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  1. Default Road Trip Cross Country, Starting in Oregon, West to East

    Hello,

    I'm planning on roadtripping across the country hitting a bunch of National Parks, and maybe camping in them. We were planning on going early June, and probably staying on the road for a month or more.

    The National Parks / Cities that we have down now are as follow, starting in Oregon.

    Crater Lake

    Trees of Mystery - Red Woods

    San Francisco

    Lake Tahoe

    Death Valley

    Joshua Tree

    Zion National Park

    Grand Canyon

    Yellowstone

    Grand Teton

    Glacier National Park

    Looking at this list, I was wondering if its too late to apply for camping permits in certain parks? I was also wondering if a month would be enough to visit these parks and spend some time at them. If not then I do have more time available.

    I was also wondering if anyone could offer some decent things to do at these national parks that I've listed, or if you could recommend some more? For example, we were hoping to hike Grand Canyon rim to rim. It would most likely involve us camping in the canyon. Has anyone had any experience with getting permits for back country hiking?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,427

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    For many of the national parks you listed, you should be on the recreation.gov site when the windows open for your date -- I believe, 6 months out. That would have been early January, especially for the last 5 on your list. However, a few things to note:

    * Keep trying back if you don't get your preferred date. Someone may cancel.

    * If you don't get your preferred campground within the larger parks, take another one.

    * For most of those parks, there are national forest campgrounds just outside the national park boundaries.

    * We have a thread in the Camping Road Trips forum, just focused on camping in and around the national parks of the US. The Camping Road Trips forum also has camping along the interstate and US highway systems, when you're trying to go from Point A to Point B.

    * Expect it to be hotter-n-Hades in both Death Valley and Joshua Tree, in June. That's why they call them deserts. Carry lots of water. I wouldn't try to camp in either one in summer because it does not cool down at night.

    * Going to the Sun Road in Glacier may or may not be open in June. If you can time your arrival to later in the month, you'll have a better chance. The road gets a LOT of snow over the winter and it takes them forever to plow it off. Then expect a very narrow road.

    * Other things to do at the national parks: hiking has to be the thing that all of them on your list have. At Crater Lake, maybe the boat out to the island will be running. Lake Tahoe (not a national park) has boating. In Yellowstone and Grand Teton, I believe you can rent kayaks or canoes to do some water-related things. My husband and I are primarily sight-seer's by vehicle, with an occasional 1-3 mile hike away from the crowds, when we are in NP's. So we haven't investigated some of the other things that might be available.


    Now, on to the Grand Canyon. No personal experience hiking all the way down, but my brother has, and I've read many books and blogs about others' experiences. (I'm an armchair hiker for long distance and GC trails.) DO NOT, under any circumstances, try to make it down to Phantom Ranch and back up in one day. People have had to be hauled out of there, at great expense, in a helicopter, trying to do that. Bring water, check locally to find out which springs are/are not running, to know just how much water to bring. Remember it's usually cooler on the rim at 6500' elevation than it is down inside the Canyon. Allow a full day down and two days back up. Bring and wear good shoes. Tho a pair of flip flops around camp might be nice, you need good footwear when on the trail. Make sure your hiking shoes/books are already broken in before heading down. Getting permits? Good luck. When we were up at the North Rim last summer, I heard a ranger tell a hiker that he should have applied for his overnight permit a year ago. Yeah, it's THAT popular!


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,515

    Default A wonderful trip !

    Hello and welcome to RTA !

    As Donna mentioned you really need to contact the parks regarding camping and especially if you mean 'Back country permits' but even using the campgrounds you should make booking a priority. Each nps.gov park website will give you details on hikes and places to visit within each and while you are there the Rangers lovet to talk about their favourite parts of the park. A month is a nice amount of time to do this trip although it can be easily used up, Yellowstone (and Grand Tetons) for example can take 3 or 4 days just to visit the highlights. Travelling through the Redwoods I would recommend a drive through Prarie creek on the Newton B Drury scenic parkway and the Avenue of Giants at Humboldt Redwoods SP. There is also a nice walk to be enjoyed at Ladybird Johnson grove on Bald hills road near Orick. Personally I would head to Yosemite NP over Lake Tahoe and then drive over the Tioga pass (CA120) towards Death valley. Absolutley amazing drive and Yosemite valley/Glacier point are breathtaking.

    Also, don't forget to purchase an Annual pass for the parks, it will be saving you money by the time you enter your 4th park !

    As you continue with your planning and more detailed questions come up, don't hesitate to ask. Enjoy the planning.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    490

    Default Some National Park campgrounds are first-come, first-served

    Hello!

    Back country camping in the National Parks definitely requires far-in-advance planning. The number of permits issued is kept small, while the demand continues to grow, so the available slots fill up very quickly when the season opens for reservations. The same can be true of the most popular campgrounds, but there's an important difference. Nearly every National Park has one or more campgrounds that are "first come, first served," meaning they don't take reservations at all. If you want a space at one of those, the trick is to show up early (no later than 9 AM). They'll have up-to-the-minute information about the status of the campgrounds at the park visitor's centers, and they can tell you if any spaces will be opening that morning. The answer will usually be yes, with some exceptions: at the most popular destinations, try to avoid weekends, and if you're out there on the road on the 4th of July, it's best to find a good place to hide! (Just kidding. Or maybe not?)

    Some people prefer to have their entire trip booked in advance, so they'll know where they'll be staying every night, with no worries about getting stuck somewhere with no options. Other people prefer to leave things open, so that they're free to change their route and schedule on the fly, rather than being locked in to a fixed itinerary. Personally, I've always belonged to that second school of thought, and in all my travels around the world, there was only one night when I actually had to sleep in a ditch. (True story!) Other than that, I've always managed to find a place to lay my head, despite (almost) never making advance reservations.

    Considering the remote location of most National Parks, getting there early enough to snag a first-come-first-served campsite is a bit of a logistical exercise. The day before, you'll need to get close, within a hundred miles, and stay the night in a motel or a campground (preferably somewhere that is NOT overly attractive to tourists). Next day, get on the road early enough to hit the National Park no later than 9 AM. Note that most of the first-come-first-served sites are tents only. Other than that, so as long as you're willing to assume a little risk (and as long as you have a Plan B, just in case), it is entirely possibly to score a great camping spot in just about any National Park, even at the last minute.

    Do enjoy the planning. By coming here for advice, you've already made a great start!

    Rick

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,920

    Default If "We" Includes Youngsters

    All excellent advice you've gotten so far. I would just add a couple of things if the "we" referred to in your initial question includes children. First and foremost, make extensive use of the Junior Ranger Program at the national parks. This program consists of activities for the kids to perform that get them involved with the park and learn more about it, all while having fun and earning some free souvenirs such as badges, patches and certificates. Technically, the upper age limit is 13, but older kids can help younger or do the activities anyway.

    The other thing I'd suggest is that you spend some time looking at what's between the major stopping points you've listed. You don't, I think, want to add more big stops, but some of your drives are going to be quite long and having a nice, smaller state or local park available to have a picnic lunch or take a short stroll will help break up those longer drives and forestall the "Are we there yet?" chants from the back seats.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 03-02-2020 at 09:32 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,902

    Default

    Questions that I don't think have been answered - where are the somewhat exact starting and ending points for this trip, and will this be with a RV or with a conventional vehicle and tents?

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Questions that I don't think have been answered - where are the somewhat exact starting and ending points for this trip, and will this be with a RV or with a conventional vehicle and tents?
    Hey!

    We'll be going on June 15th, when we end? I'm not really sure as we have until August. We'll be going in a car and most likely be car napping / hotel / camping. Whatever is good at the time. I'm honestly thinking about just "winging" the trip per say.

    Sure I'll get some reservations at some really nice spots that we wanna check out, if possible, but besides that we'll most likely just pull up at a park and see what we can do.
    Last edited by Flameoffury; 03-02-2020 at 06:44 PM.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Quinn View Post
    Hello!


    Some people prefer to have their entire trip booked in advance, so they'll know where they'll be staying every night, with no worries about getting stuck somewhere with no options. Other people prefer to leave things open, so that they're free to change their route and schedule on the fly, rather than being locked in to a fixed itinerary. Personally, I've always belonged to that second school of thought, and in all my travels around the world, there was only one night when I actually had to sleep in a ditch. (True story!) Other than that, I've always managed to find a place to lay my head, despite (almost) never making advance reservations.



    Rick
    Speaking of, I think I may appreciate the second option more, it seems more to my likening. I'll definitely look into reserving some spots in National Parks that I really want to check out, such as Yellow Stone. Which we will be hitting sometime in July!

    Thank you very much!

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    The other thing I'd suggest is that you spend some time looking at what's between the major stopping points you've listed. You don't, I think, want to add more big stops, but some of your drives are going to be quite long and having a nice, smaller state or local park available to have a picnic lunch or take a short stroll will help break up those longer drives and forestall the "Are we there yet?" chants from the back seats.

    AZBuck
    That's definitely something to keep in mind! I think we may have gotten all the big parks we want to do and will be looking for areas in between to take a breather!

    All in all, thank you all very for much for this advice! It has been an immense help.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,902

    Default

    Where is the trip starting and ending?

  10. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Where is the trip starting and ending?


    So we will be starting June 15th, we have until Early August to do our things! Our trip roughly takes us, starting from Portland Oregon, to San Francisco, then the Grand Canyon, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Washington State, and then back to Portland.

    Attachment 4947
    Last edited by Flameoffury; 03-02-2020 at 08:32 PM.

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