Yosemite info needed
G'day all - my husband and I are from Australia, and are desperately keen to travel to the USA this year. We were there for five weeks in 1998 (fall), and spent time on the western side, seeing mainly national parks and America's brilliant scenery. We spent time in Yellowstone, Badlands, Dinosaur, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Arches, Zion, Grand Canyon etc. We didn't get to see Yosemite, and this is one of our main priorities for our next trip. What are the better times to come to this part of America - when do your school holidays begin this year? We have read that your national parks (esp. Yosemite) are ridiculously busy and expensive while school is out. Can anyone suggest some other places we should see? We're not fussed on cities, and love the mountains, even up Montana way. Thanks for your help ...
National Parks in Summer
I was in Yosemite in late June/early July with no problems. Yes there were people, but there also were cheap campsites available on the edges but in the park, free at one site on the western edge, $7 at another on the eastern road. I drove a motorhome through with no problems.
School vacations vary with the school, but generally college students are out by the first week of June, and children & high schoolers are out by June 22. Everyone restarts back by the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September, September 3 this year.
I also recommend Sequoia & the California coastline - Big Sur (like the twisting high mountain roads along Monaco), the Herst Castle (north of Santa Barbara, California). I like Big Bend in Texas, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Sedona in Arizona (campsites there but not a national park), Red Rock outside of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam & Lake Mead outside of Vegas. The snow white beaches along the Florida panhandle are beautiful, the Maine coastline is great, Skyline Drive in Virginia & the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina are wonderful. There are also caverns on the north end in Front Royal area. Washington DC is great. There is so much to see. Enjoy.
In addition to the National Parks you're already investigating, don't forget to check out state parks. You can get information by writing to the State Department of Tourism in the capitol city of whatever state you are interested in. Or, you can search the internet for the .gov sites from each state. There are some jewels out there! Have a great trip.
Lindy, you didn't mention how much time you have or what part of the country you'd like to see, except for Yosemite. Yosemite is a must. Yes, it can be crowded, but it's worth the hassle. YOu mentioned you'd been to Mesa Verde, Colorado, but did you also go to Durango? There's a loop you can drive beginning in Cortez, Colorado north to Telluride, on to Montrose, and then south to Ouray, the Switzerland of America. Great campgrounds in Ouray, as well as nice motels and bed and breakfasts. Continue south out of Ouray down the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton and then on to Durango. The entire loop can be done in a day, but I wouldn't recommend that. And the entire loop is breathtaking. Also, Santa barabra, Ca., is beautiful, with great beaches and shops. Go north up Highway 101 or 1 to Morro Bay, a small fishing village type atmosphere, and then on to Cambria, one of my favorite places. Cambria is about 20 miles north of Morro Bay. Then north to San Simeon and Hearst Castle. This is also a must see. If Highway 1 up through BIg Sur is open, take it from San Simeon to Carmel and Monterey. A tedious drive, but worhtwhile. Also, taking 101 and 1 up through the Redwoods and up to the Oregon and Washington coasts is beautiful. If you make it to Portland, Oregon, drive east out of Portland through the Columbia River Gorge valley and have lunch at the foot of Multnomah (spelling??) Falls. These are just a few places on the west coast and the Rockies. Have a great trip.
Cascade and Rocky Mtns
One of my favorite all time places is the Highway 12 route through the Bitterroot Mtns in northern Idaho and Montana. If you travel east from Lewiston Idaho to Missoula Montana on highway 12 you will go alongside the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers designation. This is completely untouched river valley, with natural hot springs and primitive old-growth forest along the way. It really is like the Old West along that route. A little south of that is Hell's Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. The geology is spectacular in the region because the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers cut through mountains that rose up in a blink of geological time. Wallowa Lake is a large and beautiful glacial lake in the middle of the mountains. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is on the west side of Hell's Canyon (in NE Oregon) and it's stunning and relatively unknown to the masses who visit places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. I'd go to all these places in September, when the heat and crowds abate somewhat.
On the west coast, in Washington state, are the North Cascades and Olympic National Parks. These are not as well travelled as many southern parks. Olympic National Park has north America's last ocean-coastal region without roads, along with a clear native-American cultural presence. It also has a temperate rain forest getting more than 100 inches of rain a year. Mt. Rainier Nat'l park , which showcases a 14,000 ft dormant volcano, is in the center of Washington; and Mt. St. Helens, which erupted explosively in 1980, is in the south-central area of Washington, not far from the Columbia Gorge, which was mentioned elsewhere in this forum.