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  1. Default 10,000 mile road trip to 21 national parks in 3 months

    Hello,

    I am looking for a little advice about a trip that I have been planning. This summer I have decided to just take off and do something I have always wanted. The plan is to not reserve any camp sites because I cant plan my schedule that closely and want the added flexibility. I am looking at doing dispersed camping in the nearby national forests and grasslands. It is a free option that will allow me to travel around freely with zero regard for camp site schedules and such. My main concern however is the bears...

    Some of the areas I am going have pretty strict rules on food storage. Although the rules are reasonably easy to follow when you stay in a camp site, staying in the middle of the forest does not offer as much simplicity. Basically I can't keep any food in the car overnight, some even recommend to vacuum all the crumbs out of your car.


    The question is what do I do at night? Just take them out and tie them to a tree?

    How do I handle if one day I decide to go for more than just a day hike?

    Finally, Should I be considering getting my car detailed as to remove all the possible little crumbs that have accumulated over the years?

    I know this is not a camping forum so I'm not sure how much you guys will know about the topic of dispersed camping but its worth a shot.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 03-16-2016 at 05:05 AM. Reason: New Members are not allowed to post off-site links

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The first thing you're going to have to be careful about is where dispersed camping is allowed - especially in bear country. There are many places - like the National Forests around Yellowstone, for example - where tent camping is not allowed, because of bear concerns. In other areas, you'll only be allowed to camp at campgrounds, where bear boxes are available.

    To find out information about dispersed camping that is safe and legal, you're going to need to check with the rangers of the National Forest or BLM office where you plan to be staying, so for your longer treks, I would very much take advantage of that experience, as they should be able to tell you what would be a safe way to store your items, and what gear you'll need for a safe hike in those areas.

    As far as the car, while you certainly need to be mindful of food and trash that is inside your car, worrying about crumbs seems a bit extreme to me.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Camping on public lands.

    Much of my camping is done in State parks, State forests and BLM lands. Like you, I never book anything ahead, because I do not like to have to fix my dates for accommodation. I prefer the flexibility of being able to go where I feel like going on the day.

    Your best shot is to seek out ALL the rangers' offices, the forestry department offices and the BLM offices. The staff in all these places are a wealth of information, know all the spots and what is required. Few towns have all three offices, but most have at least one of the three. Any visitor centre, Welcome centre or tourism information in town will tell you where to find these places.

    The beaut thing is, that once you have found one, you ask them where the next one is in the direction you are heading.

    I keep food in my van, but any and all fresh food is in a small compressor fridge. Things like bread, cereal and pasta, and tins and jars of food are fine, until they are opened. Freeze dried food is also OK. I never leave trash or scraps in the van, but can't say I have gone so far as to sweep out the crumbs.

    Near Yellowstone there are State parks, which the West Yellowstone tourist information office can advice you on. They are well placed, fully equipped for campers with basic facilities, for a minimal cost.... (considering how expensive all accommodation is around there). Grand Canyon South Rim is not so easy, but the north rim has good and affordable camping nearby.

    Throughout UT and WY there are many campgrounds run by the three offices mentioned, and even in the height of summer I was often the only one there. Montana too has a good selection of campgrounds which are free or a minimal cost. Once again, under utilised.

    When I go on my long trips, I find that I usually average about 1000 miles per week. It is a nice pace at which to travel, having many non driving days to explore and do other things

    I take it you already have good maps. If not, that is probably the first thing you should get. You will find that many of the places which have campsites are marked on good maps, though it pays to check in the offices for up to date information. There can be last minute changes in any area, which often are not on the website, or known by an office three towns down the road.

    From experience I have found that the only reliable information is at the office closest to where you want to camp.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    162

    Default

    Hello! I'm new to this forum, but I've been a road tripper since I got my first driver's license, and that was fifty years ago! Last summer, I cooked up a doozy of a road trip to celebrate my retirement. Starting from Arizona, I traveled west to California, north through the Sierras to Yosemite, on to San Francisco and a visit with friends, north again, through the Redwoods, Crater Lake, the Columbia River Gorge, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Olympic National Park, Seattle, and north into Canada, to Dawson's Creek British Columbia, and the start of the Alaska Highway.

    I drove the Al-Can, which was AMAZING, all the way to Fairbanks. Then I drove all over Alaska, Denali, the Kenai, and more. Fabulous. Then I took a slightly different route back to Dawson's Creek, and south through the Rockies, ending up back in Arizona in late August. Altogether, I was gone eight weeks, covered 13,000 miles, and explored 24 National Parks, including seven in Canada. I didn't make a single reservation, and I camped just a bit less than half of the time. (I was in a Jeep, not an RV). When I did camp, I mostly used a tent, and I always stayed in camp grounds--especially in Bear Country, and I used the Bear-proof boxes they provide for storing your food. I had a long talk with a wildlife biologist who shared my campsite with me at a campground in Yosemite. If a large bear smells something tasty in your car? He'll find a way in, and you really don't want to be there when he does.

    Every National Park, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, Banff, Grand Teton--they ALL have first come, first served campgrounds which can't be reserved in advance. You just have to show up, and take your chances. I was able to secure terrific camp sites in all of the locations I just mentioned--complete with bear boxes--in the peak summer season, with no reservations, and at minimal cost. (Seniors age 62+ can buy a lifetime pass for ten bucks that gets you free admission to all US National Parks, and half price for the camp sites). But there is a trick you have to employ: get there EARLY! I don't mean 3 PM, I mean 10 AM. That's when the people who are leaving are packing up to go, and you'll be first in line for the first-come-first-served campsites that are about to be abandoned. When you enter the National Park, stop at the first information center you see, and ask a Ranger about the campgrounds. They'll tell you where your best bet will be. Just make sure you're bright and early! To pull that off, you'll need to stay somewhere close the night before, within a few hours drive, and you'll need to get going before breakfast! (Just don't get too close--hotel prices tend to rise dramatically, the closer you get to a popular destination). Note that this only works for tent and car camping. If you drive an RV and need the hookups? Forget it--those spots almost always have to be reserved.

    I do have a website and blog with all sorts of details and hundreds of pictures of my travels, all over North America and Mexico. Since I'm new here, Forum rules don't allow me to post a link. But I'm easy to find on Google.

    Happy travels!

    rcquinn

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Bears and Food in cars

    Bears have excellent eyesight and very accurate noses. If a bear can see in your car and sees coolers, food wrappers -- even if there is NO apparent smell -- they will simply open the car and get them.

    Mark

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Thanks for the info!

    Quote Originally Posted by rcquinn View Post
    I do have a website and blog with all sorts of details and hundreds of pictures of my travels, all over North America and Mexico. Since I'm new here, Forum rules don't allow me to post a link. But I'm easy to find on Google.
    rcquinn, Welcome to the Trip Planning Forums -- great post! Love to have experts becoming members.

    Thanks for observing our rules about new members posting off-site links. Here is rquinn's site -- gorgeous photos!

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-16-2016 at 05:47 PM. Reason: added the link

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Don't forget toiletries etc !

    And don't forget it's not just food you should store away. Toiletries, sun creams, toothpaste etc all have nice smells and can contain animal fats etc, and a hungry bear will follow their nose !! Another idea is for any outdoor cooking to be done at a safe distance from your tent, so any small spills and smells are away from the place you are sleeping. The same goes for eating outside and a little way from your tent.

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

    Default And more.....

    And it is wise to dispose of your dishwashing water in the toilets.

    Lifey

  9. Default

    Wow. I really appreciate all the advice. So to sum up.

    In bear country I will have the easiest time just staying at camp sites. Get there early morning to ensure reservation and I should be fine.

    Also check in at any local offices for information about the area and local cam sites.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    My parents used to use that method at National Park campgrounds when I was growing up, getting there early just as other campers were tearing down their stuff to check out. We would stay (in our trailer) in a commercial park about 1/2 to 1 hour away from the national park we were aiming for. We'd be in line at the gate at 9 am, waiting for the next opening. We got into one of the sites at Grand Teton in that manner, and Yosemite too if I recall.

    When we were at Yellowstone this past trip ('14), we pulled into the park gate at 6:15 am on the 2nd morning, ready to head immediately for Old Faithful. I looked at the campground board. Several of them said FULL, but already there were a few that said VACANCY. One surprised me -- Madison Campground.

    So it can be done!


    Donna

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