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4 week road trip west USA

Travel Forums North America 4 week road trip west USA

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1. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5597 posts) 6y

After several days in San Francisco, me and my gf are planning a 4 week roadtrip across the west of the USA.
Although we did some research about places to stay, I'd like your opinion about the following: is it too much, can I fit in some more places. Any specific recommendations regarding cities, towns, parks, other sites would be more than welcome
The itinerary would be like this:

After SF: Lake Tahoe - Route 50 across Nevada to Great Basin NP - up Utah via Salt Lake City - Wyoming (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) - across Wyoming to the west of South Dakota (Badlands etc.) - Into Colorado (Rocky Mountain NP, Denver, Silverton) - 4 state border area towards Monument Valley, fit in Brice, Arches, Zion - Grand Canyon - Las Vegas - Death Valley - Sequoia NP - Yosemite - back to SF.

1. Anything I missed on this route?
2. Anything outside of this route that might be of interest. Particularly about routes a bit more to the south into New Mexico and Arizona. White Sands is a little too much to the south isn't it?
3. Should I leave things out like South Dakota for example which is a bit of a detour/

Again, any info asked above is very welcome!


2. Posted by way2goeh (Full Member 159 posts) 6y

Theres a place between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone called Bear Lake and is on the main highway between the two. This lake is very big but strangely not deep near shore. You could walk out 300 metres and the water is only waist high. Not sure when you are going but if its summer, the lake will be warm. Not a tree in sight though, but walking out so far into lake is cool. If you have the money, go whitewater rafting along the Snake River. No clue about outfitters but I´m sure there are out there. good luck and have fun

[ Edit: Edited on 01-Mar-2010, at 16:12 by way2goeh ]

3. Posted by jambo101 (Respected Member 414 posts) 6y

Sounds like a great trip,i presume you are in a rent a car for this expedition,, be nice if you could fit in some Pacific Coast highway Rt1 say from Pismo beach north back up to SF or rt 101 from Crescent city south to SF..
Good luck and enjoy the ride.

4. Posted by Ham Radio (Respected Member 284 posts) 6y


I wish I were going with you, it sounds like a great trip. Since you did not state the time of year for your itinerary, I will assume you are not driving in winter.

In reviewing your route, I would save South Dakota for another visit. The Black Hills and Mount Rushmore memorial are spectacular. Instead, after Wyoming/Yellowstone plan on going south towards Colorado as planned.

In Colorado, before taking in the Four Corners 4-state area, consider driving towards Chama, New Mexico then turn south towards Abiquiu (Highway 84) and on to Santa Fe. Chama is on the edge of the southern Rocky Mountains. The scenery around Abiquiu/Ghost Ranch is spectacular and was the inspiration for American painter Georgia O'Keefe. (Bring your camera.) It will take you about two hours driving between Chama and Santa Fe, non-stop, and plan on no cellphone service most of this leg - it is remote. Once you leave Santa Fe, it is an easy drive to Four Corners area. And yes, White Sands is out of the way.

5. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5597 posts) 6y

Thanks for the replies guys!

Yep, have a rental car and it's for about half May to half June so guess I will have good weather (too hot in Death Valley, but that's part of the fun I guess).
I guess Santa Fe is south as I want to go in New Mexico, so sounds like a great plan.
And driving part of the coastal route 1 is actually something I hadn't consider, but mights as well do, since I start and end in SF.


6. Posted by Kimee129 (Full Member 37 posts) 6y

Awesome trip you have planned. Going through the desert during May and June is going to be interesting. Make sure you pack clothing layers. This time of year you are hot during day, but freeze at night. I agree with the Four Corner areas. I do not know if you are interested in Ancient History...almost literally. The Mesa Verde Park has several wonderful Cliff Dwelling ruins. if you have a tent it has a great camp ground. I also highly recommend driving down 101/1 from San Fran toward San Diego. Usually about Santa Barbara I hit I5 toward Las Vegas either at the beginning of trip or after. Enjoy and happy travels.

7. Posted by Rhombus (Travel Guru 64 posts) 6y


Your route is an impressive plan of beautiful parks. You are speaking my language.

My advice concerning the bad lands and black hills of South Dakota are this: It's kind of out of your way, but on that route you can add in the wind river range of Wyoming (SE of Teton), The Big Horn mountains, The Devil's Tower N.M. and the black hills and bad lands. All of these places are impressive.

Whether or not you can fit it all in, is up to you and how much you want to drive and how long you want at each place.

I assume you are going to buy a good atlas for the trip? Get one showing a lot of secondary roads (paved roads that get you off the beaten path of the boring freeway). I have the large scale Rand McNally 2009 for my purposes, and it serves me well.
In the west you can drive just as fast on the secondary roads as you could on the freeway, except in mountainous areas. Plus it offers you the chance to stop almost anywhere, which isn't an option on the freeways.

If you study the atlas carefully, you can string together awesome state parks, and cool natural features along the way. Every state park should have a website, google it to see what it can offer.

Options in NM and AZ: Hiking near Las Vegas (hermit's peak, hot spring along the way). Oak Creek Canyon, hike a volcano in Sunset Crater National Monument. The north side of the Grand Canyon. Taos Area.

With all you have planned, you still aren't going to see it all. I'm positive you'll have an awesome trip though, these national parks are amazingly beautiful. I'll warn you like I warn everyone else, the distances of the western US are vast and take a lot of time to drive through, be sure you don't spend all your time in the car.

I've been almost everywhere you are planning on going. If you want specifics about a certain park or route, let me know and hopefully I can help.

Happy Travels.

8. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5597 posts) 6y

Thanks for the latest replies guys and sorry I didn't reply earlier, was away shortly.

Rombus, it's amazing that you have travelled so extensively thoughout North America. Noticed many of your photos lately, just fantastic.

I am actually planning on buying a decent Road Atlas, instead of a single map or so. Did that in other countries as well, and usually almost all roads are there. Avoiding freeways is certainly a thing I like!

Actually, during my last trip some guy told me about the Vermillion Cliffs (including the Wave Rocks, like the ones in western Australia): anyone been there? I sure seemed worthwhile except it's kinda lotery to go there, only a few people a day can do that right?

Thanks again, much appreciated!

O, by the way, something else: I do like cars and I want to rent a nice SUV to make it just a bit more American if you know what I mean. Any tips on that, regarding companies and cars? Noticed a Chevy Trailblazer (or similar, but always unsure what you get I guess), is that a good car?


[ Edit: Edited on 19-Mar-2010, at 12:14 by Utrecht ]

9. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1997 posts) 6y

Utrecht - You've left out one of the most beautiful areas (the State of Oregon) - we have beautiful, unpolluted rivers full of salmon, trout and sturgeon, waterfalls to die for, etc. Why drive across alot of nothing (desert in Nevada and Utah) when we have so much?

It's also cheaper up here (no sales/VAT tax) and less crowded than California - also greener.

10. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5597 posts) 6y

Quoting Daawgon

Utrecht - You've left out one of the most beautiful areas (the State of Oregon) - we have beautiful, unpolluted rivers full of salmon, trout and sturgeon, waterfalls to die for, etc. Why drive across alot of nothing (desert in Nevada and Utah) when we have so much?

It's also cheaper up here (no sales/VAT tax) and less crowded than California - also greener.

Cheers for the reminder Daawgon. I know, it is just a matter of making a choice what to do in 4 weeks.
To be honest: I like endless roads with nothing, and I like deserts as well. Somehow, the west of Canada or northwest of the US just reminds me more of parts of Europe or New Zealand. Don't get my wrong, I like mountains, forests, rivers and lakes, but it's just the feeling of remote deserts that I like even more. That's why Oz is more my thing than New Zealand.
Although I have to admit: I will visit nortwest of the US for sure...even if it's just to witness Twin Peaks scenery;)