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  1. Default 3 wk western US trip


    First of all, this is a great site. I'm still in the process of looking through everything.

    I was hoping to get some advice, tips, places to see, stop, etc

    My plans for my trip are roughly:
    Start: Berkeley, CA (July 22)
    End: Los Angeles, CA (August 10th)

    Places to go:
    1. Lassen National Park
    2. Crater Lake National Park
    3. Olympic NP
    4. Maybe stop in Seatle and go to Vancouver
    5. Banff/Jasper NP
    6. Glacier NP
    7. Yellowstone NP
    8. Grand Teton NP
    9. Maybe Bryce and Zion NP
    10. Las Vegas
    11. Los Angeles (home)

    Do you think that's possible in the amount of time I have? I'll be going with my lady friend. Any advice, comments, etc are greatly appreciated!

    Right now, I'm thinking that Olympic, Banff, and Grand Teton are our top priorities. We're still trying to decide how many days to spend at each, what to do, etc. Anyone know of any great hikes, scenic routes?

    Thank you everyone!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Best of the Western US (and Canada)

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    First off, you're looking at around 3750 miles in 21 days, so that is not a big strain. It averages to less than 200 miles a day. That means you'll actually have some time to enjoy the places you're going to be spending so much time getting to. So as long as you and your companion don't mind driving a moderate amount most days, this could be a very enjoyable, and quite scenic trip. The one thing that's going to be missing is any in depth understanding of any of the great parks you'll be seeing. But as long as you understand that this is a smorgasbord kind of trip - go for it. Just be sure to get a National Parks Pass either before you leave or at the first park entrance that you come to. It will end up saving you quite a bit of money. Also be sure to stop at the visitor centers of each of the parks for advice on which hikes will best meet your desires. These people are a wonderful resource and will have up to the minute information on the conditions of their parks, particularly important during fire season. In any event, you will have a tough time finding non-great hikes or non-scenic routes on this trek. You might also want to have a look at posts by moderator Judy on the Pacific Northwest, such as this one.


  3. Default

    A few random comments?
    1. Lassen National Park

    If you can take the time and hike up to the top of Mt Lassen. It's doable in a few hours, and the view is incredible on a clear day. Also, depending upon your schedule, you might hit up Burney falls, one of the best falls in California for viewing.

    2. Crater Lake National Park

    Which way were you thinking of heading out? If you head up 99 towards Bend and beyond, you can come down the Columbia River Gorge to Portland, and from there over to the coast at Astoria. (Don't forget the replica Stonehenge in Golden WA, just across the river...) If you do this, you can drive pretty up along the coast of WA to the Olympic National Park.

    For alternatives you can duck up 5 from Portland and see Mt St. Helens, or you could have headed west from Bend through the 3 sisters mountains, which is a nice drive. If you go to Mt St Helens, you may miss part of the WA coast.

    3. Olympic NP

    Definitely the Hoh Rain Forest, and Lake Crescent, and Hurrican Ridge. There's a nice and not too expensive hotel at Lake Crescent -- if you're with your significant other, its a nice romantic stop. There's also a faily easy hike up to a very lovely waterfall behind the hotel (on the other side of the highway) that's very nice.

    4. Maybe stop in Seatle and go to Vancouver

    As an alternative, if you're not fixated on Seattle, head for Victoria BC by ferry from Port Angeles, and from Victoria over to Vancouver by ferry. Vancouver is a nice place to visit -- hit up the Royal BC Museum and enjoy the town and ferry rides.

    5. Banff/Jasper NP

    Depending upon time, there's a slower route to Jasper. You'll take the Icefields Parkway south instead of north. Head north from Vancouver to Whistler, and then NE through Cache Creek, Kamloops and up the 5 to come into Jasper from the west. From Jasper you'll go south towards Banff. Make sure you take the ride on Glacier and visit Lake Louise.

    [ ... ]
    9. Maybe Bryce and Zion NP

    Depending upon your taste, there's again a slower, alternative. Cut SE from south of Provo UT, to Green River. From there you have a western or Eastern route (through Moab) down through Glen Canyon/ Canyonlands National Park to Mexican Hat and the northern entrance to Monument Valley -- possibly including Valley of the Gods, Natural Bridges and a couple of other interesting natural spots. From Monument Valley you can cut SW to come in at the east entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, from whence its about a half day to Vegas. This is more of a backroads route -- whereas the superhighway route from Salt Lake to Las Vegas is easy and fast.

  4. Default

    Thank you! You folks are great! I really appreciate the feedback. I'll add it to my growing word document.

    I was trying to decide whether to go for quantity or quality. I love backpacking, so I was thinking of maybe doing a few backpacking trips, but in the end, decided that it might be too tiring. In June, I backpacked a few nights in Yosemite and then spent about a week at Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP. The goal of that trip was more towards quality, so this next trip is more about quantity, I guess.

    In your opinion, where would you spend more of your time? Would you cut anything out?

    Right now, I'm thinking of skipping Seatle and taking the ferry. I think it'll be a nice ride and should be good to spend a day in a city.

    Also, I'm hoping that I won't need to make early reservations for most places that way I can be more flexible. Do you think this is a bad idea? In terms of lodging, I'm thinking of camping most of the time in NP, and possibly at KOAs. Anyone have experience with KOA? Also, what about truckstops for a quick shower? I'm driving a Honda Element, so sleeping in the car is a possiblity. A few nights in a hotel would be nice too though.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Quantity vs. Quality

    As Josef Stalin said, "Quantity has a quality all its own." And as you have noted, it is sometimes best to alternate the two. As I pointed out before, I'd treat this trip as a sampler, a way to get a first taste of places, knowing that I'll have to come back later to give all of them the time they deserve. I don't think I'd cut out anything. However, I am a fan of ferry rides - I consider them cheap cruises that give you the best features (time on the water to just relax and think, great views, a chance to talk to fellow travellers) at very low cost. Reservations are hardly ever absolutely necessary, unless you're going to be in an area with a seasonal event happening, and truck stops will be more than happy to rent you a shower and let you sleep in their parking lot as long as you let them know what you're doing and buy something (such as a meal and a shower!)


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts


    Quote Originally Posted by kuodachrome
    I'm thinking of camping most of the time in NP, and possibly at KOAs. Anyone have experience with KOA?
    I have had very good experiences with them - as always, there are exceptions - but, generally, most owners are very proud of their properties and it shows.

    The areas you are travelling to seem to draw one in, and latch on to the psyche. I agree with AZBuck, and you should mix it up. There are views to be had from hiking/backpacking that can't be had from the normal overlooks. After all, isn't part of hiking about the reward? These places pay off.

    When in Utah, have you considered Kodachrome?
    The park is located near Bryce Canyon.

  7. Default

    The last time I was on a ferry was way back when I was in the 5th grade. I still remember it! I just thought it was so cool that the cars went on the boat too. I think I'll for sure that the ferry. Thanks for convincing me.

    Yeah, one of the greatest things about backpacking/long hikes is the feeling of accomplishment. I was gushing with that after making it to the top of half dome, so much that I didn't want to go back down. haha!

    Thanks for the tips about KOA. Any experience with their internet access? I'm bringing a laptop and hopefully can do some last minute research, reservations, etc with it. I'm hoping to use priceline and bidding for hotels to try to get some cheap rates every now and then.

    Kodachrome? I've never heard of it until now, but I might have to check it out. My last name is Kuo (pronouced Koh) and my username is supposed to named after the paul simon song.

    Thanks again guys! I'll try to post more questions when they come to me. any thing else?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default KOA: Not for Me

    I'm going to offer a different view of KOA for you. Generally speaking, I avoid them.

    Its not to say that KOA's are bad, because on a whole they are pretty decent places. They just aren't the camping experience I'm looking for.

    As a tent camper, I like low cost, quiet places with lots of privacy. Running water, flush toliets, and showers are about the only amenities that I am ever interested in, but sometimes just an isolated piece of ground will be the best campsite in the world to me.

    KOA's are very good at what they do, which is offer a family-resort type atmosphere. If you are in an RV and/or think top of the line amenities like swimming pools, game rooms, and camp stores are important, than KOAs are a fine choice. They are all independantly owned so the quailty varies from location to location, but for the most part they are pretty good if you want lots of extras and don't mind shelling out a few extra bucks for them.

    I stick almost exclusively to State, County, and National parks, with private campgrounds generally being my second choice - and KOAs being pretty far down on my list if I'm going the private route.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Some more camping ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by kuodachrome
    I'm thinking of camping most of the time in NP, and possibly at KOAs. Anyone have experience with KOA?
    I have stayed at scores of them -- like most have said, they offer a McDonald's-hamburger-kind-of-experience. Some are very nice, some are less so. Here is a good overview about camping options in this country. (The article was written for RVers, but the info works for tent campers too).


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default The KOA debate & Ferries

    If you plan to take any ferries in Washington, check out the Washington State Ferry website. Be aware that some do fill up quickly for cars and that you will want to be in-line in plenty of time in order to get on. The website will give you particulars.

    I love taking the ferry and do it as often as I can. There are numerous ferry options from the Olympic Peninsula to Canada. You can go to Victoria on Vancouver Island and then, from there, onto Vancouver BC on the mainland. Or you can go through the San Juan Islands in Washington state to places near Vancouver BC. The options are almost limitless. Check out the links to figure out what appeals to you most. If you have any questions, let me know.

    Now, onto the KOA issue: Whether or not I stay in a KOA totally depends on the type of camping experience I'm seeking. If I'm truly camping, meaning I want a wilderness experience with peace, quiet, and hiking opportunities, I stay in county, state, or national parks. However, if I'm on a roadtrip and just want to stop for the night, I quite often stay in KOA campgrounds. They are perfect for the quick stop. Of course, many other private campgrounds fit that bill as well. It depends on whether or not I can find information on another private campground in the area I'm stopping at. Sometimes they are preferable to KOAs simply because I'm a tightwad and they tend to be cheaper. But I will gladly pay a few bucks more for a pool or a hot tub if the other private campground doesn't have these amenities and stay in the KOA instead.

    The main problem with staying at county, state, or national parks when on a roadtrip can be access. Of course, this depends on where you are and where you're going. But if you're burning miles, who wants to drive 10-15-25 miles to just get to the campground? (This is not always the case but it often is. Again, depending on location.) And many of these campgrounds get full very early in the day so, unless you make reservations which I hate to tie myself to when traveling, you will often not be able to get a camping site later in the day. There is nothing more frustrating than driving in circles around a crowded state/national park looking for that elusive open campsite and then, just when you spot it, realizing that someone else is just backing into it. Yes, this has happened to me more than once!

    When on the road, I have often gotten to about early or mid-afternoon and figured out where I'll probably end up that night and then gotten out my KOA directory and called the campground to reserve a tentsite for that night (if I think it might be full due to the business of the season or special events going on). This keeps my schedule flexible but keeps me from having to hassle with making prior reservations. It works well.

    I would never go to most KOA's for an entire weekend or longer camping experience. (There are a few exceptions like the one near South Bend, WA.) In those situations, I am seeking solitude and wilderness experiences and you just won't get that at most KOA's. However, for a quick over-nighter, they are perfect, imho, except for their price which is always a bit on the high side. So, unless there is a nice private campground in the area that is cheaper, I will stay at a KOA for the night without any complaints.

    Hope that makes sense.

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