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Old 03-21-2019, 09:11 PM   #1
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1st long trip NJ to Utah, advise...

So after doing couple trips if just a week here and there were planning a month long trip across the US. So me the wife and three kids, 9,8 and 4 are heading west. Plan is to leave NJ July 11th. Head straight to mount Rushmore. Then south through Wyoming, Colorado, check out trans continental railroad meeting location in north Utah. Stop and see friends in Salt Lake City, west to Bonneville salt flats. South to Zion, Bryce area. South again to 4 corners. Then probably east through to Memphis, Nashville, stop and see friends and family in Raliegh NC. Then north back home to NJ.
So, does anyone have some advise? Anything in particular to pack, check out, avoid, do, see, go ? We've never boondocked before but not opposed to it. And we've never been out more than 10 days. I took off work and well be out roaming for almost 5 weeks.
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Old 03-21-2019, 09:34 PM   #2
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You might as well check out the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before heading over to the 4 Corners area.
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Old 03-22-2019, 12:26 AM   #3
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Cool trip. This is the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony for the transcontinental railroad.

Tips? Visit the national parks websites and download their visitors guides and read them. They give great tips and will point out any things you'll need to be aware of.
For finding campgrounds, shopping, gas, etc. we like the app parkadvisor.
It can be a long time between gas stations, so don't let the tank get low.
Layering of clothes like you do in the winter is helpful. Temperatures in the desert frequently vary 30 degrees during the day.

Last, but not least, mileage that trip out before you leave. 5 weeks is a long time, but not that long when you're driving the distance you've planned. You know how many miles you want to drive every day and remember that you'll probably be tired from all that site seeing and visiting.
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Old 03-22-2019, 12:32 AM   #4
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I'd already be laying in a detail route plan and checking availability/making reservations at campgrounds. Especially for the weekends.

Good luck and safe travels, sounds like a wonderful trip that your kids will remember for a long time!
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Old 03-22-2019, 07:01 AM   #5
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Some sort of towing plan. I have AAA Premier that will tow both trailer and TV 200 hundred miles to a service station or change a flat or run out gas.

Plus on a long trip the 10% off things and can quickly add up. On their website you can order very detailed maps, yes old school, for just every section of the US and have them in a week. To me opening a large sheet of paper to get an over all lay of the land of the land comes in handy.

We saved at restaurants, campgrounds, and even tourist traps. I figure we save almost the price of admission by remembering to use it. When we travel I have the app to remind me of savings near me.
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Old 03-22-2019, 07:10 AM   #6
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Wow! Please keep thread updated, as I want to do a similar trip to see my buddy who retired and moved there out by Zion National Park.
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Old 03-22-2019, 11:13 AM   #7
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yes get a plan mapped out and start making reservations. don't know what you will be driving but when i see east or south from zion you must check ouut the tunnel restrictions on the zion mt carmel tunnel. this may affect your route options out of zion. there's nothing special about 4 corners other than it will cost you to enter. but you have to do it once in a lifetime. you could continue east to durango. you mention an interest in trains and durango and their train tours. leave time for the kids to do kid things. gotta stop at wall drug on the way to rapid city
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Old 03-22-2019, 01:03 PM   #8
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You should also make time for Arches National Park if you are going to be in Utah. This is a must see. I did a similar trip without a camper several years ago. The advice from REVERSE_SNOWBIRD is right on. You will be surprised by the distance between each of the different areas. The all day drives and sightseeing will probably get to you and the kids. I agree five weeks is a long time but maybe not long enough.
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Old 03-22-2019, 01:11 PM   #9
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Trip Planning

I am planning a cross country trip for this summer as well. I strongly recommend getting reservations ASAP in National Parks. Some book up a year out. Also, if you plan on any boondocking, be sure it's somewhere where you can use your generator since there is a good possibility it will be HOT at that time of year. I have used the Good Sam Trip Planner for years but it is going away in April and now use RV Trip Wizard. You should check it out. Hope you have a memorable trip!
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Old 03-22-2019, 01:25 PM   #10
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Only comment I would make is why 1 month? There is so much to see, it would seem that you are only going to see the major highways. We went from Del. and traveled at a reasonable pace but stayed a few days here and there to check out the sights along the way. We spent 3 months and still didn't get to see all that we could have seen.

If your on I-80 ride through the bad lands of South Dakota, you might even get a look at Mitchel S.D as you go buy, or stop at the Corn Palace and see the pictures made from corn. A 5 cent coffee at Wall Drug along the route to Devils Tower, then to Yellowstone N.P.

Utah has so many interesting sights you might like but 1 month won't allow you to see it all. For my money Bryce Canyon is the best for color and beauty. Zion is ok if you like hiking off into the trails to see waterfalls and such.

Boulder Dam is a great stop to see how electric is made. In California if you have time go see the Sequia N.P. almost trees and a neat climb up a very high peak. Of course Disney Land the kids might like also.

Again so many places and more than I mentioned, to see, just need to spend a little more time if you have it.
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Old 03-22-2019, 01:48 PM   #11
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Plan route and make reservations as soon as possible. We used rvtripwizard.com and good sam club trip planner to plan a trip from SC to CA last year. 3.5 months no problems, all 30 something campgrounds reserved 1 year in advance. ON rvtripwizard be sure to click on reviews in campground info and click on see more details at the end of some reviews and it takes you to campgroundreviews.com which is great for seeing what your getting into. Also use the map and satellite pictures for a good view of campground and area. BE sure to verify, by phone, the data and other information on campgroundreviews or any other website. Third party websites notorious for incorrect data.
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Old 03-22-2019, 01:53 PM   #12
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I LOVE these kinds of trips. You'll get a lot of input that it isn't enough time, but I have read plenty of trip reports that people did it and loved it. My cousin is in the middle of a trip from Richmond, VA to San Diego, CA and back in about 6 weeks. People said he was crazy but him and his gal and pets are loving it.

We have been fulltime for 4 years now and have hit a bunch of places along the route you've mentioned. I have NOT hit Rushmore/Wyoming/Colorado (except for Colorado Springs). I have location-by-location albums on Flickr:

I'd highly recommend that you use RVParky.com for a trip planner. There are others, but I find this one to be the simplest and still have the features that matter to me: adding locations and # of nights per location and having it calculate dates so that you can mind your end date for being back to work.

So now, some thoughts:

First and foremost, "natural beauty fatigue" is a real thing. Make sure you mix up your activities. We had friends who did a drive through the Wyoming/Colorado area and the kids ultimately got tired of getting out at scenic overlooks. In fact, for us- we came up from the south of Utah into Salt Lake City. I think we loved the city so much because we were fatigued from rugged natural beauty that it was a welcomed changed of pace.
  • Mount Rushmore is iconic but has been described as a bit of a let down due to it's small size (I heard a joke that the picture on postcards is actual size )
  • Salt Lake City's KOA is actually quite nice. Very tree'd for an urban location and good proximity to the Temple and whatnot for sight-seeing. Of course, you might want to pick what's closest to your friends.

    As well, the Olympic Park was a lot of fun. They do sledding on the ski hills during the offseason, have a ropes course, and other things. The tour was very well done and performed by Olympic athletes.

    There's a Mexican Restaurant (Red Iguana, maybe?) that everyone raved about. We tried it and it was so/so. But, supposedly their best food is anything with mole sauce.
  • Bonneville Salt Flats - we couldn't bring ourselves to make the drive from SLC out to it. There's really nothing there unless you luck into when they're doing races.
  • As you go south to Zion, look at what's along the path. Arches NP, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef park are all absolutely beautiful.
  • Near Zion is Page, AZ. The Glen Canyon Dam is just 16' shorter than Hoover Dam. They do much cheaper tours though when we were there a couple of years ago, the elevator was broken.

    Also there is Horseshoe Bend and the Antelope Canyon tours. We also spent some time hiking around Grand Staircase Escalante park.

    And, we went to Pink Coral Sand SP and went sledding on the dunes. There's a 4x4 deep sand trail to go see dinosaur tracks just outside of the park. Be aware of the sand to get back to it- I wasn't and was wholly under-prepared.
  • Also, as mentioned, not too far from Zion is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This was actually less impressive than I'd hoped. Beautiful lodge, but the canyon it overlooks isn't actually the Grand Canyon; just one that leads to it. There is one overlook at the very end of the scenic road that does overlook it.
  • We actually haven't been to Zion or Bryce yet.
  • Coming back, the 4 Corners is a fun stop. It's a bit of a tourist trap and the Navajo charge you for entering. Plus there's some debate about it's location (ranging from it's off by 200 feet or 2 miles). But, we liked hitting it.
  • You could stop in Amarillo, TX on the way back. Go to Cadillac Ranch and take spray paint. There's also a (free?) RV museum that has the vintage bus from the movie RV in it.
  • A slight diversion is Crater of Diamons SP in Murfreesboro, AR. This was a fun stop where you get to mine for diamonds. We didn't find anything but a toy, but it was fun to play in the dirt and mud for a day. Beautiful state park camping.
  • Memphis- the National Civil Rights Museum was an absolute must-do for us; this was heart wrenching and amazing. My son was 4 or 5 when we did it- very hard to explain, but I actually got a few compliments. Stay across the river at Tom Sawyer's RV park.
  • Nashville- we stayed just south of the city near Dickson/Burns at Montgomery Bell State Park
Also- speaking of National Parks, make sure you do the Junior Ranger activities with the kids. The kids like completing the books and always feel proud when they get sworn in at each park. The plastic badges make good momentos.
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Old 03-22-2019, 02:03 PM   #13
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trip from NJ to Utah

You have probably wished for more than you can happily do. Driving is tiring. Family time and touring can be the best thing since sliced bread. My wish for you is to not exhaust yourselves trying to get to too many places and then being too tired or too rushed to enjoy it all.

Year before last, it snowed in Yellowstone, a few days before 4th of July weekend. Our first night in the Black Hills, it was 46 degrees. You need to have some warm clothes, to layer. You need sunscreen and hats.

I find that Google maps helps me see mileage and time. It always takes us longer than it estimates. Take a look for National Parks and Monuments, state by state. This how we found places like Scotts Bluff (think Oregon Trail), and Little Big Horn in Montana, for instance.

On our way to Yellowstone, we chose to make a base camp in Custer, SD. This gave us easy access to Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, Mammoth and to the town. All wonderful. We spent 5 days in Yellowstone, camping (taking good advice from this forum) in West Yellowstone. Great side of the park to be on.
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Old 03-22-2019, 03:04 PM   #14
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Old 03-22-2019, 04:19 PM   #15
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This is certainly an ambitious trip but I think it is doable is you budget your time. There are many great suggestions. You should be aware of the distances involved and the distances between towns can be quite unnerving for someone who lives on the east coast. Vast is somewhat of an understatement when describing the West.

My suggestions:
  1. Take clothes for winter and summer conditions. The weather can change from blazing hot to really cold quickly.

    2. Drink PLENTY of water. The air is VERY dry out west. Allow a gallon per adult and child over 13 per day. Allow 3 quarts per child under 13 per day. If you are not using the bathroom, you are dehydrated. Children dehydrate VERY quickly and get sick.

    3. Make sure the cooling system in your TV/Motorhome is serviced and working properly. It will be hot especially in the Salt Lake Valley.

    4. Fuel up often. It is a long way between gas stops on the back roads.

    5. Be prepared for sudden pop-up thunderstorms with sudden cloudbursts. These produce flashfloods that can catch you unawares. July thru mid-September is "Monsoon Season" out West so you can expect thundershowers many days, especially in southern Utah and the Four-Corners Region. If you see water running across the highway, STOP. That water will sweep you and your rig away. Just wait until the water subsides. Also, don't park or hang out in arroyo bottoms. A flashflood could catch you even when it isn't raining at your location; it could be hot and sunny where you are and the next moment you are scrambling for dry ground because of a thunderstorm on the distant mountains.

    6. Most important: Take lots of pictures and take time to stop and listen to the stillness. The wind in the trees, the rustling grass, the smells in the air. You will never forget it!
Have a great trip and drive safely!

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Old 03-22-2019, 04:32 PM   #16
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Now retired, I've taken a number of 6-8 week trips cross country from central PA. Its difficult to just pound down those miles day after day, you'll want to make some short days(and do a short couple hr tourist stop) and 2 day stays on occasion. On the way west its preferred to hit Chicago area on a weekend, or get up about 5:30 eastern(4:30 central) during a weekday. My jumping off point going west is Michigan City campground and its still a very crowded highway at 530 in the morning getting past Chicago. Badlands NP is on the way to Mt Rushmore and is worth at least a drive through.

Heading SW from Mt Rushmore are some historic sites in Wyoming related to the Oregon Trail: register cliffs and wagon ruts in Guernsey and Independence Rock SW of Casper. These are good for the short 200 mi days.

It will be very hot in Zion and if you don't have reservations you will have a hard time getting into the valley. You'll need to take a bus. There is also a length limit on one of the tunnels there. Zion is a very popular park. Bryce is higher altitude and a bit cooler but has less to see. Heading east to four corners from Bryce or Zion the town of Page, Az(Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon) and Monument Valley are on the way. Bryce, Page and Monument Valley are all great for a few hours to half day visit as you travel through if thats all you have. Zion is worth more time if you have it. I came home last fall from four corners area and dropped down to I40 and hardly stopped for tourist places, after 6 weeks of rocky mtns and red desert rock the stuff on the way home couldn't compare.

Popular places and weekends usually need reservations, some far in advance, although pit stops along the interstates were usually good if you called ahead in the morning or early afternoon. A lot of campgrounds seemingly in the middle of nowhere seem to fill up at the end of the day
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Old 03-22-2019, 04:34 PM   #17
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Getting so excited to do this one day reading all your posts! My wife still works and I have to wait 5 years for her to retire, and she only gets a few weeks vacation a year. Not in the cards for us for awhile, but I will live vicariously!
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Old 03-22-2019, 04:56 PM   #18
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In Utah, Capital Reef NP is a great change of pace from the rest of Southern Utah. Campground is in a former orchard. Wild turkeys abound. Real water in the valley.

Caution - no cell in the valley. This is true in much of Southern Utah. Might as well put your phone on airplane mode or turn it off until you get to one of the "towns" on either side.

If you use Google Maps for your navigation, you can download the trip in advance for when you lose cell service. Also, fill with gas whenever you can. Towns are few and far between and you use more gas than you think going up and down the changes in elevation.

just our experiences
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Old 03-22-2019, 05:04 PM   #19
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I understand that this trip is no where near enough time. I'm 42 years old and still have a full time job that I have to return to. Unfortunately I dont have much more vacation time to use so I'm limited to this. As for the timing I would prefer doing this trip in the fall instead but I cant take my kids out of school for over a month. So far I haven't booked anything and figured we would find places along the way. See what we want when we want and stay somewhere longer if we were enjoying that area. Do I really need to make reservations so far out in advance ?
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Old 03-22-2019, 07:30 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by KEliasz View Post
I understand that this trip is no where near enough time. I'm 42 years old and still have a full time job that I have to return to. Unfortunately I dont have much more vacation time to use so I'm limited to this. As for the timing I would prefer doing this trip in the fall instead but I cant take my kids out of school for over a month. So far I haven't booked anything and figured we would find places along the way. See what we want when we want and stay somewhere longer if we were enjoying that area. Do I really need to make reservations so far out in advance ?
If you want to camp in Arches or Zion NP, you do need reservations ASAP. Tours reserve the vast majority of the campsites as soon as they open.

I had to delay my trip to Arches to 1 Nov (switches to no reservations) to have any hope of getting a site. They did have a no-show site open when I went to Arches instead of Dead Horse SP on 30 Oct. But distances out West can consume your time real fast. The campground at Arches NP is 23 miles/45 min from the park entrance. Deadhorse SP (very worthwhile) is only 15 miles as the crow flies from Arches, but the drive is over an hour.

There are less crowded alternatives to the Utah National Parks - but most do not have full hook-ups (neither do many of the national parks), and many are dry camping only.

Again, this is for Southern Utah - many campgrounds do not have water within hose reach of a campsite. Check the water situation when you reserve/plan in Southern Utah - be prepared to travel with full tank and dry camp for a couple of nights.

It will be an adventure you will never forget.

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