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Grand Canyon Trip 2009
Old 12-27-2008, 06:26 AM   #1
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Grand Canyon Trip 2009

Planning a Grand Canyon Trip in 2009. Longest trip we have undertaken since the drive from Indiana to Anchorage Alaska with 3 kids 34 years ago. This time it will be DW and myself driving in a SUV from Central Ohio to Grand Canyon for a weeks stay there (hopefully finding a Armed Forces Vacation site to rent). Plan to head out I70 as want to stop to see an Aunt and Uncle who live in Grand Junction, Colorado, just off I70 then on to GC. Plan to drive 8-10 hours a day to get there and come back through Texas (DW wants to see Texas; for some reason). Any hints about timing (we want to go early but do not want to hit snow), places to stay/see along the way. We plan to stay at Hotels/Motels along the way, and alocate between $200-400 per day (travel, overnight, eats, etc.,); $1K - $2K for the week at GC. Any comments and suggestions (we have unlimited time available and want the trip to be memorable and not rushed) will be appreciated. Not into tourist traps and are content to just see the natural sites.
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Old 12-27-2008, 06:31 AM   #2
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Hmm coming down on 70... if you're not interested in Vegas you can hit Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and come down through the North Rim or Page to see Antelope Canyon
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Old 12-27-2008, 09:16 AM   #3
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First, let me say that the areas around Moab, Utah -- Canyonlands and Arches National Parks -- are a must see. It is very close to Grand Junction and on one of the many routes from there to the Grand Canyon.

Anyway, there is a website that caters to photographers that you should check out.

The Luminous Landscape Particularly here.

I have found that photographers, as a group, are the most reliable source of travel information -- most of it not that helpful but enough insight can be extracted to be worth the time spent reading it all.

I suppose you have already contacted the Arizona Office of Tourism. They have a number of pamphlets that will give you a start to your research.
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Old 12-27-2008, 09:20 AM   #4
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OAG,

The San Juan Skyway is one of the most shockingly beautiful stretches of American highway I've ever seen. It would drop you in Durango, from which you could explore the wonderful and unique Indian lands of northeastern Arizona. It will take you awhile getting to the Grand Canyon via this route, but the experience will be exceptional. (I'm a big advocate of "slow travel", even on road trips.) Below is a link.

Tom

San Juan Skyway Overview
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Old 12-27-2008, 09:25 AM   #5
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By the way, that is a really cool site I linked to in the above reply! I found it by googling "San Juan Byway" before replying to OAG, and have now discovered a great resource to help plan leisurely, scenic road trips throughout my favorite region in America, the West. No offense to others, we live in an amazingly beautiful country, and all regions have their charms.

Tom
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Old 12-27-2008, 09:41 AM   #6
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have now discovered a great resource to help plan leisurely, scenic road trips throughout my favorite region in America, the West.
There are a number of books on the "Scenic Highways & Byways" of the U.S. We carry a copy of the one by the National Geographic Society with us at all times. That way we are always ready to take a "detour." Best $15 I ever spent.
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Old 12-27-2008, 12:26 PM   #7
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1. April would be a good time for this trip, snow mostly gone, not too hot.

2. A week in GC? The GC is worth an overnight or two at most, as mentioned above, there are other outstanding parks/sights in this area to see.

3. It is imperative to get reservations for in-park lodgings as soon as you can. The in-park lodgings are the best, as you can easily walk to the rim for sunrise or sunset, which are the best viewing times.

4. Tusayan is the nearest town, with lots of motels, etc. It is 11 miles from the canyon rim. If you go there, make sure and do the IMAX movie, it is real fun.

5. Get a NPS pass before going to the parks. I believe there is a discount if you are over a certain age.

6. Avoid the Grand Canyon Skywalk- massive overpriced tourist hype. Havasupai is still in bad shape from the floods, and gets quite negative reviews for the overall ambience, despite the gorgeos photos you see.

7. Plan to drive Oak Canyon to Sedona and Jerome. They are worth it. If you had the time, I'd also drive to Tucson and spend a couple of days there. It's a very different desert environment with the Saguaro cacti.

8. There are several very good guides to the overall area.

9. I'd also add on time in Utah, it has some spectacular sites.
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Old 12-27-2008, 01:27 PM   #8
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There are some cool parts of Texas but unless you dont mind going pretty far out of the way, you wont see them on a path from the GC back to Ohio. The northwest parts of Texas that you would be going thru (including the panhandle) are some of the most desolate areas and most boring drives Ive even experienced.
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Old 12-27-2008, 02:19 PM   #9
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The northwest parts of Texas that you would be going thru (including the panhandle) are some of the most desolate areas and most boring drives Ive even experienced.
But there's always the Cadillac Ranch and The Big Texan Steak Ranch, both near Amarillo! That should kill a total of about 15-20 minutes.

And if heading back east along that route, the National Cowboy Museum is in Oklahoma City, OK. We thoroughly enjoyed several hours there perusing the exhibits....indoors & out, and had a very nice lunch there as well!!! We're planning on going there again in '09, either on our to or from the Albuquerque Balloon Fest. There's so much to see, we need to go back again.
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3. It is imperative to get reservations for in-park lodgings as soon as you can. The in-park lodgings are the best, as you can easily walk to the rim for sunrise or sunset, which are the best viewing times.

4. Tusayan is the nearest town, with lots of motels, etc. It is 11 miles from the canyon rim. If you go there, make sure and do the IMAX movie, it is real fun.
We stayed in Tusayan at one of the many hotels there, and also did the I-Max movie. We enjoyed both the sunrise & sunset at the Rim...just had to drive in a bit earlier.....and we were there well after sunset, as we ate dinner at the park a few times...once was a private steak fry, and the others were at one of the restaurants there. Then a short ride back to our hotel, to crash after long days spent exploring.

Also, here's the NPS's website for fees & passes.

Here's the Nat'l Park Service's Grand Canyon Website.

If you want to do the mule ride down into the canyonn, you need to book it waaaay ahead of time. Somewhere I read or heard it's almost a must to book it about a year in advance....you can always cancel out ahead of time if your plans change. Also....though it may not apply to you....there is a very strict weight limit on the mules....
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There are restrictions: mule riders must not weigh more than 200 lbs/91 kg fully dressed, must be at least 4 feet 7 inches/140 cm in height, must be able to speak and understand fluent English, must be in good physical condition, should not be afraid of heights or large animals, and cannot be pregnant.
When we went out there, we also hit the Painted Desert N.P., Petrified Forest N.P., the GC, Bryce N.P., Zion N.P., Arches N.P., and Rocky Mountain N.P. in northeast CO. And we stayed in, and explored the area around Moab, UT too. The only places that I wanted to go that I didn't get to on that trip, was Hoover Dam, and the GC Skywalk (the skywalk wasn't yet completed). I LOVE our National Parks, and could easily spend the rest of life exploring them!!!
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Old 12-27-2008, 03:10 PM   #10
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The northwest parts of Texas that you would be going thru (including the panhandle) are some of the most desolate areas and most boring drives Ive even experienced.
I second that emotion.
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Old 12-27-2008, 04:43 PM   #11
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Haven't been to Texas but it does sound like a great trip. Grand Junction is on my short list of great places to live. Looking forward to hearing about your trip.
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Old 12-27-2008, 11:08 PM   #12
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I've been to the GC 3 or 4 times. The first time we spent 3 days there, and it was enough to see almost everything and hike to (near) the bottom and back. We stayed at the El Tovar and it was great. It was mid-August and about 80 at the top, but very hot at the bottom. I would recommend going around May 1.

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OAG,

The San Juan Skyway is one of the most shockingly beautiful stretches of American highway I've ever seen.
Yes, i recommend this route also. I white-knuckled it the whole way.

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7. Plan to drive Oak Canyon to Sedona and Jerome. They are worth it.
Yes - definitely

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If you want to do the mule ride down into the canyonn, you need to book it waaaay ahead of time.
We went once in April and the mules were in spring training - they spend a week or two walking the trails with a ranger, but without passengers getting used to the trails again.

Have a great trip!
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Old 12-28-2008, 09:39 AM   #13
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....It was mid-August and about 80 at the top, but very hot at the bottom. I would recommend going around May 1....
We were there in mid to late September, and the weather was also fantastic....not too hot, not to cool!

I've also considered (and am still considering...someday) taking one of the helicopter tours of the Canyon, where they fly you all around, and then land at the bottom, have lunch or dinner, and then fly you back to the top again. I thought that would be awesome....esp. since those wimpy mules can't handle da Goon!
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:04 AM   #14
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Have a great trip!

The young wife and I went to the Grand Canyon at the end of January 1984, as part of a cross country drive in connection with a change of duty station. Yes, it was bitterly cold (about 30 below at one point) and the snow was piled high on the South Rim, but the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the air was crisp and clean, and it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. No photograph could ever do it justice. An added benefit is that we did not have to share it with anyone else. I can say without exaggeration that we were the only ones there. We spent most of the day at the park and saw exactly one other person -- a ranger leading a mule up out of the canyon, who made us turn around and go back up the trail because we were woefully unequipped for the climb down.

Other worthwhile places we went on that trip included the famous meteor crater in Arizona, the Painted Desert, and Albuquerque, NM. I wish we had spent more time around the latter, especially to see the pueblos.

I concur with the post about driving across the northern reaches of Texas. It was excruciatingly dull.
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Old 12-28-2008, 11:38 AM   #15
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If you do the San Juan skyway, north to south, you wil come out near Mesa Verde N.P. It's worth half a day, or so. Also, heading down toward Grand Canyon, there is Canyon de Chelly in the Navaho Nation. (They also have a nice motel there that's, strangely, not on a highway, but next to the river - Navaho guided tours of the canyon are neat, also)
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:27 PM   #16
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Have a great trip. San Juan skyway is great. Ditto all the suggestions, North Rim is cool but if you have not seen the South Rim, you need to do that too. Sunrises are cool over the canyon.

Also, White Sands NM is not too far off I-10. I also recommend Guadalupe Mountains NP in West Texas.
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Old 12-28-2008, 12:45 PM   #17
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I also recommend Guadalupe Mountains NP in West Texas.
The singular exception to the "the most desolate areas and most boring drives" comment. And it is close enough to Carlsbad to make it worth the effort.
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Old 12-29-2008, 10:53 PM   #18
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I took my daughter to the Grand Canyon when she was about 10 and made her get up really early in the morning to see the sunrise. It was freezing but absolutely worth it to see the sun's rays illuminate the canyon walls!
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Old 12-30-2008, 06:07 AM   #19
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Thanks everyone. I will print the thread and I am sure it will be a nice trip and much better with all of the tips and suggestions that have been provided.
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Old 12-30-2008, 08:22 AM   #20
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I'll add that most tourists seem not to go into the canyon, just look at it from the edge. If you walk half an hour down, you'll be surrounded 360 degrees by the canyon (instead of just 180), and the visual impression is even better when the canyon is your entire world.
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