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Old 04-06-2016, 06:55 AM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Valley Forge, PA
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Grand Canyon trip this summer...advice on camping on the way out??

Hi all,

We're leaving Philly late June and taking a week (+/-) to get to Trailer Village, then 10-14 days in GC area, then a week or so to return.

My question is about the trip out. I know generally how many miles I want to do a day, and generally the route I'm taking. I'm saying "generally" because I want to be flexible with time/miles and want to be able to explore a little without having to hustle and get to a CG or be real late to a CG.

Am I screwed if I don't reserve sites in advance the whole way out? How risky is counting on my apps to find available sites on the fly? I realize I may have to use Walmarts or Cracker Barrel here and there. I've never done it this way... like most people I usually have a site reserved...but on the other hand I've never had a trip this long.

One thing I have in my favor is most camping nights will be weeknights. Anybody done it this way? Also, will I have trouble getting campgrounds for a single night in the summer?

Thanks for any replies.

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Old 04-06-2016, 10:02 AM   #2
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We traveled from IL to AZ to visited the Grand Canyon last year. We went out on I70 picking this up west of ST Louis MO. I made reservations all along the way staying at different RV parks with pull thru sites and not un-hooking until we reach Denver CO. After a lay over in Denver we traveled on to Green River UT and than down to MOAB UT staying there for a several days. We went on to the Grand Canyon from Moab and than to the Balloon Feast in Albuquerque NM.

I do not like to drive 6 to 7 hours a day and than gamble that l will be able to find an RV site for the night. So I did make reservation ahead of time spacing them between 300 and 350 miles apart. To me there is not much to see in MO and KS on I70, so we just plow through this area until we reach Denver CO. We than started to spend three to four days at each RV site for sight seeing and doing things.

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Old 04-06-2016, 10:06 AM   #3
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We did the trip last year to the south rim. When we left we traveled east to OKC. We drove till we were tired and then called ahead to find a camp site. We had no problem at all. Most place were not full.
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Old 04-06-2016, 10:20 AM   #4
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It may not be a 5 star resort or your first choice, but we've done it a bunch of times...

with cell phones and google satelite and street view, just call ahead and make a reservation where you think you might be (or not)
Walmart, etc... is fine as well..

Back in the 80's when we first started, no cell phones, and we rarely knew where we were going on our two week vacation....

one time woke up in the Grand Canyon rv park with the windows open and 40 degrees in the rv - celebrated my sons first birthday there !!!

took in petrified forest, lesser colorado canyons, just wandered and had a ball !
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Old 04-06-2016, 12:48 PM   #5
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I think you'd definitely be able to find a campground on your long drive out without a reservation. We rarely made them in 16 years of full-timing. Timing is important for not traveling with reservations. You need to arrive early - by 4pm and in popular places - by Noon.

You didn't state the route you're taking but especially going through the Midwest states, folks don't typically stay more than a night on major routes like the interstates. If you're concerned about a particular area pull in by 4pm and you'll get a site.

You mention you are planning to spend approx. 2 weeks in the Grand Canyon area....any particular places that we can help you with? Some suggestions are Sedona, especially if you like gorgeous hiking - we stay in nearby Cottonwood at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This is a hot area in summer so you'd like electric.

For Flagstaff and touring the old Indian ruins and Sunset Crater Nat'l Mon., we stay at the gate entrance to the Monument at Bonito national forest campground. It's a lovely spot but no hookups. The temps are very pleasant there so you don't need AC. No reservations taken here and you do need to arrive by Noon, if possible, which you could do from your Grand Canyon stay.

You could also go to Zion Nat'l Park and you might want to try for reservations there at Watchman campground in the park with electric. There's another campground next door in the park w/o electric and I think your RV is small enough that you'd fit. Another park is Bryce Nat'l Park and they have two non-hookup campgrounds in the park. There are also RV parks outside the entrance. Ruby's is a popular stay. Then there's Capitol Reef Nat'l Park and Arches Nat'l Park/Canyonlands Nat'l Park.....so many neat places! Have a great trip!!
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Old 04-06-2016, 02:48 PM   #6
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Thanks for the offer twogypsies,

I suspect I'll be on I-40 quite a bit. We were going to visit both Santa Fe and Sedona, and possibly Zion or Carlsbad. I'll keep all your suggestions in mind...thanks again!
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Old 04-06-2016, 05:34 PM   #7
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I did the Grand Canyon in July/August 2014 and made reservations for each stop. While a few of the parks had open spaces most appeared to be full. How many reserved in advance and how many called ahead I don't know. As one of those that are not full timers and have a window of travel opportunity I don't like to take chances I rather just reserve a series of campgrounds and head toward them with the ultimate goal making it to my main destination in this case the Grand Canyon.

To have some flexibility I spaced the stops far enough apart to travel about 5 hours or 300 miles to give me time to see things. No matter where you are traveling that day you are going to have an idea of what's to see and what rises to the level of must stops. We approach the trip with the idea that there will be stuff we will pass by and see another time and there are things we must see on this trip. The night before we go over the next days traveling and create a rough time table. For example Oklahoma City we left Little Rock early and arrived early in OKC to do the Memorial before it closed so we didn't have to spend two days there. Sometimes we leave early because we will be making a stop midday while enroute to that nights stop. Other times we tour around the town in the morning and check out late then head to the next stop. If there is nothing to see and you get to the next stop early then it is a evening of leisure. Bottom line you can have plans and still have some flexibility.

Our stops on the way out and some of the sights we saw were Greenville, TN; Nashville, TN (3 Nights); Little Rock, AR; Oklahoma City (Murrah Bldg Memorial); Amarillo, TX (Big Texan Steak House); Santa, Fe, NM (Loretto Chapel); Durango, CO (Silverton & Durango RR); Trailer Village (4 nights) via 4 Corners monument; on the way back we took about 12 days main stops were Roswell, NM (UFO Museum & Tour); Dallas, TX (Book Depository / Daley Plaza); New Orleans, LA; and Stone Mountain, Ga with a few others in between.
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Old 04-06-2016, 06:21 PM   #8
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I normally drive till noon and then stop for lunch. At that time I try to figure out where I will stoop and then make a reservation at a spot in that area. I used to just try and find a spot at 4 pm but the DW did not like some of the places I had to settle for. I would also suggest you try to remain as flexible as possible because the weather in that part of the country, midwest, can cause you to change your route at the last minute. (Tornado Season)
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Old 04-06-2016, 10:04 PM   #9
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A single night somewhere weekdays is generally no problem. You can usually find a place. I have stayed at Wal Marts, Flying Js etc and had fun doing it. I just look at it as only a place to sleep for the night.

Good luck and Happy Trails!!!
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Old 04-06-2016, 10:44 PM   #10
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We did a cross country and back last summer and on the way out to the east coast we had no issues finding a spot for the night. All depends on what you want. If its just a rest spot then using various RV apps and Google maps you can find plenty of spots die 1 night. We went from Lincoln CA to Hemingway SC without any issue with finding a spot. Just be sure to check before the RV park office closes. The ones we used booked our spot for the night and we would just pull in and park. Since we where just passing through I'd only hookup power and only hooked up water and sewer at places we planned to stay for a while.

There are so many places along the route. We took 80 but on the way back part of the trip was on 40 and we still had plenty of choices.

All depends on your comfort level and if you and an adventurous spirit. One of the places we stayed at on the way back was on route 66 Santa Rosa and they had a great car museum. Might not have stopped there had we made reservations way ahead of time.

Last thought making reservations for the entire trip will tie you into a set schedule which might stress you to rush things and not stop and spell the roses. I would just reserve places you plan on staying and exploring for a period if time and not worry about the over night stays. All else fails you have Walmart, flying j, cracker barrel, etc.

My 2 cents
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Old 04-07-2016, 08:44 PM   #11
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Great tips guys...thanks!
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Old 04-08-2016, 10:40 AM   #12
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Half the fun of doing these trips is the adventure aspect. Being self contained lends itself to being easily adaptable. Have gone cross country from southern NJ and return and done Maine coast thru Canada and return and have stayed in some neat places. Marina parking lot overlooking very scenic harbor, on top of a mountain off the interstate out to CA.. With a smartphone and one of the apps(allstays, GoodSam, etc.) you can always find someplace to hand out for the night. Different if you're going to be in one place for a couple of days.

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