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Back Home (was: Trip Planning Advice: Desert SW Road Trip)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by JeffKohn, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    So my bro-in-law is getting married in Vegas on June 30 and we're supposed to be there. This will be our only chance to take a trip before fall so we're going to make a road-trip of it and visit some of the parks in the Desert Southwest. I'd rather be making this trip in the off-season when there are fewer crowds and cooler temps, but it's not my wedding so oh well. The plan is to leave Houston on a Friday, and arrive in Vegas the following Friday.

    [Edit - itinerary updated 4/26]

    • Outbound trip
    • Friday - Drive Houston to Amarillo (598 miles)
    • Saturday - Drive Amarillo to Farmington (465 miles). Shoot sunset at Shiprock.
    • Sunday - Shoot sunrise/early AM at Bisti Badlands; drive to Mexican Hat, UT (130 Miles); shoot Monument Valley late afternoon/early evening.
    • Monday - Sunrise tour in Monument Valley; drive to Page, AZ (125 Miles); shoot lower Antelop in afternoon; sunset?
    • Tuesday - pre-dawn/sunrise at Horshoe Bend; midday at Upper Antelope Canyon; drive to GC North RIM (125 miles) (camp)
    • Wednesday - spend sunrise/AM/early afternoon GC N Rim; drive to Bryce in afternoon (160 miles)
    • Thursday - spend day in Bryce
    • Friday - AM in Bryce, drive to Vegas that afternoon. (250 miles)

    • Return trip
    • Sunday - Drive Vegas to Albuquerque (574 miles)
    • Monday - Drive to White Sands/Alamogordo (243 miles) - spend afternoon/sunset at White Sands
    • Tuesday - Sunrise at White Sands if not too tired; drive to San Antonio (647 miles). I know, very long day. But we can drive fast on I-10.
    • Wenesday - Drive home to Houston (200 miles)

    It's a pretty full schedule, but I feel like dropping anything would be a missed opportunity; there's just so much to do and see out there. I really wanted to spend a second night in GCNP camping at Toroweap, but unless I drop either the Paige, Monument Valley, or Bryce stop there just isn't enough time. And as neat at Toroweap Point looks, I think these other stops offer more bang for my time.

    I considered Zion instead of Bryce, but in the end I chose the latter for cooler temps and (hopefully) fewer crowds. I'm guessing the Angel's Landing and Narrows hikes would be pretty crowded that time of year, but I'm hoping we can find some trails with fewer people on them in Bryce, plus with the cooler temps we can hike into the afternoon without getting roasted.

    So does this look realistic, or is there something I've failed to consider? I'm not crazy about the fact we won't get to do much real hiking until Wednesday, but there's really no getting around the fact that the first few days are mostly spent driving, there's a lot of ground to cover coming from Houston.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 6, 2007
  2. You've hit the high spots, missing Zion of course, but going from west from MV to Bryce and then back to Paige for AC & HB the West to Kanab and South to NR ends up with a lot of doubled up miles.

    Maybe you can save White Sands for the return trip from LV.

    Houston -> Amarillo Day1
    Amarillo-> Farmington Day2
    Farmington -> MV -> Paige -> HB Day3
    Paige -> HC ->Glen Canyon AM, Antelope around noon, then -> Kanab Day 4
    Kamab-> NR -> Cloverdale (ZC) Day5
    Zion Day 6
    Zion -> RedRocks -> LV Day7

    Yours was 8 days I just gave you 1 extra days looky-seeing before LV
  3. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Jeff :

    That's an extremely ambitious driving schedule. You're driving through the area that I live in, and I've done almost all of the routes that you're looking at, so I'm not talking through my hat.

    White Sands is, of course, wonderous and amazing. But the run from WS up to Farmington is a haul. Just to explain, you'll run up 54 to 80, over to I-25, north to 550 (old 44) and then over to Farmington on 64. Some of the route just isn't fast driving (and watch yourself driving through Cuba, NM, a notorious spot for tickets).

    The shot over to Monument Valley's nothing difficult, but the run over to Bryce is another relatively slow run (I'll omit all the roads for this one). The net case for these two issues is a lot of driving without benefit of walks or shooting.

    Here's an alternative.

    Fly to Albuquerque, and then drive from ABQ onwards. You gain about a day and a half of time not driving. Flights from HOU (Houston, Hobby) to ABQ are relatively cheap on Southwest, and there are competitive rates from IAH (Houston Bush Intercontinental) to ABQ. From ABQ, you could go up to Farmington easily, and stage from there.

    Now, the routing you have is, as Nick very correctly points out, involving a lot of doubled up miles. There are several alternatives that would offer incredible shooting opportunities without making you crazy, and even, perhaps, hit a few spots that most folks are unaware of.

    But you might want to drive from Houston anyway, so as not to rent a car in ABQ. Well, there are a couple of good ideas that could cut down on time from there, too.

    I'm sending you a PM with my telephone info, and we can talk directly for some alternatives. Doing this through repeated posts will be a bit time consuming. I've done almost everything you're discussing, and I can probably offer a few pretty useful suggestions once I hear what's important in the area.

    John P.
  4. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the feedback guys. You raise a good point about the mileage wasted doubling back from Bryce. Part of the reason I scheduled it like that is because I want to arrive at the various locations at the right times for photography. If I left MV and went to Paige I'd be arriving early afternoon, when I really need to be there for sunrise/morning/noon. But maybe spending an extra half-day Paige is worth it if I can find some things to shoot around there in the evening. I really don't see any way to do MV and Paige in the same day when you need to be in Paige for the morning.

    Flying isn't really something I want to do for several reasons. I'd hate to miss White Sands, plus the airfare and 8-day car rental add considerably to the trip cost. Also, I'd be more limited in what I can bring. With our own car I can bring all my camera gear, plus camping gear for the North Rim (and possibly Bryce). I also figured my wife's Murano would be handy for any dirt/gravel rds; it's front-wheel drive but at least has pretty good ground clearance (and renting a 4x4 is quite expensive)

    I didn't think the drive from White Sands to Farmington would be too bad. We typically drive 10-15mph over the limit so I was guessing this would be about 7 hours. Saving White Sands for the return trip might be a possibility though. My original plan was to spend Sun-Mon driving straight back to Houston; but it occurs to me that Wed is a holiday so there's really no reason to rush back for work on Tuesday.

    John per your PM I'd love to chat you with next week when I get back in town. In the meantime you guys have given me some things to think about.
  5. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Jeff :

    We'll talk next week, but just as a head-start, White Sands (Alamogordo) is not on an interstate, so there the speed limits are a bit lower.

    As for speed limits, you'd be advised to watch your speed on 550 to Farmington. In particular, the town of Cuba has had its share of speed traps over the years.

    As for 4X4, it's not the traction that's an issue most of the time, but the clearance of the car. A late friend of me and my wife went all over the Four Corners area as a boy in a sedan, and wrote some amazing stories of his travels. Clearance counts for a lot more than power for a lot of this area.

    Lastly, depending on how much time you want to spend, you could do a loop in Utah over 95, 12, and then 89, that would take you through Natural Bridges Nat'l Monument, Glen Canyon, Capitol Reef NP, down the Hogsback to Escalante/Grand Staircase, over to Kodachrome SP, Bryce NP, Red Canyon, and then past Zion on the way to Kanab. You can set some specific spots to stop on the way, but that loop covers some of the best country in Utah, bar none.

    We'll chat next week and run some ideas around along with some (realistic) review of the driving times. Having done these routes, I can give you good ideas of what the timing will be, as well as some comments on where the tourists will be thickest for that time of year.

    John P.
  6. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Based on the feedback I've gotten so far I've made a few adjustments to the original itinerary. By saving White Sands for the return trip and going to GC before Bryce, I've managed to shave quite a bit of mileage off of the outbound trip:

    [Edit - latest itinerary in top post]

    I'm still not 100% decided on whether I want to drive to Bryce Wed afternoon or sometime Thursday though. I'd also still like to squeeze Toroweap in but unless I can convince my wife to arrive in Vegas Sat instead of Fri that will have to wait for another trip.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2007
  7. Man, you'll be one tired puppy after that trip.
  8. Not going to be able to doo all that in one day with Monument valley, Goosenecks and Valley of Gods... Unless you barely stop.. You really have to factor in driving times to locations.. They are not freeways with straight roads...

    BTW you need 4WD high clearance to get out to Toroweap...

  9. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    We usually are pretty tired after our trips, but it's a good tired. I'm not one of those people who likes to lounge around the pool all day when we go on vacation, I want to stay busy and make the most of my time.
  10. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    We'll be arriving in Mexican Hat before lunch. Starting from Mexican Hat, the Valley of Gods loop is about 30 miles. The Laurent Martres guide puts the time at about an hour just to drive, two hours with stops for photos. Even doubling the time for pictures I would think we'd still have time to make it down to Monument Valley for a bit given how long the days are in late June. We do plan to return to Monument Valley the following morning for a guided tour. Maybe we won't have time for the short detour to Goosenecks, but I just put it in there as a possibility because it's right on the way.

    OK so how high is "high"? We'll be in a Nissan Murano. It's 2WD, but it does have better clearance and bigger/wider tires than a passenger car. Will it be good enough for the roads that require "high clearance"?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2007
  11. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Latest revision in top post, I dropped Valley of the Gods and Goosnecks, added quick detour in Bisti Badlands before leaving Farmington.

    Question: anybody been to Upper and/or Lower Antelope canyons in the last 6-12 months? I'm getting conflicting information about whether you have to use one of the tour companies in Page versus driving to the gate and hiring a Navajo guide.
  12. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Well, we're back from our trip. It was fun, but busy. For the most part we stuck to the itinerary above, although we didn't get to do quite as much hiking as I'd hoped. It was pretty hot especially at the lower elevations due to the heat wave the southwest is currently experiencing, so the cooler temperatures at GC and Bryce were nice. The driving wasn't bad, although getting across TX is pretty boring. The only part of the trip that was maybe a bit tiresome was loading an unloading the car every day, since we stayed somewhere different every night (except for our two nights in Vegas). Still, I don't think I would leave anything out if I were doing it again, as it was a great experience. We'll definitely be back, and next time we'll be able to spend more time at some of the locations that we most enjoyed.

    It'll take me a while to get the images edited and posted, but in the meantime I've created a new blog to post my journal from the trip to share with friends and family. So if you're interest you can read it here
  13. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Jeff :

    Just looked at the blog... Neat stuff, and I'll be looking forward to your photos.

    And Bisti Badlands is indeed a weird and wonderful place. I want to get back there (yet) again, but at this time of year, it's a pretty searing experience. Perhaps in later autumn. If you've figured out the foolproof way to shoot it, please let me know - I'm still trying after four or more visits... :confused:  :rolleyes:  :wink:

    John P.
  14. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me about my trip options, it helped set expectations so I had a better idea of what I had in store.

    Foolproof, no. It was a challenging location for me although I think I may have gotten a few keepers (haven't really gone through all the images yet).

    The heat actually wasn't that bad, but that's probably because we didn't get there until about 6:30pm. It was still in the 90's, but with a good hat, some sunscreen and plenty of water that's manageable for me (especially with the low humidity). I can imagine it would be pretty unbearable there during midday in the summer.
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