This USA road trip explores spectacular landscapes in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, covering some 2,000 miles in 14 days.
Beginning and ending in Phoenix Arizona, we were immediately drenched in spectacular scenery and monuments as we drove to Bisbee, (a former copper mining community, now famed for its eclectic residents, art galleries, music), Tombstone – where we experienced a ‘shoot-out’ at the OK Corral, (of course), on to the nearby cemetery at Boot Hill, then to Truth or Consequences (New Mexico – so named after a 1950’s US game show, staying at the Sierra Grande Lodge – we’d baked driving across the desert but then soaked ourselves in the mineral pools before having a rejuvenating massage complete with Indian herbs), then onto Snowflake – near to Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, and another spectacular drive to Durango (Colorado) – where we stayed at the historic Strater Hotel complete with rag-time piano bar. After Durango we went onto Blanding, set close to the spectacular Monument Valley. We then drove high into the mountains to Boulder, and then Zion National Park (my favourite to date of all the USA National Parks) – before going via Bryce Canyon to Williams and the Grand Canyon.
Need to know: UK citizens do not currently need a visa for entry to the USA. However, a valid ESTA certificate is required, apply direct and pay on line via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. The ESTA, covering stays of up to 90 days per visit, is valid for 2 years and currently costs $14 per person.
Travel advice: Check https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa for the latest advice on travelling safely in the USA. Ensure your travel insurance is adequate as it is well-known that medical care in the USA is expensive.
Money: Credit cards are widely accepted. Tipping is expected, between 15% & 18% is usual. Although Stirling is currently not strong against the US Dollar, fuel at least is dramatically cheaper than in the UK. Eating and drinking costs very much depends on your taste and budget. It’s generally a good idea to stop off at a supermarket before your first journey, stocking up on bottled water, snacks etc. that you can just keep in your rental car rather than unload at each of your stopping places.
Get here: British Airways, American Airways are a couple of providers who will fly you direct to Phoenix from London. We chose British Airways as it gave the best connections between Newcastle Upon Tyne and London (Heathrow) and Phoenix. Try booking when your chosen airline has a sale – we recently booked flights to Texas, and noted the cost of our flight would have doubled outside of the sale. The flight from London takes nearly 11 hours.
National Parks: The areas covered in this itinerary are very rich with National Parks, it is therefore well worth purchasing an annual pass as you will use it several times during the trip (currently costs $80). There is no particular need to purchase ahead of your trip – but may be bought on line if you prefer, see https://store.usgs.gov/pass
Days 1 & 2 Phoenix, Arizona
Stay: We took a taxi to the Maricopa Manor: http://www.maricopamanor.com/ an urban inn – Located at 15 West Pasadena Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85013, Phone: (602) 274-6302. Rates (from $119 a night) include breakfast, taken in your suite or right outside on the poolside patio. The Inn is served by Phoenix’s light Rail system, the nearest station is on Camelback, connecting with the airport, costs less than $2 per adult.
Phoenix Highlights: There are plenty of sights in and around Phoenix, one of the more interesting attractions is the Museum of Musical Instruments, open daily, admission from $15 per adult. See the best 10 visitor attractions on one website: https://www.visitphoenix.com/things-to-do/top-10-phoenix-attractions/
Days 3 & 4 Bisbee and Tombstone, Arizona
Moving on to Bisbee: The journey from Phoenix to Bisbee takes approx 4 hours, around 210 miles going East on the Interstate 10 as far as Benson, then East on the 80 to Bisbee. A nice stop for picnics on the way is the Coronado National Forest. You will also drive by 2 Indian Reservations en route.
Stay: We stayed at a nice Bed and Breakfast called Letson Loft https://www.letsonlofthotel.com/ right in the centre of town on 26 Main Street, with parking to rear, this smart boutique hotel, dating to 1883, is on the oldest Victorian block in Bisbee. Room rates, including breakfast start from $135 a night.
Do: Visit the nearby Mining and Historical museum https://bisbeemuseum.org/bm-museum.aspx– Bisbee began life as a copper mining community in 1880 and is named after one of the original mine’s founders Judge Bisbee. The museum is open daily – admission $8 per adult.
Mining exhibit outside Bisbee Museum
Alternatively – take an underground tour of the Queen Copper Mine nearby on 478 Dart Road in South East Bisbee, costs $13 per adult – click for details and reserve in advance http://www.queenminetour.com/
Bisbee shops, bars and galleries Great for small and quirky boutique shops and art studios, and all within a small area making exploring easy. Plenty of cool bars and old-style Saloons complete with neon lights and regular performances by local and visiting musicians make this an ideal location.
Drive to Tombstone: Tombstone, situated 23 miles away via the 80 West, is home to the OK Corral living history museum: http://www.okcorral.com/ Open daily, admission $10 per adult. There are daily re-enactments of the famous shoot-out and plenty of exhibits to see, including the Epitaph Newspaper office. Afterwards, you can visit nearby Boothill Graveyard and marvel at the grave stone inscriptions.
Days 5 & 6 Truth or Consequences (NM)
Moving on: Its a good 5 hour drive about 270 miles on the 80 and then the I 10 East – so do allow plenty of time so you can stop off on the way.
Stay: We stayed at the Sierra Grande Lodge – www.sierragrandelodge.com near the centre of town. The town is famed for its springs – and in fact Hot Springs was its original name. It became known as Truth or Consequences after winning a competition on the popular American game show in 1950s – locals call it T or C. We chose the Sierra Grande Lodge due to its reputation for great spa bathing pools – on arrival we were able to soak off some of the desert heat, feeling very much at peace with the world! Costs around $240 a night upwards, or ‘splash out’ on a spa package.
Downtown T or C: Visit the Geronimo Springs Museum – learn more about the museum’s namesake, including how he sold buttons from his jacket when being transported by train by the US army – a new set of buttons were cut at each station on the way! Little wonder Geronimo became so wealthy. https://geronimospringsmuseum.com/, admission $6.
Elephant Butte: drive 4 miles to Elephant Butte State Park, following the I-25 Business route, for hiking, water sports, fishing, picnics or just the views.
Day 7 Snowflake (Arizona)
Moving on: drive 270 miles to Snowflake, passing by the Apache Indian Reservation en route on the US 60 West. Journey will take nearly 5 hours.
Stay: We stayed at the Osmer Heritage Inn, dating to 1890, this restored pioneer’s inn on 161 Main Street – http://www.heritage-inn.net/ costs around $120 a night including a delicious breakfast – ask for the German Babies! Delicious, I was given the recipe, but they just weren’t the same as those made by the gracious hosts here.
Go here: The Petrified Forest National Park is close by, https://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm – do visit this amazing park, and be stunned by the colourways of the rock formations of the petrified trees. Admission is $20 per vehicle or free if you have purchased a National Parks Pass. Our friendly hosts at the Osmer Heritage Inn even gave us the best advice as to where to buy a petrified wood souvenir.
Days 8 & 9 Durango, Colorado
Moving on: Drive around 283 miles on the I40 East to Durango, Colorado. This is around 5.5 hours and the scenery is magnificent, you will almost certainly see deer and possibly other wildlife as you pass through the Navajo Indian Reservation territory.
Stay: The Strater Hotel, downtown Durango is a historic hotel dating to 1887, https://strater.com/ make sure you arrive in time for great happy hour cocktails in the Spiritorium, 4pm – 6pm daily, and later take supper in the Diamond Belle Saloon, complete with rag time piano and corset clad serving ladies, from around $200 a night.
Do: The Durango to Silverton Historic Railway is nearby, http://www.durangotrain.com/ the steam locomotive journey takes 3.5 hours each way, costing from around $89, taking you through spectacular canyons and the San Juan National Forest, with 2 hours to explore Silverton. Alternatively take a coach back to Durango, going through breathtaking mountains.
Go: Drive 38 Miles via the US-160 West to the Mesa Verde National Park, and be stunned by the intricate cliff dwellings. Dating to 1190s, these Pueblo dwellings were the homes of Ancestral Puebloans – never let it be said that ‘America has no history’ – it certainly does and it is fascinating to view these well-preserved structures – constructed with crude tools and raw labour all those centuries ago. See https://www.visitmesaverde.com/discover/cliff-dwellings/
Day 10 Blanding, Utah
Moving on: Drive 1 hour 30 minutes (85 miles) on the US 160 West to Four Corners National Monument, so called because the corners of 4 states intersect here: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. You can stand on a central plinth so you can say you walked to four states! Then drive
1 h 56 min (107 miles) via US-160 West to Monument Valley. Monument Valley is owned by the Navajos, who, alongside independents, operate tours along this famous redstone valley, featured in so many American movies. Self-drive tours are possible although the average rental car is probably not suitable for the unpaved roads. Admission is $20 per vehicle.
Buy: exquisite turquoise jewellery, hand made by the Navajo Indians.
Stay: Super 8 Motel – Blanding, 755 South Main Street, Blanding, UT 84511
Phone: 435-678-3880 https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/super-8/blanding-utah
Day 11 Boulder, Utah
Moving on: Drive 207 miles to Boulder, Utah, via the UT-95 North, taking you past Fry Canyon and the Capitol Reef National Park.
Stay: Boulder Mountain Lodge, PO Box 1397, 20 N. Highway 12, Boulder, UT 84716, https://boulder-utah.com/ from $150 a night, and dine at its Hell’s Backbone Grill – so named after the twisting and turning Hell’s Backbone road nearby. The road is well-named, it is a hell of a high road – with sheer drops at either side so beware if you have little head for heights!
Day 12 Springdale, Utah
Moving on: Springdale is ideally located for the magnificent Zion National Park, take the park and ride transport right into the park. Drive 218 miles To Springdale via UT-12 West and I-15 South, passing by the Bryce Canyon on the way.
Stay: Red Rock Inn, P.O. Box 273, 998 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, Utah 84767: https://www.zionredrock.com/redrockinn These great self-contained cottages are easy walking distance into Springdale for dinner, torches are provided, so you watch the sun go down on the red rocks opposite, from a rear elevated rock garden. Cost from around $120 a night, with breakfast included.
Do: take the park and ride into the Zion National Park, it is one of the busiest of the parks and you can use the shuttles to get around once inside. You will see plenty of wild life – the deer are kind of used to being photographed and don’t even bother to move as you walk right by them!
Days 13 & 14 Williams, Arizona
Moving on: Drive 307 miles via the US-89A South and US-89 South to Williams, Arizona, this is a very scenic drive and takes you partly by the Grand Canyon.
Stay: We stayed at the Red Garter Inn, a former bordello, 137 West Railroad Avenue, Williams – Phone: 928-635-1484, https://www.redgarter.com/ about $160 a night including breakfast at the bakery downstairs. We stayed in Big Bertha’s room, gather the hotel has been in ‘business’ over a 100 years – this kind of suited me as I sipped a well-earned beer in bed later. Haunted? judge for yourself, a female spirit with long-dark hair has been seen in the hotel, and mysterious footsteps can sometimes be heard on the stairs.
Do: Take the historic train ride from Williams Depot to the Grand Canyon South Rim – you will know the train is about to leave as it repeatedly sounds its whistle somewhat loudly – the journey takes about 2 hours each way, allowing you around 3 hours to explore before returning to Williams – expect the train to be held up by ‘bandits’ en route! Good fun, it costs from about $67 return: https://www.thetrain.com
Driving back to Phoenix airport will take around 2.5 hours from Williams.
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