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Old 02-06-2018, 01:18 PM   #1
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Trip Planning

I have started to plan a trip to the north west of the usa. We are located in Pa. this trip will be aprox. 6 to 8 weeks. I hope this is enough time. My question is how to plan the route? Do you use a trip planner on the net or just go for it? I would like to use the computer. What site do you use? Anybody use FURKOT? Thanks Ken
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Old 02-06-2018, 01:42 PM   #2
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I have started to plan a trip to the north west of the usa. We are located in Pa. this trip will be aprox. 6 to 8 weeks. I hope this is enough time. My question is how to plan the route? Do you use a trip planner on the net or just go for it? I would like to use the computer. What site do you use? Anybody use FURKOT? Thanks Ken
No planning here. I just go. Plans never work out and put a lot of stress on. If you don't plan and see something that looks interesting there's no reason you can't just stop and take a look.
While traveling there's many places you can sleep. One you get to the PNW there thousands of Forest Service campgrounds. Very few any hookups, but enhances the camping experience.

You might be interested in http://www.ultimatecampgrounds.com/
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Old 02-06-2018, 01:45 PM   #3
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You should make a list of must see stops, and decide if those will require reservations: example, many state parks and almost all National Parks will require reservations. That becomes the core of our trip. The rest of it we kind of take as it comes.

Realize RV sales are booming, meanwhile, campsites are not being added. So you have a lot more people seeking the same number of sites. This makes planning more important than years past.

Only you will know how many miles a day you are comfortable driving. And then some stops you might want to spend a few nights, other stops may just be one night. When I know it is going to be a long day driving, I for SURE want a reservation for that night.

We took a trip to the NW last year, one month long. While we were traveling from NC, we used to live in the NW so we had a good idea where we wanted to stop. We had reservations made ahead of time for 75% of that trip. If the NW is all new to you, 8 weeks may not be long enough to see everything.

We loved camping in forest service campgrounds when we lived in WA state. As long as we arrived during the week, we never had a problem getting sites. But this camping was primitive. Outhouses only, no hookups.

Some people are comfortable spending the night at Walmart on the trip out. Not me. Not every state allows it, and some Walmarts are in very marginal areas.
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:27 PM   #4
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You should make a list of must see stops, and decide if those will require reservations: example, many state parks and almost all National Parks will require reservations. That becomes the core of our trip. The rest of it we kind of take as it comes.

Realize RV sales are booming, meanwhile, campsites are not being added. So you have a lot more people seeking the same number of sites. This makes planning more important than years past.

Only you will know how many miles a day you are comfortable driving. And then some stops you might want to spend a few nights, other stops may just be one night. When I know it is going to be a long day driving, I for SURE want a reservation for that night.

We took a trip to the NW last year, one month long. While we were traveling from NC, we used to live in the NW so we had a good idea where we wanted to stop. We had reservations made ahead of time for 75% of that trip. If the NW is all new to you, 8 weeks may not be long enough to see everything.

We loved camping in forest service campgrounds when we lived in WA state. As long as we arrived during the week, we never had a problem getting sites. But this camping was primitive. Outhouses only, no hookups.

Some people are comfortable spending the night at Walmart on the trip out. Not me. Not every state allows it, and some Walmarts are in very marginal areas.

I'd like to see a list of National Parks that require reservations for National Park campgrounds?

You see I go to National Parks all the time and so far I haven't any that National Parks that require reservations.


As too the RV sales increasing, well, we were just Organ Pipe National Monument. The campground there (no reservations accepted) had about 30% occupancy this year. Yeas past it was closer to 60% for same time.
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Old 02-06-2018, 05:05 PM   #5
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I have started to plan a trip to the north west of the usa. We are located in Pa. this trip will be aprox. 6 to 8 weeks. I hope this is enough time. My question is how to plan the route? Do you use a trip planner on the net or just go for it? I would like to use the computer. What site do you use? Anybody use FURKOT? Thanks Ken
It depends on what you would like to see - cities? Museums? Railroads? National Parks?

We use a couple of techniques. We have picked a general area(s), then did the research to see what is there and what is along the route. We try to stay flexible in case we find something along the way where wecwantbto spend more time. In the planning phase, I have a pretty good idea of the route and where we are likely going to need a campground. I don't usually make reservations unless we know we will be in a specific spot at a specific time.

A couple of years ago, we decided to just follow US 2 from it's western end to it's eastern terminus. I bought a book that had a route mapping with things to see along the way. We mostly then meandered home. I hope to take that approach with another east/west route someday, perhaps Route 66, or even a north/south route..

Note: The fewer freeway miles, the happier I am.
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Old 02-06-2018, 05:25 PM   #6
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I'd like to see a list of National Parks that require reservations for National Park campgrounds?

You see I go to National Parks all the time and so far I haven't any that National Parks that require reservations.


As too the RV sales increasing, well, we were just Organ Pipe National Monument. The campground there (no reservations accepted) had about 30% occupancy this year. Yeas past it was closer to 60% for same time.
Require is too strong a term. If you want hook ups, many do require reservations. If you can go with a primitive site, then show up early, and on a weekday, preferably Monday through Thursday, and you can get a site.

Zion is one of my favorites. I've been going there every year since 1979. Want a hookup? Its six months in advance, or forget it. And now about half of the tent sites are reserved too. I've scored a primitive site using the method mentioned above. But in the summer, Zion is hot, really hot. So electricity becomes more important.

Capitol Reef, no reservations. But I have never been able to get a campsite there, ever. Instead I have always camped in Torrey, UT about 15 miles down the road. Denali NP? Six months in advance, including tent sites.

The popular National Parks campgrounds are full of visitors, many from Europe, using rental motorhomes from California.


Many state parks in the NW also take reservations and are booked up. Heck, we had to make reservations at the popular ones in WA state back in the 1980s.

National Parks seem to fill first. In 2014 on my last trip to AK, Denali was full, all reserved and booked. Meanwhile, ten miles down the road was Denali State Park. Camping area was empty....... Creativity rules. But if it is your first big trip out west, and you want to stay in specific spots that are popular, reservations.

We stay in Golden, CO every trip out west, either going out, or coming home. The City of Golden has an RV park right downtown. Kind of expense too. Booked up 60 days in advance. People drive through there when we are staying hoping to score a site. It doesn't happen unless someone leaves early. We've been going there several years now.\

I've been shocked by some of the crowds recently. We were in Zion November 2017. They closed the gates by 1PM several days as the park was full. No shuttle buses that time of year either, so you were SOL.


Imagine you have your heart set on camping at Yellowstone. You show up without a reservation, and find it all booked. You are going to be disappointed! It really depends how important it is to you. Ourselves, starting or ending our trip in Golden is a must. So you bet, we have a reservation. And we tend to spend several days there, as we know our way around Denver, Golden, Boulder, know a lot of the trails, our favorite restaurants, whatever.
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Old 02-06-2018, 05:40 PM   #7
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I travel 75 days a year and for years I have used ROADTRIPPERS.COM almost exclusively. It is a free web site that is incredible once you get used to it.
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Old 02-06-2018, 06:27 PM   #8
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From Yosemite NP site:

"Reservations are required all year for Yosemite Valley's car campgrounds and summer through fall for Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Wawona, and half of Tuolumne Meadows. Campground reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. Be aware that nearly all reservations for the months of May through September and for some other weekends are filled the first day they become available, usually within seconds or minutes after 7 am! "

Now they do also have some first come first served campgrounds. Those fill very early in the day.

If you have driven all the way across the country to camp in Yosemite, do you want to take a chance, or do you want a reservation?


Getting a room in a lodge are a similar challenge. We tried to get reservations at Phantom Ranch (Grand Canyon). Called the first day they were available, 13 months in advance. Put it on speed dial. Called continually for several hours. Finally got through, all the spots were taken. We did this several months in a row. Never got a spot. Finally we paid a guide service (funny they were able to get rooms)...
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Old 02-06-2018, 09:21 PM   #9
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I have found that one of the really nice things about our little trailers is that temperature is too hot go up, too cold go down. One of long time members here (long time gone to camp site in the air) used to say he had a rotary air conditioner. Meaning he went where the weather suit his clothes.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:33 AM   #10
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Two years ago we took a tour of the Pacific Northwest. From Glacier we travelled route 20 across Washington, by ferry to the Olympic peninsula, then down the coast This was late summer, the camp grounds were busy. To get a site at Glacier we arrived before 9:00 am at Two Medicine, a first come first serve campground.

We seldom make reservations but we found in necessary for sites in the state parks along the Oregan coast. We booked sites at three different parks a few days ahead and were glad we did. We also booked over labor day. Booking site unseen with only the reservation site description has it's risks. At one park, it was impossible to level the trailer despite the description saying the site was level. After a " no one has ever complained before" the nice folks who run the campground found us another site. Turns out they keep one site open for emergencies. That day I guess we were the emergency. Other than Oregon, we had no need for reservations. Unfortunately each year this gets harder to do. Have a safe trip. Raz
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Old 02-07-2018, 02:06 PM   #11
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I'd like to see a list of National Parks that require reservations for National Park campgrounds?

You see I go to National Parks all the time and so far I haven't any that National Parks that require reservations.


As too the RV sales increasing, well, we were just Organ Pipe National Monument. The campground there (no reservations accepted) had about 30% occupancy this year. Yeas past it was closer to 60% for same time.
That may be true for the lesser known National Parks, but more & more of them are converting their campgrounds to requiring reservations, even the dry campgrounds.

While some have a few first come sites, to get them, even in the middle of the week, you need to be there early in the morning, and sometimes make a deal with the individuals that are leaving.

Some examples where you will unlikely find a site without reservations include Yosemite, Zion, Acadia, and Arches, popular state parks such as Dead Horse Point, and Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin, etc. While many of the state parks have a few first come sites, they are tough to get. Try finding a site (or, for that matter, a reservation) in an Oregon coast state park during the summer!

Even some of the Forest Service campgrounds can be tough to get into. For example, there are two beautiful Forest Service campgrounds on the Mt Baker Highway in Washington State that I've never been able to get a last minute reservation or first come site in three years of trying (Of course since I'm from NY, I am only in the area for a short time).

Since I agree with Byron that the way to travel is without reservations so you have the flexibility of staying at interesting discoveries, and skipping the ones that you thought would be interesting, but weren't, I am finding it more & more difficult to find sites at many non commercial campgrounds, including National & State parks, Forest Service campgrounds, even some BLM & Corp of Engineer campgrounds.

The increasing popularity of camping is filling some campgrounds in popular areas full, although if you are willing to explore, particularly in the west, there are still places to find without reservations. I only make them for holiday weekends & rallies. I usually travel only 150 - 200 miles per day, and will sometimes call campgrounds that I expect to end up near the morning I leave the previous campground to check that sites will be available. Since I usually arrive by 1:00 or so, the chances are much better for finding a site than if you arrive after dinner...
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Old 02-07-2018, 04:11 PM   #12
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That may be true for the lesser known National Parks, but more & more of them are converting their campgrounds to requiring reservations, even the dry campgrounds.

While some have a few first come sites, to get them, even in the middle of the week, you need to be there early in the morning, and sometimes make a deal with the individuals that are leaving.

Some examples where you will unlikely find a site without reservations include Yosemite, Zion, Acadia, and Arches, popular state parks such as Dead Horse Point, and Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin, etc. While many of the state parks have a few first come sites, they are tough to get. Try finding a site (or, for that matter, a reservation) in an Oregon coast state park during the summer!

Even some of the Forest Service campgrounds can be tough to get into. For example, there are two beautiful Forest Service campgrounds on the Mt Baker Highway in Washington State that I've never been able to get a last minute reservation or first come site in three years of trying (Of course since I'm from NY, I am only in the area for a short time).

Since I agree with Byron that the way to travel is without reservations so you have the flexibility of staying at interesting discoveries, and skipping the ones that you thought would be interesting, but weren't, I am finding it more & more difficult to find sites at many non commercial campgrounds, including National & State parks, Forest Service campgrounds, even some BLM & Corp of Engineer campgrounds.

The increasing popularity of camping is filling some campgrounds in popular areas full, although if you are willing to explore, particularly in the west, there are still places to find without reservations. I only make them for holiday weekends & rallies. I usually travel only 150 - 200 miles per day, and will sometimes call campgrounds that I expect to end up near the morning I leave the previous campground to check that sites will be available. Since I usually arrive by 1:00 or so, the chances are much better for finding a site than if you arrive after dinner...
I guess that Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP are lesser known.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:13 PM   #13
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Yellowstone, approximately 1700 sites take reservations, less than 400 are first come, first served. All the hook up sites take reservations. Only 200 of the non-reservation sites have flush toilets. About half of the non-reservation sites have total length limitations which would make camping with a pull behind trailer difficult.

I tried to get a random reservation this summer in Yellowstone and at least one campground was fully booked. Since I am not really going there this year, I didn't bother to dig any further.

My own experience with getting sites at busy National Parks you have to arrive early in the day, say 9 or 10 AM, during the week, preferably Monday through Thursday. Walk around the campground, see who is leaving that morning. Talk to the campers at your preferred site. Be sure to have a hang tag ready to put on the post, and launch. Can be a very tense moment as you are not alone trying to snag a site. Can bring the worst out of people.

On travel days, we tend to drive all day. So by the time we arrive, all the sites are long gone (say 5PM or later). Having a reservation in hand just eliminates one source of stress to us.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:48 PM   #14
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I guess that Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP are lesser known.
Almost sounds like you are looking for an argument but the fact is that "camping" or RVing is more popular than ever and that very often means competition for the choice locations. A strong downturn in the economy will eventually change this fact of life however at present, if you want one of the really choice spots you usually need to reserve it - more or less so depending on a number of variables I don't have the time to go into right now. But I will say that if you want to camp at this site, you need to lock in your reservation usually and literally only minutes after the booking window opens.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:52 PM   #15
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...
On travel days, we tend to drive all day. So by the time we arrive, all the sites are long gone (say 5PM or later). Having a reservation in hand just eliminates one source of stress to us.
I might not travel all day, but I agree that the last thing I want to do after a long drive is try (and maybe fail) to find a site for the night. Again, many variables come into play... time of year, location, popularity, etc. But often, to avoid undesirable places to overnight, a reservation is often the key.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:55 PM   #16
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I travel 75 days a year and for years I have used ROADTRIPPERS.COM almost exclusively. It is a free web site that is incredible once you get used to it.
Thats an interesting web site. It is very similar to the Good Sam trip planner but offers some different information. I find that using multiple trip planning tools and web sites is more work but offers some benefits. I am adding this one to my arsenal that already includes Good Sam.
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Old 02-07-2018, 06:05 PM   #17
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Back in 79 (remember that) we took off from Champaign Urbana to drive to Alaska. We loosely planned to head to Oregon, hop a ferry in Seattle and float to Alaska and drive the Al-Can home. Best laid plans.

Turned out when we got to Oregon and Washington there was just too much to see and rather than drive like crazy for six weeks we decided to slow down and enjoy. We got as far North as Vancouver Island before turning home to the Midwest. It was a fantastic trip, with lots of hikes in mountains and along the Pacific and in various rain forests. Never regretted missing Alaska. Been to 49, one to go. Maybe next year.

Our recommendation, Don't plan too much. Let the journey evolve as you go. We are currently not planning a long trip. There are a couple of not-to-miss destinations, like visiting our daughter in SF and returning to Vancouver Island, but its mostly unplanned.

Since its still Winter we do watch the weather and that sometimes causes a diversion, like taking I80 instead of I90 across the plains. Cell phone weather apps really help here. Once off the prairie we are mostly on blue highways.

Happy Trails to you, john

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Old 02-07-2018, 06:28 PM   #18
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Guess I would just make a list of the places I wanted to see and head there. One can most always find a campground if they want to Pay. Working in campgrounds for the past 13 years I know that most times they will bend over backwards to find a place for you to park it for the night.
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Old 02-08-2018, 07:59 AM   #19
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Yellowstone has a campground status page that is useful to see what's available and when places fill.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

The last three years we have passed through Yellowstone but not stayed. It's rare that all the first come first serve sites are not taken by 10:00 in season. Once we stayed at a NFS campground near the east entrance and twice at Colter Bay in Teton. This past year we spent Labor Day weekend there. There are actually two campgrounds at Colter Bay, a full hook up that takes reservations and a no hook up fcfs campground. The no hook up has over three hundred sites and only filled Saturday night while we were there. Of course the other campground was full of class A behemoths and fifth wheels. Our 13 foot Trillium would have fit right in.
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Old 02-08-2018, 10:27 AM   #20
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Late August 2006, I think, got a tent spot in Slough Creek CG midweek. Claimed it about 10:00, had a choice of 3 spots; the others were gone in a hour, and everything closer to the geysers, etc., was taken by 9.

On the other hand, a different trip, similar timeframe, had a USFS CG to ourselves outside the NE boundary (they were doing work on the roads, in it, etc., but water & toilet were active). A buddy saw a wolf crossing the next site when he went out for a 2 a.m. tree visit.
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