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Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

Portsmouth, United...
Level Contributor
53 posts
7 reviews
Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

My wife and I are thinking of visiting some of the North American National parks including Yosemite and Yellowstone next September/October (2018) I will be flying from the uk so would welcome any advice on a suitable route over a five week period, where to fly into and out from, car hire tips and advice on moderately priced accommodation ( not camping) Also advice on any must see sights and wildlife would be welcomed. Am I being too ambitious in visiting both Yosemite and Yellowstone?

142 replies to this topic
Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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34,713 posts
505 reviews
1. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

Some general comments-

Yes 5 weeks is ample to see a number of parks.

Add adjacent park Grand Tetons when visiting Yellowstone.

Wintry weather can set in by mid to late September in Yellowstone. Roads could be closed, etc.

Wildfire season is in August and September in western US and can impact parks.

Book lodging in parks in order to cut down on drive times. Yellowstone has over 300 miles of roads and travel is slow.

What other parks or areas interest you?

Wednesbury, UK
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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17,186 posts
2. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

Hi.

As PeachBelle says, you really want to clear yellowstone and GTNP by mid September so startin with thise first is a good idea, and that lends itself to a Salt Lake City start, but others like San Francisco and Denver for instance could work in that timescale.

A 5 week loop out of SLC could look like this.

1 nights SLC.

2 nights GTNP.

4 nights Yellowstone.

1 night Elko.

2 nights Tahoe.

3 nights Yosemite.

3 nights SF

2 nights Hwy 1.

2 nights SEKI.

2 nights LA (if interested)

1 night Death Valley.

1 night Vegas.

1 night GCNP.

1 night MV.

1 night Page for Antelopoe Canyon.

2 nights Zion.

1 night Bryce.

1 night Capitol Reef.

3 nights Moab for Arches and Canyonlands.

1 nights SLC and home.

Must be pointed out, Yellowstone is not West Coast and neither is much of that, but you have many many options, so we need some more detail on waht you are thinking yourself on locations?

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
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70,734 posts
123 reviews
3. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

Hi

Each National Park has its own TripAdvisor forum with detailed info about that place. Use the Top Questions on the right side of the page as well as the National Park Service website for that National Park.

Set your itinerary soon so that you can book lodging in good locations.

Portsmouth, United...
Level Contributor
53 posts
7 reviews
4. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

Thanks for your reply so promptly. Our aim really is to visit Yosemite and Yellowstone and choose a sensible route to include other National Parks on the way. We are particularly interested in the wildlife and scenery, together with walking some short trails. I am really starting on a blank sheet of paper so am open to suggestions for a route including what cities to fly into and out of.

Am I correct that it is cheaper to hire a car from an airport and deliver the car beack to the same airport rather than returning the car to another airport?

Wednesbury, UK
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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17,186 posts
5. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

<,Am I correct that it is cheaper to hire a car from an airport and deliver the car beack to the same airport rather than returning the car to another airport?>.

In general terms yes, as one ways often incur one way fees, but there are some routes and regions where these are often waived for foreigners, depending on how or who with you book your rental car.

For instance in the CA/NV/AZ triangle, and I know some that offer SEA to CA and DEN to LAX drop fee free.

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
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24,847 posts
112 reviews
6. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

Definitely plan to do Grand Tetons and Yellowstone first. This past September was miserable with snow and road closures starting around 15 Sept and continuing thru October. The year before it wasn't bad until the first weekend in October but you just never know how early winter will come to the high country.

Here is a link to a thread we had going detailing road closures due to winter weather in September 2017.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28973…

You'll want to get moving on accommodation for Yellowstone as reservations for 2018 opened May 1 2017. There is still time to get reservations and we can help you on the Wyoming forum with details on that.

DO NOT make any reservations before you check with us. There are some 3rd party agencies that *sound like* the real thing but are not! They charge a booking fee and a cancellation fee and we don't want you to get stuck with that! Same goes for other National Parks.

https:/…ShowForum-g28973-i480-Wyoming.html

Early September is great for Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. It's the elk rut and you can hear the bulls bugling up their harems and watch them act crazy. This youtube clip does not happen often but it is fun to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEv-hwjhEiE

Wednesbury, UK
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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17,186 posts
7. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

So you could fly into Seattle very early September, go to Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons, Black Hills of South Dakota (all great scenery and good for wildlife), Colorado, a bit of Utah, bit of Nevada, Yosemite and finish in SF to fly home.

Or do some of that from Denver and finish in LA.

As I said lots of possibilities, so you need to do some research.

Edited: 29 November 2017, 00:05
Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
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7,633 posts
8. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

>> Am I being too ambitious in visiting both Yosemite and Yellowstone? <<

Not in a five-week period, but the timing is less than ideal for both. I've been snowed on in August in Yellowstone, and by September or October, some of the famous waterfalls in Yosemite have become trickles or dried up altogether. Plus, September and October are the peak of forest fire season in much of the west, especially the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.

Assuming a major re-timing of your holiday is off the table, I'd be inclined to suggest some alternatives, just for your consideration.

- You could fly into Calgary, visit the Canadian Rockies (Banff is 90 minutes from Calgary airport by motorway) then fly either to Vancouver or Seattle and do a tour of Olympic National Park, then head south to the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge, the scenic Oregon coast, and the California redwoods before ending in San Francisco. You could take a few days to visit Yosemite if conditions are good, or else stay close to the coast and visit the Monterey Bay and Big Sur coast, ending in Los Angeles, maybe like this - https://goo.gl/maps/42RfA1FTh2p

- You could do the same thing but fly to Seattle and do a loop that includes Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, then return to Seattle via the Columbia Gorge, like this: https://goo.gl/maps/yQzP47XQ4x52 . This would ideally be as early as possible in September. You could then flyto San Francisco and spend some time in northern and central California, perhaps visiting the wonderful gold rush country on the western slopes of the Sierras, the Monterey Bay area, and a visit to Yosemite which MIGHT be showing some autumn color in mid-October, something like this - https://goo.gl/maps/XP7s8revfrx

It's worth noting that domestic flights are inexpensive and frequent in the US, and can result in serious cost-savings if you can pick up and return hired vehicles in the same place. Planning "loop" itineraries makes a lot of sense.

As stated by others, you have plenty of time for research. The options are so numerous that it behooves you to decide what you really want to experience, knowing that there will still be lots you can't fit in.

Happy planning!

Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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34,713 posts
505 reviews
9. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

This year there were major fires in the Canadian rockies, Glacier NP and the Columbia River Gorge area near Portland, OR.

Fremont, California
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for San Francisco
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10. Re: Driving Holiday to visit some west coast National Parks

If you just want to focus on Yosemite, Yellowstone and Grand Teton Areas that is fine.

For some of the areas between, there is Salt Lake/Park City.

You could fly into Salt Lake City.

There is another national park between Utah and California and that is Great Basin National Park.

This is on highway 50.

https://www.nps.gov/grba/index.htm

Lehman Caves is very fun to go to at the park - reservations are best as same day can sell out.

Ely is nearby and has fun things to do and an excursion (i.e. short) scenic train ride

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g430…

To do a round trip, you can drive 50 to Carson City. There is various things to see such a Grimes Point in Fallon, Virginia City, Bodie.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g459…

http://www.visitvirginiacitynv.com/

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509

In the Eastern Sierras there is Mono Lake, June Lake Loop and Mammoth Lakes.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g326…

https://junelakeloop.org/

https:/…summer-activities

Then drive up Tioga Pass to Yosemite.

For the route back you can drive back out Tioga Pass, or you might want to drive west out 120 to see part of Gold rush country such as Railtown 1897 and Columbia

https://www.railtown1897.org/

http://www.visitcolumbiacalifornia.com/

and other things on highway 49

http://www.visitcolumbiacalifornia.com/

Then drive to Placerville (hgihway 50) and drive up and see Lake Tahoe/Reno area

https://www.visitrenotahoe.com/

Then for your drive back to the Salt Lake City airport (to save on drop off charges for the rental car)

drive.

On the drive on 50, there is some things to see such as Elko.

There is a good trails museum there.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g459…

There is also Lamoille Canyon there.

https:/…lamoille-canyon

There is also Wendover on highway 50 and the Great Salt Lake.

So if you want to focus on Yellowstone and Yosemite and drive between the 2 seeing both sites on highway 50 and 80, you can have a very nice trip.

So a trip might look like

1) Salt Lake City/Park City

2) Grand Teton National Park

3) Yellowstone

4) Great Basin Natianal Park

5) Fallon/Virginia CIty/Carson City

6) June Lake/Mammoth Lakes

7) Yosemite

8) Lake Tahoe/Reno

9) Elko, Nevada

Drive time would be short between and let you see some of the spectacular area between the two parks.

As you develop your own wishes and itinerary, let us know what questions you have.

Have a good time planning your trip.

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