Colorado. Near Flagstaff is Montezuma Castle Nat'l Mt. and Wlanut Canyon Nat'l Mt. -- you can do both in a morning.... ooo soo much to see out west!!!!

Most NP's have trail riding available - check in the visitor's centers. If you don't already have them, the National Park Passports are great for kids (and adults) where you get a stamp from each park and monument visited. You'll find they fill up fast and are a great reminder/memory of wonderful times shared as a family. Our kids have collected a ton of stuff from out west over the years and yet their passports are their favorite 'souvenirs'.

Here's the link to one of our trip reports that may help you


And i'm sure you'll get lots of great info from many people here! Enjoy the planning -- half the fun, don't you think?!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Dec 8th, 2004, 02:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,850
You'll get lots of suggestions about places to stop and things to do so I'll only make a suggestion about your route.

Instead of heading back up to I-70 from Canyonlands, I'd head west on U-24 to Torrey and drive U-12 again. It will be a little shorter in mileage than going back to I-70 (but will probably take a bit longer). I have driven U-12 dozens of times and it is always fresh and spectacular.

I'd follow it all the way to US-89, then head south and take either U-14 across Cedar Mtn to I-15 or continue south on US-89 and head west on U-9 through Zion Canyon.

Have a great trip.
dwooddon is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 08:34 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 9
Thanks for the suggestions. Love the screen name "ellen griswold", what a classic!

A few more questions: How about the Meteor Crater east of Flagstaff? Worth it? Cost? And I've heard alot about Sedona to the south.

Also, on our return route in southern Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes are just off of 160. Any comments? I read somewhere there is a nice half mile hike to a nearby waterfall along the road, highway 150 I believe. Anybody know of this place?

To dwooddon: Out of Moab you suggested instead of heading back up to I-70, to go across on 24 to the scenic 12. My atlas doesn't show a road "across" to 24. Is there a decent back road? Or are you just saying to get on 24 off I-70 at exit 147, and head south to Hanksville and then onto 12?

One other thing. An optional time saver would be to skip the part going from Moab to the west and around to Las Vegas (been there, done that). Instead, we could head south out of Moab toward Blanding and end up in Flagstaff that way. Any suggestions or comments?

overtheroad is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 08:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 216
Some of those places are going to be really HOT in July. If you're camping, there's not much relief from the heat, especially since shade can be difficult to find unless you're in the mountains.
drsawyers is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 83
I echo the Hot sentiments. In late July in Moab (I'm in Grand Junction 100 miles east of Moab) It will most likely be very hot. Like high nineties to over 100. June, July, or August would not be the time I would pick to go to Canyonlands. But if you got to go just be prepared and get up early to do your hiking.


BeanMan is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 04:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,739
Yes, it will be hot. But certainly can be done. Many families do it as summer is the best time to travel with kids. As others said, hike early, carry lots of water and remember how humid it likely is in the upper midwest!

A stop at the Great Sand Dunes NP is also worth it. Our kids thought it was way cool. Allow a couple hours and keep an eye on each other; its easy to get lost behind the tunes. They all look alike!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Dec 15th, 2004, 04:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,739
Ummm, that would be DUNES, not tunes! Altho you may hear pple whistling....
ellen_griswold is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 09:12 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,245
Overtheroad - If you are still looking for ideas, I ditto stopping in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at least for a swim at the pool.
BetsyG is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 10:43 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 332
For your return trip, you will enjoy more spectacular scenery if you go north from Durango to Silverton/Ouray on 550 "Million Dollar Highway" with a stop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison, then North to Buena Vista/Leadville and hop back onto I-70. I wouldn't skip all the 14ers and beautiful views just to go to Great Sand Dunes. They're neat, but not worth missing everything else you would miss if you go the other way, imho.

You will need at least one day for Mesa Verde (preferably two, since you can only do one tour per day). I would recommend getting there mid-day if possible, a tour that night, spend the night at Far View Lodge inside the park, and another tour that morning. Preivous posters are right, it will be H-O-T, so drink lots of bottled water.

Also, if you do the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge RR, plan a full day. It is about 4-5 hrs one way. You can ride the train both ways, or you can do only one way with a bus ride on the other leg (about an hour-hour 1/2). The scenery is absolutely spectacular - pristine and untouched. Be sure you are on an open car for the max effect, but take a hat, sunglasses and a jacket (significant gain in elevation) - and lots of sunscreen.
beckers2482 is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 08:13 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 9
Thanks for everyone's input. Another question: After Black Canyon of the Gunnison, what do you think of heading east on 50 to Royal Gorge? Then, possibly going north on "Phantom Canyon Rd." to Cripple Creek. I read there is a narrow guage railroad in Cripple Creek. If we skipped the Durango-Silverton train ride how is the Cripple Creek train ride?

How is the Phantom Canyon road?

Also, a few years back on another cross country venture, we drove up to the top of Mount Evans. Holly heights Batman! I read so much about Pike's Peak and it looks like it's very close to Cripple Creek. Any suggestions or input?

Thanks again.
overtheroad is offline  
Apr 12th, 2005, 10:45 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 332
Royal Gorge will be disappointing after Black Canyon - RG is really theme-park-ish.
beckers2482 is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:25 PM.