Mountain Project Logo

2 Brits on 3month US climbing road-trip - advice please

Original Post
Karl Gregory · · London, United Kingdom · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0

Hi guys,

Myself and a friend are coming over to the US for three months at the beginning of April. We fly into LA and are (roughly) planning to visit Joshua Tree, Red Rock Canyon, Indian Creek, Zion , The Needles (California), Bishop and finishing up our last 6 weeks in Yosemite (the main goal of the trip is to climb The Nose). We're going to be renting an RV and trying do things as cheap as we can (the exchange rate is killing us at the minute!).

We're both fairly experienced climbers and are looking to do sport, trad big-wall and bouldering.

We're after any and all advice you might be able to offer - from RV renting tips and where to park/sleep overnight, areas we definitely won't be able to get to in an RV, to climbing area recommendations. I know this is a bit vague but I'm just after any and all help at the minute as I'm sure there's loads of things we haven't thought of yet.

Many thanks, Karl.

K. Le Douche · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 100

I'd go to J-Tree, Red Rock, and then Indian Creek in that order to minimize hot temps. Also, give Maple Canyon in UT a look for sport climbing.

bkozak · · Sterling, VA · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 70

Hey Karl. Lots of the areas you are planning on going to are going to be getting pretty warm by April and nearly unbearable by May, especially if you are used to that cool British weather. Do not underestimate how hot it gets in the desert, so hit the desert areas first (Red Rock, J Tree). I would say don't bother with Indian Creek as it is pretty out of the way from everywhere else. You will have plenty of awesome climbing to do even without going there.

Fly To Vegas first and go to Red Rock. Plenty of awesome climbing to spend as much time as you want there. Based on the weather, there are plenty of climbs with different exposures to work with whatever weather you get. Just keep in mind that you can't climb for a few days if it has rained, which is pretty unlikely there in April. Zion is only about 3 hours away from Vegas, so a trip there is doable.

If you want to be able to do anything in J Tree, try to get in there before May or the weather will be miserable. If you have never climbed in 90+ degree heat, take my word that it sucks, even in the shade with low humidity. If you're there and it is too hot, head over the mountains to Tahquitz for some awesome multipitch granite. That was a training ground for Yosemite, so it would be perfect for getting prepped for the Valley. The last two weeks of April would be great at these places.

Bishop would be great for the first two weeks of May. There is a wide variety of climbing there and a wide elevation range to work with the weather. If its hot, head up in the mountains. If it's cooler, hit the Buttermilks or Owen's River gorge. From there, you should head straight up to Yosemite. The Needles is on the other side of the Sierra's and a bit out of the way.

Definitely spend the rest of your trip just in Yosemite. People live there and climb all the time and still find new things to do, so in 6 weeks you wouldn't even scratch the surface of what the place has to offer. Plus Yosemite is great because you can head up to Tuolumne if the Valley gets too hot or too crowded. Also keep in mind that the Nose is extremely famous and very popular, so it will be busy. Don't have your heart set on doing that one route, as there is so much to do there, even just on El Cap.

I hope that helps a bit. Enjoy your trip, because it sounds amazing! These places will give a great taste of some of the best climbing here in the US.

EDIT: Didn't see that you're flying to LA. Switch the order of J Tree and Red rock for this. Also, forgot about the stay limit in Yosemite. Needles is definitely an option then. There's also tons of other places in the Sierras.

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

From Bishop it is < a days drive to Smith, home of some of the best moderates. Trad and sport. An hour further is Trout Creek, basalt splitter heaven. Advantage is the temps.
Be aware of the cost of parking an RV in the valley, and the rules about time spent. I believe it is no more than 30 days in a calendar year, and 14 in a row.
Unless you have a screaming deal on a rental, 3 months would be less expensive to buy and sell, even with the hassle of register, insurance, etc.
Bishop, my fav playground these days, will be fine, just keep moving up in elevation.
And don't cheap out, buy guide books!
Have a blast

LindsayH · · Kingston, NY · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 55
Muscrat wrote:Be aware of the cost of parking an RV in the valley, and the rules about time spent. I believe it is no more than 30 days in a calendar year, and 14 in a row.
During the summer you're limited to 14 days of camping, and only 7 of them can be in the Valley. If you know for sure when you're going to be there, I'd suggest making camping reservations. But at the same time, be willing to adjust or completely change your plans over the three months in order to chase good weather. That sounds like a lot of desert climbing creeping into summer time. You might want to look at some options farther north.

I had a great experience renting a camper van from Lost Campers (, and they have an office in LA. Good rates compared to the other van rental companies I looked into and they will cut you a deal for an extended rental. It's not an RV, but you're going to have a much easier time finding places to park and camp.
Rob Dillon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 720

I know it sounds crazy but after a week or two in J-Tree you may come around to bringing less than 100m of rope for 75', single-pitch routes. We won't think any less of you.

jay2718 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2009 · Points: 5

Consider avoiding LA/LAX and flying directly to Las Vegas. LA is fun, but J-Tree is a taxing 3.5 hour drive from downtown LA. Reno NV is also close to Yosemite, and not too expensive as a destination.

In April and May, J-Tree might be hot, but Tahquitz & Suicide rocks will just be opening up. They are excellent multi-pitch trad granite areas in Idyllwild CA. Also, there is lots of climbing in the Sierra out of Bishop that will probably be easier to access than the Yosemite valley with an RV (due to popularity/stay rules).

For RV camping on the east side of the park, check out Paradise Shores RV park ( The owner is a long-time climber and can give you all kinds of beta on the area.

Consider buying a national parks pass in advance, or when you get to J-tree. The lines of cars seeking admission to Yosemite valley and waiting to buy a day-pass etc. can be mind boggling. If you have a pass in hand, you just drive past the line. You'll want to be strategic about your Yosemite days.

Do your best to get real guide books. The Needles of CA book is hard to find (maybe something new is out?) but it is quite a remote, intimidating and awesome area . You have to hike in quite a long way, and you'll be at the top of the area. The trails are not too obvious, because there is not as much traffic there. I believe the access road is not open all year either (due to snow). Similarly, the backcountry, beyond the loop road, in red rocks is vast.

Ultimately, in terms of climbing, approaches, and descents in Yosemite, Red Rocks, and the Sierra, the vast scales of these areas can trip you up. I recall doing the classic Royal Arches route. We got on before dawn, climbed as fast as we could, and were tired but pleased to top-out by noon or so. Great, but what I was not prepared for was the 3 or 4 additional hours of down-climbing and scree-skiing it took to get back to the valley floor. I was close to passing out with fatigue by the end. Everything is BIG/Extreme out there, the distances the temperatures, the climbs, approaches, and descents. Start out with conservative plans, and always bring headlamps and essential be-nighting/first-aid gear.

s.price · · the deck of Rover · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,346

Fly in to Vegas for sure. Go straight to Indian Creek. The chance to see this part of America is something you should take advantage of. Beautiful drive.

Climb a few days and head back to Red Rocks. Zion is easy to reach from here as well. Then head to Bishop and let the trip develop from there.

Definitely dial in your time for the Valley. As mentioned above be ready for BIG days. All the Brits I know are tough so that shouldn't be a problem.

Enjoy your trip. We are headed to your neck of the woods in 2018.
A few months checking out the area. Wales is home turf for some of my family.
My wife is a Langford.

jon bernhard · · grand junction, co · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 286

I have a reliable Chevy Astro Cargo van for sale. Only 102,000 miles.

Retrofitted with a 1-2 person bed. Insulated.
Plenty of room for 2 people and gear. Easy to organize. Nothing fancy, just efficient and ready for travel.

I use it from road trips all over. Good gas mileage and no mechanical issues.


You could dell it off to the next traveler. Better return on the money than renting for 3 months.

Scoop Norris · · Truckee · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 45

I think Tahoe and Donner Summit should be on your list. Send me a pm when you get to Truckee! It will be snowy until mid-April (hopefully.)

Welcome to Trump-Land!

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610
Scoop wrote: It will be snowy until mid-April (hopefully.) Welcome to Trump-Land!
Ha ha. I live in the northern Sierras. Looks like the rock might clear up by August....hopefully! MAN there is a lot of snow!
beensandbagged · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 10

bring a lot of enthusiasm and a good sense of humor you'll have a great time

Karl Gregory · · London, United Kingdom · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0

Sorry for the delay in coming back to this thread. Thanks for all the help everyone - exactly the kind of advice I was looking for.

Our flights are already booked, we fly into LA at the beginning of April and fly home from SF at the end of June.

I've heard of Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks - so I'll investigate further (although I'm already worried the 6weeks we've set aside for road-tripping before hitting the Valley isn't going to be long enough for all the places we'd love to go to. The one area we have hardly any beta/topo/guidebooks for is The Needles so that might have to get dropped if we get too attached to other areas and start getting short of time. We have guidebooks for just about all the other areas that I mentioned we will be visiting.

I'm aware of the limits on how long we can stay in the valley, butI've been told that we will be ok parking the RV in the valley overnight(s) while we're actually climbing on the big-walls - is that correct? For the nights we're not on the portaledge we were kinda planning on driving down to El Portal and parking there for the night - is that a good/bad idea?

Thanks again and Happy New Year!

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430

OK, what I would like to add is that keep in mind that the east side of YNP may not be open until end of May. So far this is shaping up to be a good winter and traditionally Tioga Pass doesn't open till Memorial Day (5/29) weekend. And yes, heavy winters can be even later.

Just don't want you to be stuck on the East Side as it is about 6-8 hours around the Sierra to get to YNP West entrances.

Camping in the RV in El Portal is not so good. There are camp grounds there (pay) but outside the park on the road to Oakdale (rt 120) there are many places where you can camp free within 30-60 minutes to the valley floor. When you are not in your vehicle it is perfectly fine to park for many days in the Valley. Put a helpful note on the RV as to what route you are on and when you are expected back. DONT leave food in it or a a bear will open it like a sailor and a sardine can. This is true at all times and there are Bear Boxes at nearly all parking areas for food storage.

If you make the time you can attempt getting a site in one of the Valley floor camp grounds by showing up early and getting in line on a rest day. This will greatly shorten your driving the RV and really improve your experience, imo.

That said, there is plenty of climbing in Bishop, but not much in Spring to truly prepare you for the Valley though Cardinal Pinnacle may be in shape. A Nose tune up should include some mastery of 5.10 cracks at Arch Rock and Cookie Cliff. Many burly classics there to give you a real taste of the business. Serenity Crack to SoY is super fun, but about as light an outing on 5.10 as the Valley offers on multi-pitch routes so don't get too confident on that ;).

Needles crack climbing is as good or better than Yose and is ideal for getting in shape with many steep crack climbs (far more Yosemite like than Indian Creek). Your timing is a little off for hitting it best (June) as you then should be tuning up in the Valley for the Nose (and getting in line).

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

You can reserve campgrounds for national parks, including Yosemite, on this website. The campgrounds are often booked months in advance, but if you continually check back, openings may materialize due to cancellations. It would be better for you and your RV to have a legitimate campsite.

Check out Upper Pines, North Pines and Lower Pines for Yosemite Valley:…

ChrisN · · Morro Bay, CA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 25

Don't overlook the Needles. Many people *gasp* prefer it to Yosemite. Definitely fewer crowds.

There's a solid guidebook available for it...…

Karl Gregory · · London, United Kingdom · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0

Starting the search for an RV and (obviously) it's quite expensive. We did initially consider buying a van or RV but don't we need a US address to register it and insure it? Seems like that would be quite complicated/impossible?

Does anyone have any recommendations for RV rental companies?

Weakday Climber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 50

All these suggestions are great, but don't miss Indian Creek and Castle Valley. They are about 1.5 hours apart from each other and close to Moab, UT. You will have perfect weather there and it's the chance of a lifetime to climb there.

mark felber · · Wheat Ridge, CO · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 26

Are you committed to renting the RV? Camping in a tent and renting a car or van would give you more flexibility in choosing campsites, and could save you a bit of money. Between War-Mart and REI you should be able to pick up all the camping gear you need pretty quickly and cheaply.

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,346

Well to start I wouldent rent an RV for three months if you're trying to save money. Those things get absurd fuel economy and the rental itself would be astronomical I would expect once you add in the 10 forms of tax they charge, other fees, insurance, millage, blah, blah, ect, ect. I'd try to buy a van already outfitted, then sell it before you leave. It might be hard to legally register and insure a vehicle if you're not a US resident, but there are some options. It's been done before. For sure that will be the cheapest option if you're willing to deal with the hassle of buying and selling a car on short notice.

Jeremy in Inyokern · · Inyokern · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 71

The Sierra Nevada, because why go anywhere else?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "2 Brits on 3month US climbing road-trip - advic…"
in the General Climbing

Log In to Reply