National park Road Trip
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Aug 21, 2012 5:28 AM Last Post By: ref_traveller
Aug 19, 2012 1:16 PM
National park Road TripHey guys, I've posted on this a few times and this probably won't be the last, but I have made some revisions to my national park trip. Our trip schedule is 50 days long, with 5 extra days for emergencies, breakdowns, etc. If you guys could take a look at it and give me and advice/suggestions it would be greatly appreciated! There will be 2-3 of us and we will camp every night of the trip.
A couple of specific question questions.
Will we need advanced reservations in any parks other than Yellowstone?
Is driving the San Juan Skyway worth it, my friend seems to have his mind set on driving it?
Here is the proposed schedule.
Start in Nashville, TN
Drive to badlands
Drive to Yellowstone
Drive to Galcier
Drive to North Cascades
Drive to Olympic
Drive to Crater Lake Via Us 101
Crater Lake and Drive to Redwood
Drive to Great Basin
Drive to Zion
Drive to Bryce and Bryce
Drive to Canyonlands
Canyonlands and drive to Arches
Drive to San Juan Skyway
San Juan Skyway
Drive to Rocky MTN
Drive home to Nashville
Aug 19, 2012 2:05 PM
1I am biased because I've spent quite some time in southwest Colorado so, naturally, I would say do the Skyway. That region certainly has a different flavour than elsewhere on your journey. Silverton, Ouray, Durango are pretty cool towns. It is quite the detour, though. I'm pretty sure you could make the call while on the road. By day 40 you may be sick of driving or sick of each other and not want to go any further than you have to. If you're going from Moab to southwest Colorado it'd be a shame to miss out on Mesa Verde National Park. The cliff dwellings are very interesting. And, hey, you can add to your National Park total. You could leave Moab early, do Mesa Verde in the afternoon, and then overnight in Durango. Have fun!
Aug 19, 2012 5:04 PM
Aug 19, 2012 5:14 PM
3Our thoughts behind Yosemite were 1. it would give us less time in other parks and 2. It would give us little flexibility because we would have to have advanced reservations for Yosemite.
Aug 19, 2012 8:15 PM
4Driving the San Juan Skyway is at least as worth it as Rocky Mountain NP (many would say more so). It is a spectacular area, with plenty of formal and informal camping areas, and pleasant mountain towns. Ouray even has a campground right adjacent to town, with easy access to the hot springs pool. The mountain scenery is easily the equal of anything else in Colorado, and the area is fabulously user-friendly.
If it were up to me, I'd skip Rocky Mountain NP, spend more time on the Skyway, and stop by Great Sand Dunes NP as you head east. There's nothing quite like the Great Sand Dunes, really remarkable natural feature, and fun to tromp around on.
On an itinerary this crowded, I'd probably combine Canyonlands and Arches, staying in one central area near Moab and checking out Arches and Island in the Sky/Dead Horse Poin over the course of a couple days. You don't have time for the Needles district. This will minimize the number of times you break camp and pack up. There is a private campground in a residential area near the center of Moab - doesn't sound very enticing, but it actually is pretty darn nice under a canopy of trees on the banks of Mill Creek, and very convenient to both town amenities and the National Parks (to bad I can't remember the name). Otherwise, you'll find campgrounds at the nearby parks, and primitive at-large camping along Onion Creek in Castle Vallet, and along the Potash Road. The former will be HOT and exposed w/ little shade, and the latter will likely be buggy (due the proximity of the Colorado RIver).
Aug 19, 2012 9:02 PM
5Yes, skip Rocky Mountain National Park--you're coming from the San Juans, which are nicer. I'd spend a day at most in Great Basin, too--it's fine, but I've never wanted to spend more than a day there. This would leave you more time to cover the hundreds of lesser-known parks and natural areas which you haven't mentioned, past which you'll be driving. Mesa Verde is just one example. You'll hear about more. Or you'll have a chance to head into the Needles District at Canyonlands, weather permitting (you don't mention what time of year this trip is planned for). Or to drive parts of the northern California coast, to stop in at Mt. Rainier, to play in the volcanic features in the Oregon Cascades....etc.
Hope that's helpful.
Aug 19, 2012 9:53 PM
WHEN do you plan to do this? It affects statements about the need for reservations.
What happened to Grand Canyon National Park? It is practically next door to Zion.
Do you know that there is no water at some of these places? Canyonlands for one.
Do you know you may need/want reservations for campsites? Have you looked at the website for each park for the options available to campers? They vary considerably from park to park.
You are spending days on the San Juan Skyway but there is no mention of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park or Mesa Verde National Park. Are they part of the days on the San Juan Sky Way? You pass right by them.
I would also suggest that you do more research on what you can see and do at each park. Your length of stay at each park does not seem to correspond well to the attractions at each park.
Have a great time whatever you do.
Aug 19, 2012 10:32 PM
7I agree with your plan to skip Yosemite. It's nice, but honestly, it's just not worth it. Crowds, prices, hassles...
I'd also encourage you to look at the millions of acres of beautiful wilderness that are not national parks. Some things that come to mind are the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon (and Washington), Inyo National Forest in California, Grand Staircase in Utah, and many, many more...
It seems to me that you have a decent amount of time at each park to get a feel for the place, except too long at Great Basin and too short at Zion. Of course, you could easily triple the time in each park and not get bored - especially Olympic, Zion, and Yellowstone. But, if this is your first trip, it will be good exposure to places and regions you'd like to return to. For example, I was good with one visit to Glacier, but would happily return to Redwoods for a week annually for the rest of my life.
Aug 20, 2012 1:27 AM
Aug 20, 2012 4:59 AM
Aug 20, 2012 6:36 AM
10#7, that's funny, the examples you give about getting a feel for places you'd like to go back to. I liked the Redwoods (the National Park and the adjacent State Parks), but I don't have any particular plans to go back. I'd visit Glacier every single summer if it was a little more convenient for me to do so.
I've really only made a quick stop at Great Basin - it seems quite nice, but I'm not sure that it is particularly more spectacular than any of the other mountain areas on this itinerary. Sure, you could spend a few days there - there are good trails into the high country and a well-known cavern - but I'm not totally convinced it is a great use of time on this overstuffed itinerary. At the very least, you're blasting through southern Utah, which is a unique and spectacular region that could use a bit more attention.
That said, June and July will be HOT in the desert parks of Southern Utah. Bryce will be nice at higher elevations, and Zion at least has some cool, watery hikes. Arches and Canyonlands will be hot, hot, hot - especially Arches. Just be aware, and prepared. Camping may be somewhat uncomfortable, although it does cool off nicely at night.
Aug 20, 2012 8:05 AM
11Flagstuff, yup, it takes all kinds. We enjoy the cool green coast more than the mountains. Of course, cool green coastal mountains are even better - e.g. Olympic or Kenai Fjords.
Aug 20, 2012 8:59 AM
Aug 20, 2012 4:44 PM
13It's a shame to miss Death Valley or Joshua Tree but since you mentioned you'll be traveling in June/July, too hot for those places.
Aug 20, 2012 6:29 PM
14Here is my proposed mud-map take. I have also dropped Rocky Mountain NP, and added a night on the San Juan, plus a visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, and a night in Denver before hitting Flatland again.
I have also added in one or two additional overnight stops (between Glacier NP and North Cascades NP, for example) to keep driving per day below very long hauls.
Night 01-02 -- Kansas City + near Badlands NP
Night 03-04 -- Badlands NP + Rapid City
Night 05-05 -- Gillette WY
Night 06-12 -- Yellowstone NP + GTNP
Night 13-16 -- Glacier NP
Night 17-17 -- Couer d'Alene
Night 18-20 -- North Cascades NP
Night 21-26 -- Olympic NP
Night 27-28 -- Portland + Crater Lake NP
Night 29-29 -- Crescent City (Redwoods)
Night 30-31 -- Fort Bragg + Lassen Volcanic NP
Night 32-33 -- Lake Tahoe + Great Basin NP
Night 34-35 -- Great Basin NP
Night 36-36 -- Hurricane or Springdale
Night 37-38 -- Springdale (Zion NP)
Night 39-39 -- Bryce Canyon NP
Night 40-40 -- Torrey UT (Hwy 12)
Night 41-41 -- Canyonlands NP
Night 42-43 -- Moab (Arches NP)
Night 44-44 -- Placerville CO
Night 45-45 -- Cortez (Mesa Verde NP)
Night 46-46 -- Montrose CO
Night 47-48 -- Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
Night 48-48 -- Denver
Night 49-50 -- Kansas City + Nashville
But overall, I think your research and planning has been very good -and you have (mostly) allowed sufficient time for the long drives between highlights. And I appreciate this is exclusively a camping trip - so towns are included as mileposts, rather than places you would actually stay in overnight.
(4 star Hotel)
From US$207.36 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$239.00 per night
Lake TahoeBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$98.92 per night