Four Southwest states in spring/summer
I'm planning a ride for sometime in May/June of next year through four southwestern states. Any suggestions or recommendations on alternate or better routes would be appreciated, as would comments on the time of the year I plan on going. I really hate cold weather, and although I don't mind riding in 100+ degree weather, I'd really like my chances of 80's-90' degree days to be pretty good.
It's a bit convoluted, but I want to make sure I at least see the following places;
Bullhead City (Don't ask. Really..... don't ask), Grand Canyon, Canyon De Chelly, Mesa Verde, Arches National Park and Santa Fe (or any other artist or artistic towns). I'm looking forward to seeing interesting geological structures, and most certainly interesting ancient Indian sites and/or cliff dwellings. I'll probably give myself two weeks for the trip, so I can stop whenever I want and enjoy what I see.
Here's a link to my tentative map. Don't pay any attention to the directions on the left, they were just a rough draft to get the map started.
SW Co and Utah some great riding
Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute fill the view from my place. This is rider's heaven.
Suggestion 1: Spend an extra day around SW Co and ride up the Dolores river valley from Cortez to (beyond) Teluride, then east across Dallas Divide to Ridgeway then down550 to Durango and back to Cortez. 250 mi loop of great riding and views. Based on your map, this might duplicate the 550 ride, but it's worth twice. I particularly like the rotation I've suggested because I think the views are better.
Suggestion 2: I'm not thrilled about 70 east from Moab to Grand Junction then down to Montrose. Instead I'd come back down from Moab to little 141 thru to below Grand Junction. If I have your rotation wrong, reverse these directions. There's a very modern resort out in the middle of nowhere at Gateway (with antique car museum). Going west to east on 141, the ride into Disapointment Valley and then the ride from Naturita up thru the Dolores canyons to Gateway is wonderful.
Sugg 3: Divert from Montrose up toward Gunnison, but turn off north on 92 across the river and then along the cliffs above the river, then thru Gunnison Nat. Forest to Hotchkiss and back west to Delta. Actually, I like the reverse rotation much better for the sake of better views. Find some wineries in the Hotchkiss area.
Sugg 4: Again assuming clockwise rotation, from Canyon de Chelly, go back up to Kayenta, then take 163 up to Bluff thru Monument Valley with a diversion to the old Goulding's trading post and several other great diversions I could mention. From Bluff thru Montezuma Creek and turn west just before Aneth to go thru McElmo Canyon to Cortez. Between Aneth and McElmo Canyon, see Hovenweep Nat Mon ruins in the Canyon of the Ancients Nat Monument. If you hike, do Sand Canyon (half day).
This area of the country has an amazing density of ruins. Almost anyone with county property here owns ruins. You'll find archaeologists working as carpenters, etc, just to stay around here hoping for work. Visit Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores and Crow Canyon Arch. Center near Cortez, just to mention a few.
Check most of the above mentioned places thru their websites. Staying at the Gateway resort or Gouldings requires considerable advance reservations.
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Thanks for the tips Chris. I do plan a clockwise route, North/East out and South/West return. I couldn't take all your suggestions, but I did update the map, which I will probably continue to do as time gets closer. Any suggestions on the time frame I'm thinking about, late May-early June?
Good Route Changes
I see some good changes, John. You'll enjoy the North Rim... not as crowded and views as good or better. Reserve a cabin or room there now. See the sunset from the Lodge deck after eating early in the Lodge restaurant (so you can choose a table at a window).
To get to the North Rim you'll go through a 'death valley' kind of area along the Vermilion Cliffs. Stop to ask about Condors at the Marble Canyon Bridge Visitor Center, then gas up at there. Then a nice ride up into Kaibab Plateau before getting to the N.Rim turn-off.
You'll enjoy 12 up to Torrey and 24 through the canyons to half way out to Hankesville. The second half of 24 to H-ville is badlands. Make sure you have gas for Escalante to Torrey then fill up there to get to H-ville. No reliable gas at Boulder on 12.
95 down from H-ville across Glenn Canyon Rec Area to Blanding is great red-rock scenery like Arches (minus the arches) and Canyonlands only more of it. Sorry you can't do that. But you could ride the area for months and not see all the great rides.
Coming down 191 from Moab take a couple of hours to see Canyonlands. Not by the most used route (211) but turn off west on Needles Overlook Road roughly 6-7 miles north of 211 (maybe 30+ miles from Moab?). It's shorter than 211 and not much used and the views of Canyonlands are much better I think, though you do miss seeing Newspaper Rock on 211.
As for season, I think May-June is a good compromise for the range of altitudes you'll see. The desert parts will be more comfortable then, but you'll get some chill higher... like the North Rim, which is 8000 plus and some other places. However, you should miss the 'monsoon' season rain that comes later.
It CAN and does still snow in late May in many SW areas you've mentioned SO go prepared for it, otherwise all great roads. The mountain regions are wide and all over the SW, so know the weather can be cold to warm. Typical desert mountain travel. N.Rim of the GC is frequently closed late Spring, so also know the weather going in. Its a 8000'+ road getting to the N.Rim. So well worth it though, so try hard to hit it right. IF GS is your ride, you may find too many dirt byways to resist as well, as i do. AZ has so many more sights to see on dirt vs pavement. Happy Trails, Randy
Thanks all, for the tips and suggestions so far. Right now, it looks like I'm leaning towards the first two weeks in June, after Memorial weekend.
What kind of bike are you riding? Rt 90 from Naturita over to Montrose is a "good gravel" road that is closed in the winter. I would suggest doing the Gateway Loop on 141. Turn left at Naturita and head up to Whitewater, then back down. It is a great ride and should give you a shot at better weather. The Uncompaghre Plateau is high and that road will not have been open for very long right after Memorial Day (depending on our winter and spring).
You might consider coming back over the mountains on 550 instead of 145. I just think it's prettier with more twisties. Weather is a wash on that one. Early June should be a good time. The monsoons will not have started yet, so there is less chance of afternoon thundershowers. The air temps will be cooler though.
There are a ton of suggestions a person could make for alternate routes, but if I were going to pick my two favorites in this part of the state it would be that Gateway Loop on 141 and the N Rim of the Black Canyon on 92. They were both seemingly made for a motorcycle. Be careful of the deer on 92 though. There are a ton of them.
The dead end you've got heading into Zion Nat'l Park puzzled me until I looked at Google Maps, which strangely underplays Utah State Route 9. It's totally paved and, really, one of the best, most scenic and spectacular short sections of road in Utah. I've added it in red below.
Originally Posted by Maylett
Thanks, that helped a lot, in addition to the links. All the dead ends at sights I want to see, are because Google didn't show any other routes back other than my entry points. I really great to find out routes that aren't listed!
Looks like a ride I would love to duplicate sometime. You might want to consider adjusting a bit and traveling US 191 (I think that's the new number) aka the "Coronado Trail" between Springerville/Eager and Morenci/Clifton. Google Earth can give you a preview of the excellent scenery along that route.
Marty in Spokane (ex AZ resident, long time)