This summer we’re returning to our road trip roots and making our travels exclusively by car for the first time since our spring 2014 DC trip. While flying is a great way to cover long distances quickly, spending a day dealing with the fiasco of air travel can erase some of the enjoyment of time away. Plus there are too many side trips on the ground that you miss in the air, Great Platte River Road Archway Monument anyone? Another side benefit of car-only travel is that we’re only limited by the amount of space in the car, so we can way overpack or pick up a case (or three) of craft beer to bring home. The options are endless.
Having been to southwestern Utah and the Denver area extensively, there was a gap in our map that we’ve been wanting to fill in. We thought about a few different ways to make it happen, but settled a few months ago on making it an epic 3-week summer loop. This route length will break our previous record set by Seattle to Chicago in 2013 (3,624 miles). This one should easily crack 4,000. We’ll pass through 10 states, even touching four at the same time at the four corners marker. Here is the route:
In the Colorado Plateau region there is an incredible number of Park Service sites relatively close to each other. The National Parks we’ll visit in order are: Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Wind Cave and Badlands (our first park re-visit). By mid-July we’ll have been to 38 of the total 59. In addition, we’ll visit or pass through five National Monuments, one National Natural Landmark and one National Historic Site. Upon entering Everglades National Park in April, we purchased the America The Beautiful pass, which grants entrance to all National Park Service sites for a full year for $80. Ours will be valid through the end of April 2016. All we’ll have to do is flash our pass at the entrance gates, definitely a good value in a multi-park year.
Our lodging is reserved for the whole trip and our route is planned and continuing to be refined through additional findings. The National Geographic Scenic Highways and Byways book is coming in handy for that. Since special tours and events in National Parks tend to book up quickly in the summer, we always check what can be reserved ahead of time. We currently have booked the Twilight Tour at Mesa Verde and will reserve a cave tour at Wind Cave when the tickets go on sale for that time period. We’ll also be celebrating Independence Day in style with a daily-rental Jeep Wrangler from Thousand Lakes R.V. Park at Capitol Reef, how appropriate.
Go West indeed.