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Author Topic: Yosemite, DV etc. with a Motor-home  (Read 4223 times)
rkissinger
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« on: January 19, 2010, 06:14:11 AM »
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Hey there!

A few weeks back I asked about a 3 week trip to the US next year (Iīm from Germany). Many thanks for the answers to that post by the way!

Now, the group I am travelling with has kind of changed their initial plans...again....

We now are thinking of a 2-week trip starting from San Francisco to Las Vegas, passing Yosemite, Death Valley, Grand Canyon and
maybe some other spots along the way. I did almost exactly that trip last year, but with really bad company and in a massive hurry. So I actually
would be really delighted to do it again. With a little bit more time for experiencing the nature and photography.

We thought about renting one of those (from a European's perspective ;->) biiig motor-homes (4-5 people) and staying at campsites in the above mentioned locations.
Now, do you think this is a good idea? The alternative would be going by car and staying at motels, like I did last year.

I donīt really know about the camp sites in these areas. Is it possible to go there with a motor-home without too many problems?
I kind of have doubts if maneuvering along in the tight locations such as Yosemite and its campsites does work out well. And additionally, if we do not have an additional car with us, we would have to
got to every location (or trails) we want to see in that huge motor-home.  But staying close to the areas we would want to visit instead of having to head out to motels could be worth it, couldnīt it?

Anyway, Iīd  appreciate any comment on that topic and apologize for any comprehension difficulties due to poor use of the English language   !



Thanks in advance,
René
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2010, 09:16:14 AM »
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Quote from: rkissinger
And additionally, if we do not have an additional car with us, we would have to got to every location (or trails) we want to see in that huge motor-home.

IMO having a second, smaller vehicle will vastly improve your experience.

For one thing, it gives you more flexibility (for example, what if only 1 or 2 people want to get up really early to photograph the sunrise?).  For another, it lets you drive to some places you do not want to take the RV (like the Race Track or Titus Canyon at Death Valley).

It's definitely easier to get around Yosemite VALLEY in a smaller vehicle.  Trying to find parking for a motor home at popular sites may be very difficult.  But there are also shuttle buses available which can reduce your dependence on the motor home.  And many locations are within walking distance.

Here's a source for RV camping:

Yosemite RV Camping

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/rvcamping.htm


There are 2 main places to park RVs in Death Valley - Furnace Creek ranch (NOT the resort) and Stovepipe Wells.  Spaces are limited so you want to make reservations early.  

Death Valley RV Camping

http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/lodging.htm


I haven't been to the Grand Canyon in years so I have no info on RVs.

http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/index.htm

Paul
« Last Edit: January 19, 2010, 10:05:33 AM by Paul Sumi » Logged

Greg Campbell
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2010, 09:51:15 AM »
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Your basic notion of hitting the road and sleeping in an RV is perfectly sound, and most campsites are built to accommodate RV vehicles.   Apart from 'official' sites, there are a nearly unlimited number of locations in the National Forest lands where you can stay for free.  You can drive a few km down a dirt road and setup camp anywhere you like!  You won't have power or sewer functions, but you won't have to listen to the TV blaring from the RV next door, or a mob of ill behaved kids screaming at each other...  Avoid well known private RV 'campgrounds' if possible.  KOA and other chains tend to be expensive and noisy.

I don't wish to sound parental or judgmental, but Death Valley in June is not a very pleasant place.  Those 'crazy Germans'  seem to love the place, particularly during the height of the summer heat, but other folks try to visit during the cooler half of the year.  Most Europeans have never experienced 50 degree temperatures, and don't appreciate how taxing (and potentially dangerous) this weather can be.  In general, any locations south of the Colorado River will be quite hot this time of year.  If I may ask, why visit Las Vegas?

If you visit the Grand Canyon, I'd strongly suggest you hit the North Rim.  The climate is cooler and you'll face FAR fewer crowds.  There is a well developed network of dirt roads just north of the park boundary - pick one and you'll soon come across a pretty place to setup the RV. http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

If you do visit the Northern Rim, consider visiting one or two places in Southern Utah.  Zion, Bryce, Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase National Monument (slot canyons, hoodoos, beautiful remote scenery), and a few other parks are located in the same general area.      

Possible destinations in the Yosemite area include:  Bodie ghost town, Bristlecone Pine Forest (unique landscape, ancient gnarled trees), Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, the Eastern California Museum in Independence, Alabama Hills, and more.  

Enjoy!



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rkissinger
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2010, 10:23:35 AM »
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Thanks for the quick replies so far!

Just a quick response, since it will take some time researching all your recommendations:

Las Vegas: Been there last year, donīt have to go there ever again personally. But, the people Iīm travelling with
want to see at least a bit of it. And, since after the first two weeks we will fly to Michigan for the last week of our trip, Las
Vegas seemed to be the best Airport if we wanted to see Yosemite and the other places.

So, basically we start in San Francisco, proceed to Las Vegas and then head to Chicago.

Regarding the heat in Death Valley...well yes, didnīt really think about it. Even last October it was still preeetty hot in DV.
So, a good point to consider!

Yeahhh, it is these crazy Germans, which will go to Death Valley in short pants without sunscreen and then go to San Francisco wearing the same clothes and wonder why itīs so damn cold   I heard about that   .

Anyway, thanks for the advice so far!

If thereīs anything more, keep it coming as itīs a really good to have the info from people actually living in the US. The travel agency wasnīt much of help so far.

Kind regards,
René
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Wally
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2010, 10:46:15 AM »
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renting RVs is very expensive and they will burn 2-3X as much fuel as a car which is even more expensive.

Have you considered tent camping? The money you would save by not renting the RV will get you a decent tent(s) and all the camping gear you need with money left over. Just stop by a Wal-Mart or other discount store when you land and get what you need.

It will be much easier and cheaper to find tent camping spots than RV spots and you can also stay at motels along the way if you do not wish to camp every night.

If you motel it you would not be cooking many meals anyway so you would not have to really worry about having a stove or anything. Just need a tent and a sleeping bag and maybe a cot or air matress.

Many campgrounds have grills that you can cook on or you could make a campfire and cook on it.

When you are done with your trip and end up in Las Vegas you could then donate your camping gear to a charity shop.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2010, 10:48:06 AM by Wally » Logged
Greg Campbell
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2010, 12:20:08 PM »
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If you do pass though Death Valley, aim to camp at the Wildrose or Thorndike campgrounds.  (There is another, higher, site, Mahogany Flat, located at the end of a rather rough road - not healthy RV territory.)  These campgrounds are located in the mountains just west of the valley and are significantly cooler than the valley floor.  It is not unusual for the night time LOW temperature on the floor of DV to be above 38C/100F.  

A while back I read an interesting post regarding the recent discovery of some (very dead) long-lost German Tourists that had visited DV in the summer.  They had attempted to drive an extremely rugged jeep road across the middle of nowhere ... in a small RV van.  Tires shredded, out of water, they attempted to hike out.  They didn't make it more than a few miles....  Anyway, the point made in the forum was this:  The word 'park' has an entirely different meaning here in the US than in Europe.  Europeans tend to see the phrase "National Park," and think of a 'tame' facility, a zoo or arboretum perhaps.  In reality, dozens of people die each year in our 'Parks'  The whole idea behind the National Park System is to maintain the land and wildlife in as wild and natural a condition as possible.  Consider the Grand Canyon.  There may be guard rails at the more popular tourist sites, but once you leave these areas, you are on your own.  People constantly underestimate the summer heat, the height of the cliffs, the slickness of a trail following a summer thunderstorm, etc.  Occasionally this overconfidence kills them.  I don't mean to put you off visiting, but DO be aware that you are entering potentially dangerous areas.  Do some research, be prepared, and use common sense - you'll be fine!    

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jdemott
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2010, 12:54:03 PM »
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What do you hope to gain by traveling in an RV instead of staying in motels?  Some people like RVs because they can stay where they like without worrying about motel reservations.  But if you are going to the national parks, then you will probably need campground reservations for the RV, and there are lodges in the parks that are well located for most of the attractions (and near many of the campgrounds).  Some people believe they save money in an RV.  Perhaps you can save money if you own your own RV and stay a long time at one location...but if you are paying to rent the RV plus driving many miles plus paying campground fees, I doubt you'll save anything compared with wise choices of motels.  Some people like the convenience of having all their belongings in the RV and doing their own cooking.  If you are flying from Europe I doubt that you will be bringing many possessions.  Whether you would prefer to cook in an RV, only you can say.  I think the answer lies with you...was there something about your experience visiting the parks last time that you think would be better in an RV?

As others mentioned, an RV is not as convenient as a car to drive for sightseeing.  But if you decide to make the trip in an RV, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.  There always seem to be plenty of RVs on the road (or at least I always seem to be behind one that is traveling very slowly).  
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John DeMott
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2010, 02:28:57 PM »
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Depending on the make up of your group, are we talking about 2 adults and some children or all adults? If it is just a family, consider a truck camper. It will sleep 2 adults and 2 or 3 children, comes with a galley and head with a shower. The truck is typically 4 wheel drive and can go where most RVs will not. Makes a great shooting platform too since you have a ladder to the roof.

Jay
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Greg Campbell
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2010, 04:27:00 PM »
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Well, IMO the whole point of taking an RV is to avoid campground fees.  Even so, the RV route will be quite expensive.  Curious, I did a quick search and discovered that renting an RV for two weeks will cost about $2000, plus another 400~500$ for gas, plus fees of up to $50 a night at private campsites.  

Within a NP, you are usually prohibited from setting up an RV (or any other form of camping) outside of a designated campground.  Fortunately, most NP are surrounded by National Forest land, where it is perfectly OK for you to deploy at any out of the way site you like.  

If cost is an issue, renting an auto and 'car camping' will be by far the cheapest option.  Rent a mini van or SUV in San Francisco, and plan to return it there as well.  Most rental agencies impose a steep 'One Way' fee for the convenience of dropping the car off somewhere else.  
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2010, 07:12:17 PM »
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Quote from: Greg Campbell
Well, IMO the whole point of taking an RV is to avoid campground fees.

I always thought it was to avoid hotel/motel fees.  But I agree that renting a RV to save on lodging costs doesn't pay off in the short run.   Unless, of course, your idea of lodging is the Ahwahnee in Yosemite or Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley.  

Paul
« Last Edit: January 20, 2010, 09:12:45 AM by Paul Sumi » Logged

rkissinger
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2010, 03:09:23 AM »
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Actually, as we went by the Furnace Creek Resort last year I just was amazed that they actually do have a golf course there. I play golf myself and sometimes even our climate in Germany is difficult for keeping the greens in good shape. How to they do that there?  

We are traveling with 4-5 adults, no children.

What we thought we gain with an RV is on one hand saving time by during the night staying closer to the places we want to be during the day. We didnīt really think it would be cheaper than a regular car + motels. But I really didnīt think it would be that expensive as 2000$ plus gas plus steep campsite fees. Well...another idea that came up now is renting a small RV (that RV truck idea sounds good) and an additional car.

So, with a smaller RV, we could have some people sleeping in the RV and some in tents. But if that is clever regarding the cost has to be figured out first. And, I am starting to believe as jdemott said, that the RV (if small or big) would be a problem in the parks. We would have to prebook the whole trip I guess and that kind of takes out the fun in beeing free to stay where you want. Another thing I thought about is, that last year, we sometimes showed up at our motel at 2 oīclock in the night time (on one occasion because interstate 41 was closed due to a semi-truck going up in flames...) and that was no problem. With an RV we would have to respect the camp-ground times and have the thing in place and set up before the quiet-time starts. Could be a bit easier with tents, I think.

At the moment, I think I am leaning towards the tents-only idea. We could more freely choose where to stay, I think. One issue for me with campgrounds and tents would be that I need to carry medication, which needs to stay cooled below 30C/85F. So especially in the summer time and in Death Valley I would need power outlets where I could attach an electric cooling box to. I have little experience with camping and have just done this once in France and Spain last year, where it sometimes was a problem not having a camping spot with power outlets. Staying in motels last year was not problem at all. Since there is free ice everywhere, I just filled up my little cooling bag with it and it even survived the day-trip by car through DV.

Of course, electricity would be needed sometimes for camera and computer gear...hey Iīm shooting digital   .

Do the camp-sites in the US usually have power outlets for every camping spot?
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Wally
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2010, 09:08:05 AM »
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Quote from: rkissinger
Another thing I thought about is, that last year, we sometimes showed up at our motel at 2 oīclock in the night time (on one occasion because interstate 41 was closed due to a semi-truck going up in flames...) and that was no problem. With an RV we would have to respect the camp-ground times and have the thing in place and set up before the quiet-time starts. Could be a bit easier with tents, I think.

Tent camping in the USA anyway if you do it in a regular campground is often in an area with other tent campers. As such since tents are just fabric and do not really block any noise any noise is bad noise. You will find it pretty impossible to set up tents in total silence.

Quote
One issue for me with campgrounds and tents would be that I need to carry medication, which needs to stay cooled below 30C/85F. So especially in the summer time and in Death Valley I would need power outlets where I could attach an electric cooling box to. I have little experience with camping and have just done this once in France and Spain last year, where it sometimes was a problem not having a camping spot with power outlets. Staying in motels last year was not problem at all. Since there is free ice everywhere, I just filled up my little cooling bag with it and it even survived the day-trip by car through DV.

You will find that ice is very easy to find at any campground. It is often not free but not very much money either. Also many fast food places will be more than happy to fill up a small cooler with free ice if you buy a meal there and ask them to.

Quote
Of course, electricity would be needed sometimes for camera and computer gear...hey Iīm shooting digital   .

Do the camp-sites in the US usually have power outlets for every camping spot?

Some do some don't. And you will pay extra for the ones that do. It sounds however like you are going to be doing a lot of driving as such you could get car chargers and charge as you drive
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2010, 10:12:32 AM »
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The absolutely top-drawer way to do this with "4 or 5 people" would be with two vehicles.  A small RV and a small car.  Total flexibility to camp anywhere.  No need to "prebook" anything.  Everyone can do what they want, when they want.  Forget paid campsites, don't underestimate the real pleasure that comes from overnighting in the wilderness.  Free. : )  This is not a National Park campground, this is a typical, easy-to-access location off a secondary highway.



Arriving and renting in SF adds considerably to the distances you'll have to cover.  Consider arriving and renting in Las Vegas if the bulk of your target destinations are in the desert to the east.  The only thing SF gives you is Yosemite and of course, SF itself.  For a two-week trip, that's a stretch if you want to enjoy The Grand Canyon and the other National Parks nearby.  (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon, Canyonlands and Mesa Verde National Parks are all within easy striking distance of LV.  And that's just the National Parks.  If you add two days each way to access via SF, you're gonna be driving a LOT.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2010, 10:16:13 AM by Peter McLennan » Logged
Paul Sumi
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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2010, 12:01:28 PM »
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Quote from: rkissinger
At the moment, I think I am leaning towards the tents-only idea.

Tents do bring up another issue in California mountains, particularly in Yosemite: bears.

Fortunately, Yosemite Valley has bear-proof food storage available to campers.  But you need to not only put the obvious things like food and drinks (even in cans) in the box, but other stuff like soap, toothpaste, anti-perspirants, cosmetics, etc.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bears.htm

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearfacts.htm

Paul
« Last Edit: January 20, 2010, 08:05:20 PM by Paul Sumi » Logged

Greg Campbell
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« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2010, 09:45:09 PM »
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Bears are the least of your worries!  

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/858362/

 
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2010, 11:46:46 PM »
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Quote from: Greg Campbell
Bears are the least of your worries!  

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/858362/

 


"Run away!  Run away!!"  
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Greg Campbell
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« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2010, 12:57:08 AM »
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Quote from: Paul Sumi
"Run away!  Run away!!"  

   

The Rabbit Stew will have to wait!
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Scott O.
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« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2010, 11:36:57 AM »
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What you seem to be planning would be similar to staying in San Diego and trying to see California.  Way too ambitious and you will spend most of your time driving.  You are really planning two trips.  First, start in San Francisco and see Northern California and Southern Oregon.  And add in the Sierras.  Plan on a couple of weeks.  The other trip could start in Las Vegas and include southern Utah, Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Canyonlands, Arches, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, etc.  This could easily fill 3 weeks.  If you do the RV thing, I would consider a trailer as you can detach it and leave it at the campsite.  Driving a motorhome around to take pictures is a massive pain.  Motels would give you more freedom to move around, but in many of the areas you are considering advance reservations would be very wise.  Anyhow, whatever you decide will give you an excellent experience.  Keep us posted.
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rkissinger
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« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2010, 06:06:18 AM »
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Hi!

Well itīs been a while since the planning started and in the meantime it has come down to me and a buddy doing the trip.

Actually I signed up to Jay Maiselīs Workshop in June (personal gift for my 30th b-day) and will spend the next 3 weeks with a trip from
SFR to LA with my friend.

We still have a few things to decide on...

One thing that we are looking for right now is a place to end the trip at in LA. My friend would like to have something like a 3-day beach vacation
at the end of our trip. Iīve been in LA but only once and so I have no idea where it would be best to stay. I visited Malibu once, so that comes to my mind but I wasnīt able to find a motel/ hotel to stay in a reasonable price range.

Could you guys maybe recommend me some nice place to stay directly at the beach? Doesnīt have to be in Malibu   but somewhere in the LA area close to the beach would be kinda nice!


Regards,
René
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