Roadtrip through the American West
August 12, 2010 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Hey folks – I’m pondering a two week roadtrip through the American West this fall and would like your input.

As a kid, my parents and I made a loop through northern New Mexico and southern Colorado (Raton, Durango, Silverton, Mesa Verde, Four Corners). Later visited the Grand Canyon. Two years ago I made the trek to the Badlands and Yellowstone. What towns/areas/cultural sites would you recommend visiting? Are Zion/Arches/Canyonlands as awesome as everyone says? I’m not a hiker or mountain biker, but would like to go whitewater rafting if it’s still in season in the fall. Anywhere west of Kansas/ Oklahoma/Texas to the Pacific Ocean is a possibility.

I’ve been thinking about this route on highway 89 but am open to all ideas and suggestions.

posted by Coyote at the Dog Show to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I asked a similar question previously. We ended up going to Monument Valley (fantastic) and all the other places on the map, in addition to spending a couple of days in Yosemite, where we got to hike, and skipping Napa Valley. We took 101 up the Oregon coast instead of I-5 and spent a night in a cute resort town somewhere along the coast, as well. It was great.
posted by halogen at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2010

Crater Lake in Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the country, IMO. I highly recommend it if you haven't been there yet.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2010

On phone so linking is a pita, but there is a recent Askme on hiking in Arches. Some of the recs include easy hikes that even non-hikers could probably handle.

Because YES it's worth it!!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:49 AM on August 12, 2010

Are Zion/Arches/Canyonlands as awesome as everyone says?

Actually, even more awesome, if you can believe it. No really; the American Southwest, the Southern Utah, Northern Arizona region is the most breathtaking and strange land there is in this country, imo. You'd be remiss if you didn't swing through the area on a western road trip.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are Zion/Arches/Canyonlands as awesome as everyone says?

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. I have never been super-impressed with the towns/cities in the area, but the natural stuff is ridiculously spectacular.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:54 AM on August 12, 2010

Are Zion/Arches/Canyonlands as awesome as everyone says?

Waaaay better than the Grand Canyon. If I had to pick one I'd choose Arches.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:02 AM on August 12, 2010

The foothills in Montana just south of the Canadian border are breathtaking. If you're into Olde West cowboy stuff the Charles Russell museum in Great Falls is small but awesome, full of drawings and wonderful little wax sculptures of local animals and people.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:05 AM on August 12, 2010

I can't recommend Canyonlands enough. It's been years since I went there and the memory is still incredibly vivid. The look and feel of the area was so different than anything I've seen before or since. As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, being in Canyonlands was a real aesthetic epiphany. We were primarily in the Needles area of the park and we took several hikes around the area. Some of the hikes involved some elevation gain, but many were really rather flat and easy, and the payoff was incredible. I especially recommend hiking to Chesler Park. Some photos here. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.
posted by otolith at 11:08 AM on August 12, 2010

Swimming in the Emerald Pools at Zion was one of my favorite vacation memories ever. I'd choose Zion, Arches over the Grand Canyon any time.
posted by cross_impact at 11:37 AM on August 12, 2010

I loooooved Zion as well. If you go to the Grand Canyon, I recommend the North Rim. Old fashioned and way less touristed.
posted by Miko at 11:40 AM on August 12, 2010

Zion is fantastic, as is Bryce Canyon. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon can be a day trip from Zion easy peasy, but depending on your schedule may not be an option, as it closes mid-October for the winter.
posted by ambrosia at 11:52 AM on August 12, 2010

nthing the recommendations for Zion. Best Nat'l Park ever! Also, don't miss the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. 2 hours from Zion. Trees, better views than the South Rim. If you can get a reservation at the lodge (even a small cabin), do it! In fact, that's another recommendation -- I love staying at the Park Lodges. Not very expensive (except maybe in Yosemite), lots of great views and access, not luxury but nice, good food in the Lodge dining hall, lots of interesting people to meet.

Hikes in Zion -- The Narrows - very easy and spectacular. Observation Point - hard and even more spectacular. Angel's Landing - terrifying and incredible (the scary stuff doesn't happen until the very top, at least go up through Walter's Wiggles). Many other great walks and good accommodations in the Park. And drive through the tunnel at least once from east to west! Wow!

Have a great trip!
posted by rexknobus at 1:51 PM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Route 89 trip sounds fantastic. A word of caution, though: It starts snowing in the higher elevations in September, and the Route 89 trip will definitely take you to those high elevations. Example: I've been in Phoenix in the fall when it was shorts and tee-shirt weather, while two hours north in Flagstaff, at 8,000 feet, they wre getting 20 inches of snow.

We're seeing more extreme and unusual weather lately. Hard to tell what will happen. However, you might want to think about an alternative route, just in case. Two weeks could be spent in the southern New Mexico and Arizona, with excursions up north if weather permits. The drive up the Pacific coast has always intrigued me. You'd likely see fog and rain and some strong storms, but no snow.
posted by justcorbly at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2010

I echo everyone's enthusiastic yeses to the Arches/Zion/etc question. So wonderful.

Also, I've been inspired by this Flickr photoset of a guy's travels through various National Parks, should give you an idea of what you could see/visit.
posted by particular at 9:51 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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