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HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Westminster, MD
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HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

I will be traveling in July with my 11 year-old son and a 17 year-old exchange student. It seams as though I have been planning this trip for years! LOL! I could sure use any and all advice about what I have planned, how much time to spend, and travel routes. Here is my itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive around 12:30. Go to Super Walmart in Payson. Continue on to Cedar City and spend the night.

Day 2: Drive 1 hour to Zion – ½ day hiking the Emerald Pools (2 hour hike) and maybe either Weeping Rock (1/2 hour) or a Ranger Walk.

Day 3: Hiking at Zion – The Riverside Walk to The Narrows (8 hour hike – rent equipment).

Day 4: Drive to Bryce (1½ hours). Do a Rim Walk with the Ranger and then a half-day horseback tour with Canyon Trail Rides. That evening do the rodeo at Ruby’s Inn.

Day 5: Drive 4½ hours to Arches National Park. Do the Delicate Arch hike (3 hours).

Day 6: Somehow, someway, see if we can do the Fiery Furnace hike. If not, then the Windows hike (1 hour) and the Double Arch hike (30 minutes). Drive to Dead Horse. Hike West Rim Trail (3 hours)

Day 7: Drive 2.25 hours to Mesa Verde - do Spruce Tree and Balcony Houses and Cliff Palace (each takes 1 hour to tour). Then drive to Durango (1½ hours)

Day 8: Durango – visit Durango Mountain Resort and the town. Drive to Montrose, CO (2½ hours)

Day 9: Visit the Visitors’ Ctr. in Black Canyon on S. Rim Dr. then go back and do the East Portal Rd drive to the river. Spend night in Montrose.

Day 11: Drive to Salida (2 ½ hours) and rest.

Day 12: Drive to Denver Airport (3 hours) and pick-up the rest of our party. Go to Estes Park (1½ hours) for the afternoon. Spend night in Loveland (45 minutes).

Day 13: Drive to Lander, WY (5 hours)

Day 14: Drive to Yellowstone (4 hours)

Day 15: Yellowstone

Day 16: Yellowstone

Day 17: Yellowstone

Day 18: Tetons

Day 19: Tetons

Day 20: Drive to Jackson Hole (30 minutes). Do the National Elk Refuge tour. Drive to Logan (3½ hours). Spend the night.

Day 21: Drive to airport (1½ hours).

It would be GREATLY appreciated if you could tell me what we should see in Yellowstone and in what order that would make the best driving sense. Same with the Grand Tetons. Also, we would like to do a slow float/raft while here. Can you recommend a good company? Lastly, can you tell me if Denver Airport is easy to get in and out of?

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

Tacoma, Washington
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1. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Why have to meet them at Denver? Denver is a tad out of the way. May be easier to fly into SLC given your route.

Rocky Mountain national Park cant be done in a few hours. Black Canyon of the Gunnison can.

Day 1 drive to Springdale and stay there for 2 nights...a place near the shuttle buses. Ceder City has a walmart and other stores. Its the largest city in Utah outside the immediate salt lake city area.

Day 4 drive to Zion is closer to 2 hrs.

---need to understand Google maps isnt accurate with drive times because it discounts speed zones in towns you pass through.----

--you really need to see sunset or sunrise at bryce.

Day 5---4 1/2 hrs---you need to take UT 12 its a avery scenic road. It will take 3 hrs to drive from Bryce to torrey, then its about 3 hrs from torrey to Moab.

You want to delicate hike around sunset or sunrise--not in the middle of the day.. the hike is all uphill to there will be about twice as long as the hike back.

Day 6 windows is short---need to do this in early sunlight/late sunlight. the hike is a 1/4 of a mile from the lot...really short. Double arch hike is longer than 30 minutes. Island in the Sky and dead horse point state park are along the same road that forks at the end to the 2 parks.

day 7...You need tour tickets to do these tours. You cant pre order them. Going down there in the morning trying to get tickets can be difficult. If you need to get tickets for the next day, then di durango. The best option is from Moab if you could drive to Cortez the night before, then gget tickets first thing in the morning or you need to leave moab early.

night of 7 and 8 stay in Ouray not Montrose. From Ouray you could do an off road tour that drives on dirt roads into the mountains.

On day 10 disappeared.....on day 10 I would drive to Estes Park...stay the night there. Day 11 in Estes Park

Day 12 you pick up the rest of the people.

On day 12...the rest of your family trying to do estes park and RM NP could have issues with altitude if you try to do things. You could head start in the evening and stay in Cheyenne

on day 13 i would drive up to Cody, night in Cody and your Exchange student can see western town things. Much better than what you may see at Ruby's Inn.

For Yellowstone...lodging will be difficult to get. You likely need to stay outside the park unless you are lucky. For Yellowstone those are Gardiner and West yelllowstone

dont know if you have lodging in yellowstone park.

day 14 drive in from Cody upp Chief Joseph hwy to bear tooth highway then into Lamar Valley then to Mamoth hot springs area, night in Gardiner.

day 15 rest of north loop driving to tower-canyon-norris then the west yellowstone. night in west yellowstone

day 16 old faithful are...night in west yellowstone

day 17 lake yellowstone area...drive to Jackson for the night.

day 18-19 tetons night in Jackson. Are you staying in the park in Grand Teton?

Atlanta, Georgia
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2. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Here is a link to some of the most popular sights in Yellowstone-

http://yellowstone.net/intro/top-10/

Scenic float trips are on Snake River in Tetons while whitewater trips are south of Jackson Hole. We like Barker Ewing for both.

Be careful of altitude issues for those coming straight to RMNP. Drinks lot of water and avoid alcohol.

Uden, The...
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3. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Yes, you easily can visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison from Montrose and even go to the river and drive to Salida same day.

I know a town called Payson in Arizona but not between Las vegas and Zion. You'll find WalMarts in Mesquite and St. George.(and Hurricane) St. George is a lot bigger than Cedar City but I also suggest to drive to Zion directly and stay Springdale instead Cedar City.

Westminster, MD
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4. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Thanks for your response! Payson is an hour south of Salt Lake City (just south of Provo). I need a Walmart Supercenter to get a disposable cooler and groceries. I'll go ahead and drive straight to Salida then.

Westminster, MD
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5. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Thanks for your response. I have read many of your posts and appreciate any suggestions that you give. The previous post said I should forgo Estes and pick up my party in SLC instead. It seems like a much longer drive to get back to that airport without many scenic stops in-between. Plus, that means that we will see very little of CO. What do you think?

Atlanta, Georgia
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6. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

SLC is a lot closer than Denver. You can still drive up thru Lander which is one our favorite western towns and visit Independence Rock and Sinks Canyon SP. While in Lander eat at Gannett Grill for some good food.

RMNP is beautiful but for mountains and scenery you cannot beat the Tetons.

You can re arrange some of your days and do a circle with Bryce, Zion, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Durango, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, then Arches and on to SLC.

You can then continue the rest of your trip plan.

Westminster, MD
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7. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Looking at the map, it seems as though I will see more and drive less to get to Denver airport from Gunnison. What do you think? Unfortunately, I don't have any more time to spend at Rocky NP than that.

Cedar City doesn't have a Walmart Supercenter though.

I will drive on to Springdale then.

Thanks for tip about Google maps.

Is Durango really 1½ hours from Mesa Verde? I would hate to back track if I don't have to. I'm already doing so much driving! Do you think I won't be able to get tickets for the same day?

Why stay in Ouray instead of Montrose?

I do not have lodging at Yellowstone or Grand Tetons yet. I didn't know what days I was going to be there until recently. I'll keep calling them every day to see if I can get lucky.

Tacoma, Washington
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8. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

Payson is an exit just soth of springville/Spanish Fork and Provo after US6 junction with I-15.

As for Colorado....you can still do Mesa Verde, Durango, Ouray up to Grand Junction.

Day 5 to day 12 for flight into SLC

5 bryce AM, UT 12 PM..night Torrey

6 Capitol Reef AM, drive to Moab

7 Moab

8 Moab

9 Mesa Verde

10 Durango/US 550 to Oursy

11 Black Canyon of Gunnisn, Colorado National Monument,,drive to Price for night

12 pick up from SLC around noon.

Tacoma, Washington
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9. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

But you have to drive 3 hrs more to get to Yellowstone from Denver than SLC From gunnison Denver is 5-6 hrs. To SLC it's 6-7 hrs.

Durango to Mesa Verde entrance is 45 minutes...then 45 minutes to the heart of the park.

I recall it has food. There are multiple other supermarkets in Cedar City.

For coolers...

Styrofoam coolers --- dont bother. You need a hard cooler that works.

Ouray is 200 times prettier. It's right in the mountains while montrose is an industrial town in the valley.

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10. Re: HELP!! 21 Day Road Trip - Utah, CO, & WY National Parks

http://www.nps.gov/hfc/carto/PDF/MEVEmap1.pdf

For Mesa Verde the visitor center is roadside.

From there it's 45 minutes to the junction split for Chapin Mesa( balcony, cliff palace) and Westherill Mesa( long house , step house)

Chapin is about 10 minutes from here westherill is 45 minutes.

Tours take an hr.

If you started early nd got tickets for a 10am long house tour you want to enter the park around 8am. Do the tour, then explore a little and then drive back to the junction and the main part of the park. You get back here around noon. Do cliff palace around 1:30.. You have an hr to explore around before the tour and grab something to ezt. The tour ends around 2:30 then explore a little around that part and see the museum and other places there then head out around 4 pm. Back at main road around 5pm.

Spruce Tree is a self guided tour .

The other tours that are guided you need to pay tickets. I think it's around $5 pp for each tour.

If you drive down and stay the night before you should be able to get tor tickets first thing in the morning.