Northern California to Phoenix, time to tour the Southwest?

kennethsime

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2010
Location
California
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2004 Jetta Wagon GL TDI 5-Speed Baltic Green
Hi everyone,

Planning a trip to Phoenix, AZ from Northern California (Bay Area) for the beginning of April. We have just over a week off work, just me and the SO. Normally we'd just drive straight through (about 10 hours) barely-bypassing LA proper (I-5/I-210/I-10), but since we have so much time we're thinking about taking the "scenic route" for once. Just did my 10 & 20k maintenance and installed a new thermostat, recently refreshed the suspension and put some new rubber on, so the car is pretty much good to go.

Looking for encouragement/suggestions for can't miss stuff and creative alternate routes. Would be interested in camping out along the way, have tons of camping/backpacking gear so it's not an issue. 9 Days off in total.

We're both curious about Utah, and would love to see both the Salt Lake SLC. If we're gonna go to SLC to PHX, Google says we still have to back-track through Las Vegas (although it looks like we could take the old federal highways around more and hit zion/the hoover dam/the north rim), so we might as well go to Denver (we'd both also really like to see Denver, and I'd love to go to Golden to indulge my other hobby, not to mention Pike's Peak) and then New Mexico (Santa Fe and Albuquerque). If we do all that driving why not take a detour to Yellowstone for a day or two (it would only add 8 hours of driving).

You can see where my problem is. But I definitely think that SLC, Denver, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and then Phoenix is possible. Taking this route or so, what are the things you would hate to miss out on? What alterations would you make to the route?

I should mention I haven't yet looked up the weather, here in California it's already in the 70s every day, I expect it's still cold in the rockies (can you tell I never leave the west coast?). Is it still snowing/are chains required anywhere I'm looking at?
 
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romad

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Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
Prescott, AZ
TDI
2005 Jetta GLS Wagon "Cranberry"
I'd suggest the Eastern Sierra but some of the roads like CA 120 through Yosemite might still be closed. Last summer my wife & I visited a niece in Phoenix then drove to Prescott via Wickenburg. From there we took I-40/old US-66 (AZ 66) to Oatman then over to Fort Mojave, Bullhead City, crossing into Nevada at Laughlin and up to Hoover Dam. From there we went to Pahrumph, Beatty, Rhyolite and then through Death Valley to Lone Pine, CA and north on US 395. CA 120 tees into US 395.
 
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jet_a

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Joined
Jun 15, 2008
Location
Great Lakes
TDI
2012 Wagen DSG
I'll be driving to Denver from the East to see family in the same time frame, (Good Friday through first week of April). I'm hoping Pikes Peak will be open. I was advised today by someone who has been to Pikes Peak that mornings are a preferable time to get the best view, clouds are more likely to ruin the view through the rest of the day. Remember it's also about 30 degrees colder on the summit than at the base or around Colorado Springs.
http://pikespeak.us.com/Essentials/hours-and-fees.html
There will be lots of scenic routes through Arizona around this time. From Phoenix I highly recommend a daytrip circuit through Wickenburg >> Prescott >> Jerome >> Sedona >> Camp Verde >> Payson >> Theodore Roosevelt Lake >> Apache Junction.
 

virginia bill

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2012
Location
Fredericksburg, Va
TDI
2012 VW Touareg
That's a lot of driving, almost all interstate. You might consider heading south from Salt Lake to visit Bryce and Zion, or choosing a route a bit further east to go through Moab (Arches and Canyonlands NP). On our trips west we've never found the regular highways especially crowded and have always been able to make good time even on two-lane roads. Though I've done road trips like the one you propose, I've finally learned that covering less ground but spending time exploring the places I do visit is more satisfying. On the trip you propose, most of what you see will be concrete highways and taillights.
 

kennethsime

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2010
Location
California
TDI
2004 Jetta Wagon GL TDI 5-Speed Baltic Green
Ok, time for an updated route, bearing in mind a few suggestions from you guys and the fact that we want more time in Phoenix.

Thinking about: First day drive to SLC (about 10-11 hours), have dinner somewhere worthwhile, stock up on camp foods in the morning. Next day to Bryce Canyon, taking the scenic route via highway 12 (if we feel up to it, this will add about 2-3 hours depending on stops). Arrive in time to watch the sunset (if nothing else). Camp out, spend the next day in Bryce and drive to Zion in the afternoon-evening (2-3 hours). Spend the day in Zion, drive to Flagstaff in the evening (5 hours). Breakfast in Flagstaff, maybe the scenic drive through Sedona (we've done this a few times, but it's worth it almost every time), then the remaining 3 days will be spent with family in Phoenix. The Grand Canyon is neat too, but we've both seen it enough for now.

Big question, is route 12 worth the 2-3 hour detour? We're both young and comfortable with long days in the car. Everything I read online says it's one of the best drives in the continental US, but is it worth sacrificing a few hours in Bryce Canyon?
 
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virginia bill

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2012
Location
Fredericksburg, Va
TDI
2012 VW Touareg
At Bryce you park your car and use the system's busses/trollies to reach various places within the park. Major viewpoints are close to the bus route (it's a loop, into and out of the park). Hiking trails are also easy to reach. If you just want a taste of the area, a couple of hours will do it. If you want to hike (or do a trail ride), you'll need more time.
 

Thommy D

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Joined
Feb 10, 2011
Location
Los Angeles
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2011 JSW TDI
Utah is very scenic. Your route is cutting off teh northern portion of the Grand Circle
 
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Turbodude1

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Aug 16, 2005
Location
Auburn Maine
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1999.5 Golf 2dr. RCII, sprint 520s, shine susp
I can't comment on CA roads, but 89A from Sedona to Prescott is worth checking out.
 
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