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Old 09-13-2015, 09:50 AM   #1
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"Great Western Park Loops" - from the east

Hi everyone!

I want to get everyone's ideas/feedback about tackling mid-length trips of the great western parks of the United States (Canada will be later,) where travel originates from the eastern seaboard.

While I realize many individuals in the forums may have the luxury of taking extended time in parks, I am still mid career, and of my four weeks vacation per year, I can only take two week blocks (which for me comes out to seventeen days off (it does, don't worry).) The final peg to my puzzle is once I drive out, I will be met by my brother's family who will fly out - him, wife, three under age 12 children; who have a week (nine days) to spend. All of us originating from Washington D.C. metro areas.

So these trips are expected to be flash introductions, two or three nights at each location with day hikes, travel in each location as are available. Later in life, when time affords me, I'll likely return for the deep country backpacking/tent experiences with my airstream as a base camp -- for now, its to give the kids the experiences while they are young; and give me the enjoyment of time with them and my brother and his wife, at each location. I would want to keep their travel times between parks or locations down to a ten to twelve hour day, if possible. And although I firmly believe its the trip that counts rather than the destination, I would fuel via truck stops, sleeping at each alternate fueling location on the inbound/outbound; non-stop. (yes, Bad Ian! No biscuit!)

There are some immediate/obvious loops, such as Grand Canyon-North Rim - Zion - Bryce - Dinosaur Nat Monument; or Glacier - Yellowstone (in depth, or Badlands on the return.

Any other immediate/obvious suggestions using the time we have? Think "Brady Bunch Vacation" here.

Thanks!

Ian
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:20 AM   #2
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Ian, we did virtually the same thing with our 2 boys back in the 90's.

3 weeks at a time, picked out a section of the country, looked at as much as we could with hope of returning to those area again for extended stays.

Now our 2 are grown, have their own families and rigs, and Susan and I have started over, going back and revisiting those area.

Did the Grand Canyon with them first, then Yellowstone, and on. Covered all 48 lower states and most of the big parks.

Lifetime memories, no regrets.

Get out there and get started. John
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Old 09-13-2015, 11:11 AM   #3
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My Son & I did a similar trip from ATL 4 years ago. So glad we did, great trip & he has finished college & gone on to HIS life. From ATL, we pretty much drove straight to Sioux Falls, SD, then to Badlands NP, Custer State Park, Mt Rushmore, then on to YENP, Grand Teton, the red rock parks of Utah, Grand Canyon North Rim & straight home. That (and a detour to Boise) took 45 days. You would probably be better served to make 3 trips out of that. Maybe Badlands area, YENP/ Grand Teton is one. Then Utah, GCNP, etc is another and so on. The driving distance from VA are pretty long, but it's so worth it. And the planning part is a whole family thing, holler if I can help. . .. . . Travel safe, Craig
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Old 09-13-2015, 12:04 PM   #4
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check out...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...oop-52156.html

zep had a nice thread + attached photos worth viewing.
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Old 09-13-2015, 12:17 PM   #5
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I would suggest you do Yellowstone and Grand Teton on the same trip, because they are so close to each other and so far from everything else. Two great parks.
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Old 09-13-2015, 01:01 PM   #6
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You might want to consider finding a storage facility out west once you get the trailer there. That way you could fly into a central location like Salt Lake and your AS/TV would already be there for follow-up trips. Driving cross-country isn't really fun unless you have the time.
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Old 09-13-2015, 01:18 PM   #7
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You might want to consider finding a storage facility out west once you get the trailer there. That way you could fly into a central location like Salt Lake and your AS/TV would already be there for follow-up trips. Driving cross-country isn't really fun unless you have the time.
Good idea; but it removes the use of the TT the remainder of the year - I usually head out three nights every other week. Also, and undisclosed above, we aim to do the PEI/NB/Maine circuit as well, so may go west, east, west, east, etc,

[edit: As a tangent, I've seriously considered buying into the Minnesota Airstream Park as a means by which on a weekend I could drive the unit there, fly home, and keep it as a "head start" for retrieval a few weeks later for such excursions into the US and Canadian western states]

Good excuse to get a second airstream though! :-P
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Old 09-13-2015, 07:21 PM   #8
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If you go during peak times, it helps to be flexible and be able to stay on or off the grid. I have solar and also travel with a generator (2 if I think it might be hot). Scout out locations for boondocking in advance in the event you're unable to get spots within the parks you want to visit, or if the spots that are available don't have all the amenities. There have been several recent posts about excellent spots to boondock near Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. Some of our best times have been spent away from RV parks: the dog runs free and I shoot at pinecones with my bow and arrow while drinking wine under my canopy. I would choose such spots two nights out of three if I knew in advance where they were. It's the uncertainty of driving around at the end of the day when I'm tired that gets to me.


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Old 09-13-2015, 08:19 PM   #9
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More info. Will all the people involved be staying in your airstream?

Or will others need other camping or lodging?

What ages and physical challenges will the kids present? (do any still need to nap? do any get motion sickness? Can they all ride bikes? Can they all walk/ hike for 2 miles while carrying their own water and snacks? How late can they stay up at night?)

How much car sightseeing does the group wish to do vs physical activities such as hiking, fishing, etc.?
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Old 09-13-2015, 08:53 PM   #10
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You might want to consider finding a storage facility out west once you get the trailer there. That way you could fly into a central location like Salt Lake and your AS/TV would already be there for follow-up trips. Driving cross-country isn't really fun unless you have the time.
I've seriously considered this, there is a place called Full Service Storage near Salt Lake that would deliver your rig to you at the airport. You would sign a lease, keep it with them, they would look after it. Indoor storage.

I still may do it, but extended trips would be every other year for us. So the rig would sit there for 2 years. Not sure if I'd want to do that. We'll see.

We just came back from a trip like this. It took 4 days of driving each way to get to, and back from, WY from MA. That's 8 of the 17 days. I would also advise coming back a day early for the purposes of sanity. We also flew people to MN and from WY. So you are looking at much of that 17 days on the road and until you are really out there, the view and drive is really bland.

I also have a diesel TV. Don't know how that would fare sitting there for months on end.

So there is a lot to think about. The way I solved it in the end is take a month off and gun it.
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Old 09-14-2015, 01:20 AM   #11
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One thing to consider is that the major national parks are now getting horribly crowded during their peak season-- and according to the rangers, the "peak season" is getting longer and longer. In Zion, it's apparently February through November now. We've managed to visit all of the parks you mentioned within the past year except the North Rim, and lemme tell ya.....

Of course, they're all sooo worth visiting, but you might consider what you enjoy doing once you're in a park. Sight-seeing mostly? Cycling or day-hiking? Photography? Then it might be best to focus on just a few parks so that you can get out of your vehicle, rather than a long grand tour that leaves you mostly driving, as the distances in the West are considerable.

If you can get a very early start in the mornings, you can beat some (not all) of the crowds for the most popular features.

Yellowstone: allow extra time (like at least a day or two more than you might think) because this park is huge, the speed limit is 45 MPH, and drivers constantly stop in the middle of the road to photograph wildlife. The really cool thermal features are mostly on the west side of the park.

Tetons: As Field and Stream mentioned, this park is so close to Yellowstone that it makes sense to combine them. Insanely beautiful mountains.

Glacier: Also very busy during peak season, but if you can leave your AS in your campground and your TV has high clearance, you can leave the crowds behind by driving up the west side to Kintla and Bowman lakes. (Rough road but you shouldn't need FWD.) You won't be allowed to drive your trailer over the popular Going-To-The-Sun road (Logan Pass,) but you can park it and drive your vehicle; or better yet, take the optional shuttle bus so that you don't have to mess with parking when it's crowded. Waterton Lakes NP is in Canada, but adjacent and also very beautiful. The concession boat trip from Waterton townsite into Glacier NP is really enjoyable.

Zion: Very hot in summer. Shuttle bus required to drive up the canyon. There is equally beautiful but different scenery on the Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyon roads.

Bryce: Cooler due to high elevation. Summer shuttle bus available but not required. You can walk for miles along the relatively level rim, and there are also short day-hike or less type-trails into the formations that allow for interesting loop walks. Depending upon your route, Cedar Breaks National Monument is not far off and has similar scenery.

One other trip to think about might be in the red rock country of eastern Utah and southwestern Colorado: Arches NP, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands NP, and Mesa Verde NP. If you make it over to Escalante, Utah (over some amazing slickrock formations,) there is an Airstream RV park there.

If you have to plan your trip during the high season to any of these places and want to camp inside the parks or in nearby RV parks, I would suggest campground reservations made in advance. I don't think Coulter Bay CG in the Tetons usually fills up and apparently Mammoth Hot Springs at the north side of Yellowstone usually has space, but the others can fill up and often do. (Alternatively, shooting pine cones with McDave might be more fun.)

Have some wonderful adventures!
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Old 09-14-2015, 03:13 AM   #12
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If you go during peak times, it helps to be flexible and be able to stay on or off the grid. I have solar and also travel with a generator (2 if I think it might be hot). Scout out locations for boondocking in advance in the event you're unable to get spots within the parks you want to visit, or if the spots that are available don't have all the amenities. There have been several recent posts about excellent spots to boondock near Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. Some of our best times have been spent away from RV parks: the dog runs free and I shoot at pinecones with my bow and arrow while drinking wine under my canopy. I would choose such spots two nights out of three if I knew in advance where they were. It's the uncertainty of driving around at the end of the day when I'm tired that gets to me.


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Agreed -- I've already used dispersed camping on the south rim of the Grand Canyon during my college days (tent camping only back then; but saw my first real Airstream during that trip if I remember right.) I understand the north rim is a bit more restricted on where dispersed camping is allowed, but it's definately for research at/for all other locations.
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Old 09-14-2015, 03:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Piggy Bank View Post
More info. Will all the people involved be staying in your airstream?

Or will others need other camping or lodging?

What ages and physical challenges will the kids present? (do any still need to nap? do any get motion sickness? Can they all ride bikes? Can they all walk/ hike for 2 miles while carrying their own water and snacks? How late can they stay up at night?)

How much car sightseeing does the group wish to do vs physical activities such as hiking, fishing, etc.?
The plan, and tested already in local KOAs, is to use both trailer and tent(s) depending on circumstances, weather, etc. Generally the boys like the adventure of the tent; where Florence (niece) owns the dinette when converted down to the double; Frank and Wei are comfortable on the front L-Lounge, converted to queen, and Florence can easily join them if the boys take over the dinette during heavy weather. [As much as a 28A twin setup would be better for sleep space, my height demands I take the 28W queen ben for myslef :-P ) The kids still demand early nights - which is good as when I camp out in the trailer, I find that I quickly match myself to the diurnal cycle. Once the sun goes down, unless I am planning to stay up with coffee and telescopes, I am out. All of them are very active, so walking and hiking inner gorge at the GC will be no great issue; bikes I am not sure we'd even bring.

I really do not think car sightseeing is much in the books -- the kids are more the type to want to get out onto trail; so the car is for delivery to adventure rather than the source of adventure.
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