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Old 07-11-2021, 11:46 AM   #1
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Ideas for trip - New Mexico, Arizona over Christmas

We are starting to think of taking a 3 week trip over the Christmas break - starting from SLC.

Last year, we traveled to Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Central Coast and SLO, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. With winter timing, we are thinking Arizona and New Mexico. Of course, there are wonderful places in Southern Utah itself and we will visit some on the way but we have, of course, visited and hiked extensively in most of them.

So, what are some of the most attractive spots to visit in Arizona and New Mexico? We liking hiking (more than a couple of miles of easy trails). So, having hiking opportunities close by is essential for us.

We did think of Big Bend NP in TX but that seems a bit far...
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:14 PM   #2
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December in New Mexico, at least north of I-40 will be cold and possibly snowy. You will really need to head south as far as Las Cruces to find warmer weather. The elevation in New Mexico is why it is colder than is southern AZ. From Santa Fe to Big Bend National Park can be done with just one overnight stop in Carlsbad, NM.
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:44 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by kavm View Post
We are starting to think of taking a 3 week trip over the Christmas break - starting from SLC.

Last year, we traveled to Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Central Coast and SLO, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. With winter timing, we are thinking Arizona and New Mexico. Of course, there are wonderful places in Southern Utah itself and we will visit some on the way but we have, of course, visited and hiked extensively in most of them.

So, what are some of the most attractive spots to visit in Arizona and New Mexico? We liking hiking (more than a couple of miles of easy trails). So, having hiking opportunities close by is essential for us.

We did think of Big Bend NP in TX but that seems a bit far...
Personally I don’t hike, bad knees. Have you ever been to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction AZ? I have heard from many people the hike up the mountain is extremely challenging.
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:45 PM   #4
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Thank you very much, Lorin! That helps a lot.

I did start to look at the possibility of having Big Bend NP as our main destination. I could use some advice regarding that -

I see spotty availability (different sites) for our dates Dec 22-27 in the Chisos Basin campground (we'd have to move 3-4 times for a stay that long in it). There is full availability in Rio Grande Village campground. Any advice on what's most preferable. We could, of course, break it up, stay 2 or 4 nights in Chisos Basin and the rest of the time in Rio Grande Village...

Our main interest is hiking. So, closeness of the most attractive hiking options is the biggest consideration.
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:48 PM   #5
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Personally I donít hike, bad knees. Have you ever been to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction AZ? I have heard from many people the hike up the mountain is extremely challenging.
Thank you Diane! I will look at the the Lost Dutchman SP in Arizona. Looks interesting! The hikes seem OK.

Our knees are creaking as well but we persist. In fact, the plan for this winter was to hike the longer version of the Everest base camp (something called 3 high passes trek), but Covid has rearranged everyone's plans.
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:15 PM   #6
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Depending on your timing, a few ideas:
- Grand Canyon NP (of course). South rim in the village is crowded. Go to the east side of the south rim (by east entrance) or better, the north rim if you travel earlier. If staying the the Flagstaff area, I like Bonito campground near Sunset Crater if still open.
- Walnut Canyon NM. Right off I40.
- Chaco Culture NHP - Hideous road; I would not drag your trailer down the road here. Fantastic place to visit and see.
- Great Sand Dunes NP. Yes it is in CO, but may be on your way to/from UT. Very nice.
- Santa Fe area. Bandelier NM, Santa Fe food, shopping, sights, local hiking.
- Albuquerque area. Tram to peak of Sandia Mountains with lots of trails of all levels all over mountain (I have done most). Watch weather. Could be snowy. You can also drive up to the crest (10400') on the east side. Balloon fiesta in beginning of October. Need to go once in your life,
- White Sands NP.
- Carlsbad Caverns NP. Must see.
- Guadalupe NP (south of Carlsbad NM in TX). Great hike to peak (highest point in TX).
- In Big Bend NP, we have stayed in Chisos Basin campground. Typical small NP campground in nice area with local hiking. Rio Grande Village is near the river and has different things to see. Given the size of park, and that you will need to move sites based on availability, split your time between campgrounds.

Most of these ideas are better in the fall. Enjoy your trip!

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Old 07-11-2021, 01:24 PM   #7
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Depending on your timing, a few ideas:
- Grand Canyon NP (of course). South rim in the village is crowded. Go to the east side of the south rim (by east entrance) or better, the north rim if it is still open on your schedule. If staying the the Flagstaff area, I like Bonito campground near Sunset Crater.
- Walnut Canyon NM. Right off I40.
- Chaco Culture NHP - Hideous road; I would not drag your trailer down the road here. Fantastic place to visit and see.
- Great Sand Dunes NP. Yes it is in CO, but may be on your way to/from UT. Very nice.
- Santa Fe area. Bandelier NM, Santa Fe food, shopping, sights, local hiking.
- Albuquerque area. Tram to peak of Sandia Mountains with lots of trails of all levels all over mountain (I have done most). You can also drive up to the crest (10400') on the east side. Balloon fiesta in beginning of October. Need to go once in your life,
- White Sands NP.
- Carlsbad Caverns NP. Must see.
- Guadalupe NP (south of Carlsbad NM in TX). Great hike to peak (highest point in TX).
- In Big Bend NP, we have stayed in Chisos Basin campground. Typical small NP campground in nice area with local hiking. Rio Grande Village is near the river and has different things to see. Given the size of park, and that you will need to move sites based on availability, split your time between campgrounds.

Enjoy your trip!

2 cents
Thanks a lot, Steve! Very helpful indeed. We have done two of these -
- Grand Canyon. We have hiked to the Colorado river from the South rim as well as visited the North rim a few times. The main remaining interest there is the rim-to-rim hike but not sure if we want to tackle that this winter.
- Chaco canyon. Tremendous place but will make a visit to it by itself. Our best friends know this area in depth and will likely visit with them when we visit again.

The other points of interest you mention seem very interesting. We will start to investigate them right away. Many thanks for the Big Bend information as well. That helps a lot!
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:26 PM   #8
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Thank you very much, Lorin! That helps a lot.

I did start to look at the possibility of having Big Bend NP as our main destination. I could use some advice regarding that -

I see spotty availability (different sites) for our dates Dec 22-27 in the Chisos Basin campground (we'd have to move 3-4 times for a stay that long in it). There is full availability in Rio Grande Village campground. Any advice on what's most preferable. We could, of course, break it up, stay 2 or 4 nights in Chisos Basin and the rest of the time in Rio Grande Village...

Our main interest is hiking. So, closeness of the most attractive hiking options is the biggest consideration.



Chisos Basin campground is amazing for hikes! You can hike right out of your trailer to several spots, the Windows Trail being one of them. The surrounding mountains (you are literally in a basin) are great to look at and change throughout the day. You are at elevation in Chisos, around 5500 I think so it will get chilly at night. There is also a bar at the lodge (walk to) for socializing and meeting travelers from all over. I love camping here!


Rio Grande Village (the campground not the full hook up parking lot) is a pretty typical NP campground. It is big and spread out, at a MUCH lower altitude so it's always at least 10 degrees warmer, and no views. But it's much easier to get a reservation.


Hope whatever you do you have a great trip!
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:29 PM   #9
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Chisos Basin campground is amazing for hikes! You can hike right out of your trailer to several spots, the Windows Trail being one of them. The surrounding mountains (you are literally in a basin) are great to look at and change throughout the day. You are at elevation in Chisos, around 5500 I think so it will get chilly at night. There is also a bar at the lodge (walk to) for socializing and meeting travelers from all over. I love camping here!


Rio Grande Village (the campground not the full hook up parking lot) is a pretty typical NP campground. It is big and spread out, at a MUCH lower altitude so it's always at least 10 degrees warmer, and no views. But it's much easier to get a reservation.


Hope whatever you do you have a great trip!
Thanks a lot, Brian! This is very helpful. I had a sense it was like that but it is better to get some personal insight. Your response clarifies this choice fully... Many thanks!
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:34 PM   #10
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Some favorites in Arizona,
1) Kartchner Caverns State Park. Best and most protected cave system I have ever been in. It is a wondrous place.
2) Sedona and Slide Rock State Park, Very scenic, and the Vortexes, Mysticism and spirituality are interesting.
3) Supai, This is a Indian village on the Hualapai reservation; it requires a 10 mile hike on the way in and out. There are several beautiful falls along the river that feeds into the Colorado. You could not take the trailer to this one. Google it, it is an outstanding experience.

Two in Nevada,
1) Valley of Fire State Park Beautiful area with lots of hiking close to Vegas
2) Great Basin National Park. This is close to Salt Lake City.
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:39 PM   #11
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Some favorites in Arizona,
1) Kartchner Caverns State Park. Best and most protected cave system I have ever been in. It is a wondrous place.
2) Sedona and Slide Rock State Park, Very scenic, and the Vortexes, Mysticism and spirituality are interesting.
3) Supai, This is a Indian village on the Hualapai reservation; it requires a 10 mile hike on the way in and out. There are several beautiful falls along the river that feeds into the Colorado. You could not take the trailer to this one. Google it, it is an outstanding experience.

Two in Nevada,
1) Valley of Fire State Park Beautiful area with lots of hiking close to Vegas
2) Great Basin National Park. This is close to Salt Lake City.
Thank you very much, Ross! Hope you are well!

Outstanding ideas! Love Great Basin NP. All of the others are new!
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Old 07-11-2021, 01:41 PM   #12
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Thank you very much, Lorin! That helps a lot.

I did start to look at the possibility of having Big Bend NP as our main destination. I could use some advice regarding that -

I see spotty availability (different sites) for our dates Dec 22-27 in the Chisos Basin campground (we'd have to move 3-4 times for a stay that long in it). There is full availability in Rio Grande Village campground. Any advice on what's most preferable. We could, of course, break it up, stay 2 or 4 nights in Chisos Basin and the rest of the time in Rio Grande Village...

Our main interest is hiking. So, closeness of the most attractive hiking options is the biggest consideration.
KAVM,
We stayed at Rio Grande Village because we wanted a site with an electric hookup as our Dometic furnace had been having some issues. It is really just a paved parking lot so nothing special aside from FHU. Cottonwood camprgound is near to RGV but has no hookups if you are OK with that.

We drove through Chisos Basin CG and while there are people on this forum who have stayed there, we saw only a very few sites where getting our E21 onto the site would be easy. We are going back to Big Bend NP in November but we are planning to stay in the Terlingua area so as to be closer to things on that side of BBNP.
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Old 07-11-2021, 02:13 PM   #13
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Some favorites in Arizona,
1) Kartchner Caverns State Park. Best and most protected cave system I have ever been in. It is a wondrous place.
2) Sedona and Slide Rock State Park, Very scenic, and the Vortexes, Mysticism and spirituality are interesting.
3) Supai, This is a Indian village on the Hualapai reservation; it requires a 10 mile hike on the way in and out. There are several beautiful falls along the river that feeds into the Colorado. You could not take the trailer to this one. Google it, it is an outstanding experience.

Two in Nevada,
1) Valley of Fire State Park Beautiful area with lots of hiking close to Vegas
2) Great Basin National Park. This is close to Salt Lake City.


Havasupi Falls is gorgeous! Permits are needed and are gone within minutes of being available. Unfortunately Havasupi is closed and has been since Covid began. It will remain closed until at least Feb 2022
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Old 07-11-2021, 02:17 PM   #14
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One word of caution about Big Bend - the week between Christmas and New Years is their busiest time of the year and it will be crowded. We love Big Bend and go there often but avoid it during the big holiday times when it is wildly popular - Thanksgiving, Christmas break, and Spring break. If you are on a 3 week trip, though, it should be possible to avoid the busiest time.

We like Chisos Basin the best by far - a lot of good hiking right there, and for sure the most scenic campground in the park. Sites are very small, though, and many are quite unlevel so trailer options are limited and good sites get grabbed quickly on the reservations system. There are a few first-come sites at Chisos Basin but they fill every day at busy times and it's a winding steep drive into Chisos Basin only to not get a site and have to go elsewhere. Rio Grande and Cottonwood campgrounds are, respectively, at opposite ends of the park and if you are based at either of them you will be doing a lot of driving getting to other areas of the park.

Another lesser known option is some of the primitive roadside backcountry campsites. Most are on the reservation system now (listed separately on Recreation.gov under "Big Bend Backcountry Camping"). There are sites in several areas off the main road no more than a mile or two down well maintained dirt roads, no amenities at all but very isolated. Grapevine Hills, Croton Springs, K-Bar, and Paint Gap are all nice and centrally located in the park yet very remote and private. Info here, although I would expect already fully reserved during the Christmas time frame: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvis...dsidecamps.htm

Here are photos at Grapevine Hills 1 and Paint Gap 2. In Chisos Basin #18 is the prime trailer spot we like best.
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File Type: jpg Big Bend Grapevine Hills 1a.jpg (181.2 KB, 17 views)
File Type: jpg Big Bend Paint Gap 2a.jpg (128.2 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg Big Bend Chisos Basin 1.jpg (324.6 KB, 19 views)
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Old 07-11-2021, 02:36 PM   #15
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Personally I donít hike, bad knees. Have you ever been to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction AZ? I have heard from many people the hike up the mountain is extremely challenging.
While I've done harder climbing hikes, it is an interesting one. There are lots of other trails in the park as well. It is a very popular park - be sure to get reservations. The last time I made a winter stop even the overflow areas were full.

More photos of the hike up Siphon Draw here.

The Siphon Draw From The Bottom:
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Old 07-11-2021, 03:07 PM   #16
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We are starting to think of taking a 3 week trip over the Christmas break - starting from SLC.

Last year, we traveled to Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Central Coast and SLO, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. With winter timing, we are thinking Arizona and New Mexico. Of course, there are wonderful places in Southern Utah itself and we will visit some on the way but we have, of course, visited and hiked extensively in most of them.

So, what are some of the most attractive spots to visit in Arizona and New Mexico? We liking hiking (more than a couple of miles of easy trails). So, having hiking opportunities close by is essential for us.

We did think of Big Bend NP in TX but that seems a bit far...
While Big Bend is worth a visit, and that is a perfect time to go, I would be hesitant to take a 21 into the chisos basin. It is extremely tight. Having said that, BBNP is one of our favorite places that we visit frequently and there are other options to camp in the park.
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Old 07-11-2021, 03:08 PM   #17
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Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners Region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. Great hiking,no trails, take your GPS. Fifty miles south of Farmington, NM
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Old 07-11-2021, 03:50 PM   #18
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Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners Region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. Great hiking,no trails, take your GPS. Fifty miles south of Farmington, NM
That is on our list for our fall trip - planned to go there on our spring trip but a late season blizzard changed our plans. Looks like the south parking area is pretty good size and would work for boondocking a night or two, is that the case?
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:20 PM   #19
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One word of caution about Big Bend - the week between Christmas and New Years is their busiest time of the year and it will be crowded. We love Big Bend and go there often but avoid it during the big holiday times when it is wildly popular - Thanksgiving, Christmas break, and Spring break. If you are on a 3 week trip, though, it should be possible to avoid the busiest time.

We like Chisos Basin the best by far - a lot of good hiking right there, and for sure the most scenic campground in the park. Sites are very small, though, and many are quite unlevel so trailer options are limited and good sites get grabbed quickly on the reservations system. There are a few first-come sites at Chisos Basin but they fill every day at busy times and it's a winding steep drive into Chisos Basin only to not get a site and have to go elsewhere. Rio Grande and Cottonwood campgrounds are, respectively, at opposite ends of the park and if you are based at either of them you will be doing a lot of driving getting to other areas of the park.

Another lesser known option is some of the primitive roadside backcountry campsites. Most are on the reservation system now (listed separately on Recreation.gov under "Big Bend Backcountry Camping"). There are sites in several areas off the main road no more than a mile or two down well maintained dirt roads, no amenities at all but very isolated. Grapevine Hills, Croton Springs, K-Bar, and Paint Gap are all nice and centrally located in the park yet very remote and private. Info here, although I would expect already fully reserved during the Christmas time frame: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvis...dsidecamps.htm

Here are photos at Grapevine Hills 1 and Paint Gap 2. In Chisos Basin #18 is the prime trailer spot we like best.
Thank you very much, David!

I went ahead and booked from Dec 21-26, 5 days of stay with 4 different sites in Chisos campground. One is a pull thru , the other three will pose more challenges. But, figured it's better to have a reservation and see if we are able to reduce the moves later on. Hiking being our main objective, Chisos seems like the best fit.
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:22 PM   #20
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Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners Region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. Great hiking,no trails, take your GPS. Fifty miles south of Farmington, NM
Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness looks very good. It'd be a good place to stop on the way.. Added to the list! Many thanks for pointing it out!
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