Road trip for 3 - 4 weeks western and northwestern USA
Replies: 35 - Last Post: Dec 1, 2012 3:48 PM Last Post By: bzookaj
Nov 27, 2012 6:01 AM
Road trip for 3 - 4 weeks western and northwestern USAHi guys
I'm travelling to the states for a few weeks next summer and have never been to the us before. I have made a detailed plan of my trip but am not sure if I'm am completely unrealistic or wheather I can pull it off. I'm going with my girlfriend and we are on a veRy tight budget. We plan to rent a car and camp wherever it is safe and free. For everything else and cities I will look for hostels
My problem is I am dying to see so much Im finding compromise difficult. I have never drove long distances before but I am willing to do the driving since is all very American and very beautiful. Here's my plan.....feel free to rip my dreams apart !!
Vegas 2 nights
Grand canyon stay 1 night
Daurango 1 night
Drive through million dollar road to Grand junction and stay 1 night
8 hr drive to Jackson and stay 1 night
Yellow stone and stay 1 night
Glacier park Montana and stay 1 night
Glacier national park canada 1 night
Stay somewhere on the trans Canadian highway and stay 1 night
Vancouver 2 night
Portland 3 nights. ( Staying with friends )
Stay somewhere between Portland and los Angeles for 1 night
San fran and stay 3 nights
Late eveing drive to Hostel outside Yosemite and stay 1 night
Yosemite drive to glacier point and on to wagona road
Bakersfield 1 night
Santa Barbara ?? And stay a night.
La 3 nights
Stupid right ? Too much ?? Not enough time ?
I'm open to any sort of ideas the only parts I can't change is that i fly into Vegas and leave through Los Angeles. I love scenery and nature but am afraid that we will have car fever after a few days. I plan to not drink ( my god ) and leave early each morning to relax and enjoy the driving and stop for a few hours here and there. I want to do most of driving during the day so as not to miss anything. Here's the worst part. I have approx 2500- 3000 for two people and my car rental to come out of that as well.
Oh and only I can drive !!
Edited by: Leonidas1986
Edited by: Leonidas1986
Edited by: Leonidas1986
Nov 27, 2012 7:03 AM
"Dispersed camping" is not allowed in national parks, except for designated backcountry areas.
It is also generally illegal to pull over on the side of the road and camp.
Camping is often free on BLM land (national forests, etc.), though there may still be restrictions as to where you can set up (minimum distance from roads/water, no fires, etc.).
Europe make this two words instead of one. So many people do it that I figure it must come from somewhere.
I got through the first paragraph and will immediately say Waaaaaaaay too rushed. Yeah, I even bolded it to get your attention.
Let's put it this way:
Yellowstone (again, one word) is roughly half the size of xWales. Do you go to xWales for one night? You could spend a week in the park and still have plenty left to see.
And you drive 5-10 hour days just so you can tick these places off your list.
A much more reasonable trip would be more like this (assuming 4 weeks).
The car rental will be around half that, so say you have 1500 left. That's roughly 54/day for two people to eat, pay for gas, sleep, entrance fees, etc.
You need more money. (If those are not dollars, but pounds, you are doing a little better, but not much.)
Nov 27, 2012 7:11 AM
Be aware that so-called wild or free camping, where you pull over at some likely-looking spot and set up for the night, is generally not tolerated in the US. There are some public lands that allow camping outside of established campgrounds, with some restrictions. You may not be able to camp near water or have a campfire, for example.
You can sometimes park for the night in the parking lots of certain large stores an truck stops, but you can't set up camp.
In general, in National Parks, you can only camp in established campsites. In some places, such as Yosemite, they can be very hard to get--reservations are snapped up the second they become available.
Americans view camping as a way to experience wilderness, not as a cheap lodging alternative. Therefore, most established campgrounds are located away from urban areas.
For US$80, you can buy an annual pass that will admit both of you to National Parks and other lands. If you go to several parks, it will save you money on entrance fees.
Nov 27, 2012 7:23 AM
3You will have to pay to stay in safe campsites in the national parks unless you are willing to backpack in about 3 miles on trails, for which you need a permit.
One night in Yellowstone is ludicrous.
You have too much driving and not enough time getting out of the car to actually experience any of these places.
Save yourself $2500 and buy a book of postcards.
Nov 27, 2012 7:46 AM
4Welcome to the TT forum and I guarantee you this - you and your girlfriend will have a great time touring around the western U.S. IF you don't rush it too much.
First, a focus on terminology just for clarification:
Northwestern USA: Just for clarification, when you say "northwestern USA" that means to most people the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. More generally it also includes northern California down to about Eureka and western Montana.
Camping: There are many levels of what people generally call "camping" in the U.S. ranging from parking an RV in a developed campground through multi-day treks into the wilderness, pack on your back with all your gear and food. This leads to another term that is often confused - backpacking. In the U.S. backpacking means multi-day treks into the wilderness carrying all your survival gear with you, whereas in Europe backpacking means budget travel between hostels using a backpack as luggage.
Budget: You say you have "2500- 3000 for two people", but are these British pounds, American dollars??? Regardless of currency, you say a rental car comes out of that as well as all your travel expenses in the U.S. and that sounds a dangerously low budget (whether pounds of dollars), but please specify.
OK, some general information. You emphasize camping, "wherever it is safe and free" and bjookaj rightfully pointed out "and legal." Here you are in luck as there are millions of hectares of public lands in the western U.S. where you can camp for free or for very little, BUT only where allowed. Areas where you cannot camp are usually (but not always) posted with signs. Sometimes whole areas (like National Parks) have a general rule to camp only in designated areas, and camping outside of designated areas is illegal. Also, National Parks, Forests and Monuments require you have a parking pass which you can buy for about $35 and is good in all federal public lands, but you should have it.
To plan your trip for camping you should contact the websites for the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. Together, these agencies manage millions of hectares of America's most magnificent lands including mountains, forests, deserts and ocean shores and you can get maps, camping information and all sorts of good information for free just by visiting their websites.
As far as a rental car - yes, you need a car to access the National Forests, National Parks and other public lands, but don't fall into the trap of thinking you need an RV or four-wheel drive. Just rent an economical sedan, buy some inexpensive camping gear at WalMart or Big-5 Sports, load up a cooler with steaks and brewskies and head out into the forests/mountains/deserts.
Overall your route is very spread out with some questionable destinations (Bakersfield? - I wouldn't make Momar Quadafy go there). Other places deserve far more than you've allowed (Yellowstone is magnificent - one day isn't enough). Finally, it doesn't look like you have planned travel time between your destinations, a fatal mistake as distances are huge and time consuming.
By the way, the very best time to visit the western U.S. is September - October, not summer. In September the weather is still good, the kids are back in school, prices start to drop and the National Parks and Forests are much less crowded. By mid October, winter is starting in the western mountains and the first snow storms are blowing through higher elevations.
Overall, save up some more money, check out the websites I've recommended, and come back here with a more focused plan. You'll be glad you did.
Nov 27, 2012 7:51 AM
You will have to pay to stay in safe campsites in the national parks unless you are willing to backpack in about 3 miles on trails, for which you need a permit.
Nov 27, 2012 8:32 AM
6The best trip plan is whatever is enjoyable to you. If your goal is to simply catch a glimpse as you pass through and be able to say 'been there, seen that', then go for it. However, if your goal is actually to see the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and a few other places sufficent to appreciate and understand the significance, then heed the advice from the other responses. Personally, I could not do the trip with the level of speed and intensity you describe.
Coming to the forum is a good step, but there's lots of research you need to fill in details.
I'll speak to National Park Camping - in most, if not all, national parks in the USA, camping is only permitted in designated campsites. National Forest land frequently allows for camping in the backcountry, sometimes with and sometimes without a permit. This requires planning ahead and checking the laws and regulations in each area. There's not much opportunity to pull a tent out and camp indiscriminately.
Keep digging for info and good luck!
Nov 27, 2012 9:00 AM
Nov 27, 2012 9:17 AM
8Thanks guys....I need to digest some of this. The enthusiasm is great and I can't wait to see America in the flesh.
I plan on spending two full days in Yellowstone. I am staying in Jackson the night before, to arrive at daylight the next day. that night I will camp in the park itself and drive around continue northwards through a few sights the next day.. I won't be able to do any hiking but some of the main sites are accessible by road...I thought
. My trip is planned so that we have full days to explore certain areas and early starts so that I can stop off in towns and sights along the way.. What I'm worried about most is time. I am worried that trips that take 6 hrs on google map will take 9 or 12 hours. Otherwise I plan to drive 6 hrs max each day. Is that still unrealistic or will it become a hell.i don't mind paying for camping it just seems like there are lots of free sites as well. I would mix it up with Hostels and camping.
I know a lot of guys will give me hell for passing through but coming from Ireland I have two choices !! I can either limit what i see in America but experience more or see lots of things and experience less. All the driving routes I've selected look amazing so even though it looks like I'm just ploughing through a list ( and I am ) driving through particlar areas to experience classical American landscapes and that is the main reason I'm going.
the money is in pounds which works out at 4000 dollars. I could stretch it to $4500. I have been quoted a rental price for 4 weeks for £600 ( $1000). Too good to be true ? Gas seems cheap in the us at about $130 per 1000 km ( or was it miles ). I know I'm pushing it but is this trip possible any tips.
I guess if worse come to worse I turn the car off change the plan and stay in fewer places. AT worse I lose a few quid on reserved cAmping spots.
Ps - why do we keep writing Yellowstone as two words. The main reason I think most people in Europe put Yellowstone is because of auto correction on the keyboard. In Europe it's not on the British dictionary and definitely is not on european dictionaries. I was too lazy to change it myself !!
Nov 27, 2012 9:39 AM
9Yes, six hours a day in the damn car will rapidly become hellish. Throw in another 1~2 hour each day to find a campsite, set up, tear down, eat something, etc.
Day after day after day.....
Yea, that sounds like SO MUCH FUN!
You're in such a hurry to rush off to the Next Greatest Thing...
Do you have ANY idea how many magnificent places you'll be driving past?
There is NO NEED to drive a bazillion freaking miles to see interesting things. Interesting, pretty scenery is everywhere. Suggest you budget one week per state (even that is a push) and slow the hell down long enough to see and appreciate the world around you. I know you won't listen, but do wonder why do you even bother to ask...?
Nov 27, 2012 9:47 AM
Nov 27, 2012 10:24 AM
11Leonidas, Did you try to calculate the miles your trip adds up to and the amount of petrol it will require?
Also- does the car rental include unlimited mileage? Does the rental company allow you to take
the car across state lines and into Canada? Your budget is going to evaporate
on the cost of gas and the rental alone. The pace you have set up for this itinerary simply can't
be maintained for more than a week- you will be far better off paring it down and driving less.
Sometimes, as Thoreau said, Less is More.
Nov 27, 2012 10:29 AM
12I arrive in Vegas and depart from Los angeles. I have to head to Portland no matter what - for a few days....but it doesn't' matter when.
Geo....hold your horses..I am listening...and already it's obvious I need to scale down, so I will. But not without a fight !
Thanks for the suggestions though ! God...why does America have to be soooo darn big. You don't get these problems in Eire.
Nov 27, 2012 10:37 AM
13OK, so you could rent your car in Las Vegas, do all your driving around, and then return it to Las Vegas, and then take a flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to connect on your return flight home (saving on one-way car rental fees).
When during your trip do you need to get to Portland? Anytime, or at the beginnng or end?
Nov 27, 2012 10:41 AM
14America has to be so big to house all us Irish, as there are now more in America than Eire!
A couple ideas- we have incredible National Parks in the West. Just three hours northeast from Vegas is
Zion National Park with Bryce Canyon NP just a couple hours farther. Grand Canyon is about 5 hours
southeast from Las Vegas. In California, we have world-class Yosemite National Park and Sequoia Nat'l
Park. These are already where you have to go- so consider checking them out- maybe substitute them in
lieu of Yellowstone/Colorado. We also have a lot of state parks that are awesome. There's so much to
see in California, Arizona and Utah that you really can have a great American Road Trip in the far West.
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