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  1. #1

    Default 4 week west coast National parks road trip

    I have silently visited this site a lot in the past few months and have found a lot of good advice. My fiance (29 years old) and I (25 years old) are planning a 4 week long National Park road trip. We have done a few long long road trips before (5,000+ miles each) but this one I think might be the best yet. We have trimmed, altered, cut & added and think we have a good route planned out. My fiance is currently getting a bachelors in photography and next quarter will be his last quarter so instead of finding things to photograph for his porfolio around our state (Minnesota) we decided to do a roadtrip of the west coast and photograph a bunch of National Parks. It still is a vacation so I am looking for other fun things to do along the way. Here is the route, we are unsure of how many or what days we are staying at each place cause we are waiting for his school schedual to come out for next quarter but we know it will be 4 weeks.

    ~Minnesota -T Roosevelt NP
    ~T Roosevelt NP - Glacier NP
    ~Glacier NP - Yellowstone NP
    ~Yellowstone NP - Teton NP
    ~Teton NP - Bear lake (border of Utah & Idaho)
    ~Bear Lake - Salt Lake City
    ~Salt Lake City - Capital reef NP
    ~Capital Reef NP - Bryce Canyon NP
    ~Bryce Canyon NP - Zion NP/Glen Canyon NRA
    ~Zion NP/ Glen Canyon NRA - North rim Grand Canyon
    ~North rim Grand Canyon - Las Vegas
    ~Las Vegas - Death Valley
    ~Death Valley - Sequioa NP
    ~ Sequioa NP - Yosemite NP
    ~Yosemite NP - San Fransico
    ~San Fransico - Los Angelas
    ~Los Angelas - Joshua tree NP
    ~Joshua Tree NP - Sedona, Arizona
    ~Sedona, Arizona - North rim Grand Canyon
    ~North rim Grand Canyon - Mesa Verde NP
    ~Mesa Verde NP - Cayonlands NP/Arches NP
    ~Cayonlands NP/Arches NP - Aspen Colorado
    ~Aspen Colorado - Rocky Mountains NP
    ~Rocky Mountains NP - Wind Cave NP
    ~Wind Cave NP - Bad Lands NP
    ~Bad Lands NP - Minnesota/Home

    So I have few random questions.
    Does this seem do able in 4 weeks?
    Is there any fun things besides National parks that are must sees along this route?
    I was also wondering does anybody recommend sleeping on air mattresses? In past road trips we always did a combination of car sleeping and hotels/motels. This time we are doing tent camping which will be my first time camping. We are taking a car so we are pretty packed so there is no room for cots so I am thinking either foam mattress or air mattress. What do you recommend?
    Does anyone know of where I can find a detailed list of what to bring? I know all the basics of what to bring but I am looking for things I might miss for example things I might need for camping cooking, ect.

    Thank you, I would love to see any advice anyone has :)


  2. #2


    Im also wondering if anyone knows of must see points of interests/routes/places to go within these National parks. We have both not seen any of these parks and dont want to miss out on any beautiful things inside the parks.

  3. #3


    Hi Gracie,

    As you can see I'm no expert, but just counting your stops, it looks like you have about 25 destinations in 28 days. That seems like too much to me. You won't have any time to relax. I would really like to see what other people have to say. To be honest I tried to map it out on google maps, but for some reason I couldn't calculate mileage. However, all that being said, what an incredible trip! I have taken a road trip every year for the past three years and I haven't stopped at all your stops. In my amateur opinion, I would make some more cuts. I feel like you and your fiance will be driving and driving and then getting out, snapping the pictures and moving on to the next stop. I know I couldn't do it, as it sounds too stressful to me.
    I look forward to reading other opinions. I do wish you an awesome and safe trip!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Ambitous.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    On paper your trip is doable but in reality it is a heck of a lot.

    I agree with the above, you can quite comfortably cover the miles in the time you have but really won't have a lot of time in any one place with so many destinations. I would estimate that you will spend half your allotted time driving by the time you add in secondary/park roads, which leaves just 14 day's in and around your destinations, many of which you could easily spend 2 day's at.

    I would look at compacting your trip so you have more quality time rather than endless hours looking at the views through the windshield of your car to be perfectly honest.

    You can find all the info on each park through the NPS find a park map and then you will realise there are just too many options to list for each park, never mind them all. Lol ! One of the surprising things is how much wonderful scenery and things to stop for there are between 'A' & 'B' but it's probably best to work on them later on when you have nailed down your itinerary some more.

    On a trip of this lenght and pace you will not want to sleep in the car as you won't get a good nights sleep and will suffer the following day, invest in some basic camping gear at least.

    Remember to purchase an annual parks pass for $80, after 4 parks it would have paid for itself, this does not include camping fees etc and keep in mind that campgrounds will be extremely busy and the popular parks most likely booked out.

    With a Month to travel in I think you can have a wonderful trip [a lot of us can only wish for such time] but sometimes less is more, plus there is alway's another time.

    Take a look around the RTA site, there is lot's of info in the tool bars above as well as the forums, see what you think and get back to us with any further questions.

    Enjoy the planning !

    [I am presuming from Sedona you mean the South rim and "North" is a typo ?]

  5. #5


    Thanks, I am not actually planning on stopping at all these places (most but not all). Some are just going to be driving by like Salt lake city, we are not stopping there just driving by. So its not as much as it seems. Although it is a lot.
    We are planning on camping at some of the parks. I have never done camping before but im pretty excited about it.

    And I ment South rim of Grand canyon after Sedona :) lol.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Definitely still a lot !

    Yes I understand that not everywhere will be a stop but the same cautions remain. If you are OK with a whistle stop tour it's doable, but to stop and get a real feel of these parks, [of which some are huge] it will soak up the time quicker than you might imagine. Two to Three day's in each of the following combo's; Yellowstone and Tetons, Yosemite and Sequoia, Zion and Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands and you will only have just scratched the surface. Start adding a couple of day's in Rocky mountain NP, Grand canyon, Mesa Verde etc and your "free time" has long gone.

    Camping in the National parks is great so you have every reason to be excited. Most have some "non reservable" sites on a first come first served basis, so arriving early will give you a better chance of securing a spot, good luck !

  7. #7


    We are thinking about adding another week for a total of 5 weeks to give us a little more time at certain places such as yellowstone, Yosemite, and other better parks. Does anyone know of any must see things within the National parks?

  8. Default Make two lists.

    Camping takes a lot more time out of your schedule than you might imagine. Finding a campground, setting up/taking down. Be sure to allow for it or you'll be setting up in the dark. Staying several days at one campgroud can really extend your "quality" vacation hours.

    These are all great destinations, so my advice is to research them and pick several that you'd like to spend several days at. Yellowstone and Zion sure fit the bill (do the "narrows" riverwalk in Zion!). Other places will easily fill one long day, such as Bryce and Arches.

    Plan your trip along these, with others to "see if time allows". That way, you're free to stay as long as you like if you fall in love with one of the parks. And you can decide if you'd like to give up one more day, in favor of a pick from your alternates list.

  9. #9


    after further revisions we have narrowed down our "mainstays" the following is our key areas where we plan to spend at least one night and many 2-3
    -glacier np
    -yellowstone np
    -a few of the southern utah parks zion/bryce,etc
    -grand canyon
    -joshua tree
    -rocky mountain
    there are several other places we plan to spend day time visiting such as la(we have been there before), possibly san francisco, sedona, salt lake city, vegas, denver area, a few other smaller parks, these will mainly be passing through for the day or a few hours.

  10. Default Suggestions and ideas


    I have some random tips:

    Your trip may become stressful, covering so many miles during the summer heat. Prepare an itinerary but be flexible enough to change and alter course if necessary. It helps pass the time if the navigator also reads information (from tour books, brochures, websites, etc.) while driving through an area. Books on CD are also a good option.

    Google Earth is a valuable resource. You can turn on the photograph option and see photos that are posted by other travellers. It will give your boyfriend ideas for places to take photos along the way. Be aware that a lot of people are careless and do not place the photo where the picture was taken.

    As mentioned above, check out the National Park Service website for information and maps. Try to plan your trip to arrive at the visitor center as early as possible to find out about camping availability and things to see.

    Practice using your camping equipment at home before you go the trip. Learn how to set up the tent and light the stove at night with a flashlight. Get an idea how long it will take to set up and break down your campsite.

    Developed campgrounds with showers and washers/dryers generally only take quarters and do not have change machines. Bring a bag of quarters.

    Bring plenty of ink pens and smaller bills so you can fill out the campground receipt envelopes and pay the exact amount.

    Keep in mind that some places are closed on the weekends or open at reduced times. Also remember that you are traveling through time zones and adjust your watch.

    A small brush/broom is helpful in keeping the tent interior clean.

    I think Zion National Park and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon limit vehicle traffic by requiring you to park your car and take trams to vist portions of the park. That might add time to your visit.

    I might have time to make some recommendations of places to visit later. On your way back, after the south rim of the Grand Canyon, you should consider Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park (my favorite), Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. Wind Cave National Park is like Carlsbad Caverns in that they have underground tours. You have to arrive at the right time (generally early in the morning during peak tourist season) to get tickets to take a tour. The Black Hills of South Dakota has several other sites like Mount Rushmore, City of Deadwood, Custer State Park, etc.

    At this time of year in Utah and Arizona, a wide brim hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are almost mandatory. Travling west during dusk or east in the morning can be painful to the eye and create vision problems and fatigue. I also bring glass cleaner and paper towels to take care of those times when I drive through a cloud of bugs. I always clean the windshield and headlights when I get to a campground so the car will be ready to drive the next morning.

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