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20 day roadtrip from Salt Lake city

20 day roadtrip from Salt Lake city

Old Feb 27, 15, 4:42 am
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20 day roadtrip from Salt Lake city

We are currently planning a 20 day road trip, starting in Salt Lake City (or Denver if you all think that would be much better) and ending in either Seattle (or possibly Portland if you all think that would be much better).
Goal is to see as much natural beauty as possible (from the car, and via short (couple of hour) hikes and walks) in the states of Utah (Northern Utah only as we have already seen Southern Utah), Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Washington (and possibly Colorado and Oregon), and the provinces of Alberta and BC in Canada. One or two large cities would be nice too. (such as Vancouver and Seattle) We (4 adults in our early 50s) will be travelling by rental car, staying in hotels/motels/lodges/B&Bs. Period: roughly between 25 May and 15 June.

Current thinking is to drive North from SLC to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, then proceed to Glacier and Waterton, North to Canadian Rockies (Banff and Jasper), West to Vancouver and fly home from Seattle.

1) in addition to places mentioned above, which are the must-sees in the states/provinces mentioned?
2) we prefer to be flexible and just drive up to find accommodation, or perhaps reserve one day in advance. Will this work in the period mentioned above?
3) any other tips/recommendations?

Thanks in advance for any replies!
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Old Feb 27, 15, 11:02 am
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I think your timing is a bit dicey, especially for Glacier NP, where the Going to the Sun Road (a prime attraction) is unlikely to be open. http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gttsrfaq.htm

And while all of the Yellowstone roads should be open, you can expect spring conditions (maybe sunny, maybe wet) throughout the park. That's no reason not to go of course, but just be mindful that travel in the higher-altitude Rocky Mountain national parks can be a bit unpredictable at that time of year.

Frankly, the same goes for the Canadian national parks. LOTS of long-distance driving (much of it not especially scenic at all) and while Banff and Jasper are certainly scenic, you could easily find yourselves in a real time crunch, particularly if you wanted to include some of your other "wish list" areas, such as Oregon.

Let me just pose a rather extreme makeover of your plans, just as a thought experiment.

Drive from SLC to Jackson WY and visit Grand Teton National Park. While it's not terribly big, GTNP offers the kind of "wow" mountain scenery you'd get in Glacier or Banff, and Grand Teton has the great advantage of being located next to Yellowstone.

Visit Yellowstone, then head west via scenic US 12 (the historic Lewis and Clark highway) across Idaho and the Washington Palouse (gorgeous in the spring) to the Columbia River Gorge. In May/June the many waterfalls along the Gorge walls will be at their most impressive, and you can have more mountain experience by visiting Mount Hood, via the beautiful Hood River valley.

Spend a couple of days in the Gorge area (trust me, this will be a highlight of the trip) then head down the Columbia River, through Portland, to the river's amazing mouth at Astoria. Cross the river and visit Cape Disappointment, completing your part-tracing of the Lewis and Clark route. Cape Disappointment has waves crashing against rocks, a couple of lighthouses, even more to see.

Continue north along the Pacific coast (not super scenic but quick) to Lake Quinault and the Quinault rain forest in Olympic National Park. Like the Hoh valley to the north (a "don't-miss" stop) in the spring the ONP rain forests are astonishing - spooky, other-worldly, breathtaking. (Over the winter, the giant Roosevelt elk that populate the national park eat much of the undergrowth, leaving an eerie scene of trees and moss vanishing into the mist above, with surprisingly long vistas under the canopy - very beautiful.)

Stop at a couple of the beaches along the Olympic National Park's coastal strip (Ruby Beach near Kalaloch, Rialto Beach near La Push) - and don't forget the Hoh valley - then move onto Port Angeles on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

Just south of PA is Hurricane Ridge, a spectacular overlook into the mountain and forest wilderness interior of Olympic National Park. This is a strange non-winter around here, so you might well see wildflowers in the alpine meadows near Hurricane Ridge, or possibly even the lavender fields around PA itself.

From Port Angeles, take the Coho ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria BC, maybe visit Butchart Gardens (famous and overpriced IMO) before ferrying across to Tsawwassen on the lower BC mainland, then into Vancouver. Visit Vancouver then head south to Seattle to finish the trip.

Here's a rough map - http://goo.gl/maps/W8PpC - which you can compare to a rough map of the "bare bones" of your proposed route - http://goo.gl/maps/Xc0EM

As you can see, the "Pacific" route is around 200 miles longer, but that's not much over the course of three weeks, and much of the driving on that route is likely to be faster. It certainly offers more variety IMO, and you'd avoid any problems with high-altitude road and weather conditions. Give it a thought.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 27, 15 at 11:08 am
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Old Feb 27, 15, 12:03 pm
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Suggest you work in somehow driving from Missoula, Montana, to Lewiston, Idaho via U.S. 12. Absolutely stunning scenery and very isolated.

See: http://www.city-data.com/forum/idaho...light=Idaho+12
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Old Mar 2, 15, 11:06 am
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Originally Posted by Sjoerd View Post
2) we prefer to be flexible and just drive up to find accommodation, or perhaps reserve one day in advance. Will this work in the period mentioned above?
Generally, yes, you can find hotel rooms with little or no advanced planning, especially if you are flexible on location, quality, and cost. A few cautions, though:
  1. Historic lodges in and near parks often fill up months in advance. If there's a really special place you'd like to stay at, book it as soon as possible.
  2. Be mindful of public holidays, when travelers flock to parks and fill up the hotels and campgrounds. Memorial Day in the US is Monday, 25 May, right at the start of your timeframe.
  3. Hotel rooms in any given city may be scarce if there happens to be a convention or special event occurring when you visit. It's worth checking availability a few days in advance for any place you're considering visiting so you know in advance if there's likely to be difficulty.
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Old Mar 3, 15, 4:40 am
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Thanks for all replies!

Gardyloo we may very well follow the itinerary you suggested and save Glacier, Waterton, Banff and Jasper for a future trip in late June, July or August.

Route 12 looks nice! Looking forward to driving on it!

We will reserve rooms in advance for SLC, Grand Teton and (at least the first two nights in) Yellowstone. That way we will hopefully beat the Memorial Day crowds that will (I guess?) disappear later that week.
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Old Jun 15, 15, 4:14 am
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We returned home from the US/Canada yesterday and I just wanted to thank you again and report back on our trip.

This is what we did:

fly AMS - ORD
3 nights in Chicago
fly ORD - SLC, pick up rental car
1 night in Salt Lake City
2 nights in Jackson, WY
1 night in Cody, WY
2 nights in West Yellowstone, MT
1 night in Missoula, MT
1 night in Lewiston, ID
1 night in The Dalles, OR
2 nights in Portland, OR
1 night in Forks, WA
2 nights in Port Angeles, WA
via Port Townsend - Keystone ferry to
2 nights in Vancouver, BC
1 night in Osoyoos, BC
2 nights in Seattle, WA
fly SEA - AMS

Total distance driven: 3,127 miles

Highlights of the trip:
a. the cities of Chicago and Vancouver
b. Yellowstone National Park, Columbia River gorge, Olympic National Park, Okanogan BC/WA, North Cascades National Park

Things I would do differently next time:
1. take a shorter route from Yellowstone to Mt Hood area. Scenic highway nr 12 (Missoula to Lewiston) was OK, but not worth the detour
2. Probably skip Portland and stay one night longer in The Dalles, OR instead
3. Book fewer hotels in advance. Availability of hotel rooms was not a problem anywhere and we got the impression that prices are lower when you book last minute or just show up.

All together we had a fantastic trip! End of May / early June turned out to be the perfect time for our itinerary. The last 11 days the weather was just brilliant. Before that it was OK too. Crowds were manageable everywhere, though Yellowstone was already getting crowded and I can't imagine the crowds in July/August. Thanks again for all advice offered.
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Old Jun 17, 15, 10:54 pm
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I'd recommend North Cascades National Park Between Seattle and Vancouver. It's not terribly well known outside of the area, so it should be a bit quieter that the major national parks.

For hiking try the Iron Goat Trail on the west side of Stevens Pass in Washington. It follows the original railroad right of way up to the old Cascade Tunnel. Amazing to see the old tunnels deep in the forest (don't enter them: they haven't been maintained in 100 years), plus about 1/2 mile of the trail goes through an old snow shed. Also the most scenic view from a toilet seat in the world

I hiked it in 2009 and I believe it took me about 3 hours round trip from the caboose trailhead to the Cascade tunnel. The first 1/2 mile or so is a moderate effort as you climb up the hill, but once you reach the old right of way, it's a very gradual climb to the east (since they had to get trains up here!)
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Old Jun 17, 15, 11:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Sjoerd View Post
That way we will hopefully beat the Memorial Day crowds that will (I guess?) disappear later that week.
They should. For Memorial Day weekend most people head out to wherever they're going Friday evening after work, then head home Monday evening. I've found the weekends before and after Memorial Day are relatively quiet since most people travel on the long holiday weekend and don't want to take trips two weekends in a row. Most schools in the US are on summer vacation from mid June to late August, so you'll miss most of that period.

You should also look into how many National Parks you'll be visiting and see if an America The Beautiful Annual Pass would be cheaper at US$80 than paying for each NP entrance fee individually. You can buy one at the first NP you visit; no need to get one ahead of time. Most major NP entrance fees are in the $20-25 range per car (the indivudal fees are on each park's website).

Last edited by Lost; Jun 17, 15 at 11:22 pm
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