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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Mn
    Posts
    7

    Default 4 months on the road out west!!

    Hi there everyone,
    Let me start by saying I'm new to the site as well as a first time road tripper so any and all advice will be much appreciated. So the long and short of this plan is that I got a few grand saved up from busting my backside this summer and I want to spend as much of the fall and winter as possible out west. I've never been beyond the Mississippi so I have a LOT to see. I know about all the major national parks but some of the smaller more obscure ones are beyond my radar. I have been living and working in the back woods of Mn for a few years now and need to get out and about. Anyway I am planning on embarking early November from southern Wisconsin and returning to Northern Minnesota in March or April. I am particularly intereted in wilderness areas, state/ national parks, and especially FREE camping. That is going to be the mainstay of my trip: staying overnight wherever as cheap as possible so if anyone has info on free or cheap camping in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, or Oregon please let me know. I am also interested in finding interesting off beat places to grab a bit to eat. Please keep in mind I will be attempting to avoid major metropolan areas for the most part. I may head to some cities in Washington, and Oregon but other than that I'm looking for a back woods experiance. Anyone with helpfull info please respond with any tips you may have. Thanks a ton.
    -The good Dr. Kwaz

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default Camping

    Welcome aboard!

    For free camping, you can Google "Free camping" and it will bring you to places that have free places to stay. I'm assuming that you have a tent and a sleeping bag, and the proper equipment.

    For cheap camping, the state and national forests come to mind. Most of them have a campground or two, some of them free or close to it. (Except in California, which is closing a lot of state parks, and the campgrounds weren't cheap to begin with.)

    Take a cooler along, and you can probably eat as cheaply on the road as you eat at home, especially if you also have a camp stove. We have a forum about saving money on your trip, so read some of the tips in there.

    The only problem you may run into, as far as national parks go, are park road closures and campgrounds because of snow or ice. The parks themselves are open, but you may not be able to get to all of the points of interest. Some of the parks close down some or all of the campgrounds during the winter months, as they aren't needed and therefore save on resources.

    Our advice is always about the same: open up a good USA road map, start highlighting the places you want to see, and a route will probably appear. If you need help with the routing, we can help once you know which parks you are interested in.

    The most popular parks in the west include Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Yosemite, Sequoia, Zion (UT), Mt Rainier (WA), and the Grand Canyon (AZ). Some of the lesser visited Western national parks include Carlsbad Caverns (NM), Canyonlands (UT), and North Cascades (WA). Plus Joshua Tree NP (CA), Bryce Canyon (UT), Petrified Forest (AZ), Lassen (CA), and Crater Lake (OR).

    Hope this helps! Holler if you need more help!

    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Roadtripping on a shoestring.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Donna has given you a good outline to start with. I would add the National Parks website, which has all the information on all national parks. Check these out as to their regulations regarding camping and hiking etc. Similarly, each State will have a website for their State Parks, and all the information regarding camping in them. You will find similar resources for National Forests and Monuments, as well as State Forests, etc.

    As mentioned, if you search free camping, free campsites, boondocking and similar terms, you will find a lot of information... but be aware! Not all those places are safe and / or legal. Many, if not most are more suited to RVs and campers. There are however, some out there. Only research will help you find them. If you are not tent camping, and have a vehicle such as an SUV with mattress and a four seasons sleeping bag, then you could overnight at travel plazas (truck stops). These are 24 hour operations, have bathrooms and shower (fee) facilities as well as budget restaurants. We would advice strongly against pulling into rest areas for the night. This is rarely legal and almost never safe.

    Finding offbeat places to eat is best done by asking the locals. The standards and focus of such establishment changes with each change of ownership or management. And whereas we may have found a place last year, it could be very different this year.

    Make sure you make good use of Welcome Centres along the interstates and Visitor Centres in each place through which you may pass. These can often be a wealth of information about the local gems and off beat places. Ranger stations and offices likewise. In fact, there is an almost infinite resource out there along the road. You just have to look for it, stop, and ask the relevant questions. I have never found one where the staff were not eager to help me.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 08-27-2011 at 08:01 PM. Reason: add info

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default Another thought: AAA

    It occurred to me that another resource is AAA. If you aren't a member, it's worthwhile to join because of all the benefits. Great maps, tour books, and of course emergency road service come with an inexpensive membership. They have "Camp Books" too, though these are not extensive. You can get a TripTik made up from your chosen route, and that helps to know where the gas-food-lodging-camping is that's along the route. (Lodging and camping only if AAA approved.)

    Little thought of benefit is to stop along the way at a AAA office and pick up more detailed information about an area. We've done that several times, with one of the most memorable times being in the Gold Country of CA.



    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Mn
    Posts
    7

    Default thanks for the info

    Thank you for the responces,
    I am curious by what you mean by some of the free camping is not safe, Are there gangs of road warriors out and about highjacking unsuspecting citizens or is it just that there are a handfull of fools in the world looking to roll an easy target? In any event I will probably be traveling with at least one other person at all times and I myself am no slouch. Is this caution an indication that I should bring some sort of protection? Anyway I do not want to get too hung up on that.
    As far as specififcs it seems that the two of you who have responded have been out on trips befor so I am curious what you think an appropriate budget would be for this long term trip. Currently I have been saving up for about 3 months and have a few grand stashed away. First off what do you think gas will cost for a vehicle that gets about 20 to 25 mpg? I will be traveling in my truck w/ topper so I can easily sleep in the bed. I have tons of camping equiptment and will probably bring a tent and some other gear seeing as I want to hit some hiking trails and will want to get off the road from time to time. This brings me to anouther point. Are there safe places to leave a vehicle for a few days at a time while I day trip into a few of these parks or do I need to worry about schmucks breaking in for a tape deck or something? I work in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and that sort of thing is not an issue up here but I dont know what its like out west.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,545

    Default Costs.....

    Gas prices: figure out how many miles you're going to put on your truck just going from place to place, and then add 25% for tooling around. Go to the fuel price gauge on this website, enter the mileage, your MPG (figure lowest), and $4 gallon (more if your truck is diesel). That will give you an idea of how much fuel is going to cost.

    For good measure, figure on an average of $10 per night for your overnight fees. Lifey suggested that rest areas aren't safe because most of them are in rural areas and not particularly well lit. Yes, muggings and break-ins happen there. Some boondocking areas (ie free camping) are set up more for RV's, with no water, portapotties, available for tenters. Travel centers/truck stops work better for RV's and those who have a mattress in the back of the truck to sleep on (as long as you have good ventilation-heating-etc). After using $10/night, figure in a few motel stops for those times when you want to sleep on a real mattress, have a shower and TV available, etc. You can get a decent place in a rural area for $40-50 if you shop right.

    Food - - if you are planning to bring a cooler and camp stove, you can eat about as cheaply as you do at home. Figure on a restaurant meal here or there, particularly for those times when it's pouring down rain just as you are about to make your meal in camp. (It's happened to us MANY times.)


    Donna

  7. #7

    Default What about backpacking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Kwaz View Post
    I am particularly intereted in wilderness areas, state/ national parks, and especially FREE camping.
    Are you into backpacking? You could easily spend an entire summer doing several multiday-long backpacking treks (with free camping obviously) interspersed with short drives. You would need to get Wilderness Permits in a lot of those areas, but as long as you avoid the really popular areas, that wouldn't really be a problem...

    --Jon

  8. Default

    You need to visit Colorado and Utah.
    Get on I70 West in Denver and travel over the Rock Mountains.
    Take exit 214 in Utah. Get on 128 South which goes to Moab (Arches National Park).
    128 runs next to the Colorado river inside a canyon.
    89 South is pretty cool also.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Mn
    Posts
    7

    Default Backpacking and camping

    Yes, I do intend to do a good deal of backpacking and back country camping. I am currently a canoe guide and outfitter in northern Mn so I have a great deal of experiance in the bush. As for food for the trip i generaly dehydrate my own meals and cook them over a hikers stove (ultralight camp burner) If anyone has experiance in the national parks out west I would greatly appreciate routing advice and info on camp sites. In the BWCA (were I work) camping is restricted to designated sites, does this hold true to other national parks or can I bushwack in and make my own camp? On a similar note what are the rules as far as beach camping goes in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California?

  10. #10

    Default Backcountry rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Kwaz View Post
    In the BWCA (were I work) camping is restricted to designated sites, does this hold true to other national parks or can I bushwack in and make my own camp?
    Leaving aside your question on beach camping, since I don't know the answer, my experience out West is that, most (but not all) of the time in the backcountry you can select your own campsite subject to certain restrictions (at least a certain distance from water and trailheads, mostly) wherever such camping is allowed - some areas are restricted to dayhiking only. There are restrictions similar to those you cite in Boundary Waters in certain heavily tracked locales. Also, there are certain stretches of BLM land on which you may camp for free. There are, of course, no services, water, etc. For example, you can camp for free right on top of Muley Point in Southern Utah. As long as it's not windy, you probably won't get blown off the edge. (This photo is taken less than 100 feet from the free camping spot.)
    .
    Unfortunately, I am not that knowledgeable about the part of the country you are specifically asking about - most of my backpacking has been in California and Utah. I have heard wonderful things about the Wind Rivers in Wyoming though...

    --Jon

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