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Old 04-12-2013, 09:17 AM   #1
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Planning trip out west

I am planning a trip out west that may start with the Summer in Santa Fe Rally June 7 - 10. From there I would like to head north through western Colorado and maybe end up in Jackson Hole Wyo. I will leave from Ellijay, Ga. around the middle of May and probably take I-40 over to Albuquerque. I plan to take my time and travel <300mi a day. $$$ is an issue so I will need to find low cost/ no cost Parks etc. I am a member of WBCCI, Good Sams and have an America the Beautiful National parks pass. I would greatly appreciate any and all comments, suggestions, recommendations that you can give to help me make this a success. All questions welcome.

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Old 04-12-2013, 09:25 AM   #2
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North of Albuquerque is Cochiti lake... Nice campground and the nearby tent rocks Nat'l Monument is a real treat.

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Old 04-12-2013, 09:45 AM   #3
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We like the CampWhere app for public campgrounds, and it is our first go-to when looking for sites. Very easy to use. Your Pass will get you half price at national and corps campgrounds.

The time of year you are traveling should be ideal for dry camping so, if I were you, I would keep water, propane and tank space at all times and do as much of this for free or a few dollars as you can. .

The CampWhere app allows you to star favorites on the map. What I do is peruse sights in an area we are going to visit and star the ones with water, electric, dump station, showers, etc., or that are particularly inexpensive. This is especially helpful in the national forest areas that can be almost saturated with campgrounds.

You should be able to get by without reservations during the week, might want to make them on a weekend.

You can always do an occasional WalMart overnight, too.

Have a great time and travel safe,

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Old 04-12-2013, 10:48 AM   #4
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There are lots of forest service and public land campgrounds in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
With your America the Beautiful pass, you get half off. Newer forest service campgrounds have rest rooms, central water systems, trash pickup, and beautiful large sites. With half off, cost is in the 6 to 12 dollar range.
Sharpen your boondocking skills as there is no electricity. In late spring early summer, temps may go below freezing. Your Airstream will rapidly reach the ambient air temp so have sleeping bags and make sure your batteries and furnace are in good condition.
State parks offer a generally cheaper alternative to public campgrounds. Often these parks have electricity at the site and a central dump station. Cost is in the $25 dollar range. Make reservations online now as the best of these parks fill up fast.
There is free, dispersed camping on most BLM land an on forest service land that is far away from large population centers. Best way to find this camping is to ask the campground host at developed campgrounds or go into local forest service or blm offices.
You can pull over and rest for a few hours at interstate rest areas in most states. We prefer this to Wall Mart. Casinos exist in Western States where there are indian reservations. Sometimes there is free camping in the parking lot.
Save your $$ for Jackson Hole. There is nothing free or cheap there.
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Old 04-12-2013, 10:49 AM   #5
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In Tetons NP near Jackson Hole there is a campground called Coulter Bay. Full hookups, beautiful place, don't miss!
John & Lisa
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Old 04-12-2013, 01:15 PM   #6
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The wife and I headed out west last fall and traveled the opposite direction from your trip. We headed up to Rapid City, over to Yellowstone, down to Las Vegas, south to Sedona, then north to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches NP, over to Durango, CO and Santa Fe, then home on I-40. We generally stayed in Good Sam Parks. Some of the nicer parks were:
Tom Sawyer in West Memphis, AR
Amarillo Ranch in Amarillo, TX
Alpen Rose in Durango, CO (if in the area don't miss Mesa Verda NP and a day trip to Telluride)
Rancho Sedona in Sedona, AZ
Guilding's Lodge and Campground in Monument Valley, UT
Hart Ranch in Rapid City (this is a membership park but you can take the short sales tour and stay 3 nights for a total of $39.00)
Hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did!!!

Remember its not the destination, but rather the journey.... its what's in the middle that matters the most!
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Old 04-12-2013, 01:42 PM   #7
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Hello jdanielii:

I like Gro Ventre campground in Grand Teton Natl. Park. It's the closest Natl. Park campground to Jackson Hole. A quiet campground, I've always found room to set up camp. No Hookups but clean restrooms. Lots of Elk & Buffalo - one time a Moose in the campground. Evening campfire programs, Etc. Many good places to eat and things to see in Jackson WY.
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Old 04-12-2013, 02:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Woosch View Post
In Tetons NP near Jackson Hole there is a campground called Coulter Bay. Full hookups, beautiful place, don't miss!
I concur!!!!!!
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Old 04-12-2013, 03:03 PM   #9
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Good luck with your trip. Stopping by the local Forest Service or BLM office is a good way to find free dispersed camping spots. One note on the camping discount for the America the Beautiful pass. I believe it only is available with the senior pass, not the standard annual pass.
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Old 04-12-2013, 03:08 PM   #10
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New Mexico has very nice state park campgrounds. Colorado charges not only for every item they can, but even if you pay for camping, you have to pay the daily fee also—avoid them. Plenty of federal campgrounds in Colorado, but with the sequester, they will open later and some may not open. More federal ones are being turned over to concessionaires and the prices have doubled or more in recent years. Some of these have electric, some water spigots for everyone, but usually no dump stations. In June, snow can still be at higher elevations, but it's been pretty dry and snow melt is happening fast.

If you go through western Colorado, there are several routes. If you go through Taos (no cheap commercial campgrounds there), and up through Alamosa, take 285 to Saguache then west on 114 (I hope I have the number right) to US 50 west. A less radical pass that way. 2nd route is up from Durango on US 550 over 3 passes—this is spectacular to see, but many switchbacks, narrow areas and slow going, but worth it once anyway. If you fear heights, you might think again about this route or maybe even Colorado. There is a 3rd route with fewer passes and switchbacks—from Cortez to Dolores to Telluride to Ridgeway to Montrose and US 50 (can't remember the numbers since I have driven these roads so often). Between Lizard Head Pass and Telluride, there are some smaller federal CG's that don't take reservations, so if they are open, they look like nice places to stop. Telluride has a municipal campground on the east side of town—I don't believe it has hookups, but does have wifi.

Between Durango and Cortez is Mesa Verde NP. NE of Montrose is Black Canyon NP. South of Grand Junction is Colorado NM. You may have to make reservations ahead of time in these, especially Mesa Verde. If you don't mind lots of curves and narrow road, Colo. 92 from Blue Mesa Res. (west of Gunnison off US 50) to Crawford is a spectacular view of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison—you drive along the edge of Black Mesa. Grand Mesa has many campgrounds and places you can just pull off the road and boondock.

That pass is like the senior pass (maybe it is—they change the name so often I don't know what it is called anymore) and you'll get campgrounds at half price—if they have an electric option, you don't get that at half price though.

Although I generally avoid Colorado state parks because of their costs, Ridgway State Park is nice and close to Ouray, Ridgway and Montrose plus there are hot springs nearby—public one in Ouray and clothing optional one (Orvis) just south of Ridgway. Kate's place in Ridgway has good breakfasts and lunches; Thai place in town is also good.

I could go on and on, and maybe will later. If you save by going to Walmarts, the ones in Grand Junction do not allow overnights per local ordinances. GJ is a supply stop and there is a decent private CG on west end just off the I-70/US50 junction and then north a few blocks up 22 Rd. The KOA on the east side on US 50 doesn't look good from the highway—never been in there, but it looks like mostly long term campers. From Grand Junction east on I 70 past Glenwood Springs, campgrounds have been filled with long term gas and oil workers for a long time, so there are few options.

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Old 04-12-2013, 03:36 PM   #11
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We were in the Tetons last September, but didn't stay there because the smoke was so thick from wildfires in ID that had been burning all summer. At Coulter Bay, you could not see the Tetons. Does anyone know if the situation is better now? Thought I'd mention it in case it is still a problem and you could avoid it.
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Old 04-12-2013, 03:52 PM   #12
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Gene...before the price increase 6/1/11, I bought a lifetime Colorado state parks pass for less than $300. Worth it to me. No word yet if the USFS was told to put the hurt on the public by blaming the sequester for NP and USFS campgrounds closures. Most San Juan NF campgrounds are opening 5/11/13.
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Old 04-12-2013, 04:14 PM   #13
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If money is a BIG issue.....

I would consider making some of your northbound route go through Utah.
I think it is flatter. There is more BLM land with free camping. I happen to like the scenery in Utah a little more than Colorado. Check out Canyonlands and Arches on the map. But heck yeah ....Sante Fe-Colorado-Wyoming is an awesome road trip. Advice? Go slow up and down the hills. Stop and enjoy.
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Old 04-12-2013, 04:30 PM   #14
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We did a similar loop, opposite direction, two years ago. An absolutely terrific trip. We meandered western CO and eastern UT for two weeks.

When you head north out of N.M., be prepared for very challenging mountain passes in the Durango area towards either Telluride (San Juan Skyway) or Ouray (Million Dollar Anyway) if you intend to see that portion of Colorado. Passengers may need sedatives :-O

You can swing farther west via Shiprock and head north in eastern Utah via Blanding towards Moab. The landscape is diverse near the Canyonlands N.P./Arches and the Manti-La-Sal forest has a few low cost, forested sites that are much cooler than the canyons below. The limited length dirt sections accessing the forest campgrounds are as packed as asphalt but can be dusty if you are following someone.

Going that route lets you enter western Colorado on I-70 east bound after following the banks of the Colorado River just north out of Moab on 128 (camp spots water side along this leg). An evening camping opportunity atop Colorado National Monument overlooking Grand Junction awaits before taking 139/64 north where you can see Dinosaur N.M. as you head along the shortest route to Jackson Hole. You slip into Green River, Wyoming on 44/530 while seeing spectacular color gorges surrounding Flaming Gorge Reservoir on a multi-lane.

Alternately, you can visit the San Luis Valley among the Fourteeners, by driving through the central part of Colorado by just shooting due north out of Santa Fe on 285/84. Take 114 to Gunnison via Saguache for a less traveled drive. Camps spots around Salida are available from Colorado State Parks, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.

Check the BLM directory for spots near Bondurant, Wyoming. We stayed riverside, a couple hundred yards from the main highway for a night while taking 189/191 north into the Alpine/Jackson area where prices make you think you are in New York City.

Coulter Bay is great. Get there before 3:30 PM and a spot is usually available without a reservation. Elsewhere in or near Yellowstone during summer you need a reservation.

Have fun!

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