we are thinking about making a trip from santa fe to the three parks (grand canyon, bryce canyon and monument valley) and back by car.
does anybody know how long it takes to go from santa fe to grand canyon? which is the better route? is it necessary to make a stop over and if yes, where would be a good place?
how much time does it take to see all three national parks? is one week too short?
many thanks for your help in advance!
From Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon is about 415 miles (about 690 kilometres)--and most of it is by Interstate highway (the American equivalent of the German autobahn).
To get there, you go south 60 miles on Interstate Hwy 25 from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, then you get on Interstate Highway 40 and go 280 miles west to Flagstaff. From here you go north on U.S. Highway 180 (not an Interstate, so it will be a slower drive) for the remaining 75 miles.
I suggest you drive from Santa Fe to Flagstaff and stay there overnight (motels will be cheaper than near the canyon--and easier to book--and the restaurants will be better). Then drive the last few miles the next morning. After seeing the canyon, you will want to drive north either to Monument Valley directly (or else stay in Mexican Hat, Arizona). You should try to get there so that you can see the valley just before sunset, since the views are phenomenal at this time. (Take Arizona state highway 64 east to US Highway 89 north to US Highway 160 East to US Highway 163 east.
Next you should drive to Page, Arizona (west on US Highway 163 to west on US Highway 160, then west on Arizona state highway 98) and then stay either there or at the Lake Powell Lodge nearby (on the Utah side of the lake). While there, take a boat ride up the lake to see the "Rainbow Bridge". (you could also skip this and drive all the way to Bryce Canyon directly--but I'm telling you my choice). Next day drive up to Bryce Canyon (take US. Highway 89N north to US Highway 89 all the way to Utah state highway 12 east) and either stay at Ruby's or go to Cedar City or St. George to spend the night. Drive to Las Vegas the next day--or return to Santa Fe via the ferry across Lake Powell (route 12 east) and taking state highway 261 down to Mexican Hat for the night, then taking state Highway 163 east to US Highway 191 south to US highway 64 east, then just east of Farmington getting on US Highway 550 south down to Santa Fe.
A couple of notes:
(1) There is a hotel right in the Monument Valley that you can stay at called Gouldings Lodge. Staying here will save you the trouble of travelling the extra 20 miles each way on up to Mexican Hat.
(2) Distances here are enormous and you can drive four hours and never even see a gas station--so fill up with gas in Flagstaff and when you get to Page.
(3) Since it is so far between cities, you have to book your hotels ahead. Like I said, if you get to either Monument Valley (or Mexican Hat) and then get to Page (or Lake Powell Hotel) and have no motel/hotel reservation, it may be a 4 to 5 hour drive to the next city (and even then you may not find a place to sleep). So book your hotels ahead.
(4) Temperatures will vary greatly between cities in this area and between day and night. For example, driving through Albuquerque in the daytime it may be 35 Celsius, yet it may be snowing when you get to Flagstaff that night--even in the summer. (I actually had this happen to me one day). Pack very short shorts and pack a sweater and jacket--you will use everything you pack. It will be hot near Page and cold near Bryce Canyon also.
(5) If you do take Utah state highway 261 (either going or coming back from Bryce Canyon), you will realize it is the most unusual highway you will ever go on in your life. At one point, (if you come from the south), you will drive up to a butte that rises straight up about 2,000 feet. The road (which was a regular, paved two-lane road) essentially ends and you will drive up a gravel, narrow practically one-lane road that snakes back and forth up this butte to get to the top, dodging RVs and other cars try to make their way down (and being able to pass only on the corners). It's scary, but also exhilarating--and makes you feel like you really are in the old west (for real). (I suggest you come from the north for this reason (it's better being able to actually see where you are going), and I definitely don't suggest anyone drive this road at night.
As usual, Gary has given excellent advice. I have very little to add except I have pictures of most of this route and all of the parks in my photo gallery. If you do plan on hitting Vegas, give me a shout and I can either get you a free show or a cheap buffet.
You'll enjoy this road trip. Bring your camera.
all, thank you so much for your replies!!! this forum turns out to be better than any guide book
now i hardly can wait to do the trip. looking very much forward to it!!!
As usual, Calcruz has great advice. The only thing I would add is if you are going to Zion and Bryce Canyon you may as well go the the Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which is spectacular, (Ever see lightning bolts shooting down BELOW you...that's the kind of sites you can see from the North rim... 1,000 feet higher than the much more crowded South Rim of the Canyon).
Also, if you choose to take the route through Farmington on your way back, I would suggest a tiny side trip through Durango, Colorado and spend a night at the Strater Hotel, http://www.strater.com/ Durango is a great little town with a cool train ride for a day trip up to Silverton. It is only about 4 hours from Santa Fe and an easy ride back. You will also pass Chaco Canyon on the way wich is quite interesting. (Pueblo ruins from 850-1200 A.D.)
When are you going to be in Santa Fe and what made you choose this tiny little city in the middle of nowhere, If I may ask? (I live in Santa Fe...a transplant from San Diego 4 years ago...) Let me know if you would like any more info on Santa Fe or if you would like to meet up for lunch or something.
LadyMacWilly ^..^ ~
Ladymacwil has some excellent advice on the possible Grand Canyon and Durango sidetrips.
One thing I would suggest if you take the train is to get a seat near the rear of the train. The train is an old steam engine that runs on coal (and therefore spews a bit of toxic smoke out). Getting a seat near the rear of the train is preferable to being in up front where the smoke will be occasionally blowing in the open windows and smelling up your clothes. (I learned this the hard way).
The trip is fairly long, but definitely memorable, and Silverton is a old western town at the end of the route up (you also take the train back to Durango).
If you do go to Durango, Mesa Verde National Park is also close by. This is the only national park in the US dedicated to preserving the architecture of old tribes (instead of preserving nature). The "Cliff House" and other amazing dwellings are worth a look.