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  1. Default Denver to SF May-June 2014

    Hi everyone,

    First timer here, great forum and a wealth of information available.

    My girlfriend Alice and I are planning a coast-to-coast trip across the US from NYC to LA in May-June. We'll be mainly taking in big cities for the first half of the trip which is looking like NYC > Boston > Chicago before zipping across to Denver, probably on the California Zephyr.

    Our plan is then to hire a van and drive West, via SF (and possibly a short stop off in Napa/Mendocino where we have friends) and down Highway 1 to LA where we'll fly home from LAX. This section of the trip is the bit where we'd like to get out into the countryside, the rest of the trip is going to be city-focused and as we both like to camp so it'd be good to get outside for a while.

    There seem to be a number of routes open to us to take from Denver and I wondered if anyone on here could offer some insight into them. I should also say this: Alice has already been to Vegas, Bryce Grand Canyon, and Death Valley areas so we've ruled that route out.

    Route 1: Denver > Yellowstone > Portland area > Mendocino > SF
    Route 2: Denver > Arches NP > Utah > Salt Lake City > Boise > Portland > Mendocino > SF
    Route 3: Denver > Arches NP > Salt Lake City > Reno > Mendocino > SF

    We've got approx 10 days for this part of the trip. We're both healthy adults (I'm 35, she's 26) and aren't afraid of occasional long drive days.

    I'm interested to hear if there are any reasons that make one of these routes more appealing than other in mid-late May. Weather, public holidays, access roads, volume of tourists, etc.

    Or of course if there are other routes then we're all ears!

    Thanks a bunch.
    Dave

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default No wrong choices.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    It's always tough to answer a "which route" question as there are always many, many choices and they all have there own merits and at the end of the day it's all about individual tastes and appeal. For example, I wouldn't have ruled out Bryce and Grand canyon, they are both worth re-visiting and showing off to people who haven't been before, even as a quick visit with new places along the way.

    From Denver you could visit Rocky mountain NP from Estes Park wherever you go.

    Yellowstone is amazing and can easily take up 3 to 4 days to get around although you could visit a few areas over a couple of days. In late May it will be starting to fully open up for the summer season, but you can still see winter weather and snow on the ground, unfortunately there is no way of knowing conditions until much nearer the time, but it can be spectacular and without the crowds at this time of year. Nearby are the Grand Tetons and Mormon Row and then Craters of the Moon and Shoshone Falls as you head west. Twin Falls is a nice town with the Snake River canyon [Evil Knievel jump site] and Perrine Bridge to visit. You could then visit the Columbia river Gorge as you make your way to Portland. Heading south you have Crater Lake [that might only be partially open due to snow] and the coast where you could visit the Redwoods.

    If you headed to Arches NP you have a lot of options of routes and attractions, including Glenwood Springs, Black Canyon, Currecanti Recreation area, Colorado National Monument and Canyonlands with the option of a quick look at Bryce canyon while travelling between Capitol Reef NP and Zion NP after Arches. From here you could cut up to US50 [aka the Lonliest road] and perhaps visit Cathedral Gorge SP and Great Basin NP on the way to Reno and Lake Tahoe.

  3. Default

    Thanks Dave - there's plenty of points in there that I'll research. You think each route is do-able in 10 days?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Watch the time.

    In late May, early June is one of the most wonderful times to visit Yellowstone. There are all the bison calves, the baby moose and all the other young animals with their mothers. Absolute magic.

    In 10 days, counting on spending at least three in Yellowstone, I would stick with your first option. The other two you would end up just rushing through the places, and not really 'seeing' them. You could follow Dave's suggested route through Idaho - Craters of the Moon, Twin Falls, etc. - and follow the Columbia River Gorge into Portland. Time permitting, you could enjoy some of the Oregon coast when southward bound.

    Lifey

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    In late May, early June is one of the most wonderful times to visit Yellowstone. There are all the bison calves, the baby moose and all the other young animals with their mothers. Absolute magic.

    Lifey
    Fantastic - thanks Lifey! Sounds like something we wouldn't want to miss.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,748

    Default It'd work.

    Yep, to take your first option you would have 4 to 4.5 days of driving and to spend 2.5 to 3 days in Yellowstone will leave you with a little time to break your journeys as you see fit in between, as long as you don't mind keeping on the move. If you got near Yellowstone on day 1 and spent 2 and 3 in the park, you could drive to Twin Falls via the Tetons and Shoshone Falls on day 4 . Day 5 would have you heading to the Columbia River Gorge and day 6 exploring it on the way to Portland. After spending a day [7] in Portland you could head to the coast on day 8 going via Grants Pass to Eureka. Day 9 explore the Redwoods while heading south along the coast and find somewhere to stop the night before heading into SF on day 10. Of course, you can juggle where you prefer to spend you time and if you can add some, all the better ! An extra couple of days you could add Rocky mountain and/or slow the pace a little. [I'm not sure if your 10 days is to include time in SF or just for getting there]

    If that sounds too busy you could skip Portland and instead head south and west from Twin Falls to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite NP which would cut out up to 550 miles, or even heading from Twin Falls direct to the Redwoods would cut out some miles and free up a day that you would spend there. [i'm not sure it would be worth the extra miles if you were only spending a few hours in Portland].

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Hiring a van.

    Quote Originally Posted by davetaylor View Post
    Our plan is then to hire a van and drive West, ...
    Van hire is not exactly abundant in the US, but we have heard good reports from Escape Vans.

    Lifey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Van hire is not exactly abundant in the US, but we have heard good reports from Escape Vans.

    Lifey
    Unless you are talking about a standard passenger minivan with seats in the back. All companies have those.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Van hire is not exactly abundant in the US, but we have heard good reports from Escape Vans.

    Lifey
    Fantastic - thanks again! They look great, if a little garish for my British sensibilities ;-)

    A friend of mine is an ex-Denver resident and has strongly advised us to hop back on the California Zephyr to Salt Lake and then drive from there to Yellowstone. It'll add a few extra hours to our journey but the scenery is spectacular (or so says he).

    As for some of the earlier questions in the thread, the travel time of approx 10 days is just to reach SF. We'll be stopping there for 4-5 nights as we have a bunch of friends to visit. And then we'll spend a couple of nights travelling down to LA before flying home.

    I think it's starting to shape up as:
    Denver > Salt Lake via Amtrak (times permitting) and then pick up a rental in Salt Lake and head to Yellowstone (assume we'll need a 1 night stopover somewhere in this section)
    3 nights in Yellowstone
    5/6 nights to get from Yellowstone to SF.

    Dave

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    Default

    It would take less than an extra couple of hours from Denver to Yellowstone by road compared to SLC to Yellowstone and then you have the train journey to add. Many great views from the road as well, but if you fancy a train ride that's great !

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