Updated: May 12, 2020
One of the best trips I planned was a 10 day road trip that spanned from Colorado to San Diego and back home to Seattle. It was an amazing experience with countless hours of planning and mapping the best route on Google.
If you are like me and like to have everything organized to stay on track, then I would recommend getting a binder and buying tabs to separate the destinations so that you can store information that you find for each place. To be SUPER organized, I ended up figuring out how much park entrance fees would be and having the correct amount of money saved in each section of the binder in a little sleeve, that way I was prepared and there were no surprises.
Here is the itinerary I ended up with:
1. Seattle, Washington
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
3. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
4. 4 Corners
5. Monument Valley, Utah
6. Grand Canyon, Arizona
7. Las Vegas, Nevada
8. Palm Springs, California
9. San Diego, California
10. San Luis Obispo, California
11. Morro Bay, California
12. San Simeon, California
13. Eugene, Oregon
14. Seattle, Washington
Some of the first few destinations are places that I have wanted to go to for a long time! Since I was still working part time, I had the opportunity to take a lot of time off and do it. Due to time, I did have to cut our time short at a few places so I would recommend adding a few more days if you can to do some of the things we wish we had time to do!
Here are my suggestions if you plan to follow the same route as we did!
1. Salt Lake City (Day 1)
Seattle to Salt Lake City: 841 miles (about 12 hours, 11 minutes)
We left on a Saturday night at 8pm and drove through the night….yes, we are crazy. We got to Salt Lake around 9AM. We didn’t really have anything planned because it was more of the route we took to get to our destination of Colorado, but it was and 18 hour drive to Colorado. Luckily we had friends living in Salt Lake at the time, so they cooked us breakfast and let us relax for about 2 hours before we hit the road again. The reason we did the drive through Salt Lake was for the scenery! It was amazing. Rolling hills and mountains topped with snow (did I mention we did this drive in early April?). This picture was the first time we got out of the car and took a picture…next to a hole a rock! It must be exciting because they were advertising it. If you decided to add more days on to your trip, I would recommend making time to stop at Arches National Park and Moab. We now have added those to our list of places to visit..because technically we haven’t been there!
2. Cortez (Day 2)
Salt Lake City to Cortez 349 miles (about 5 hours, 43 minutes)
Where is Cortez you may ask? Well, Cortez, Colorado is in southwest Colorado where Mesa Verde National Park is. AKA the place I have been wanting to see for the past 5 years! Mesa Verde is a national park home to the Anasazi people who created clay structures up in the cliff sides in the canyon. Seeing this up close was like having an out of body experience. I can’t even begin to tell you how crazy it was! We planned it perfectly and arrived Sunday morning right at opening on the SECOND day they had re-opened for the season and were 2 of 5 in the morning tour! The tour guide was super friendly and let us walk in a few places they didn’t let normally let large groups go! After the main tour, we were able to drive around to a few other spots and walk down to another site that was more of a self guided tour.
There are two fees to be ready for:
Park entrance fee: $10-15 depending on what time of the year you go
They also have a free museum that shows you the types of materials the Anasazi people used. I would highly recommend visiting this while you are there!
We ended up leaving Cortez around 11:30AM and headed for….
3. Four Corners (Day 2)
Cortez to Four Corners 39.4 miles (about 42 minutes)
4 Corners? Ya! 4 Corners, where Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico meet! It’s not very exciting but at least I can say I have been in four states at once! There is also a small hike that takes about 30 minutes to complete but we found that we didn’t have much time to complete this.
Entrance fee: $3/person
4. Monument Valley (Day 2)
4 Corners to Monument Valley 56 miles (about 1 hour, 33 minutes)
Monument Valley is located in Utah. We had to do a little back tracking from 4 Corners but it was worth it. Just driving to the visitor center and seeing those huge rocks shooting out of the ground was amazing! At the visitors center, you are able to get great views of most of the monuments or you can opt for a drive that will give you an up close experience. We didn’t have much time to do the drive, unfortunately. The website said the drive typically takes about 2 hours! The visitor center contains a lot of good information about the monuments. They all even have names! The ones you see in the picture from left to right are called: East Mittens, West Mittens, Elephant Butte. I would definitely recommend making time to do the drive!
Park Fees: $5/person
5. Grand Canyon (Day 2)
Monument Valley to Grand Canyon 202 miles (about 4 hours, 4 minutes)
The drive to the Grand Canyon visitor center once you actually entered the park was about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the drive is when you get your first glimpse of the canyons and it was BREATHTAKING! The colors are like nothing you have ever seen before. Seeing it in person was definitely different than seeing pictures. I didn’t realize how deep the canyons actually were. There are countless hikes that take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day. We ended up reaching the Grand Canyon around 5pm and didn’t realize that the main visitor center would be closed….so I would recommend leaving yourself more time to look around. We took a short hike around the rim, took some pictures and went to an overlook and took more pictures. My initial plan was to stay overnight in a local hotel, but since we realized that you would need more time to hike and we didn’t leave much time for it the following day, we decided we would come back another time. We left the Grand Canyon around 7pm.
Park Fees: $25/vehicle