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  1. Default Roadtrip & Camping out West in October

    My husband and I are planning a road trip from Wisconsin to the Oregon coast in early October. We have about 10 days to cover 4600 miles. Yikes! And we're trying to stick to a budget.

    We'll be stopping along the way to see family and hope to follow this route:
    Wisconsin to Sheridan, WY;
    Sheridan, WY to Yellowstone National Park;
    Yellowstone to Crater Lake National Park;
    Crater Lake National Park to the Oregon Coast Highway;
    Oregon Coast Highway to Seaside, OR;
    Seaside to Portland, OR;
    Portland to Richland, WA;
    Richland, WA to Kalispell, ID;
    Kalispell, ID to Going to the Sun road;
    then to Great Falls, MT; and back to Wisconsin.

    It's about 73 hours total, according to Google Maps. I realize we'll be covering a lot of area in a short period of time, but we want to see as much as possible in the time we have!

    We'd prefer to "camp" as much as possible, but I'm not sure this is a good idea, considering we're going in October, and snow is possible? We're not super hardcore campers and would prefer cabins. We're trying to save as much money as possible on lodging!

    I'm looking for recommendations of great restaurants we should try on our way, info on discounted (?) national/state park pass, good camping spots, any tips for traveling in that area in the Fall, and any other tips/advice!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Only Tip That Matters: Don't

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The trip you've laid out is not a vacation, it's a Death March. The driving time estimates you're getting from Google Maps (or those that you'll get from any other software-based mapping system) are pure fantasy. In the real world when you factor in such things as food, fuel, and bathroom breaks as well as the inevitable construction, congestion, trucks-passing-trucks, etc., etc., etc., you need to add about 20% to those pie-in-the-sky 'estimates' you get from software. That means more like 90 hours of driving time to complete your trip. That means 9 hours of driving each and every day. And that means that all you'd really get to see on a trip such as you've outlined is what you can see through the windshield as you devote most, indeed almost all, of your time to driving. There's simply no point to spending all that time and money to get to Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Glacier, and the other National Parks and other sites on your itinerary. You would barely have time to get out of the car and pose at the "Welcome to..." sign before you'd have to get back in the car and drive on to the next place you don't have time for.

    Case in point: If you arrive at Yellowstone shortly after Old Faithful has erupted, you can't afford the hour and a half (or so) to wait for the next show - a total waste of time and effort.

    Another case in point: Your first day's drive is anywhere from 800 to 1100 miles, depending on where in Wisconsin you're starting from. That is simply impossible. Period. Professional long-haul drivers are prohibited by law from driving more than 600 miles because after much longer than that fatigue sets in and they become a mortal hazard to themselves and everyone else on the road. You simply can not do 30-90% more than that and not expect to fall asleep behind the wheel.

    If you can't cut this trip back considerably (by a thousand miles or more) or devote at least several more days (a week would be better) more to it, then my advice is simple: stay home and watch a few travelogues on TV. It will cost a lot less, you'll get more out of it, and you're far more likely to finish the effort in one piece.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I completely agree with everything Buck has said. This isn't a "Yikes!" trip, it's a "Russian Roulette" trip, where you frankly would be lucky to finish in one piece. Quite literally in your quest to "see as much as possible in the time you have" you would end up seeing next to nothing.

    I will also note that in addition to the fact that you've got an impossible number of miles to complete, adding camping in October into the mix only adds to your problems. Even discounting the weather, October means you have fewer hours of daylight to work with, and trying to camp in the dark. Of course, camping also requires more time to set up and find the campground, which usually isn't right off the highway. I'll also note that if budget is your reason for camping, cabins often aren't that much cheaper than low cost hotels, although it depends on the situation and what is included with the cabin.

    With 10 days, you really need to eliminate any plan that takes you to the west coast. Its just too far to do, unless all you are doing is driving straight there and straight back. Just going to Yellowstone is practically a 10 day trip all by itself, which you remember that Yellowstone is a massively huge park that requires 2-3 days just to quickly view the highlights. If you threw in a little time in the Badland/Black Hills of South Dakota on your way out, spent a day in the Tetons, and scaled back to more safe and reasonable driving days, you'd already have a very full trip for that time period.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Not only all that, but in October the GTSR in Glacier will already be closed between Logan Pass and St. Mary's Campground, there may be closures in Yellowstone and Crater Lake.

    Your proposed itinerary combined with camping is a 3 week trip which needs to be completed by the middle of September or started after the middle of June.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Yellowstone already has one road closed, and this is only the 3rd of September: Craig Pass Road. Here is a list of closing dates in Yellowstone.

    Many areas of Glacier ARE still open in October, but check the seasonal information.

    I am going to agree with all 3 above: you simply don't have enough time to do all of this. If you are going to Oregon to see family or something, pick one or two things to do along the way. Please don't try to drive 800 or 1000 mile days, even with 2 drivers.

    We spent 3 days in Yellowstone this summer and wish we'd spent 4 or 5. There was so much to see and do! However, in October, you will have fewer services available and some roads closed, so maybe 2 days would be fine.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Budget?

    Your concern that you are on a budget seems to run contrary to your itinary - which as it stands is money not well spent. Take note of the above, and see how much money would be wasted to get to places you will not be able to see because of time or weather restraints.

    Bank the trtip allowance, and plan on a fly/drive trip out west at some time in the future.


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