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  1. #1

    Default West Coast on the Cheap

    My best friend and I are taking a month of our summer break from college to drive from Vancouver, BC to Yosemite and back. We hope to do some sightseeing in cities and towns as well as get out into nature. Neither of us are from the west coast and don't have too much money to spend. This means that we want to do a bit of camping as well as crashing on floors and couches. We are planning to hit the cities along the way (Seattle, portland, the bay area) and obviously as many of the amazing parks as possible. But as for specifics we are a bit lost.

    Any suggestions on cheap housing (like almost free), and towns/places/areas to visit or explore would be greatly appreciated as well as any general advice.

    Oh and tips on seeing national parks too.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome aboard RTA!

    A month is a nice amount of time to have to take a trip. First things first, though -- are you planning to rent a car? If so, two things need to be considered -- if you are renting one in BC you will have to make sure it's okay to take it into the US and then back into Canada. It might be cheaper to rent one in Seattle. Also, if you are renting, it will be cheaper if one of you is 25 or older. Otherwise you're going to be hit with a "young driver fee" of at least $25/day PER DRIVER, over and above the rental fee.

    Cheap housing -- if you are campers (as in a tent), that's probably one of the cheaper ways to go. You could take cheap hotels. Each of you in a hostel may run about the same price as a cheap hotel. The only other option is couch-surfing, but if this is for THIS summer, getting the proper recommendations and credentials for that takes time.

    Tips on seeing national parks -- always start with the visitors center, if you can (unless it's halfway into the park, like Shenandoah's is). If you can't, pull into a pull-off and read the map and glance through some of the literature before embarking.

    If you want to camp in a national park, some of them (like Yosemite and Crater Lake) had to be booked months ago. You might get a cancellation, or be lucky and pull into a site just as someone is leaving. (From experience, that doesn't happen often, and in some parks, people start prowling through the campgrounds at daybreak and wait for somebody who is packing up.)

    Great parks -- Olympic, Mount Rainier, Mount St Helens (both WA state), Crater Lake (OR), Lassen Volcanic (CA), Redwoods National and State Park (CA) and of course Yosemite.

    One idea: Travel DOWN the coast via PCH (CA) and US-101. Come north via I-5. That way you don't see the same thing twice. Coming down the coast, US 101 and PCH means you could see Olympic, the amazing coast of Oregon (lots of state parks along there), Coastal Redwoods National and State Park, Muir Woods and more. Come back up I-5 after seeing Yosemite, where you could take a side trip over to Lassen, then Crater Lake, the two Mounts in WA.


  3. #3


    Thanks Donna these are some really great ideas.

    Luckily we do have our own car and in major cities we are planning on staying with friends. Camping will be our plan for pretty much anywhere we don't have friends to stay with. Do you know if finding a camping spot in some of the smaller or less popular spots is still going to be an issue.

    Thanks for the list of parks and the route suggestions, I will add those to our list of stops.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Staying with friends ... a better version of Couch-surfing. (We will be doing a little of that this summer ourselves. It's nice to catch up with old friends!)

    Having your own car is a good thing. If you aren't already a member of CAA or AAA, you should join -- one of you. It's probably the best $45+- you'll spend! There's emergency road service if needed, but also free maps, TripTiks, and (for your trip) CampBooks!

    The CampBooks will list places to tent-camp. For cheap, you'll want to stick to state parks, national forests, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites. State Parks and National Forest campgrounds are also listed on some maps, usually by a small green triangle. BLM listings on maps are spotty, sometimes they are word of mouth only!

    As far as having trouble getting a spot to camp: weekends near a big city might be a problem. California State Parks: expensive. (State is out of money so they upped all of the camping fees.) National forests just outside of national parks may be busy, depending on their proximity to the park. (The closer to the park, the busier they are.) Some state park campgrounds do reservations, others are first-come, first-served.


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