Yet Another US Road Trip - Timing Question
Replies: 33 - Last Post: May 30, 2012 6:11 PM Last Post By: ianw6705
May 16, 2012 8:42 PM
Yet Another US Road Trip - Timing QuestionHi Team
We're doing advance planning for another road-trip in about April-May next year. Rather than doing thousands of miles, we thought we might concentrate on some California and Colorado - visiting some old friends (like Yosemite NP, Aspen, Mesa Verde NP, Arches NP, etc) - plus find a bunch of new places as well. We're looking at about two weeks max in California (LA to LA loop) and 2-3 weeks in Colorado (Denver to Denver loop, I expect), with snippets of AZ and UT too.
My question - how early can we go and for it to still feel reasonably "wintry", but not so wintry that there are road closures (other than Tioga Pass - which we know is late), and not too bone-rattling cold? We wish to visit the Colorado ski resorts again - don't care about skiing, and also travel the Million Dollar Highway, plus the road through the Rocky Mountains NP, Telluride, etc.
And for bzookaj - our interests include national parks, big trees, big mountains, nice lakes, snow, park cabins, modest hikes, and also wide open spaces with Country Music blaring on the radio. Did I mention national parks? Recommendations for the "most liked" accomm in Yosemite NP would be good too (up to $US100pn if achievable) - we've only ever stayed at the Bug Hostel for YNP.
May 16, 2012 9:12 PM
1I can speak for California...
It's never bone-rattlingly cold here. Even in the Sierras in midwinter, most places will have temps in the 30s during the day. Quite comfortable if you ask me. Where in CA are you interested in going? For most places except the High Sierra, you're fine at any time of year. Say, April is a great time when temps are relatively warm, crowds are sparse, costs are low. and weather is generally good. I think your goals for Colorado will dicate when you should come... come to California just before CO.
As for Yosemite, inside the park Yosemite Lodge is a safe bet, if a bit overpriced like everything in Yosemite Valley (but that time of year, should be < $200/night, I think). Just outside the park (30-45 mins), my parents give high recommendations to the Cedar Lodge Motel, though we've never stayed there. April is a GREAT time for Yosemite Valley as crowds are relatively sparse and waterfalls are gushing.
May 16, 2012 9:57 PM
May 16, 2012 10:21 PM
3You'll definitely be fine at Sequoia (lower elevations), Yosemite (lower elevations), and Highway 1 in April, barring a freak storm. Not sure if there's much to do at Tahoe that early except ski.
Why Seqouia? Have you been before? It's a beautiful park but unless you can hike into the high country (not gonna happen in April/May), there's nothing in Sequoia you can't access more easily at Yosemite.
I know you've been here before, so maybe consider some "locals' favorites" that often don't make it onto foreigners' itineraries? How about Point Reyes? Death Valley? Redwood?
May 16, 2012 11:53 PM
4I would love (off the beaten track) suggestions between Lake Tahoe and LA ... we have been to Point Reyes, Death Valley, and "all" the Redwood Parks between SF and Oregon - loved it. The last two times we have done such a trip it has been speedy - so this time I was limiting the geographical spread and maybe smelling the roses. If Sequoia NP is not recommended (for the car-based casual non-backpacker) - that's good advice.
May 17, 2012 5:20 AM
5ian, with the amount of time you seem to spend here, I sometimes wonder how xAustralian you really are.
Have you really explored xDeath Valley, or did you do a brief stopover? If the latter, I recommend the former.
How far into xUtah are you considering? Just the xMoab area?
Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase-Escalante are wonderful that time of year.
Great Sand Dunes (Great Snow Dunes?).
May 17, 2012 9:07 AM
6ian - with your already encyclopedic knowledge of the region, I think it is high time you took things to the next level, digging into some of the back-o-beyond destinations beloved by locals but mostly skipped by tourists who are usually in a hurry and usually in search of "bigger game". So I'll offer some suggestions for your Colorado/Utah trip, which you can obviously take or leave as you see fit.
- personally, I would limit time spent in Colorado. That time of year is a bit of a bummer - almost everywhere worth seeing is too snowy or muddy for hiking, you're too late for skiing and too early for rafting. You can still have a nice drive-through and stay in some nice little towns along the way, but more active pursuits will be limited. I'd probably do the drive through Aspen, to Montrose and Ouray and over the Million Dollar Highway to Durango, and start a southwestern tour from there.
- April/May is a great time to be on the Colorado Plateau of Utah, NM and Arizona, I'd spend a good chuck of time there before high-tailing it back to Denver on I-70.
- You say you'll be revisiting Mesa Verde. OK. Here are some nearby-ish spots that may be new to you and are worth checking out:
Hovenweep National Monument/Canyon of the Ancients - not as spectacular, but a remote and peaceful counterpoint to the sometimes theme-park-like atmosphere at Mesa Verde. The drive there from Cortez via McElmo Canyon takes you through the heart of Colorado's wine country, which is hit or miss quality-wise, but definitely a different atmosphere than you'd find in more estalished wine regions.
Chaco Canyon - very remote, but for those interested in southwestern archeology, it is even more of a must-see than Mesa Verde.
Canyon de Chelly - even if you've been there before, even if you've taken the hike to White House ruin, I strongly suggest considering a guided tour to one of the more remote branches of the canyon (via horseback, jeep, or foot). This is a different experience, entirely, and well worth the effort and expense.
Navajo National Monument - you probably don't have the interest in a 16-mile RT hike to Keet Seel ruins (which rival any at Mesa Verde), but the shorter ranger-guided hike to Betatakin would be a highlight of the trip.
OK, that's all the time I have for now...will have some other suggestions later on a bit...
May 17, 2012 11:01 AM
7Yeah, I'll reiterate that I'd skip Sequoia / Kings Canyon. They are very nice parks but simply don't offer much to the non-hiker (and in April, everyone is a non-hiker).
It sounds like you've been pretty much everywhere... I'd agree that a longer trip to Death Valley would be interesting. I also agree that April/May is a great time for the Colorado Plateau. How about a trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? Should be open in late May.
How about southern Arizona (Tucson, Saguaro NP), New Mexico (Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns NP, White Sands NM...) and west Texas (Big Bend NP) in addition to Utah and SW Colorado? You might consider skipping California (since you've really done a good job of seeing the state!!) entirely and exploring the Southwest a bit more at that great time of year.
Maybe something like... Phoenix-Tucson/Saguaro-White Sands-Carlsbad Caverns-Big Bend-(long drive)-Santa Fe-Mesa Verde etc.-Utah Parks-North Rim-back to Phoenix?
May 17, 2012 4:07 PM
8Hmmm ... given me plenty to think about. And in terms of interests, my fascination with Southwest archaeology exceeds that of my partner's, so I need to balance that. She is not quite "You've seen one Ancient Puebloan ruin, you've seen them all.", but she can be close-ish to that. We have visited Hovenweep, Navajo NM, Santa Fe, and the North Rim previously ... but that doesn't necessarily stop us - we've been to Zion-Bryce four times, for instance.
Also - the further we get away from the mountain ranges (and high plateaus - Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc) - the more the country looks and feel like so much of Australia, so it has less travel appeal for us. That's why the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains are always a magnet. More time in Death Valley NP is certainly possible ... although we will just have a rental sedan, and therefore pretty-much limited to bitumen or very good gravel.
May 17, 2012 5:03 PM
9Not to get too far from your original itinerary, but how about Alaska if you want something completely different from Australia? If you can stretch your trip into early June, everything is open. Of course, it sound like you've been everywhere already, so it wouldn't be a surprise to hear you've already been!
May 17, 2012 5:35 PM
May 17, 2012 8:03 PM
May 18, 2012 5:15 PM
12Forget Alaska - we're off to Bakersfield for some biscuits & gravy and some country western!
We did go to the County Fair at Condon (Wheeler County, Oregon) - I think we saw more Real America than we ever wanted to. And we have Basque Tapas & Wine Bars all over Melbourne ... we are very cosmopolitan food-wise ... but perhaps they should change the name of this famous Californian city to Baskervilles.
And yes - the Lake Tahoe > Gold Rush country > Yosemite NP itinerary (plus a slower trip along Hwy395) has always appealed to me ... so we will do some more contemplation. Thanks nutrax!
May 18, 2012 6:33 PM
13You have had some superstars show up on this thread.
The California coast, north and south of SF, has great stops.
Easy to do four to seven days worth between SF and Big Sur alone.
Santa Cruz mountain redwood parks, surfer hippie town, seaside carnival,
beach towns, Steinbeck museum in Salinas, Steinbeck haunts in Monterey,
Mexican colonial era California in Monterey and San Juan Bautista,
Aquarium featuring the Monterey Canyon ecosystem, kayaking on the bay,
wealthy scenic homes, cutsie village and beach of Carmel, gorgeous mission, Carmel Valley.
Point Lobos Reserve as an intro before you begin the Big Sur.
Four or five good stops in Big Sur.
March to May is good weather on the coast, before the summer fog.
You've read my Monterey boosterism before...
May 18, 2012 7:13 PM
14You have had some superstars show up on this thread. I am very humbled and thankful!
Our CA trip is starting to gel I think - 6-7 days LA to Lake Tahoe (Hwy 395), and 7-8 days from there back to LA (via Yosemite NP, and Monterey). I will consult the board of directors!
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