Seattle to Phoenix sans California
July 9, 2007 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Please provide me with ideas for a road trip from Seattle to Phoenix that does not go through California.

In approximately one month (actually exactly a month, looking at today's date) I will be moving, by myself, from Seattle back to Phoenix. On the way up, I saw a lot of the fun California stuff (Pacific Coast Highway, San Francisco, Redwoods, etc.), and would now like to see more of this humongous, beautiful country. The trip needs to be fairly short, so I'm not trying to get an in-depth look at anything, rather more of an overview of what the scenery looks like in a part of the country I've never been through.

I feel like I've seen a lot of California, so I'd like to know what else I could see on a relatively expeditious roadtrip (~1500 miles or 3-4 days).
posted by !Jim to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, that pretty much leaves you with Nevada. hwy 140 East out of Klamath Falls will bring you into Northern Nevada, near the Black Rock Desert.

Then drive through Nevada and into Arizona. ;-) The scenery up there is amazing, and very un-California like.
posted by drstein at 3:06 PM on July 9, 2007

When you went through California last time, did you go down through 395, through Owens Valley? A lot of Californians have never been to this area of their own state, and it's awesome. It's also offers easy connections to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:07 PM on July 9, 2007

Did you know you can drag and drop routes on Google Maps now?
posted by modofo at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2007

Day 1 Seattle to Portland, then east to Bend
Day 2 - Bend to Reno
Day 3 - Reno to Vegas
Day 4 - Vegas to Phoenix

They're long driving days, but the scenery's pretty cool.
posted by pdb at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2007

Seconding eastern California, which is so different from the route you traversed that it might as well be a different state. Some things you could see: Manzanar, Death Valley (featuring the strange Death Valley Opera House, previously on MetaFilter) and of course Las Vegas and Hoover Dam.
posted by escabeche at 3:16 PM on July 9, 2007

Response by poster: Did you know you can drag and drop routes on Google Maps now?

I did, which is really neat, but that obviously doesn't tell me anything about what there is to see on that route.
posted by !Jim at 3:31 PM on July 9, 2007

Lake Tahoe - Nevada side.
posted by mikehayes19 at 3:37 PM on July 9, 2007

For what it's worth, I was absolutely stunned at how pretty the Portland-Boise route was (84 east but duck off at any of the smaller random highways like 197, through Maupin).

Not sure if you're into camping, but after taking (and camping) that route, I turned into a convert.
posted by bhance at 3:50 PM on July 9, 2007

I-5 S from about Ashland, OR through Mt. Shasta is a nice drive. I'd see if there's a way to avoid the Redding-Sacramento portion by cutting southeast toward Nevada City (if such a road exists), and then catch up with 80 E in time for Lake Tahoe.

Taking Owens Valley / 395 south would be cool. But personally, and if you have time, I'd head east, taking Highway 50 ("the loneliest highway in America") through Nevada mining towns. Head east into Utah and around SLC, take this southeastern trending "shortcut" toward where uh... there's a road that heads south from 70 to Moab, UT -- to that. Head south through Moab, see Valley of the Gods, then cut back west to Lake Powell, Flagstaff, Sedona, and then down through Phoenix. I'm not sure you'll have enough time for that eastern-heading loop, but there's very little as good as Arches National Park & especially the Valley of the Gods in the amazing-scenery-you-can-see-from-your-car category.

One other thought -- I'd seriously think about temperature. I'd save that Death Valley visit for the middle of winter (when it's still amazingly temperate). Even my Moab / Valley of the Gods idea would be nicer in May. The mountains in Nevada and around Lake Tahoe will be nice this time of year.
posted by salvia at 4:59 PM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: i live in boise, i've driven all over this area, and i'd suggest this route: googlemap

bhance is right, there are some beautiful places between washington/idaho/oregon . . . but my feeling is that eastern washington/northern idaho is the scenic way to go.

pdb has a very direct route . . . but once you've seen the desert, you've seen the desert. imo, driving thru nevada by one's self if not recommended - some of the roads have no turns for 100 miles . . . perfectly straight road thru the desert . . . maddening!

if you really want to see some spectacular scenery in the west, you should consider the following:

the googlemap route will take you thru the southeast part of washington into northern idaho . . . the lewiston area features the Palouse Mountain Range (1 / 2 / 3) - soft rolling hills for miles and miles.

Then you'll pass thru the Nez Perce Nat'l Park, and what trip thru the west would be complete without visiting lands of the people we devastated in order to colonize.

which takes you further down thru beautiful mountain scenery to McCall, which is a beautiful tourist destination. i tried to get you thru Sun Valley, which is where the rich and famous "get away", but it's impossible to get there from the north without a major detour. Also, the next teacher is space is from McCall.

Between McCall and Boise you'll drive next to the Payette River, world-class whitewater, where in august there will be tons of rafting going on right off the side of the highway. you can watch as you drive or there are lots of pull-offs.

Also, if you want to check out a natural hot spring, there is one right off the Highway near Banks (between McCall and Boise) called Skinnydipper.

if you stay in boise, check out our fansy new hotel, The Modern (they totally ripped off The Jupiter Hotel in Portland, but whatever, it's nice).

Once you make the turn off I84 south into Utah, a whole new section of mountain beauty is right along the highway. huge mountain ranges line the interstate hundreds of miles on the way into Salt Lake City.

You might even catch a glimpse of the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake if the conditions are just right.

Then, southeast of Salt Lake, you can drive thru spectacular canyonlands. moab is breathtaking.

Then you can head to the Grand Canyon.

Then south into the forest-y hills of northern arizona to your balmy destination.

if you want camping locations along the way, i'd be happy to suggest a few.
posted by nyoki at 6:49 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you do go through Eastern Oregon, you could consider checking out the Steens Mountain area. Maybe stay at the Frenchglen hotel -- make reservations and get there in time for their family style dinner and take half the next day and drive up Steens mountain for the view over the Alvord desert. I love this place -- wild antelope, turkey vultures, horses, eagles!

A little bit of info about this place.
posted by amanda at 9:57 PM on July 9, 2007

(er, !Jim, if you take nyoki's route, can i go with you???)
posted by UnclePlayground at 12:05 PM on July 10, 2007

Response by poster: (er, !Jim, if you take nyoki's route, can i go with you???)

posted by !Jim at 2:18 PM on July 10, 2007

Out of curiosity, why are you moving? I'm a phoenix native who's considering moving to seattle in a year, btw...

and moab is beautiful! drive slow through bluff unless you want a ticket...
posted by Chris4d at 12:07 AM on July 12, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the tip Chris4d. I'm a college student at ASU, and I was doing a summer internship with a company up here.

The place is amazing. It's got a lot of great city stuff, within a reasonable drive of tons of great outdoors stuff. I think I'm going to try to come back and live here for a while after I graduate. The one thing I'd recommend is that you come here during the winter for a week or two to see if you could handle it. There have been a few weeks this summer where it's really wet and cool, and how you deal with several months of that will really determine your success here.
posted by !Jim at 9:57 PM on July 30, 2007

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