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  1. #1

    Default Solo Trip from NYC to West Coast hitting NPs - is my plan feasible? Advice?

    Hello everyone! I'm a 23 year old guy who just graduated from college and wants to take a road trip, driving solo, - mainly for spiritual growth, a change of pace, and to see that the world is more than working a crappy job in a boring town. This is a LONG POST, so thank you in advance to those who read it. I'm looking for advice for the trip, and to see if my plan is feasible considering how much money I have. I'd also like advice on what National Parks / attractions / places I should stop at and which to skip - based on how much time and money I have. I think some cutting and triage is going to be necessary.


    Planning my trip:

    Trip length - about 6 weeks

    Departure date - middle of June

    Return date - end of August / early September

    Interests: I mainly want to go to national parks to camp and do light hiking. I also want to hang out in San Francisco for a bit and just relax and walk around, meet some cool people. I'll be spending up to a day in some of the other major cities I hit, but no more.

    Expenses:
    How much money I have: around $2200, possibly more

    Gas: about $900 round trip based on gasbuddy.com. This leaves about $1300.

    I figure 6 weeks x 7 days a week x $20 a day = $840 for food. Leaving me with $460 left. I'm sure some days I will be able to eat cheaper than this - possibly making this cost $100 - $200 cheaper. I'll have a lot of sunflower seeds, pb&j, and other cheap foods in my car with me.

    Minus $80 for a National Parks pass leaves me with $380.

    Minus $129 for AAA membership = $250 remaining
    *additional info - my car is in good shape, and will be all checked and ready to go before departure.



    I'm planning on sleeping places for free, and eating cheap. I'll be mainly staying at campsites - free ones, or cheap ($10 / night) ones. I am perfectly comfortable in a tent or sleeping in my car if I have to. I may also go couchsurfing - (most likely in San Francisco, but possibly elsewhere too), I need to finish my profile on the website.

    I don't plan on staying at any motels or hotels for the night. I may stay at a friend's house in Colorado, a friends house in Los Angeles, and a friends house in Washington - probably for a day each.



    Here's the route:
    I'd like any tips on places to skip, places to definitely head to, what I'll be able to do or won't be able to do, etc. Does this route look good, doable? What else should I consider? Which of these national parks should I hit, and which should I skip? Will I have enough time to do all this? Thanks!


    *note - at these national parks I'd most likely be staying at least a day or two at each - camping there overnight if its possible and cheap enough.


    Starting from New York City, I am planning on taking I 78 to I 70 and following that all the way to Denver, CO. I'd stop at some of the major cities in between to check them out, but mainly in passing. [Question here - Would I be better off taking I 80 and then transferring to I 70 half way to avoid traffic or to see sites, etc?]

    Then I'd drive into Utah along I 70, and south on I 15 hitting (all? or most?) national parks on the way. These include Rocky Mountain NP, Black Canyon NP, Mesa Verde NP, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, and possibly Grand Canyon NP (I've visited briefly before). From there I will continue on to Los Angeles, maybe detouring to Joshua Tree NP.


    Then I'll head north on I 5 or 395 to hit [all of?] Sequoia NP, Death Valley NP, Yosemite NP, and possibly Pinnacles NP if I 5 is taken.

    From there I'll go to San Francisco and stay there possibly a few days or more depending on how I like it.

    On my way north to Portland, OR, I may stop at Lassen Volcanic NP, or Redwood NP. I may hit Crater Lake NP in Oregon as well.

    I'll take I 5 to Seattle, WA, and go to one or more of Olympic NP, Mt. Rainer NP, and North Cascades NP.

    Then I'll drive on I 90 back east to Yellowstone NP. I may stop at Glacier NP along the way, and possibly go to Grand Teton NP.

    Continuing on I 90 I'll hit Wind Cave NP or Badlands NP, maybe both.

    Then I'd follow I 90 all the way to I 80 - taking that back home to NY, and stopping at major cities along the way to check them out for a bit. [Question - or would it be better for me to transfer to I 70 depending on traffic or other reasons?]


    Thank you so much for reading all this!

    Kind Regards,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Six or Ten?

    Hi, and Welcome to the great American RoadTrip Forum.

    That is a great trip you have planned there, and I have to agree there is nothing like a solo roadtrip to 'find yourself'. It is probably the most interesting and valuable find of my first trip.

    But we need to get something clear first. From mid June to end August / early September is ten weeks, not six weeks. So which is it, six weeks or ten weeks?

    I have no hesitation in believing you when you say your car is in good nick, but then, so was mine in 2009. Yet it still broke down with an issue which could not have been foreseen. Do you have a fund in reserve to cater for such an eventuality?

    The other issue which jumped out at me is that you may like to take into account that that during the peak of the summer tourist season fuel is likely to cost more than what Gas Buddy has calculated for you now.

    Finding free (or very cheap) camping places is not easy in some parts of the country, but I would caution you against sleeping in your car. This is not a way to get a good night's rest. Have you looked into Hostels. These can be quite affordable and often have breakfast thrown in, as well as some tours and other valuable travel information.

    Lastly I would recommend that you join Couchsurfing now, and that you make an effort to get verified and build up some references before you leave. Look into meeting up with local couchsurfers at any one of their functions. The couchsurfing community in NYC is one of the most active. You should not have any difficulty to meet up with other members to get (and give) references.

    Articles on this site which you may find interesting are on roadtrip thoughts and solo roadtripping.

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think there's a lot about your plan that looks very good, however, I see one pretty major problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by cappuccinos View Post
    I'm planning on sleeping places for free, and eating cheap. I'll be mainly staying at campsites - free ones, or cheap ($10 / night) ones. I am perfectly comfortable in a tent or sleeping in my car if I have to. I may also go couchsurfing - (most likely in San Francisco, but possibly elsewhere too), I need to finish my profile on the website.
    Really simply, there really aren't a lot of places you can camp for free or even for under $10. The vast majority of National Forest, National Park, or State Park campgrounds are going to run in the $15-25 range (and some even more than that). For free camping, your pretty much going to be limited to backcountry, dispersed camping - where you have to pack everything in and out in the remote parts of national forests and other public lands (you have to check with the rangers in each park to find suitable locations. Even in the cases where you do find camping for under $10, they're probably not going to have showers - which will cost you some money at truck stops, or other locations where you can buy a shower.

    I'd also say you don't really have any money factored in for the misc expenses that will come up. If you want to stop anywhere other than a national park, those places will have admission fees. You'll probably have parking, tolls, and other little things that do add up over a long trip. You should also have some money set aside for car repairs, because things can happen even if your car is running good before the trip. And also remember, if you used city to city distances for calculating your fuel costs, you probably didn't include the extra miles you'll be driving within cities and touring national parks, again, little things that can add up, and become a problem if you don't plan for them.

  4. Default

    Your desire to visit and hike in national parks is admirable. I think you may need to shorten your trip (time and distance) or come up with more money. You probably do need more for gas, food and accommodations. As it is now, your budget provides you with $5.95 a day for entertainment, admission fees, parking in cities, etc If you're leaving LA and heading north then you'll want to take 99 for Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Yosemite can also be reached from the east from 395 (via 120, Tioga Pass).

  5. #5

    Default

    @LifeMagician - Yes, it is for six weeks, not ten. - I'll correct that. I am working on a CouchSurfing.com profile, and will look into hostels. It looks like now I'll be able to get $2500 to go, so I'd have some extra cushion in case my car breaks down.

    @MidwestMichael - I figure I'll be only taking a shower every other day or so (or making sure to find a nice lake to swim in), so that I can stay at the free sites. I did factor the extra miles into the gas prices, but I fear that you may be right that it could be more.

    @CAnative - I'm now up to $2500 for the trip. Also, If Yosemite can be reached from the east from 395 via 120, then wouldn't it make more sense to take 395 north for Sequoia and Kings Canyon as well? Unless I can drive through Kings Canyon onto 395?

  6. #6

    Default

    Thank you everyone for the responses. Yes, it is for 6 weeks, not 10. I am now up to $2500 for the trip. I know that campsites with showers are more expensive - but I figure I will only shower every other day or so to take advantage of free / cheap campsites. Plus I'll be looking for places to swim too, to get rid of the sweat!

    @CAnative - Wouldn't it make more sense to just take 395 up to hit all three national parks? Or is it possible to take 99 up, and then pass through Kings Canyon to grab 395 on the other side?

  7. #7

    Default

    Can anyone give advice on which National Parks are worth going to, and which I should skip due to time restraints? Which NPs require the most time? I know the Yellowstone is HUGE.

    I was thinking of skipping Joshua Tree NP, and Angeles Forest NP.

    I also wasn't sure if it was worth it to go to Wind Cave NP. Is Glacier NP worth the trip up? I hear it's probably worth it.

    I may also skip Mesa Verde NP since it's a bit out of the way. I'm not sure.

    I'll probably stop at Lake Mead NP to go for a swim - I'll need it!

    Also, I think I'm going to stop at Glenwood Springs to relax in the hot springs one of the days.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Glenwood Springs Pool is NOT free ... it will set you back about $14.25 just for yourself for an afternoon. So if you're on a limited budget, keep that in mind.

    Showers at truckstops run about $7.50.

    Campsites with showers will be at least $20 per night. Campsite with a pool, at least that amount if not more. A lake might not be a great place to get refreshed, depending on the lake.


    Donna

  9. Default

    You might enjoy the Ken Burns documentary -- The National Parks: America's Best Idea -- which might help you select parks to visit.

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

    Default Plenty of Roadtrips ahead of you.

    I figure I'll be only taking a shower every other day or so (or making sure to find a nice lake to swim in), so that I can stay at the free sites.
    As Michael mentioned, it's not always easy to find free sites and they are often in an out of the way location. That's nice in many ways but it's not always a big help to the budget if you are spending money on gas getting there.

    Or is it possible to take 99 up, and then pass through Kings Canyon to grab 395 on the other side?
    Between Kings canyon/Sequoia and Death Valley there is a mountain range in the way making it almost a days drive apart.

    Can anyone give advice on which National Parks are worth going to, and which I should skip due to time restraints? Which NPs require the most time? I know the Yellowstone is HUGE.
    All National parks are "worth it" in one way or another, that is how they got their status. You can spend anything from a few hours driving through a NP to a whole week [or more] so it really is a case of which ones appeal to you the most and which of those will fit into your time and budget frame. For example Glacier NP is wonderful but could potentially add over 200 miles to your trip and an extra 2 or 3 days so you have to weigh up the Pros and Cons.

    As others have said, your ambitions are bigger than your budget and if need be you will have a far more enjoyable time covering less over 4 weeks on a healthier budget then trying to account for every last cent. As long as you have enough money for gas, food and sleeping to 'turn and burn' towards home with an emergency fund for repairs then you shouldn't feel bad about cutting your trip short.

    Another important thing to remember is that life isn't over at 24 years of age, it's barely beginning. Yes this trip will help teach you that "the world is more than working a crappy job in a boring town", but you will have many other opportunities throughout your life for roadtrips and that no matter how hard you try, you will never see it all in one big trip. Make the most of this Roadtrip, but you have many many to look forward to in the years to come.

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