We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

London
Level Contributor
9 posts
14 reviews
Save Topic
West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

Hey there,

Planning on heading to USA May 2014.

Will be:

1) flying into Chicago - start of May

2) few days there

3) train to Seattle

4) few days there

5) pick up car

~ 40 days of mystery

99) Fly back from Chicago - end of June

Between 5) and 99) key points

a) Drive down coast to San Fran (perhaps a little further but not LA)

b) Yosemite

c) Las Vegas

d) Grand Canyon

e) Bryce Canyon

f) Monument Valley

then ...

Should I try to fit in a drive back to Seattle, via Yellowstone, then fly back to Chicago to pick up flight home ..... or ... leave car in Las Vegas/Denver/Salt Lake City and fly back to Chicago then home ? I'm aware of one-way drop-off charge - but doesn't seem so excessive that I'd need to avoid it.

travelling alone and I can't camp!

I think the Yellowstone route is viable - I just wonder if it would be better to spend more time on the other parts of the trip as it would appear to add several days of long drives which might be better spent elsewhere.

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
Level Contributor
6,405 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

Well, my recommendation would be to keep the car all the way back to Chicago. After Yellowstone (which is pretty much a "must" on the trip) you could visit the Black Hills (South Dakota) to see Mount Rushmore, the historic towns of Lead and Deadwood, then experience the Great Plains on your way back across the wide Missouri and the Mississippi. The "flyover" states truly deserve more credit than they get; I've taken a number of British pals on drives across the country and they haven't regretted the prairie parts one bit.

Now that said, I'd REALLY consider doing the trip in reverse, to give time in the northern California-Oregon-Washington bits a chance to dry out a little from spring wet. That would put you at Yellowstone at the beginning of the main visitor season, but that's not a bad idea either.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

Have you already booked the train between Chicago and Seattle and are the flights in and out of Chicago set in stone?

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
20,864 posts
38 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

I have to agree with ibgardyloo's comments. With 40 days, keep the car, but if at all possible reverse the trip! And do you have to start and finish in Chicago? It would be useful to know why you chose Chicago when, apart from a brief stop there, plus the train, your emphasis seems to be on the west.

SWT

London
Level Contributor
9 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

Hey there,

Thanks for responses.

Mostly I wanted to experience the train ride - Chicago was convenient as not too long a train trip and also a chance to experience another city - originally I planned to stay in Glacier NP - but I think early May may be a little too early in the year for it so figured I'd go straight to Seattle.

I was planning on Seattle to San Fran in the southerly direction as most people seem to suggest it's a nicer view.

So far flights to/from Chicago, hotel in Chicago, train and hotel in Seattle are booked.

I'd like to book the car soon - I don't mind the idea of either a one-way drop off (tho need to check fees - some dont seem *too* excessive from what I've read) and/or flying back to Chicago before heading home (end June).

My main concern was not to rush things - spending a couple of extra days here and there on the beach leg and around the parks etc.

Chapel Hill, North...
Level Contributor
7,750 posts
38 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

You're missing Zion National Park in your swing through SW Utah. Well worth a visit. Two days is a good amount of time. There are a lot of other sites to see in Utah if you're interested. In particular, Moab is a great base for exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

I think there are ways for UK visitors to avoid the one way drop off fees on rental cars. I can't advise, but I have seen others make recommendations.

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
20,864 posts
38 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

Ok, so it all makes sense, sort of, now! Shame you didn't stop the train trip for Glacier. I agree a bit early for that park, but if you'd stopped at Whitefish you could have rented a car there do poke your nose into Glacier (west side only) then dropped down to Yellowstone and back. Done the rest of the train trip to Seattle and done a separate one way or loop rental with flight back from Seattle or wherever back to Chicago.

However, what's done is done. You need to decide if you want to pay the one way drop fee for the car and get in as much as possible with your time available, or keep to the loop. Much of the NW are, esp WA state around the Olympics is likely to be cool and rather wet, but seems you're committed now.

Give us some more precise dates as you clearly must have then with what's been booked, and an indication of your travel style - fast or slow paced, a drive past the attractions or time to hike in the parks and explore the cities and we can offer up some travel choices that should tick most if not all of the destinations listed.

For the low down on car rental and where to shop around, have a read of the car rental topic linked in the TopQs on the right of the full screeen version of this forum. You may need to call to check one way fees, not always easy to find on the websites - and not being listed isn't an indication that there aren't any!

SWT

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle
Level Contributor
6,405 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

I've done one-way rentals between Seattle and Chicago, New York, SF/LA, Vegas and Vancouver, however one-way rentals between Seattle and smaller regional cities are more problematic; if your intent is to drop a car in Salt Lake, Denver, or smaller places, you might find that only one or two companies (or none) will be willing in the summer to do so.

I'd still keep the car to Chicago; after the Tetons and Yellowstone, visit the Little Big Horn battlefield in Montana, Devil's Tower in Wyoming to see if those nice little aliens have returned, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and the Corn Palace in South Dakota, maybe spend a day in Madison Wisconsin, a lovely university town and state capital, and just experience the breadth of the American "heartland." It's really a special trip.

Even with all that, you're probably only looking at 70-80 or so hours "wheels turning" over the space of 40 days, so we're not talking about a grueling pace.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
26,667 posts
60 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

I'd like to get some more details on your coastal section. When you say "down the coast" are you talking all the way from Seattle? Or are you thinking of driving down the I5 part of the way and then cutting to the coast at some point.

From my coastal journeys, I'd say the top end around Olympic National Park is good, but then its less appealing until you get right down to the Long Beach area. I really like Long Beach, WA, as well as the northern Oregon coast. I really didn't like Lincoln City (but we only drove through), but then south from there the Oregon coast is spectacular and worth quite a bit of time exploring all the way down to Cape Arago.

I have not done the bit between Coos Bay and Crescent City. We did a quick drive through the Redwoods last summer. The parks and trees are quite something, but the coastal scenery wasn't all that impressive. However, the bit south of San Francisco to Santa Barbara is marvellous, the best of the lot IMO. If you want to give LA a miss, that's fine, but I wouldn't skip that section of coast. Its breath taking. You could probably cut over towards Bakersfield from the San Louis Obispo area and get the best of the coastal views.

The main reason that people suggest doing the coast in a southerly direction is so that you don't have the other lane of traffic between you and the views. I'm not sure it makes an appreciable amount of difference, to be honest. As you are a solo driver, you will have to keep your eyes on the road in either direction, and so using pull outs to appreciate the scenery is a must.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
42,956 posts
1,048 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

>>I have not done the bit between Coos Bay and Crescent City.<<

Oh, you've missed the best part then! Well, between Port Orford and Crescent City :-)

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: West Coast USA - Yellowstone or not

So you app have 7 weeks? Maybe:

Week 1: Chicago visit and train to Seattle.

Week 2: Seattle-coastal drive-Redwood NP

Week 3: Redwood-San Francisco-Yosemite-Monterey-Cambria

Week 4: Death Valley-Las Vegas-Grand Canyon-Monument Valley-Page

Week 5: Page-Zion-Bryce-Capitol reef- Salt Lake City

Week 6: Salt Lake City-Grand Teton NP-Yellowstone NP

Week 7: Yellowstone-Cody-Black Hills/Badlands NP-Chicago.

HTH

Tet