With the RTR quickly approaching many of you are beginning to think about how to travel to Quartzsite and the RTR. It’s actually a question I get pretty often, “What’s the best route and what should I see and what should I avoid.” I want to answer some of your questions in this blog post. The route you choose will depend a great deal on when you are coming and the weather forecast. For example, if you’re traveling in December or January and storms are projected, you might do something very different than if you travel in November and the weather is perfect. So I’ll break this post down by two different routes by two different time frames the first will be traveling in the winter with potentially bad weather, the other will be traveling in November with mainly the possibility of good weather.
If you are traveling in December or January
If you’re traveling as late as December or January there is a real potential for storms and very cold weather. My advice is that wherever you’re coming from you take the lowest and most southern route and try to avoid them. If you’re coming from the East Coast I suggest you drop all the way straight down from wherever you are and take Interstate 10 or even Interstate 8 across the country and then once you’re in Arizona continue on them up to Quartzsite. I do not recommend that you take Interstate 40 or any other further north Interstates because of the potential for snow storms and cold.
If you’re coming from the mountain states or the Pacific Northwest, you probably know that country very well and I can’t tell you anything. You already know the potential is for the passes to be hit by a snowstorm and suddenly to be closed leaving you stranded for days at a time while you wait for the weather to clear. If you are coming from Southern California, take either Interstate 8 or 10 across California and into Quartzsite. You might want to take I-8 and stop in Algodones, Mexico for prescription drugs, glasses or dental work along the way.
The most important thing is DO NOT take I-40 through Flagstaff if there is any potential for cold or snowstorms! That whole section of freeway can be shut down at any time by snow in winter! The only reason to go that way is if you are installing solar and want the best prices, then you may want to stop at Northern Arizona Wind and Sun in Flagstaff to buy your components at great prices. https://www.solar-electric.com/
Traveling in November with good weather
It’s probably a little late to be posting this, I should have done it earlier, but I hope it’s still helpful. If you’re traveling in November my suggestion to everyone is to travel further north and to spend some time in Utah. That’s especially true if you’ve never been there before. I believe Utah is not just one of the most beautiful places in the country, but on the entire planet–and November is the best time to visit it!!
There are other places along your route that will be pretty but in November it’s becoming very risky that you’ll run into bad weather. For example if you were coming from the north west you would pass through the Rocky Mountains which has some of the most beautiful places anywhere. But the potential for snow storms and being stuck are very high in the mountain passes. Worse the potential for running in the cold is almost a certainty. There may be an exceptional year where it is not very cold but most years in November you can expect the High Country to be cold.
So I don’t really suggest you do a lot of exploring in November around the country but instead limit yourself to Utah. For example, both Zion NP and Moab are generally nice in November. Some of the high country can be cold and snowy so be very careful there. For example, Bryce Canyon NP is at 8000 feet and it will be cold there-I’d avoid it unless you are certain the weather is good.
Here’s why Utah is best explored in November:
- The primary reason you should plan to visit Utah in November is because it is gorgeous. If you’ve never been there almost nothing can prepare you for the stunning beauty of its Red Rock country. I grew up in Alaska all my life so I was accustomed to beautiful country but when I drove into Arches National Park for my first time I literally wept because I’ve never seen anything quite so starkly beautiful. You owe it to yourself to take the time to explore the five National Parks of Utah on your way to the RTR in November. You won’t regret it.
- The next reason to come to Utah in November is that the crowds are gone. Utah is so popular worldwide with tourists that it is packed during the summer. Everywhere you go there are tour buses full of Japanese, German and Italian speaking people from all around the world. Plus, it’s a main destination for adventurous people from all over the country for mountain biking, Jeep and ATVing, climbing, rafting and just exploring the majestic beauty of the Red Rock country. All of these things are world-class, so people travel from all around the world in the summer to enjoy them. Fortunately, by November the crowds are gone and you’ll have the place all to yourself! Traffic won’t be an issue, you can still rent bikes, Jeeps and ATVs and everything else you would do before–you just won’t need to fight the crowds.
- Another major reason to come now is that the weather will have cooled off. Utah is very hot in the summer, but by November it will be cool and shouldn’t be cold yet. For the most part, the Red Rock country is all reasonably comfortable in November.
- The fourth reason Utah is best visited in November is that the Cottonwood trees (which are abundant in some of the National Parks) will be turning a beautiful yellow which contrasts against the Red Rock behind them and is truly stunning. It’s worth coming in November if for no other reason to see that yellow colors against the Red Rock. Zion NP in particular is full of cottonwoods and even some Oaks and so by November 1st they’re all in full fall colors and it’s just stunningly beautiful against the Zion walls.
- My main reason is that you can drive your car into Zion National Park and not take the shuttle. It’s one of the most beautiful places anywhere on the planet and because of that it has extreme crowds and traffic. It’s so bad that all summer you cannot drive your personal vehicle into Zion Valley, you must take a shuttle bus from outside into the valley which greatly complicates your experience in Zion. For example if you’re going to walk the Narrows up to Wall Street and enjoy that hike you must haul all your water gear onto the bus with you and up to the end of the road. Or, if you are a climber you have to carry all your climbing gear on the bus, climb, then get back on the bus later and go out.
- It’s much easier to get Backcountry Permits. If you are a Backpacker all of the Backcountry in Zion requires a permit but in the summer it is so popular those permits become very difficult to get. In fact some places are so popular they have put in a lottery system and only a few people a day get to go into Backcountry routes. But by November 1st all of those things have ended you don’t have to take the shuttle and you can drive your car in and park and climb or walk or hike. The backcountry still requires a permit but it’s very easy to get
So for all these reasons, Utah (and particularly Zion) is best explored in November.
To help you explore Utah I’m including maps at the very bottom of the post with a suggested itinerary and driving routes. The whole state is so spectacular that the drive between places can be nearly as beautiful as the places themselves. I’ve driven through canyons in Utah and thought “This whole Canyon should be a National Park!” and yet it can’t be because it’s just a canyon in the road. State Highway 12 is among of the most beautiful drives anywhere in America, you really should drive it and be stunned by its beauty, and yet you probably never heard of it! That’s why I’m including these maps and itinerary. http://www.cheaprvliving.com/adventure/visiting-bryce-canyon-np-through-route-12-the-journey-through-time-scenic-byway/ More info on the drive here: http://www.scenicbyway12.com/
I hope the maps help you to see and appreciate the beauty of Utah and if you’re coming to Arizona for the RTR or to spend the winter, it really behooves you to stop and enjoy it! I believe you’ll be very very glad you did.
Usually I am in Arizona by November 1st. But this year I’m waiting to go to a family reunion in Oregon and I won’t get there until the first week of December. But you should consider going early anyway because it’s such a great place to be and you can meet other tribe members. To connect with them, I suggest you join my forum. As we start to gather in November we’ll start a thread on the Forum about where they are and where they’re meeting. By following that thread, you’ll know who’s there and where they are. Post your location and you’ll get an invitation to come and join them.
So there you have it a route to get to Utah to and then to Arizona and enjoy some of the prettiest parts of this country and treat yourself to a new stunning spectacle.
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