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.
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!