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4/6/11

The Ulimate Arizona / Utah Spring Break Road Trip

I love a road trip. There is just something about the hitting the open road that is almost euphoric to me. Next week there are two major happenings that should combine forces and make the ultimate spring break holiday. They haven't...so I will!
1. Hertz is having a rental promotion that for just $5 a day you can rent a car in Arizona, go exploring and drop it off in one of nine other states --including California. Unlimited miles, no drop fees and its good for up to 14 days. Yes, this includes taxes and fees for only 5 buck-a-roos.
2. National Park Week which includes free admission to all of the country's 394 national parks from April 16 to April 24, 2011.
So....buy a super cheap one way ticket from LAX to PHX, pack a tent or take a quick trip to an AZ Walmart for cheap camping goods (it'll cost less than a hotel) and hit the open road. 
All the directions you need are right (here).
Day One: Tonto National Forest.
One of the largest national forests in America, the Tonto, embraces nearly three million acres of rugged land. This park is where the Rockies, the Sierra Madre, the Colarado Plateau and the Sonoran deserts meet and mingle. It is also home to the Apache trail, which is  America's oldest roadway and where we kick off our week long road trip.
Get me there: take U.S. 60 east all the way to Apache Junction to the cutoff for AZ88/Idaho Road. AZ 88 is the Apache Trail. About half the Apache Trail is unpaved, but suitable for a four door rental car. The winding terrain makes for slow going, but that's okay because you'll be busy enjoying the view.  Be sure to take time for a break at Tortilla Flat, where you can pull up a saddle at the Superstition Saloon and order a tall one of frosty sarsaparilla. After lunch, enjoy a scoop of prickly-pear ice cream at the nearby General Store. After approximately 40 miles AZ 88 hits, 187. Head north, and continue to enjoy amazing uninterrupted views all the way to Sedona AZ.
Let me sleep: In a tent in Oak Creek Canyon at the Cave Springs Campground (just 13 miles north of Sedona). It has a well-deserved reputation for its vast wealth of scenic beauty Think towering red rock walls and babbling creek-side camp fires. It's desert camper perfection.
Things to do: Located in the Coconino National Forest, make sure you take a leisurely hike up maple-lined West Fork and a thrilling ride down the moss-covered chute at Slide Rock State Park.
{Tonto National Park}
{Apache Trail}
{Superstition Saloon - Tortilla Flat}
{Oak Creek Canyon}




Day Two or Three: North Rim Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon isn't something you can type about, its only something you can experience. So if you think you've 'gotten it' from photos, you haven't. Its an American must-do. Just 4 hours outside of Sedona, north on hwy 89, you'll find the hidden, quite and tourist free Grand Canyon on its North Rim. Anyone who expects to find airplane rides and white water rafting here will be extremely disappointed, but those of us that enjoy some peace and quiet amongst one of the worlds greatest wonders will be happy as can be.
Get me there: just keep following the directions (here).
Let me Sleep: The North Rim Campground  is the perfect launch pad for some grand canyon adventure. Tent sites #1-6 are about 30 yards back from the canyon rim and shaded by large pines. You can easily extend your stay here.
Things to do: Treat yourself to a nice dinner with an expansive view a the grand canyon lodge. Hike or take a mule ride to the valley floor or pack up and head out...next stop. Zion.
{North Rim Grand Canyon}
Day Three or Four (depending on your pace): Zion National Park
Zion. It isn't Jerusalem (its southern Utah) but its the closest I've ever been to a holy land. Towering red rocks, it's almost like the Grand Canyon's prettier but less showy younger sister.

Get me there:  just keep following the directions (here).
Let me sleep: the Watchman Campground is located just inside the park's south entrance, with perfectly spaced tent sites and lots of trees and shade, this campground is also near free park shuttles and easy access to upper Zion. 
Things to do: A day hike through The Narrows, a steep climb to Angel's Landing or a leisurely stroll down the Virgina river to Riverside Walk. At this point you may be very used to the car, in which case, I recommend the Zion Nation shuttle tour.
{View from Angel's Landing}
{The Narrows}

{Riverside Walk}
{Watchman Campground}
Day Five, Six or Seven: Vegas!!!!
Lets be honest, by now you're more than ready for an unreasonably sized shower, an all you can eat buffet and a strong cocktail. Nothing feels better than a big comfy bed after sleeping in the dirt for a week. The good news is Vegas can provide all of that... and on the cheap.
Get me there: Take the 15 south from Zion...and just about 3 hours later, you'll be checking in...where ever you choose to stay.
Let me sleep: Personally I'm dying to check out the new  Palms Place hotel (sans casino) and for just $104 a night on jetsetter.com, its a must. Close enough to the strip that if you're itching to dance its a quick cab away, but far enough to keep the 21 year old riff-raff out and cigarette smoke far away. (I mean..you just spent 5 days in the great outdoors. I'd feel horrible if you came down with a urgent case of culture shock). Other perks - the $104 rate includes two spa passes per day and complimentary access for two to the Playboy Club...you know what they say. wink.

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