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Old 06-29-2016, 10:33 PM   #1
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Trip across the United States

Hi, I am new to this site as well as Rv travel. We are getting ready to take our first long trip West. We hope to visit many of the major national parks. We have three weeks and no reservations as we don't know how long we will spend in each area. Do you think we will have any problems finding camp sites? Also, any suggestions on what to see and time frames would be helpful.

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Old 06-29-2016, 11:02 PM   #2
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Need a lot more information.....where are you starting / ending, size of RV, staying in Parks or commercial RV Parks, preferred hwys., etc. etc.
Finding sites in popular areas - ie Yellowstone could be an issue as summer is their busy time.

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Old 06-29-2016, 11:08 PM   #3
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I'd say 3 weeks is pretty short if you are going to smell the roses at all. We did an east coast loop from Washington that took 8 weeks and still flew past some interesting areas.

You could make Yellowstone and Glacier but probably not make it clear to the west coast without spending all of your time driving.

As far as reservations, it depends on when. We travel in the spring and fall and only make reservations at key spots. We like to stay flexible. Summer travel makes reservations a bit more important.
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Old 06-30-2016, 05:50 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Itsame View Post
Hi, I am new to this site as well as Rv travel. We are getting ready to take our first long trip West. We hope to visit many of the major national parks. We have three weeks and no reservations as we don't know how long we will spend in each area. Do you think we will have any problems finding camp sites? Also, any suggestions on what to see and time frames would be helpful.
Need a lot more info ;

When is critical - summer is BUSY/CROWDED so you will need to plan more.

What is critical -Is this a drive through trip or a visit enjoy trip? When we first got married (a loooong time ago) we did the drive through trip - wife had never been out of the Mid-Atlantic states - so I exposed her - we did a loop Coast to Coast with the Mirror in most of the pictures - seeing ALL the Major parks (950 miles one day was our longest day....) and we have never stopped returning.

Where is important - Utah is HOT in the Summer - Yellowstone is Crowded - State parks tend to be full on the weekends with locals. California is REALLY Crowded. So give us a little more of an idea of your plans.

Type of RV? do you need hook ups? Water ? Electric? Class A-B-C? Trailer - ?

Hike photo Op's ?

Get back with a plan and then we can help.

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Old 06-30-2016, 06:06 AM   #5
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In addition to what has been said already, summer is NOT the time to be showing up at campgrounds located near major tourist attractions without a reservation.

Case in point. My wife and I did a trip similar trip as to the one you described two years ago. We showed up at West Yellowstone, Montana Campground | Yellowstone Park / West Entrance KOA with a reservation for a deluxe pull thru site for me and my trusty pop-up. (I sucked at backing at the time!!!) We go into the office to check in and were behind a gentleman in a Class A towing a full size pickup as a toad who showed up without a reservation. My wife and I listened to the conversation between the campground employee explain that the only site he had available was a 30 A electric only site. Since that was all we needed for our pop up, my wife and I offered to swap our 30/50A deluxe pull thru site for the electric only spot. They even sent an employee over to back in our pop up for us. In addition, they gave us a 50% discount on dinner to thank us for helping them out.

Moral of the story. If you are traveling in peak season, it is very helpful to have reservations.
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Old 06-30-2016, 06:22 AM   #6
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If you don't like to wing it, reservations are nice but require you to follow a schedule. I have been to Yellowstone, the mighty five in Utah, and plenty of other busy parks without reservations. You just need to be flexible. 9 to 10 in the morning is a good time to get a site.
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Old 06-30-2016, 12:59 PM   #7
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Yes, traveling without a reservation might mean you can get a dry (non-electric) site. Like in Jasper NP in Alberta. The state park is 600 sites, but only 120 are electric.

What I would do if it not too later already. Call and reserve at the popular NP's say for 2-3 days each. And then save one day I between to get to the next place.
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Old 06-30-2016, 01:23 PM   #8
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You can definitely do it without reservations. Just plan to pull in and get a site in the morning when folks are leaving.

Even in the major national parks such as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion there are campgrounds within the park that don't even accept reservations. So if you get there early you'll get a site. Grand Teton has 600 such campsites and they don't fill.

There are also cancellations daily and no-shows so there's another option.

Definitely, on your big travel days you don't need reservations.

We traveled this way as full-timers for 16 years and rarely made reservations except if you had to be somewhere, such as a wedding, etc.
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Old 06-30-2016, 02:22 PM   #9
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Don't know where you are leaving from, but think you have to really push it to see much. From East TN to Yellowstone, I allow a week each way which would leave me a week there. You might enjoy that more than just giving many stops a cursory visit and you aren't as likely to need another vacation when you get home to recover from this one.
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Old 06-30-2016, 02:38 PM   #10
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Big Dude is right. There is no point in rushing to see as many places as possible, while enjoying none of them. Been there, done that, big mistake. Now I plan to have at least 2-3 non-driving days after each 2 driving days, and rarely drive more than 450 miles in a day. You can't cover coast to coast and back that way, but you will enjoy what you see and your trip will be far more rested and peaceful.
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Old 06-30-2016, 04:19 PM   #11
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Hi Itsame,
Rand McNally does not due the western states justice for size. Three weeks is not going to be much fun to do what you said. Consider focusing the trip on a section of the west you want to see the most. An example might be South Dakota and Wyoming. There is enough to see in these two states to keep one busy for months. Consider:
1. Minute Man Missile National Historical site.
2. Wall Drug (buffalo burger)
3. Mt. Rushmore
4. Crazy Horse
+ a bunch of other things to see and do in this area.
In Wyoming:
5. Devil's Tower
6. The Medicine Wheel

That's about it for 3 weeks. Don't forget you have to get there and return. An example is from the eastern part of Tennessee to Glacier National Park is 2300 miles!
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Old 06-30-2016, 09:41 PM   #12
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I live in Montana and have recently visited both Yellowstone and Glacier NP. Depending upon when you want to hit these places will make a "hugh difference". If your trip will be "after school has started in late August" your chances will go up a lot. Another thing....it has been mentioned that planning your arrival at "xyz" campground between various morning hours, however, can be dicey. Depending on which gate you enter a park....say Yellowstone...can add a lot of time to your drive. Recently, the only sight I could get in Yellowstone was 50 miles from my entrance point. when you add to this equation...a 35 mph speed limit, animals "in the road"..people stopping "on the road" to look at animals etc....your travel time to a campsite gets dicey.
Recently, I tried to get a camp sight at "Many Glaciers" in Glacier National Park. They are booked "full" thru the end of this season.
Last year YS had 4.5 million visitors, Glacier 2.5 million. Add the fact this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park system will make traveling to and "camping 'in' these parks"...pretty difficult. However, the saving grace is that the parks are surround by a lot of other "private" CGs. But...I'd still seek a reservation even if it is for only one night.
Other's have mentioned the "time" required to see these popular attractions. I've been to YS and GNP three times over the past two years....I've only touched the edge of the possibilities of what these parks offer. Many of the attractions within these parks are "deep in the park". Example. "Old Faithful" is close to 25 miles from the West Entrance..., Logan Pass in Glacier National Park...on the "Going to the Sun Road" is nearly 50 miles from the West Entrance...plus the fact you "cannot" pull a travel trailer up that road to the top. The road is too narrow, too close to the mountain and there is "no place" to park it once you get there. That's another point...the parking lot at Old Faithful is very large....like a sporting event...and generally full!
Finally, your trip west will be much more enjoyable and a lot less stress if you "plan ahead" rather "fly by the seat of your pants....as my mother use to tell me"! LoL

By all means....do come to Montana...it's a beautiful place.


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Old 07-01-2016, 09:33 AM   #13
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We are actually on our second to last day on pretty much the same exact trip. This was our first RV, our first RV trip, our first time out west. We had no reservations anywhere and only a basic idea on where we were going. We also have 3 kids and one dog. We spent a month on the road.

I didn't do any driving - my husband did it all - and I was the navigator and trip planner. We had no idea how long we would want to drive each day, how many days we would want to stay put and how long we would want to spend at each location. So doing everything on the fly was the only option.

We were lucky and had little problem finding campgrounds. We were very flexible in that we often stayed a little distance from the park and just drove to the park in our car. We were actually not flexible when it came to amenities though and wanted at leasts an electric hookup as our generator was a little iffy and not working well.

If you are willing to dry camp, you should be fine. If you aren't worried about driving on steeper grades so you can access more sites, you should be fine. If you don't mind camping in a location that may not be the most convenient, you should be fine.

Three weeks isn't a lot of time, but we could not have done it any other way. And we did enjoy everything we saw even though we knew we wish we had a LOT more time. But now that we feel so much more experienced, we are ready for another trip already to the locations we loved. For example - LOVED Colorado and Montana and especially Yellowstone and the grand tetons....but Utah parks were too hot for us.

Have Fun!!!!!
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Old 07-01-2016, 05:53 PM   #14
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irene67: So glad your trip was successful and that you found you really didn't need a ton of reservations if you're willing to be somewhat flexible.

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