First of all Thank You for all the info I already got from reading through other threads. This board is really great for reading up and checking important DOs and DONTs but now it's time go get my own thread for more detailed input.
My GF and I will be flying in from Europe to see the west coast and what (I guess) used to be the wild west.
We want to have scenic drives, see lots of nature and national parks and do several day hikes. But we'd also mix in some stays in the cities and hope to see some local sights (distilleries, strange museums, ghost town, old mines,...) in smaller towns and other cool spots along the way.
Currently we're budgeting about 8 weeks from beginning of May (>= 2019) but this can be easily adjusted since we're still in a very early stage.
Due to inexpensive nonstop flights LA will be our starting point. Also we want to avoid interstates if possible and rather travel on highways or back roads (or an occasional dirt road) to allow for really scenic drives and not miss some cool spots, stops and things to see.
I'll only list the major stops along the route here to keep it a little shorter. However the actual drive will hopefully go through many national forests, national monuments, conservation areas, etc. along the way.
LA -> Joshua Tree NP -> Grand Canyon NP South Rim -> Denver -> Rocky Mountain NP -> Arches NP -> Canyonlands NP -> Capitol Reef NP -> Bryce Canyon NP -> Page -> Grand Canyon NP North Rim -> Zion NP -> Las Vegas -> Death Valley NP -> Sequoia NF & NP -> Kings Canyon NP -> Yosemite NP -> Lake Tahoe -> San Francisco -> LA.
We plan around 1-3 days per NP (Joshua Tree maybe 1, Yosemite most likely 2-3,...) and also add 2-3 nights in the major cities. We'll decide on the exact route basically day by day while on the trip. We just want to make sure we have a premade list of things to see along the route so we don't accidentally miss something great.
Google Maps puts this trip at around 3200mi so I expect a total drive of ~5500mi which puts us at an average of 100mi/day.
We'd be getting a rental in the Suburban/Yukon XL/... class and sleep in the car most of the time. Maybe we'll also get a cheap "good weather tent" for campgrounds.
Major places to camp will be dispersed camping in national forests (car camping away from the main roads), campgrounds, truck stops/travel centers and maybe the occasional Walmart lot. Also we'll throw in some Motel/AirBnB nights in the cities for a change.
We'd need an opportunity to shower or hop in a lake ~3x/week (major campgrounds, truck stops,...).
Also we'll get a cheap cooler for the car so we can go 1-2 days between restaurants/grocery runs. Only snacks, sandwiches, fruits and premade food though, we don't want to cook wile on the road.
- Many of the national forests along the way will probably only be short hikes, some driving and sleeping. How good does the route align with our 8 weeks estimation?
- Is May/June the right time for this trip? This would mean GC South Rim early May, RMNP & Utah NP end of May and GC North Rim, Death Valley NP beginning of June. visitor numbers should still be OK and we expect relatively chilly nights at higher elevations (~50s). I'm afraid some mountain passes would still be closed, anybody got some experience here?
- Any opinion on our lodging plans? We know to avoid rest stops, secluded streets in towns, shady areas and will stay in truck stops, campgrounds, national forests (on back country roads) and maybe the occasional Walmart lot.
- Do you think shower access or a swimming lake every 2-3 days will work without reservations?
- Are there any great sights that we forgot along our way? Anything we should definitely see or anything that we should skip?
- Any other thoughts or opinions on the trip?
Thank you in advance for your input ;)