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  1. #1

    Default First solo road trip Oct `07

    Hi everyone. I am a 21 year old male planning my first solo long term road trip. My departure date is set for Oct. 5. I have never done anything like this so I am a bit nervous, but I understand that this is common. Anyway, I plan on going from Cincinnati, OH to my final destination of Phoenix, AZ to stay with some family. I plan to take about 3 weeks to do this, but I do not have unlimited funds, about $2,000 including gas money. I own most of the necessary camping gear I will need. I will be driving a 1994 Honda Civic EX. I plan to camp most of the time, possibly a cheap motel/hostel every now and then. Also, I will buy most of my food from grocery stores along the way and cook for myself.

    The route I have planned at the moment includes: Northwest through Minnesota, then through North Dakota(Theodore Roosevelt Natn'l Park), Southwest through Montana into Wyoming where I plan on hitting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, afterwards I am driving south to Utah and going to Moab, then driving through Monument Valley to get to Arizona. In Arizona, before I go to Phoenix, I am going to the Grand Canyon, then possibly Prescott National Forest.

    I would like to go to other places along the way, but I am not sure what I can go to without going too much out of the way. Suggestions are appreciated, especially for the first half of the trip.

    Also, a few questions for you road trip experts.
    1. Annual Nat'l Park pass - This appears to me like it is well worth the $80, but in order to camp am I going to have to pay an additional fee? If so, what can I expect to pay per night. Are there ways to camp for free?
    2. What can I expect the temperatures to be in the Northern part of the country and along the eastern side of the Rockies in early-mid October?

    I can't think of anything else right now, I will post later when I think of something.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default The bases are covered

    You've got your major routing planned, and you know how to save a buck on the road with camping and eating out of a cooler. You're way ahead of the game.

    Yes, you will have to pay extra to camp in national parks. Check out ReserveAmerica for the easiest place to check out available camping options along the way (government-run campgrounds, that is) and to get an idea of prices. If you reserve over this website, they do charge extra for advance reservations. I think it's $7 per reservation. That adds up. If you were traveling in the summer during peak season, it might be worth it sometimes. Especially in heavily traveled areas. But you shouldn't have too much problem in October.

    But be aware that some campgrounds close in the fall or winter. If you October dates into ReserveAmerica, it should tell you whether the park is closed by then or not.

    I don't have first-hand knowledge of October weather in those areas. I only seem to make it on the road in the summer as I'm usually searching for heat. You might try the Wunderground website. Plug in some of the areas you're traveling to and look for the "seasonal averages" section. This gives you average high/low temps, precipitation, etc. by month.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Central California

    Default Cool nights...

    ...but moderate days.

    Hi, the weather should be good, though the occassional rain or snow shower is possible, even likely. Snow is not unheard of in Yellowstone in September or even August.

    Free camping is available on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and generally cheaper in National Forest Service campgrounds. Check their websites (I noticed a day or two ago that the BLM camping website in Utah wasn't working so you may have to call.) Campground closure is an issue at that time of year. Mid-October is not an unusual time for them to be shutting down so you'll have to do some research before you go, or as you travel. A $20 campground directory might be a good investment.

    Regarding weather. As I said, at the higher elevations, which includes much of your itinerary, the nights could be quite chilly, but that shouldn't be a problem if you bring some warm clothes to sleep in.

    Your basic itinerary is about 3,000 miles which works out to about 150 miles per day. That leaves time for quite a bit more if you want to try.

    For example. By adding 600 miles, for an average 180 miles per day, you can add the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, and Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah. And depending on how efficiently you get across the country, you could even add Mesa Verde and others along the way. It all depends on how much time you want to spend where.

    You didn't mention Arches or Canyonlands National Parks, but I assume that by visiting Moab you plan to visit these parks. These places and the ones on your list such as Yellowstone/Grand Tetons and Grand Canyon could take as few as two or as many as 4 days each. Theodore Rosevelt NP (north and south units) and Monument Valley will be a day or two at most.

    However much you choose to work in, you'll have a great adventure.

    Craig Sheumaker
    co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years

  4. #4


    Thanks for the responses. I have been working a ton this past week so I haven't had time to respond. I will look into the other parks you mentioned, my itinerary needs to be a little more filled out. Also, I did purchase a Woodall's campground directory, which should help a ton. I ended up buying the park pass too. The only thing I am worried about now is the weather, although I think I am pretty much prepared for the worst. I don't have a set date to be in Phoenix, so the only limit I have is money. Six days before I leave =) Can't wait!

  5. #5


    This site is awesome by the way. I am so glad I found it.

  6. #6


    Another vote for Canyonlands and Arches whilst you're in Moab. I absolutely loved them both. If you're feeling flush you can rent an ATV in Moab which would be pretty cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by IntotheUnknown View Post
    my itinerary needs to be a little more filled out.
    You might like to visit the Page area - Horseshoe Bend, Navajo Bridge, Gel Canyon Dam, etc on your drive from Monument Valley through to the Grand Canyon. It is perhaps a bit of a detour but, if you end up with spare time, I think it's a great little side trip.

    Also, I did purchase a Woodall's campground directory, which should help a ton.
    It will certainly weight a ton! Be sure to phone ahead before heading to a site as, when I had a copy, it was a little out of date on occasion.

  7. Default Great choices!

    I recently moved to Utah earlier this year, and I have had the opportunity to explore plenty of the beautiful country between Yellowstone and Bryce.

    From north to south, here is my input on the highlights along your route:

    Yellowstone (plan at least 2 days for the park). Yellowstone is probably the most amazing place I've been to. Do NOT miss Lamar Valley in the Northeast part of Yellowstone. Many people skip Lamar Valley because it is somewhat out of the way, but it is beautiful. Spend some time to take mini-hikes around the major waterfalls in the area. If you are interested in visiting some other waterfalls in the Park, I suggest you pick up "The Guide to Yellowstone Waterfalls and Their Discovery" by Rubinstein, Whittlesey, & Stevens -- at the very least it makes to be my favorite coffee table book.

    Grand Teton National Park. The one thing you can not miss is the boat ride across Jenny Lake to the Inspiration Point trailhead (you can also skip the boat ride fee and tack on an additional 2 hours of hike time). Against, this is a mini-hike of no more than 3 hours round trip.

    Skip Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. It is a beautiful place, but it is so far out of the way of everything, and it doesn't compare to most everything you will see in Southern Utah.

    My favorite route through Northern Utah is US-89 through the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. No other Southbound round even compares unless you make your way East through Colorado.

    In the area south of Salt Lake, consider detours through Provo Canyon, Strawberry Reservoir, and/or UT-31 from Fairview to Huntington. I suggest you take UT-31 to UT-10 to get to I-70 en route to Moab. It takes you a little out of the way westward, but it is a stretch of I-70 that is known to be some of the most beautiful stretch of Interstate in the Lower 48.

    Arches is good for a half day. Most of the park is accessible by paved driving and there is no major hiking that you have to worry about to reach the nicer areas. If you have a whole day for Arches, then take the guided tour through Fiery Furnace -- it is a can't miss.

    If you have to choose between Island in the Sky or the Needles District in Canyonlands, then I would certainly opt for the Needles District. Your car should be able to make the unpaved road all the way to the end to get to the main trailhead in the Needles District. I forget the name of the trail, but it is a fun boulder-hopping trail that requires no more than 2 hours round trip to see the most spectacular views.

    Capitol Reef is the hidden gem of Southern Utah, and if you make it that far westward then you can spend a half-day there and enjoy it a ton.

    I haven't been to Monument Valley, but keep in mind that once you are that far south there are only three ways to cross the Colorado. One is the UT-95 bridge (the least spectacular of the three ways). Second is the free Lake Powell ferry (amazing views but highly unreliable at times). The third is to go all the way through Grand Staircase-Escalante on UT-12 towards Bryce Canyon (this is probably my favorite road I've ever been on), and then all the way to Lake Mead and over the Hoover Dam.

    Unfortunately it can be tough to visit both Monument Valley and Bryce Canyon, so you might have a decision to make before you cross the Colorado. Keep in mind that most people consider the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to be the most spectacular, though the main part of the park is along the South Rim. If you visit the North Rim though, then you are going far out of the way no matter which way you decide to go.

    I would certainly prefer to drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante, visit Bryce and Zion, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and then cross the Colorado at the Hoover Dam.

    Really you can't go wrong either way, but if you decide to visit Monument Valley then be sure to spend some time near Lake Powell and Glen Canyon.

    You'll have a good time either way, and it sounds like you should have over two weeks to enjoy the West. You can spend a lifetime out here, but 2 weeks is a good start.

    Have fun and enjoy.

  8. #8


    Thank you UKCraig and GoGators, your input has helped me out a ton.

  9. #9
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Arcosanti

    You should also do Arcosanti if you haven't planned on it yet, it's really an interesting site!

  10. #10


    Less than 72 hours before I take off. I am getting a bit anxious, but I am looking forward to leaving. Any last minute advice or suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Arcosanti looks interesting. I was in the area a little while ago, but I never heard of that site. I wonder if it has expanded at all in the 2.5 years since that article was written. I'll probably stop by there on the final leg of my journey.

    Couple questions...

    What would it cost to rent an ATV in Moab? That would be a blast.

    I would like to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Can this be done solo, or is it a tour group type thing. Also, is it possible to do this from the North Rim?

    Also, how do you all deal with loneliness on the road? I am used to having friends and family around. I know I will run into people along the way that I can chat with, but that really isn't the same as having people you are familiar with around you. I guess it is all part of the journey.

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