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-   -   National Parks to see in the West (https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/national-parks-to-see-in-the-west-846295/)

juleclod Jun 23rd, 2010 04:02 AM

National Parks to see in the West
 
We have four couples all over the age of 50 that enjoy travel together. Thinking about a trip out west for summer 2011. Any suggestions where to stay, what to see and do. We love good food and beautiful scenery. Don't want to stay in one place for our entire week though. Would be nice to visit at least two areas. Don't know how long it would take to drive from one park to another. Any thoughts??? Thanks.

PaulRabe Jun 23rd, 2010 04:24 AM

Summer time means avoiding the desert. National parks in the west means, other than the desert, means the mountains. More than one place means either Yellowstone/Glacier OR Yosemite/Sequoia OR Rainier/Olympic. The first two have FAR superior scenery than the last; the second has the best wildlife; the latter is near enough to Seattle that great food would be easy. Rocky Mountain NP is great, but not worth a week, and not close to another park.

HappyTrvlr Jun 23rd, 2010 04:29 AM

If you want several National Parks near each other you could do Grand Canyon-North Rim, Bryce and Zion. Another option would be Grand Teton and Yellowstone which are ajacent to each other.
The town of Jackson,WY offers many options for lodging and dining.

rickandpat Jun 23rd, 2010 04:57 AM

If you haven't seen Yellowstone yet, I'd pick it and the adjacent Tetons. It is fantastic - absolutely unique geothermal features plus tons of wildlife, and only really crowded by Old Faithful and Mammoth Hotsprings. If you have the time, Glacier NP is beautiful too. I've been to Olympic NP/Ranier/Cascades several times, and they are also gorgeous. Nice combination of mountains and sea, and we lucked into Paradise on Ranier at peak wildflower last year and were blown away.

emalloy Jun 23rd, 2010 05:07 AM

For parks like Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, the place to stay is in the parks. They have mostly motels or cabins, with a couple of hotel/lodges and some are pretty basic, but clean. The parks put you where you want to be at sunset/sunrise and eliminate what can be a fairly long drive in from the motels that are outside the parks.

Go to www.nps.gov and click on a few areas and read up on the parks an see which offer the kinds of things you are interested in.

The above suggestions are great, but don't rule out Rocky Mt. NP, Mesa Verde, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur Np, etc. in Colorado too.

bachslunch Jun 23rd, 2010 05:51 AM

While I'm thinking it's smart to avoid a visit to Death Valley in summer, I'm also not convinced avoiding Arches, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce in summer is an equal must. It will surely be hot then but not as hot as in Death Valley, and drinking a lot of water, taking precautions to avoid a lot of direct sun exposure (hats, sunscreen), and finding someplace indoors to duck in occasionally may make these possible options.

Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon can all easily be experienced in a week's time, and all are must-sees as far as I'm concerned. Will also second Yellowstone and Grand Teton, which would also make for a very enjoyable week. Can't speak to the other combos suggested above, but given what I've read, am guessing they'd be very worthy options.

Finding top quality food may another issue entirely, as I can't think of any national parks that are also gourmet dining destinations. Your best bet may be to choose parks close by a town or city that has decent food, such as Jackson, WY near Yellowstone/Grand Teton or Las Vegas/Flagstaff in the general vicinity of the Bryce/Zion/GC group.

juleclod Jun 23rd, 2010 06:08 AM

Wow, you've all been really helpful. I'll present these ideas to our friends. In 1999 we took our kids to Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon (north rim) and loved it. My favorite of all of them was coming in to Zion using the east entrance.
Absolutely, amazing.

Thanks to all and keep the suggestions coming if you think of anything else.

christabir Jun 23rd, 2010 09:33 AM

If you can go to any of the above in June or Sept (or even the last week in August), the crowds will be much smaller. I avoid summer travel to these incredible places. I just got back from Yellowstone and Grand Tetons for a week and it was amazing. That would be a fantastic trip, but all of the above are super. You could also do Volcanos in Hawaii. It's not a national park, but Tahoe is tons of fun and you can combine with Lassen.

We live in a beautiful country.

juleclod Jun 23rd, 2010 10:45 AM

christabir - thanks and good ideas. We do live a beautiful country and we'd like to explore it more.
Thanks you again.

spirobulldog Jun 23rd, 2010 02:50 PM

Whatever you do, make your lodging reservations for "in park" lodging ASAP. I must disagree with PaulRabe, I think Yosemite is very scenic. We saw a lot more animals in Yellowstone than we did in Yosemite or Sequoia. Some people couple Yellowstone/Glacier. While others do a Yellowstone/Mount Rushmore and area together. I may be reading his statement wrong, or he just got it out of order.

You might also consider Oregon. You could see the Redwoods in Northern California, Crater Lake, Oregon Cave, Oregon Coast, Mt St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Fruit Loop, Columbia River Gorge, and don't miss the Rose Garden and Powell's Bookstore in Portland.

LindainOhio Jun 23rd, 2010 04:58 PM

We love all the National Parks out west. We have travelled with friends to Badlands/ Mount Rushmore/Yellowstone/Grand Tetons. We did a group hiking trip with several couples to the Grand Canyon and Phantom Ranch(we did this in the Spring) but our favorite trip was visiting the Canadian Rockies. I have trip reports posted for the Grand Canyon and Canadian Rockies. Click on my name and scroll back.

PaulRabe Jun 23rd, 2010 06:08 PM

Re-phrasing my statement as I now realize how it could be misunderstood: "More than one NP means one of the following three combos: (1) Yellowstone/ Tetons/Glacier, (2) Yosemite/Sequoia, (3) Rainier/Olympic/Cascades. Combos (1) and (2) have FAR superior scenery to combo (3), (1) has the best wildlife viewing, (3) is close enough to Seattle to make finding good food easy."

spirobulldog Jun 23rd, 2010 06:20 PM

I'll agree with Paul now. I have been to most of the western parks and have enjoyed all of them.

easytraveler Jun 23rd, 2010 08:43 PM

Since the others have mentioned the US combos, I'll add my voice to LindainOhio's suggestion of the Canadian Rockies.

Fly into Calgary and then drive to Banff and Kootenay parks. Depending on how much time you have, you could continue on westward to Lake Okanagan and even to Vancouver and Victoria.

Absolutely gorgeous country to travel through.


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