Our latest travel adventure is upon us. On Friday, July 9th, we fly to Albuquerque, NM to begin a three week road trip through the four corners region. After an evening at the vintage El Vado Motel in Albuquerque, we’ll spend two days exploring New Mexico’s Capital, Santa Fe.
Following our urban New Mexico days, we’ll take our rented pickup truck into the wilderness by passing through Valles Caldera National Preserve on the way to a night of camping in Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This remote spot in the northwest of the state features a high concentration of ancient Ancestral Puebloan ruins. Next, we’ll head north into the Southwest corner of Colorado to visit more ruins at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and then continuing the theme in Utah at Hovenweep National Monument. Our first night in Utah will be spent in a converted mill in Monticello called the Grist Mill Inn. We’ll be tantalizingly close to an area of Canyonlands we visited this spring, but instead we’ll head around the southern side of the Abajo Mountains, making stops at Bears Ears National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument and various sites on the way to the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park. We visited Capitol Reef in 2015, so this is a quicker visit, but we’ll still hit up some things we didn’t have time to see last time.
After Capitol Reef, we make the quick drive along the famously scenic Utah Highway 12 into Escalante, where we’ll stay for two nights in an Airbnb that features llamas in the yard. We’ll spend a couple days exploring the sights and slot canyons in the area before making our way to Zion National Park after a morning in Bryce Canyon.
We last visited Zion in 2012, so we’re excited to hit the features we didn’t get to see the first time. Our main objectives (weather-permitting) are The Narrows and Kolob Arch in the more remote northwestern section of the park. Following Zion, we’ll head south into Arizona and spend two nights camping on the less-visited North Rim, where we’ll day hike down to roaring springs and also take in the many viewpoints from the rim level. After departing the Grand Canyon, we’ve secured permits for the South Coyote Buttes area of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. The nearby “Wave” formation gets most of the area attention, but a hard-to-win lottery makes visiting it a slim chance. South Coyote Buttes still require a permit, but it’s available to reserve online ahead of time.
The next two nights will be spent at Lee’s Ferry Lodge, which will be our base for a kayak trip down the Colorado River around Horseshoe bend. The Navajo Nation just announced a partial reopening to tourism, so we’ve finally been able to reserve a tour of famous Antelope Canyon as we head out of the Page, AZ area toward our final National Park of the trip, Mesa Verde. We’ll spend two nights at the Far View Lodge, exploring the ruins on our first visit since summer 2015.
The final week of the trip is a delayed celebration of my parents’ 50th anniversary. The whole family will meet in a house on the side of a mountain near Fairplay, Colorado. We’ll spend the week whitewater rafting, horseback riding and additional general mountain fun before we hitch a ride back as far as Iowa with the family.
Here’s the map of our route: