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Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

Chicago, Illinois
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Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

I am planning an ambitious 6-7 week, cross-country road trip for the summer of 2012. The trip starts in Sioux Falls, SD - traveling west along a northern route to the Olympic Peninsula, south thru California, then east thru Death Valley, Grand Canyon, New Mexico, then north thru Colorado and back home to Chicago.

Here is our tentative itinerary:

- Sioux Falls, SD (1 night-KOA campground)

- Badlands National Park, SD (1 night-Badlands/White River KOA)

- Mt. Rushmore, SD (2 nights-Mt.Rushmore/Hill City KOA)

- Big Horn Canyon, WY (1 night-BigHorn Afterbay Campground)

- Yellowstone National park, WY (3 nights-Canyon Village Campground)

- Grand Tetons/Jackson Hole, WY (2 nights-Coulter Bay Village Campground)

- Glacier National Park, MT (2 nights-Many Glacier Campground)

- Coeur d'Alene, ID (1 night-Lake Coeur d'Alene Camping Resort)

- Mt. Rainier National Park (2 nights-Cougar Rock Campground)

- Seattle, WA (1 night-Hotel)

- Olympic National Park, WA (3 nights-Olympic Kalaloch Campground)

- Portland/Cascade Locks, OR (2 nights-Cascade Locks KOA)

- Crater Lake National Park, OR (2 nights-Mazama Village Campground)

- Redwood National Forest, CA (2 nights-Jedediah Smith Campground)

- San Francisco, CA (2 nights-Hotel)

- Yosemite National Park, CA (2 nights-Bridalveil Creek Campground)

- Sequoia National Forest/Kings Canyon, CA (1 night-Sunset Campground)

- Death Valley, CA (1 night-Stovepipe Wells Hotel)

- Zion National Park, UT (2 nights-Watchman Campground)

- Bryce Canyon, UT (2 nights-Campground TBD)

- Grand Canyon, AZ (2 nights-one night @ Grand Canyon KOA, one night @ Phantom Ranch)

- Albuquerque, NM (1 night-Albuquerque KOA)

- Carlsbad, NM (2 nights-Hotel)

- Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, NM (1 night-Orilla Verde Recreation Area)

- Colorado Springs, CO (2 nights-Mueller State Park Campground)

- Denver, CO (1 night-Hotel)

- Rocky Mountain National Park (2 nights-Moraine Park Campground)

- Omaha, NE (1 night - West Omaha KOA)

- Sweet Home Chicago

We are going to be camping at almost all locations except in a few cities (Seattle, San Francisco, Carlsbad & Denver) where we plan to treat ourselves to some real beds, hot showers and room service.

There are of course sightseeing stops & day-trip options in between many of these destinations (i.e. rafting adventures, mule rides, a major league baseball game, hikes & bikes, etc.).

I would love some feedback on the following:

1. Most scenic drives along these routes.

2. Best Camping (did we select good locations?)

3. Any "MUST DO" or "MUST SEE" stops along the way.

Many thanks in advance for your help. I'm a single mom planning an unforgettable trip to take with my teenage son after graduation - before he leaves on his own college adventure.

Green Valley...
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1. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

Replied on WA forum.

You will get a lot of information for WA and OR in either of these states. Good luck compiling it all, for all the states.

It's going to be a huge cut and paste job. :)

San Antonio, Texas
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2. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

Whoops... I made that post thinking you were coming into Yosemite from the south.

Edited: 15 October 2010, 09:43
San Antonio, Texas
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3. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

I would change your trip to do San Francisco -> Sequoia -> Yosemite -> Death Valley instead of SF -> Yosemite -> Sequoia -> Death Valley. Driving the 99 south from Sequoia through Bakersfield and then back up the 395 to Lone Pine to turn off to Death Valley will be mind-numbingly boring. The 99 just sucks and you're missing the best part of the 395 doing it that way.

SF to Sequoia is long, but then you could take the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway north the next day (when you head to Yosemite). Then on the way out you'd drive the jaw-dropping Tioga Pass Road through the high country of Yosemite, and then turn off on the best part of 395 south to Death Valley. Tioga Pass + 395 is an unreal drive, and the antithesis of the boring dusty drive down 99 that the original direction would entail.

San Antonio, Texas
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4. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

Let me post that reply in the CA forum where you'd get better feedback on my suggestion...

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

Thanks! I'm going to check out the post in CA also.

Since we were looking at camping at Bridalveil, I assumed I'd come into Yosemite on the West, near Mariposa (perhaps via the 120 or 140 highways), then on our way out, take that amazing drive across Tioga Pass (east) towards 395-south then sightseeing in the Inyo National Forest before arriving in Kings Canyon. However, since I'm unfamiliar with the area, I'm wondering if accessing Sequoia/Kings Canyon isn't possible from the East?

Everett, Washington
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6. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

I'll confine (mostly) to WY for this thread since it appears the post is repeated in various other states. Except to say WOW you ain't a kidding this is ambitious. I'll assume plenty of experience with camping and the hassles of setup and pack up and the impacts on travel time. Most of the distances look reasonable and not too long, especially with two drivers.

For the Bighorn Canyon stop consider perhaps coming up from the south and using Horseshoe Bend or Barry's Landing. To get to YNP from Afterbay is a little convoluted except to back track and go up around through Billings. Yes, that does open up going through Red Lodge and over Beartooth Pass but misses a lot on the more southern route.

Consider from Rushmore using I-90 with side trip to Devils Tower (do as loop via WY-111) to Moorcroft). Then to Sheridan and take US-14/Alt-14 over the Bignorn range tpo Lovell and take WY/MT 37 north to Bighorn Canyon. Alt-14 is a spectacular mountian drive with possible side drive to the Medicine Wheel. You could still do Beartooth from there too about as easy as from Afterbay.

If not doing Beartooth Pass consider flipping around the GTNP and YNP visits and use East Entrance down around lake to use South Entrance down to GTNP. Then aon way north loop around through Old Faithful area and geyser basins to Canyon. Makes for less back tracking and maximizes areas visited while in transit. Then exit YNP to north on way to Glacier NP.

BTW...obviously get an annual pass for National Parks at Badlands or first National Park.

Outside WY I would add that near Coeur d'Alene in Post Falls is a great place for breakfast on way to Mt. Rainier. The Old European Breakfast House. http://oldeuropean-restaurant.com/pmenu.html

Also on way from Spokane to Rainier if you go via Ellensburg to Yakima take the canyon road between those two. WA-821, parallels the freeway but stays low along the river in a scenic canyon instead of over the boring ridge. Downside is it is very twisty curvy so slower but that's a short day's drive anyway... unless you take US-2 and side trip to Grand Coulee Dam and Dry Falls.

San Antonio, Texas
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7. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

The only way to get to Sequoia/KC from the east is to hike up there. e.g., hiking up Mount Whitney from Whitney Portal will get you to the eastern border of Sequoia once you get near the summit, but you won't be anywhere close to the Giant Sequoia trees (you have to enter from the west to see them). There's no road that passes through the Sierras south of Tioga Pass Road, so you'd have to go all the way down 395 to the southern tip of the Sierras, head west to Bakersfield, and then back north to Sequoia/KC on the incredibly boring hwy 99. Sunset Campground is near Grant's Grove, which you can only access from the west.

8. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

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9. Re: Ambitious Cross-Country Road Trip

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