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Old 06-28-2010, 10:08 AM
Location: Ohio
51 posts, read 93,641 times
Reputation: 32


Hello everyone. My wife and I are planning a vacation for next summer. What we want to do is fly into Denver, rent a car, and proceed to drive this route over the course of 2 weeks:

We are into adventure sports: hiking/backpacking, kayaking/canoeing, primitive camping, etc., so those are the kinds of activities we will be looking for. For lodging, the plan will be an improvised mix of camping and cheap hotels (no reservations except for those occasions when we will be at a place where it is necessary). I am posting a thread on each City-Data forum for the five states we are hitting in the hopes that locals or those who have previously vacationed in these areas might be able to point out places not to be missed, whether it be attractions, restaurants, camping areas, etc.

A little clarification on the route: we are wanting to stay off the interstates as much as possible. It has been my experience that a vacation doesn’t really start until you get off the beaten path. The specific stops on the map are not so much stops as they are locations to keep us on our desired route.

A few places we definitely want to hit:

-Grand Canyon
-A night around Area 51 (no, I don’t believe in aliens and all that but I’ve always wanted to camp a night out there)
-Rocky Mountain National Park (we visited there this summer so will be looking for more obscure things to do this time around)

Aside from that, nothing set in stone…just whatever is on our route and interesting.

As far as timeframe, we can go at pretty much anytime once my wife is done teaching for the year. Any recommendations as to when? We didn’t find Rocky Mountain to be very crowded in early June, which was a nice surprise. Is early June the best time for all of these locations, weather-wise and avoiding-the-crowds-wise (speaking in a relative sense, realizing that summer will have crowds no matter what)?

Any and all thoughts welcomed and appreciated. Thanks!

(Link to the map if you want to take a closer look)
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Old 06-28-2010, 01:33 PM
Location: Northern California
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Check out Great Basin National Park (between E and F on your map) and visit the Lehman caves.

Great Basin National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:21 PM
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My recommendations would be:

Ruby Lake NWR, Fish and Wildlife Service

Western Folklife Center - Home

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest - Recreational Activities - Scenic Byways: Lamoille Canyon
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Old 06-29-2010, 03:21 AM
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
12,686 posts, read 31,817,523 times
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I would say that's pretty ambitious for only two weeks, especially if you plan some hikes, biking, etc. It has taken my wife and me half a lifetime to see all those things, and we've lived right here in the heart of it all; Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Reno. First of all you will have to drive a lot of it on Interstates just to get where you plan to go. Secondly, I'd forget about Area 51. It would be a big waste of your vacation time. There is nothing there. Besides camping in the desert in the summer is just about the most miserable thing you could do. Buy the DVD.

You can look all these up on Google, so I'll just name them.

As far as Colorado, some hot spots to see headed south: Pike's Peak outside of the Springs (and a visit to the U.S.A.F. Academy is always nice); Crested Butte (or as we call it, crusted butt) for the purdiest mt. biking on the planet; Durango ─ take the old train up the mountain from Durango to Silverton, you might be able to bike back down; and the most important part of the Colorado leg to me would be Mesa Verde National Park. Nice RV park in Cortez, and I think you can camp there.

New Mexico: First and foremost, every American should visit Santa Fe, the oldest town in the country (unless you believe those dam Floridians). Try to make it for one of the art markets, or some big event on the plaza, usually on weekends. Before you got to Santa Fe you may have stopped in Cimarrone, where the famous Philmont Boy Scout Camp is located. There were a lot of wild west shoot outs in Cimarrone. There's an old hotel where some of the rooms are occupied by ghosts, and the ceiling in the bar is full of bullet holes from drunken cowboys shootin their far arns in the air. Another must in NM, is Taos, and the Taos Indian Pueblo, where folks have lived continuously for 800 or 900 years. Talk about the oldest town in America. Still carrying water from the creek that runs through the town and hauling it up ladders to the many levels of rooms. They have no modern conveniences unless you count Coleman stoves and lanterns.

Albuquerque has a lot to offer too. Old Town, the museums, the zoo, the longest tram ride in the world, etc., etc. Also, Santa Fe and Albuquerque have the best restaurants this side of Noo Yawk City. On the way to Arizona, a side trip to Chaco Canyon is well worth the 13 miles of dirt road. Here's a Park Service warning from the NPS website. Warning: Some of the local roads recommended by map publishers and services using GPS devised to access Chaco are unsafe for passenger cars. Please use our written directions below to avoid getting lost or stuck.
Another side trip is El Morro Nat'l Money-mint. It'll give you chills when you see it and think about what it means. El Morro National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)

Arizona: The Painted Desert. Teddy Roosevelt said that every American should see the Grand Canyon, and that is still true. It's a shame that most of the visitors there are foreigners. Spend more than one day there if you can. There are many great hikes, but you can't go to the bottom without a reservation, and those usually have to be made a year in advance. Well, you can, but if they end up having to come get you it will be an expensive helicopter ride out. Stay near the rim for your first trip.

Nevada: Hoover Dam will be the first thing you see when you cross the state line. Then Las Vegas. You know what to do here. Great Basin is a really nice, and really under-visited park. If you like to challenge yourself, do the Wheeler Peak hike. I kind of doubt you'll be up that way though, if you're going to SLC.

Utah: Change your route to take I-15 north to Utah. It's much better than the route you have mapped out. You'll drive through the Virgin River Gorge with white knuckles. Then you'll want to have breakfast or lunch at the Bear Paw Café in St. George. You might even enjoy the tour of Bring'em Young's winter home. DO NOT miss Zion National Park, about 30-45 minutes from St. George. It's probably the third best park in the country after Yellowstone and Yosemite. Just not as big ...but it's big enough. If you insist on going all the way up to SLC, I wouldn't blame you, but I think you'll be short on time by now, if you actually have any left. So I'd take the road through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, pick up U.S. 89 north and go through Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park staying on Rt 12 all the way through Capital Reef Nat'l Park, and keep going until you get to I-70 and Green River, UT. First, you would have passed through Hanksville, where many of the local population are descendants of Butch Cassidy's Hole in The Wall Gang. East of Green River, make another side trip to Moab, UT. Not only is Moab the mountain bike capital of the world, but it has Arches Nat'l Park, and Canyonlands Nat'l Park. Do the Slick Rock Trail at Moab on your bikes and tell me if it wasn't scary. That is if you survive it.

By then you should be ready to get back on I-70 and head for Denver because you've already gone over your two week vacation by at least a week.
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Old 06-29-2010, 03:31 AM
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
12,686 posts, read 31,817,523 times
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Now, do you want a realistic two week trip way out west? You may not be aware of the vast distances you would be covering. I'd forget Denver since you've been there. Fly to Albuquerque, do the southern part of the trip I outlined, starting with Taos, and fly home out of Las Vegas. You may have to pay a drop off fee on the car, but it would be worth it. And do the trip in early June before it gets so hot you end up dying in the desert.
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Old 06-29-2010, 07:14 AM
Location: Ohio
51 posts, read 93,641 times
Reputation: 32

Thanks for all that info. Wow, a ton of good stuff there. I have posted this thread on other forums and, like you, most people are telling me this is far too much to do in two weeks. I have been convinced to cut out the Area 51 portion and to avoid Denver and RMNP altogether, since we have already been there. I was originally planning the "fly into one place, leave from another" thing but the cost of dropping off a car at another location is outrageous. The rates I have seen are something like 3 times more. For a 2 week trip, that amounts to a lot. I'm now thinking about flying in and out of Las Vegas. Someone on another forum suggested the following route, which appears to incorporate some of the things you mentioned:

Las Vegas, NV to Las Vegas, NV - Google Maps

My problem right now is that 90 percent of the suggestions people give me sound great and I want to do them all. It's going to be hard to trim this down to something manageable. I see quite a few of these trips in my future.
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Old 06-29-2010, 12:16 PM
Location: Ohio
51 posts, read 93,641 times
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Okay, I have taken the suggestions from all 5 state threads (minus a few that were WAY off the rest of the route) and plotted them on this one map:


Clearly it seems there is no need to stray outside of the boundary created by interstates 25, 40, 15 and 70. First question, now, is where to fly in and out? A one-way trip is a possibility if we can find a good enough deal on a rental, but the rates I have seen indicate that a different drop-off location is something like 3-5 times more expensive than returning the car to the same location (when we were in Denver earlier this month, we rented a car for under $20 a day). It seems to me that a 2 week loop is doable enough that flying in and out of the same city would be fine, but I am open to suggestions.

Next big task, then, is to begin nailing down specifics of the route. What I am most interested in is maintaining a good variety in the places we visit. Someone mentioned that we might see more canyons than we care for, and that is something I want to avoid if possible. Not canyons specifically, but in general. Yes I want canyons, but I also want mountains, desserts, rivers, lakes, old mining towns, ghost towns…anything out there that is different than the last. In a way, I sort of look at this as a scouting trip. I want to find an area that really speaks to us that we might want to return to in the future, spending extended time in just that location. That’s why I want to cover so much ground with this trip.

Anyway, with everyone’s suggestions, I will begin devising an itinerary. If any of you feel the inspiration to fire up Google Maps and put together a route, I’d love to see it. At this point I’m not really looking for suggestions that are far outside of the natural loop my map presents, but anything that has been overlooked that is on or near the route, please let me know!

Thanks again everyone!
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Old 06-29-2010, 06:00 PM
1,372 posts, read 1,367,900 times
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Ely is the Jewel of the Great Basin, definitly worth a stop, ride the train, preferably the steam train (sometimes they use a diesel), drive Success Loop (did you know Nevada has Aspen forests), McGill is an interesting little town 2 places to visit is the McGill Club and the ecentric in the castle, Great Basin National Park, hike up into the Bristlecone pines, oldest living trees in north america, there is also a glacier.

For the Grand Canyon I prefer the new Skywalk, price is about $75 per person, go during the week theres hardly anyone there, drive out covers 14 miles of dirt roads the infamous Diamond Bar Rd, takes about an hour but its a beautiful drive, if you want to stay the night out there check out the dude ranch about 1/2 way down DB road.
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Old 06-29-2010, 06:57 PM
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
12,686 posts, read 31,817,523 times
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More comments: First I have found that I get a little bit better deal on rentals from Dollar, but if I need to drop the car at another location, National doesn't charge a drop off fee, so the extra little rental fee doesn't add up to a what a drop off fee would cost. I get better service at National usually also. Go on line and join the various rental car clubs and they'll treat you better. Like at National you don't even have to stop at the counter when you pick up your car.

I'm wondering if you are from the east coast? If you are, then you will not be accustomed to our wide open spaces. If you were doing a drive of four states in New England, for instance, that would be a pretty short trip. But out here, our counties are sometimes larger than some eastern states. Point is, don't bite off more than you can chew. You can't possibly do it all in one trip. Like I said, I've been here most of my life and there are still lots of places for me to see. And we have done extensive travel in the west, backpacking, skiing, mountain biking, you name it.

You say you want to see deserts? It's all desert. You say mountains? It's all mountains. You want ghost towns? They are all over. You can get everything you have mentioned within a relatively short drive of Las Vegas. I'm not selling Las Vegas, but that's the main reason about half of us live here ...proximity to all of those things. But proximity here might mean a six hour drive. We're used to long drives in open country, and it doesn't bother us. I have a friend in Texas whose grandfather used to drive the fences around the borders of his ranch. It would take him from sunup to sundown.

You would most likely find the best airline deals in and out of Las Vegas too; but I wouldn't give up on flying to one city and flying out of another. My wife and I do it all the time.

As for where to go and what to see, I assume you want to see our Strip. After that, I'd recommend Utah as the most beautiful state, with the most to do. And Las Vegas would be the most convenient base for that. If I had only two weeks, I'd just do the Grand Circle. It has everything you're looking for. Grand Circle | Utah.com

That said, if you use Las Vegas as a base, you could take a day to drive up to Rhyolite on the edge of Death Valley, but it will not be a pleasant trip in the summer. (watch out for the audio on this)Rhyolite - Nevada Ghost Town

While there (you have to reach it through Beatty, NV) you can see an actual brothel (from the outside).

We also have Hoover Dam which you can tour on the inside as well as the outside, and of course, Lake Mead the largest man made lake in the U.S.

Las Vegas is a large valley (some say it's an alluvial plane) encircled by high mountains. The Spring Mountains to the west a few miles are generally known by the highest peak, Mt. Charleston. It is 11,982 feet high. There are all kinds of hiking trails up there, including the trails that lead to the peak. Making it to the top is best done by an overnight backpacking trip.

At the southern end of those mountains is Red Rock Canyon. Lots of hikes there too, but in summer can be too hot for most of them. Again, it will be hotter than he**, but you could go to the Valley of Fire.

I'd skip everything but the Strip and Hoover Dam though, and take the Grand Circle tour of southern Utah. Believe me, you won't regret it. I mentioned in my first post the drive through Zion - Mt. Carmel tunnel, and heading up through Bryce.

Here is the reason for suggesting that road. Highway 12 Scenic Byway | Utah.com

You really should see the Grand Canyon though, and it is best seen from the North Rim. Better scenery, higher, cooler, and 1/10th of the tourists. The town of Kanab, UT, near the north rim, is where about a zillion western movies were made, Kanab, Utah Travel & Vacation Guide

and it is home to Dog Town: Best Friends Animal Society - Dogtown
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Old 06-29-2010, 10:39 PM
Location: Ohio
51 posts, read 93,641 times
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Thanks again, Buzz. More things to consider.

We are from Ohio and, no, six hour drives are not typical around here. It takes 4 hours to get from Cleveland to Cincinnati, if one were so inclined. That being said, I am aware of the difference between a 2 hour drive through the windy, hilly, farm-laden roads of Ohio and a 4 hour drive through the wide open spaces out west. We have vacationed out there a few times and the driving, to me, is painless. We drove a 300 mile loop from Fort Collins on 14 through Poudre Canyon, down 125, over and back up via 70 and 25. It took us all day, we got out at a dozen places, did a little hiking, and it was the easiest (and maybe most beautiful) 300 miles I've ever driven in my life. Three summers ago we drove from central Ohio to Yellowstone making countless stops along the way. I would guess we covered over 4000 miles after it was all said and done. That was in 2 weeks. Granted, 2000 of those miles were across the plains of the Midwest which we flew by at 90 mph, but I absolutely look forward to driving 1500 miles through the most beautiful parts of our country over the course of 14 days next summer.

At the same time, it is clear to me that I will need to whittle down my list of destinations a lot. That's why I've come here. I really appreciate all the info you have provided.
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