Originally Posted by skes
Looking for some advice from veteran RVers. My wife and I are retiring and planning our first 4-6-week trip to the SW. We would be traveling in the Oct and Nov timeframe and back to Michigan in time for winter sports. I’ve been collecting information on locations/campgrounds/parks/etc in the NM, AZ, UT, CO areas. We’ve spent little time in these locations other than by air and in hotels, so my firsthand RV knowledge is rather slim. Our goals are to do lots of day hikes, bike rides, experience local cuisine and just experience a new landscape unlike our home in West Michigan. The plan would be to take advantage of RV parks, National & State Forest campgrounds and maybe try out a night or two at a BLM. As I mentioned above, I’ve been collecting information for months and to be honest I’m in state of data overload. An option would be to toss a dart at the map, but before doing that, I thought I’d seek some recommendations on good first-time locations from those that have been there and done that. Should mention we will be in a 29’ Class A with a toad. TIA!!
Congratulations on your up coming retirement. As retired folks, you now have more time to enjoy your travels. If you don't see a place this year then it will still be there next year.
With that in mind:
-- With only 4-6 weeks. Figure 4-5 days travel each way from MI to the SW if you take your time and only travel 5-6 hours a day. So that reduces the amount of time you have for the SW. Pick 2-4 places within a 200 mile radius you want to visit and plan on a week or more in each place. When we travel to get to a destination, we plan on a 9 to 10 hour travel day for 3-4 days and then maybe a 2 night break at a scenic location. And we travel on the interstates. Once we are at our destination, we stay put for 4 days or a week or so. When we move it is usually just 25-150 miles to the new area and spend a few days to week or so. Our Alaska trip in 2016 was like this. From the Washington state line and Canada we spent 4 1/2 month to Alaska & back. Travel days were generally 25-150 miles for most of the trip. We stayed as long as we wanted before moving.
-- Can you leave in early mid September and return in mid December? That would be a more relaxed trip. Start farther north in Sept and move farther south in December.
Is your RV set up for dry camping 4-6 days w/o hookups? Are you experienced with dry camping? If not I strongly suggest you work to set up your rig and learn to live w/o hookups. You wrote you like to hike. Stay in the campgrounds w/o hookups put you much closer to the hiking areas and also gives you more scenic places to park your RV. You also really expand where you can stay if you don't need elect. If you can park your RV in your driveway you can practice dry camping to get experience.
Southeast and southern UT & northern AZ is a great area to spend Oct & Nov.
-- If you can leave by mid Sept, drive directly to the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Lots of boondocking dry camping areas just outside the park. Very hard to get reservations at the North Rim CG. Jacobs Lake NF CG is a great place as well as boondock areas nearby.
-- Zion & Bryce are very near, but very crowded that time of the year. BTW Zion NP is a fantastic place in Jan & Feb as long as you have set up your RV for occasional 20-25 degree weather for several hours. Most of the time though it is sunny with lows in the 30's and highs in the 50's to low to mid 60's. Great hiking weather. Not a lot of people and fantastic hiking. Bryce in winter at 8000' is very cold.
-- The area around Escalante, UT has lots of hiking and scenic places and is not nearly as crowded. Lots of boondock places around there.
-- Follow SR-12 on up to Torrey, UT and over to Capitol Reef.
-- From Capitol Reef, head to Hanksville and pick up SR-95 to Blanding. A pretty drive and Natural Bridges Nat Monument is along the route.
-- From Blanding go to the Needles section of Canyolands NP. if you can't get reservations in the park CG, there are boondock places a few miles outside the park as well as 2-3 BLM campgrounds.
-- Head up to Arches & the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands NP. Do your best to get a campsite in CG inside Arches. You may have to check the reservations system every few days to every week to try snag a cancellation.
What I just described is a solid 4-8 weeks for a relaxed trip to the SW.
-- National Forest CG's: http://www.forestcamping.com/
This is a great source of detailed descriptions of very NF CG you can get an RV into.
-- At this website narrow your search for public campgrounds. https://www.campendium.com/
-- Lots of info here about free CG's https://freecampsites.net/
-- Do you really enjoy hiking? If browse the archives in this blog for hikes to take. https://ohtheplacestheygo.wordpress.com/
Try to remember as retired folk, you are NOT on VACATION. You area traveling to relax and enjoy your travels. You don't need to see everything as you would on a vacation.
When you get tired of winter sports, there is always winter hiking in the SW USA. Anything along I-10 from Texas (Big Bend NP is one) to San Diego is great. Some farther north (as I suggested Zion in Jan/Feb) if you can handle some cold mornings. Death Valley NP and along US-395 in California can be nice most of the time.
When you dry camp and boondock, your choice of places to park your RV expands exponentially. Review some of the places you can find in the links I gave above. No need to fight for reservations in crowded RV Parks.