US National Parks

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Buster65
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US National Parks

Post by Buster65 »

I'd like to go to the National Parks this Spring or early Summer. I'd like to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyons, etc. I'm wondering if others have gone with specific tours that they could recommend? Perhaps its best to go it alone? Any suggestions for trips to see US National Parks would be appreciated.
Andyrunner
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Andyrunner »

Can you elaborate more?

What do you plan to do? Hike (day/overnight), just drive through, camp, how long in each park? How long do you have? There are over 50 National Parks.

Between the ones you listed, there is a large distance between them (8+ hours).
adamthesmythe
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Re: US National Parks

Post by adamthesmythe »

I can't recommend tours. (in the sense that...I don't have any experience). But it you go by yourself- (1) rent a car and be ready to do a bunch of driving and (2) make reservations NOW.
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climber2020
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Re: US National Parks

Post by climber2020 »

No tour needed for national parks. Just rent a car and go.

The problem with the parks you listed is that they are all very popular. The better hotels nearby or within the parks can sometimes fill up a year in advance. So if you're gonna go this year, book your rooms now.
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mhc
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Re: US National Parks

Post by mhc »

One could do the following in either order:
Yellowstone
Grand Tetons
Arches
Canyonlands
Bryce
Zion
Grand Canyon

I would not go over to Yosemite. The other option would be to hit the California NPs and maybe the Grand Canyon and the southern Utah parks.

I would just drive. You need to book you loding early for the more popular parks unless you plan on camping. I would not do a tour unless you are not capable or willing to plan it and do the driving.
grandmacassie
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Re: US National Parks

Post by grandmacassie »

I have done all the above parks and here is my advice. (My advice presumes you are not an avid hiker/climber who will spend nights camping in the back country.) Yellowstone and Grand Teton and be done together in a one-week trip. Yosemite can be done in 4-5 days to include a visit to the Mariposa Grove (giant trees) near the south entrance.
Just this past September DH and I did a fabulous tour of the parks in Southern Utah. As easterners, we flew to Las Vegas and rented a car. First stop, 3 nights in Zion, then 2 nights in Bryce. Next day on thru Grand Staircase/Escalante to Capitol Reef NP, then up to Green River Utah for the night. Then to Moab Utah for a couple of nights for visits to Canyonlands NP and Arches NP. Last leg was Moab to Grand Canyon NP via Monument Valley. Then back to Vegas. It was an absolutely wonderful 10 day trip, especially if you are an easterner and not used to the landscapes of the West.
Best advice: Don't try to pack too much in one trip. Leave yourself the time to really enjoy and savor our glorious national parks.
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lthenderson
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Re: US National Parks

Post by lthenderson »

I've been to all of them and being of the type that hates crowds, I tend to go during the off seasons and hit the nearest trail when I'm there. Probably 99.9% of the visitors never hike more than a 1000 feet down any of the trails and it is like a totally different world beyond the roads and parking lots, especially Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
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marti038
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Re: US National Parks

Post by marti038 »

Buster65 wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:02 am I'd like to go to the National Parks this Spring or early Summer. I'd like to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyons, etc. I'm wondering if others have gone with specific tours that they could recommend? Perhaps its best to go it alone? Any suggestions for trips to see US National Parks would be appreciated.
We did Yosemite in early June. Fortunately, it was a low snowfall year, so the higher elevation areas were accessible and the crowds weren't quite as bad as they get later in summer. Yosemite is expensive and crowded just about any time you go, but it's worth it. Just plan way ahead. We coupled it with a trip to San Francisco and enjoyed several days there too.

We hit Glacier/Banff/Jasper in late August/early September and I think the timing was pretty good for that trip too. Highly recommend a stay at Granite Park chalet. You have to book waaaayyyyyy in advance and it's expensive, but the experience of being in the middle of the wilderness was something we haven't been able to duplicate any where else we've been.

Acadia was neat, but crowded and even more touristy than Yosemite (if you can believe that). Once was enough for me, but the white mountains (not a NP) in the fall are a must see.

I've only been to Yellowstone in February. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but wouldn't go that time of the year without a really good jacket. Also slipped down to Jackson Hole on that trip and had a blast. Low crowds, cheaper everything, but dang it was cold. I want to do that again one day.

I recommend Smoky Mtn NP and the everglades in fall.

There's my 30,000 ft summary. I hope you have fun working them all in!
bubbadog
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Re: US National Parks

Post by bubbadog »

I realize this is not probably what you had in mind and certainly not for everyone. If you really want to avoid the crowds in Yellowstone, what about a snowmobile trip in winter? I am leaving for West Yellowstone on 12/31 (flying into Bozeman, Montana) for a 4 day snowmobile trip. We are spending 2 days in the park and 2 days on our own in the adjacent national forest.

Just an idea :happy
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fortfun
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Re: US National Parks

Post by fortfun »

I'd do Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier in one trip (2 weeks).

I'd do Capital Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Natural Bridges, and Bryce on another trip (2 weeks).

Sequoia and Yosemite on another trip (1 week).

No need for a tour guide. Do get reservations ASAP. You can find camping just outside of most of the parks. In park camping/hotels will likely be full for now. You really can't go wrong with any of the above trips.
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Strider
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US National Parks

Post by Strider »

In visiting the Grand Canyon, don't skip the North Rim. It is several hours away by car from the South Rim, is more remote, and is much less crowded. North Rim vegetation, wildlife, elevation, viewscapes, and climate differ from those of the South Rim.

Lodging is more limited on the North Rim as well. I highly recommend the Grand Canyon Lodge, which is located within the boundaries of the park. The Grand Canyon Lodge is open only from mid-May to mid-October; thus it is necessary to make reservations far in advance.

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Krischi
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Krischi »

Camping in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and the Tetons is fairly easy, even in the high season. You might not get the best campgrounds, but if all you care about is a place to pitch your tent, you're generally able to reserve until mid-Spring for the high season, and even just 4-6 weeks out for the shoulder season.

If you hate crowds, I'd skip Zion. Definitely do include Capitol Reef instead, and do the UT-12 state highway drive between Bryce and Capitol Reef. It's one of the most - if not *the most* - spectacular drives in all of the US.

I've done a trip with my family in late August from Las Vegas-Grand Canyon-Monument Valley-Canyonlands-Arches-Capitol Reef-Bryce-Yellowstone-Grand Teton-SLC in 15 days. It's a very memorable trip and doable with plenty of time to spare for hiking and sightseeing, albeit with quite a bit of driving. One advantage of starting in Las Vegas is that both airfares and car rentals are way cheaper, even taking one-way rentals into account.
HIinvestor
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Re: US National Parks

Post by HIinvestor »

We have been to most of the national parks you mention. We have spent only one or two nights at each (lodging inside each park), and found that for US being constantly on the move was very tiring. Some folks like that quick pace but we found we felt we were mostly seeing the inside of our rental car.

We just spent 3 nights at Yosemite in October, lodging IN the park. My BIL who lives in SF marveled at how pleasant it was to be in the park at that time of year when there are pretty much NO crowds rather than with the awful summer crowds when he goes to the park most summers. He’s thinking he may visit again off-season. We even drove to the Hetchhetchy Reservoir on our way out. It was very relaxing and lovely feeling like we had the park to ourselves.

Our favorite place to stay at National Parks is always IN the park so you don’t spend so much time going back and forth to get to the park.

We like slow travel and enjoyed spending a week at Glacier and Waterton NP. We spent 2 nights at different lodges within the park before moving to our next lodging and loved the different views. In Yellowstone, we spent a week there and a week at Grand Tetons and a several days at Rapid City (seeing My Rushmore, Crazy Horse, caves, etc.)

North Rim of GCanyon can be combined with Zion and Bryce pretty easily. We also saw Petrified Forest, Arches, Mesa Verde and South Rim of Grand Canyon. The distances between those sights seemed interminable to us when we were just spending a day in each park and moving on. YMMV

If you want to do any significant hiking you really need to spend several days. Quite a few parks are at altitude and may require some adjustment to get used to the elevation. There are often some short tours 1/2 to full 8 hour day tours and/or activities in the parks that you can also book so you get some info from a guide while being on your own for more of the time.

Agree that booking lodging early is very important. Zanterra is the vendor for many of the in park lodging. If everything is cooked, kept checking—sometimes things open up. Also if you are flexible on dates, you can ask what is available and plan around that. There are some lodging NOT managed by Zanterra that is conveniently located in some parks, so check around. If you really want to be in the park but lodging is full you may have to consider a package tour (no experience as we have never done this).
260chrisb
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Re: US National Parks

Post by 260chrisb »

You've all covered my thoughts and think grandmacassie said it best and I think perhaps was on the same trip we were on!! We did the Vegas thing from Chicago and drove north. One more bit of advice; go during the off season if you can. You don't want to be in any of these parks in high season. You will love what you see and experience. Have fun!
adamthesmythe
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Re: US National Parks

Post by adamthesmythe »

Since OP may end up staying outside parks- just be aware. The parks are BIG and the drive from park entrance to the interior can be 30-40 miles or so. And these are miles slowed down by speed limits and traffic. You can't be in a hurry.
Soup Nazi
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Soup Nazi »

fortfun wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:30 pm I'd do Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier in one trip (2 weeks).

I'd do Capital Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Natural Bridges, and Bryce on another trip (2 weeks).

Sequoia and Yosemite on another trip (1 week).

No need for a tour guide. Do get reservations ASAP. You can find camping just outside of most of the parks. In park camping/hotels will likely be full for now. You really can't go wrong with any of the above trips.
I second this. It's a long ways to get from Grand Teton NP to Arches NP. Also, the best time to visit the Northern Rockies parks (Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier) would be July and August, while the best time to visit the Colorado Plateau parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon) is in the spring and fall.
MJS
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Re: US National Parks

Post by MJS »

The Tripadvisor forum discusses & can recommend tours, from roughing-it to luxury.

Several companies offer bus tours.
http://traveltips.usatoday.com/bus-tour ... -5430.html

Avoid high summer in national parks.
Mickey7
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Mickey7 »

The reason they make red shirts and green shirts is that everyone wants something different, What do you want to do to make your park experience your own? What do you want to commit to in achieving that experience? There are no incorrect answers here: there is only your answer.

Start your planning now! Get on the National Parks website and start researching these places and see what each has to offer. Get maps (I use AAA) to check distances. Talk with friends who have gone before or get on TripAdvisor or other sites for reviews. If you are flying out to an area and plan to camp check with your airline for baggage limits.

Be honest with yourself, it is your trip afterall. Do you want to camp or stay at an on site hotel/lodge? Are you in to hiking or photography? How much are you willing to drive? Will you want to see the highlights that each has or do you want an extended experience?

The national parks are America's geatest treasue. Enjoy them.

BTW get a National Park Passport book, Each park has a stamp that you get stamped at the Welcome Center or park station. I have gone through several of them. Whenever anyone asks which one I like the best, I always say the next one!
atwood
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Re: US National Parks

Post by atwood »

Soup Nazi wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:59 pm
fortfun wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:30 pm I'd do Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier in one trip (2 weeks).

I'd do Capital Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, Natural Bridges, and Bryce on another trip (2 weeks).

Sequoia and Yosemite on another trip (1 week).

No need for a tour guide. Do get reservations ASAP. You can find camping just outside of most of the parks. In park camping/hotels will likely be full for now. You really can't go wrong with any of the above trips.
I second this. It's a long ways to get from Grand Teton NP to Arches NP. Also, the best time to visit the Northern Rockies parks (Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier) would be July and August, while the best time to visit the Colorado Plateau parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon) is in the spring and fall.
I agree. We did Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier all in one go of about two weeks. Would have liked to drive over to Mt. Rushmore as well but it was Bike Week in Sturges. Stayed outside all the parks due to late planning but the only place it really hurt was Yellowstone.

Highly recommend the Garden Wall Inn in Whitefish, Montana. And the town is quite nice too. Stayed at the Kudar Cabins in Jackson which is on the road out of town to Tetons. Free ice for your cooler and free coffee.
hulburt1
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Re: US National Parks

Post by hulburt1 »

I just got back last week. Go to the internet and enter national parks. I started at Death Valley and went to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. I hit all of them. If you are over 60 get a life time pass. Free to get in and camping 1/2 off. I rented a cargo van put a bed in and travel all the way to Big Ben in Texas.
4 weeks I had no need to get a hotel. What a trip. Will go up to the north this summer. It cost me about 1200 for food and gas. Once you are out of Ca. the gas is about 2:15....The van 435.00 yes 435.00 with unlimited mileage 7000 miles. This is my 5th trip and have hit every park from Alaska, Main, Key West. You meet some very interesting people in the camp grounds. Some advice Walmart will let you stay a night if you ask. You will not be alone.
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Alexa9
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Alexa9 »

I'd watch the recent documentary showing a few minutes of each national park. Try not to rush, take lots of pics and picnics. The most spectacular in the lower 48 I would guess are Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion/Bryce, and Olympic if you have to narrow it down.
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Sandtrap
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Sandtrap »

They just raised the senior lifetime pass.
I think it's $80 now.
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jlawrence01
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Re: US National Parks

Post by jlawrence01 »

I am not going to get into the "which national park is most spectacular" as it is like judging which super model is most beautiful - it is a futile exercise.

Personally, I have been quite impressed with some of the lesser traveled parks - Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Canyonlands, Lassen Volcano, Saguaro, and Great Basin.

What I will say is this. If you are interested in visiting the most popular parks in high season, you have to get your plans made as soon as possible if you plan to stay anywhere near the parks. I try to get reservations 6-9 months in advance.
jlawrence01
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Re: US National Parks

Post by jlawrence01 »

I am not going to get into the "which national park is most spectacular" as it is like judging which super model is most beautiful - it is a futile exercise.

Personally, I have been quite impressed with some of the lesser traveled parks - Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns, Canyonlands, Lassen Volcano, Saguaro, and Great Basin.

What I will say is this. If you are interested in visiting the most popular parks in high season, you have to get your plans made as soon as possible if you plan to stay anywhere near the parks. I try to get reservations 6-9 months in advance.
StealthRabbit
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Re: US National Parks

Post by StealthRabbit »

for road trips to NP... Campervans are great Pick yourself up a used Roadtrek, or if adventurous,,, a beater VW camper van (which now cost $20k instead of $2000). I use a 20 mpg Rialta (until I convert it to a 35 mpg Diesel) If the VR6 ever wears out.

I do a lot of 'fly-drive' trips, and you can see the 4 western regions of parks Using SLC, LAS, SMF, and SEA airports (all have cheap flights). I have left my RV near the above airports between seasons (Storage areas nearby)

I drive between parks in the dark (if not much to see and short on time)

I do my 'In-Park-Driving' between Dawn and 10AM, then between 4 PM and dusk. (leave the mid-day High Traffic / families / animal gawkers hours for naps, fishing, hiking, float trips)

I prefer Grand Canyon by air (it is HUGE and you see VERY little doing LONG drives)
If near Las Vegas.. don't miss Valley of Fire (excellent camping,)

Off season is great, but... Yellowstone and Glacier can have snow 12 months / yr. Read up on Scenic Byways, and don't miss "The Beartooth" (NE Yellowstone).

If you enjoy 'roughing it' consider a Motorcycle and bed-roll, I did many of the western parks quite often (most weekends) via MC and seldom used a campground (stealth-camped) on back roads.

If taking a camper / car... bring a Kayak, 'river floating' it is a terrific way to see and enjoy wildlife (sneak up on them) and the views and animals are abundant and memorable (off the main road).
2015
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Re: US National Parks

Post by 2015 »

hulburt1 wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:58 pm I just got back last week. Go to the internet and enter national parks. I started at Death Valley and went to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. I hit all of them. If you are over 60 get a life time pass. Free to get in and camping 1/2 off. I rented a cargo van put a bed in and travel all the way to Big Ben in Texas.
4 weeks I had no need to get a hotel. What a trip. Will go up to the north this summer. It cost me about 1200 for food and gas. Once you are out of Ca. the gas is about 2:15....The van 435.00 yes 435.00 with unlimited mileage 7000 miles. This is my 5th trip and have hit every park from Alaska, Main, Key West. You meet some very interesting people in the camp grounds. Some advice Walmart will let you stay a night if you ask. You will not be alone.
Can you please talk a little more about this. What kind of van did you rent and was all of the 7K miles traveled within the same state (some rental companies won't let you take the rental out of state)? Did you go alone or with someone, and if with someone, was it big enough for both of you? Did ?you plan the trip ahead of time or simply play the trip by ear (sometimes the most fun!)? How did you deal with the weather at night (i.e., staying warm/cool where required)?

Visiting as many of the parks as I possibly can via driving is on my list for an upcoming travel year, but I can't get myself to want to rent so much as even a Class C camper due to gas costs, size, maneuverability, etc. I like the idea a van if it can fit everything.
RudyS
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Re: US National Parks

Post by RudyS »

DW and I love Yosemite. We are now 76/81 and have been there 8 times starting with when I was at Stanford U. If you are 50, this would work. It's a great several days including lodging at Yosemite Valley Lodge. Check out this Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) program. We loved it. Best parts: lodging in the Valley, and I didn't have to drive. They have others. If you don't go with them, you might like to see their itineraries anyway for guidance.
https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adv ... itinerary/
hulburt1
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Re: US National Parks

Post by hulburt1 »

I rent a cargo van from hertz. 435.00 and went to Cali.,Nevada, Utah, N. Mexico and Texas. 7000 miles. My gas was about 2.15 to 3.15 Will not go back to California. $100 to fill it up. I have gone to Alaska twice. Nova Scotia, Key West, and Texas twice. 5 trips Cost $2800, mileage that I have covered 49000 miles. It was not my car or van. I bought a $30 bed have a stove ice chest. I also take a extension cord and hook up for lights and a heater. If over 6o I get in free plus family. camps are 1/2 price. I save money by cooking my food and coffee. There are some grate people in those camp ground. I travel South in November and North in June.
hulburt1
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Re: US National Parks

Post by hulburt1 »

Go on the internet and look for the best thing to do in that state. I also had some grate advice on here. Just ask what would you like me to see in your state. You will get 20+ answers. good luck have fun.
IMADreamer
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Re: US National Parks

Post by IMADreamer »

lthenderson wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:06 pm I've been to all of them and being of the type that hates crowds, I tend to go during the off seasons and hit the nearest trail when I'm there. Probably 99.9% of the visitors never hike more than a 1000 feet down any of the trails and it is like a totally different world beyond the roads and parking lots, especially Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.


I'll second this. We did Yellowstone and Tetons last summer. If you can just get a little ways off the road you can avoid the crowds and see some amazing things. There was one place where we hiked not even 100 yards from the road, found this waterfall, saw some marmots playing, and a moose eating. We spent several hours just enjoying the solitude and wonder.
2015
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Re: US National Parks

Post by 2015 »

hulburt1 wrote: Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:18 pm I rent a cargo van from hertz. 435.00 and went to Cali.,Nevada, Utah, N. Mexico and Texas. 7000 miles. My gas was about 2.15 to 3.15 Will not go back to California. $100 to fill it up. I have gone to Alaska twice. Nova Scotia, Key West, and Texas twice. 5 trips Cost $2800, mileage that I have covered 49000 miles. It was not my car or van. I bought a $30 bed have a stove ice chest. I also take a extension cord and hook up for lights and a heater. If over 6o I get in free plus family. camps are 1/2 price. I save money by cooking my food and coffee. There are some grate people in those camp ground. I travel South in November and North in June.
Thank you. This sounds like the route I would take. Not for lack of money, it's just that I don't want to drive a big clunky (for me) RV. Even a C class has always seemed more than I want to be bothered with. I'm going for the trip not for the transportation. One question, doesn't Hertz restrict you from taking a rented vehicle out of state? I seem to recall this from a road trip I did decades ago.
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TimeRunner
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Re: US National Parks

Post by TimeRunner »

If you rent a passenger van, make sure you can remove the bench seats - sometimes they are padlocked to prevent people from using the van for cargo.
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hulburt1
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Re: US National Parks

Post by hulburt1 »

Hertz know that I take big trips. I have taken it to Canada 3 times. They are not making money on me but they hit people that show up at the airport, I'm already planning to rent cargo van and go to East Coast. For June its still 435. a month.
JBTX
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Re: US National Parks

Post by JBTX »

I’ve done brief visits to a couple of them. A friend and I drove to Yosemite. I recall getting there and we did maybe a 2-3 hour hike to get to a summit and completely avoided all the crowds and buses that were swirling around.

I went to Yellowstone on a year after much of it was burnt down by fire. I didn’t stay long enough to really appreciate it. That was 16 years ago. ended up going in August which was the same time a lot of bikers head to SD so lines full of belching Harley’s detracted from the experience a bit.
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Wildebeest
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Re: US National Parks

Post by Wildebeest »

We thought Zion was outstanding and been there 4 times. We loved Glacier and Yosemite. Tetons was pretty cool. However Yellowstone and Bryce were OKAY but not memorable.

We would be happy to go back to Zion for a fifth, sixth or tenth time and see if we still love Glacier (there still might be glaciers and if not we still are enthralled ) and Yosemite. We feel fortunate there are great National Parks to visit.
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crumbone
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Re: US National Parks

Post by crumbone »

I've never understood the compulsion to scramble from park to park, checking off boxes (but then again I've never understood frantic checkbox guidebook tourism of any kind.) Each park is a treasure, with miles and miles of undisturbed nature all around. Why not pick one or two and really get to know them?

My friend and I each went to Petrified Forest at different times. I spent a whole day there (could have spent two or three easily) following one of the "off the beaten path" hiking routes that a ranger recommended, which took us along a previous trail from the 1930s with barely a soul in sight. My friend--who is trying to complete the list--flew into Phoenix and drove to Saguaro and Petrified Forest in the span of a 3-day weekend.

He thought Petrified Forest was mediocre. I thought (and still think) that it's an underrated treasure.
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robolove
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Re: US National Parks

Post by robolove »

bubbadog wrote: Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:21 pm I realize this is not probably what you had in mind and certainly not for everyone. If you really want to avoid the crowds in Yellowstone, what about a snowmobile trip in winter? I am leaving for West Yellowstone on 12/31 (flying into Bozeman, Montana) for a 4 day snowmobile trip. We are spending 2 days in the park and 2 days on our own in the adjacent national forest.

Just an idea :happy
That sounds like fun.

Is this a DIY or can you share the company’s uRL?
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