American SW

Bill Forst

New member
My son and his lady-friend will be at Red Rocks canyon near Las vegas, in their 84 Westy, at Christmas. My wife and I plan to go down there in our 84 Westy from Vancouver, BC to join them at Christmas. I have questions such as... where to camp, what to expect for weather, etc.

[ 11-22-2001: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

A. Cooper

New member
We're planning a trip to the American Southwest this fall and would appreciate any tips from fellow-Westy owners who live in or have travelled in the Four Corners region. Aside from the obligatory visit to the Grand Canyon, we'll probably stick to the more out-of-the-way places.

Any must-see destinations, unique camping experiences, or especially scenic drives?

Thanks in advance.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same locale.

garyhaupt Member posted November 10, 2002 08:50 PM

We have been back about two weeks from our latest wander into the South West of the US. We live in Vancouver, BC, Canada and went as far south and east as Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Visiting the north rim of the Grand Canyon...snowed...Sedona, Lake Powell, Moab in Utah, Salt Lake City, Shiprock New Mexico and playing the looser games in Reno. Through Gerhart, Nevada, where they have Burning Man and the World Speed record runs...

I drive a '75 Westy, the orange one. Repowered to a 2.L, this is a new motor. Other than that I have it serviced often and properly at a shop in Surrey BC. I have started using SWEPCO oil at their recommendation too. I have replaced and repaired the canvas, done the tranny, installed a great CD player and speakers. New foam in the loft and the fridge hasn't worked since I bought him 13 years ago. I use the space for my spices and coffee beans. I don't have an on-board stove, so carry 3 Colemans. Two single burners and one twin. All white gas. I have discovered soft sided coolers and am never going back. That and a cardboard food box. We take our cat with us, a Manx, she loves to travel and spends her days in a cat bed behind on the cupboard top behind the passenger position. We leash her for the outside forays or we'd not be getting her back. We bought one of those folding tables, stained it and it looks and works like a hot-damn. Also carry two folding chairs and a tripod..all bungeed together at the foot of the long seat. For sleeping we bought two cheepie bags that zip together. Good to minus 15, Celcius. As a pair, they have an even better rating. The only downer is I am the one getting up in the morning to light the heater and make coffee. oh yeah...heater..I bought a Coleman canned refletive heater. We have only used here on the wet coast for our wet or cold jaunts, never in the south. I always have my heart in my mouth when I come over a hill top and can see the road stretching out before me for maybe 30 miles. So far all my miles, and heart in mouth moments, I have had only two problems. Once was a fuel filter that needed to be changed and the other was last year on the coast of Ca when I lost a piston. But..he got us home, and really..what more could I have asked?

This is the maybe 12th trip I have made into the south west. My 3rd with Sandra, my still new partner. I got the desert bug from reading novels about the Navjo policeman, Chee, by Tony Hillerman. Decided to go see if it was really as portrayed and can't get enough of it. Now I have read stuff by Edward Abbey and will spend hours wondering what it was really like for him.

Moab is THE place to go for mountain biking, climbing, photos..just hangin. Has the Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point Nat Park, Canyon Lands Nat Park, huge four wheel drive of happiness. Saw 11 Hummers out for a cruise. Good food abounds, you can camp for free or you can pay. Showers for a couple of bucks are plentiful.

If you are into just neat places..Chaco Canyon National Pk in New Mexico is more than worth the 25+ miles drive on dirty yucky roads. Go slow, enjoy the drive, plan to spend at least two gazing is big there and great free tours into the ruins given by park staff to give you a whole new insight.

If you are doing your first tour of the south west, try to get to Chinle in Arizona for the Canyon de chelli. (da shay) Spiritual home of the Navajo, drive the rims...spend a night or two in the free tribal campsite. Maybe take a hike into the canyon, or a horseback ride. You 'could' drive in, but only in a Synchro. Gotta be four wheel drive and no matter how you go in, you ned to take a for it. The drive on the rims is no pay and the view is just....fabulous.

Sedona is okay...some really pretty camping spots along Oak Creek Canyon, the way in from Flagstaff.

The view on north rim of the Grand Canyon is much better than from the south. Heck of a drive tho unless you are there. Not lots of camping so it's a good idea to use the 800# and reserve. Don't think that you are going to camp for free IN the park...but about 5 miles before the park gates are a series of off roads that you can drift onto and put up for the night.

Lake Powell is another place to see. It's a huge piece of water with accesses here and there. At the southern end is Page, at the north is Hite Marina. A world apart too. Great primitive camping or state park civilization, your choice.
We carry a folding kayak, a Folbot Greenland. It's a one or two person sea kayak that fits in the westy like they were made for each other. Two bags, one suspended from bungee cords over the table and another bag that goes into the back with the sleeping bags and kitchen box. Get some good maps..I also carry a hand winch..don't forget that Utah is Mormon country so wine and hard stuff doesn't flow like water. Buy in advance.

If I can help anyone with thier destinations or planning, I am happy to respond.

Gary Haupt

Westy's and Folbot...made for each other

A. Cooper

New member
Having recently returned from our great American Southwest roadtrip in our 1983 diesel Westy, I offer these thoughts and observations for those considering a similar journey.

The highlights of our first, two-week trip to the Southwest include Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Durango, and Mesa Verde National Park, all in Colorado. In Utah we visited Valley of the Gods, Goblin Valley State Park, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.

We found early October to be a great season in which to visit the Southwest -- smaller crowds meant lighter traffic, more camping choices, and short lines at attractions. Temperatures ranged from daytime highs in the low 80's to nighttime lows around 40 -- though one night in Bryce Canyon NP got down to 26 degrees. Weather was positively spectacular, with clear blue skies most days, a few overcast days but with nary a drop of rain in two solid weeks. NOTE: some campgrounds close for the season, partly or entirely, in mid- or late October, so check ahead.

Of note to motorists -- especially those travelling by Westy -- is the unique topography of southern Colorado and Utah. It seems this entire region of the Southwest is comprised of a series of tilted plateaus, now carved by numerous rivers into a seemingly never-ending landscape of canyons and mesas. These require tight and twisty turns both to climb and to descend, so one finds it takes much longer to get around out there. Throw enough 25-mph switchbacks into your day and it can really slow you down.
The locals well know this, and will tell you that a 75-mile drive takes 2 hours. Believe them. We ended up spending much more time driving than we wanted, with less time to see our various destinations. Plan your visits accordingly, and intersperse your long driving days with days spent lounging in camp, hiking in one of our great National Parks, or taking in a museum or other attraction. You can always come back for a second trip.

Not counting the couple of nice hotels to which we treated ourselves, our lodging costs for 15 nites totalled $95, and ranged from $14 for a quiet campsite with electricity to zero when camping on public lands or snoozing at a truckstop. One night, finding no vacancies in a state park campground, we simply drove out onto adjacent Bureau of Land Management lands and popped the top to enjoy a free, quiet, and solitary evening on the prairie under the stars.

Though we experienced a bit of engine trouble (see FUEL SYSTEM, IGNITION, DISTRIBUTOR COIL > DIESEL GLOW SYSTEM) our 20-year-old Westy was otherwise quite dependable, climbing the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass -– elev. 10,850’ –- in second and third gears. Fuel mileage of the diesel ranged from 19 MPG on grinding mountain climbs to 30 on the long Great Plains drives, delivering an overall trip average of 26.

All in all, we had an enjoyable first trip to this part of the country. Though I might plan a little differently, lingering in certain locales instead of driving to yet another destination, I would surely return for another visit.

A. Cooper

New member
Due to popular demand (thanks, to all three of you), I have compiled a travelogue of the abovementioned trip, "Southwest by Westy", which can now be viewed on my new website,
And for more photos of our American Southwest trip, click on the "Gallery" link. will offer a growing collection of stuff related to my 1983 diesel Vanagon Westfalia Camper: articles, additional photos, a little technical information, and links to other related web resources. Please stop by for a look.

Cuz life with an old VW camper van is a roadtrip that never ends.

Enjoy the ride ...


New member
Camp Spot near Las Vegas, NV

Hi everyone: I need advice. We are going to be in Las Vegas for few days and need to know where we can camp with our Westy. Preferably not on pavement but sort of close to west end of town where we have to be for three days. Thanks!


New member
Hwy 50 in Nevada

Ok posting a reply ten years later here. hope it is still relevant, maybe the trip got delayed?

I have spent a lot of time down Hwy 50 in Nevada; Austin specifically. The Toyaibe Range is beautiful. I remember leaving Reno when it was 100+ and getting out to Austin and it would be 75 degrees with a nice breeze. This is the high desert (5,000 ft valley floors, 11,000 peaks), and is not as hot as lower elevations. Great fishing! Although most people who have driven down hwy 50 don't realize it.

From Austin head east on 50 for about ten miles. Turn south on 376 into the Big Smoky Valley (that is how it is spelled) and 15.7 miles later make a right onto Kingston Road. This road is a well graded dirt road, even passenger cars can make it fine, and it takes you all the way through the mountain range and out the other side. There are small streams, lush green meadows, even a small reservoir with big cutthroat trout, lots of chukars...

Here are some pics of Kingston Creek.


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