A Week of National Parks: CO and AZ

One of my personal goals has been to visit all 61 national parks. Some are easier to get to than others. My focus has been to travel to those that require only a car to visit rather than those where you need a boat or plane to get to.

I finished out December of 2018 by visiting the National Parks of Utah solo – Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. To continue visiting new parks, I planned a trip to Arizona and Colorado in April of 2019. The National Parks visited on this trip include: Saguaro, Petrified Forest, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Rocky Mountain National Park. After visiting these parks, I’ve visited 22 out of the 61 parks.

Below you’ll find a very brief overview of where I went each day. You’ll see more specific posts on each park and my favorite stops, but this is the basics for now.


– Flight out of Tampa at 7 PM that got me into Phoenix around 8 PM local time

– Stayed the the Found:Re Arts Hotel in Phoenix


– Drove about 2.5 hours south from Phoenix to Saguaro National Park (East)

– Did the loop road at Saguaro which took about 1-2 hours

– Stopped at Mogollon Rim Visitors Center for a great view

– Checked in to the Best Western in Heber, AZ


– Breakfast at June’s Cafe right by the hotel

– Visited the Petrified National Forest. The drive from one side to the other took about 2 hours including stops at the overlooks.

– Stopped at the 4 Corner’s Monument

– Drove into Mesa Verde National Park to the Far View Lodge

– Dinner at the Far View Lodge


– Breakfast at the Terrace in Mesa Verde National Park

– Drove through the National Park and stopped at a few of the look out points

– Hiked the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail to see the Balcony House Cliff Dwellings

– Drove into Durango and took a tour of the railroad museum

– Drove to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

– Drove north along some mountain roads through Ouray and Silverton

– Stayed overnight at the Amigo Hotel in Salida in a Windstream (My absolute favorite hotel to date)


– Visited to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and spent about an hour by the Sand Dunes

– Drove into Colorado Springs area

– Decided to venture up to the top of Pike’s Peak which took about 2 hours

– Checked into Garden of the Gods Resort 


– Went on a morning walk through Garden of the Gods

– Decided to hike the Manitou Incline which took about 90 minutes

– Hiked the 4 miles down from the top of the incline

– Lunch at the Garden of the Gods Market and Cafe

– Stayed a second night at the Garden of the Gods Resort


– Drove to Breckenridge and had lunch downtown

– Continued north through Winter Park and Granby

– The road the entire way through Rocky Mountain National Park was closed so detoured back to the other side of the park about 90 miles

– Had dinner and stayed overnight at the Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park


– Breakfast at Notchtop Bakery

– Drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and explored Trail Ridge Road to the closing at Rainbow curve

– Left the park and grabbed a quick lunch and then coffee at Inkwell and Brew 

– Drove back into the park and took Bear Lake road out to Sprague Lake and Bear Lake

– Ventured up toward Long’s Peak and then out toward Loveland to explore

– Stayed at the Ridgeline Hotel for a 2nd night


– Booked a train ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad but the train broke down just prior to the ride

– Detoured to Vail and had lunch and did some shopping downtown

– Dinner at the Nomad Taqueria and Beer Garden

– Stayed at Origin Hotel near the Red Rocks


– Got up early to watch the sunrise at the Red Rocks

– Breakfast at the Nomad Taqueria

– Coffee at Launch near the hotel

– Evening flight out of the Denver airport

The total route is listed below. It’s not exact but a pretty close estimate to the locations traveled. It’s about 1500 miles and 29 hours of driving.