In Sept of this year I am planning on touring the western states. Either beginning in Arizona or Washington state. I know I want to go through Utah, Wyoming and Montana, but I am clueless as to where to start with the planning.
I've planned many trips before, even a month in Australia, but this is much different.
I plan on hitting many of the National parks, but can anyone advise me on just where to begin. How to plan out a route, etc. How to budget, best car rental agencies (I've been told Hertz does not have a drop fee.)
Pretty much info on anything and everything!
Any help is appreciated!!!!
I'd be surprised if Hertz DOESN'T have a drop fee for one-way rentals. Check with Advantage -- they advertised no drop fees last year -- don't know if they still offer that or not. That said, Hertz is my favorite car rental company, and I often rent from them even if it costs a bit more. It's worth it for the first-rate service -- you won't find any monkey business at Hertz corporate locations. I also frequently rent from Alamo, and I've found Budget, Avis and Enterprise to be OK. I will never rent from Thrifty again after encountering abusive and dishonest business practices with them. Don't discount the possibility of doing this as a "loop" -- it might be worth it and you can take two swipes at the territory that way -- go north from AZ, for example, then return down the west coast or central CA.
Buy an atlas of the 50 states -- it'll have a USA map in the front of it. Open to that and draw a visual line between Phoenix and Seattle, or between AZ and MT and then to Seattle. THEN, look along that route to see what's close by (I'm not suggesting you try to drive a crow-flies line from here to there -- you'd miss a lot of the good stuff if you did -- but this is a great way to spot the most convenient routes.
Then look at the individual state maps to get a closer look at what's out there. Figure about 300-400 miles for driving days (you COULD do more, but there's LOTS to see and you'll want to stop to look), and then add plenty of time for the parks/attractions you're most interested in. You can easily spend several days at each one -- but if you allow at LEAST a day, you'll have a good "survey" kind of a trip. If you do not have trip planning software, you can use the driving directions functions available on the Web to get mileages between points.
You're bound to have some specific questions as you get into this -- so ask. There's lots of folks on this site willing to help, and many have expertise in the exact route you want to see.
From North to South
Since you are taking this trip in September, I would suggesst going from North to South. The weather as you travel south will stay warmer longer.
How long do you have for this trip? Which states are a must see? Did you plan on California?
I am really up for anything. I want to see as much as I can in a two-two and a half week time period. However, must see states are Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. Of course I will also see Arizona and Washinton State as well because I am coming or leaving through those states.
I wouldn't mind doing a loop and going down the West coastline, but I don't know if I have enough time. I'd rather focus on those states I mentioned above.
You're probably right -- in 2.5 weeks the loop would be nothing more than driving -- and there is SO much to see in the states you've mentioned that it would really be better to concentrate on those and really enjoy them.
I would recommend you spend some time in southern Utah, taking US160 and US163 out of Arizona (through Monument Valley) and in Utah, SR261 to SR95 (to Hanksville), then west on SR24 to SR12, and follow SR12 through Escalante to US89. At that point, be sure to see Zion Natl Park as well, it's one of the best. The route I've outlined is one of the most scenic and beautiful routes I've ever taken.
After Zion, you'd then go north toward Wyoming on I-15 or US89. At Brigham City, turn off onto US89 (from I-15) and go through Logan and around Bear Lake* -- another very scenic route -- and you can get on toward Yellowstone from there using US89. The stretch between Alpine and Jackson (in WY) is particularly beautiful, IMO.
*Bear Lake is a very historic spot as well -- it was the site of several of the mountain mens' "rendezvous" back in the 1820s and 1830s fur trapping heydays.
Utahtea's suggestion about direction is likely a good one (since the main thing we KNOW about weather is that it can't be 100% predicted!). I've encountered winter weather in Montana in September on more than a few occasions, and Glacier Park can close if that happens. So if you want to use my suggestions for routing, you could follow them in reverse? Sorry -- but I think in terms of south to north because I live in Arizona!
Ok, So I have begun to map out the palces I would like to stop. However I don't have many stops in Wyoming. I have Grand Tenton Nat Park, and then Yellowstone, but is there anything else?
Any other must sees out west.
I don't think I will be going into Colorado. Just Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana through Idaho, and onto Seattle.
What are the must sees!
I mapped out this route that you have given to me, and it looks great. You say it is scenic? Two lane road?
Any other suggestions on where to stop, etc.
It's one of the most scenic areas of the American west, from one end to the other -- especially the stuff I gave you on southern Utah -- if you want to see spectacular southwestern scenery -- red rock country -- don't miss it.
In Wyoming, there are some places I haven't seen yet that I'd LIKE to -- so I'll mention those. They may be a bit off your route, but I think they might be worth a look. South Pass (the spot where the Oregon Trail crossed the Continental Divide), and Fort Washakie (they claim to have Sacajawea's grave there, but there is controversy about that). Also, the Medicine Wheel National Historic Site up by Lovell on Alt US14 (west of Sheridan). Independence Rock. You could easily spend several days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton -- one thing that might be a load of fun is a white water rafting trip out of Jackson, Wyoming.
It's pretty much all two lane road unless you use I-15 in Utah.