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Old 02-19-2020, 10:50 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2019
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Suggestions in the SW US

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. Ive been collecting information on locations/campgrounds/parks/etc in the NM, AZ, UT, CO areas. Weve 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, Ive been collecting information for months and to be honest Im in state of data overload. An option would be to toss a dart at the map, but before doing that, I thought Id 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!!
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Old 02-19-2020, 12:16 PM   #2
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I definitely throw in Flagstaff and Page in Arizona if you like natural things. Flagstaff is mountain country and that makes for good pine forests which we like and then there are also cliff dwellings for the indian lore, but the main attractions for us is the Sunset Crater Volcano ( only 900 years ago!) and then at page, a tour of the slot canyons would be a definite plus, while staying at a campground on Lake Powell just West of town. Don't miss the overlook on the Colorado River just South of Page. Perhaps a day trip down to Sedona if staying in Flagstaff?
Way too much to see in one trip!
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Old 02-21-2020, 04:18 AM   #3
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You may have bit of more than you can chew. I know I am planning for next year a circle trip around the canyons. That in its self will be almost 3 weeks. I would start by narrowing down where in the listed states you really want to see. Then how much time in each location, driving time to see stuff is also important. I mean would you rather drive 1or2 hours to see something, or change camping location. I find changing location is better for me. I spend at least two nights in a spot. That depends on whats around that's close.

Remember that Oct. Nov. could be tough in the Rockies. You may also find on your way home many campgrounds closed for the season. That's would be something to look at. You are going to want to get your rig winterized as soon as you get home. I am sure cold Temps. come to w. Michigan by November.

One other point is drive time. Mainly from Michigan to the SW. every body does it different. I myself find that 5-6 hour time frame per day just enough. So its going to take you a few days to just get to the sw.
Good luck and enjoy
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Old 02-21-2020, 08:26 AM   #4
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Durango and the train ride is not to be missed, whether for scenery or train/history interests, also look at Royal Gorge as great on both points. Colorado Springs for the campsite and day trips in all directions? If in that area and interested in natural history/science, don't miss Florissant Fossil Beds.
Hard to think of Denver as tropical but the trees say it was!
One could get totally wasted on the options available.
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Old 02-21-2020, 12:15 PM   #5
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We live in South Texas and we spend a lot of time in New Mexico and Southwestern Colorado. Both are great. In NM we spend time in Las Cruces, ABQ, Santa Fe and Taos. All have their pluses and minuses. Durango and the area around there from Pagosa Springs to far west CO in Cortez and Delores you'll find tons of camping, hiking and fishing. It's fantastic. We've gone to that part of the country every year for 10 years now.

Your problem mostly will be your timing. Most of Northern NM and all of CO start to close up in late Sept or early October. Remember these places all have higher altitudes which makes for colder temps earlier.

Also, a large number of National Forest Service Campgrounds are now reservable on www.recreation.gov and the local area residents are quick to snap up the weekends especially in the Fall. You can make reservations 6-months in advance so, March would be the time to reserve fall dates and get ahead of the weekend problem. Certainly, not all NFS CG are on the reservation system but many of the more popular ones are.

You might have more luck with Sept/Oct than with Oct/Nov.
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Old 02-21-2020, 01:47 PM   #6
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That area does certainly take a bit different plan on weather as many of us think in North/South as the main factor rather than elevation. And that also gets big in deciding which road to take as we need to avoid the high passes more than we flatlanders normally think about.
Another point is water supply as they often get turned off way early for my brain.
Colorado has some great state parks but they are now fully on a reservation system and it throws a wrench in lots of our "no- plan" planning!
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Old 02-25-2020, 12:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skes View Post
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.

Resources:
-- 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.
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