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Author Topic: Sites and roads of the West  (Read 4797 times)

Alps

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Sites and roads of the West
« on: December 11, 2015, 05:09:11 PM »

I'm planning a two-week trip next late-April to the Southwest. There's already at least one road I wanted to take that just won't be open yet (Memorial Day is the given target date). That said, any must-sees along this general route (roads or otherwise)? Anything I can cut out, reroute? Where I'm just generally noting a large national park, what roads/sights should I be including, and/or how much time should I be allowing? Any great hikes, waterfalls?


  • Sky Harbor->10W->17N->Loop 303 west (reclinch)->10W->Salome Rd->US 60->AZ 72->Swansea (ghost town)
  • back out to AZ 95 (London Bridge, Lake Havasu)->40W->Kelbaker Rd. (Mojave desert)
  • CA 127->CA 178->Badwater Road (Death Valley)->190->136->395->Manzanar
  • Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City in some order
  • Loneliest Road via Hickison Petroglyphs to Great Basin Park->93S to Crystal Springs/E.T. Highway->93S to Las Vegas (CC 215, I-215, I-515, Strip, old button copy sign, downtown)
  • US 93->Hoover Dam->back up I-15->old US 91->Snow Canyon
  • Snow Canyon Pkwy->UT 18->UT 34->I-15->UT 9 (Zion)->US 89->UT 12->UT 63 (Bryce Canyon)
  • Back up 63... If time, east on 12 through Escalante to Boulder. Not sure if I have time to continue on 12 and all the way around to the east. Otherwise back on 12 to 89 south.
  • AZ 67 to North Rim->back up to US 89a past Vermilion Cliffs->US 89 north to East Rim/Horseshoe Bend->US 89 south->AZ 64 west to South Rim/mule ride
  • US 180 south to Flagstaff (Lowell Observatory)->AZ 89A->AZ 179/Red Rock Byway->I-17 (Arcosanti)->Loop 101 to Musical Instrument Museum->Taliesin West->Sky Harbor

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2015, 05:38:55 PM »

I'd prioritize Escalante and that part of UT-12. You wont see scenery quite like that anywhere on the trip. Zion is kind of similar, but really a different experience.

Alps

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2015, 01:36:27 AM »

I'd prioritize Escalante and that part of UT-12. You wont see scenery quite like that anywhere on the trip. Zion is kind of similar, but really a different experience.

The biggest thing getting in my way is the amount of backtracking. The farther I get along UT-12, the farther to double back to US 89 south toward the North Rim, or alternatively, I would have to go way around north and east to head back west to the North Rim. Any experience with Cottonwood Canyon Rd.? I have no problems taking dirt roads in a regular sedan, but I was reading about washes mudding out, and it seems that late April may be prime mud season.

Pete from Boston

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2015, 10:14:48 AM »

If you can go later, you'll get a really spectacular drive on 120 through Tioga Pass, down to Lee Vining and Mono Lake.  The snow melt is unpredictable, but you won't get through that early even in an early year (the Tioga Road opens late May on average).
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Alps

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2015, 11:04:15 PM »

If you can go later, you'll get a really spectacular drive on 120 through Tioga Pass, down to Lee Vining and Mono Lake.  The snow melt is unpredictable, but you won't get through that early even in an early year (the Tioga Road opens late May on average).
Yep. Couldn't move the mule ride later, at least for now, so I'm pretty much set on missing Tioga Pass. I'll see plenty of waterfalls though, apparently. I would also hit a couple of national parks during National Parks Week, though the combined admission to the Utah parks and Grand Canyon outside of that period pretty much equal an annual pass anyway.

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2015, 08:16:59 AM »


If you can go later, you'll get a really spectacular drive on 120 through Tioga Pass, down to Lee Vining and Mono Lake.  The snow melt is unpredictable, but you won't get through that early even in an early year (the Tioga Road opens late May on average).
Yep. Couldn't move the mule ride later, at least for now, so I'm pretty much set on missing Tioga Pass. I'll see plenty of waterfalls though, apparently. I would also hit a couple of national parks during National Parks Week, though the combined admission to the Utah parks and Grand Canyon outside of that period pretty much equal an annual pass anyway.

My only other sizable national park experience out there is Arches.  I was irrationally almost angry that I had to change my whole idea of the planet I live on in that one day to make room for that experience. 

And of course, along with it, all of I-70 from I-15 to Denver provides similar lessons.  Pull off at the overlooks lest you miss something jaw-dropping.
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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2015, 02:58:59 PM »

Bryce Canyon touts itself as having the worlds most beautiful 3 mile hike.  Having walked it, they're probably right.
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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2015, 12:51:21 AM »

Loop 303 west (reclinch)
You might also be interested in checking out the new Northern Parkway. It makes for a nice little 4-1/2 mile freeway off of loop 303. Being maintained by Maricopa county, it was left without a rubberized asphalt layer, which nowadays, is a rare sight around Phoenix.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2015, 11:33:45 AM »

I have done much of the tentative itinerary, but only in bits and pieces as part of separate trips.  My observations:

*  You are not going to want to stay in Death Valley for long in late May--this is the start of prime season for sunstroke deaths.  The usual rule of thumb is not to hike past ten AM.  I'd go with camping gear since lodging is expensive (I camped for $10, including shower etc., at Panamint Springs).  There is also a significant temperature differential with altitude.  When the thermometer shows 91° F at Stovepipe Wells (sea level), for example, it feels like well over a hundred at Badwater Basin, and quite comfortable at Towne Pass (about 4000 ft above sea level).  Both the Artists' Loop and Zabriskie Point are good scenic photo opportunities.

*  Devil's Postpile National Monument, near Mammoth Springs, is well worth a stop.

*  US 395 is a fast road up to Conway Summit, and twisty thereafter.

*  US 395/I-580 between Reno and Carson City offers two roadgeeking opportunities:  the wind warning system (currently being installed--construction plans are available through the Nevada DOT contractors' EDMS, though I forget the contract number), and the Galena Bridge.  It is worth driving down the latter, then exiting onto locally maintained roads to admire it from beneath, and then going up Geiger Grade en route to Virginia City, where it can be admired from an outlook near the summit.

*  I second Corco's recommendation regarding Utah SR 12, but it strikes me that Bryce Canyon and Zion NPs and the Cedar Breaks NM fit better into a separate itinerary that begins in Moab and then works south and west via Monticello, Hanksville, and Torrey to take in Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and Capitol Reef NP as well.  I really do not like the visitor experience at either Zion or Bryce Canyon because they are both so thoroughly mobbed that the NPS has closed the park roads to private automobile traffic and requires sightseers to use buses.  The buses are badly sprung with hard plastic seats and although the windows are designed to maximize DLO, your views out are blocked by your fellow passengers.  If you have to make cuts for time, this (and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) is where I would start.  I have friends who have gone backcountry camping in at least some of these parks, but I have not attempted it myself and the required equipment is significant (especially for water purification).

*  I'd make time for I-17 (even if this involved deadheading along SRs 89A and 179) because ADOT is considering relocating the twistiest parts of it.  Sedona is a brief but scenic stop.
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Alps

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2015, 11:16:41 PM »

Mr. Winkler:
* Is the North Rim not worth the drive down and back?
* The Bryce Canyon shuttle appears to be optional.

J N Winkler

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2015, 11:37:08 AM »

* Is the North Rim not worth the drive down and back?

I think it is worth a visit, but it is quite far from the South Rim (the NPS website for Grand Canyon NP advises you to budget time for a 220-mile drive when connecting between Rims, as the highway connections are quite indirect) and, because of its location, the canyon view looks out to the south, which makes for burnt-out photos in the middle of the day.  If you are interested in good canyon shots, I would try to time your arrival for the late afternoon/early evening so you can take advantage of flat "golden hour" light as the sun drops to the west.  You could then stay overnight and get up early to exploit flat light from the east.

* The Bryce Canyon shuttle appears to be optional.

It comes as a slight surprise to me that this is still the case.  I visited in 2002, en route to California, and the bus service was already up and running and I was under the impression it was just a matter of time before it became compulsory.  It was definitely so at Zion, which I also visited, though SR 9 through the park (which serves through traffic and includes a tunnel built by the BPR in the 1930's that was at the time considered a bit of an engineering marvel) is still open to private passenger vehicles.
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Rothman

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2015, 11:40:47 AM »

If you are interested in good canyon shots, I would try to time your arrival for the late afternoon/early evening so you can take advantage of flat "golden hour" light as the sun drops to the west.  You could then stay overnight and get up early to exploit flat light from the east.


I was wondering where this thread was going concerning the North Rim, which was where I first visited the canyon and found it to be actually much less crowded and more enjoyable than my later visit to the South Rim.  In any matter, thanks very much for the photo advice; I never thought of that! :)
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corco

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2015, 12:02:15 PM »

I'd say if the intent is just to drive to the North Rim and back and look at the Grand Canyon and say "oh wow, the Grand Canyon!" the South Rim offers better opportunities. If the intent is to spend a day or more there hiking and enjoying the outside, the North Rim is far nicer.

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2015, 12:41:15 AM »

I'd prioritize Escalante and that part of UT-12. You wont see scenery quite like that anywhere on the trip. Zion is kind of similar, but really a different experience.

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2016, 12:25:03 AM »

I recognize you probably don't have the time, but assuming you do and intend to stay for a day or two in Lake Tahoe, keep in mind how the weather is behaving as related to snow and ice. But if there is a good weather forecast and the roads are clear, the drive around the lake is well worth it. I have camped there several times and especially enjoy the Camp Richardson area at the southwestern corner of the lake. There are some walking/hiking trails in the area that lead past an old mansion estate and to an underground stream viewing chamber, where you can sometimes see salmon. But in April, it is likely to be snowy, and these summertime trails are likely to be blocked with snow if not too muddy to use. A bike path follows California 89 for a while near Camp Richardson, and that's a good way to see that segment of the lake (weather permitting). If you intend to go to Vikingsholm or Emerald Bay, check ahead for what's open and see if the boat cruises to the bay are running. The Truckee River outlet at the northwestern end of the lake is neat for its historic weir (regulates flow of water from the lake into the river, which drains toward Reno and Pyramid Lake), and it's right off Highway 89. If you end up connecting to I-80 at the town of Truckee, then you'll find an old Victory Highway monument at the state of California visitors center, and you'll find a small Lincoln Highway exhibit at the truck parking exit on the westbound lanes just after Nevada's Exit 5. And to the west of Truckee is Donner Pass, with its historic US 40 bridge near the summit. So much to see, such little time. Happy travels!
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Alps

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2016, 07:45:39 PM »

I've figured out that it makes the most sense to cut out the California part of the trip due to snowy possibilities. Tahoe may and may not be part of what gets cut. thanks for the recommendations - whatever I don't get to see now, I'll add to a near-future Yosemite trip.

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Re: Sites and roads of the West
« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2016, 09:05:10 PM »

Actually, the only part of your itinerary that might need to be jettisoned on account of a difficult Sierra crossing is Yosemite, since all of the standard tourist staples for that national park are on the other side of Tioga Pass.  I would not even attempt to do Yosemite and the US 395 corridor stuff as part of the same trip at a time that potentially overlaps pass closure season, unless I left myself the option of shuffling between the US 395 and SR 99 corridors using a southern connection like SR 178 or SR 14/SR 58.

Since the Loneliest Road stretch of US 50 is a waypoint, you might as well take in the US 395 stuff on your way to the west end.  (I have done US 95 and don't really recommend it--there's nothing to see there except Playmate Ranch.)
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