Parks Hopping In The Southwest Itinerary

Summer of 2014 we explored several National Parks in the Southwest region for the very first time. We traveled west from North Texas to New Mexico, Arizona, up to Colorado (a bit of West region), and back to New Mexico again before we headed home. We visited 5 National Parks and 3 National Monuments as well as 3 museums and some other interesting places along the way, all in 13 days. Sounds crazy and ambitious, huh? But I tell you, it was one of the very memorable vacations for us. And no, it’s not ‘been there done that’ kind of a holiday. Trust me.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Home (North Texas) to White City, NM (about 7 hour).

Place Visited:

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park; did Big Room Self-Guided Trail. Back in the evening for Bat Flight Program, but it was canceled due to lightning.

Entrance Fee:

  • Free with National Park Pass; or $10 for 16 and older, free for 15 and younger. Good for 3 days.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • We stayed at Rodeway Inn and ate dinner at Velvet Garter Saloon and Restaurant by the entrance. Both were pretty bad but we came for the caverns. You can stay and eat at better places in Carlsbad for an extra 30 minutes driving.

 

Day 2: White City, NM to Alamogordo, NM (about 3 hours).

Places Visited:

  • Carlsbad Caverns NP in the morning to do Natural Entrance Self-Guided Trail.
  • New Mexico Museum of Space History, Alamogordo.
  • White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo.

Entrance Fee:

  • NM Museum of Space History: Adult (13-59) $7; Senior (60+) $6; Children (4-12) $5; Tots (3 and under) Free.
  • White Sands NM: Free with National Park Pass; or Adults (16 and older) $5, Children (15 and younger) Free.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • Plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from in the city. Some hotels fee included snow-saucer to use when you visit the park.

 

Day 3: Alamogordo, NM to Tucson, AZ (about 5 hours)

Places Visited:

  • White Sands National Monument for more fun.
  • The World’s Largest Pistachio Nut at McGinn’s Farm, Alamogordo.
  • Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona until dark.

Entrance Fee:

  • Saguaro National Park is free with National Park Pass; or $15 – vehicle weekly pass; $5 – individual weekly pass (entering by foot or bicycle); $10 – motorcycle weekly pass.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • We stayed at Hilton Hotel by the park and it was the cheapest hotel we had during the trip: $69/night including tax. It’s an old one but they upgraded all the rooms like the new ones. You can find all kinds of restaurant around the area.

 

Day 4: Tucson, AZ to Holbrook, AZ (about 5 hours).

Place Visited:

  • Petrified Forest National Park and explored the park until dark.

Entrance Fee:

  • Free with National Park Pass; or $20 – auto/7-days pass; $10 – bike/person; $10 – motorcycle (flat fee).

Accommodation & Meals:

  • Choice of roadside hotels and restaurants in Holbrook, AZ.

 

Day 5: Holbrook, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (about 3 hours).

Places Visited:

  • Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ (about an hour from Holbrook).
  • Grand Canyon National Park, south rim (about 2 hour from Winslow). Explored part of the park.

Entrance Fee:

  • Meteor Crater: – Adults $18.00, Seniors $16.00 (age 60 years and over), Juniors $9.00 (age 6 through 17 years), 5 and under are free, Non-Active Duty U.S Military/Veterans (with I.D.) $9.00, U.S. Military Youth (age 6-17) $5.00, Active U.S. Military (with I.D.) FREE. – Family/Group Rate (8 or more paying guests) Adults $16.00, Seniors $14.00 (age 60 years and over), Juniors $7.00 (age 6 through 17 years).
  • Grand Canyon NP: Free with National Park Pass; or $30 – vehicle permit; $25 – motorcycle permit; $15/person – individual permit when entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, Grand Canyon Railway and private rafting trip. Individuals 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge. (For 7 days, incl. North and South Rim).

Accommodation & Meals:

  • We stayed at Yavapai Lodge and ate at the restaurant in the village.

 

Day 6: Explored Grand Canyon National Park.

 

Day 7: Grand Canyon NP, AZ to Page, AZ (about 2.5 hours).

Places Visited:

  • Grand Canyon in the morning.
  • Antelope Canyon in Page.

Entrance Fee:

  • Antelope Upper Canyon Tour price is varied, depends on time of tour; Adult $48-58, Children (6-12) $40-48.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • Page is a vacation destination with its Lake Powell, so lots of hotels and restaurants to choose from.

 

Day 8: Page, AZ to Mesa Verde, CO (about 4.5 hours).

Visited:

  • Horseshoe Bend Overlook, Page.
  • The Four Corners, Teec Nos Pos, AZ.
  • Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

Entrance Fee:

  • Horseshoe Bend Overlook is free.
  • The Four Corners: $5 per person, ages 6 and younger free.
  • Mesa Verde NP: Free with National Park Pass; or Private vehicles (Jan. 2 – April 30 2017 & Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017: $15; May 1 – Oct. 31: $20); Motorcycle (Jan. 2 – April 30, 2017 & Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017: $10; May 1 – Oct. 31, 2017: $15); Cyclist or individual on non-commercial bus (Jan. 2 – April 30, 2017 & Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017: $7; May 1 – Oct. 31, 2017: $7). Good for 7 days.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • We stayed at Far View Lodge in the park. No TVs. It’s very quiet and peaceful in the evening. We ate at restaurants in the park.

 

Day 9: Explored Mesa Verde National Park.

 

Day 10: Mesa Verde, CO to Santa Fe, NM (about 5 hours).

Places Visited:

  • Continued to explore the park in the morning. Then browsing downtown Santa Fe.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • Lots of hotels and restaurants that will match your budget in Santa Fe.

 

Day 11: Santa Fe, NM to Los Alamos, NM (about an hour).

Places Visited:

  • Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe.
  • Canyon Road in Santa Fe.
  • Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos.

Entrance Fee:

  • Loretto Chapel is free.
  • Bandelier NM: Free with National Park Pass; or $20 – private vehicle 7 day permit; $10 – individual 7 day entry permit; $15 – motorcycle 7 day permit.

Accommodation & Meals:

  • We moved to Albuquerque to get closer to places we visited the next day. Again, lots of hotels and restaurants that will match your budget. In Santa Fe, we had lunch at Cowgirl BBQ.

 

Day 12: Albuquerque.

Places Visited:

  • Petroglyph National Monument.
  • Explora (the science center and children museum).
  • New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Entrance Fee:

  • Petroglyph NM: Free with paid parking ($1 weekdays, $2 weekends).
  • Explora: Free with your museum membership card (check with Explora first); or Children (ages 1-11): $4, Adults (ages 12-64): $8, Seniors (age 65+, with ID): $5, Students or Military (with ID): $5.
  • NM Museum of Natural History and Science: Free with your museum membership card (check with the museum first); or adults (13-59) – $8, seniors (60+) – $7, children (3-12) – $5.

 

Day 13: Albuquerque to home in North Texas (about 9.30-10 hours).

 

General tip:

  • We bought National Park Pass for the trip that was also good for National Monument. (Cost $80).
  • Booked hotels in advance, especially for Grand Canyon NP.
  • Found information online, from magazines, and friends who’d been to those places or live around the area.

 

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