3 weeks in the USA - East or West!?
Replies: 58 - Last Post: Mar 7, 2013 9:25 AM Last Post By: FlagStuff
Feb 4, 2013 6:07 AM
3 weeks in the USA - East or West!?Hi all,
My girlfriend and I (from the UK) are heading to NYC for a wedding in August this year, after which we'd really like to travel around a bit. Ideally we'd really like to drive where possible, but taking into account the size of the country I'm well aware that we need to be careful not to be too ambitious (!). We're happy to take an internal flight if necessary, and to juggle driving with public transport, and we're aware that the drop-off fee will make hiring a car for the whole trip pretty expensive.
We're both fairly outdoorsy (me more than my girlfriend), and interested in landscapes, history, food, music, and the like the idea of deep south culture etc. I love mountains. A lot. We'll be carrying our lives on our backs and are happy to face a bit of uncomfortable travelling where necessary in order to save some money.
The two options currently under consideration (early days!) are;
1) Train to Washington, hire a car there, and drive down the Blue Ridge mountains/Shenandoah/Great Smoky Mountains to Knoxville, then interstate it across to Nashville, on to Memphis via Jackson, then down the Natchez Trace to finish in NOLA. I'm well aware that the southern end of this trip will be extremely hot, in advance of comments on the subject! Also aware that this is quite a lot of distance to cover, so I'd anticipate a few serious driving days to cover the distance, coupled with slower days such as the Appalachian segment.
2) After the wedding, fly from NYC to Denver, hire a car there, and drive to San Francisco via the National Parks, Vegas etc.
Planning is at a very early stage, but we're both very keen on either the deep South, or the Rockies/West coast etc, so would like to wrap the trip around one of these.
Thanks in advance for the invaluable advice!
Feb 4, 2013 6:24 AM
Feb 4, 2013 6:28 AM
2Probably a silly question, but is New Orleans to SF worth considering, or is that too far to be feasible in the timeframe?
Feb 4, 2013 7:08 AM
Feb 4, 2013 7:27 AM
Feb 4, 2013 8:12 AM
- How long do you have after NYC? You keep mentioning time frame, but I don't see any mention of specific timing unless I'm missing something.
- Taking the bus to DC is a lot cheaper than the train. Check Boltbus.com and Gotobus.com.
Feb 4, 2013 8:19 AM
6Some people might say this would be a little rushed but you could consider combining the two options. Maybe fly from NYC to NOLA, rent a car out of NOLA and drive around for a few days to get your southern fix. Then fly from NOLA to Denver and do your driving out west. The drive between NOLA and Denver would be very long and lacking in interesting stops if you only have 3 weeks total. Also, if you're going to end up in the Rockies, missing the "mountains" on the east won't be a big loss.
Feb 4, 2013 8:27 AM
2 nights Savannah
3 nights Charleston
2 nights Asheville
3 nights Smokies
2 nights Nashville
2 nights Memphis
1 night Clarksdale
1 night Vicksburg
1 nigt Natchez
3 nights New Orleans
Expect heat and humidity.
Feb 4, 2013 8:30 AM
Feb 4, 2013 9:04 AM
9I love mountains. A lot.
like the idea of deep south culture
I think this was mentioned above, but you'll pretty much have to choose. The Appalachians are pleasant, but can't even remotely stand in for the Rockies or Sierras of the west. If you're really keen on the south, then do that, and spend a bit of time in the hills while you're at it.
If you're more excited about high mountain scenery and landscapes of epic scale, head west. The west is not without its own cultural flavor, if you're interested you can pick up quite a bit the pioneer/old west/native american history along the way. Three weeks is a great amount of time for this. You should spend at least a few days touring through Colorado's Rockies, with and emphasis on the southwestern part of the state, then at least a week through Utah and Grand Canyon to Vegas, then another week up the 395 and into Yosemite before ending in San Fransisco.
Alternatively, you could fashion a loop based out of Denver, Salt Lake, Vegas or even Albuqueruque, taking in Colorado's mountains and the national parks of the Utah and Arizona. Each starting point has it's advantages, which we can discuss if you think you'd like to pursue that option.
Feb 4, 2013 11:22 AM
10I'm not sure if either of these are right for you but (aww shoot am I gonna recommend these again?), I'm, and NYC area hiker/nature/scout leader guy.
You can easily day trip via public transport from NYC to either Bear Mountain (for beginners) or Breakneck Ridge (not for beginners), which has been continuously and repeatedly rated the #1 hike in America.
Each are just north of NYC near West Point, NY.
Feb 4, 2013 11:27 AM
Feb 4, 2013 11:45 AM
12Breakneck Ridge (not for beginners), which has been continuously and repeatedly rated the #1 hike in America
It looks like a hoot of a good time, but I hate rankings like "Best Hike in America!". Can anyone say that Breakneck Ridge is objectively "better" than Angels Landing in Zion, to pick just one similar-in-spirit western route? I'm going to guess... um... no.
Feb 4, 2013 11:51 AM
No, no one can objectively say that. In fact, its consistent high rating might be more related to the fact that it is in a densely populated area than because of its overall quality.
But I think most hikers are smart enough to get that.
Feb 4, 2013 12:18 PM
I will have to agree with the comments by FlagStuff. In the order and manner that you've described your interests, the western US would be your most impressive option. The Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains are very nice, and you would find lots of great music and food in the area. The idea of southern culture seems to be a popular theme these days, though the western states have their own unique lifestyle that would be quite different from what you have experienced in the UK. You'll also find great food and music in the western US, with a much more impressive variety of landscapes, mountains, and hiking. Combining all your interests, I think that the western region of the country would give you an overall more satisfactory experience.
You mentioned flying into Denver - that's not a bad starting point, you could make a loop from there. Make your way up to Rocky Mountain National Park, camping or staying in Estes Park. From there to Dinosaur National Monument. Then up to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. With a full 3 weeks you might be able to include the parks in southern Utah in that itinerary and end up back in Denver. OR, you could drive from Rocky Mountain National Park to the parks in southern Utah, then hit Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, then back to Denver. Towns like Durango, Estes Park, Jackson Hole, and Moab have some great restaruants and festivals worth considering.
If you like the idea of including the coastal areas you could fly into San Francisco and visit the northern California Coast, the Redwoods, Yosemite, and Kings Canyon. A trip up the coast with stops at Crater Lake, Mount St. Helens, and Olympic National Park would definitely be a good trip. August/September is when major festivals like Burning Man in northern Nevada and Bumbershoot in Seattle are taking place. Lots of Native American and pioneer history throughout the west too.
Many options to consider, but I have to recommend the western states based on the description of your interests.
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