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Old 09-24-2022, 10:12 AM   #1
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Planning First Southwest Trip - Pick Timing - Your Thoughts

2008 Tiffin Phaeton, 40' DP, Pulling Equinox
Our kids live in St. Louis and Mississippi, so we travel there in the fall
Planning first trip to Southwest US to see national parks
Attached is our initial planning for spring 2023
We are thinking to see the sights along the Utah/Arizona border in Mid-March thru April
We haven't planned after that but were thinking to spend the summer moving up the pacific coast at thousand trails parks
Then in the fall see glacier NP and yellowstone NP then head back to the SE
We want to see the parks before it is too hot and before the summer crowds
But we don't want to be there when it is too cold either
A neighbor said to also plan around the strong winds in new mexico, he said don't go JAN - MAR, said mid-March at the earliest.
We don't plan to see everything this trip, primarily the must see things and will hopefully make future trips to see more.
We are reasonably risk adverse and where possible we will park near and interstate and drive the TOAD to a park. We have some apprehension about the 2 lane remote state roads but it seems like some of that is unavoidable.
So were trying to figure out the sweet spot of timing to see the national parks along the Utah/Arizona border
Any thoughts on the itinerary and especially the timing would be appreciated.
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Old 09-24-2022, 10:45 AM   #2
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Change route from San Antonio to Van Horn, TX to U.S. 90. Excellent road, little traffic and more interesting sites.


If you have time, drop down to Big Bend NP.
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Old 09-24-2022, 06:21 PM   #3
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This is how I would do the trip....

Carlsbad Caverns NP then west on 62 to Guadalupe NP and west to Las Cruces, NM. White Sands Nat'l Monument

North on I-25 to I-40 Albuquerque

West on I-40, north on AZ191 to Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument

North on 191 to 160 west to Kayenta, AZ. North on 163 to Monument Valley, AZ

(You could include Mesa Verde NP with a little out-of-the-way driving)

163north to 191 north to Canyonlands/Arches Nat'l Parks

West a short distance on I-70 to UT24 south - Goblin Valley State Park

24 west to Torrey, UT - Capitol Reef Nat'l Park

Hwy 12: Anasazi State Park, Calf Creek Rec Area, Escalante State Park, Kodachrome State Park, to Bryce Nat'l Park

North a short distance on UT89 then west on 20 to I-15 south

Hwy 9 east to Zion Nat'l Park. Backtrack on Hwy 9 west to UT59 south which becomes AZ389 to Fredonia. Could stay at Kanab, UT to tour Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (reservations) - awesome & in a beautiful setting, Coral Pink Sands State Park - you won't believe the color, and drive to Grand Canyon North Rim from Kanab RV park.

North Rim Nat'l Park opens May 15.

Head back to Hwy 9 and I-15.... you have MOAPA on your map; not sure what this is. . and Las Vegas if planning to go there.

I would plan RV parks near the places you want to tour. You waste a lot of time trying to commute from a base site to multiple places.

All the secondary roads I mentioned above are good for any size RV. We've done them many times with our 40' motorhome. You won't being seeing the beautiful country if you stay on interstates and commute to places.

I'd skip Chaco Canyon - best to do in Sept/Oct. - cold/rain in spring.

I'd also skip Grand Canyon South Rim and Page if doing the North Rim with the route I outlined above.

I know.... so many choices!
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Old 09-24-2022, 09:26 PM   #4
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Having done almost all of what you are planning, here are my thoughts....

San Antonio - probably about right; nice biking area if you are into that; we stayed at Travelers World RV Resort - I think I'd stay more north of the city next time - we had to take our bikes inside each night due to security concerns.

Fort Stockton / Big Bend - no way you will see much in 2 days, so choose the one most important thing and enjoy that; heck, it will take you a half a day just to get from Ft Stockton to anything interesting in BB. Maybe just drop this and focus on Utah stiff (like Bryce, Kodachrome hiking & sightseeing.

Carlsbad. NM - 3 nites gets you one day in the Caverns and one more day for - something like Roswell, NM. Guadalopu Mens - way overrated compared to what you will see in Utah & AZ - skip it.

Albuquerque, NM - we liked Bandelier NM. The rest seems reasonable.

Bloomfield/Aztec/Farmington, NM - we didn' like Bristi Badlands; it was a long way to go for very little return; and it was windy; we wandered around for about 2 hours and then just made a bee-line straight back to the truck as we got bored. I suppose for a first timer it might be worth a stop in this area; we won't go there again.

Cortez, CO - sooooo much to do in this area: Mesa Verde; Durango, Hopi ruins; 1 night means you are rushed to do anything - maybe give up Frarmington area and operate out of Cortex instead.

Monticello, UT - we've spent weeks in and around this area - multiple times; Ceder Mesa is one of favorite places; you can mostly only see Butler Wash Ruins from hwy 95, but there are dozens of hikes to walk on/in ruins (google House On Fire for an example). Monument Valley is best seen at sunset - we drive in the valley during the late afternoon and are out to enjoy the sunset from a high view point outside the valley. Valley of The Gods is nice as is the Moki Dugway. You'll love the night boat ride! Get to Arches EARLY to avoid lines to get in - with just one day and having to drive from Monticello you will mostly just have tie for an auto tour. Canyonlands - a GREAT place to see a sunset and hang out to see the starts. Got some extra time? - get down to Fort bluff. Want a great history lesson? - check out Salvation Knoll on hwy 95. With a day for Natural Bridges you will have some time to hike down to one or two bridges. I can go on forever about this area......

Monument Valley - oops, cover that above.

Page, AZ - great choice; 10 days was about right for us. Glen Canyon Dam tour; raft float from the dam to Lees Ferry, Horseshoe Bend overlook - only need an hour; Waterholes is less touristy than Antelope - both nice. Whitepocket fold - get a guide! - lots of opportunities to get lost or stuck in sand. I want to get back to the upper Glen Canyon now that there is so little water - lots of sights that haven't been seen since the dam was built. The Wave - you know you need to enter the lottery for that? - and another place that I would recommend a guide for - they know all the special features most people miss.

Tusayan, AZ - The South Rim is only worth a day. Again - nice to take in the sunset. Williams, AZ might be a good place to operate from - you can take a train to the Canyon (but not stay for sunset). If you haven't seen the Canyon the south rim has better vistas than the north rim (but LOTS more tourists).

Bryce City - 2 nights means you get to enjoy this park from the rim only. Take the bus to the upper parts and walk down - there are lots of bus stops to get back on if you tire out. A trip into the canyon is 30 or 40 minutes down and 90+ minutes UP UP UP - take water.

George/Washington, UT - get to Zion well before 7am - and get out by early afternoon - it gets hot in the canyon. If you bike ride then this is a fabulous place to ride rather than take the bus. LOTS to do in the area but depending on where you stay (like in St George) you'll spend too much time driving back and forth.

Overton, NV - interesting choice. Valley of Fire - beautiful - remote - get there before mid April or cook in the heat - still, some nice views and hikes even when it is hot. You mentioned petroglyphs - get your fill of those when in/around Monticello on some great hikes - and if you get to Fort Bluff ask them about petroglyphs along the Comb ridge.

Las Vegas - 21 nights!!!!! Yikes - good luck. don't care for it but you have to see it if in the area and haven't previously visited - check out the strip at night and don't miss Fremont Street at night. Don't miss Red Rock Canyon on the West side of Vegas - beautiful!

whew - lots to see anywhere you go on that route. Have fun.

Some final thoughts.....
>> It's the West - it is always windy. Scheduling around it is a waste of time. Just go and enjoy it.

>> Get a Garmin InReach for safety purposes (especially if you think you will be on your own near/around Whitepocket, The Wave, etc. on the Paria area).
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Old 09-25-2022, 06:19 AM   #5
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swduns, when in Las Vegas do you plan on staying in the Thousand Trails Park on Boulder?
We have been there 3 trips and have stayed at this park. In mid-April and 1st of June of this year.
Las Vegas has reworked all the electrical, in the park. Sites are tight, but doable.

Also wondering if you are planning on the 1000Trails in Lakehills, Medina Lake?
It is about a 45–60-minute drive into San Antinio and the Riverwalk area.
But from the TT Park you can also hit New Braunfels area. You are also about a hour drive from Fredericksburg from that location.
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Old 09-26-2022, 05:31 PM   #6
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Anyone else have any input?

A lot of folks must have done the Southwest national parks
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Old 09-26-2022, 06:09 PM   #7
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Anyone else have any input?

A lot of folks must have done the Southwest national parks
What do you want to know about the national parks?

Each one has an excellent web site with lots of information on things to do, road conditions/closings, campgrounds, etc. Check each one out before you go so you're prepared. Especially check them right before your trip and perhaps even closer to when you'll get there. Emergency closings or issues do happen. Yellowstone had a major flood this summer and much of the park was closed.

The web sites you want to use are the nps sites. Here is Arches National Park's site:

https://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm
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Old 09-26-2022, 07:53 PM   #8
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I'd say you are palnning too much to do. A lot of this stuff is great and you don't want to be in a hurry.


There is very little to see in Fort Stockton. Fort Stockton is too far from Big Bend to consider the 2 together. I saw an earlier comment to take US 90 out of San Antonio to Big Bend instead of I-10. I totally agree. March and April would be a prime time to visit this area. I love Big Bend NP and the area just west of the park. I'd advise you to plan to spend 5-7 days exploring the area. I like to explore the back country in my Jeep, but you do not have to have a Jeep to enjoy the area. Here is a recent ride report from a visit there: https://www.advrider.com/f/threads/b...again.1499435/

Coirtez Colorado is a great place to stop for a long visit. Mesa Verde NP is fabulous! The Durango & Silverton RR is the best scenic RR I have ridden. I love to visit Telluride. Tellutide has a free aerial Gondola transportation system that gives you fabulous views of the surrounding area. Only thing is the weather in this area can be cold and snowy up until mid-June. Here is a trip report from 2014. Our time near Mesa Verde is on page 2. https://www.irv2.com/forums/f38/6-we...do-215106.html

Carlsbad Caverns and the surrounding area was a flop for me. If you've seen one hole in the ground, you have seen them all.

Monticello, UT is a small town. There are some things to see around there, but nothing is really close. The neatest thing near there is Newspaper Rock.
Also reasonably close by is the Needles Overlook. Both of these are worth the time and effort to visit. I stay in Moab when I go to this area. The KOA in Moab is a great RV park. Canyonland NP and Arches NP nearby. I like Canyonlands the best because it is less crowded. Arches is one of the growing number of National Parks where you have to have a reserved entry pass. The pass can be hard to get a popular times. Timing your visit here is important too. Moab is often jammed with events like the Easter Jeep Safari. May is the prime time to visit here.

Monument Valley - ho humm, a lot of big red rocks. Go there if you haven't been. The indians that run the place need the money. Nearby is Valley of the Gods. It is similar but free. Gooseneck State Park is worth a 30 minute visit. I'm not sure where you mean when you mention the Green River Overlook. The Green River meets the Colorado River north of Lake Powell. The San Juan River is in the area and is what you will see at Gooseneck State Park. In nearby Mexican Hat, eat at the Swinging Steak if it is still open. Otherwise, the restaurant near Golding's in Monument Valley is where I go.

When you are traveling between Utah and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, You will probably go through Cameron, AZ. The Trading Post there is as good as any Indian trading post I have been in.

The Valley of fire SP is a nice afternoon's ride. It is special on it's own, but isn't that exciting if you have seen the Utah parks before hand.

See Las Vegas at night. The dark hides all the trash. The Hoover Dam tour is really good. Also, we went to Willow Beach Marina, below Hoover Dam, rented a boat, and rode up the river almost to the dam. That ride was tons of fun! Another trip report: https://www.irv2.com/forums/f38/a-lo...ip-240146.html
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Old 09-27-2022, 03:22 PM   #9
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21 nights in Las Vegas? You should use most of that time exploring all the other areas more extensively.
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Old 09-27-2022, 08:45 PM   #10
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I'd skip Albuquerque and spend a couple days around Taos and Santa Fe.Although Bandolieris well worth seeing.
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Old 09-27-2022, 08:56 PM   #11
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If you aren't big gamblers that is a lot of time in Las Vegas. Sights to see, some have been mentioned already.

Red Rock Canyon-1/2 day unless you hike
Valley of Fire

Hoover (Boulder) Damn
How about Death Valley-1 day
Other than that, it's the Casino's and shows at night.
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Old 09-29-2022, 01:14 AM   #12
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We are thousand trails members and try to maximize our use of TT parks to the extent possible and reasonable
The purpose of the 21 days in Las Vegas is that after many days of short stays sightseeing and hiking at non-TT parks weíd stay at a TT park for a longer stay to decompress and catch up on life requirements, such as repairs, medical visits, etc.
we arenít gamblers at all, there are other things to see in Vegas and itís a big enough city such that it has good doctors, etc

Itís not necessarily a part of our southwest must see itinerary but just a place to catch up
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Old 09-29-2022, 07:32 AM   #13
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We are thousand trails members and try to maximize our use of TT parks to the extent possible and reasonable
The purpose of the 21 days in Las Vegas is that after many days of short stays sightseeing and hiking at non-TT parks weíd stay at a TT park for a longer stay to decompress and catch up on life requirements, such as repairs, medical visits, etc.
we arenít gamblers at all, there are other things to see in Vegas and itís a big enough city such that it has good doctors, etc

Itís not necessarily a part of our southwest must see itinerary but just a place to catch up
Have you thought of hitting the TT Park Verde Valley? It is around the Sedona area and is a nice park. If you decide to change and hit that for about 4-5 days, call the park and see if you can get one of the super sites up on top. These sites are big and nice but is a $10.00/night upgrade.
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