Lonely Planet Southwest USA's Best Trips (Travel Guide) Paperback – 14 Feb 2014
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Bottom Line: First Time Travelers to the Southwest will find this book helpful, repeat travelers may be disappointed with the book, even though it has plenty of maps and pictures, lodging and eating recommendations.
The book is, mostly, organized by trip. The first page has a thumbnail map with summary information (length, etc). The second page has a more detailed map, often with references points you've heard of and other tours that link up with it. Both maps point out highlights that are described in the text.
Each highlighted point has a short entry with information, schedule and costs. The strong emphasis of most entries is on nature and hiking. Scenic drives, good places for kids and handicapped accessibility are pointed out. But I do not know that they are always pointed out. To me that's a flaw. It's also a flaw that often less nature-oriented activities are neglected. The book would be better if more comprehensive.
A nice feature is that at the end of each entry is driving directions to the next highlight.
Nearby but off the tour sites are in boxes.
At the end of each drive there is a one-page eat & stay summary. For most possibilities this means, at most 2 restaurants and 2 lodgings. With many of these being campgrounds, the choices for more traditional lodgings are slim, you'll have to find them somewhere else. For many trips this just isn't enough to plan the trip properly. Many of the lodgings they present are quite small or fill fast. You'll need other listings to supplement these short lists.
A great thing the guide does is point out where access is restricted in some way. When traveling in the Southwest, particularly in Arizona and New Mexico, photography may be restricted, you may have to make reservations in advance and some areas may be off limits. It's important to follow these rules and it's good to know them.
Unhappily in the back section of basic information they copied the material from other books. In these states the rental car info is incomplete. Many car companies don't allow their vehicles on unpaved roads and there are many, including several recommended in this guide. Check about this with your car company.
I certainly got plenty of ideas for trips from this book.
But if you will have to do the planning of your trip yourself. For example the "High Road to Taos" tour goes from Santa Fe to Taos and has a suggested length of 2 days. But there is no suggestion that you could spend 3 days in Santa Fe, one driving to Taos, one in Taos and another driving back. To give this trip only 2 days would shortchange yourself.
I would find the book more useful if it took a page or so for each tour and gave that kind of summary. This would be so useful for people completely unfamiliar with these areas.
Finally, some of the tours seem to be interrupted by other information. It was worst in the last tour, 'The Loneliest Road" which is on US 50 and covers 3 states. However only Nevada is in the tour and it is laid out for three days. It's perhaps the most noticeable example of a disconnect between recommended trip length and things to do.
There's plenty of great ideas in this book, but with better organization, a bit more thought, and some more information this would deserve five-stars.
In the meantime I'll bring my gazetteer or maps and a more traditional guidebook on these trips.
It contains the information for 32 road trips throughout the Southwest - certainly enough to keep us busy for quite a while. Once I started reading this, it was hard to put it down. In addition to maps, it has facts, history, places to eat and sleep (not exhaustive but certainly a good place to start). For some of the larger cities, there is a feature called "Stretch Your Legs" - gives you an idea of what to see on a short walk in the city - usually 1/2- 2 miles by foot depending on the city.
It's divided into several sections: Plan Your Trip - this includes a welcome to the southwest, some information on "classic trips", highlights, "need to know" facts. Then the On the Road section is divided up into states and the different states are color coded so it is easier to find information, i.e., Arizona (green), New Mexico (red), Texas (blue) Utah/Colorado/New Mexico (orange). It finishes up with a little section on Driving in the Southwest. In summary, it is a good all-around planning book with maps, thoughtfully researched and presented.
So far, I have used it for planning purposes (the reason I gave 4 stars instead of 5) but am looking forward to putting it to the test on a road trip soon and will report back further. From what I have read, I would recommend this book highly to anyone thinking of a Southwest road trip and will certainly look for other Lonely Planet books.
I received this book from Amazon Prime for my honest review.
I was actually surprised that there are many reasonably out of the way trips mentioned and some fairly obscure destinations. There are also some very busy spots including Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce National Parks and Santa Fe, NM, as well as Sedona, AZ. As someone who went to high school only 40 miles from Zion National Park in Utah and who has a vacation condo in Prescott, AZ, this is home country for me. I'm an avid landscape photographer and there's an immense number of stunning locales covered in this book that I've visited.
Some personal favorites include the Georgia O'Keffe country trip in New Mexico, The "Loneliest Road" on Hwy 50 across Nevada, and Utah's Scenic Byway 12, which includes the single most spectacular section of road (The Hogback) I've ever driven. A close second for spectacular views is also included, the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. The latter two are not for those afraid of heights. This is just a start as there are enough beautiful trips here to last an avid traveler for decades. Don't forget that there's a lot of history here, too, from ancient native cliff dwellings to old Spanish towns to the American Old West of mining and cattle towns and the hideouts of fabled outlaws.
On the down side, there really isn't enough information on any one place to do more than start one on planning, and some of the things mentioned are very touristy, such as the concrete teepees shown on the front cover. Also, there are a few inaccuracies I've caught such as the caption for the photo on page 99, which labels a photo of a bighorn sheep as an ibex and the photo of the Grand Canyon shown on page 80-81 that is outside of the described route. All in all, it's a useful place to whet a travel appetite for some great trips.