National Park Road Trip
Replies: 22 - Last Post: Aug 3, 2012 11:27 AM Last Post By: FlagStuff
Aug 1, 2012 11:31 AM
National Park Road TripHello all, two friends and I are planning on going on a road trip to numerous national parks to backcountry camp. We will camp the whole way, so we will not stay in any hotels.
I have a couple questions about our proposed schedule.
1. Is this too much driving? Our route is about 7500 miles
2. Should we spend more time in the big parks (Yosemite, yellowstone etc.) and less in small parks( saguaro, arches, etc.)
3. Do we need more rest days where we do no driving or hiking?
Here is the schedule
Start Nashville, Tn
drive to badlands
Drive to yellowstone
Drive to glacier
Drive to mt rainer
Mt rainer and drive to olympic
Drive to crater lake
Drive to yosemite
Drive to death valley
Drive to saguaro
Drive to grand canyon
Drive to zion
Drive to bryce canyon and spend day here
Canyonlands and spend day here
Arches and spend day here
Drive home to Nashville
5 days allowed for emergencies, breakdowns, etc.
Aug 1, 2012 11:37 AM
1You've asked three perfectly good questions, the problem is they are all totally subjective with no right answer.
That might be way too much driving for some people, but easy for others. It is a lot of driving. I'm not going to do a mileage chart to try and figure out by hours how long your individual drives are, but I'm sure you or someone else here will. Whether it's "too much" for you and your friends we can't say. We don't know you guys. I take it you all can share in the driving, right?
All of the parks have advantages and disadvantages. I'm sure some people like the relative quiet of the smaller parks and others like the conveniences of the larger ones. You guys should spend your time where you can do and see the things that interest you most, irrespective of the size of the park.
We don't know how much rest you need.
Sorry. I don't mean to be flippant, it's just we don't know you or your friends and there's know way we can tell you what's best or you.
Have a great trip.
Aug 1, 2012 11:55 AM
Aug 1, 2012 11:59 AM
Aug 1, 2012 12:15 PM
Aug 1, 2012 12:22 PM
5The first thing I would suggest is to cut xSaguaro. It's very hot, and very out of the way.
The xBadlands will also be a hot place. It's also fairly small (unless you get into the south units, which are not as developed). One day will do.
Death Valley has its name for a reason. Take a look at this recent thread.
There are some backcountry areas that are at higher elevation, and thus milder, but if that holds little interest for you, cut time here to just a drive through.
Three days at the xGrand Canyon are overkill, unless you hike to the bottom (in summer you should not take this lightly) or you are visiting both north and south rims.
Take the time saved, and apply to xYellowstone (it's a huge park) and maybe xYosemite (to spend more time in the high country), and add xBryce (1 day will do; it's on the way).
With regards to the "rest days," you may want to organize these to cut long drives in half, rather than being "no driving or hiking."
For example, the day after xOlympic can be spent driving to say, xPortland, and chilling there.
I question whether it would be wiser to head to xOlympic before xRainier.
Aug 1, 2012 12:27 PM
Aug 1, 2012 12:30 PM
Speaking of booking early, the same applies to xYosemite. Campsites in summer fill up very quickly.
Aug 1, 2012 1:30 PM
8I would have loved to have done something like this when I was young.
How much long-distance driving have you and your friends done?
Other considerations: Can all three of you drive? What are you driving? Is your vehicle up to the trip? Can you tolerate each other for seven weeks? How will you handle expenses? Is any one of you able to do repairs on your vehicle? Do you have a AAA membership between the three of you? Are your answers based on "hope" or do the three of you have any real experience with this sort of activity?
You can have a satisfying experience in a lot of national parks in a few days. You cannot in Yellowstone. I think you need more time there. I think more time in Olympic National Park is also desirable. I would also caution you that all of the sights that make Yellowstone world famous can be reached by car. Four days devoted exclusively to back country camping will not allow you any time to see and enjoy them.
Alternating days of sitting still in a car for hours on end and strenuous hiking does not sound good to me, but I'm not a kid any longer. I am presuming you are.
Back country camping can be a life-threatening experience in places like Canyonlands, Arches, Grand Canyon, and Death Valley. You'll have to pack your own water in Canyonlands and Death Valley. Potable water may also be unavailable in Grand Canyon depending on where you hike. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?
Back country camping in places like Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite may require bear proof food canisters. Are you familiar with back country camping regulations in each of the parks you will visit? Each park will have its own set of rules and permits. I would advise you to be aware of the regulations of each park BEFORE you arrive. Be sure to buy a pass at Badlands so you don't have to pay the entrance fee at multiple parks.
Good luck to you.
Aug 1, 2012 1:44 PM
9I would agree with cutting Saguaro and making Death Valley a drive-by. Saguaro NP isn't the best part of the Sonoran desert in any season, and in summer it is pretty miserable all around. Almost any area that is unique or special about Death Valley will be unbearably, dangerously hot in mid-summer. Sticking to the higher terrain is redundant - there is other, better, mountain hiking a few hours away in the eastern Sierra.
Speaking of, I would more carefully consider what you do in the Sierra Nevada of California. Yosemite Valley is a singlular attraction, not equalled elsewhere. But in the backcountry, Yosemite is generally somewhat less spectacular than Sequoia, Kings Canyon or the adjacent Wilderness Areas of the Eastern Sierra.
Two whole days at Crater Lake is might be one full day too many.
Your drive through southern Utah is badly rushed, either do it or don't, but don't expect to drive from Bryce to Canyonlands AND see anything at Canyonlands that day - nevermind all the stuff you're missing along the way (which is +a lot+) you won't see much of Canyonlands either. Camping at Arches and Canyonlands will probably be uncomfortably hot.
Take the warnings about hiking Grand Canyon in summer very seriously. Having done it many times (for work, not recreation), I can tell you that it is actually pretty miserable. it is nice enough on the rims, but at the bottom you'll want to spend all day and most of the night soaking in a creek (not so much the river, unless you want to somehow simultaneously get hyporthermia with your heat exhaustion).
Edited by: FlagStuff
Aug 1, 2012 6:34 PM
10Here is what I suggest, go on your trip, relax, take as much time as it takes to see and do what you want at each park or attraction. Relax, go to your next place, do and see what you want, relax. Go to the next place, etc. etc. Try not to have this sense of having to hurry to fit it all in. You have about two months, not really a lot of time. You have a list that is like a bucket list. Is it?? If not then take your time and relax some, if you don't do it this time do it next time. As it is you are going to spend half of your time driving, is that what you want?
Aug 1, 2012 6:41 PM
11#10, good advice in general, however - visiting major US national parks often requires a bit of advance planning in terms of getting campsites and wilderness permits.
I agree in spirit, however, that the trip as planned is a little crazy, especially considering about half the trip is in places that will be hot enough to boil a money's bum.
Aug 1, 2012 6:48 PM
12You need at least one evening and one morning in Death Valley. Do a late afternoon hike then get up with the sun and knock out a few short trails in different spots or one long trail. Just doing a drive through doesn't give this park justice. This is painless, even in the summer-I did it with three kids (at the time ages 1 to 9) in June and there were no complaints (yes, they each had their own camelback and the promise of a/c in the car). Just be smart and don't stay out too late in the morning.
Saguaro is WAY out there. If you just want to surround your self with cacti then drive south on I-17 from flagstaff to the Bumblee Bee exit and you'll find your self surrounded by the things.
The drive-I think you've planned it out pretty good with the driving days, rest days, and contingency days. Do you spend enough time at each place? People will always say you need more time. 7500 may sound like a lot for a month and a half, but that only works out to 166 miles a day. I know salesmen who drive more than that.
Aug 1, 2012 7:59 PM
Aug 1, 2012 10:02 PM
14DV to Saguaro is a LONG haul, and even the return trip to Grand Canyon is non-trivial. I'd give it a pass and spend the 3~4 days saved in the Grand Staircase Escalante area, where you will find nearly unlimited hiking opportunities.
You can save another 1/2 day of driving by substituting the North Rim of GC for the hotter, much more crowded S. Rim.
The lower elevations of DV will be so hot that you'll have a hard time doing any meaningful hiking. If you must go, plan on camping in the Panamint Mounains along Charcoal Kiln Road. If you do that, the Telescope Peak hike seems a reasonable plan. OR, consider ditching DV altogether (apart from a quick drive-through, just to say "We were there!") and substituting a few days in the White Mountains, where you can camp and hike among the Bristlecone trees. The scenery is superb, and the road is much less severe.
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