So this is not Europe, but I figure we’re all a little bored. So I thought I would report some on my 2 week, 2800 mile driving trip to a large number of national parks.
I began planning this trip mid-summer for mid-September, but had to change it to about the last two weeks of October. I began by centering around the fact that I wanted to stay IN the Grand Canyon park, but didn’t want to spend tons of money. So my schedule was built around when I could find 2 nights together there.
I am also a pretty “budget” hotel person, however with most of these places in touristed locations, nothing was really cheap. But there were plenty of far more expensive places than where I chose. I also have a weakness for quirky.
Covid considerations: the hotels seemed to have good plans for this, all requiring and using masks. Because most stays were 1 night, I did opt for hotels, instead of Air BnB, except once. We generally ate in a restaurant for dinner each night. Most restaurants had guests well spaced with limited seating. Two places did temperature checks before we entered.
And being recently retired, I have plenty of time so I wanted to drive from home and not fly. At first I planned to take this trip solo, but when I mentioned it to a friend, she asked to come. So although I did do most of the driving, we did split those hours some. I re-organized a number of times and it included many one night stops. Here is the order:
Santa Fe: 1 night, merely for a place to stay on the way.
Durango: 1 night, before visiting Mesa Verde.
Cortez: 1 night, as a convenient place to stay after Mesa Verde that was not back-tracking.
Moab: 1 night for Arches National Park.
Bryce Canyon City: 1 night, for Bryce Canyon National Park.
Springdale: 2 nights, for Zion National Park.
Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon: 2 nights
Flagstaff: 2 nights, for Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments.
Winslow: 1 night to stay at La Posada (and to stand on the corner).
Grants, NM: 1 night purely for a place to sleep.
Day 1: It is about an 8 hour drive to Santa Fe. With the quarantine in place, SF really was just the best option for a place to stay. I picked the Sage Hotel. It was cute and not too far from downtown. We did take a drive around the square, which had a peaceful protest over treatment of Indians taking place. We didn’t stop for any questions. Breakfast was a “get and go” affair, with breakfast burritos the highlight (and they were good). They only allowed a certain number of people in the lobby and breakfast room at a time.
Day 2: today’s destination was Durango. I had wanted to ride the train up to Silverton, but the train didn’t run on either Sunday or Monday - the only 2 possible days for us. Knowing that, we allowed ourselves a leisurely drive and when we saw the sign for Chimney Rock National Monument, we just hooked a left and went. It was a really nice few hours. After paying, you can drive most of the way up the mountain, with a nice parking lot and a short walk round of Indian ruins. Then from there you can also walk further up to the Chimney Rock area. I am not a hiker, especially in high altitude; so I went 3/4 of the way and my friend went on up as far as you can. While this wasn’t a “wow” place, it was beautiful and a great first stop for us.
From there we went on to Durango Lodge in Durango. It was perfectly fine and well-located for a short wander around town. Breakfast was also grab and go - and was one of only 2 places with fresh fruit.
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