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West RV/Travel trailer trip
Old 01-04-2009, 05:19 PM   #1
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West RV/Travel trailer trip

I am in the early stages of planning a trip for the four of us out West next year and would like input from anyone who has made a similar trip. I have read the Grand Canyon thread and really appreciate all the good info in it.

We will be going in June and part of July due to school considerations. We are considering four to five weeks total for the trip and would like to drive to: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, The Grand Tetons, Mt Rushmore, and probably Sedona for starters. We have already extensively visited CA, WA, and Oregon so were not initially considering those locations for this trip although there were many places we enjoyed.

I realize I will need to plan a route to accomplish this with as little back tracking as possible and hope to do that once we nail down the places we want to see.

We have camped for over a week in our Travel Trailer with no problem including winter camping with below freezing temperatures and hope this long of a trip will be possible also. The only think I know of now that I might need is a generator and I am researching them now, however I am sure there are other items that I have not even thought of. I would very much appreciate your input and suggestions on the following:

- Crowd considerations for that time of year
- Good campgrounds to use
- Trip considerations for what will be at least a 6K mile trip
- Suggested sites to see that are camping friendly
- Lessons learned on this type of trip that you are willing to share
- Any other suggestions including if this is a bad idea

Thank you for sharing your experiences.
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Old 01-04-2009, 06:18 PM   #2
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Some of my favorite places to visit are the southern Utah national parks. For a Midwesterner, the scenery is just awe inspiring.

Re a generator - as a camper, I hope you get one that is super quiet, like a small Honda. Nothing ruins a camping experience more for me than listening to someone else's generator whine into the night.
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Old 01-04-2009, 06:18 PM   #3
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Only with really good AC will the lower desert climates be tolerable for sleeping. The White Mtns in AZ are really great and a drive through the Salt River Canyon is a must! I prefer it to the Grand Canyon because of the lakes and the fact that you can get into it by road. The Northern AZ camp grounds do fill up for most every weekend by mid-afternoon on Fridays and can be full on Wednesdays for the Holiday weekends. So, plan accordingly for your movements.

Also, great stream fishing in our mountain streams and the lakes will be well stocked also!
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:21 PM   #4
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I've done a similar route before.
You will have some altitude so I don't think being hot will be a problem.
You might want to consider these stops to see:
Santa Fe
Sedona
Grand Canyon
Moab, Ut.
Grand Tetons
Yellowstone

Think about Glacier then MT. Rushmore
Then to
Colorado down the middle to:
Leadville
Salida
Durango
Then home

If it is too much driving cut out Glacier and Rushmore but include Colorado

Campground - look at Woodalls on line

But try to book the Grand Canyon RV park - walking distance to the rim - look on line for info
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Old 01-05-2009, 03:30 AM   #5
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If we knew where the starting point of this trip was we might be able to offer some more destinations.
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Old 01-05-2009, 05:47 AM   #6
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I personally would avoid the generator if you can.

I am no help on your specific itinerary, although I am jealous. We have ound the reviews of campsites here to be helpful: RV Park Reviews :: Home
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:34 AM   #7
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I second brewer's suggestion of checking RV Park Reviews.com. I've had good success following the recommendations found in those reviews.

Opinions will differ, but I wouldn't want to make the trip without a generator. Even if you plan to spend every night of your summer trip in an RV park with electrical hookups or at a high enough elevation so that you don't melt at night without AC, things happen. Plus there are hundreds of public land recreational area campsites out west without hookups and a generator gives you many more options for camping wherever you want. That said, you do need to be mindful of generator noise and the Honda gensets are noticeably quieter than most.

I don't have any experience with a trip of this length - at least not yet. Our longest RV journey to date was three weeks. Based on that one data point, my best advice is after the first 10 days or so, keep all knives and other sharp objects under lock and key.
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Old 01-05-2009, 09:17 AM   #8
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Thanks for the info so far. I am reviewing the links now and they are great. We will leave from the southeast.

I was considering the generator for emergencies if a campground was full since I do not expect to be able to stay on a schedule and have reservations at all points. I probably will have to make reservations as some of the more popular campgrounds. I do realize the noise issue and some campgrounds have quiet hours that prohibit them. The main use I saw for it was for unplanned overnights where we did not make it to the campground or it was full and had to stay more primitive.

I have been told to make two separate trips of about 3 weeks each to see the West. I am hoping I could cover it in one trip of 4 to 5 weeks.
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Old 01-05-2009, 09:31 AM   #9
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I have been told to make two separate trips of about 3 weeks each to see the West. I am hoping I could cover it in one trip of 4 to 5 weeks.
My thinking is you can tour the West in 4 to 5 weeks but it would take months to really 'see' it. It is a huge and varied area.

BTW, although I would not want to do it while pulling a TT, one of my favorite areas is Colorado highway 550, from Durango to Ouray. Spectacular mountain scenery.
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:10 AM   #10
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If you intend to stay near Yellowstone or Jackson Hole you absolutely NEED reservations.

There is a nice private campground west of Jackson, toward Wilson, that has all hookups.

Do not try the road from Jackson to Targee towing a trailer. The road that follows the Snake River will work just fine.
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:22 AM   #11
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Oh! There is so much to see in this part of the country it is a little like asking what kind of car you should you buy.

The Black Hills should, of course, be included in the trip you suggest. Mt. Rushmore will be a disappointment (the crowds and overwhelming commercialization heads the list of many reasons why) but don't fail to stop anyway. On the other hand, Custer State Park will be something to remember the rest of your life. Also be sure to stop at Devils Tower to get Spiritually "centered" on the way to the Big Horns. (If you can take a side trip to the Little Bighorn/Greasy Grass Battleground you won't regret it.) From Buffalo (Wyoming) head out on Highway 16 to Worland and go through Thermopolis to Riverton and then head over to the Tetons and Yellowstone Park. This is one of the most visually impressive drives in the US.

From Yellowstone the decision-making becomes more difficult. The drive to Coeur D'alene (many routes) would be at the top of my list except that you end up so far from the Grand Canyon area. With that in mind, go from Yellowstone south through Idaho Falls and Pocatello and Salt Lake City to I-70. From there, any road you take south from there will be the best choice.

I didn't address the getting to the Black Hills but it is just as wonderful as what I described above. For example, I spent a week earlier this year on Old Route 66 between St. Louis and Chicago and can recommend that as a destination.

We have put around 20,000 miles on our RV since July and have never made a reservation earlier than three hours before arrival. I suspect that most campgrounds will have even more vacancies this year than last. In any event, we have never had trouble finding a campground that didn't have a place for us -- we have never spent more than one night at any one CG.

If you are looking to save money on your trip, you should look into Passport America, the 50% discount pays for itself very rapidly. We have also found the Good Sam club to be very useful also -- if you can put up with their junk mail campaign. However, for a consistently good experience at a campground, I highly recommend using the KOA network -- be careful, however, because they have a lot of very tempting extras. (In fact, there are those who believe KOA stands for "Keep On Adding.")

I have no advice on the generator. Our RV is self-contained and the vehicle's engine keeps the house batteries charged up. Nevertheless, I would feel very vulnerable without the propane tank and/or the generator. BTW, if your house batteries are charged up, the only reason you need a generator is the air conditioner, microwave, coffee maker and such electricity hogs -- things a true "camper" (not me) can easily do without.
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:29 AM   #12
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If you are looking to save money on your trip, you should look into Passport America, the 50% discount pays for itself very rapidly. We have also found the Good Sam club to be very useful also -- if you can put up with their junk mail campaign. However, for a consistently good experience at a campground, I highly recommend using the KOA network -- be careful, however, because they have a lot of very tempting extras. (In fact, there are those who believe KOA stands for "Keep On Adding.")
I second Ron's recommendation - with one notable exception. While I definitely agree KOA = Keep On Adding, I find them to be consistently overpriced and therefore not a good value. But then, what else would you expect from a tightwad?
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Old 01-05-2009, 03:37 PM   #13
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Southern Utah is phenomenally beautiful - just for views and small to long hikes, Zion and Bryce are tops - the Canyon park with slot canyons, etc, look awesome as well. You could stop by Lake Powell as you are wandering around the Grand Canyon area - might also want to drive through Navajo reservation and stop by the trading posts, etc. Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are interesting in AZ. I've driven down the inside route (non interstate) Denver to Santa Fe/Gallup - gorgeous drive and views - essentially traveling along the continental divide.

New Mexico has an interesting east-west highway that has 20 or more huge radio antennae - I believe those are what were used in the movie Contact.

In any case, have a great time - what an awesome trip - I am definitely a western gal! Love the open spaces, big sky, mountains and clear air (except for those thermal inversions!)
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Old 01-05-2009, 04:49 PM   #14
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I second Ron's recommendation - with one notable exception. While I definitely agree KOA = Keep On Adding, I find them to be consistently overpriced and therefore not a good value. But then, what else would you expect from a tightwad?
Try one of their cards you get 10% off the posted rates the first year and 20% the second year - if you spend over a certain amount - you must save your receipts and send them to the company.
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:50 PM   #15
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Try one of their cards you get 10% off the posted rates the first year and 20% the second year - if you spend over a certain amount - you must save your receipts and send them to the company.
Actually, their discount program has changed slightly in the past couple of months. It now costs $24 annually for a card that gets you 10% discount on each stay plus a plastic card that acts similarly to the airline's Frequent Flyer program. And everything is kept track of by their computers.

In any event, what I said was "a consistently good experience." Yeah, you have to pay for it but, at least, you know what you are getting into before you arrive. The Hot tub and Swimming pool, for example, are much nicer at a $25 an night KOA than at a $6 a night campground called Joe's Shady Roost. This is comparable to: My wife who trusts the Hilton chain to be what she wants, or myself being partial to the Comfort group and my brother who believes anything more than Motel 6 is extravagant (and even then...). There are many days when "ya justs want to be pampered" and KOA supplies that for (IMHO) a reasonable fee.

In other words, Passport America is great but recognize that sometimes it is not much better than "camping out." If you are trying to get by on the least amount of expense then PA and "boondocking" are perfect solutions. KOAs, on the other hand, are always first rate and you should expect to pay for that. BTW, the Good Sam alligned campgrounds are becoming more consistent -- probably because of the Good Sam inspections and the subsequent ratings system -- and are an excellant choice also. We also belong to Escapees and use them as often as we can. Escapees is very expensive at $50 a year, however.
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:37 PM   #16
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My favorite park in Utah is Capitol Reef National Monument. It's small, very family-friendly and not as mobbed with tourists as the other parks in Utah. Canyonlands was a close second. Luckily they're close together.

If you plan on staying in any of the national parks, make those reservations now. They book fast.

And, it might be worth it to you to look up the addresses and phone numbers of RV / tow vehicle repair and sales shops on the route you're taking. My grandparents got caught in high winds one year and it peeled the top off their Class A. They got it fixed but said it would have been easier if they'd had a list of places to stop for repairs first. (Their motorhome was relatively new and in good shape, so this was an entirely unexpected experience).
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:42 PM   #17
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My grandparents got caught in high winds one year and it peeled the top off their Class A.
Who says they don't build them like they used to...
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:59 PM   #18
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My favorite park in Utah is Capitol Reef National Monument. It's small, very family-friendly and not as mobbed with tourists as the other parks in Utah. Canyonlands was a close second. Luckily they're close together.
I agree... and in that order also. CR is just so peaceful and beautiful it is like you have died and gone to Heaven. There is few things quite like the view from "Island in the Sky" in Canyonlands.
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Old 01-08-2009, 01:57 PM   #19
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Oh, and I also forgot to put in a plug for Mesa Verde in Colorado. It's got cliff dwellings. When I was there as a kid (about 20 years ago) you could climb up into the dwellings and cruise around in them -- amazingly cool. I don't know if they still allow that, but they're beautiful and I have good memories of the park.

But Capitol Reef still wins. If you go, make sure to walk down the trail to the water sinks, and see the petroglyphs and the pioneer guest registry on the canyon walls.
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Old 01-08-2009, 07:35 PM   #20
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I agree... and in that order also. CR is just so peaceful and beautiful it is like you have died and gone to Heaven. There is few things quite like the view from "Island in the Sky" in Canyonlands.
Ah, you are killing me. But its funny: I could name you a really lovely place in PA (state park) in a very unlikely place that was pure heaven for a 5 day trip in September. I bet there are plenty of lovely places all over the country that you don't get to see unless you are willing to camp and do it in the off season.
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