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  1. Default Late April-May Roadtrip from Western Canada to American Southwest and Back

    Hey Everyone,

    I apologize if some of these questions have been answered to already, but I am new to RTA. My boyfriend and I are planning on going on a trip to see some National Parks in the Southwest, the Grand Canyon, Salvation Mountain, and the California Coast. We plan to leave on April 25th, 2012, and return somewhere around the 10th of May (we're planning for about two weeks, though we have about 4 extra days to work with, if need be). I'm just looking for suggestions in general...weather, packing, good hiking trails, recommendations of parks, thoughts on distance, suggestions for accommodations, routes, and time gone. Any overall comments are appreciated, as this will be my first serious roadtrip! Here is our tentative itinerary as of now:
    Calgary, AB, Canada to Calgary, AB, Canada - Google Maps-1.jpgCalgary, AB, Canada to Calgary, AB, Canada - Google Maps.jpg

    -April 25th (Day 1)
    Leave from Calgary, AB and drive until Idaho Falls, ID or Pocatello, ID. Accommodations are still unknown.

    -April 26th (Day 2)
    Leave from ID and take I-15 south to highway 17 to Zion National Park. Hopefully arrive at sunset, enjoy the park, do a quick hike, stay overnight--we're looking to stay in Hurricane potentially.

    -April 27th (Day 3)
    The next morning, do a quick hike or two in Zion, and hit the road for Page, AZ. We will likely stay the night in Page.

    -April 28th (Day 4)
    Get up early, and hit the road for the Grand Canyon Village! We plan on camping--we're looking at the Mather Campground--and doing a bit of shopping at Cameron Trading Post. We will probably explore the South Rim, doing a rim hike, and then camp.

    -April 29th (Day 5)
    Get up early, finish hiking the rim, and hit the road for Sedona, AZ. We plan to camp two nights in Sedona.

    -April 30th (Day 6)
    Explore Sedona and stay the night (camp).

    -May 1st (Day 7)
    Finish exploring Sedona and leave early for Yuma (where we will stay the night in a hotel)

    -May 2nd (Day 8)
    Leave relatively early for Niland, CA. Explore Salvation Mountain for a few hours, and then head to San Diego (or Palm Springs--we may have relatives in Palm Springs willing to let us stay there, if so, we will skip San Diego and stay in Palm Springs)

    -May 3rd (Day 9)
    Wake up and leave for Newport Beach, CA. Explore the shopping scene, and hit the beach. Go to the Wax Museum and Hollywood Walk of Fame in LA. Stay on Northern part of LA.

    -May 4th (Day 10)
    Wake up and hit the road. Take the 101 to Santa Cruz (stopping along the way in Santa Barbara for 2-3hrs). Stay overnight in Santa Cruz.

    -May 5th (Day 11)
    Once in Santa Cruz, we plan to check out the "Mystery Spot" that morning. In the afternoon, we plan to head to San Fransisco, check out the pier, ride Cable cars, and see the bridge. We potentially plan on staying in a hostel in San Fran, because it's something I'd like to say that I've tried! One name we found was the "Adelaide Hostel"

    -May 6th and 7th (Day 12/13)
    Once we get up, we will begin our journey home. We will stay in a couple hotels somewhere along the way as we'll be homebound through Redding, Kennewick and Spokane.

    -May 8th (Day 14)
    Finish the drive home, and hopefully arrive back in Calgary.


    So that's it! As mentioned, we have a couple more days that we would add to particular points of the trip; if you have any suggestions how to make better use of these days, please let me know! We still have a lot of details to sort out, so any help is appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome!

    The one thing that absolutely stands out is your route from LA to SF - 101 is a reasonably scenic road, but you really should take an extra day there and go up CA-1 (PCH)!

    I'd also take another day in Utah and go to Bryce Canyon, if for nothing else than driving down to the end and back and stopping at all the viewpoints.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Nice trip.

    The weather will do exactly as it pleases, and you can expect to see wide and varied conditions, so certainly pack layered clothing.

    At least an extra couple of days would be beneficial as you are a little rushed in places. Whereas it is possible to get from Calgary to Zion in 2 days, at around 1170 miles it'll be 2 long days and you might not be in the mood for hiking on arrival. If you are planning on camping, I would set up in the 'Watchman campground' in the park and consider 2 nights there, giving you a full day to explore this wonderful place. If you are looking for a room, I would see if you can find an affordable option in the wonderful town of Springdale, right on the 'doorstep' of Zion NP.

    Mather Campground is ideal for a stay at the GC south rim and is only a short walk to the village and rim. I would leave enough time from the Cameron Trading post to take in some of the views along Desert View drive as you enter the park. You won't need to come back this way.

    As mentioned by glc, you will be missing out on a spectacular coast drive if you don't get on Highway 1. Maybe add a night around Cambria and possibly swap a stay in Santa Cruz for Monterey. [?]

  4. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Welcome!

    The one thing that absolutely stands out is your route from LA to SF - 101 is a reasonably scenic road, but you really should take an extra day there and go up CA-1 (PCH)!

    I'd also take another day in Utah and go to Bryce Canyon, if for nothing else than driving down to the end and back and stopping at all the viewpoints.
    Okay--we've adjust our route accordingly to take the CA-1 up the coast. Thanks! I'm not sure that we will be able to fit both Bryce and Zion in along the way. What do you think? How worth is it to go? Could we fit both in during on day? Or is it better to just stick with Zion and thoroughly enjoy it rather than rush off to see the surface of more areas?

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    The weather will do exactly as it pleases, and you can expect to see wide and varied conditions, so certainly pack layered clothing.

    At least an extra couple of days would be beneficial as you are a little rushed in places. Whereas it is possible to get from Calgary to Zion in 2 days, at around 1170 miles it'll be 2 long days and you might not be in the mood for hiking on arrival. If you are planning on camping, I would set up in the 'Watchman campground' in the park and consider 2 nights there, giving you a full day to explore this wonderful place. If you are looking for a room, I would see if you can find an affordable option in the wonderful town of Springdale, right on the 'doorstep' of Zion NP.

    Mather Campground is ideal for a stay at the GC south rim and is only a short walk to the village and rim. I would leave enough time from the Cameron Trading post to take in some of the views along Desert View drive as you enter the park. You won't need to come back this way.

    As mentioned by glc, you will be missing out on a spectacular coast drive if you don't get on Highway 1. Maybe add a night around Cambria and possibly swap a stay in Santa Cruz for Monterey. [?]
    As far as the weather goes, I suppose I was wondering about the snow falls and such on the way to AZ...I initially wanted to go to Yellowstone but read that it is often closed until Mid-May due to large snowfalls. I plan on doing hiking in Zion and the Canyon..these places should not have much snow by late April/Early May, right?

    We recognize that it's a long drive to Zion, but we're willing to make it two long days of driving. You're right though, upon arrival, it's not very realistic to feel like hiking. We may consider placing an extra day at Zion then. I'll look up the Watchman Campground and hotels in Springdale and decide accordingly. What are the best things to do in Zion?

    We will likely be booking at the Math Campground relatively soon then, as we have heard it gets pretty booked down there at times.

    As for Cambria, we will reevaluate our route to potentially swap those stays. At the moment, we are just unsure whether we want to add an extra day at Zion, somewhere along the Cali coast, or both.

    Another question; do you have any resources (tourist information websites, etc.) that offer area discounts? Also, looking at our NP plans, would you say that about $120 is an accurate guess for the cost of park passes throughout our trip?

    Thanks for your input!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    At the first national park you come to, buy the $80 annual pass. You can buy it at the entrance kiosk.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    Default Spring in Zion.

    Yes, Spring arrives late to Yellowstone. In Zion you may encounter wet stormy days, but also warm and clear days and the Spring wildflowers begin to bloom from April. Bryce canyon is at much higher elevation and you could see snow and sub zero night time temps.

    Zion is wonderful to stroll around in. The riverside walk being one of the most popular, an easy walk along the Virgin river with towering red cliffs all around you. Emerald Pools and Weeping Rock are another couple we enjoyed. They are all great to be honest, but on arrival you will get leaflets and the park Rangers are only to happy to guide you. If you didn't want to add an extra day to this part of your itinerary then I would still consider 2 nights and a full day here and then go direct to GC instead of stopping in Page. There are a whole bunch of other things to see around Page, but with the pace you are travelling through at, it would limit your options and feel a bit rushed imo.

    It will cost you $50 to enter both GC and Zion NP [£25 each] and the same if you decided to go to Bryce. After this point you would be better off purchasing the annual pass for $80 and that is the max you would need to pay. This does not include camping fees and if you decided to visit Alcatraz Island it would not include the cost of the Ferry crosing. [entrance free]

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    At the first national park you come to, buy the $80 annual pass. You can buy it at the entrance kiosk.
    That sounds great...I hadn't heard of that. I read that we should phone the kiosk ahead of time to ensure they are selling them before we make our trip there. So we would buy this at Zion then? Same booth that we would normally buy a pass, and it would admit us to Zion, GC, Bryce (if we go there), etc.?

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Yes, Spring arrives late to Yellowstone. In Zion you may encounter wet stormy days, but also warm and clear days and the Spring wildflowers begin to bloom from April. Bryce canyon is at much higher elevation and you could see snow and sub zero night time temps.

    Zion is wonderful to stroll around in. The riverside walk being one of the most popular, an easy walk along the Virgin river with towering red cliffs all around you. Emerald Pools and Weeping Rock are another couple we enjoyed. They are all great to be honest, but on arrival you will get leaflets and the park Rangers are only to happy to guide you. If you didn't want to add an extra day to this part of your itinerary then I would still consider 2 nights and a full day here and then go direct to GC instead of stopping in Page. There are a whole bunch of other things to see around Page, but with the pace you are travelling through at, it would limit your options and feel a bit rushed imo.

    It will cost you $50 to enter both GC and Zion NP [£25 each] and the same if you decided to go to Bryce. After this point you would be better off purchasing the annual pass for $80 and that is the max you would need to pay. This does not include camping fees and if you decided to visit Alcatraz Island it would not include the cost of the Ferry crosing. [entrance free]

    Okay, the weather sounds like it shouldn't be too much of an issue then..we'll just have to do Yellowstone another time--it's so tempting to fit in too much in too little time! We're really not sure about including Bryce Canyon for that reason, and we've heard more people recommend Zion of the two. It was kind of a fork in the road for our path, so we figured we should choose only one...unless we can be convinced otherwise?? :p

    Okay, yes Zion seems beautiful and at the very least it would be nice to spend extra time there. I think our original reason for stopping in Page is because we had initially planned on going to Antelope Canyon there, but later decided to cut it for expense reasons, mainly. Considering this attraction, is this something we should rethink, or do you agree that $50 per person or whatever to see the canyons is a steep fee for an afternoon, and our time is best spent somewhere else?

    Again, the park pass sounds like a great deal...we will have to look into getting that! :)

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

    Default Down to personal choices.

    Antelope canyon is on my 'to do' list, but up to now I have not been. Like yourself, I have had to pick and choose wieghing up all the Pros and cons and it remains on that 'To do' list. Personally I don't think the entry fee is too steep for such an amazing place and I believe most tours are 1.5 hours in duration, or 2.5 hours for photographic, or extended tours, that cost more like $80. So it makes no difference if you have an afternoon or all day, that's the time you get. What adds time is getting there in good time for the start of the tour and getting away again.

    It really comes down to personal choice, but my point with your current itinerary is that to get to Page for a tour, you will be limited with time in Zion to a few hours in the morning. That could work if you were to take a 5pm tour, but if you decide not to do one at all, then I would sit tight in Zion and have the whole day and evening to relax and enjoy !

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