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  1. Default Philadelphia to Seattle this summer (2013)


    A couple of friends and I are planning to drive from Philadelphia to Seattle over a 10 day period via the Smoky Mountains and the Zion/Bryce National parks. We came up with a 10 day itinerary covering about 3800 miles and would welcome feedback especially on the following.

    • Recommendations on where to stop on the route between the trip points
    • Feasibility, driving tips, precautions
    • Attractions that we should not miss
    • Nuggets on the route or alternatives we should consider
    • Cellphone dead zones, stretches without gas stations/rest stops

    A few questions
    • We have two drivers among us and think we can comfortably do about 7 -8 hrs a day at an average rate of 60mph.
      On three days though because of the nature of stopovers, we might have to drive as long as 9-10 hrs is that impractical?
    • We expect to need to book accommodation at the national parks (or just outside them) in advance. However for the stop overs in between, we were planning to wing it and book them on the day of the stay depending on how far we could drive.

      Is that a safe strategy, any pointers on how to get beds at the last minute

    Day 1

    • Philly to Gatlinburg TN. Its a 12 hour drive and we were thinking of stopping around Bristol TN if we ran out of time/energy.

    Day 2 Visit places in the park, likely Roaring Forks, Laurel Falls, Clingmans Dome

    Day 3 & 4
    • Head out from Townsend TN mid afternoon on Day 3 after spending a few hours in the park in the vicinity of Townsend
    • Keep driving in the direction of Zion and stop somewhere in Kansas/MO for the night

    Day 5
    • Drive on to Colorado for a final stop before hitting Zion

    Day 6
    • Make it to Springdale outside Zion and spend the night there

    Day 7
    • Visit Zion

    Day 8
    • Leave for Bryce Canyon a little before noon
    • Get to Bryce late afternoon and do a few things like the scenic drive, maybe a ranger walk or so

    Day 9 & 10
    • Head out for Seattle with a stop in Idaho and Washington
    • Reach Seattle around noon on Day 10

    Last edited by danmap; 06-03-2013 at 09:27 AM. Reason: updated a couple questions

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think your plan looks pretty reasonable, except the very end. It's 1100+ miles from Bryce to Seattle, which is 2 full days on the road, at 9-10 hours each day. It's not reasonable to think you will get there by noon on day 10.

    My other question would be about your bigger plan - are you moving to Seattle, or are you planning to drive back to Philly?

    If I were in your shoes, I might skip the Smokies for this trip, especially if you're based out of Philly and could easily go there on a shorter trip at a later date. The Smokies are nice, I believe they are the most visited National Park in the Country, however, they are kind of dwarfed in size and scope by the Rockies. I'd at least give some thought to heading straight west and spending more time in the west. For example, you could add in some time in Rocky Mountain National Park and Arches/Canyonlands if you headed straight west. Those aren't the only options by any means, but some stops you might enjoy that would cut down your miles somewhat, giving you more time to explore.

  3. #3


    Zion likely to be HOT HOT HOT...

    I would spend night at Bryce if possible... should be cooler...

    Enjoy I70 west of Denver to Grand Junction...


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Like Michael, I felt that your plans were mostly good, but you have a couple of problems.

    There's only one way to be in Seattle by noon, and that's to start the last day EARLY EARLY EARLY in the morning, like 2 or 3 am. My husband and I have been forced to do that (because of rude neighbors in a motel), but we didn't find it fun to be up that early on the last day of our trip and trying to make high mileage.

    Great Smoky Mountains NP to Zion NP is about a 4 day drive. Three days isn't enough.

    Also on that last two days, included in the first 1100 miles is a nice stretch of 2 lane road, going over a mountain pass to catch I-15 north. On either road (US-89/UT-20 or US-89/UT-14) you'll be hard-pressed to average 40 mph, and they're not roads to do in the dark, either (the scenery is too pretty!). You could conceivably overnight in Boise, though.


  5. Default

    Thanks much for the feedback - this is great information.

    Michael: we are moving to the west coast, would this alter your recommendation to stop at the Rockies. Our choice to stop at the Smoky mountains was somewhat arbitrary and we could be persuaded either way :)

    thanks also for pointing out the miscalculation for the last leg of the trip. We'll likely make it on the 11th day.

    jm98: what are the attractions on the stretch between Denver and Grand Junction - are these views of the Rockies?

    thanks for the pointers to spend the night in Bryce.

    Donna: thanks for the pointers on the scenic drive. Yep, we are planning on about 4 days to get to Zion

    What do folks feel about our chances of finding accommodation on the way without any advance booking.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Shouldn't be a problem

    Quote Originally Posted by danmap View Post
    What do folks feel about our chances of finding accommodation on the way without any advance booking.
    Most of your trip should present no difficulty for finding good to great lodging choices as you go. Springdale, because of it's proximity to Zion is often full. But we do have our favorites therein.

    Peter Thody really liked the Driftwood Lodge

    I can't find my notes -- but I like the one on the south side of town.

    As far as the rest goes -- it's all about how comfortable you are about not knowing where you'll be staying. As a general rule, I recommend not booking lodging ahead of time -- unless it is in a special place or, as in the case of Springdale, it fills up fast.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Quote Originally Posted by danmap View Post
    jm98: what are the attractions on the stretch between Denver and Grand Junction - are these views of the Rockies?
    I-70 between those two cities has some of the most gorgeous scenery of any interstate highway in the USA, IMHO. Mountains, rivers, beautiful valleys, and picturesque old mining artifacts are along the road. Then there's Glenwood Canyon, site of the "hanging freeway". This is one section of the interstate highway where you won't have your average, every day rest area. They are all different, and lovely! We go through there a lot, and we try to stop at a different rest area every time.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default I-70 has so much to offer.

    I-70 west of Denver and all the way into Utah is probably the most scenic highway in North America. It seems almost criminal to rush along it at highway speed. So much to see, so little chance to take a snapshot. As well as the features mentioned by Donna, check out the rail tracks on the other side of the canyon.

    The Amtrak travels through that canyon a lot slower than the traffic. It was a treat to be able to see the whole canyon and the hanging highway from the train.

    Like Mark, I rarely if ever book my accommodation, other than in highly trafficked tourist areas or on holiday weekends. At those times and in those places it is virtually essential.... unless you want to spend hours at the end of the day, looking for a bed.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    You asked about cell phone dead zones. Along I-70 in Utah, between Green River and Salina UT, there is a long stretch with no coverage. It is a well patrolled area, because of that I'm sure, and some of the rest areas have coverage or a solar-operated emergency phone. It's also a very beautiful stretch of the highway, too.

    Here's one of the views from a rest area in the Glenwood Canyon area of Colorado:
    Click here.

    Here's the Book Cliffs, which start right after Grand Junction heading west:
    Click here for that one too.

    Rocky Mountain High, Colorado - just click here.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I just ran that stretch of I-70 last February. There are *NO* services between Salina and Green River - approximately 110 miles. Fill your gas tank before you take it. I lost cell coverage several miles out of Salina, regained it about halfway through for about 2 miles, then lost it again till I got within several miles of Green River. My carrier is AT&T.

    Other than that one stretch, there are very few Interstate highways in the country that don't have continuous coverage these days.

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