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Old 01-03-2009, 02:57 PM   #1
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Please help with our travel plans, traveling out west

Hello fellow aluminum addicts.
We are planning a trip out west this summer, leaving from Florida and have about 3 weeks total. First of all is that enough time to get to see some sites and not feel rushed? Next I was wondering if anyone has any good suggestions as what to see, or where to stay. We thought about going to San Diego, then up to San Fran, then over to Yosemite, then to the s
Sequoia national forest, then to the grand Canyon in Arizona, then back to Florida. I have noticed that on the way through Arizona there are alot of indian reservations, are they worth stopping at? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated, (where to eat, site seeing, where to stay,etc....). Thanks, Dave

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Old 01-03-2009, 03:18 PM   #2
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Your plans seem good to me from what I've seen. A lot to do and see in the time you have, but I would suggest skipping the indian reservations, and if possible pickup Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Old 01-03-2009, 03:28 PM   #3
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If you have any hope of getting into Yosemite you had better reserve now and by now don't even think of that reservation being over a weekend.

I second the north rim over the south side.

In general you are packing in quite a bit for 3 weeks. Remember you have 8 to 10 days travel there and back.
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Old 01-03-2009, 03:34 PM   #4
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The West is big, really big. Just getting across Texas takes a couple of days. In three weeks, you will have possibly a week each way from coast to coast and that leaves you with only enough time to sample the sights. Of course, if you can do 600 miles a day towing, you can get to the Pacific in about 5 1/2 days, but how will you feel?

You mention some of the most famous national parks. They are crowded in summer (that's why we always go on the shoulder seasons or even winter) and the most popular require you to take busses during the long tourist season because of really bad traffic. Depending what you want to see, Indian reservations can be good to visit, but it depends what you want to experience.

To quickly visit some places means it is less likely you will meet people and to me meeting locals is a memorable part of any trip.

I realize you may only have three weeks and I can't see how you wouldn't be rushed. Grand Canyon needs at least 2 nights—and that means one full day to wander around (though in summer you have to take a bus along the south rim, no private vehicles). Getting there, hooking up, the reverse, means about 3 days. Do you want to hike down to the bottom, or go part way, or take the mule ride down? The signature historic hotel is El Tovar and it has a very good restaurant. The crowds at Yosemite from what I read make it a place to never visit in the summer, though Sequoia may be less crowded.

And what about the 5 national parks in southern Utah? Colorado? A drive along the Pacific Coast Hwy from north of LA to Monterey? The Navajo res is fascinating, but it's as big as Connecticut and you have to explore for days. Santa Fe and Taos?

You could limit yourself to a few states a little closer such as NM, Ariz., Colorado, and Utah and still not have enough time. California takes weeks to see and in places there is abominable traffic. Then there's the NW and Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and Nevada. Think of this trip as the first of many and don't try to see it all because you can't. If you have a job, quit, and stay until October. Because it is so hot and crowded in a lot of the places you mention, we travel in the Spring or Fall more than summer (unless we're going north, and even then we avoid midsummer).

As far as restaurants, the best ones are found in the Pacific Coast states generally, though with some searching, you can find others elsewhere.

So, you can either look at it as exploratory and see a little of a lot of things (and come back and spend time where you feel you missed a lot), or spend more time in a few places and keep coming back, maybe seeing a few states at a time.

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Old 01-03-2009, 04:02 PM   #5
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I don't know what kind of experience you might have, but if you try to haul that 600 miles each day, you'll not be worth much when you get there. The idea is to ENJOY the travel. Getting there is half the fun! You mentioned the highlights and I can tell you there are a lot of mediumlights on the way that you'll be sorry to miss. Get some travel books - read about the areas in which you will be - see what is there that you should see. Most of the travel books will also give you good advice on restaurants in addition to sites to visit. They will identify several - you get to pick and choose those that are of interet to you. If we both made the same trip, you would want to see many different sites that I would want to see. Pick out those that are of interest and visit them. Take you time and see what there is to see as you travel. I hope you get to go again and see the other things that you miss this time. Enjoy the trip! I envy you the trip - make the best of it.
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:21 PM   #6
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To be more specific.......
We are leaving May 8th and hope to return by May 31st. We are not old but we don't really want to hike anything or climb anything. We plan on staying to the South part of the US across 10 to San Diego. We've seen everything from Florida to thru Texas more times than we care to recall. So we plan to make it kind of quick thru those states and then slow down when we get to New Mexico if there's anything worth slowing down for. Then from San Diego to San Fransico then to the North of the Grand Canyon. Of course stopping on the way for worth while sites and food. After the Grand Canyon we will just be heading straight home. I don't mean that in a rushed sort of way but we've explored the rest of the those states before.
Where we need to most help is Campgrounds, Food and Worth-while sites to see.

Thanks so much for the replys...
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Old 01-03-2009, 05:19 PM   #7
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My formula for how many miles a trip will take is to count the miles to the farthest point, double it for the return, then add 50%. For a loop, add it all together, then add 50%. I don't know how it happens because I can't imagine where all those "extra" miles happen, but they usually do. Doing it crudely, 3,000 to the west coast, blah, blah, and I get 9,000 miles total. In 23 days, that's 391 miles a day. If you spend a couple of days somewhere, you're over 400 quickly for the rest of the trip.

Before we had a trailer, I could, with my wife's aid in driving, cover 500 miles a day easily (semi-easily) for a week or so, then she would remind me, not so gently, we were crazy, especially me. She would "suggest" we stop somewhere for two nights and when I looked in her eyes, I knew what was best to save my marriage. She was right, of course, and I have tempered my maniacal driving goals. When you have to get somewhere far away, like Alaska or New England, there have to be some looney days driving. Our record is 750 miles in a day, but with a trailer, 410 (I'm hoping to increase that).

You can make some good time from Ft. Myers to Santa Fe on I-10 and then I-40 (you've got to go north sometime), but how you fast you travel is quite personal. There's plenty to see in NM, but you can keep going all the way to Grand Canyon—that's probably a day and half from when you leave Texas. If you go north from San Diego, you have to get through LA (that should be interesting) and then to the PCH. It's beautiful and it isn't fast. There's a couple of days to get to SF. Monterey has one of the best aquariums in the country—I was impressed and I don't like aquariums.

I don't know how fast you travel, but unless you are intense road warriors, get up at 4 am and drive until 8 pm or later, it's hard to keep it up day after day. If you can, I admire that strength. I suspect that once you get to the coast, you may be running out of time and have to devote 2 hours to SF and 15 minutes to Sequoia NP. But there's someone on the Forum (can't remember who) who went to Alaska, drove well over 10,000 (maybe 12,000 or 15,000) miles and did it in something like 5 weeks. So it can be done. We did 11,222 to Alaska and back without a trailer in 6 weeks and came back ready for the rest home.

Every one is different and travels differently. I suggest you add up all the miles to all the places you want to go, add some for unexpected driving—my 50% may or may not work for others. See what places you want to spend more than a few hours, subtract those stationary days, then divide remaining days into miles and see what you're looking at.

If you'll be going near Santa Fe, it's a good place to go to. We've been going to Santa Fe for 20 years and haven't seen everything yet. There's a good pan-Asian restaurant called (I think) Ganji. Blue Corn Cafe is just off the plaza and good for southwestern lunch or dinner. There are lots of good restaurants in Santa Fe, many museums, and just see the "city different". Lots to buy, often at inflated prices—same things sometimes are cheaper elsewhere. I-40 goes through Albuquerque, I-25 is north to Santa Fe in about 1 1/2 hours. Do not tow a trailer through downtown Santa Fe—the streets are too narrow and the traffic too intense. Stay on federal highways through the city—US 285 is the north-south hwy. The RV campgrounds are along I-25 south of the city anyway. The Pueblo Indians have various reservations in north central NM and some are tourist friendly. The eastern edge of the Navajo res in is NM. Gallup has some stores that have quality Indian goods, also there are crappy stores with crappy stuff. The touristy chain you will see along I-40 is Ortegas—not the place to get good things. On most Indian goods, you can bargain a lot. Just into Arizona, on the south side of I-40 at Sanders, is Burnham's Trading Post, good people with honest prices at a traditional trading post. I always enjoy talking to Bruce and Virginia. Go through the food store at the front to the rear (on the right) to get to the rugs, pottery and jewelry.

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Old 01-03-2009, 05:49 PM   #8
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Thank Gene! My wife and I are not road warriors but we are not slow either. We have traveled extensively but never west of Texas unless you count flying into Las Vegas.
I really appreciate the advice about taking a trailer thru Downtown Santa Fe. Also about where to get good deals and the dining suggestions. These are the kind of tips we were looking for!
I am going to look into the aquarium in Monterey. We had thought about the zoo in San Diego since you always hear so much about it. But I didn't know if it was really worth the time since we have been to several zoos.
Do you have any suggestions about specific campgrounds to stay at to things to bring since traveling to the west?
Thanks again, Dave
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:06 PM   #9
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I'd like to echo the comments of the others: This will be a very long trip, and the destinations you already have in mind are themselves quite a long distance from one another. You're going to be driving a LOT.

My own suggestion for folks visiting the southwest for the first time is to select a smaller area and to concentrate on it.

Just in northern Arizona/southern Utah region (Colorado river area, including the Grand Canyon), there are so many national parks, national monuments, and very interesting state parks that you could keep yourselves busy for many vacations to come.

Indeed, pretty much the same could be said of any of the regions out here: They're all chock full of a LOT of history and stunningly gorgeous scenery.

So, then, as above, select a much smaller region and explore.

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Old 01-03-2009, 06:27 PM   #10
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I really appreciate all the advice! Especially about selecting a smaller region to visit.
That is why I asked!
With all of the suggestions we plan to eliminate or add instead of areas of interest.
We need all our veteran Airstreamers advice to determine what is the most interesting to us to do for our first trip.
Even if everyone suggests it doesn't mean we are going to do every single thing. I just wanted some things that were most memeorable to each person that has the time to contribute. An idea or spot that was worth while to them.
Also some nice campgrounds along that route that don't require boondocking. We aren't quite set up for that yet.
Thanks again! Dave
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:53 PM   #11
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Well, then, for a first-time visit, I'd probably recommend either of the following:

1. Do only California stuff: San Diego, Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, San Fran.

2. Do only northern Arizona / southern Utah stuff: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce.

It doesn't look like much, but it's still a LOT of driving, and each one requires more than just a day (or two or three or four or five) to see/do things!

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Old 01-03-2009, 09:40 PM   #12
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In Arizona, putting aside the Grand Canyon for the moment (do consider the North Rim!), and depending upon what part of the state you're gonna' be in, consider:

Meteor Crater just east of Flagstaff off of I-40. It's an amazing sight from an airliner or in a satellite image, and almost incomprehensible standing at the rim looking in. Meteor Crater - Home I don't think there's a similar crater anywhere on the planet. They charge you to go to the edge and look over, but it's worth it, IMHO.

Jerome, Az - an old mining town that's full of good restaurants and sights. A town you could "fall out of" if you weren't careful ... could be a challenging drive - I've never been there towing ... a good but twisty road to it, but it is delightful.

Bisbee, Az - another old mining town with lots of quaint shops and restaurants and a no-longer-operating old gold mine into which you can ride a mining train and get a pretty neat tour. You have to "suit up" in waterproofs they supply and wear a head lamp to do this, but it's informative.

Nogales, Az - on the Mexican border ... walk across the border and buy a t-shirt or straw hat or ...!

Tucson - Take a tram up to the top of Sabino Canyon and walk part way back, stopping to soak your feet in the icy stream that cut the canyon and runs pretty much year-around from snow melt. Sabino Canyon Tours at Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona And take in the Sonoran Desert Museum ...

Sedona - fantastic scenery and lots of art galleries with terrific art works.

That oughta' take you a week, just to do these things well!

Have fun and do report / blog, etc.

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Old 01-04-2009, 07:25 AM   #13
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Hey Group :

Where's that funky flat topped mountain from "Close Encounters" at ??

Would that one be on the way for them ?

Besides singing the little tune with the doomsday fanatics that may (I suspect) show up because they hear the there anything else interesting there to do?

Just curious.

Na-noo, Na-noo, P.
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Old 01-04-2009, 07:40 AM   #14
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That's Devil's Tower in Wyoming:

Not exactly along the route unless you wanna make a Big Dogleg.

Is there anything else to see/do? Well, I'll speak for my part of New Mexico:

Things to see and do in northern New Mexico (with a few longer descriptions):
Albuquerque is a city with a long history. There is evidence that as long as 25,000 years ago, people inhabited this area. Some scientists have estimated the date to be 10,000 years ago. In any case, the area has an old heritage. The Anasazi Indians lived here from 1100 to 1300 A.D. In 1540, the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasques do Coronado arrived from Mexico. After Coronado left, more Spanish settlers moved here. By the 1600's, the area was called: "Bosque Grande de San Francisco Xavier" (A bosque is a forest on the banks of a river or body of water or possibly an area of thick vegetation). In 1706, Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez asked the Spanish government for permission to establish a villa here. There must be 30 families to do so. There were only 18 at this time, but Cuervo, who was at the time the provisional governor of the territory, knew the plan would help his future. Cuervo planned to name the villa, Alburquerque, after the viceroy Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, the Duke of Alburquerque. His application was accepted and the city of Alburquerque was formed. The first "r" was dropped from the name supposedly when a sign painter omitted it because he couldn't spell it or just didn't have enough room. There is another theory about the latin spelling of Albuquerque, which means white oak.
Albuquerque: Old Town
Albuquerque area: Tramway
Albuquerque: Balloon Festival (early Oct)
Albuquerque area: Petroglyph National Monument
Albuquerque area: Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway
Albuquerque: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Santa Fe & area
Indians have lived here for over 1,000 years! Santa Fe is the second oldest city in the United States. Don Pedro de Paralta was appointed Governor and Capitan General of New Mexico by the Viceroy of New Spain on 30 March 1609. He was to go to New Mexico with other soldiers and priests and to found the Villa of Santa Fe.
New Mexico was brought into the United States in 1846. At that time, the Catholic Church sent Archbishop John Lamy to reorganize the religious practices of the territory. Religion continues to play a large part in the Santa Fe area. The original name for the city was "La Villa de la Santa Fe San Francisco de Assisi," or in english, "The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi."
Santa Fe has been the capital under four different flags since 1610: Spain, Mexico, the U.S. Confederacy and the United States. The influence of many different cultures can especially be seen in the architecture. The adobe is from the Moors. The eastern styles and materials from the Anglos. There are many old, historic buildings in Santa Fe, such as the Miraculous Winding Staircase at the Loretto Chapel or the San Miguel Mission - the oldest church in the United States. Santa Fe has also become a cultural center for the region. The Santa Fe Fiesta has been celebrated
since 1769. It remains a center for craftsmen and artisans to this day.
Santa Fe: La Fonda (historic Harvey hotel)
Santa Fe: Loretto Chapel
Santa Fe area: Pecos National Historical Park
Battle of Glorieta Pass, Civil War
Los Alamos: Atomic Lab Science Museum
Los Alamos: Bandelier National Monument
Los Alamos area: Valle Grande (caldera)
Jemes Springs: hot springs, pueblo
Jemez Springs: Grotto, Soda Falls, camping
Chimayo: Sanctuario de Chimayo
Abiquiu: arts and photography
Abiquiu: Ghost Ranch
Abiquiu area: Echo Amphitheater
Ojo Caliente
Ojo Caliente: Spa
Chama: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
Las Vegas: 900 historical buildings!
Las Vegas: Montezuma Castle
Fort Union & Santa Fe Trail
There is evidence that man has lived in the Taos area as far back as 3,000 B.C. Prehistoric ruins dating from 900 A.D. can be seen throughout the Taos Valley. The Pueblo of Taos remains the link from these early inhabitants of the valley to the still-living native culture.
The first Europeans to appear in Taos valley were led by Captain Alvarado, who was exploring the area for the Coronado expedition of 1540. Don Juan de Onate, official colonizer of the province of Nuevo Mexico, came to Taos in July 1598. In September of that year he assigned Fray Francisco de Zamora to serve the Taos and Picuris Pueblos.
Long established trading networks at Taos Pueblo, plus its mission and the abundant water and timber of the valley, attracted early Spanish settlers.
Life was not easy for the newcomers, and there were several conflicts with Taos Pueblo before the Pueblo revolt of 1680 in which all Spaniards and their priests were either killed or driven from the province. In 1692 Don Diego de Vargas made a successful military reconquest of New Mexico and in 1693 he returned to recolonize the province. In 1694 he raided Taos Pueblo when it refused to provide corn for his starving settlers in Santa Fe.
Taos Pueblo revolted again in 1696, and De Vargas came for the third time to put down the rebellion. Thereafter, Taos and most of the other Rio Grande Pueblos remained allies of Spain and later of Mexico when it won its independence in 1821. During this long period the famous Taos Trade Fairs grew in importance so that even the annual caravan to Chihuahua delayed its departure until after the Taos Fair, which was held in July or August. The first French traders, led by the Mallette brothers, attended the Taos Fair in 1739.
By 1760, the population of Taos valley had decreased because of the fierce attacks by Plains Indians. Many times the Spanish settlers had to move into houses at Taos Pueblo for protection from these raiders. In 1779, Colonel de Anza returned through Taos from Colorado, where he had decisively defeated the Comanches led by Cuerno Verde. De Anza named the Sangre de Cristo Pass, northeast of present Fort Garland, and also named the road south from Taos to Santa Fe through Miranda Canyon as part of "El Camino Real". In 1796 - 97, the Don Fernando de Taos grant was given to 63 Spanish families.
By the early 1800's, Taos had become the headquarters for many of the famous mountain men who trapped beaver in the neighboring mountains. Among them was Kit Carson, who made his home in Taos from 1826 to 1868. In July 1826 Padre Antonio Jose Martinez began serving the Taos parish. He opened his school in Taos in 1833 and published textbooks for it in 1834. He printed "El Crepusculo", a weekly newspaper in 1835, and was prominent in territorial matters during the Mexican and early United States periods in New Mexico.
After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the Santa Fe Trail became the important route for trade between the United States and Mexico. A branch of the trail came to Taos to supply its trading needs.From 1821 to 1846, the Mexican government made numerous land grants to help settle new sections of New Mexico. During the war with Mexico in 1846, General Stephen Kearney and his U.S. troops occupied the province of New Mexico. Taos rebelled against the new wave of invaders and in 1847 killed the newly appointed Governor Charles Bent, in his Taos home. In 1850 the province, which then included Arizona, officially became the territory of New Mexico of the United States.
During the civil war, the confederate army flew its flag for six weeks over Santa Fe. It was just prior to this time that Kit Carson, Smith Simpson, Ceran St. Vrain and others put up the American flag over Taos Plaza and guarded it. Since then, Taos has had the honor of flying the flag day and night.The discovery of gold in the Moreno valley in 1866 and later in the mountains near Taos brought many new people to the area. Twining and Red River, once mining towns, are now prominent ski resorts. The Carson National Forest contains forested lands in the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountain Ranges. It was created from the Pecos River Forest Reserve of 1892, the Taos Forest Reserve of 1906, and part of the Jemez National Forest of 1905.
A narrow gauge railroad, the Denver and Rio Grande Western, was built from Alamosa, Colorado, to within 25 miles southwest of Taos in 1880. In later years it was nicknamed the Chili Line. It eventually connected with Santa Fe. A surrey and four horses joggled passengers from the station to Taos. During World War II, the train was discontinued; Embudo Station on the Rio Grande is all that is left of it today.
The next invasion began in 1898, when two eastern artists came to Taos and depicted on canvas the dramatic mountains and unique peoples. By 1912, the Taos Society of Artists was formed by these and other artists who had been attracted to the area. New Mexico became a state in 1912 as well. World Wars I and II came and went, and members of the three cultures of Taos -- Indian, Spanish and Anglo -- fought and died together for their country.
Taos: Galleries & museums
Taos area: Ranchos de Taos church
Taos area: Taos pueblo
Taos area: Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Taos area: Wild Rivers Rec Area (BLM site)
Taos area: White Water rafting
Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway: Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa, Taos
Vietnam Veterans National Memorial, Angel Fire
Elizabethtown (Ghost Town)
Acoma pueblo (Sky City)
El Morro (Inscription Rock) National Monument
El Malpais National Monument
Ice Caves and Bandera Volcano
Gallup, Center for Native American history, art, culture, tradition, and GREAT shopping
Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial at Gallup
Shiprock. More just to see than to visit; you'll be able to see it from all over the northwest corner of the state. (In earlier times, prior to air pollution, you could see it from the top of Sandia Peak and from some places at Mesa Verde, that is, from much further away. Now that happens only on particularly clear days.)
Navajo Nation: Fair at Shiprock and much more
Bisti Badlands Wilderness
National Monuments/Parks/Rec Areas, State Parks and Scenic Byways(North and South)
New Mexico's Scenic Byways:
Albuquerque area: Petroglyph National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Petroglyph National Monument
Fort Union National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (BLM)
National Natural Landmarks in New Mexico:
New Mexico State Parks (northern New Mexico):
Conchas Lake
Ute Lake State Park
Bluewater Lake State Park
Hyde Memorial State Park
Rio Grande Nature Center
Red Rock State Park (operated by the City of Gallup)
El Vado Lake State Park
Fenton Lake State Park
Navajo Lake State Park
Heron Lake State Park
Cimarron Canyon State Park
Clayton Lake State Park
Coyote Creek State Park
Morphy Lake State Park
Storrie Lake State Park
Sugarite Canyon State Park
Eagle Nest Lake State Park
Vietnam Veterans Memorial


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