First time cross country - need advice
I will be taking a 3 month cross-country trip starting May 1 and need advice about where to go, what to see, etc. I've done short 2-3 day trips before, but nothing of this duration. I'm starting out in D.C., heading up north to NYC, Boston, Niagra Falls, then through Montreal, back down to Chicago, then I'm not sure what else to do. I have to be in Vegas last week in June and in Miami as of August 1. Any suggestions would be most appreciated - I'm not a huge hiker, but I do enjoy the outdoors. Thanks!
I would suggest hitting the National Parks. South Dakota: Badlands National Park, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, Deadwood. Wyoming: Devils Tower National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons. Utah: Arches National Park, CAnyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park, maybe do a white water rafting trip out of Moab, Utah or take a 4 wheel drive tour. Capitol Reef National Park, drive scenic Hwy 12 between Torrey, Utah and Bryce National Park, Zion National Park and then your only 3 hours from Vegas.
After Vegas head for ARizona: Sedona, Grand Canyon National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley. Colorado: Mesa Verde National Monument, Million Dollar Highway 550 from Durango to Silver City to Ouray. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park. Then head back to New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns and then head east on I-40.
What about the parks in the summer?
Some people have mentioned that the national parks are a nightmare with crowds during the summer. I want to visit most of the places you listed in above - probably would start in Mt. Rushmore by the end of May and go through mid-July. Has it been your experience that I will be in massive crowds and unpleasantness?
Pupgirl, you made no mention of monetary restrictions, which could dramaticaly alter a 3 month trip (especially with the gas prices nowadays). If I had the money I make on a 3 month trip I'd be asking AAA to plot a Triptik that follows only downhill roads that level out near reduced rate campsites with soup kitchens within walking distance, but that's me. Anyhoo, 3 months gives you plenty of time to combat the crowds.
Having 3 months to pull off a road trip has everyone that posts here salivating, I gurantee you, so first off, take your time enjoy it.
You said you're a first timer so here's three tips:
1. Check roadfood.com or suggestions from posters here to see where the locals eat in the towns you know you're going to be in. Towns that you happen to find yourself in that you didn't plan? Find the crowded parking lot. People don't wait in line for crap. An empty parking lot on a Saturday is a good sign that some questionable food is in your future.
2. If you're on a budget and not sure where to stay, rest areas/tourist info booths will usually have coupon books for hotels if you're heading to a place you don't have reservations. They can save you a bunch of dough if you're more of "see where the day takes me" type of gal.
3. As far as state parks go, with the time you got, plan on to pulling into town on Monday or Tuesday. Spend Saturday and Sunday traveling. Saturday and Sunday in the big parks attracts not only tourists, but local people on weekend trips.
If you do go to Mt. Rushmore, be sure to hit Deadwood. Go watch Wild Bill buy it at the No. 10 Saloon. It's a good time.
Also, a drive through Custer State Park in the AM (again aim for Monday or Tuesday) will give you a glimpse of some tatanka.
FYI - Not sure what you're into, but if you're in NYC and have acquired a thirst, there's a bar on East 7th St and 3rd Ave. called McSorley's which is worth the trip. It's supposedly the oldest tavern in the US and it's a party every minute. It's like Bourbon St., doesn't matter what time you show up, there's always a party. We've shown up at 11:30am in the morning and had to wait for a table. Not a table for lunch mind you...just a table to get your drunk on. Also, the polar opposite of it is located about 3/4 of a block down the street in a little place called Burp Castle. 300 bottled beers from every place in the world. I live in CT and we take the train down once in awhile to hang out at McSorley's and have never been disappointed.
People are very friendly
Or, that's what I've found. I would suggest trying to get to Yellowstone the first week or so of June. We were there the first week and were so plesantly surprized to find the crowds weren't there yet. Rangers told us that mid-June is when they really start. We've been there in the summer too, it's not all that bad. If you don't have a choice on the time, it's worth it to go and brave a few people instead of missing it altogether.
As for the Utah Parks, they thin out in the summer because of the heat. We were at the Grand Canyon last summer, and I sure didn't think the crowds were bad at all...and I hate crowds!
Just don't go anywhere over the 4th of July! That whole weekend will be bad. One year we thought it would be safe to go to Carlsbad Caverns over the 4th of July weekend...we figured it wasn't that close to anywhere...BOY WHAT A MISTAKE! It took hours of waiting in line to ride the elevator back up! If you're in the area of Canyon de Chelly for the 4th I might try there. We were there over Memorial Day weekend and it still wasn't busy. I heard that same year that the Grand Canyon was a mad house...we had almost gone there but thought better of it!
If you get a route figured out, I'd be happy to give you more ideas.
About the crowded parking lot at the restaurant? If it's trucks or cops filling the parking lot, a lot of folks think the food must be great. Not necessarily so -- might just be that they serve BAD food -- but they serve it FAST! Time is of the essence, after all! :)
Thanks for the great advice. I think I've solidified my trip a bit more - the first part is pretty set: DC - Philly - NYC - Boston - Quebec City - Montreal - Toronto - Niagra Falls - Chicago. That should take me almost to the end of May. Then from Chicago I plan on driving out to S.Dakota (Mt. Rushmore). The questions I have is (a) do I need to make hotel reservations somewhere in advance or can I just show up around end of May/beginning of June; (b) any hotel recommendations (fairly reasonably priced); and (c) any suggestions on the route I should take from Chicago to S. Dakota?
After S. Dakota, I'm trying to figure out where to go. I'll have about 3 weeks before I have to be in Vegas for a family wedding. I was thinking of trying to hit Northern CA (Redwoods, San Fran, Yosemite), possibly Denver, or maybe go through Yellowstone. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. I just need to be in Vegas on 6/23.
I leave Vegas on 6/28 or 6/29 and was planning on hitting the Grand Canyon. Everyone says I should do the North Rim, and I have heard I need reservations in advance. Is this true, or should I do the South Rim? I've never been to either (well, when I was 2 but that doesn't count in my book).
After the Grand Canyon I was going to start heading back to DC - possibly through St. Louis and into TN (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville) and then to DC. Or maybe just drive on down to Miami, FL. Again, any suggestions would be great.
I wasn't lying when I said I had no experience with big road trips!!
Thanks again everyone.
Yellowstone & More
Before you leave the Mt. Rushmore area, you should also check out Badlands National Park and Custer State Park. As you travel east you should check out Deadwood, SD and Devils Tower National Monument, WY and Cody, WY.
You will be so close to Yellowstone and it's on your way to California. I would really suggest spending 3-5 days in the Yellowstone - Grand Tetons area. The first of June is the time of the year when I want to be in that area again.
We always camp and if you haven't made reservations for in the park yet, then I would just stay in West Yellowstone, MT just outside the park. This is the best location outside the park for site seeing.
If you want crowds then come to Yosemite in June. California is going to add a lot of driving and about 1000 more miles to your trip.
If you want more scenic area for a lot less driving, when you leave Yellowstone come thought Utah. Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area, Dinosaur National Park near Vernal, Utah. Moab, Utah area has Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park, then swing over to Torrey, Utah and Capitol Reef National Park, down scenic Hwy 12 to Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park which is only 3 hours away.
I prefer the S. Rim. You get a "grander" view IMHO. We were there in August and the crowds were not bad at all.
Ok I'm sold on skipping CA - I think it's too far and too much to try and do. I am definitely planning on exploring S.Dakota further - Custer, Badlands, etc. I'm now thinking that after S.Dakota, try Yellowstone and Grand Tetons and then go through Utah. I've got friends there and also I have heard that Moab is amazing. I also have to get over to Denver at some point.
What do you think about exploring New Mexico or Arizona - other than the Grand Canyon? I'm really torn about whether to go to the North or South Rim, but if this is the hardest decision I have to make this week, I consider myself lucky.
Thanks again for all the wonderful advice - I have learned so much already. I am really looking forward to this trip!
how long in Yellowstone
Utahtea - you recommended 3-5 days in Yellowstone. Is that enough time to do both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons? Any sights I just shouldn't miss? I'm hoping to do a few of the organized tours/hikes (I'm not a great hiker, so nothing too strenuous) and perhaps some horseback riding. I was thinking of staying in the park, or in West Yellowstone. Apparently there are still rooms available at some of the lodges in the park.
Any recommendations would be great. I hope to make reservations in the next few days.