Am planning a mid-late April trip to some National Parks out west and wanted to get some info/tips on road conditions/closures in some National Parks. Last year, took a trip to Crater Lake in late May and most of the park and surrounding area roads were closed due to snow. Trying to avoid that if possible this year.....
Here are some of my choices:
Hwy 120 thru Yosemite,
US 50 and others around Lake Tahoe,
Hwys 410, 706, 123, US 12 (loop around the Mt. Ranier National Park),
US 2 and the road thru Glacier National Park,
Some of these roads say "Closed in Winter" and my experience has been "Winter" has different meanings in different parts of the country. Have any of you had any experience in these areas in April and are the roads actually closed at that time.
Once, when passing through the the Tetons area in mid-May, I saw folks were still driving pick-up trucks on Jackson Lake -- the ice was still that thick!
I have encountered closed roads (and parks) in May many times -- Lassen, Crater, Glacier. Yellowstone and Grand Teton can often be accessed, especially the area around the hot springs at Yellowstone (warm enough to camp comfortably even though the snow was deep everywhere else in the park!).
Best to make it mid-June, and call ahead even then before you leave to ensure you can get in. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), winter hangs on a LONG time at northern, high altitudes!
At the time you are planning, how about visiting some more-southerly parks? Arizona and Utah have plenty, and winter here is much more civilized -- by April it will be BEAUTIFUL! :) Bob
Wife's vacation is set in stone, and we have seen most of the southern parks, Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands.....Went to Rocky Mtn National Park one year in May and it was still mostly closed. Went back on year in July and WOW!
What we really want to do is an interior west coast trip...Yosemite, Tahoe, Mt. Ranier. We have done the coast and alot of Southern California before as well.
Tahoe and Yosemite
I suspect that Tahoe and at least parts of Yosemite will be open, don't know about Rainier and the highest portions of Yosemite.
Observations -- Yes, they generally mean "closed"
Even in severe drought conditions, it is extremely unlikely that Tioga Pass (eastern edge of Yosemite would be open in mid-April). We have been in truly wild snow conditions in the mountains around Yosemite in April. On the other hand, the Dogwood Trees are often in bloom in April and they are a sight to behold -- looks like snow -- but isn't. Most of the park will remain open throughout the winter and early spring -- but you need to confirm road conditions daily.
US-50 is often subject to avalanche closures in April, but they are short-lived and the views around Tahoe are awesome.
Highway to the Sun in Glacier will not be open. Most of the routes you identified will be extremely "iffy" about being open that early in the spring.
Snowfall in the Cascades looks to be as heavy as normal this winter -- so I would bet you will find plenty of snow in those areas.
Here's a webpage with lots of links to find out about road conditions in Washington state. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traveler.htm
And, while you're up here, I highly suggest Mt. St. Helens! Rainier is very beautiful but St. Helens is NOT to be missed. You can always come back to Rainier another year if time is an issue but St. Helens is changing rapidly as, year by year, nature renews itself. Fascinating scenery.
Thanks for the info all! Looks like Glacier is out of the question so I should stick to maybe Vegas->Death Valley->Yosemite (maybe)->Tahoe area ->Mt St Helens/Ranier ->Seattle/Vancouver
Death Valley is one of our favorite destinations any time of the year -- be sure to take the Titus Canyon Rd drive (if the road is dry). Sliding Stones on the Racetrack Playa is also really interesting.
That time of year you will not be able to get into Yosemite from the eastern slope of the Sierras (again Tioga will not be open). .
Tahoe is great. Black Rock Desert is also pretty impressive.
Do you like HOT WATER? You might want to consider US-395 thru the Oregon Outback. <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/hot.htm">Summer Lake Hot Springs<a/> is one of our destinations of choice for early Spring.
Queets Rain Forest is a must-see if you go to the Olympic Penisula. Don't forget the fresh <a href = "http://www.roadtripamerica.com/eats/3crabs.htm">crab!</a>
Along with Mark's great suggestions, if you do get up to Seattle, a wonderful excursion would be to take one of the ferries up into the San Juan Islands. A good choice is out to Friday Harbor from Anacortes -- when I went last summer I walked up the hill from the ferry dock at Friday Harbor and had a great halibut dinner at a little restaurant (there are several to choose from, unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the one where I ate).
There are other posts for the Pacific NW on the forum, so be sure to check some of those for ideas as well. Bob
And don't forget Oregon!
You should be able to drive to Timberline Lodge (Mt. Hood) easily (no chains) by then -- although they will still be skiing, as they do it year round up there!
The Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon-Washington border is spectacular and sure to be clear by then.
Also most of the Oregon desert (yes, 2/3 of the state is high desert) should also be easy driving - Bend/Redmond/Sisters is particularly nice in the spring.
The Oregon coast is wonderful year round - we just got back from a quick trip there to see the storms. The water was up to our bumper coming back as one of the rivers overflowed across the road!
If you like cities, Portland is becoming the hippest, most chic on the coast. The Pearl district, Hawthorne, Alberta and more are great destinations in the City of Roses. And I can guarantee you that you won't have snow in April!
Cross Crater Lake off your list for this trip -- usually doesn't open until June -- but it is beautiful to see.
What other state in the union can you snow ski in the morning, water ski in the afternoon and watch the sunset over the ocean in the evening -- all in the same day, year round?