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Old 06-25-2013, 01:07 AM   #1
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Southwest Road Trip, NM and AZ advice needed.

Hi all, doing a big road trip this summer. I need some help finding good places to stay in New Mexico and eastern Arizona. We are planning to get into the higher elevation as soon as is possible to beat the heat. I'm no stranger to back roads, so twisty mountain passes are welcome.

Trying to keep the trip in several short jumps to allow time for the new baby to do his thing (feeding, diapers, etc) and to keep my other girls (ages 5 and 7) interest in the trip. Also looking for good sightseeing stops along the way that are kid appropriate. Swimming holes or pools for the girls are always sought after.

So far here is the itenerary:

July 8, leave San Antonio for Balmorheea State Park (TX), overnight there, swim in the springs pool!
July 9, depart to Ruidoso NM or Capitan NM (no reservations yet) or beyond, possibly further west to close the gap towards grand canyon
July 10 Near Payson AZ?
July 11 Grand Canyon South Rim (reserved)
July 12 Grand Canyon South Rim
July 13 Las Vegas or Boulder City?
July 14 Long Beach CA

Any input is appreciated. While I've travelled in some of the area, I've never camped there.
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Old 06-25-2013, 04:28 AM   #2
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New Mexico, Arizona & Nevada Campground Suggestions

To locate campgrounds, use Google Earth FREE version to SEARCH for "campgrounds near XXX", where "XXX" is the city or tourist destination. For example, for Ruidoso, NM, SEARCH for "campgrounds near Ruidoso, NM", select destination from drop-down menu, then click SEARCH.

Google Earth FREE Download: Google Earth: Google Earth Download

Note: You do NOT need to buy the "pro" version. The free version works fine for most users.

Instead of Ruidoso, NM, suggest Cloudcroft. It's higher in altitude and may be a little cooler. Also, when the monsoon season starts, the mountains in this area of New Mexico frequently get cooling rains.

Lots of campgrounds in Payson, Show Low and Arizona White Mountains/Mogollon Rim area (pronounced "muggy-yone"). Use Google Earth to locate campgrounds.

It appears you have reservations at the Grand Canyon. Expect it to be very warm in the daytime, but cool at night. Plus, it will be very crowded. For future trips, it's much less crowded in cooler months, and you have your choice of sites in campgrounds.

In Las Vegas/Boulder City area, check out Boulder Beach National Park Service Campground and adjacent Lake Mead RV Village. Expect temperatures to be similar to Arizona desert areas; i.e., 115+ degrees Fahrenheit. However, it does cool down at night, unlike Phoenix, which is often still 100 at midnight.

Since it appears you will visit several National Park areas, consider getting the National Parks Annual Pass:

America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

Note: US military and their dependents qualify for a FREE Annual Pass. Also, seniors (62+) pay $10 for a lifetime pass, which also qualifies for half-price discount on camping fees in most "national" campgrounds (National Parks, National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, etc.).

Other suggestions:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...ml#post1208672

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f462...ml#post1186552
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:33 PM   #3
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The kids will enjoy Balmorhea State Park in TX...the huge spring-fed pool is cool and the main attraction there...it's an amazing oasis in the West Texas plains. Davis Mountain State Park is not far from there and also is the highest point in west Texas...

I agree with Phoenix that Cloudcroft might be a good alternative to Ruidoso if you want NF camping in cooler climates.

The White Mountains are your best bet for cooler climates for summer camping in Arizona. You could get there from the Ruidoso/Cloudcroft by going north on I-25 to Soccoro and then west on US 60 toward Eager/Springerville, Az...you'll go by the Very Large Array, which is very much worth seeing. There's a great little BLM campground called Daytil Wells just west of the VLArray, about 1 mile west of Daytil that is very pleasant for a stop-over...

That entrance into AZ will place you close to the Big Lake area (south of Eager/Springerville) on the east end of the Mogollon Rim ...it is high and pretty.

Fool Hollow Lake State Recreation area in Show Low, AZ a bit further west is one of the state's best recreation areas in terms of camping...full hookups (yes, even sewer) but you will need reservations there. It's very convenient to Show Low, and the lake is good for kayaking and fishing. Easy hiking/walking trail, too.

Lots of NF campgrounds west of there immediately above Payson on 260. There are some that take reservations...many are first come first served...it gets very busy on the weekend and over holidays.

At Payson you can go north through the mountains on 87/260... through Pine and Strawberry...pretty drive...and on north to the Mormon Lake and the Lake Mary area SE of Flagstaff. The Pinegrove (Coconino NF) campground between Mormon Lake and Upper Lake Mary is very nice...you'll want reservations there. It's only 15 mile to Flagstaff from there...and on the way to the Grand Canyon via Flagstaff.

The Grand Canyon will be warm that time of year, as will Lake Mead...you will want to camp where you have electricity. It you take route 64 south from the Grand Canyon to Williams you will find Kaibab Lake (Kaibab NF) Campground about 5 miles before you get to I-40. (You can also camp in Williams and take the Grand Canyon Railroad to the Grand Canyon....the kids would probably enjoy that, too.)

The Lynx Lake area just south of Prescott is popular...dry camping and it will be warm there.

You can check out many of these places on our travel log (link below). Have fun!
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Old 06-25-2013, 03:05 PM   #4
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I love the Valley of Fire State Park. 55 miles north of Las Vegas on I5. Has RV dump station and power and water hookups. It get pretty hot in July but well worth it. Has electricity now for A/C.
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Old 06-25-2013, 03:09 PM   #5
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Hey Chris, it's a beautiful time of year to explore the desert.
Depending on your selected route, I can suggest Oliver Lee SP near Alamagordo,
Bottomless Lake SP near Roswell, and Fools Hollow SP in Show Low.

If you get up to Winslow, stop and check out La Posada, an old Harvey House Hotel on the Santa Fe RR.

In Vegas we have stayed at the Trailer Village in Boulder (FH and lake)) which is close to the Dam which is a neat tour. If you want the strip, Oasis RV Park (with pool) is just a few blocks away.
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Old 06-25-2013, 03:46 PM   #6
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We lived in New Mexico for several years and highly recommend a visit to the Carlsbad Caverns -- one of natures greatest shows. You all might enjoy a visit to the UFO Museum in Roswell. Also in that "neighborhood", the tiny town of Lincoln on Route 380 has a bit of interesting Western history related to Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.
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Old 06-25-2013, 04:11 PM   #7
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As you are driving from SA to NM watch our for the tanker type trucks coming out of the oil fields. Stay clear of them or at best stay ahead of them. One passed me a couple of years ago along that route and my Suburban and shinny Airstream was covered in a white oily spay from the tanker overflow. I liked to never have gotten that off after it dried. Have a good trip.
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Old 06-25-2013, 10:52 PM   #8
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Thank you all for the information. I'll go thru it tonight!
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:31 PM   #9
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Does anyone know how long the delays will be on I-10 with the immigration check points near the border? I will probably avoid that part and route thru Artesia NM to get to Cloudcroft/Alamogordo. Should be more scenic anyway. I think will will have to miss Carlsbad Caverns on this trip. From what I'm reading, they don't allow children under 3ys to do the tour and even if they did, I don't know what I do if he lost it mid tour. It's been there for many thousands of years, It'll keep for a few more. Still researching the other options, but you guys gave me lots to review. I like the idea of seeing the Very Large Array. Always have wanted to see that.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:42 PM   #10
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Loop recommendations at Fools Hollow?
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Old 06-26-2013, 01:09 PM   #11
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  • Does anyone know how long the delays will be on I-10 with the immigration checkpoints near the border? -- I haven't driven the stretch of I-10 east of Las Cruces in several years, but I am unaware of any delays at immigration checkpoints west of there. At the few we have encountered, all they do is ask where you are coming from. Usually, the slight delay is equivalent to stopping at a 4-way stop sign.

  • I think we will have to miss Carlsbad Caverns on this trip. From what I'm reading, they don't allow children under 3ys to do the tour and even if they did, I don't know what I do if he lost it mid tour. -- I suspect the age limit is due to the length of the hike down into the cave; it's almost 3/4 mile, which is a long way to carry a toddler when their legs give out. For age 3 and up, the walkway is paved and there are handrails; so as long as you keep your child at your side, there should be no problem. I'm sure you hold their hand while in a parking lot or crossing the street. Similar precautions are appropriate along most of the walk down, and a toddler should not be allowed to just wander on their own. The way down is wheelchair accessible, so most people should have no problem with this "hike". Also, it's all downhill. For toddlers and physically-challenged individuals, there is an elevator down to the big room, where it is relatively level. See NPS Web site for more details.

    Just a suggestion: There is a visitor center with lots of displays near the cave entrance. One person could stay there with the toddler while the others could either hike down to the bottom or take the elevator.

  • I like the idea of seeing the Very Large Array. -- While this is very interesting, most people will only need an hour or two to tour this site and take photos. Unless you are an avid radio astronomer, I wouldn't plan on an entire day here. If you want a deeper astronomy experience, check out the Kitt Peak Observatory near Ajo, AZ: Kitt Peak Visitor Center & Museum: Home
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Old 06-26-2013, 02:29 PM   #12
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Oliver Lee

Just spent a long weekend in Oliver Lee State Park. One of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Although it might be very hot there now.

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Old 06-26-2013, 04:14 PM   #13
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Thanks, looking at all the options and I will be looking at the temps over the next few days of the first heat wave of the summer. My new 15K AC should be here in the next few days, so as long as I can plug in, we should be OK.

Back to Carlsbad, thanks for the info. Yeah, the smallest one is an 11 week old baby. I actually worry about my 5 and 7 year old girls on the 3/4 mile walk more then us, but rules is rules and I'll look at them closer. Still, not ruling it out.
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Old 06-26-2013, 04:36 PM   #14
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I'm not trying to push you into visiting Carlsbad Caverns, but regarding the infant on a Carslbad Caverns tour, the rule as posted on the National Park Service website (Plan Your Visit - Carlsbad Caverns National Park) is: "Children 3 years of age and under are not permitted on any of the guided tours offered at Carlsbad Caverns.However, visitors see most of the cave without a guide on the "self-guided" routes, where people of all ages are welcome." So, you can take the baby on the self-guided tour and see most of the cave.

The elevators are available for everyone so whether or not to hike in or out is an option. I would not recommend hiking out (i.e. uphill), but the walk down is not that hard and is a very unusual and unforgettable experience. It is always cool in the Caverns so heat is not an issue.
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