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Topic: National Park Tour< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 09 2013, 9:28 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey everyone! I'm new to this board, and I was hoping you guys could help me out with some much-needed advice. I'm about to graduate from college here in early May, and I've been thinking about seeing some national parks before I join the rat race.

That being said, I'll be leaving from Columbus, OH then on to the following:
Mammoth Cave, KY
Big Bend, TX
Guadalupe Mountains, TX
Carlsbad Caverns, NM
Grand Canyon
Here I am a little stuck as to where I should split my time in Utah and Colorado. Obviously a ton of great stuff here, would love some input.
Death Valley, CA
Yosemite, CA
Lassen Volcanic, CA
Redwood, CA
Crater Lake, OR
Mt rainier, Olympic, and north cascades, WA
Glacier, MT
Yellowstone, WY
Grand Teton, WY
Badlands, SD

It's ambitious, I know, and my funds might dictate other options. I'll be leaving around May 10 and hoping to return by June 25. My only other goals are to camp in the parks as much as possible, and take overnight hikes wherever possible. I should also mention I'm doing this alone, with no real backpacking experience outside of day hikes and camping trips with friends. I am in pretty good shape though.

My questions for you guys are these: what kind of gear should I invest in on a tight budget? I have an inflatable sleeping pad already, but need just about everything else. I'm not going to be spending a thousand dollars before. What are the necessities, and where can I get them cheap?

Are there any parks I should include/ignore? National forests, BLM land, etc are fair game, too.

Has anyone hiked glacier, north cascades, or any of the northern parks in June? How limited will I be?

What kind of food do you bring on multi night backpacking trips? Does anyone bring a fishing rod with them on similar trips?

I would really appreciate any advice you guys might have. I've got a few months to prepare, so feel free to call me out on my noobishness. Thanks in advance!
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 09 2013, 10:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

In between the rat race of school/exams and the rat race of job/deadlines -- do you really want to insert a month of NP rat race?

With just a bit over one month, I think I would settle for 3-5 NP's or forests -- and not just see them, but get to know and feel them a bit.  And the latter takes time.

If you like variety, maybe pick a location back East (eg Mammoth Cave, KY), then NM (eg Canyonland and Arches), then Grand Canyon, then CA (Joshua Tree).

But all subjective, of course.  We are all different.  Just food for thought.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 09 2013, 10:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well, some of these stops really don't feel like places that lend themselves to longer trips. In my mind, mammoth cave, Carlsbad caverns and Death Valley aren't parks I'll want to stay for more than a night. Subjective, of course. I would have no problem spending a week in one park, though. I'd like to leave it fairly open.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 09 2013, 11:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You could easily spend a month at most of those and not hike everything.  If it were me, I'd spend a week at Yellowstone and then go to the very nearby Grand Teton for a few nights, then head to WA for Rainier and the Olympics.  Exploring each of those and traveling between, plus stopping for anything of great interest on the way, would easily take up a month (or more!).

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 09 2013, 11:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You'd probably get more range by day hiking out from car camping basecamps, less burden especially for a complete beginner backpacker.

Check the various park webpages to see what strikes your fancy.

Utah Highway 12 is awesome. Also the Durango-Silverton Railway, Mesa Verde, Arches and Canyonlands speaking of that area. Plus Chaco Canyon.

One thing, with all those parks you'll be spending about a third of your entire time behind the wheel of your car so be sure that's how you want to spend this opportunity. Hit a mapping webpage and run out a connect the destinations routing and take a good look at the miles and drive times: the west is a very big place. For example: Big Bend to Olympic? 2,330 miles.

Speaking of which the drive along the coast from Santa Barbara in California to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington is a world class road trip route. North of Redwoods you can divert out to the westernmost point on the lower 48, Cape Mendocino. Amazing route.

Some rough mileages for scale that would hit the Co and Utah parks then over to the coast and up for Big Sur, Pt. Lobos, Pt. Reyes, Redwoods, Cannon Beach, Quinalt and Hoh river valleys, back across to Rainier and the Cascades then east to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and onward to Columbus.
Columbus to Durango 1,670
Durango to Las Vegas 622
Las Vegas to Santa Barbara 328
Santa Barbara to Eureka CA 571
Eureka to Port Angeles 681
Port angeles to West Yellowstone 823
West Yellowstone to Columbus 1780

That's 6,475 miles plus side trips.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 09 2013, 11:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I was going to add that a month in the Utah parks alone would be great - not sure of the camping weather in the summer.  Also a month just hopping from park to park in CA.

There's just a lot more distance between things out west, so it's hard to do too many things in just a few weeks because of the travel time.  Grouping together what's closest together makes the most sense to me.

As does car camping - no way I'd try to backpack all those different places without some logistical experience.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:03 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I'm hearing a lot that I should probably scale it back a little bit, which seems like a good idea. My biggest concern now is where it will even be possible to go in late May/early June. Is it worth making the trip up to Washington this time of year, or is that a little too hardcore for beginners? I'm even worried how much I could get out of the CO/WY parks this early in the summer.

As for the car camping suggestions: I'm sure I will end up doing this a good amount, but that is not my vision of this trip. I've been camping next to my car for four years now, and I'm itching to have some true backpacking experiences. Even if they are only overnight hikes, I would much rather do this then set up next to dozens of other people every night. Part of my motivation for this trip is to get my feet wet (literally!) in that skill. Recommendations for good beginner hikes would be appreciated.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:29 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The timing is an issue - there will be tons of snow in the high country of CO, CA, OR, WA, & WY. But it's a great time for the Grand Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, etc.


I don't think national parks are the best backpacking destinations myself - I could spend the first half of the month in the Gila Wilderness, the second half in the Pecos Wilderness, and never make it past New Mexico. Wouldn't pay $20 at any guarded gates, wait in any lines for permits, or carry a bear canister either.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 11:10 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think some hit the timing things.. just remember that the high country of Colorado will still be winter in early Many, so it would be better, for your situation, to plan any high country hiking later in your schedule.

Get to the desert areas as early as possible.. early May is already getting very hot there.

Pull up Mapquest and plug in all of your target locations and look at the driving time/miles.  If you have always been in the east, it is a challenge to have a good feel for how far apart things are in the west.  

You have lined out at least 6 months of travel in 6-8 weeks.  I agree with the others, focus on a couple of areas where the weather will be favorable and don't wear yourself out driving during your break.

As for gear -- check the gear section of this forum.  You can read old threads and learn a great deal and of course start new threads with specific questions.    When you mention inflatable sleeping pad, if you are talking about the kind that is used in swimming pools, you need a different one.  The purpose of sleeping pads is to insulate you against the cold ground.  Those air mattresses will not do that.   Check Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest, they are reasonably priced and will serve you far better on cold nights.

Good luck!


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 11:30 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I can attest to early May being HOT in the Grand Canyon.  105* hot down inside the main canyon.  May is good for Zion and Bryce, both in the same area but not as hot that time of year.

As for Yellowstone, Glacier, most of Yosemite, and any other place with mts, May is too early.  Some roads will not be plowed open yet, so even just driving through them will be iffy.

The Redwoods would be great that time of year, as would the coastal portion of Olympic.  Crater Lake road does not get plowed open until late June - early July.  They usually get a lot of snow and it is still piled up in the parking lots for July 4th weekend.  Yosemite tries to get Tioga Rd open by Father's day.  Yellowstone tries to get all of their roads open by Memorial day.

Going in Aug would open up the high country and you would miss the mosquitoes that are voracious during snow melt off.  All of the above mentioned places would be better then, and so would Rocky Mt NP.  Sorry to rain on your parade timing, but weather is a factor to consider.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 12:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

If you really like wildlife May is THE BEST month of the year to see it in the Temperate Zone's greatest mammalian habitat, Greater Yellowstone. The reason: There's usually still significant snow in the valley's let alone high country earlier in the month so predators like Grizzlies use plowed roads for travel. The long range forecast shows precip tapering off in May and temps are supposed to remain above normal for some time, so you might get some great wildlife viewing and front country hiking.

That said this is what I'd do. SHORTEN THE LIST DRAMATICALLY.

1) South Central Colorado: I don't really think May is a great month for SE UTAH, so being on the West Slope of the Sangres, one of the world's greatest ranges [IMO], gives you the option of hitting the Colorado Plateau if temps are cool enough. They have not been the last two years, at least for me. The Sangres have lots of great lowland hiking and the World's largest Alpine Agricultural Valley, the San Luis, has lots of great wildlife refuges and state lands. If you do go to Utah I would unequivocally put Capitol Reef at the top of your list with the Needles District of Canyonlands a truly near second. Like Bryce Capitol Reef is a bit higher elevation, and it is REALLY under appreciated.

2) If you do hit the Sangres Northern New Mexico is right there. Bandelier has some great dayhiking and I" would guess the best access to ruins of all National Monuments. Toe Jams recommendation of the Gila Wilderness is awesome, but that's way south so unless its a late or no Spring year stay farther north. If you're on the West slope of the Sangres Taos, NM is just over an hour south of Alamosa and 20 minutes North of there is Wild Rivers BLM Rec. Area. I think the loop there from La Junta Point is one of the best dayhikes in the Southwest, and you could overnight down in there in one of the spectacular 3 sided shelters. Requires Parks Pass or I think 5 dollar entry if you're just parking at a trailhead, more for a 3 sided rim camping shelter. La Junta Point is really awesome. In the Sangres hike in the Crestone and Great Sand Dunes areas, ASK me for some special trails. Santa Fe is an hour beyond Taos. LOTS of great stuff in the Santa Fe National Forest.

I would spend at least two weeks in S. Colorado, Northern New Mexico, and SE Utah if not too hot. Save the Big Ditch for another trip.

3) Drive up through Central Colorado, Salida, Buena Vista, Fairplay, Kremling, into the Saratoga, WY area. If its Memorial Day and a light year Snowy Range Pass should be open. During the week it can be like your own Trail Ridge Road with spectacular roadside lakes. Good moose viewing between that pass to West of Ryan Park. Spend a night in this area.

4) Make your way to Pinedale, WY and see the Winds. If a later snow year Seedskadee NWR is chock full of Moose, wolves, and a bird variety you can't imagine. Skip it if lots of warm weather.

5) Hit Granite Creek in the Bridger-Teton NF 20 miles south of Jackson. Road usually opens mid May and this is one of the most spectacular drainages you can drive up ANYWHERE and some of my favorite dayhikes are out of there. The hotsprings by the falls will likely be flooded but cresting the Soutehrn end of the Granite Hi-Line Trail is one of the great early season hikes. Swift Creek is awesome even iof you can't get to the Tri-Divide. Likely to much snow to get very far north on the Granite Hi-Line Trail. Hiking up Granite Creek is great, if wolves aren't around expect lots of Moose.

6) Hit Grand Teton NP. First week of June is volunteer week at the Climbers Ranch. Spend the week there working just a few hours a day and you can stay in one of the cabins until July 1 if you wanted to. Free bikes to use, Mt. Bike Old River and RKO roads if not really hot. Early snow year you'll have no problem hiking Bradley and Taggart right out of the Ranch. Lower Avalanche canyon is awesome for Moose. Spaulding Bay is a free drive-in "Backcountry" site on Jackson Lake. If you get one of those two sites get for a few days if you can. Hike Hermitage Point, Rockefeller Preserve, lower portions of all Canyons south of Moran.

7) Hit the free campsites on the Grassy Lake Road just south of Yellowstone. Awesome wildlife area. Hike Cascade Creek/Terrace Falls WITH A PARTNER if you can. Winegar Hole has one of the greatest Grizzly concentrations there is.

8) Yellowstone: Maybe hike the Black Canyon, or many other things if early snow year. See the Canyon for sure, IMO the geysers are great but the Waterfalls of the Canyon, Bechler, etc., are Yellowstone's glory. Probably too early for the Bechler. Washburn could be a possibility. If light snow year Avalanche Peak has arguably the greatest view of the Rocky Mountains.

9) Start heading East ofver Togwotee Pass. Hit Double Cabin North of Dubois in our First National Forest. I chose the name for a very good reason, but WEEKDAYS only because ATVs can be too much unless you can cross the creeks. If you don't have a Mountain worthy vehicle do not drive the road with any precipitation forecast unless you can afford a few days to let the road dry. Remember the East side of the Rockies here gets a lot more Spring precipitiation that the West, so just keep it as an option.

GO HOME. Don't worry about Rushmore, the Badlands, etc. They're wonderful, but concentrate on the GYE and save them for another trip.

Have a blast, let me know if I can help with any specifics in the Mountain Time Zone south of Bozeman.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 12:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Some very good advice here.  Best would be to spend May and June in the SW, and more to the mountains in July and August.  Assuming that isn't realistic, I like the suggestion that you visit the CO Plateau (Utah/N. AZ), and drive up the West coast on Hwy 1.  

It is possible to enjoy the SW out of season (I.e. in summer, when it's hot) but I don't think it's a good idea if you aren't used to the area.  And for first backpacking experiences I would recommend someplace a little more forgiving.  But you have lots of weekends between now and May.  Go ahead and start practicing in whatever areas you can get to from home!


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 2:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

For doing a series of two night three day backpacks, with some three night four day plus thrown you'll avoid being forced into mostly out and backs where you'd be repeating your route, with the extra time many places offer loops as possibilities.

For these shorter trips the pack weight doesn't have to be tremendous as long as you avoid the higher elevations where winter lingers far into June.

For someone who asks what type of food to take I'm seeing a very basic beginner and for that, IMHO, nothing beats a book like The Complete Walker
http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Walker-IV-Colin-Fletcher/dp/0375703233

For the simplest approach to food there's a lot of meals that just require adding boiling water, that would mean a simple kettle and pressurized gas canister stove plus a bowl, spoon and a stirrer would be all you'd need for your "kitchen".

Though no doubt others will chime in with their favorites books.

In California the Sierra will have plenty of possible routes, odds are they'll be on the western side unless the snow eaees off its current pace but that's the more frequented side so there's a lot of variety.

Due to the early season you're choosing definitely go clockwise to hit the higher elevations in Yellowstone etc. later when things will have opened up a bit.

Once you've  laid out a route and narrowed focus the suggestions for routes etc. along that set will be easier to discuss, right now you've pretty much asked "what's nice to see in the western half of the United States of America?".

Fun stuff, great after school choice and you will have a blast!
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 3:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

That time of year I would spend a month on the AT.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for all the awesome advice! It's definitely given me a lot to think about. Overwhelmingly, people seem to be saying to scale it back quite a bit. So, here is my revised list:

Mammoth cave
Buffalo river
Big bend
Guadalupe mountains
Carlsbad caverns
Grand Canyon
Zion
Capitol reef
Canyonlands
Grand Teton
Yellowstone
Isle royale

I think this will allow me to spend 3-4 nights in most places, which I would definitely prefer to driving everyday. Also, I left a bit of a gap between canyonlands and grand teton, as I'm sure it won't be difficult to find great spots along the way. Let me know what you guys think!
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:11 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

My advice would be to not just hit the National Parks.  Many parks, especially out west are surrounded by National Forrests where there are fewer people, lower or no fees and restrictions, and the scenery is just as beautiful.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Big Bend is going to be really really hot during the summer.  Really hot.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

One of our members is a ranger at Carlsbad ... I'll message her and ask her to chime in.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 10:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Themadstork91 @ Feb. 10 2013, 8:06 pm)
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.. So, here is my revised list:

Mammoth cave
Buffalo river
Big bend
Guadalupe mountains
Carlsbad caverns
Grand Canyon
Zion
Capitol reef
Canyonlands
Grand Teton
Yellowstone
Isle royale

I think this will allow me to spend 3-4 nights in most places, which I would definitely prefer to driving everyday. Also, I left a bit of a gap between canyonlands and grand teton, as I'm sure it won't be difficult to find great spots along the way. Let me know what you guys think!

Right above Canyonlands NP is Arches NP enroute to Moab.

Grand Canyon will be pretty hot inside the canyon itself, though the best views are from the cooler rim anyways.  There's a shuttle bus so you don't need to drive everywhere.  Zion has a shuttle too but it should be quite a bit cooler.  If you do the Narrows, you should have a big stick.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 11:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

In any of those desert places the key is to be up and hiking at daybreak.  Early starts beat both the heat and the crowds.  In Zion the first bus starts about 6 a.m.   Be on it.

So I take it you decided to save the far west coast for another time?  You can always change it up if conditions are too bad in either the mountains or the desert.  Keep an  open mind and you will have a great time!


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 10 2013, 11:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(SW Mtn backpacker @ Feb. 10 2013, 9:28 pm)
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Right above Canyonlands NP is Arches NP enroute to Moab.

Definitely spend at least a day at Arches.  Way too close to your route to miss completely.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 11 2013, 12:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah I think I will definitely hit arches, seeing as it is directly on my path. Got too caught up in trying to scale it back. This definitely seems more manageable, though, and I can always change my route at any point.

I was also wondering how difficult it is to obtain backcountry permits. I'm planning on going the first come first serve route, so I realize this might not work in some of the more popular parks. But it seems like it isn't a problem for most of them. Am I completely off on this?

If I do fail to find camping in the parks, I expect I'll explore some of the surrounding national forests, BLM lands, etc. From your suggestions some of these sound just as cool anyways, and I'm sure backcountry permits are relatively easy to obtain. Am I completely off on all this?
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 11 2013, 1:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Themadstork91 @ Feb. 11 2013, 10:44 am)
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. . . If I do fail to find camping in the parks, I expect I'll explore some of the surrounding national forests, BLM lands, etc. From your suggestions some of these sound just as cool anyways, and I'm sure backcountry permits are relatively easy to obtain. Am I completely off on all this?

I can't speak for California because I've heard things are different out there. But otherwise you generally do not have to obtain backcountry permits for national forest lands. You do have to register for going into wilderness areas.

There are a few regulations in some areas about where you can camp, or can not. For instance, if there is a car campground, you generally cannot just set up on the perimeter of that area. You pay for the campground or go elsewhere.

There are also designated recreation areas (such as around high-use lakes) which are popular and where you must camp in the car campground or go outside the recreation area on national forest land.

But as a general rule (around here anyhow), you can camp on national forest lands without any permit, unless you are in a designated car campground.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 8:45 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I wrote a lengthy response (2 actually) on the other site you posed this question.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 8:45 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

No permits at all required in New Mexico. Permits are generally required in National Park Service mananged places and where there's overcrowding (CA, right outside of Denver, etc.) You'll have to check the web sites for the forests because they are independently managed and all have different rules (although way fewer rules than national parks).

Your list is still too long - you'll be killing yourself driving.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 9:51 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I know it still looks like a ton of driving but after the first haul to big bend, it seems pretty manageable. Every long drive can be broken up pretty easily. Marfa, tx lies right in between big bend and Guadalupe, for instance. I could easily spend a day or two in gila NF to break up the drive from Carlsbad to Grand Canyon. Once I'm out there, I don't think I'll even be able to drive for more than a few hours without hitting something great, especially with all the awesome suggestions I've been getting.

Looking over this some more I think I'm going to take Buffalo River off. I would really just be stopping because it's on the route. Isle royale is expendable, too. It would actually only add five hours onto the drive though, so it is tempting. Again, I might be singin a different tune after six weeks on the road.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 11:40 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You're crazy. By overextending yourself you are seriously limiting what you can do. I again seriously encourage you to CHOP that list down SIGNIFICANTLY. I'm 50 ears old, others here are older too. If you think this through much better you will be thanking all of us. Your plan will have you in the car WAY TOO MUCH. It is simply insane.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 11:46 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You should either focus on the CA stuff or he WY/MT stuff. You'll have other times to check out the others. Or go to Mexico for a donkey show. Ok bye.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 11:55 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Mammoth Cave above ground ain't all that interesting in case you were wondering...

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 12 2013, 1:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(double cabin @ Feb. 12 2013, 11:40 am)
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You're crazy. By overextending yourself you are seriously limiting what you can do. I again seriously encourage you to CHOP that list down SIGNIFICANTLY. I'm 50 ears old, others here are older too. If you think this through much better you will be thanking all of us. Your plan will have you in the car WAY TOO MUCH. It is simply insane.

With all due respect, I'm aware how long the drive is. Mammoth cave is an easy five hour drive from my house. And yes, I'm really only interested in taking a tour of the cave, and camping for the night. Then after the initial 20 hour haul to Texas (which I could also do pretty easily in two days) the drives are pretty manageable.

5 hours to Guadalupe. 45 minutes to Carlsbad. 5 hours to Gila NF. 7.5 to Grand Canyon. I have my first two weeks set aside for this leg alone, with only 6 days of driving. That's eight full days of no driving at all, which is pretty reasonable considering I'm going to have to chalk up the initial 20+ hours wherever I go out west.

The Utah leg is even easier. I'm planning on hitting these parks for about ten days, with only about seven hours of driving.

I expect to spend about nine hours in the car from canyonlands to the Tetons, but again, I can do that over a chunk of four or five days. Or I can suck it up and do it in one day, and get to the Tetons around the 26th day of my trip.

That would leave me about three full weeks for the Tetons, Yellowstone, the badlands, and isle royale (completely optional). Including IR, that's 37 hours, about 5 full driving days. This leaves 16 days completely for enjoyment. I doubt I'll spend more than two in Badlands, so that leaves plenty of opportunity to really explore teton and Yellowstone.

Spending 100 hours in the car over the course of 45 days just doesn't seem that "crazy" to me, especially when it will pretty much be limited to 10 serious days of driving (8+ hours). I've done more than that on dead tours :D
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