Winter road trip across the USA

Old Jul 11th, 2018, 03:55 PM
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Winter road trip across the USA

Hi everyone !

After living in NYC for two years, my wife and I will be leaving back to France in January 2019. We're starting to think about a 1 month road-trip across the USA in December/January, as a Farewell to this country.
We love camping and we're really more into the outdoors and National Parks than any cities, we're thinking about renting a camper van from San Francisco to Miami (I've done some research and it should be about 3500$ for 31 days - unlimited mileage and insurance included) and we would obviously drive through the southern states to avoid too low temperatures even though I'd really like to see the Yellowstone (but eh, maybe we'll come back someday !)

As for now, the Park that we really wouldn't want to miss are :
- Yosemite National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Zion National Park (I went there in May but my wife wasn't with me, I thought it was amazing so I really would like her to enjoy it as I did)
- Big Bend National Park (Texas)
- New Orleans (She went there without me and thinks that I'd really enjoy it)
- The Everglades

I'm wondering if there is a pearl that you'd add to this list ? Especially between New-Mexico and Florida and keeping in mind that we can't really go to really snowy or freezing cold places. What about Georgia, Tennessee (I suppose the Smocky Mountains might be snowy ?) and the two Carolinas ?

A bit of history to help you for your advises :
- We went to Oregon last summer and did a pretty exhaustive tour (well, I'm sure there would be a lot for us to discover there but we went from Portland to Mount Hood, then East and South to the Steens Mountains and the Alvord Desert and back West to Crater Lake then North of California to the Redwood National Park and back to Portland following the coast).
- My wife went across a bit of Louisiana two years ago in November and especially enjoyed New Orleans and the Bayou.
- I went to Colorado and Utah in May. I really want to show her Zion but I also really enjoyed Arches NP, Bryce, Valley of the Gods, the Great Sand Dunes, which might all be fitting places to explore in December... ? I also loooooved the Rocky Mountain National Park but I'm afraid it'll be too cold in December.

Also we're going to Arizona and New Mexico for two weeks this summer (leaving in a few days) and we probably will go to Sedona (Red Rocks), Saguaro, Chiricahua National Monument (all in Arizona), then to White Sands (NM), Guadalupe Mountains (TX) then back North near Santa Fe, NM (Tent Rocks, Taos Pueblo, etc.).

We'll probably go to the Grand Canyon this summer to even though I'd rather wait 'till December to be honest...
Do you think there is a Park or something that we really shouldn't miss in December ? And do you think that some of the Park we plan to go to this summer could wait till our Winter trip ?

Hopefully this list of parks isn't too boring to go through but I really think this country is amazing and beautiful and I hope to see as much beauty as I can before leaving.

Thanks !
orkestra is offline  
Old Jul 11th, 2018, 04:12 PM
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Some of the parks will have restricted access in the winter (the NPS websites will be a good resource). But IMO, Yellowstone in the winter is magical, even if reduced in area available.
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Old Jul 11th, 2018, 04:28 PM
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I would 100% (100000% really ) forget about a camper van for this trip. A car and staying in hotels/motels will be sooooooo much easier. Plus you'll have a lot more flexibility - there can be snow even in the 'warm' southwest. And there will be snow almost for sure in Yosemite.

You can still have a great adventure without the hassles of camping in winter.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 04:56 AM
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Well I checked the temperatures in a few areas that we might cross in December and worst case is about 20F at night which is okay, we will just avoid sleeping in high altitude and we should be fine. That means Yellowstone really isn't an option unfortunately (because even if we accepted to go to a motel there, it's too far up North for us).
We love camping and I really don't want to stay in a motel, the most time we'll spend far from human "civilization", the better for us
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 08:38 AM
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By camper van do you mean something the size of a mini or cargo van or a full size RV?

Tire chains may be required at Yosemite if there's snow. The majority of rental companies won't allow you to drive with chains though some smaller van companies do.

The south rim of the Grand Canyon is at 7000 ft elevation and can have snow as well.

December is a good time to see sandhill cranes at Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 02:22 PM
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Tioga Pass at the east end of Yosemite will be closed in January so you will need to detour via the Central Valley to get to Death Valley.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 02:37 PM
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Try to avoid Big Bend between Christmas and New Years. That is one of the busiest weeks of the year.

Lows in Estes Park (right outside Rocky Mountain NP) are in the middle teens about that time, so the park will be a bit colder. Have you considered visiting southwest Colorado instead? It won't be much warmer but it's more on your route if you're visiting Zion and Grand Canyon.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 04:41 PM
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I will say you should not miss Yosemite. There isn't anything like it in the world. Although Yellowstone is a jewel, this will be wonderful.
You might consider visiting some Native American sites in New Mexico--also nothing like it .
I have loved camping but ... agree about the camper van. But it' fine.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 03:29 AM
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Wow! It's amazing to read this and I can't imagine how its gonna be exciting. This is great that you have time to invest in road trip that's amazing. hope I can also part of this trip. Please share the images of the whole trip.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 12:15 PM
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Sorry I didn't answer before but the last few days have been a bit hectic and I'm leaving tomorrow for two weeks in Arizona & New Mexico, but thank you all very much for the advises and opinions !
About potential issues with cold or bad weather, don't worry about it, we're not absolutely new to this and we'll obviously be careful when close to high altitude and stay as low as possible when it comes to sleep (and we would sleep in the camper van where there should be blankets, we have very good sleeping bags AND survival blankets) and off course I'll do extra research about that before going anywhere just to be sure !
Patty : the camper van comes with snow chains, so I guess we're allowed to use those if needed

Off course, if you'd like to add something I'll be more than happy to read about it in two weeks when I'll come back !

I'll post some photographs if I can yes

Thanks again !
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Old Jul 14th, 2018, 04:45 AM
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Add Bryce Canyon, easy to combine with Zion, on your summer trip. Our favorite NP. Be aware that the Grand Canyon and Bryce May get winter snow. Check altitudes of places you want to visit in tne winter. Northern Arizona has ski areas.
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