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The Rough Guide to Southwest USA Paperback – 1 Oct 2013
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Reliable, readable Rough Guides (Conde Nast Traveller)
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Top customer reviews
I can warmly recommend it.
Firstly, it may be stating the obvious but a real bonus of taking a book such as this one, dedicated to the specific region you are going to is that whilst it is still relatively large/heavy (it does after all cover a vast area !), it is not as weighty as a book covering the whole country, it is more detailed for the area and ALL all of it is potentially useful - and so it proved for me.
I bought this Rough Guide specifically to plan a month-long touring holiday of the fantastic National Parks of Utah, a trip to nearby Monument Valley + a short stay in Las Vegas (all of which is covered); unusually, having taken the book with me on the trip I found it far more useful than on previous trips when similarly equipped with travel books.
The main reasons for this were the comprehensive maps, the accommodation section (I don't usually use them, but as my plans changed they came up trumps on 2 occasions this time !) and the little 'titbits' of local attractions which I gained from massively, enabling me to visit additional viewpoints (courtesy of my change in plans whilst there) I had not been aware of and which proved to be as stunning as just about anything else I had already planned to see in Utah. This is more pertinent to this region since it is so vast and unpopulated eg accommodation can be sparse, you've MUCH less chance of finding someone to ask for directions/tips and mobile phone coverage in Utah is not brilliant either....
As usual for Rough Guides, you get excellent coverage of what there is in the area and well-detailed maps + what I find to be well-balanced, but nicely-opinionated, synopses; unfortunately, what you also get (still) is the absence of an integrated referencing 'system' between the map and the text ie map annotations related to the text.
The beauty of such a system (fantastically executed in other guide genres, such as Fodor's, but negated by them specifically with what I find are all too often inaccurate/over exaggerated synopses) is you can use the map to not only locate nearby attractions, but also highlight attractions you hadn't realised were there or considered properly.
So, with a Fodor's-type guidebook you can use the number annotations to locate the related text and appraise it, whereas with a Rough Guide you have to read the text/assess what is of interest and THEN with some difficulty find out where it is (using the often vague distance bearing from another town/attraction, which is usually the way locations are described in Rough guides, and as Sod's Law is inevitably activated discover it is nowhere near your planned location/route !). The result is that whilst a Rough Guide may have good maps and useful written information, it can be something of an effort to benefit from it - which is why I usually use them for planning rather than when actually on the holiday....
On this occasion I thankfully had time whilst in Utah to re-read the relevant bits of the guide for where my re-routes took me and 'realise' those little gems it contained - but it was largely luck that I spotted them on the re-read. With an annotated map you could identify them more readily, but as other guidebooks might do that properly the process is negated by their information often not being detailed enough in comparison to 'Rough' for those little gems to be mentioned anyway !
Examples are the excellent coverage given to such places as 'The Burr Trail', 'Muley Point', 'The Moki Dugway' and 'Calf-Creek Falls' - I had not planned to see these attractions, but thankfully I did courtesy of 'Rough' and consequently my holiday in Utah was even more enjoyable and fulfilling than it was originally going to be. I shudder to think how I would have felt to find out only later about these places as I was originally destined to have passed them by....
I also found this guide invaluable for helping me to arrange last-minute accommodation in remote places such as near Monument Valley and the lengthy I-70 in the north of Utah.
It's also worth observing that most of what this book contains will not 'age' too much, so it is not only valid for longer but also means you don't necessarily have to buy the latest edition to benefit from the guide; this edition, adorned with a photo of part of Monument Valley, is dated 2006 but still perfectly usable. There is a more recent edition which is heavily-discounted but also seems to have been 'lightened' as it, according to the Amazon info, has some 88 fewer pages...!
Map/text referencing 'gripe' aside, this Rough Guide should prove invaluable for any comprehensive visit to this magical area of the USA and is a snip for what should be a sub-£10 purchase price.
The recommendations for Shoshone Point at the Grand Canyon and Muley Point in Utah were worth the price of the book alone - two stupendous panoramic views with hardly a soul in sight.
As with all Rough Guides, it's densely packed with information on sights and local history. Highly recommended.