National Parks - planning help appreciated

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Feb 15th, 2010, 03:32 PM
  #1
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National Parks - planning help appreciated

Hi Fodorites

We are planning our first trip to the USA in Sept / Oct this year and we are keen to spend time in the beautiful National Parks. I have searched this forum and found some good advice, and looked on the National Parks sites as well, but I am having trouble getting my head around the best way to actually structure the trip.

I guess, more specifically my questions would be...

How long should we allow for the different parks? We will be away for 6 weeks (we'll hire a car), want to see Vegas and San Francisco, and Zion, Bryce, Yelllowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. We dont want to short change the parks (ie dont want to do the Grand Canyone in a day trip from Vegas). We enjoy (shortish) hikes and are avid photographers. I know asking 'how long' is a bit hard to answer, but a rough guide would be good.

Is there a logical way to see the parks, combined with San Fran and Vegas?

Are we better off flying into a closer city, rather than driving to Yellowstone?

What is accomodation availability like mid Sept - Oct?

Thanks, any help appreciated

Thanks

Cathy
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Feb 15th, 2010, 03:46 PM
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I think on the NPS site they have the "Grand Circle" which would include going to Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon, with great suggestions on timing and driving. I will go look and come back to your thread. San Francisco/Yosemite would certainly be one grouping, and probably Vegas/Grand Canyon/Bryce/Zion another grouping. Yellowstone might stand on its own.

I'll go take a look and come back to you, but you are also certain to get some great advice here. You might especially want to look up a trip report by 2 Brits and a Chevy and Myer here on this board.

I'd also like to suggest you get the America The Beautiful Nat'l park pass. With as many parks asyou want to visit, it should be a real savings overall. I'll look and see if you can order it overseas.

Oh, and if you want to stay in the parks (which I personally recommend) you'd best get on those reservations now. You can always cancel if you find someplace else. In the Grand Canyon I loved being in the Bright Angel Lodge cabins where we were just steps away from the edge.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:11 PM
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Okay, this is someone's commercial site, but it still gives you a sense of how you can route:

http://www.us-parks.com/1-week-grand-circle.html

It starts and ends in Las Vegas. You could use that routing map as a start for planning. Personally, I think one week is too short--one of those if it is Wednesday it must be Rome sorts of things. And, you have six weeks so you certainly can stretch it out a bit, allowing yourself time to stop and take hikes in each place rather than do a drive by sighting. Maybe take two weeks for this trip rather than 1.

I'd like to suggest that you also include Monument Valley in your trip, it truly is spectacular. Stay at the View or Gouldings Trading post for the best views.

The above would give you Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion for your list.

Where are you coming from? perhaps you want to fly into San Francisco, spend your first week there and surrounds, including Napa and Yosemite, then take a short hop flight to Las Vegas (you can find a cheap one on Southwest probably) rent a car and do your two week loop, then fly or drive depending how much country you want to see, up to Yellowstone. You can stretch out any of your times of course to fill your six weeks. You have the opportunity to see some beautiful country.

I like to use www.aaa.com for trip routing, use their online triptik feature and you can drag to different points, including parks, based on how you want to go rather than the fastest route (which I don't always want to do)

here is the America the Beautiful pass:

http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html

If it doesn't allow you to have it mailed internationally,k you can also buy at the first national park you visit.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:15 PM
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I hope this works! Here is an absolutely fantastic trip report by Myers

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...rks-sedona.cfm
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:16 PM
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Toucan, thank you so very much I so appreciate your help. I agree about the 1 week being a little short... we want time to experience and really get a sense of the beautiful country, not just drive by and and say 'oh wow' We are flying over from Australia. Thanks for the tips on passes. We will look into accom. It would be good to find places that allow cancellations (not that we would intend to) ... but we quite like travelling with some sense of flexibility. Thank you!!!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:16 PM
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And here is 2 brits in a chevy:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...orthern-az.cfm

Okay, I am done planning your trip for the moment! Hope I didn't take over too much.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:20 PM
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Lakesidechick,

I would definitely start with Yellowstone first - because things there start to shut down mid-Sept and there will be snow by October.

Fly into Jackson
4 days Yellowstone
3 days Jackson & Tetons
Fly Jackson to SF
4 days SF, maybe include 1 day in Napa?
3 days Yosemite
1 day drive to LV
2 days LV (I hate LV and would recommend skipping it, but I know most people feel it's a must)
2 days GC
1-2 days MV/Page
5 days Moab (Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, CO River)
3 days Goblin Valley - Capitol Reef - Escalante on Hwy 12
2 days Bryce
3 days Zion


These would be my minimums. If you can spend more time, do it!

You could also fly into Bozeman, MT and take a couple days for the heavenly Paradise Valley and arrive at Yellowstone through the north entrance. After Jackson, drive over the Teton Pass and through Idaho and Oregon to the coast and down the northern CA coast. See the redwoods. Gorgeous.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:25 PM
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I can't emphasize enough that you do Yellowstone first! Sept is the end of the good weather there. The southern Natl Parks normally have wonderful weather end of Sept/Oct. Best time of year to go!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:27 PM
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Toucan, you are amazing , thank you so much, I so appreciate your help and if you ever come to Australia, I hope I can return the favour.

Dayle, thanks for the tip re Yellowstone... we actually leave home at the end of August so could get to Yellowstone early Sept which I assume would be better? Thanks for your idea of how we could spend our time... I am finally getting my head around how we could put this trip together!!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:45 PM
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I think Dayle's itinerary is pretty good, but I'd add 1-2 days to see Sequoia after Yosemite. You might want to include Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado, although it does add an extra day or so of driving. It's very different from anything else on your itinerary. You have a great trip ahead of you. Six weeks will be fabulous!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:47 PM
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And yes, definitely the earlier the better for Yellowstone. Summers are very short!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 04:47 PM
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Thanks Althom.... I was wondering about Sequoia, I have heard it is a nice place to visit. I'll look up Mesa Verde too, havent heard of that!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 05:51 PM
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Great itinerary Dayle! I knew someone would come up with something very reasonable.

I'll second Mesa Verde. It was one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. Again try to stay in park, Far View Lodge.

LakesideChick, I've been to Australia twice now and if I had my way I'd pack up my bags and go there permanently Better watch out, I might look you up! Hope to be back soon if this economy every cooperates.

I look forward to seeing your final itinerary.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 05:59 PM
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Thanks Toucan, this forum is amazing ... within a few hours.. so many responses and so much amazing information. Australia is a wonderful place.. hope you get to return soon. Sty tuned as our itinerary takes shape!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 05:59 PM
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Well now that Toucan posted the link to my first Utah, AZ trip, there's another that includes Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and a few other spectacular sights (Lower Calf Creek Falls, etc).

Photos of that trip are also on my web site.

At the start of August I'll be going to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. Sgould be another very interesting trip.

Dayle knows her stuff and layed out a great trip.

Have fun.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 06:05 PM
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I thought you had another trip report Myer, I'm glad you mentioned it. Your photos are amazing.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 06:46 PM
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I am pretty much beside myself with excitement now.We are meeting with our travel agent on Sat to plan flights... is Jackson the best airport to fly into for Yellowstone? Is Salt Lake City another option? We will probably start our adventure at Yellowtone as suggested and then fly down to Vegas or San Francisco.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 06:54 PM
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As close as you are to Sequoia, I'd consider it a "must-see". The trees are just incredible. I'm pretty sure the biggest tree in the world is there (too lazy to look it up). The diameter of them is unreal, and they just soar into the sky.
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Feb 15th, 2010, 08:08 PM
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Yes, we will definitely go to Sequoia, just had a look online, they are the biggest trees in the world!!!
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Feb 15th, 2010, 08:31 PM
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Right. And the General Sherman Tree is the biggest of the big.
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