Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 13
  1. Default National Parks Road Trip

    Hello everyone. I'm planning a solo road trip this summer and I'd love to get everyone's opinion and advice. I read the similar thread here so I hope that this thread isn't too redundant.


    The long and short of it is I want to drive around the country and visit a bunch of the National Parks. I have 22 days off and I'm going to be starting and ending in Olympia, WA. I have a 2007 Subaru Forester and I plan on camping or sleeping in my car the whole way. In order to save money and not worry about full campgrounds in the parks I plan on mainly dispersed camping on National Forest and BLM land outside the parks. If it comes to it, I'm fine with just finding a (legal) parking lot or a (legal) quiet spot off road and sleeping in my car. I'm also planning on staying one day each in Las Vegas, NV; Cedar City, UT; and Yakima, WA to visit with family and friends that are in each city. (Also I'm going to use their showers.)

    My general game plan is to pack up my camp each morning and drive into the park for some sightseeing and day hiking, then driving back outside the park to find another campsite in the evening. I'm going to keep my camp light, and I might end up sleeping in the back of my car most nights. I'm gonna be going on some shorter local camping trips in order to get my rhythm down and figure out exactly what I need to bring with me.

    The places I'd like to see are:

    - Las Vegas, NV
    - Grand Canyon (North Rim)
    - Monument Valley
    - Capitol Reef
    - Bryce Canyon
    - Zion
    - Cedar City, WA
    - Grand Tetons
    - Yellowstone
    - Glacier NP
    - Yakima, WA

    Looking at a map and figuring driving distances, I think I can visit all these spots. Am I being overambitious? A couple questions do pop up though regarding my route. Monument Valley is probably the spot that looks the furthest out of place there, but I'd love to visit just to drive through and take pictures. Would going there after the North Rim and then visiting - Capitol Reef - Bryce - Zion - Cedar City make sense? Or should I do it the other way around? I'm skipping Arches, Canyonlands and all the other sites in the area, will I be missing too much by doing that? Are there any other great spots that I'm overlooking?

    At the Grand Canyon I'm planning on camping in the Kaibab National Forest, it looks like there's some crazy beautiful camping spots there on the North Rim if you can make the drive. Will I be missing anything by skipping the South Rim?

    Right now I have July 3rd - 24th off. I know the crowds are going to be really bad in July, but when I was originally planning this trip it was with some friends who were only going to be able to go in July. Now they've canceled though, and I'm thinking about changing it to September 4th - 25th. I think September will be much better as far as avoiding the crowds, but I'm a little worried about the weather getting colder, specifically on the North Rim and Glacier NP. Any thoughts? Would August be better?

    I'd love any and all advice and criticism that the community can offer. Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Meatloaf_Salad; 03-10-2016 at 12:06 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    I'm fine with just finding a parking lot or a quiet spot of road and sleeping in my car.
    That's neither safe or legal. If you must sleep in the car, find a truck stop and ask permission. Some Walmarts also allow it with permission. If you pull over on a road or just hit a parking lot, I can almost guarantee you that your sleep will be interrupted by the local law enforcement or by someone you really don't want to deal with.

    The most efficient routing would be Las Vegas -> Zion -> North Rim -> Monument Valley -> Capitol Reef -> Bryce Canyon -> Cedar City.

  3. Default

    Whoops! Sorry, I should have clarified. I meant sleeping off the side of a road in a National Forest or BLM land where it's legal. Any parking lot would be a Walmart or similar big box store that's ok with it of course. I'm still in the rough stages of planning right now, I'm going to contact all the relevant BLM/National Forest office locations and talk with them to make sure the places I plan on staying are legal. The last thing I want on this trip is to break any laws or get into trouble with law enforcement or locals!

    I don't know why I didn't see that Zion is closer to Vegas!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default

    I would go in September without doubt, an amazing time of year to travel. The weather is unpredictable and the nights can start to get chilly but fewer crowds and lower daytime temps more than make up for it. I think you have a nice amount of time for your trip and will have enough to stop at other attractions along the way, between Olympia and Vegas for example.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Camping on public lands.

    From my experience, the most accurate and comprehensive information regarding camping on public lands is from the local offices, wherever you happen to be. Many of the plans I made beforehand turned out to be incorrect on the web. Either the campground was closed, or it simply was not where shown, and lots of inaccuracies like that. In the end I gave up.

    As I got to any town or city, and at the States' welcome centres, at the visitor centres and tourism bureaux, I would ask where the nearest Ranger Station was, or the nearest Forestry or BLM office. Sometimes there was not one nearby, but when you get out west there is at least one of those in most towns.

    Once I knew where the office was, I made my way there and got accurate information as to where public lands campsites were. While I was there, I would ask about the next town on my route, and often they would be able to give me maps for that area as well. Rarely did I find more than three or four other campers.

    But when you get close to the great national parks, you have to go a long way to find those spots. I have to say that Kodachrome S.P. on UT12 is a lovely State Park and campground - albeit not free. But they do have showers and power /water hookups.

    I meant sleeping off the side of a road in a National Forest or BLM land where it's legal.
    In most State Parks you are required to camp in allocated spots (though you can usually choose your own) and on other public lands where spots are not allocated, there is a minimum distance you need to be away from the road. Once again, you can get the local regulations from the local rangers and officers.

    If you are working with good maps you will find most parks and forests which have camp spots, marked on them. But that is no substitute for checking with the local offices.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    It's usually not hard to do, but if you find yourself overnighting at a truck stop or big box store, be sure to give them some business. Truck stops always have fuel, sometimes the cheapest in the area, and they also will sell you a shower. (That is one problem with the idea of always staying in your car - where are you going to clean up, brush your teeth, etc.?)

    Try not to pull over in a quiet neighborhood. A guy who was working on a construction crew nearby thought our neighborhood was a perfect fit for sleeping in his vehicle. The house he chose to park in front of? It belonged to a local law enforcement officer. Once we all figured out what was going on, he got awoken and told to "move on". As was stated above, truck stops, big box stores, and NF/BLM dispersed camping applies. You'll usually be told "at least XXX feet off the road" when in a NF.

    Another good way to save money - bring a tent, a single propane burner, a pan, some utensils, and a cooler. I find that our biggest expense on a 30-day trip is in fuel, with restaurants/eating out and motels as the other 2 biggies. Also, on those days when you find yourself staying in a big box store or truck stop parking lot, go into said big-box store for your meal. Usually a lot is available, cheaper than a restaurant, that is precooked.


    Donna

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    From my experience, the most accurate and comprehensive information regarding camping on public lands is from the local offices, wherever you happen to be. Many of the plans I made beforehand turned out to be incorrect on the web. Either the campground was closed, or it simply was not where shown, and lots of inaccuracies like that. In the end I gave up.

    As I got to any town or city, and at the States' welcome centres, at the visitor centres and tourism bureaux, I would ask where the nearest Ranger Station was, or the nearest Forestry or BLM office. Sometimes there was not one nearby, but when you get out west there is at least one of those in most towns.
    Lifey
    I plan on calling all the relevant local offices before hand to make sure the places I plan on camping at are suitable, as well as ordering any maps I can by mail. Once I get on the road, I'll stop by the offices in person as needed to double check about weather and road conditions, and get any more local information I'll need. Speaking of maps, I've heard good things about Benchmark State Maps. Do you think I should get these for each state I'll be dispersed camping in, or should the local forest service maps suffice? I'll also have the latest copy of Rand McNally Road Atlas. Right now I'm looking at dispersed camping in Nevada (outside Grand Basin), Arizona (Kaibab National Forest, Utah (outside Zion, Bryce, & Capitol Reef), Wyoming (outside Grand Tetons & Yellowstone), and Montana (outside Glacier).

    I also plan on using this website: https://freecampsites.net/ It looks like there's free campsites (mainly dispersed sites) outside all of the Parks that I plan on visiting. I'll be checking with the local authorities about each spot I plan on staying at beforehand, but this website looks like a good resource to find dispersed camping spots before I head out.


    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Another good way to save money - bring a tent, a single propane burner, a pan, some utensils, and a cooler. I find that our biggest expense on a 30-day trip is in fuel, with restaurants/eating out and motels as the other 2 biggies. Also, on those days when you find yourself staying in a big box store or truck stop parking lot, go into said big-box store for your meal. Usually a lot is available, cheaper than a restaurant, that is precooked.


    Donna

    This is definitely going to be a camping trip. The only time I plan on staying inside will be in Vegas and Cedar City when I'm staying with family, and at the end of the trip in Yakima. I'll have a tent with me along with a cooler of food, lot's of water, a camping stove, and everything else that I'll need for camping and personal hygiene. I'm gonna be taking multiple shorter trips during the year before this trip to prepare and figure out the most efficient camping kit to bring along with me.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Free campsites.

    In the past I have found those websites not quite accurate. the 'sites' are added by individuals, and can sometimes be just a place where they pulled over, and called it a free campsite. Another problem is that most folk who use the free campsites, focus on the free, and not on the natural setting and the environment. Without proper facilities, they just don't know how to look after the earth.

    When it comes to the Tetons and Yellowstone, you could be much better off at a minimal payment State Park, where there are camp hosts and proper spots - though never packed in like a parking lot. I stayed at one just north of West Yellowstone along US 191. It cost $16 and was a mere 5 miles from the Park. Water and electricity available. Same goes for the campsites at the south end of the Tetons, such as Gros Ventre, which is only a short drive from the park
    WY is covered with dispersed camping, especially south of The Tetons in the Pinedale and Hobach Canyon areas.

    The Hebgen Lake MT campsite is right in the middle of the 1959 Earthquake Geological Area, self guided tour. A tour worth taking.

    Another important thing to be aware of is that so many of these campsites are on unmaintained forest roads, and as such the condition can not be guaranteed. It could well be very different from what the reviews mention. Several times I have turned back.

    Not that I want to put you off - I love these campsites - but be aware you may never get to some of the spots you plan, and need to find another. Hence the importance of speaking to an authority, on the day and in the area.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Another important thing to be aware of is that so many of these campsites are on unmaintained forest roads, and as such the condition can not be guaranteed.
    The all wheel drive in your Subaru may come in handy! You may be glad you have it in Monument Valley and going up the Moki Dugway.

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    The all wheel drive in your Subaru may come in handy! You may be glad you have it in Monument Valley and going up the Moki Dugway.
    Definitely! I'll have a full size spare tire too just in case. The last place I want is to be stuck 300 miles from the nearest shop limping back on a doughnut.

    One thing I'm a little worried about is the possibility of rain. It looks like the "monsoon" season in Utah's canyonlands are roughly July - September. Obviously if it's raining I'll have to skip roads like the Moki Dugway. How bad do these rains get? As long as I check in daily with the appropriate local visitor/tourist stations and follow their advice should I be able to stay safe?


    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    In the past I have found those websites not quite accurate. the 'sites' are added by individuals, and can sometimes be just a place where they pulled over, and called it a free campsite. Another problem is that most folk who use the free campsites, focus on the free, and not on the natural setting and the environment. Without proper facilities, they just don't know how to look after the earth.

    Lifey
    I've noticed that looking at some of the spots on that website. Some of them are just locations added by individuals who parked somewhere for the night. Most of them seem to have multiple reviews though with more information about the roads getting there and the actual suitability and legality of the campsite. As far as taking care of the environment goes, PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT! I'm trying to enjoy nature on this trip, not disturb it :).

    I'll make sure to have backup campsites planned for each night, in case when I get to my first choice it's not suitable or available for some reason. I'm not completely against staying in any developed campsites either, whether that's in a National Park or a State Park or somewhere else nearby. I'd like to avoid them though partly to save money, but mainly to find more solitude and not worry about getting there super early for the first come first serve NP campsites. If as the trip goes on though I find it more convenient/practical to stay at a developed campsite I'll go that route. Gotta stay flexible!

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 4
    Last Post: 01-23-2016, 01:10 PM
  2. National Parks Road Trip, June-July 2012
    By Scottish Student in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-23-2011, 05:10 PM
  3. Road trip to Western National Parks..help me plan
    By tealady in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 08-03-2011, 06:10 PM
  4. West Coast National Parks road trip advice?
    By dme in forum Spring RoadTrips
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 04-27-2011, 11:13 AM
  5. 4 week west coast National parks road trip
    By gracie in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 35
    Last Post: 09-03-2010, 07:43 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
  • Find the Perfect Hotel
    Search RoadTrip Motels
    Enter city name

    Loading...



  • MORE STORIES