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  1. Default LA to Yellowstone, + 10 more NPs in 20days

    Hi,
    Mom, Planning 3wk road trip/Camp'n adventure last week of Aug & into Sept, with 10yo kiddo, from LA to Yellowstone.
    *We have an Access Pass, Incl free entry ALL Nat'l Parks & Monument (I think?) & 50% off CGs at NPs, BLM, NFs...+ More. Amazing savings!

    ((Edit: Had planned to pull TT, Now might possibly go with tent BC better CG Choices avail at this late date! Will also save $ on gas. My trip planning is stalled until I can commit to TT or tent... Pro/Con list not helping! ))

    Anyhow, we Love beautiful scenic drives, love Nature & being outdoors- hiking, rock scrambling, plants& wildlife viewing etc. Can't wait to see YS!!
    (Ideally wanted to be in YS midSept, but Ranger talks/hikes end 9/4/17 :/

    Would love it if some of you experienced travelers, especially familiar with Nat'l Parks we've chosen, would comment :) Please pass on thoughts, ideas, opinions about itinerary?? Any feedback that might help make our trip go smoothly! & Safely!!

    Alrighty, here goes--Thanks in advance!! :)

    Day1 0600 LA--> Hoover Dam, lunch & rest.
    1400 drive--> Grand Canyon, South *arrive 2130
    Day2 Grand Canyon, Full day
    Day3 ---> Monument Valley, explore until dark
    ---> 4 Corners Monument(arrive night)
    Day 4 Explore 4Corners, *ALLOW 1hr. ?? (Kiddo Request)
    1000 drive-->ArchesNP, scenic drive, *campground?
    Day 5 0600 Drive- --->Dinosaur NM, Quarry Visitor& exhibit
    ~1600 Drive----> Grand Tetons NP *Campground?
    Day 6 Grand Tetons, full day
    Day 7 --->Yellowstone, S. Entrance.
    Day 8 thru 11 Yellowstone, full days
    **Planning to stay in Grant, & possibly Norris,
    Activities: Jr. Ranger &
    several Ranger led hikes- incl 6hr hike to
    Shoshone, also hike Mt. Washburn & Grand Cyn.
    & Lamar Valley...
    Day 12- exit YS, West entr,-->Craters of MoonNM
    Day 13 --->Great Salt Lake (kiddo Request).
    Day14 --->Bryce Canyon NP
    Day15 Bryce Canyon, full day
    Day16 --->Zion, East Entrance.
    Day 17 Zion, full day
    Day 18 Zion, full day, --->St. George in PM
    Day 19 --->Red Rock Canyon NP, stay in campground,
    **--->VegasStrip in Eve & back (kiddo Request)
    Day 20 Explore Red Rock
    --->PM I-15 to LA!!!!
    Last edited by CampnCat; 06-02-2017 at 02:29 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default A Few Details to Consider

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First: the good news. You should have ample time for your trip, even with all the hiking, camping, etc. that you have planned. I don't see any real show stoppers here. It's also great that you already know about and plan to take advantage of the Junior Ranger Program. Just be aware that it's offered at most national parks, not just Yellowstone, and the badges and certificates that your child will earn will make great souvenirs/keepsakes of this trip. Same with the ranger-led talks which are also available at most parks.

    Now, the not-so-good news (but not-so-bad-either). Monument Valley, Four Corners, and Red Rock Canyon are not national parks. Monument Valley and Four Corners are Navajo Tribal Parks which means that you'll have to pay separate admissions; they aren't included in your America the Beautiful Pass. (You were planning on buying one of those at the first national park you came to, no?) While you can drive through Monument Valley on US-163, given your adventurous bent and the fact that you'll be in or towing a camper, I'd suggest that you take the time to hire a native guide (and his 4WD vehicle) and get back into the park for the best views. Four Corners is little more than a concrete slab with a large medallion embedded in it surrounded by venders; an hour is overkill. And Red Rock Canyon is a national conservation area which has, I think, just a single campground.

    Now back to more good news. The fact is that the western US is full of all sorts of public lands. Besides national parks (and tribal parks and conservation areas) there are state parks, national forests, and BLM lands all of which offer camping of one sort or another. I doubt that you should ever have to resort to 'camping' in a Walmart parking lot. Especially with your obvious self-reliance you should consider making use of 'distributed' or 'dispersed' camping in national forests for the lower-elevation and/or more southerly portions of your trip.

    Also, even with your extensive list of 'targets', you're only just scratching the surface of what's on offer. Be sure to check out smaller national, state and local parks as well while you're on the road. Just a few that are close to your route: Mojave National Preserve, Wupatki National Monument, Goosenecks State Park UT, Colorado National Monument, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Valley of Fire State Park (NV), etc., etc., etc.

    Now, the sooner and the better you plan out the details, and you've already got a very good start, the better positioned you'll be to start making reservations. While it's true that many national parks hold some for daily arrivals, those are on a first-come, first-served basis and are usually booked early in the day. Late arrivals will usually find nothing left. September should start to see a fall-off in usage, but still it would be far better to have reservations made. If you are having troubles getting a campsite inside a national park, check out nearby national forests (which often surround the parks) and other nearby parks.

    Kiddo is in for the time of her/his life.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    To add to what AZBuck said, there are a few things you'll need to consider:

    LA to Grand Canyon is 8 hours *without* a stop at Hoover Dam. If you plan to go to the Dam, you will not reach GCNP by 2 pm. If you are using an electronic mapping program to determine your travel times, don't bother. Instead, take their mileage (accurate) and divide by 50 (LA and/or 2-lane highway travel) or 55 (no LA and freeway). That will give you your travel time, as the electronics don't plan for your bathroom, food and fuel needs. Add time for stops such as Hoover Dam. BTW, the Dam tour has a cost.

    Around Arches NP, along UT-128, there are plenty of tiny BLM campgrounds, if you can't get into Devil's Garden in the NP. However, you may have to bring in your own water.


    Donna

  4. Default

    AZBuck, thank you for the warm welcome and the very helpful reply, I'm glad to know that my tentative itinerary is not completely impossible! :)

    Re Walmart- I hear you (&Donna too) re other camping alternatives, but doesn't make sense to even hassle with a campground for the two times I plan to use Walmart,
    I am actually planning on pulling in at night, stocking up on any supplies that are needed, and being gone at the crack of dawn!! That said, if we're driving along and I just get way too tired, a rest area or truck stop will fit my basic sleep needs just as well too!

    *Donna, thanks for your reply also :) I adjusted my OP to reflect that I will actually be leaving Hoover Dam @2pm, hoping to arrive at the Grand Canyon by 7:30 p.m.

    Re BLM etc camping... If it's a true Campground, it wouldn't be a horrible thing however just to go out and park in the forest? Doesn't sound as much fun for the kiddo. Because we really want the whole Ambience of the campfire and Ranger talks in the evening etc
    *Also, as tough as I am LOL I might be concerned about safety...Not to mention, possibly I've watch too many alien abduction/ invader movies LOL 😉

    Re mileage/time, yes, so far I've tried to take the mileage given to me on Google Maps between destinations and ÷ by 50 as you suggested. *If I pull the TT I actually do not plan to drive above 50-55 mph! Maybe I should /40mph!! :/ ((10 years ago I went cross country and I think I drove about 70mph with TT the whole way. Return trip, almost home, I got a ticket. Also got horrible gas mileage!! Lesson learned.

    Also, Buck, I really don't think I want to be gone more than three weeks (house sitter) and I don't see how I can possibly fit anything else in, but if we're driving by a really awesome park or in the proximity of one nearby? We don't mind a quick detour!!

    Thanks for four corners tip! Maybe it might be something we can see in the evening and then be on our way again towards our next destination and save some time there!

    I think it's important to let the kiddo pick a few places to stop at as well. Which is also why we are going to the 4corners, Dinosaur, Great Salt Lake & Vegas strip for the lights LOL *thanks also for the reminder about the Jr Ranger in all the NPs! Yes, he will definitely do Jr Ranger at all the parks! :-)

  5. Default TT (trailer) or TENT??! Help!

    Idk. Should this be a separate new thread?
    Because--
    I am completely stuck! I can't decide between the TT or TENT!!!
    I'm having difficulty with making YS (TT 40' or less), CG reservations... If we just go with tent, we can actually get in all the campgrounds that we want to go to! I'm talking Grant Madison and Canyon.
    Tent- we have to set up / breakdown each move which is a hassle, especially since most nights we're just going to be there one night. Also, all the tent restrictions to worry about in YS. IE bears.
    A nice+ is I will be able to drive faster and make better time, & have better gas mileage!! Money saved.

    TT- fully self-contained making it so much easier, convenient,safer, *can pack more, can stop at a rest area and pop inside the trailer for a quick break...
    -- The worst part about the TT is trying to find a CG available. & Longer drive time, bad gas mileage.

    Part of me says to go ahead and do the TT, book YS Grant for a couple days, then just wing it and hope to get a spot at Norris! But. There is something to be said about driving over a thousand miles and knowing you have a place to stay at your destination!

    Finally we really really really want to stay in the actual Ys itself just because we want to do so much while we're there.

    Anybody have any help/advice/opinions regarding a three-week road trip, Mom & child, camping in a tent or travel trailer? Which would you choose?

    Thank you :-)
    Last edited by CampnCat; 06-02-2017 at 03:40 PM. Reason: Spelling & added to

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

    Default

    Well, it's a personal choice. Before I state what *I* would choose, let me add a little personal history: my husband and I tent-camped, then tent-camped with kids before purchasing a tent-trailer (pop-up), followed by a 5th wheel (5W). Now we're sans any sort of RV, due to storage issues where we live. If I had choose between a tent or trailer, especially with Yellowstone and Grand Teton, I would go for the trailer.

    Parking your trailer at whatever campground is available at YSNP is fine. Make that your central spot, if you have to. It may mean a little more driving. But that makes pulling off the road for lunch, a pit-stop, etc., to be a lot easier in most ways. Yes, it means more money expended for fuel, but it means less lunches out when you're on the road. And less trying to cook outdoors (or eating out) when the weather turns inclement.

    One of the things I miss the *most* about my RV is that food issue.



    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Just for the Record

    Walmart 'camping' is fine in its place, but.... You need to make sure that the particular Walmart you intend to use allows such activity in its parking lot, not all do. Also, even those that do typically don't allow you to 'set up camp'. I.E. if you've got a pop-up trailer, it will be of absolutely no use. Your rig must be indistinguishable from simply being parked for the night - no pull-outs, no pop-us, no lawn chairs, etc. All that, of course, means no mingling with other 'campers'. On the other hand, good for you in recognizing that patronizing the store is part of the cost of the 'free' Walmart experience.

    Many truck stops operate on the same general principle: Buy something such as a meal and they will let you park in their ample lots. Ask them for permission first and park where they suggest. The downside of truck stops is that they are, usually, 24 hour operations and there will be much noise and light, making for less than ideal sleeping conditions. Unfortunately it is illegal in most states to park and sleep in rest areas. You probably won't be arrested or fined, but you could find yourself roused in the middle of the night and ordered to move on.

    As far as national forest camping, there are usually prepared campgrounds, often with running water and basic toilet facilities. Those are where you'll find campfires with like-minded campers around them. The 'distributed' or 'dispersed' camping I mentioned is a last resort where, even if all the campgrounds are full, you are allowed to camp as long as you are well off any road. Each forest has somewhat different rules, so again check.

    Ultimately, however, reservations are your best friend and the only guarantee that you'll have a place to call home in the evening, so the best piece of advice I or anyone can give you is to make them now or as soon as practicable or allowable. And it's important to remember that if you can't get a reservation in a national park such as Yosemite, those parks are often surrounded by national forests where campsites can be more readily available. In Yosemite's case that would be Stanislaus, Toiyabe, Inyo and Sierra National Forests

    As for fitting 'other stuff' in, every alternative place I listed is a place you'll be driving by or 'near enough to spit'. It's entirely up to you if you choose to stop at any of them. But some of the smaller state parks (marked on maps!) make great short stops on long days that are otherwise devoted almost entirely to driving, or in your child's case entirely to sitting in a car.

    AZBuck

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

    Default Not quite as easy as it sounds.

    Be aware that in the rural south west, away from LA and LV, truck stops are few and far between. Those which accommodate RVs overnight are even fewer.

    Besides being illegal in most areas, rest areas are also the most dangerous areas to sleep especially at night.

    If you plan to wing it, finding campgrounds along the way, allow yourself a couple of hours at the end of each day for this search. There are many, but it could be that some will make you feel uncomfortable, especially when a camp host or manager is not present. You may want to go find another.

    From the sound of your posts, with tent or trailer, it might be best to get all the bookings in before departure.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 06-04-2017 at 11:17 AM. Reason: typo

  9. Default

    Thanks for your input as well LifeMagician :)

    Yes, I'm in agreement that reservations are the way to go. I will go ahead and book Grant CG @ YS, for full week, our "Basecamp", truth is we'll be gone all day, & whereas heading back to Grant will involve long treks backtracking, it'll be evening & a different view of park! The kiddo really wants to see bison & grizzlies- so I'd prefer to see from SUV!
    Moving on, Grant offers free hot showers! & Cell service works there! 2huge +!!!

    After being in YS a few days, we may transfer over to Mammoth-- it will be the time of the elk rut, great views at Mammoth CG & free Wi-Fi. ((I will look into refund policy for Grant)).
    @AZBuck, thanks, I followed your suggestions, looked into the Forest Service, there is a CG 4m out from YS west entrance, in Montana, on Madison River, I am camping 1nt there with electric h/u, when we leave YS!! Just to do nothing but sit, relax, reflect on our adventures, & maybe view wildlife on Madison! Not even planning to unhitch. After lazy am, we will head towards Craters of the Moon...

    & Now that I know YS days, everything should fall into place.
    * Btw Donna--- yes, you had good points!!
    It just makes sense to take TT, especially for long trip with kiddo! It'll be easier on me, We will be warmer, safer, etc.

    Thanks again :)

  10. Default

    forgot to add,
    I've done a lot of roadtrippin, where I was just trying to get from point A to point B, as quickly as possible. I wasn't so much sightseeing along the way, & definitely not camping.
    My *favorite* time to drive is late evening & into the night!!
    So, I've stopped for shut-eye at Walmart's & countless truckstops, even more rest areas--not to mention all night Denny's or McDonald's!! All up and down I-5, & cross country too... Just to sleep enough to safely drive again!
    Never ever had an issue. Safety or otherwise.
    I've always found it's wise to just blend in...
    Easier without TT!
    *AZBuck, I've heard stories but never seen folks "camping out" at Walmart... Till right here in LA, where overnight is not allowed, guy had RV sides out & a chair was in the parking lot curbside planting area!! He was sitting in it w/o shirt, catching rays I guess. People laughed but no one bothered him...

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