RV family trip to west coast National Parks in february
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Oct 24, 2012 7:31 AM Last Post By: CascadeBob
Oct 14, 2012 5:14 PM
RV family trip to west coast National Parks in februaryHello, I am planning a family trip to the west coast national parks in february , first two weeks, I would like to visit some of the National Parks and maybe get to Nevada and or Arizona too, My wife is not so happy with cold temperatures, the only chance to go as family is in our Summer vacations in the southern hemisphere, we have never travel in RV in the US.
Do you think NParks will be open, would be worth to visit some of these places during this time of the year , would you recommend skipping some of them or maybe focusing on a few of them during this period.
Any pros and cons of doing this trip at this time....
I have family and friends in San Francisco, San Jose and Alex, so will also make some time to visit them
Thank you for imputs...
Oct 14, 2012 5:49 PM
However, while the parks will be open, some areas may not, such as the north rim of the Grand Canyon and xTioga Pass Road in xYosemite.
Whether you think it's worth it, I can't say.
But with only two weeks, you will definitely need to pick and choose.
Your wife dislikes the cold.
Oct 14, 2012 5:53 PM
2Ah, you have opened the raging RV vs no RV debate that incites strong opinions on this thread. I tend to side with the no RV crowd, but admit there are times when it makes sense.
First define "RV." Do you mean one of those 12 meter long land-ships or something smaller. Also, don't discount altogether the option of renting a comfortable sedan and staying in hotels/motels. Also consider that large RVs are hell to pilot through cities and you will most likely have to park in RV parks which cost about a third of the cost for a motel room. And, of course, they drink gas like a drunkard.
I lean towards RVs being a reasonable consideration for families with kids or larger groups. For couples I recommend a comfortable sedan and hotels.
As to your primary question, "pros and cons of doing this trip at this time."
- Parks will have far fewer visitors than summer or fall.
- Prices for accomodations will be at their lowest.
- Winter scenery can be astoundingly beautiful.
- Desert and low elevation areas will be open and the weather will be good (but cold at night).
- Major sections of many National Parks will be closed for the winter, especially mountainous areas, including the campgrounds for your RV (Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon).
- The Pacific coast can get foggy and will definitely be cold (but not snowy) while further inland winter storms can close mountain highways for a day or two at a time.
- Services and accomodations will be limited for the winter in the mountains.
To follow the warmest weather I would head for Arizona (Nevada can be pretty cold) and check out Organ Pipe Desert National Monument and other desert parks in southern Arizona. Or, ifyou stay in California, focus on Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park - they are stunning. You could also drive the magnificent coastline of the Big Sur along the Californaia coast which has the added attraction of nearby Monterey and 1 1/2 hours north, San Francisco.
Oct 14, 2012 5:57 PM
Oct 14, 2012 6:47 PM
What does your wife consider a cold temperature? For some people zero is cold. For others, it might be 5 or it might be -15. Will she be happy as long as temperatures are above freezing or does she want it to be really warm? What a San Franciscan might call "cold" might be "comfortable" for you.
You say "family." Is it just you and your wife or will there also be children?
It sounds like you have traveled by RV in other countries. Why do you like RV travel? For example, if you think you will save money by not having to pay for a hotel room, you may find that it is not really that way in the US. In most places, you will have to pay for a place to camp. In National Parks, you must stay in organized campgrounds, for which you must pay. Campgrounds may not have shops or laundries. Some will not have showers.
Oct 14, 2012 7:11 PM
5In two weeks you could sample much of southern Arizona and southern California.
Do you already have an RV, maybe a friend's? Or will you rent one? Keep in mind that they can be very expensive and, as mentioned, some of the places you are likely to visit may be rather cold.
Renting a car and renting a room will probably be quite a bit cheaper than a one-way RV rental, plus fuel, plus any developed 'campgrounds' you want to stay at. If you do get an RV, will you be comfortable setting up in remote, rural areas? There are lots of location, mostly National Forest land, where you can simply pull over and set up and enjoy the local scenery. Of course, you're then stuck at that location and are limited to seeing any areas you can walk to. If you're looking to see a variety of local points of interest, a car is generally more flexible. A 'campground' can be a crowded, noisy RV park, or a beautiful creekside meadow... your choice.
You could fly into Phoenix (or Tucson, if the price makes sense), and make big loop on the way to San Francisco. Drive south to see several parks in the Tucson area before heading north to see the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and some pretty scenery in Owens Valley. Then drive west to the Morro Bay area and follow Highway 1 up the California coast to SF.
Tucson area highlights.
Grand Canyon area.
Zion is a moderate detour, but worth it if you don't mind the cold. (It's elevation is a little higher.)
If you enjoy hiking, you could spend a week here. If not, 2 days will probably be enough.
and of course...
As always, "What activities do you enjoy?"
The Grand Canyon will be cold and possibly snowy due to its elevation. It's about the only place you're likely to encounter a severe winter storm. (Some of the mountain passes near DV can get enough snow to be troublesome.) Most of the other locations are reasonably pleasant, although a winter storm may bring freezing night time temperatures for a few days. Detailed climate information at http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/Climsum.html
Oct 15, 2012 9:39 AM
6Yosemite Valley has one RV campground that is open all year, the valley is only 4000 feet elevation so it typically does not get a lot of snow but can have significant storms from time to time. Chains are rarely required and roads and campgrounds are regularly plowed. Redwood Natl Park is open all year and snow is unlikely and rare, but it does rain a lot although there can be beautiful sunny days during the winter (not warm but mild weather). Crater Lake is under heavy snow and while roads are usually kept open camping is not. Lassen Natl Park is also usually pretty inaccessible in the winter. Lava Beds Natl Monument is in a stark but beautiful setting amid lava beds, many lava caves and the Modoc war history, always open. Lake Tahoe region is very scenic, has a lot to offer and is almost always open with well plowed highways and a few RV campsites somewhere in the region (maybe nearer to Reno or Carson City). Lots of skiing opportunities, people, in RV's, overnight in ski area parking lots in some places.
The Oregon and California coast are snow free all winter typically and while they get a lot of rain they also get some sunny weather in the north, while central and southern California get some very nice winter weather although not nice enough for swimming anywhere. Like others have said the So Cal desert areas are typically very mild to warm in the winter and so is Arizona. Just driving through the intermountain west can be very enjoyable for people who haven't seen the tremendous vistas and mountains that abound here.
Oct 16, 2012 5:49 AM
7Geo_nerd's recommendation on flying into Arizona (Tuscon) and making your way from there to San Jose and SF is a good one though you may have a fair amount of driving along the way. Parks like Organ Pipe, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree will be comfortably warm during the day and lovely to visit. You may need a sweater/fleece at night once the sun goes down. You'd only need about one full day at Organ Pipe and perhaps 2 days at Joshua Tree. Death Valley is quite big and you could spend days and days there if you wish but certainly a couple days there would be enough to give you a flavor of the variable terrain there.
Each of these three parks are beautiful in their own way and particularly Organ Pipe, not overrun with visitors though February overall is low in visitation. The exception would be February vacation week which includes the US holiday of President's Day though if your travel is the first two weeks of the month you will miss it as it typically falls during the third week of the month.
Addendum: I forgot the wonderfully beautiful Saguaro National Park right next to Tuscon. The best place to see these lonely giants of the cactus family that you often see portraying Arizona and the US southwest in general. There are some of them in Organ Pipe Nat'l Park but more concentrated in their self-designated park.
Edited by: nicole
Oct 16, 2012 11:02 AM
Oct 20, 2012 1:44 PM
9Yes , I will travel the third and fourth week with my two boys and wife.
I have travelled here in south america by RV and has ever worder that could do the same in some part of the US! The bad luck is that the only free time we all have to plan vacations is at the end of our summer vacations, yours winter time...
I woul love to visit even cold places but my wife prefers to avoid them...so not getting too much north would be good, the alternative to move to Az grand canyon and Nevada to SFrancisco area could be good.
Do not know if with a RV you are not allowed for example to gett into some cities...
Any good ideas on where to rent a RV in this area, what insurance Imshould get , any must too from people with experience n RV trips,
Oct 24, 2012 7:05 AM
10Given that you are going to be traveling the third week of February and President's Day falls on Monday February 18th 2013, I highly recommend that wherever you end up going, you will need to decide soon to book any reservations you may need for that week. This is a school vacation week for much of the US and many families travel during this week, making advance bookings essential. It will also mean more crowds at kid-friendly places but this can not be avoided.
Oct 24, 2012 7:31 AM
11"Do not know if with a RV you are not allowed for example to get into some cities."
There is no law against driving RVs in the cities except for some very occassional and specific restrictions for vehicle height and width on some small avenues. But these are few and easily avoided. The bigger point is that driving a big land boat through cities is a pain in the ass. Finding parking for it is another matter and some cities are particualarly difficult to negotiate with a large vehicle (San Francisco for example).
As for renting a RV, this is one of the major RV rental companies in the U.S. http://www.cruiseamerica.com/rent/?gclid=CNnc7ovumbMCFSmCQgodjCsAXA
As for insurance - no worry - the rental company won't let you drive their RV off the lot without it and they'll be sure to charge you a premium for it.
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