National Park Road Trip
Replies: 22 - Last Post: Aug 3, 2012 11:27 AM Last Post By: FlagStuff
Aug 2, 2012 12:06 AM
15I'm going to suggest something radical.
You seem to be really keen on backcountry hiking and camping, but are barely giving yourself any time at all in some truly spectacular areas for backpacking, in an effort to check off as many places as possible from your to-do list. You're also committing yourself to exploring some of these areas in non-ideal seasons in order to wrap it all into one epic trip. Now, I wouldn't suggest making your trip any less epic, but I might suggest focusing on a smaller number of slightly longer, more ambitious hiking trips in seasonally appropriate areas, and less ambitious road mileage. Also, by focusing exclusively on National Parks, you're missing some of the best backcountry the West has to offer.
For example, in two months you could do an incredible Northern Rockies to Cascades tour, with lengthy hikes in Yellowstone, Tetons, the Wind River Range, Glacier NP, the North Cascades, Olympic, and maybe wrap it up with a drive down the coast to the Redwoods and Trinity Alps/Marble Mountains. Totally awesome, unhurried, and gives you real time in the backcountry at these places.
Alterntively, you could do a fabulous central Rockies to the Sierras trip, starting in Colorado (not Rocky Mountain NP, but instead maybe the Snowmass/Maroon Bells Wilderness, Weminuche Wilderness, or any of half a dozen others in the area, along with the way-cool Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP), then roasting your way through Utah for a couple weeks, crossing Nevada (Great Basin NP is great, and little visited) and then spending a few weeks in the Sierras of California.
Just some ideas, if backcountry was really what you were after. I would really, really, strongly suggest saving the Grand Canyon hike for another trip sometime between October and May. The rims are fine to visit in the summer, but the inner canyon is just despicable for hiking (it's great if you're on a boat, but otherwise, absolute yuck).
Edited by: FlagStuff
Aug 2, 2012 3:01 AM
16I agree with Flagstuff that this trip can be very usefully divided into two (or even three) shorter, better trips over time. But if you are determined to do this over 50 days straight, I would amend it to the following:
Day 01 -- Nashville to Kansas City
Day 02 -- Kansas City to Badlands NP
Day 03 -- Badlands NP
Day 04 -- Badlands NP
Day 05 -- Drive to Yellowstone NP
Day 06 -- Yellowstone NP
Day 07 -- Yellowstone NP
Day 08 -- Yellowstone NP
Day 09 -- Yellowstone NP
Day 10 -- Drive to Glacier NP
Day 11 -- Glacier NP
Day 12 -- Glacier NP
Day 13 -- Glacier NP
Day 14 -- Rest Day (Coeur d'Alene)
Day 15 -- Drive to Mt Rainier NP
Day 16 -- Mt Rainier NP
Day 17 -- Drive to Olympic NP
Day 18 -- Olympic NP
Day 19 -- Olympic NP
Day 20 -- Olympic NP
Day 21 -- Rest Day (Portland OR)
Day 22 -- Drive to Crater Lake NP
Day 23 -- Crater Lake NP
Day 24 -- Drive to Sacramento(?)
Day 25 -- Drive to Yosemite NP
Day 26 -- Yosemite NP
Day 27 -- Yosemite NP
Day 28 -- Yosemite NP
Day 29 -- Rest Day (overnight Lone Pine or nearby)
Day 30 -- Drive Death Valley NP and to Las Vegas
Day 31 -- Rest Day
Day 32 -- Drive to Grand Canyon NP
Day 33 -- Grand Canyon NP
Day 34 -- Grand Canyon NP
Day 35 -- Drive to Zion NP
Day 36 -- Zion NP
Day 37 -- Zion NP
Day 38 -- Bryce Canyon NP
Day 39 -- Bryce Canyon NP
Day 40 -- Escalante / Capitol Reef
Day 41 -- Escalante / Capitol Reef
Day 42 -- Drive to Canyonlands NP
Day 43 -- Canyonlands NP
Day 44 -- Drive to Arches NP
Day 45 -- Arches NP
Day 46 -- Arches NP
Day 47 -- Mesa Verde NP (or Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP)
Day 48 -- Mesa Verde NP (or Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP)
Day 49 -- Drive to Kansas City
Day 50 -- Kansas City to Nashville
So dropping some days in the Grand Canyon NP, and making some of your "rest days" into half-way driving days. I have also omitted Saguaro NP, and increased the time in the Southern Utah parks.
Aug 2, 2012 5:37 AM
The nice thing about xArches is so much of it is drivable. You can cut a day from ian's route to add elsewhere (maybe a trip up Boulder Mountain).
Both will be very hot in summer.
Aug 2, 2012 7:14 AM
18Ian - I actually wouldn't necessarily suggest they make their trip shorter in length. In light of the fact that they seem very keen on backcountry hiking and camping, I'd suggest they take the same 50+ days but travel slightly less, and instead take longer backcountry excursions. Honestly, if backcountry hiking is the main thrust of a 7 week trip, it is crazy to skip so much of the Sierra Nevada, or Escalante, or so many of the non-national park wilderness areas of the west, to pick a couple of glaring examples.
But in any event, I really like your itinerary, with the minor exception of two full days at Bryce. One full day is enough, spend that other day elsewhere.
Aug 2, 2012 9:25 PM
19... so you can spend half a day or so in Arches on the day you "drive to" it.
... with the minor exception of two full days at Bryce
I agree with both of these amendments, but in my defence, it's partly a problem of description. I think it's much better with such an itinerary to list where you spend the nights rather than the days - all or any ambiguity is resolved. So Bryce Canyon NP requires two nights (so a full day), and ditto for Arches NP (although personally I would spend three nights in Moab or nearer the park - it is that good).
Aug 3, 2012 8:49 AM
20I also would skip Death Valley and Saguaro in the summer. Great Basin National Park is a worthwhile and little visited alternate.
Death Valley: Last i heard the condition of the Charcoal Kiln Road had deteriorated - not a problem if you have high-clearance 4-wheel drive; problem otherwise. Most of the rest of Death Valley can be pretty hellish in the summer.
Saguaro: Unless you get lucky with the monsoon, awfully hot in the summer. There are backpacking trails to higher, cooler country in Saguaro East, but trailheads tend to be low and hot.
General: If you plan to camp, be aware that in-park camping in some National Parks is on a reservation system. In some cases (notoriously the campsites in Yosemite Valley) they reserve out very quickly. Sometimes there is good out-of-Park camping or small first-come-first-served campgrounds in the Park (though they may fill very early); sometimes not.
Mt. Rainier: Be aware that many trails don't melt out until mid-or-late-July in normal years (August in some years, like this one).
Grand Canyon: Be aware that camping in the Canyon is on a reservation system, and is in high demand. Reservation procedures seem to change regularly; check http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm for the latest updates to the system. Your chances are hugely enhanced if you apply at the start of the permit period and provide as many alternatives (date and itinerary) as possible. The North Rim is much the more pleasant side, but a 3-day hike into the Canyon all the way to the River is most easily done from the South Rim (don't even THINK of hiking from the River to North Rim in one day in the summer). North Rim campground is one that reserves out pretty fast. There are out-of-Park alternatives (but they vastly shrink in times of high fire danger).
Zion: Pretty hot in the summer (though not as bad as Death Valley or Saguaro); you may want less time here and more in Bryce unless heat does not bother you.
Canyonlands/Arches: Convenient camping here can fill pretty early in the day, and Bryce-to-Canyonlands is a pretty long drive. In many ways, Canyonlands is 3 parks: Needles, Island in the Sky, and Maze. As you plan a short stay w2ith Arches next, you will probably not visit the Maze. Needles is primarily for the long-day-hiker or backpacker; Island in the Sky has lots of short hikes. Arches (and to a lesser extent Needles) can be rather hot.
Aug 3, 2012 10:28 AM
Aug 3, 2012 11:27 AM
22Great Basin isn't much of a detour if OP goes for one of the alternate itineraries I suggested in post #15. Otherwise, it's dead in the middle of the big loop.
Yes, but it doesn't help the OP very much. There are also far fewer sites available, so while the number of groups you'd encounter is far less than in then main developed cross-canyon corridor, it really isn't much easier to secure a permit. Hermit is actually one of the tougher areas to get, because it is easily accessible, there is a ready access to water (in a creek, and the Colorado), and the hike itself is fairly moderate by Grand Canyon standards, just one notch harder then the main "corridor" trails. The few designated campsites fill quickly most times of year. At least the Corridor campgrounds have some permits set aside for "walk-in" applicants, other areas of the canyon do not.
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