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U S National Park Tours

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Mar 13th, 2013, 08:56 AM
  #1
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U S National Park Tours

Hubby and I are looking to tour the National Parks out west this summer. We have visited Yosemite and the Grand Canyon already. Looking for recommendations for a tour company. Time frame would be 2 to 3 weeks. This is our retirement gift to each other. Cost is a factor so want the best for the bucks. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 09:36 AM
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Austin-Lehman does national park tours, but I'm not sure if they can weave together lots of different parks in very different parts of the country. And they are mostly an adventure-tour company. Are you looking for a group guided/bus tour, or do you want to do hiking and other activities?
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Mar 13th, 2013, 09:37 AM
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How many parks do you want to see in 3 weeks? Where are you coming from?
Driving a rental car helps you pick and chose what you want to see and when. If it rains you can delay a park visit and do something indoors like plan in a library.
Tell us where you want to go first.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 09:50 AM
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Originally looking for a group tour company but just got off the phone with one and they're asking nearly $10,000 for hubby and I. Looking to see Mt. Rushmore & Crazy Horse Memorial, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Moab, Arches , Monument Valley. Is that too much for 3 weeks? Being retired we could stay a little longer. Which is the better summer month; July or August? Been to Sedona and Las Vegas so realize it is hot in both, but no PA humidity.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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The southwest is best in spring, summer is very hot. The mountains are best in summer. I think if you're retired you are best off visiting each area in the best season rather than trying to visit such a diverse cross-section in 3 weeks. Yes, you could pack all that into 3 weeks but it isn't the ideal time for anything in southern Utah.

And personally the idea of a group bus tour just makes me cringe. For $10,000 you could rent a car, pay someone to drive you and go where you want to go instead of stick to somebody else's pre-packaged itinerary. And you'd probably still have money left over.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 10:38 AM
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> Mt. Rushmore & Crazy Horse Memorial, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons,
> Jackson Hole, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Moab, Arches , Monument Valley. > Is that too much for 3 weeks?

Plain and simple, yes.

In the summer, I'd head to the north; ie, Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier.
If that isn't enough, go to Banff / Jasper north of the border. If you do, make certain you have a valid passport with you.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 10:40 AM
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Is there a reason you don't want to drive? As tomfuller said, this would be fairly simple to do on your own with a rental car.

You sort of have two trips here - one to the northern parks, and one for the southwestern parks and Monument Valley. You could easily spend 2-3 weeks on either part of the trip.

Lee Ann
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Mar 13th, 2013, 10:46 AM
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Acutally for a 3-week itinerary on a fully guided trip, $5K per person isn't that much considering that you'd probably be staying in the parks themselves for most of that time and transportation would be included. I don't think you're going to find a fully-guided trip any cheaper than that if you want to cover that much territory.

The way to do it cheaper is to drive yourself. You could even rent an RV if you don't mind driving one. But just driving yourself would make the trip much cheaper. But I think you're kidding yourself if you think this is going to cost less than $3 each unless you plan to do it as a camping trip.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 10:50 AM
  #9
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We have not ruled out driving now realizing how much a tour company would cost. I see now that two trips would be best. Does anyone have a possible itinerary. We would be flying from PA and renting a car. Still want to do a summer trip so it sounds like we should stay north. Do I book hotels ahead, if so how many days do you think per park? Thanks for all your input and open to suggestions. Is it to late to make plans?
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Mar 13th, 2013, 11:10 AM
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It's not too late. You will have to book hotels ahead of time, summer is busy and you can't expect to show up and find lodging.

Spend a week in Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, then several days in Glacier and several days in the Black Hills. So you could fit that area into 2 weeks but if you have time there's always more to see and do.

There are various topics on here about Yellowstone/Glacier/Black Hills, do a search on them and you'll get a lot of ideas and itineraries.

You can fly to Denver, Salt Lake City, or any of the smaller airports that are closer to Yellowstone/Glacier.

Big thing to remember is that it's best to stay inside the park for lodging when possible (especially Yellowstone). And by now most of the lodging is booked up but there are always cancellations...so figure out an itinerary and dates and start booking hotels. When you can't find any availability for certain dates, just call and keep calling the hotels until you get a room, many people make reservations and cancel when they change their plans. Often those cancellations aren't reflected on a hotel's website, so you must call directly.

I believe (but I could be wrong) that the last half of August tends to be slightly less busy as most people are gearing up for school and/or waiting for Labor Day weekend to travel.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 11:10 AM
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> Do I book hotels ahead, if so how many days do you think per park?

All the places you hope to experience are (not surprisingly) VERY popular with visitors in the summer. That being the case, lodging is invariably filled to the brim, every night.
If you plan to stay at lodges WITHIN the park during the summer, you'll have to book months in advance.
If staying in the town just outside the parks, you should plan weeks in advance.

We like to travel in May and June, when we can just show up at a tourist town and find a reasonably good place to stay for the night. Or, at worst, make a reservation a day or two in advance. In the summer, that just won't work.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 11:20 AM
  #12
 
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Your itinerary is very doable.

I think it would be a better trip if you eliminate Mount Rushmore and start in Glacier, Waterton, Banf, or Jasper and head south, or vice versa.

HTTY

PS We were extremely disappointed by the Crazy Horse Memorial. Admission is $10, and all you see (way off in the distance) is the profile of the face. A photograph of the front of the face (which you won't see) will appear if you Google "crazy horse memorial."
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Mar 13th, 2013, 12:09 PM
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The loop that I would follow would be: Fly to Denver and rent a car for your 3 weeks. Go to Rocky Mt. NP, Wind Cave NP, Badlands, Rapid City/Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower NM, Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP, North Cascades NP, Olympic NP, Crater Lake NP, Redwood NP, Muir Woods and anything you want to see in San Francisco.
Head east on I-80 to Salt Lake City then south on I-15 to I-70 to head east. If you still have time left I would chose to visit at least Arches NP before heading back to Denver.
You could also reverse the loop or even fly to SLC or even SFO.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 02:32 PM
  #14
 
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Unless this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip I wouldn't pack that much into a trip. There are sights in/near many of the parks in addition to the actual parks themselves.

And unless you video and photograph every move you make, you won't remember half of what you see and they will all start to blend together.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 01:16 PM
  #15
 
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To get the true feel for Glacier National Park, be sure to stay on the east side of the park, preferably in the Many Glacier area. It's the most scenic area of the park. Many Glacier Hotel or Swiftcurrent Lodge within the park or a rental home outside of the park through vrbo.com. Same suggestions as above for hotel lodging is to keep calling as cancellations occur. We usually travel there late August to early September and enjoy less crowds.

One of the most scenic drives in the country is the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier. Plan on spending a day taking in the sights and making the drive to the east side of the park - you could make it your drive on the way out of the park on your way to Yellowstone. It's a spectacular drive, but there will still be road construction this summer, so plan on some delays.

http://www.hikinginglacier.com/glaci...e-sun-road.htm
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