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  1. Default West Coast in May

    Hi,

    My girlfriend and I will be travelling together with our 1 year old boy for 3 weeks in May from San Francisco to Salt Lake City per SUV. Rough outline of the road entails a grand loop through Yosemite NP, Nevada NP, Las Vegas and the Arizona NP's.

    Since we like to be as flexible as possible in itinerary, I was wondering if there was a real need to make reservations for camp grounds in this period (7-28 May). Somewhere I have read that especially NP's get busy as from Memorial Day which is this year on the 30th and hence just after our trip. What would you recommend and do you have any other specific tips?

    Greetz,
    Willem

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,749

    Default I would check them out.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    The National park campgrounds do get busy even early on in the season and places like Yosemite could be booked out already. You can use this NP link to get info on each park you plan on visiting by clicking on the map. You might also want to check out the NP's of Southern Utah like Zion and Bryce canyon into AZ through Page [Lake Powell/Antelope canyon to the Grand canyon South rim, possibly with a side trip to Monument valley. You could consider including Arches and Canyonlands depending upon the pace you are comfortable with.

    If the parks are booked up you will find campgrounds around the surrounding area but there is nothing quite like being 'there'. State parks are another good option to check out.

    There is a good chance that the Tioga pass [CA120] that crosses the Sierras from Yosemite will still be closed which isn't a problem as such. It just means you will have to go up towards Lake Tahoe on the Western side of the mountains after Yosemite and to SLC. The other option would be to leave Yosemite until near the end of your trip and have a little more chance of it being open, but having to go around the Southern end via Bakersfield if not. You could possibly add Sequoia NP to your list in that case. This would mean heading SF to Lake Tahoe to SLC and down through Utah and towards Grand canyon [AZ] before heading to Vegas and possibly Death valley.

    Edit] Having read through your post again I am not sure whether the 'grand loop' is back to SF or whether you are finishing in SLC ?
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 04-21-2011 at 07:08 AM. Reason: Added comment.

  3. Default

    Thanks, we were indeed to include at least Monument Vally, Zion and Bryce to the list. Our grand loop ends in SLC.

    Reading your reply we could best go to Seqoia NP and the possibly forfeit on Death Valley NP.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    Default Or both.

    Reading your reply we could best go to Seqoia NP and the possibly forfeit on Death Valley NP.
    It would be possible to do both with the time you have available, especially as it is probable that the Tioga pass will be closed. Head South to Sequoia from Yosemite and around the Lake Isabella area and into Death valley on route to Vegas. From there you can make your way to AZ and into Utah .

  5. Default

    That would be even better. It seems indeed a good idea to at least try to make reservations for Yosemite NP and perhaps Sequoia NP also because this is rather easy to plan comming from SF.

    Could I presume that for the NP parks in Arizona and Utah there is less need to make reservations since they are further away from the populated West Coast? Or are there specific parks that it is recommendable to have reservations for in May?

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

    No, I wouldn't presume that at all, the National parks are very popular. I am not saying you won't get a site, but I wouldn't guarantee you will get one inside the park either. A lot of parks have campgrounds with non reserveable sites that are given on a 'First come- First served' basis so that is also a possibility.

    For example, I just done a quick search of the Watchman campground in Zion NP for Mid May and it came back as booked out. Use this link and put in the name of the National park on the left with approximate date and you can see how the availability is and what other options there are.

    As previously mentioned, you should have no problem finding sites reasonably close and outside of the park if you didn't want to book.

  7. Default

    Thanks, that is pretty clear. How does this exactly work with first-come-first serve basis? Would you actually need to be there or is it the person who also calls them first during the day?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    Default

    Generally it is a case of who turns up first in the morning gets the site as I understand it, as far as I know telephoning is not an option [?] We have arrived at a pre booked campground later than expected and decided to stay an extra night, but all the bookable sites were gone. We managed to speak to the campground attendant who basically put our name down the night before on 'First come First served' list, so we had secured it that night without the need to rush down first thing.. That's not of much use to you at present, but it's always worth talking to the people who are there.

  9. Default

    Thank you for all your advise and usefull links. I now have a rough outline of the trip we want to make and probably will book some NP's in advance and have a go at the first come - first serve basis for the others. Hopefullly we end up in some 'undiscovered' gems along the way which we would have missed pre-planning it all. In the end, thats what travelling is all about.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,064

    Default

    The good news is that I really don't think you should have that much difficultly going without reservations in most cases. Traveling before Memorial Day is a very big help in this regard, as most families really don't start their summer traveling until that holiday, which is the unofficial start to summer.

    The most popular parks, like Yosemite and Grand Canyon would be cases where I'd still recommend reservations. For the most part, I think you'll be fine elsewhere as long as you are flexible. Usually there is more than one campground available (some of those options may be private campgrounds) and you should be able to find a space somewhere.

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