2 months National Parks Trip
Replies: 27 - Last Post: Jul 22, 2012 5:58 AM Last Post By: bzookaj
Jul 20, 2012 5:40 AM
15I think you've made some good choices ... certainly read the forums and reviews about Green Tortoise, to ensure it is our thing. But with such a tour organisation you can solve both the transport and accommodation issues together - if I were 24 again I would probably go with them rather than drive solo.
I wasn't aware there was a lot of flexibility with GT - do they allow you to hop off one tour and pick up the next one some days later? If so - that could work well for you (although being a pedestrian in many of these places would severely limit you). You seem to have outlined about 38-39 days @14 ... are you still aiming to fill two months? If so, I would then recommend a bus trip to either (or both) Boston and Washington DC.
Jul 20, 2012 5:47 AM
16@ianw6705 - just been re-working my itinerary and have about 42 days worth of travel there altogether and so far that's costing me roughly £3500. I am now thinking that I may leave later and come home earlier - less time off work, time to recover from jet lag for wedding (didn't really factor that in before!!) and so on. Can't really afford to add anything else in if I go for this plan, as also have to factor in insurance etc (£3500 only covers costs of travel, accom when not on GT tours, staying in NY, SF and Niagara Falls and misc spending like souveniers, water and food if needed etc when not in cities and optional extras on the tours e.g. activities.
I don't think the GT tours are that flexible, but they've got a fabulous schedule for their national park loop and leave a fair amount of time to see the parks (2 days at Grand Canyon, 2 at Yellowstone etc, plus others. Can fit plenty of activities in along the way then. Yosemite 3 day tour is nice and simple and gives me a nice amount of time in the park, and their costs cover the national park entry fees, food and accommodation.
Now I need to get looking for hostels in SF, NY and NF, booking flights, Greyhound bus return from NY-NF and saving my money to book the tours!!
Thanks for everyone's help, it's really appreciated.
Jul 20, 2012 5:59 AM
17Fair enough - 40+ days is still a goodly amount of time.
And I can recommend the HI Downtown in San Francisco, but of course you might do better at the Green Tortoise hostel itself. There has never been a definitive answer on good hostels in NYC - we stayed at the Chelsea International (20th Street) some years ago, and it was pretty marginal - I wouldn't recommend it as such. But the HI NYC is a long way up the Upper West Side, so a fair hike from the best bits.
There is a tidy HI in Monterey, and also in Santa Monica. Niagara Falls I know nothing about.
Jul 20, 2012 7:25 AM
18Green Tortoise Hostel. This is rather a party hostel, which may or may not be your thing. They sometimes have special deals if you stay there in combination with one of their trips.
HI hostels in SF They offer tours and other activities. Some are free. (The page mentions Yosemite Bug Bus tours--this is no longer in operation)
Free walking tours of SF operated in cooperation with the local library.
One way to get out into the wilderness at low cost is with hikes sponsored by local chapters of the Sierra Club. California chapters are particularly active with this.You do not need to be a Sierra Club member to join a hike. They call the hikes "outings." Participants often meet at a central place and carpool ot a trail head. You can contact the hike leader to see if you can get to the meeting place by transit or perhaps someone can give you a ride. You are expected to give the driver money for gas. Most are on weekends.
Jul 20, 2012 8:13 AM
Jul 20, 2012 8:24 AM
20I also wholeheartedly recommend dropping Niagara. Those extra three days would be well spent out west.
I think your itinerary looks good with one exception - at the end of the trip, rent a car for the drive from San Francisco to Monterey and on to Los Angeles via Highway 1 (or if you can't find a one way rental, drive as far as San Luis Obispo and then come back to San Francisco via the faster inland route). The trip is one of the great coastal road trips of the world. You'll almost certainly find other travelers en route to share costs. A few days to a week is a good amount of time.
Jul 20, 2012 11:26 AM
Jul 21, 2012 2:09 PM
22Thanks guys, will take it all into consideration, especially that road trip idea, sounds awesome!! I've been looking into hostels and have considered HI as they're cheap and have good reviews on the whole.
I'm now considering dropping NY and Niagara as can do them another time, and focusing more on the West. Can include the road trip instead perhaps?? I'm trying to cut my budget and realised that I would prefer to visit NY with someone else, rather than alone, as I feel it's a experience that should be shared, whereas the national parks (for me) are something that should be done 'alone' (obviously I'll be with others) but something personal to enjoy and take in. I can also then consider seeing some of the other cities along the west coast. So there we go. Completely changed everything from the beginning, but thanks to your help, I think this trip will be the better for the changes and I can't wait now!!
@nutraxfornerves - thanks for the heads up regarding cheap tours and ways to get out into on hikes etc on the cheaper side of things.
Jul 21, 2012 2:55 PM
23Interesting that Yellowstone is now piloting a shuttle program. Great to hear - I think ALL popular parks need shuttle systems. Nonetheless, I think the OP will be happy with the Green Tortoise trip.
Cutting New York altogether isn't a bad idea. There's so much to do out west, you'll be happy to have the extra few days. You could consider "biting the bullet" and renting a car for a couple weeks to see the places that your Green Tortoise trip does not go, e.g., the Redwoods parks in northern California and the coastal route from San Francisco to Los Angeles.... or you could sign up for even more Green Tortoise trips if you like that style of travel better.
Jul 21, 2012 4:15 PM
24Interesting that Yellowstone is now piloting a shuttle program.
I agree ... however while they work very well in compact parks (like Zion NP, Glacier NP), how will they go in such a large busy park, even with its convenient loop structure? They will need a large number of vehicles indeed, both because of the likely demand, and also to ensure that they arrive at each stop in reasonable frequency - if they were only every hour or so, they would get too packed I expect.
But if you could fly to SLC or Bozeman, get a bus service to the Park, and then take the shuttle for a couple of days ... that would increase accessibility greatly, especially for the non-driving international traveller (plus also a lot of USAians).
And I also agree OP could make New York / New England a separate trip, and increase her visitation through California - the redwoods north of SF are wonderful, and the coast from SF to San Diego is very rewarding too.
Jul 21, 2012 10:29 PM
25Grand Canyon and Jackson/Yellowstone are like almost separate directions (one northeast, the other southeast) from San Francisco. So not clear were you plan to go or do.
"I have noticed that a couple of websites mention 'national park passes', and I'm wondering what these are?" There's an admission fee of $10 to hike/trek into a "National Park" or more if you're driving a car ($25 + $10 for each additional passenger in the car) or more than $25 for a larger vehicle. So the annual pass ($80) helps defray that. This link from the national park service explains that further including your options with the pass.
"Will I need to get one for getting into the national parks I want to visit?" Maybe so , maybe not depending on how many are you visiting. Say if you're driving into each park at $25 each to three or more different parks than yes a pass makes sense. But if you have others traveling with you it may be worth it. Otherwise you just pay up at the booth and in you go. You have to see the above links, calculate the numbers and decide for yourself.
"Thirdly, I am wondering how reliable public/local transport is in the US?" Not very reliable in rural areas and non available in the National Parks or National Forests. In cities they might be reliable for local travel (within 16km) but if you have to travel longer distances that require transfers or even to suburbs they may not be reliable. Closest thing for public transport to the National Parks is to join a Gray Line Tour. I did my best to list them out on FAQ #15 as well additional links to other Thorntree postings on renting/hiring a car. Also see FAQ #10 on flying within the U.S. and getting the best airfare to New York (or wherever you're going next). So with that said when you decide on Greyhound bus they only go along the main highways (usually the interstate, equivalent motorways in the UK) between majors cities and some of the towns or stops off the highway in between. From where Greyhound drops you off, you're on your own.
In another post you mentioned that you're 24. Alamo and Enterprise DO rent to people under 25. Maybe Thrifty and PayLess rent to people under 25 too. Don't quite remember There may others. See FAQ #15 for a list of major companies and ask them. Alamo rents to people under 25 for extra charge, Enterprise use to not to charge extra there may be an extra charge now, so check with them. You'll be glad you did At very least, you want to rent the car for visiting Yellowstone from Jackson or Grand Tetons from Salt Lake City or any remote places outside the cities. Therefore you can use Greyhound to get from Salt Lake City to Jackson, to Denver (via I-80 or I-70). Within each city (Salt Lake City & Denver) you can try getting around locally by car (preferable & practical) or public transport (more economical) while staying there.
"I know this is only a very rough plan at the moment, and definitely needs work, but I'd appreciate comments/thought on the rough itinerary as I am quite inexperienced at this whole backpacking thing." So here's what you do based on everything you suggested on the OP:
" I will return to Jackson, whatever I do, I will go down to Salt Lake City (greyhound) and stay there for a week or so before flying to New York" Actually, fly from San Francisco to Salt Lake City. Stay in Salt Lake City FIRST and than go over to Jackson by Greyhound and down into Denver on another Greyhound bus. From Jackson, Wy up to Yellowstone that is where you want to rent a car at very least. Or if you rent the car from Salt Lake City and returning in Denver even better. But, will cost more for one way rental. Fly from Denver to Buffalo, NY to visit Niagra Falls. This avoids backtracking as you work your way east.
"I want to stay in New York for a week or so, maybe taking a day/overnight trip up to see Niagara Falls." From Niagara Falls you can work east and south and visit several places from Buffalo to New York City in New York (state) such as Adirondak NP. Especially if you decided on the National Parks pass, you get your money's worth that way.
Look on the map to see the basis of my suggestions.
Jul 22, 2012 1:57 AM
Jul 22, 2012 5:58 AM
The annual pass covers the private vehicle fee, or up to four where the fee is per person (usually historic sites).
The national parks pass does not apply.
I rather not have them at all, so I set mine to see them so I can remove them accordingly.
New York CityBook now
(5 star Hotel)
From US$795.00 per night
New York CityBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$259.00 per night
San FranciscoBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$204.00 per night