Where should I go in the US Southwest?
November 29, 2008 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a road trip this spring break originating in Portland, Oregon and ending up somewhere within 900 miles one-way; I am particularly drawn to the Southwest, and Utah/Arizona. Can you help me think of interesting or less obvious ideas?

I've thought of Great Basin, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon (been there before but it's been a long time), Glen Canyon...I'm interested in less-obvious ideas, or anyone with a strong familiarity with the more remote parts of Utah, Arizona and Nevada. Colorado and Wyoming are also possibilities, so long as they are within 900 miles one-way.

Additionally, camping possibilities are a plus, though I don't think we are looking to really *rough it*.

posted by nonmerci to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out Taos and the vicinity if you make it to NM. You should take up geocaching before you go, so that you get directed to all kinds of cool and unique places.
posted by letahl at 7:48 PM on November 29, 2008

bryce canyon, yes! also, zion national monument. very lovely scenery.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:19 PM on November 29, 2008

Best answer: You can do the whole Grand Staircase. Start with Bryce, then do Zion, and then end up at the Grand Canyon. The name "grand staircase" refers to the geological connection between the three areas. The lowest geological layer in Bryce corresponds to the highest layer in Zion, and the lowest layer in Zion corresponds to the highest layer in the Grand Canyon.

Alternatively, you could go to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. You have many great options.
posted by pmbuko at 9:49 PM on November 29, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome! The Staircase idea is really cool and definitely worth investigating...I think I want to save Yellowstone for another trip, though it's crossed my mind.

I guess I'm just interested in sort of random stuff that one wouldn't necessarily think of (small town stuff, e.g.), as I can google the big sights easily enough...
posted by nonmerci at 11:35 PM on November 29, 2008

Best answer: ++ on Taos.

Last time I was there I stayed at the Adobe and Stars B&B.

Off the top of my head potentials: Hoover damn, the salt flats, the sand dunes in White Sands National Monument, Three Rivers petroglyph, Bryce canyon and Kodachrome state park.

If you are sensitive to development, or commercialization of natural places, then my suggestion with the Grand Canyon is, don't drive all the way up. Stop at one of the aerial tour services and rent however much time you can afford. You'll have much better memories of the place, and have better views as well.

One thing, don't be in a hurry traveling in the SW, just kind of soak in it.
posted by -t at 4:51 AM on November 30, 2008

Even closer to Portland than that is Mt. Shasta, which has a wonderful sage forest feeling and lots of hiking and camping opportunities. I've done a lot of motorcycle camping in the area.
posted by SpecialK at 6:21 AM on November 30, 2008

Best answer: Well, I grew up in Phoenix, lived in California, honeymooned in Santa Fe, and now live in Portland. So this is right up my alley :).

There is an embarrassment of riches for road-tripping out here. Just to start, do you want to go east out of Portland through the gorge, or west and down the coast highway to CA? The latter is a lot more driving if you're headed for the southwest, but the coast is awfully pretty and there are zillions of things to hit along the way.

In terms of southwestern destinations, the Santa Fe / Taos area has a great southwest "feel" and is an excellent choice if you're into art. For the great outdoors I would definitely say the canyons as per the above. If you wanted something a little more unusual and were up for hiking/camping, you might look into getting a reservation and hiking into the canyon to camp on the Havasupai reservation.
posted by madmethods at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2008

Response by poster: I have done the I-5 to California trip numerous times, and am interested in avoiding the entire I-5 corridor. I have also done the 101, and am also not interested in that.

I'm trying to avoid California, because I've been there too many times already and while there's always stuff to see I'm interested in the DESERT, for whatever reason. I've lived in Las Vegas and been to Arizona and New Mexico before but at a younger age and without being at the helm.

I'm thinking I-84 will be the initial highway of choice, and then we will either go straight through a lot of Idaho or cut off and go South through Central Oregon and through Nevada on a smaller highway. It's up in the air at this point.

These are awesome suggestions! I'm afraid Taos might be a *little* far for one week (22 hours one way which while doable would be kind of brutal), and I think Santa Fe is somewhere I'd like to visit when I have more time and MONEY. I should have added that I'm a full-time student and B&B's and the like are simply not on the table, unfortunately.
posted by nonmerci at 11:32 AM on November 30, 2008

Best answer: It depends on your driving plans whether this is doable or not but the north rim of the grand canyon, from what I understand, does not have the development or crowds that the south rim has. Utah and/or arizona will probably have more than enough things for you to see on your trip. You don't mention how long you have for this trip--that information might help. Though it pains me to say it (as someone who loved NM and CO dearly) you will find more than enough to do in UT unless you have a month or so to kill. And, UT has the benefit of being closer to OR. I also love the City of Rocks in ID but it is desolate so would require camping--but has very nice camping spots (just a short walk from the car, too!).
posted by fieldtrip at 1:00 PM on November 30, 2008

On preview, seconding -t when he said not to rush your travels in the SW! Soak it all in...maybe read some Ed Abbey (Desert Solitaire, Monkey Wrench Gang)!
posted by fieldtrip at 1:02 PM on November 30, 2008

If you do go to AZ the drive south from Flagstaff (which is a cool town) to Sedona, Jerome and Prescott (I probably got the order wrong) is unbelievable. Jerome is an old mining town turned artsy town on a hill side. Gorgeous desertscape sandstone awesomeness all around these latter three towns. Flagstaff has nice hiking right from town in the mountains to the north.
posted by fieldtrip at 1:08 PM on November 30, 2008

Best answer: When's your spring break? That will determine what elevations will be comfortable. Taos is at almost 7000' elevation, and in March, its temp is typically 23-53 degrees F. Moab is about 10 degrees warmer.

Me, I'd go to Death Valley to really be warm, unless that falls into the part of California that you're sick of.
posted by salvia at 4:17 PM on November 30, 2008

antelope canyon.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:19 PM on November 30, 2008

Best answer: Yeah, gotta take temps into account. THere is usually still snow in Bryce, and the North Rim is closed. My first road trip, spring break to the Grand Canyon, I thought, hey arizona = warm. Eh, no. I wound up buying some more pants.

I'd say hit Moab and the surrounding area - it stays warmer- then head to Capitol Reef and Utah 12 down past Bryce (stop there, but don't plan to stay over night there!) down to Zion. Utah 12 will give you a great sampler of the southern half of the state.

Other options: head down to Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. In general, stay at lower elevations.
posted by notsnot at 6:25 PM on November 30, 2008

Best answer: Growing up, we did a round trip from Phoenix to northern Utah each summer, we tried to explore all the route options. Arches National Parks always comes to mind as a favorite. Ditto Rainbow Bridge and Cedar Breaks.

In Arizona, consider the Wupatki National Monument. I've also always wanted to check out Meteor Crater.
posted by reader-writer at 11:14 PM on November 30, 2008

What's funny is that I while I was making my recommendation for Antelope canyon, my wife was doing the same, and beat me to it.
posted by notsnot at 7:57 AM on December 1, 2008

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