Our second trip to SW USA- Advice please! - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-16-2019, 08:04 AM   #1
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Our second trip to SW USA- Advice please!

May and early June 2018 we took our first trip out west. It was phenomenal. What a marvelous treasure that area of our country is! And the National parks are breathtaking. We drove from Florida out Rt 10 to Texas, and stayed in San Antonio for a few days, then North to Elephant Butte St. park near Truth or Consequences. What a cute, quirky place. We visited Canyon DeChelly, saw Mexican Hat and camped on BLM land nearby. Then Mesa Verde (ohhh!) and Moab (camped at Sand Flats) and saw Arches. Then all the way to Flaming Gorge in Utah. Found our way to Coulter Bay. The only place we had reservations on the entire trip was Yellowstone for the second week of June. The park had been open for one week and was still very snowy. It was cold! When we left Yellowstone one week later it was very cold and we drove all day to camp that night just inside the Badlands. It was 105°! We made our way back to Pennsylvania where we live. Fabulous trip and we learned a lot. We learned that altitude is an important consideration for weather. We learned that there is soooo much more to see and we are eager to go again and hit those places we had to regretfully skip on that first trip.
On this next trip we want to see Taos, New Mexico, Chaco Canyon, Valley of the Gods, Canyonlands, Albuquerque, Sedona, more of Santa Fe, maybe Grand Canyon .We didn't swing far enough west to see Bryce and Zion. (Time wasn't on our side as we had those reservations at Yellowstone hemming us in.) Oh gosh I know there is more.
Please advise us on a route for our next trip and your "must not miss" places. The important thing is that this time we will leave Pennsylvania in the middle of January - and probably shoot south as fast as possible to get out of snow range. Maybe spend some time in Florida before heading west again? We are concerned about elevation in the West as it affect cold temps and travel conditions. I remember reading a post some time ago from Jon in Az to the effect that you can camp in Arizona year round if you mind your elevation! We want to return in March sometime.
This forum is a rich resource of information and great advice. Thanks in advance!
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:08 AM   #2
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If you are returning in January, forget North Rim and Bryce Canyon. Good time for Zion. Take a day trip with your TV from Zion to Bryce Canyon. Valley of Fire SP in Nevada is also a good March stop, and Death Valley too.

We will be in St George, UT in February. Snow Canyon SP in St George is a good camp stop too!

Last year we headed for AZ in mid January. Ended up having to take the far southern route, I-10, as the weather did not cooperate. Catalina SP outside of Tucson, AZ, is a great place to camp. Even in mid February on our return, we had to head south to I-20 as our planned route through Amarillo was going to be single digit temperatures. You have to be flexible!

+10 to below, I would detour to Big Bend, NP on the way west.

If you want "guaranteed" warm in AZ in January, Yuma is one choice. Lots of RV campgrounds. Town is not so great.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:16 AM   #3
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We love travelling across Texas. If you're coming west from FL on I-10, 90 out of San Antonio is an interesting drive that will take you along the US/Mexican border. Boondocking opportunities around Del Rio on Amistad NRA. Judge Roy Bean. Seminole Canyon SP has nice showers.

Big Bend NP is one of our favorites with some great back country roadside campsites you can get to with your Casita. There are also three NPS campgrounds there which are very good. Be aware that mid March is Spring Break and for some reason college students flock to this remote Park. The mostly ghost town of Terlingua outside the western Park gate is a must see. La Kiva (google it) is a quirky local watering hole and restaurant and the Starlight Theater has surprisingly good food.

The McDonald Observatory is a good stop and fairly close to Davis Mountains SP which gets a lot of high marks from other campers but we found the sites a bit crowded.

Balmorhea SP is worth an overnight just to see the amazing natural spring and swimming pool there.

If you find yourself in the panhandle area, Palo Duro State Park is great.

Carlsbad Caverns in NM is another favorite of ours (Cindy loves caves). Brantley Lake SP for amenities; Dog Canyon campground in Guadalupe Mountain NP or boondocking in Lincoln NF for a more remote experience when visiting that area. I would not recommend the Pine Spring campground in GUMO - its literally a paved parking lot.

We spent several days in Great Basin NP this past June and enjoyed our time there. Camped at lower Lehman Creek right on the water. More caves which Cindy also liked.

Lee's Ferry campground in Glen Canyon NRA outside Page and the boat tour and hike to Rainbow Arch. Grand Canyon North Rim if its open - boondock in Kaibab NF. Anywhere we've been north of this will likely have snow until early June.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:42 AM   #4
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Chaco Canyon insights

My husband and I have traveled to Chaco several times and truly love this place. BUT!!!! the last 12 miles into the canyon are washboard gravel. Unless you hit the right harmonic or rhythm while driving, it is rough on any vehicle, particularly trailers. Batten down EVERYTHING! Tie down cabinets, and be ready for plenty of dust to filter into the trailer and the Tug. Few people make the trip, which keeps it beautiful and well worth the trip.

Anticipate it will be cold at night. We were there in mid March several years ago, and it got to 8 degrees at night. there are NO amenities other than flush toilets in the campground.

Be certain you have all the food and fuel you will need. The region has been in drought for several years, so there may be water rationing. Once there, plan on at least 2 nights, perhaps 3. It is most inviting in late winter or early spring (about 50 degrees in the day).

Another park that we love is Hovenweep, on the Utah and Colorado boarder. Stunningly beautiful and again, not many people go there. Close to Cortez CO, a cool little town and try and see Capital Reef and Natural Bridges. We are inveterate NPS visitors and at one time were seasonal rangers with the NPS, but just discovered Natural Bridges and Capital Reef this last summer. Loved them both very much.

Have fun, we may see you on the way.
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Old 09-16-2019, 10:29 AM   #5
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Thanks, thriftybill. When you are in St. George, Utah in February, what kind of temperatures do you expect?
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Old 09-16-2019, 10:33 AM   #6
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Thanks Al. Will investigate your suggestions! We had to pass on Balmorhea SO as it was closed due to water supply problems in our last trip. We ended up blocking at a rest stop. Not bad for a quick overnight!
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Old 09-16-2019, 10:47 AM   #7
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Bjsmitty, I have heard that the approach to Chaco Canyon is rough. 12 miles of rough gives pause, I must say. When you were there in March how warm was it in the day- enough to thaw out?
Have checked the avg highs and lows near Cortez, CO and it is still pretty cold in early March.
Have heard of Hovenweep. Its now on the list. But maybe for a trip later in the year...many thanks!
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:08 AM   #8
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If you hit SE NM with Carlsbad Caverns, you might consider Cloudcroft, White Sands, Sunspot observatory, and—if necessary— Roswell along with the Taos destination. Lots of BLM land out there.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:11 AM   #9
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It got to the mid 50s in March at Chaco, and don't even think about Hovenweep in late July and August. So hot they cancel all ranger led walks. May and Sept are beautiful.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:20 AM   #10
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One other suggestion, Gila Cliffs NM in SE New Mexico. A beautiful 700 year old cliff dwelling, dates earlier than Mesa Verde. One road to the monument is OK but the one from Silver City is a real trip. Lots of curves. 45 miles that generally takes 2.5 hours. Lots of places to camp, there is even a small trading post with gas there so there are services. Again, the remote location and difficult drive leaves lots of space and no crowds. Beautiful ruins, with lots of hiking along a beautiful river. Highly recommended.

The road from Elephant Buttes is slow, but I pulled a trailer there a few years ago.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:35 AM   #11
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SW Travel

March weather can be iffy. I lived in Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Petrified Forest and Carlsbad national parks, and enjoyed travels throught Utah's spectacular parks. You might run into snow in March in higher elevations,(ie North Rim Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc) so best to check with your destinations for weather, road conditions. April is beautiful.

A visit to Grand Canyon should be on everyone's bucket list, as well as Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Great Basin NP in eastern Nevada near Utah border is a spectacular little visited gem.

Enjoy your trip and some of the most beautiful places on earth
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Old 09-16-2019, 05:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryellen View Post
Thanks, thriftybill. When you are in St. George, Utah in February, what kind of temperatures do you expect?
Highs in the mid 50s to 60F, lows in the 30s. We really like the area around St George and St George itself, we have been going there for decades.

If we ever owned a second home, it would be in St George. Heck, we looked at houses last time we were there, and came close to buying.

The nice part about St George weather is it is sunny and DRY!

Southern AZ is a lot warmer in winter, but St George is special.
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:07 PM   #13
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my favorite place for January camping is Death Valley NP. My favorite place to camp at DV is Panamint Springs, a private resort thats now inside the NP.

3/4ths or more of DV is best explored with a 4x4... doesn't need to be a radical jeep, just about any offroad suitable 4x4 pickup or SUV with all terrain tires will do fine.




panamint springs campground, full hookup spot:

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Old 09-16-2019, 06:12 PM   #14
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Last February, we had snow in Scottsdale - and cold rain in Apache Junction near Phoenix - 2.5" in a day. At least for Arizona, it's half of rainy season - the other half is monsoon season (currently in progress). I would estimate we had rain about 30% of the time we were in AZ. However, the non-rainy days were wonderful, and the desert was green.
Elevation really is it - along with rain shadow - most storms come from the west in winter.
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:22 PM   #15
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Winter of 2018-19 was an El Niño winter, and an exceptional one at that. Rain (and snow at higher elevations) was much more frequent than average. It’s more typical to have plenty of sunny, dry days between Pacific storms. Expect cool nights regardless.
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:51 PM   #16
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We spent the month of May in the SW area -- did the Utah Canyons, Grand Canyon, etc. Bryce was really great, and Zion is special. We spent some time in Sadona, it is very touristy, but the mountains are really special, and the canyon going north has loads of campgrounds. We had snow the end of May in Sadona, so you never know what can come up. Petrified forest was a drive through for us, interesting to see but not a big time thing. If you like to hike it might be more time, likewise on the painted dessert. So much to see there, and will will be going back to catch the California Parks before long.
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Old 09-16-2019, 08:41 PM   #17
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The highlight of our recent Utah trip were Kodachrome Basin State Park, and the nearby Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, especially Cottonwood Canyon Rd.

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Old 09-17-2019, 10:27 AM   #18
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The highlight of our recent Utah trip were Kodachrome Basin State Park, and the nearby Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, especially Cottonwood Canyon Rd.

That is beautiful. We have put both of those destinations on our list.
So...exploring Death Valley...what can one see? and would we need reservations to Panamint Springs?
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Old 09-17-2019, 10:45 AM   #19
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This is great-so many places to see. We are mapping all these places, checking high and low temperatures ( we really want to avoid twisty, turn-y, narrow roads in snowy conditions) and the route will materialize for us! Thank you everyone for listing the places that sang to you and especially for details like specific camping spots/hiking spots and comments on gas availability. We learned last year to top off every chance because you never know how far to the next had station.
Keep the suggestions coming!
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Old 09-17-2019, 10:26 PM   #20
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That is beautiful. We have put both of those destinations on our list.
So...exploring Death Valley...what can one see? and would we need reservations to Panamint Springs?
yeah, you need reservations at panamint springs. they had closed the hookup part of the RV park to trench and redo all the sewer hookups because it was sub-optimal, but by now I'd hope they are back online.

lets see, lotsa stuff to see on paved roads in DV... I'd plan on a week there to see all the easy stuff. Drive down to Badwater, and see all the other stops along the main road. stop at Furnace Creek (gift shop/store... I'd not eat there, the restaurants aren't very good). Artists Palette, walk a few miles up Golden Canyon and back, drive around to Zabriskie Point (which, hah, is above the top of Golden Canyon, but gives a completely different view), take the road up to Dante's View, and if you have a 4x4, on the way back, take some of the dirt side roads like Hole in the Wall. the 20 Mule Team loop is car-drivable. On another day, drive to the nevada town of Beatty (cheap gas), and on the way back, detour and see the ghost town Rhyolite. IF you have a 4x4 or are reasonably adventurous, you can take the 1-way dirt road from near Rhyolite that takes you down Titus Canyon, its spectacular. If you're really adventurous and have an offroad suitable vehicle (again, a 4x4 SUV or truck with A/T tires and decent ground clearance is recommended, but it doesn't have to be some kinda insane jeep), you can take a rather long loop invoving Westside Rd, Warm Springs Rd, Mengel Canyon, stop at the geologists canyon, and the barker ranch where the Mansons hid out. For bonus points, and more serious 4x4'ing, head down Goler Wash and end up back at the south end of Panamint Valley.

yet more 4x4 adventures in the north half of the park including Saline Valley, where there's a hot springs, South Pass, North Pass (can be snowy int he other). Again, a 4x4 moderate SUV/truck with decent all terrain tires will easily get you through the worst of this, unless the snow is TOO deep.

Also to the north on pavement is Scotties's Castle, which is an odd piece of history, well worth the guided tours.... out that way, there's also Ubehebe Crater, worth a get out and walk around, and if you wanna do some more gravel roads, drive down to The Racetrack, which is a dry lake where rocks mysteriously move and leave tracks in the otherwise smooth surface. Lippincott Canyon is definitely more challenging, although my kid did get through with his lifted Vanagon that had beefy oversize all terrain tires, but was just 2x4. conditions vary wildly from year to year and season to season on ALL these roads so best to chjeck with the rangers before ANY back country adventires, also note the miles are LONG and there are NO services.

if you go in the spring, at just the right time, parts of the south end of death valley light up in wildflowers for just a few days if there has been sufficient rain in the winter.

winters are usually mild days albeit chilly nights on the valley floors, but flash floods are a distinct albeit rare possiblity, so best to keep on top of the weather via the ranger stations.
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