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  1. Default SF to Seattle to New Jersey

    Hi All,

    I'm new to this forum as well as road trips in general. I'm originally from central California but in September I start graduate school in New Jersey. I plan on taking my car with me to NJ so I figured it would be an amazing way to spend my last month of freedom on a road trip across the country. I plan to start in SF the first weekend of August and spent the entire month of August on the road. I just have to be in NJ by September 1. My very general plan was to head north from SF hitting Portland and Seattle then head east maybe getting all the way to the northeast (like all the way to Maine) then heading down to NJ. I was hoping to do a combination of national parks and big/fun cities. Possibly tent camping in the parks. I would love any advice as to locations I should stop along the way (can be general or specific such as a favorite campground), thoughts on my general plan (too ambitious?), and any roadtrip advice in general. Thank you so much!

    TL;DR: Roadtrip from SF to Seattle to NJ. Total Newbie. Need lots of advice.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Not too ambitious at all.

    Hi and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Not too ambitious at all, and public campgrounds are some of the nicest in nature, and amongst the cheapest.

    The very best advice I know of, to plan a trip such as yours is to follow the advice written by a senior member here, not all that long ago......

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.
    You can pick up a good road atlas such as Rand McNally and / or get maps of the States and cities at AAA - free if you are a member. If you are doing this in as a solo, it would be a good idea to have a roadside assistance package. Even the best maintained vehicle could have a hiccup along the way. Cheap insurance for peace of mind.

    As you plan your trip and ques5tion come up, feel free to ask for further advice.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 06-18-2016 at 07:24 PM. Reason: fixed quote format

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default True, True

    As Lifey has pointed out - maps are one of your best resources. People (us included) can point out some of the usual places where people stop, although even then we hesitate to call them 'must see' or 'best' places. But only, you with the help of good detailed maps, can figure out exactly which of the many major sites and literally hundreds of smaller options appeal most to you. With that said, I will point out a few of the many areas I've particularly enjoyed on my several RoadTrips across the northern US.

    Start with the Columbia River Gorge. Although this may be a bit far south for you considering that you are going all the way up to Seattle, if you follow the coast north all the way up and around the Olympic Peninsula, then it might be worth your time to head south from Seattle, a bit inland, to hit Mount Ranier and Mount St. Helens returning you to the Portland area before turning east. If you do this, then the Snake River Valley through southern Idaho comes into play, another great area.

    Next: northwestern Wyoming and southern Montana. Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks (NP) obviously, but also the Beartooth Highway and Little Bighorn Battlefield. these would set you up for the next area - the Black Hills of South Dakota with Devils Tower (in Montana), Mount Rushmore, Badlands NP, Wind and Jewel Caves, and th3e Crazy Horse Memorial.

    In the upper Midwest, look into the headwaters of the Mississippi, and the many wildlife refuges farther downstream Also you have a major choice to make at this point (if you have your passport up to date) and that is whether to go around the Great Lakes basically to the south through the US or pass north of some of them through Canada. Personally, if I had as much time as you do, I'd head north, running across the UP of Michigan hitting Pictured Rocks and Apostle Island National Lakeshores, crossing into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie and then coming down the east shore of Lake Huron using Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula to get to Toronto/Niagara falls.

    If you decide to stay south around the Lakes, I'd try to avoid the major toll roads in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and instead use the excellent US highway system in the region (US-30/24/234/6/and others while still getting to places like Chicago (Lake Shore and Field Museum), Toledo (Cleveland (Natural History Museum, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cuyahoga Valley NP), and the Appalachian and Pocono Mountains.

    A couple of general notes as well. Some of your best camping opportunities are in national parks, of course, but those are also the most popular. So unless you can commit to a date a year in advance, getting a reservation can be difficult. But there are still great alternatives, in nearby state parks and particularly in national forests where you can often camp for free in their distributed camping program. For details, check the various national forest websites and then again at the various district offices when you're actually in the area. Another great cost-saver: the National Parks annual pass. At $80 it gets you free entry (but not 'extras' like camping) to all parks and monuments in the national park system. You can just buy it at the first park you come to.


  4. Default

    I've never been to Glacier National Park but it is on my Bucket List, especially the Going To The Sun Road. Looks like it would be a minor detour on such a long trip.

    Perhaps others would chime in.

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