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  1. #1

    Default Zion, Bryce, Teton, Tahoe...

    Hi all!

    I'm sitting in Scotland planning my third trip out to the western USA for next Summer. I've done two previous mammoth road trips around California / Nevada / Arizona and found this site a HUGE help both times. (Thank you!) I previously visited the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, SF and LA and the PCH, Napa Valley, Sequoia NP, Joshua Tree NP, Mohave NP… so this time I'm hoping to do quite an adventurous route taking in Zion and Bryce Canyon, the Million Dollar Highway, Teton NF and Yellowstone NP, Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite. (I've been to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite before, but in the early Spring, so road closures meant I missed out on e.g. Emerald Bay and the Tioga Pass - hence returning in Summer!)

    I've been poring over maps for days now, and this is as far as I've got with my plan. I've put Google Maps' estimate of the time after each stint - in my experience it underestimates a fair bit, so I'm reckoning on adding 1-2 hours of actual driving onto each of those, plus two or three hours for stopping to take pictures, eat lunch, etc etc. So my first question is whether any of Google's estimates look so wildly wrong that adding an hour or two is still unrealistic?

    My wife and I will both be driving but (and this may make me unpopular here!) we're not very outdoorsy, so we're mostly happy to see the scenery as we drive through it, rather than spending a lot of time out of the car hiking up to the top of Angel's Landing or the Half Dome… so although that's quite a lot of driving, I think it's about the same pace we've done on our last few trips. But we could for example add a day and do the whole thing a little more slowly if need be, or even drop a destination or two if everyone thinks it's insane to try to see all this in the time we have.

    My next question: these stops are really just examples picked to even out the distances on the way around - I've got no particular attachment to any of them, so if anyone has suggestions for specific towns to stay in or even particular hotels within a hundred miles or so of any of those places please do suggest them!

    (Nearly done) - I know it seems a little crazy to criss-cross Yosemite just for the sake of it… well maybe less so on a road-trip forum. I guess that CA-4 would be slightly quicker than CA-108 going west, and CA-88 is another option perhaps. I'm thinking of CA-108 purely on the basis of looking at pictures on the internet, so any first-hand advice would be great!

    And lastly, the two day trip from Teton to Lake Tahoe is, as it stands, just the first (quickest) route Google maps suggested. I think it'd be perhaps an hour more to go via Salt Lake City? But this whole stretch is the bit I know least about (the rest of the trip is based around places I first heard of on this website!) so ANY thoughts about this section are especially welcome.

    Many thanks for any help you can give :)
    Alec

    Day 1: Las Vegas - Zion NP - Bryce Canyon - Escalante (5h 28m, 291mi)
    Day 2: Escalante - Capitol Reef - Mokee Dugway - Monument Valley - Cortez (7h 39m, 382mi)
    Day 3: Cortez - Durango - Million Dollar Highway - Grand Junction - Rangely (6h 15m, 303mi)
    Day 4: Rangely - Rock Springs - Jackson (6h 00m, 336mi)
    Day 5: (Teton National Forest, Yellowstone National Park)
    Day 6: Jackson - Idaho Falls - Twin Falls - Wells (6h 25m, 363mi)
    Day 7: Wells - Reno - South Lake Tahoe (6h 33m, 398mi)
    Day 8: Lake Tahoe - Sonora Pass (CA-108 West) - Tioga Pass (East) - Mammoth Lakes (6h 16m, 290mi)
    Day 9: Mammoth Lakes - Big Pine - Beatty - Indian Springs - Las Vegas (5h 47m, 312mi)


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    Hi dj, welcome back !

    My wife and I will both be driving but (and this may make me unpopular here!) we're not very outdoorsy, so we're mostly happy to see the scenery as we drive through it, rather than spending a lot of time out of the car hiking up to the top of Angel's Landing or the Half Dome… so although that's quite a lot of driving, I think it's about the same pace we've done on our last few trips
    Each and every one of us have our own travel styles and that's what makes the road trip unique. So no, it's not gonna make you "unpopular". ;-)

    Although on paper you may be able to do the miles, you will struggle to find the time out of the car at all just to appreciate your surroundings. To see Zion you have to park up and take a shuttle bus into the canyon area and then drive through the Mt Carmel tunnel towards Bryce, which could take up all your 5 hour 38min Google estimate [and possible 'then some'.] I would have thought Bryce would be about as far as you wanted to go on day 1 and day 2 is already too much in many ways. Capitol Reef scenic drive will take up time and Utah scenic 12 is slow going, as is the Moki dugway and to get to MV at this stage would be going some in your itinerary. That is a huge diversion to rush across the Sierra's from Jackson and while I completely understand 'why?', with your time frame I think I would give it a miss and keep it on your 'to do' list and create a tighter loop and give yourself a little time to breath .

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default A Few(?) to Add?

    I realize that a) your trip is already pretty chock full of great sites and b) every stop entails a personal choice, so I won't be offended at all if you ignore all my advice, but I just want to make sure that you've at least considered some of the following:

    From Grand Junction CO (Colorado National Monument it's only a short drive over to Arches National Park in Utah. From there US-6 will take you up to Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake, both worth a visit, and US-89 is a great scenic route on up to the Tetons and Yellowstone. That all would take more time than your current route, but is definitely worth considering.

    On your way from Yellowstone to Lake Tahoe, there are a couple of back roads that should fit right in with your penchant to "see the scenery as we drive through it": Mesa Falls Scenic Byway certainly fills the bill while the adjacent Fort Henry Historic Byway tosses in a bit of history to boot. In Elko NV, take the time to look into its unique Basque heritage. If nothing else, plan on having a Basque family style meal at the Star Hotel.

    AZBuck

  4. #4

    Default

    Many thanks for your replies. I guess I sorta knew the original plan was too much, but a tiny part of me was hoping the replies would say "oh yes, that all looks pretty comfortable" haha. So after a few more days staring at maps til my eyes go blurry... I think we're going to add two or three days, and also probably now start our trip in Reno and drop off the car in Jackson, flying from there back to Las Vegas - the drop off charge for the car seems to be not too bad doing this, and we'll miss out the 2 day / 750 mile trip from Teton to Lake Tahoe, giving us a bit more time to do stuff along the new, shorter route - I think this will give us a chance for example to see Arches National Park (which looks wonderful, thanks for that tip!), and of course be generally more relaxed!

    So it's shaping up probably more like this:

    Reno
    Lake Tahoe
    Mammoth Lakes
    Las Vegas
    Springdale
    Tropic
    Hanksville
    Cortez
    Grand Junction
    Salt Lake City
    Jackson
    Jackson



    Or something along those lines. Hanksville to Cortez and Grand Junction to Salt Lake City are now probably the biggest challenges for getting to the next stop and managing to see what we'd like along the way... I really wish I could take two months rather than two weeks for trips like this. Especially since every time I visit this site I find half a dozen more must-see places!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Join the club

    Quote Originally Posted by dj toast View Post
    Especially since every time I visit this site I find half a dozen more must-see places!
    With every visit my 'places to visit' list seems to get longer, rather than shorter. And I know I am not the only one.

    At lease it's a reason for another trip. :)

    Looks like a great trip.... might see you on the road.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Sf ?

    Can you fly into Reno from the UK ?

    Taking a quick look at your revised plan, you might be better off starting in SF and heading through Yosemite and up to Jackson via SLC and stay on the road, ending your trip in Las Vegas. You would have to do the 'numbers', but I doubt the extra miles on the road would take any more time than checking in at the airport and flying from Jackson. I'm quite sure that it would cheaper than starting from Reno, dropping the car in Jackson and flying to LV though.

    2 day / 750 mile trip from Teton to Lake Tahoe giving us a bit more time to do stuff along the new, shorter route
    In all honesty, it would take longer to fly from Jackson to Vegas what with dropping off the car rental and airport check in, than it will finish your journey on day 2. Yes it would save you close to One day, but would it be worth the expense?

    I think we're going to add two or three days,
    You will be amazed at what difference this would make to a trip like this.

  7. #7

    Default

    At lease it's a reason for another trip. :)
    Yup. What a beautiful and exciting planet we live on!

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Can you fly into Reno from the UK ?
    Hi. Nope, the plan was to fly into Vegas and spend the night there, then fly to Reno (or possibly Sacramento) the following morning to pick up the hire car. We also considered flying straight into S.F., then driving to Lake Tahoe from there, and onwards.

    Taking a quick look at your revised plan, you might be better off starting in SF and heading through Yosemite and up to Jackson via SLC and stay on the road, ending your trip in Las Vegas. You would have to do the 'numbers', but I doubt the extra miles on the road would take any more time than checking in at the airport and flying from Jackson. I'm quite sure that it would be cheaper than starting from Reno, dropping the car in Jackson and flying to LV though.
    Intriguing! More days of map-staring and head-scratching to come then.

    In all honesty, it would take longer to fly from Jackson to Vegas what with dropping off the car rental and airport check in, than it will finish your journey on day 2. Yes it would save you close to One day, but would it be worth the expense?
    Yeah, it seems there's only a couple of direct flights a week from Jackson Hole to Las Vegas, and otherwise there's a stop in Salt Lake City, so not a hugely quick process - but the thinking here was not so much just overall time-saving, as saving time behind the wheel, in a trip where there's quite a bit of that, and sitting in a departure lounge is boring but easy.

    Well next summer is quite a way off, I think we have a few reasonable options to tweak now in the interim. Thank you all!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default The Yellowstone Problem

    The biggest thing that stands out more than anything else is that right now you just don't have time to visit Yellowstone, which would seem to be the reason for the big diversion to Jackson.

    Jackson itself is really a very poor place to use as a base for Yellowstone because it is so far away, and it is very easy to underestimate the size of Yellowstone. From Jackson you are about 2-3 hours away from attractions on the more southern end of the park like Old Faithful, and you're 3-4 hours away from places like Mammoth Hot Springs, the Lamar Valley, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You could easily be looking at nearly 10 hours of driving just to drive from Jackson, do the loop around Yellowstone, and get back. That's before you factor in time to watch a geyser or walk to see any of the attractions themselves.

    I understand the concept of visiting a place just to get a taste of it, and perhaps coming back later to see more, but personally, I think you really need at least 2 days in Yellowstone just to get a brief sample of the major attractions, and that's not including the Tetons.

    A couple other areas where I see some potential flaws, especially considering how much you are already trying to do with your time:

    In your re-visit of Yosemite, it looks like you are only going to do Tioga Pass. However, I'm assuming Glacier Point was also not open during your last visit, and as such, if you are going to go through all of the trouble of revisiting Yosemite, then that would be on my list.

    Also, I see a number of things in your UT, CO leg. The biggest is that your current map doesn't even include Million Dollar Highway! But additionally, there are a few more very interesting National Parks that you haven't included. Natural Bridges is one of my favorites that fits in nicely right before Moki/Monument Valley, Mesa Verde is right outside of Cortez, and if you're going to Arches, then I'd want to stop at Canyonlands too, which I actually enjoyed a bit more than Arches. However, all of these things take more of that time.

    And just to muddy the waters even more, in your previous visit did you go to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon? Its another nearby stop that would be quite different than if you previously went to the south rim.

    As has been mentioned, these are all personal (and tough!) decisions with no wrong answers. If it were me, however, even if you expand the trip to a full 2 weeks, I might still drop the Tahoe and Yosemite re-visits to give you more time to enjoy the places you haven't yet seen at all.

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