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Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Elanora, Australia
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Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

I would really appreciate some advice and recommendations for our roadtrip in December this year. The Grand Canyon forum seems the most logical place to ask for help, please let me know if there is a more appropriate forum for this question as a first time user. Also apologies in advance as I can see many similar queries on here. Any help or local knowledge would be wonderful.

We are a British family of five living in Queensland for the past seven years,with three older kids travelling with us (17,18,21) We love travelling but haven't road tripped in the USA before. Our main interests would be seeing the sights, getting away from the touristy parts and having a genuine experience of this beautiful area. I have been quite naive in my planning, I realise how extremely cold the desert gets in places (having camped at Uluru mid Winter!!) but I haven't taken into account that altitude on parts of our route will have an impact on snow, ice and hazardous driving.

Anyway, if anyone has time to check this out it would be SO helpful. I think I have taken into consideration hours of daylight, so not driving on unfamiliar, isolated roads at night and hopefully the intinerary is realistic in timescale to allow us to take time to see the highlights of each place yet allow us to cover a large area.We will hire a Ford Escape or similar ( these are 4wd in Australia?)

and ensure there is a kit onboard for the event of unexpected winter weather, will also check weather forecasts every day before heading off. I have tried to allow reasonable amounts of driving on most days. we will be out early and at our destination each day before dark if all goes to plan!!

Day 1 (10th Dec) drive LA to Palm Springs, stay 2 nights, explore Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs.

12/12/13 Drive to Las Vegas via Twentynine Palms, Hoover Dam, three nights in Vegas to explore and take a flight out over the GCNP.

15/12/13 drive to Flagstaff via Kingman stay overnight in Flagstaff(unless anywhere nicer. This is where I have realised snow may be a concern)

16/12/13 drive to Tusayan, stay overnight to see sunset and sunrise over the GC.

17/12/13 drive to Page and stay overnight, explore area.

18/12/13 drive to Monument Valley, arriving in time to take Spirit tour. Stay overnight in View Hotel to see sunset and sunrise.

19/12/13 drive to Moab, overnight here, ( wanted to access Arches National Park to see amphitheatre and Delicate Arch)

20/12/13 Moab to Cortez or Durango (overnight stay)

21/12/13 drive to Taos, overnight here

22/12/13 drive to Santa Fe two nights here before flying onwards to New Orleans to commence road trip up to Nashville.

In short, will this trip be reasonable in the timescale/ potential conditions or is it far too much loaded into too short a timescale? Apologies for deviating into Utah and New Mexico on this forum!!!

Thank you for any help.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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1. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Save the Canyon overflight for your stay at the South Rim ... Any day trip based from Las vegas will NOT, Be Grand Canyon National Park and as such, will be poor value for money. Drive Grand Canyon to M.Vy direct ... Winter in Page need not be experienced ... Put the day saved into the Moab area Parks ... Next day,with a stop at MesaVerde overnight in Durango & book the Rail excursion for the day... Drive direct to Santa Fe, Then,Plan on flying from Albuquerque to NO... As the weather can make hash of your plans I suggest booking lodging that can be same day cancelled ... enjoy ... carracar

Uden, The...
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2. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Reconsider renting a Ford Escape. Not a bad car but it's a midsize SUV and certainly not big enough for 5 people and all their luggage. Rent at least a standard SUV for this trip (Ford Explorer or similar). Try to stay at the rim of GCNP instead making the Flagstaff detour. Only one night in Moab really is not enough to explore the area.

Elanora, Australia
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3. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Thank you both very much, very helpful amendments for us:)

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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4. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Driving direct to Tusayan will increase the chance of clear, "flying weather" for the proposed air tour... If not, you can "see" it at the OmniMax film presentation (for a lot less) ... carracar

Elanora, Australia
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5. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Fingers crossed for clear flying weather then!! Australia is a wonderful place to live, but our "long" school holiday is our MidSummer but Northern Hemispheres Mid Winter and we tend to forget this, but its also the only time we can head off for the long trips around commitments. Any other stop offs or must see recommendations for the area?

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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for Grand Canyon National Park
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6. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

SO.... have you actually mapped out your driving on something like Mapquest or GoogleMaps? This has got to be something like 2,000 miles once you figure in some local driving? I count 13 days total and you're moving almost daily (pretty ironic that the only place you're staying for more than 2 nights is Las Vegas.) I'm not an expert on these really aggressive roadtrips since I don't like doing them, but here are some thoughts for what they're worth.

Las Vegas - as already mentioned, forget the GC flight. Realize that your 17 and 18 year olds aren't "adults" in Las Vegas and will be limited to where they can go and do. Personally, I'd give up one of the nights allocated for LV for somewhere else (where you'll need it.)

Grand Canyon - drive straight to the Grand Canyon National Park from LV. It doesn't make sense (imo) to spend the night in Flagstaff or Kingman or Tusayan. It's an easy 5 hour drive. Book a lodge in the park (www.grandcanyonlodges.com.) I'd spend two nights.

Page - what do you want to do in Page? If you don't have anything specific you want to do, given your other destination, I'd skip Page.

Monument Valley - OK

Moab - you absolutely need more than one night in Moab, especially since you have 2-3 hour drives before and after. This is where you want to spend the 3 nights.

A couple of general things --

Daylight is short in December. If you spend a chunk of each day driving, you will have very little time to actually "see" any of your destinations, much less experience them. Also, given the time of year, I would strongly recommend building in some buffer days in case the weather doesn't cooperate. Having a tight itinerary that doesn't allow for any delays can mean being forced to travel in dangerous and and scary conditions and/or missing hard commitments (like flights) elsewhere.

Elanora, Australia
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7. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

I have mapped it out, but obviously that only gives a rough idea. It doesnt take account driving and weather conditions. The trip is losely based on a Lonely Planet itinerary. Vegas was a deviation and I added the third night as I was advised to take the GC flight from there rather than GC area. Grand Canyon Lodges appeared booked out online. Not sure if that was a system glitch, hence choosing Tusayan.

I did roadtrip Chicago to NOLA in November 2010 in 11 days. That was 1300 miles and for me a perfect timescale. However it is the local advice that people on here are able to help me with, that can make this trip as pleasurable. This is a really flexible holiday and we basically have 25 days to put together a great, unrushed and safe trip. Thank you for taking the time to help

Encinitas...
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for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
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8. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Lots to see around Palm Springs. Be sure to hike the indian canyons or maybe take the tram up to the top of the mountain. The Living Desert will have the holiday lights up after dark. Great place in the day too.

Highly recommend the north loop of Joshua Tree, then take the back way to Vegas via the Mojave Preserve. See the train depot and the sand dunes.

Don't waste your time or money on a flight to Grand Canyon West. Wait to see the real GC at the National Park.

Elanora, Australia
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9. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Based on the great input given, would really appreciate feedback on amended route :

2 nights Vegas (12/13)

2 nights GCNP (14/15)

2 nights MV ( as 6 hour drives either side) 16/17

3 nights Moab (18/19/20)

1 night Durango (21)

2 nights Santa Fe (22/23)

I haven't pre booked any accomodation as yet, will make sure I get rates with cancellation ability. Worst comes to worst will have to change this part of the trip according to conditions and be flexible in how we get to our flight on 24th.

Elanora, Australia
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10. Re: Advice on Winter roadtrip Grand Canyon area

Thank you for that, will factor it in. We are really excited to be able to see this area :)