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Old 10-05-2017, 02:21 PM   #1
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Looking for guidance for upcoming national park adventure

My wife is retiring in approximately six months and we want to take a trip to the following National Parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Glacier. In addition, a one -month tour of Alaska is included in this trip.
I am looking for input on the following aspects of the trip:
1. Should we start in the Southern U.S. in May and travel north to Alaska or start in Alaska in August and travel south completing the trip in Southern Utah?
2. What reservations need to be made at this point, 6-10 months in advance?
3. Any words of advice would be welcome. We will be traveling in a 1995 Dodge -ton pickup with diesel engine, canoe, 25 foot Flying Cloud and two mountain bikes.
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Old 10-05-2017, 02:55 PM   #2
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Looking for guidance for upcoming national park adventure

Sounds awesome. If you have a home base from which you will leave and then return to afterward, roughly where is that?
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Old 10-05-2017, 03:20 PM   #3
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Sounds like a super trip!

I can't answer your question exactly, but one thing you might do is check the seasonal opening and closing dates of the various National Park campgrounds, as well as their annual weather patterns, on-line. I think most of the parks have at least some camping year-round, but very few will have hook-ups. Some of these parks are at high elevations: Bryce is a lot further south than most of the parks on your list, but it sits at 7000 to 9000 feet, so it gets pretty frosty in autumn and spring. Most of the parks do have gateway communities with RV parks nearby.

If you want to camp in the parks during the peak camping season, I would suggest getting reservations as soon as you've determined your itinerary, for the parks that take them. Canyonlands does not. I don't think Bryce does. However, Moab near Canyonlands and Arches has a lot of RV parks, and a lot of Bureau of Land Management campgrounds and dispersed sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. We've stayed at the Ruby's Inn RV park near Bryce and the Spanish Trails RV park near Moab and can recommend them.

Also, you might want to add to your itinerary in these areas Dead Horse Point State Park near Canyonlands (spectacular views, and a state park CG that takes revs) and Capitol Reef NP which is also spectacular but gets a lot less crowded.

I'd get advance revs, myself, coming from Tennessee, because otherwise you could drive all that way and find no room at the inn. Booking in advance will also give you a choice of sites in some of the parks.

The parks you mention are spectacular, but they have gotten crazy crowded in recent years. If you need to cancel, you can do that, just loosing your reservation fee, not the full cost. Hopefully you've got your National Park seniors' pass if you're 63+. If not, I'd recommend it because you get free admission and half-price camping in the parks.

https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/se...ss-changes.htm

If you go through the spectacular Zion NP tunnel, you will need to pay an additional small fee.

Then when you're in the parks, it's best to get up really early to view the iconic sites like Old Faithful and Going-to-the-Sun road, just to find parking. Zion has a mandatory shuttle to reduce traffic congestion. Glacier and Bryce have shuttles on an optional basis, and limits on roads where you cannot tow a trailer.

Please allow a lot of time for such a long trip. Several days per park. And allow time for other wonderful sites along the way.

Have a wonderful journey.
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Old 10-05-2017, 04:43 PM   #4
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I've been to all those parks. Not Alaska. My recommendation coming from Tennessee would be the following order.
Mesa verde
Monument valley
Canyonlands
Arches
Bryce Canyon
Zion
Grand Canyon north rim if open(weather dependent)
Grand Canyon south rim
Sequoia/kings canyon
Yosemite
Alaska
Glacier
Yellowstone
Black hills

Reservations as soon as possible.
Have fun and give yourself plenty of time.
Out west, keep the tank above 1/2.
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Old 10-05-2017, 05:11 PM   #5
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Way too much for a six week trip IMHO. Unless you are the drive by tourist.
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Old 10-05-2017, 06:07 PM   #6
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The way I read it was all those parks plus 1-1/2 months for Alaska alone. If trying to do all this in 6 weeks I definitely agree with TG Twinkie.
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Old 10-06-2017, 10:49 AM   #7
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You are going to be at the mercy of when campgrounds are open in or near these parks. Step 1 should be to find out when each park and its associated campgrounds are open, and step 2 should be to get your reservations in. Expect to need reservations everywhere, especially if you are traveling at peak tourist season.

It is going to be tough to do all of this stuff in a logical order (ie., continuous path). You don't want to be in the desert southwest in the heat of the summer, so try and hit those in the spring or fall. You don't really want to be in Alaska in the Spring or Fall, or even August (rainy season). Ideally, you would want to hit Yosemite off of the peak tourist season, but because of snow and the elevation, their campgrounds open late in the spring and start closing in September.

Maybe start in the spring in the Desert SW, then up through California in June, on up into Alaska through July, then down to Glacier and end up at Yellowstone in August/September...

Good luck!
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:10 AM   #8
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Read the book dear Bob and Sue
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:29 AM   #9
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Hi

One of the "interesting" features of the Rocky Mountains is that elevations increase as you go further south. That tends to "level out" some of the seasonal advantage between starting at one end or the other.

Some very rough planning math:

Total driving ~ 10,000 miles (as a guess)
Travel per driving day 300 miles (average)
That comes to 34 days of just driving.
Sight seeing to drive ratio 2:1 (2 days out of 3 sightseeing)
You now are at about 100 days.
Laundry / grocery / repair day ratio 9:1 (one day in ten)
That gets you up to about 110 days.
Rain / snow / wind day allowance 4:1 (likely not enough ....)
Up to 130 days

Is that a perfect way to plan something like this - no. It does give a rough idea of what's likely involved. Even on a pretty quick trip it's 4+ months. Start in May, back in September.

We like something more in the 4:1 or 5:1 drive to stay ratio. Three to one is pretty fast. There is a *lot* to take in at every single place on your list. There also are some very neat places along the way.... (hint: the Canadian parks !!!)

Travel day math:

300 miles at 60 MPH is 5 hours of driving. You will not hit that speed over 50% of your route. If you want to get into the next site by 4 PM, that's a 10 AM departure with an hour for lunch / bio-breaks. With breakfast / dinner / tear down / set up / check out / check in .... that's doing pretty well.

Bob
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:54 AM   #10
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Also, 300 miles per day, day after day, with a trailer in tow, is the opposite of fun.
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Old 10-06-2017, 02:35 PM   #11
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Why in a hurry? Are you both retired? I would cut your trip into 1/3 and enjoy with spear of the moment changes.
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Old 10-06-2017, 02:41 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Rocinante View Post
Also, 300 miles per day, day after day, with a trailer in tow, is the opposite of fun.
Hi

.... and the answer is *not* 600 or 900 miles a day, even more so if your average speed is below 40 MPH (which it will be for part of that trip) .... yikes .....

Bob
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Old 10-06-2017, 03:52 PM   #13
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Many folks here have made these trips so lots of great advise.
We have made the trip to those parks several times over the past 10 years ...except not to Alaska...yet! Got as far as Jasper this year and turned around due to fires... Banff and Lake Louise area are worth some time however, if you can spare while in the area. Great campgrounds just outside Banff called Two Jacks Lakeside..

If your going to Alaska, I would consider leaving in May, go directly there, and hit Banff and Glacier Parks on way back in June/July. Then down thru Yellowstone and Titons, on to Bryce, Zion, and over to Canyon lands, Arches, Moab, Mesa Verda, etc.. great trip for sure, but crowds in mid summer likely will be very large again; getting into the campgrounds in the parks without reservations is a challenge.

There are plenty of commercial campgrounds, but that can get expensive, so if you can get reservations, I recommend booking asap. Last couple years, crowds have been exceedingly large with lots of tent campers. We try to get to a site where we know we have a paid night, then scout around to see if we can get into the park systems somehow with cancelations or first come/first served status. Good luck and hope you have a fantastic trip!
(below- Arches, Mesa Verde, Bakers Hole outside West Yellowstone, Lake Moraine Banff, and Apgar West Glacier campgrounds this year.)
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Old 10-06-2017, 04:31 PM   #14
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A tall order!

We are on our way back to northwest WA, after a great loop trip to Fossil Butte Nat. Mon, down Flaming Gorge to Dinosaur Nat. Mon., into Moab for 4 nights. While at Moab we rented Polaris RZR off-road units and took two Hummer adventures. Highly recommend this. Of course we saw Arches and Canyonlands. Then wonderful scenic drives from Blanding to Hanksville, through Capitol Reef NP. We will have been gone about 17 days total.

I say this, because your road trip seems way too much, unless you spend a year out here. Just in all the wonder of southern Utah, one can spend a few weeks. There are many more scenic, yet almost unknown areas to enjoy (Kodachrome Basin SP, Pink Corral Sands SP,...).

Moab area is still booked and crowded, we got in due to cancellations. We can't imagine how difficult it would be driving in Arches with the throngs trying to find a parking space at each scenic pullout-it was difficult for us this past week.

The known national parks and monuments are booked as soon as reservations can be made. Very busy. If one tried to schedule their trip and secure reservations, then one is tied to a strict schedule (we don't like). No time to say " this place is great but we must leave."

I know it is a long drive for you, but maybe divide it into future visits for a more pleasant adventure. The national parks and monuments are best seen before Memorial Day and Labor Day.

You didn't mention the Rapid City, SD are to see Mt Rushmore, Blackhills, Devils Tower, the Badlands.

Whatever you do, happy travels!
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