Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

What are the MUST do's along NM, AZ, UT, CO trek.

What are the MUST do's along NM, AZ, UT, CO trek.

Feb 5th, 2006, 08:25 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 129
What are the MUST do's along NM, AZ, UT, CO trek.

Family of 4 - two boys ages 11 & 12. We have 2 full weeks. Current plan is to fly into Albuquerque, hit Petroglyph then onto Painted Desert/Petrified Forest with a stop at Meteor Crater. Then onto the Grand Canyon to let the boys get a feel for it - they will be returning with their Dad to hike it in a year or two.
We will make a quick stop at Four Corners before heading up to Canyonlands & Arches. Then it's on to Mesa Verde and the Great Sand Dunes before heading back to Albuquerque. Depending on how much time we have, we will spend some time in Southern Colorado.
We understand this is a lot of driving. Haven't worked out the exact details of our itinerary yet, so any suggestions would be appreciated.
mom2boys is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 11:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,189
You already have most of the big spots listed. Milewise, I don't think it's to much for a 2 week time frame, but you do have a lot of great areas to cover! I would plan at least 2 full days in Moab and 1 full days in Mesa Verde. Both areas could use a extra day if you can swing it.

On the way to Flagstaff you might also stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument if you want to see different cliff dwellings.

Also it's a little farther, but I'd suggest driving north from Flagstaff on Hwy 89 and then take the Hwy 395 loop to Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument. These ruins are out in the open compared to the most that are cliff dwellings.

Four corners area? Are you talking about the 4 corners monument? If so, it's really not that much, but it makes a great geography lesson for boys at this age.

Monument Valley is near by and well worth the 20 mile drive up from Kayenta, AZ if this isn't in your route.

There are three sections of Canyonlands, and the Needles section is near Monticello, Utah.

While in the Mesa Verde area you might consider driving the Million Dollar Highway (Hwy 550) from Durango to Ouray. This is a beautiful mountain drive. Durango is big on trains if your boys are interested in railroads.


utahtea is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 11:36 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 114
creede, colorado is a beautiful little town. the river rafting is mild enough that someone took their 2-year old, but the scenery makes up for the lack of excitement. great fishing too.
if you're there on the 4th they have a pretty good parade for a town of 300-500 too.
P_Texas is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 02:16 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 895
The last I heard, the NPS wasn't letting visitors actually enter the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. That was around the time of the fire - is this still the case?

If so, I would suggest that you consider Bandalier National Monument - between Santa Fe & Taos - as an alternative. You are allowed to climb into the dwellings which is more fun for the kids. The National Park Service website might be able to give you the information you need: www.nps.gov

The NPS annual pass might be a real money saver for you - I believe the entrance fee to the Grand Canyon is $20 by itself.

You might enjoy the seeing Zapata Falls when you are at the Sand Dunes. They're pretty impressive and it's a nice hike - not too hard, my kids have done it when they were younger than yours and we're not really athletes. Zapata Falls is located 4 miles east of Colorado Highway 150, just south of the entrance to Great Sand Dunes National Park. The gravel road going in is excellent for a BLM site. From the parking area it is about a 1/2 mile walk uphill to the falls. As you are well above the San Luis Valley floor and looking over the sand dunes, the views are excellent. The entrance to the falls is not as well marked as it could be but you shouldn't have any real trouble.

ajcolorado is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 02:25 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 153
I would skip 4 Corners..pretty boring. I have not heard about Mesa Verde being closed. My kids loved Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. You dont mention when you plan on going?
travelina is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 03:37 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 895
I'm sorry - I didn't mean to imply that Mesa Verde is closed. It is my understanding - which might very well be wrong - that you are not allowed to climb around the cliff dwellings - you view them from a path. That could be inaccurate though.
ajcolorado is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 04:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 895
I checked the NPS website and it looks like I was confused. There are some cliff dwellings that are accessible only by taking a ranger led tour. But there are other areas that are self-guided.
ajcolorado is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 04:22 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 895
Do you know about the National Park Service Junior Ranger program? You can generally ask for a Junior Ranger booklet where ever you pay to get into a National Park or Monument. The kids answer questions or do activities and then turn in the booklet to receive a "Junior Ranger" badge. It's a plastic badge - not too exciting in and of itself. But the ranger booklets give the kids some age appropriate direction for viewing the exhibits and it often lets you know about things you might not have seen otherwise.

ajcolorado is offline  
Feb 9th, 2006, 03:22 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,940
If you find yourself in Durango, which is where we stayed when we visited Mesa Verde, there's a really neat melodrama in the summer months that your boys would enjoy. The old train up to Silverton is wonderful, too. In the interest of time, you might want to take the train either up or down and take the bus the other way.

Here are links to both:

jayne1973 is offline  
Feb 9th, 2006, 03:52 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 620
Canyonlands is divided into three districts: The Maze, The Needles, and Island in the Sky. Forget about The Maze - it is difficult to get to and I believe you need 4WD to get into it. The Needles district is for hiking. You are right down in the canyons. Some nice scenic trails that can get long and hot in the summer. The Island in the Sky is basically a drive-up-to-the-overlooks area that gives you some great views of the Canyonlands area from a plateau well above the canyons.

In Mesa Verde, do take a ranger led hike into the ruins first if one is offered, then explore the other self-guided hikes into the ruins. The ranger led hikes will give you a better understanding of what you are seeing. My daughter loved the Junior Ranger Program in Canyonlands and Mesa Verde when she was your children's age.

Durango is a nice town. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Guage Railway offers a great round trip railroad ride through the Animas River Valley. Round trip can be expensive though.

On your way between Durango and Great Sand Dunes, I would suggest staying one night in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs pools.
furledleader is offline  
Feb 9th, 2006, 08:04 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 182
Petroglyph and Painted Desert/Petrified Forest are drive through visits. Not the best visits but part of the SW experience. Need to decide on either the North or South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Look at a map when you plan your driving and see which is closer to your route. Four Corners is a brief stop and photos of kids with hands & feet in 4 different States. That and Indian 'stuff' being sold. Island-In- The-Sky district of Canyonlands is the easiest access. Stop at Dead Horse State Park on the way out. Great views! There is a nice, easy hike at the end of the drive and gives a fantastic view of the Canyons and Island-In-The-Sky at the end. Don't miss Arches Nat'l Park! The hike up to Delicate Arch is a 'Don't Miss'. In Mesa Verde, get tickets at the Visitor's Center for tours of Balcony House in the Morning and Cliff Palace in the afternoon, if possible. If very busy, they may limit you to tickets to only one of the tours. When passing through Durango, see if you are in time to see some of the steam trains departing (AM) or returning (PM). They are great! Great Sand Dunes is a sight to see. You can wade across the shallow stream and then hike up the dunes. Since the base is at about 7,800 feet and the largest dunes are around 800 feet, it can be quite a challenge. Wear good hiking shoes and dump the sand out frequently. Barefoot can result in very hot feet and blisters. If you have some cardboard boxes for the kids, they can open them up and slide down the dunes. Wind & blowing sand can get in every opening so look for long showers later. Your 2 week trip sounds great but is just the beginning. Once you come out, you'll be back again & again. PS: Everyting in the SW is uphill (or so it seems).
LarryT is offline  
Feb 9th, 2006, 08:17 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,480
Actually, you can't drive through the Petroglyph National Monument. There are a few hiking trails, but LarryT is right that it won't take a lot of your time.

Your boys might enjoy the natural history museum and Explora!, both of which are across the street from Old Town in Albuquerque.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 9th, 2006, 10:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,189
Please make sure you get out and do a couple of the hikes at Petrified Forest to see some of the beautiful petified wood.

utahtea is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 04:07 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 551
Driving from Alburqueue to the Grand Canyon, you can route yourself so you also visit Canyon de Chelly. Canyon de Chelly is a very large canyon with many Anasazi ruins. It is well worth a full day visit. Navajo guides provide tours around the ruins.

This is part of an itinerary for a trip I took a few years ago:

Day 1, from Albuqueque: visit to Acoma Pueblo (a detour while driving west to Canyon de Chelly). The Acomo Pueblo was a very worthwhile visit. This was followed by a long drive to Canyon de Chelly. Overnight in the local town of Chinle.

Day 2: Canyon de Chelly: spent the entire day on a guided tour of the ruins. Canyon de Chelly is huge.

* Day 3: drive to Monument Valley

From Monument Valley you can choose to drive east to reach the Grand Canyon, or drive west into Colorado.
JoyceL is offline  
Feb 10th, 2006, 04:12 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 551
Correction: From Monument Valley you would be driving WEST to reach the Grand Canyon, and EAST to reach Colorado.

There is so much to see in this part of the USA. Unless you have a lot of time available, you may want to save the Grand Canyon for a different trip, one where you're flying into a different airport, e.g. Las Vegas. Visiting the Grand Canyon does not really fit into your Albuquerque-Albuquerque drive, considering that you also want to visit Mesa Verde and other parts of southern Colorado.
JoyceL 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 12:44 AM.