Mountain Project Logo

Summer Road Trip Guidance/Help


Original Post
Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

I need guidance/help.

I'm working on planning the greatest roadtrip humanly possible from April to August 2017. My job ends in late March and I intend to go back to school in the Fall in New Hampshire. In the meantime I have saved cash and re-built out the back of my 4runner to be even more livable than it was last year!

I intend to spend the last week in March in Red Rock, NV and then everything else is relatively open.

Major Objectives that I'm not sure where they fit:
-Hang around the Lake Tahoe area
-Drive US 1 along the coast, climbing and bouldering wherever convienient.
-See the Pacific Northwest and check out Olympic National Park
-Check out the Redwoods
-Possible Big-Wall (anywhere)
-Objectives in Tuolomne
-Alpine climbing in RMNP
-Hit Wild Iris for a couple weeks
-Grand Teton/Teton objectives
-Should I go to squamish at any point?

I think my rough Schedule is:
Early April - Southern California? Yosemite? Tahquiz?
Late April - Sierra Eastside? Yosemite?
Early May - Uhhhh Tahoe?
Late May - Stuck in the relaxation vacuum of Tahoe life?
Early June - Head for PNW? Alpine climbing? Index?
Late June - Head for Sawtooths in Idaho? City of Rocks? Watasch? Alpine anything?
July - Head to Wyoming? Wild Iris? Grand Teton?
August - Montana? Spearfish/Custer in SD? Palisades in Minnesota?
September - Cry because of the soul crushing reality that I am going to be a 24 year old college student still chasing a bachelor's degree.

So my questions are basically, where any when should I be at these places that I've never been to, so I can't predict what I'll find. I'm very unfamiliar with the PNW and NorCal weather, and don't know when the seasons open up for different activities at different areas.

I'll do any type of climbing. I have aid gear, I have a bouldering pad, so pretty much anything in the middle will do. I love alpine traverses, and long multipitch. I love adventure.

TL;DR I'd love to hear everyone's ideas for where and when I should go to certain locations around the US, eventually making my way back to NH (probably in sprint style)

ALSO: Anyone looking for climbing partners in any area on or near my list should contact me. The hardest part about all of this is just finding people to climb with. If you're also planning on living on the road at this time, perhaps we can connect. I'll definitely need friends.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

I've done mutliple trips of the sort you are describing, and have included most of the stops you list at some point or another. Here's my take:

-Your general plan is solid. Start in Red Rocks in the spring, work your way up the West Coast as summer sets in, the hit some stops in the northern Rockies on your way home. Classic trip, good destinations, makes the most of the best weather at many areas, and a reasonably efficient driving loop.

-Avoid the urge to see every area. I find I get more out of a trip if I visit a select number of major destinations and spend 2-4 weeks at each one, as opposed to trying to see every crag you drive by. This is doubly true when travelling solo, since at any given crag is can take a little time to sort out the partner situation. People are going to reccomend 30 different areas, but try to filter it down. Keep the list short and simple.

Eli wrote: ALSO: Anyone looking for climbing partners in any area on or near my list should contact me. The hardest part about all of this is just finding people to climb with. If you're also planning on living on the road at this time, perhaps we can connect. I'll definitely need friends.
The solution here is to arrange your schedule with this in mind. There are many areas that you can show up solo and find partners easily during the peal season. (Yosemite in May/June, Squamish in July/August, Tensleep in July/August, etc.) The key is to go to a major destination with concentrated climbing, a lot of travelling climbers, and a centralized campground to meet people.

There are other areas you need to show up with a partner, including most alpine areas. You'd be hard up if you were hanging around the trailhead for the Hulk, hoping a climbing partner appears. For these places, go to a major destination first for a month, climb a bunch, meet people, develop relaible partnerships, and then go with that well-vetted partner to do alpine stuff. A classic example of this is spending July in Squamish, and during that time find a partner to go to the Bugaboos with in early August. Or spending March in the Creek, making a ton of friends, and then going with one of your new friends to do some towers in April.

In general, it isn't worth it to try to arrange partners ahead of time. Despite this being the 21st century, it is easier and more effective to meet partners at the destinations. Instead of scrounging around for someone who wants to go to Tensleep, just go and climb with whoever is already there. Easy peasy (note that this only works at major, popular crags; see note above). This also gives you flexibility to go where YOU want to go, onyour own timing. Plus it is easier to vet partners and filter out sketchballs in person.
Kalil Oldham · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 55

Sounds awesome! I'm sure other people will have better informed suggestions than myself, but I have climbed in most of the places you're planning to visit. From your major objectives it sounds like you're interested in long high altitude routes (Tetons, Sierra, RMNP). If you're looking to climb primarily rock I think most of those places will be best in July and August. July and August is also when the PNW is driest (e.g., Index, Squamish). I might consider adding some desert towers and maybe walls in Zion, staying in the desert through at least the first half of April. The Valley should be pretty good by mid-April (others will know much better than I will), and Tahoe (Lover's Leap) will be good in the spring as well. There isn't a ton of good climbing along the coast, but the drive is great and the Redwoods are worth it!

For places to add (in addition to southern Utah), I'd consider the Winds in August as you drive back east, and Smith Rock in April/early May if you're determined to head up to the PNW on the early side. The crux might be the high sierra, which will be snowy before July, along with finding time for all of your high altitude rock objectives in WA, CA, WY, and CO. So much to do!

On a related note, I've got about 10 days in late June and I'm curious to hear what others think about conditions that time of year. Most areas out here (east coast) are too hot/buggy then (I've done the Gunks and the Dacks and they haven't been too bad in late June, but I'd also like to get a little farther from home). Idaho's been on my list for a while. Do others have experience there in late June? A good time to go? I tried a LCC trip in late June a few years ago and got rained out for a whole week. Suggestions?

Good luck with your trip, Eli. Sounds great!

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

We are having record snowfall in Northern California this year. I have projects ~9,000' i do not expect to see this year; really. I would not expect the road through Tuolumne to be open before June 1, just a guess. And Sierra east....depends on what you are climbing.
Otherwise, looks good.
Oh, look at the needles. If you like slab, look at Kernville area.
And hwy 1 in the summer is a zoo. But hey, the world....

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 765

Great plans,
and many many of the climbers I've known have made the similar (epic ) multi destination trips.

but you hit on the one key issue,
Getting out climbing when traveling solo can leave you partner less.

In many of those areas you listed it is better planned when you have a partner.
I might understand your wanderlust but it is a lot of solo , driving - re-tracing back & forth.

For my 2cents; maybe pick two or three places , Tahoe & Squamish for example,(stopping on the way, with side trips) but 2.5 months in each location. That allows you to hook up and get bigger climbs & objectives done.
Think of the time spent traveling , living on the road as time most wasted. Not hanging or bouldering

I've got to go!

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

I should also mention that I've been living on the Utah/AZ border since mid September and am 100% getting the hell out of the desert after my red rock trip.

Thanks for the suggestions, I really appreciate the help.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Here's a schedule that I'd reccomend for the Spring, based on your requirements:

Late March: Red Rocks, as per your plan.

Early April: Various options here, depending on how the weather (and your motivation) shakes out. You eventually want to get to Yosemite, but you may have a few extra weeks before it is time to head there. Keep your options open decide as you go. You could stay in Red Rocks for a little while longer if you are still psyched there. Or backtrack a tiny bit to go climb big walls and/or long free routes in Zion (prime season there). Or head to the Eastside to boulder in Bishop and/or sport climb at the Owens River Gorge. If the weather is unseasonably cold/stormy (this can happen some years in early April), head to J-Tree for a week or two to find warm/dry weather. Choose one of these options; any of them would be a nice stop for a few weeks before Yosemite. Or if the weather is good in early April, head straight to the Valley.

Mid April to Mid May: Yosemite. The must-visit stop. Keep an eye on the forecast in early April, and head over to the Valley once it looks good. April is early-season, but the reason to go early is that the 7-day camping restriction for the Valley kicks in May 1st, so showing up early lengthens your stay (you can stay up to 30 days the rest of the year). It is worth it to stay a full 4 weeks, especially if you want to do a wall.

From here, there are two different trajectories for the summer.

A. Stay on the West Coast and head north to the PNW.
B. Head inland to the Rockies (ID, WY, etc.)

Choose one of these. I'll elaborate in another post. Remenmber, you can't go everywhere...

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Summer Plan A. Stay on the West Coast and head north to the PNW. DO this if you are motivated for more granite after Yosemite.

Mid/late May to ealy/mid June: Tahoe? This period might be a bit tricky for California this year. Your camping allotment will have run out in Yosemite, but the good high elevation stuff in California will still be snowed in (HUGE snow year). Tahoe should probably be good, though.

Mid-June: At this point you've been climbing for 3 months and need a break. Take a week or two off from climbing and be a tourist. Drive to San Francisco, see the city, and then start making your way up the coast. Drive the US 1 along the ocean; this is a life-list must do. Eventually end up in the Olympics.

Late June to late July: By now you are rested and motivated, and it is prime season for PNW climbing. Go to Squamish, climb everything.

Late July / early August: Alpine climbing. Ideally find a partner in Squamish. Bugaboos or North Cascades (WA Pass, Enchanments) are both good options or good alpine granite. Need snow gear for the Bugs.

Mid-late August: Unwind and break up the homeward drive by spending a couple weeks sport climbing in Wyoming. You mentioned Wild Iris, but also give Tensleep some consideration. Or if you're still motivated on alpine go to the Tetons or Winds in mid-August instead of sport climbing.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Summer Plan B. UT, CO, WY. This is a good option if you are tired of granite after Yosemite, and want to sport climb for a while before Alpine season.

Mid/late May to early June: Sport climb in Maple Canyon.

Early-mid June: Trad ans sport cragging at City of Rocks, ID

Late June: Limestone sport climbing at the Fins, ID.

Early July: Sawtooths? Elephants Perch? If it is melted out sufficiently. Otherwise, head to Wild Iris to sport climb.

Mid-late July: Tetons

Early August: Winds

Mid-late August: Finish out with a stop in Tensleep for a few weeks to sport climb. Various crags in SD are also options, but Tensleep is better that the SD crags.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

JCM, thank you so much! Great line of thought. Not sure if I'll have a passport at the time of travel, which is a concern for Squamish.

I also heard there is incredible limestone in northern California, but it's little traveled, which I suppose could be a coastal sport climbing option, as well as Smith Rock.

Any protips on finding partners? I love alpine rock, but won't solo much harder than 5.4-5.6. Being alone in unfamiliar mountains is not always the best idea.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

Tahoe might wind up being my tourist time, I have several friends up there and will have a place shower, park, and people to backpack with. Climbing partners will be still few and far between probably.

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 765
Eli wrote:Tahoe might wind up being my tourist time, I have several friends up there and will have a place shower, park, and people to backpack with. Climbing partners will be still few and far between probably.
If you say so but there's so many climbers/skiers there!
I'd think that This year's record snow will mean some full-on 'ski-climb-ski' adventure options.
& just some super-fun hog stuff . Going on till June.

It would be easy to imagine hooking up with folks for a lot of satellite style climbing trips -, ,
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
Eli wrote: Not sure if I'll have a passport at the time of travel, which is a concern for Squamish.
Get on that now, then. Squamish is absolutely outstanding, and is worth a bit of hassle and expense to get a passport lined up.

Eli wrote: I also heard there is incredible limestone in northern California, but it's little traveled, which I suppose could be a coastal sport climbing option, as well as Smith Rock.
Trinity Aretes. Haven't been, but have heard good things. Partners might be tricky? June should be good there. Could be worth a short stop while driving north.

Smith will be a billion degrees in June. Avoid. Smith would be nice in April, but that would put you in the PNW too early for the other good areas. Smith is nice, but it is kind of tricky to program into a road trip without adding a ton of extra driving.

Eli wrote: Any protips on finding partners? I love alpine rock, but won't solo much harder than 5.4-5.6. Being alone in unfamiliar mountains is not always the best idea.
Yeah, alpine partners is hard. Alpine areas in the Western US tend to be spread out, without a camground full of potential climbing partners hanging around. Also, you need to be more sure of a partner before doing alpine stuff with them. So it isn't as casual as meeting up with someone int he campground an dgoing sport climbing.

As mentioned above, I think the most reliable method is travelling to somewhere with a bunch of climbers to meet partners, then going to alpine areas with them later in the trip. If/when you are in Yosemite, you'll meet a ton of solid climbing partners, and many of them will be on a similar circuit to you. Keep in contact with people, and with luck one of your Yosemite partners will want to met up in the Winds or somewhere like that later in the summer. Similar story in Squamish. In July/August, the campground message board always has several notes from people looking for a Bugs partner.

One exception is the Tetons. You can show up there solo and find people to climb with. Just stay at the Teton Climber's Ranch. A tad spendy by dirtbag standards, but it is really nice, and is worth it for the partner finding options. It provides the "centralized campground" option, and lively social scene, that most alpine areas lack.

In a more general sense, with finding partners, just go to a major area udring high-season, stay in the campground, and be friendly. You'll have no trouble finding people to climb with.

But these areas genuinely need to be major areas, with a resident dirtbag scene, where people hang out for the season. Yosemite, Squamish, Indian Creek, J-Tree, Maple, Rifle, Tensleep, and so on. Smaller or more dispersed areas can be harder- there isn't quite the critical mass of people on the roadtrip circuit, and many of the people are there for shorter trips and have a partner already. Even somewhere like Tahoe may not be super easy, since it is so dispersed.
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

Another note: if you end up in the PNW a bit early (i.e. if you leave Tahoe early), June is usually a good month to be in Index. Some rain still, but usually manageable. You can drive 1 hour over to Leavenworth (much drier) if Index is wet. There is always a nice little crew of people hanging out at the Index campsite, so partners would be no problem. You need to be a solid 5.10+ trad climber to get much out of Index, though.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

Will definitely consider Index and Leavenworth and option. I really want to spend time in Wild Iris, Ten Sleep, and the Tetons, but I'm also aware that Alpine season doesn't seem like it's going to open up until August this year.

I know Tahoe has gotten a whole lot of snow, but could anyone chime in on the east side and the high sierras? I suppose I could get some alpine feeling stuff in in tuolomne a little earlier in the year, and then just hit the tetons. The PNW could be a rest time/tourist experience for a week or two in an offshoot trip from tahoe, and then I could head eastish from there.

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

Bishop.
You could spend the whole trip there and not touch the potential. Guess you could say that about many places, but The Gorge (not my fave) for top sport, Buttermilks and Happy's for bouldering, Pine Creek for trad and multipitch sport. And maybe someone (Hello Tai) will FINALLY get his book out.
Point is, with near record snow all over the west, altitude is questionable. Flexibility is important in you schedule. I hear you adding more and more locations, sounds more like a road trip with some climbing in a lot of areas, as apposed to a climbing trip focused on a few areas.
Difficult to prognosticate weather this far out, but count on a lot of snow on the ground above 6'000' in April. And after July, you start dealing with T-storms.
And Northern California Limestone is hot by June, we are usually going up higher by then.

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Pinedale, WY · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 210

While the Winds are a great recommendation for a summer trip, we too are having an above average winter. 150% of average, actually. We haven't even gotten into the wettest months of the year, yet. The last time this happened, you weren't able to get into the mountains until late July. Never mind runoff season, which will make many of the crucial stream crossings impossible. Most of our trailheads (including Big Sandy, where most of the "climbers" congregate) are above 9000 ft. Never mind the 40 miles of muddied dirt road you will have to travel to even get there.

Just be prepared to delay your high country objectives for a bit unless you're prepared to skin. The Tetons are a great substitute, as their trailheads are ~3000 ft lower and will melt out sooner.

Of course, I could be 100% wrong. We could get 85 F throughout June like last year; in that case, you could be in the mountains in early to mid July. Of course, the mosquito season could last well into August if that's the case.

Lotta "what ifs?"

On a side note, the Spring skiing is going to be off the charts this year!

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

So perhaps I should just change my schedule to:
April: Yosemite or whatever is good around there.
May: Possibly still Yosemite or East Side
June: Tahoe to PNW. Side trip with Tahoe friends, go backpacking, not climbing focused. Bouldering maybe. Possible short trip to tuolomne to do the triple.
July: Head east, go where conditions allow. end up near tetons and lander or Ten Sleep.
August: Pray the Winds are possible, Hang out in the Tetons if not. Side trip to RMNP and then drive to NH.

I really do appreciate the advice, narrowing my scope of travel seems intelligent.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

^^^ Solid plan. You'll have a blast. If you end up in the PNW and need beta on WA climbing, let me know.

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

April might work in the valley, Tuolumne will be shut tight. The road through the park might no be plowed yet.
East side, again, don't expect to get much above 6/7k' before end of June. There is a LOT of snow here. Backpacking will involve snowshoes and/or skis into....anybodies guess. July? August? 2018? I bet the triple stays white all year, seen it before. Be flexible, follow the sun, have fun.
Alabama hills? Whitney portal? Needles?
Oh, and don't figure on crossing the sierras south of tahoe (108 or 120) for a while.

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938
Eli wrote: September - Cry because of the soul crushing reality that I am going to be a 24 year old college student still chasing a bachelor's degree.
Skip this part because Northern New England in fall and winter is absolutely magnificent, and because the life of a slightly-older-than-the-rest college student is fun and rewarding. You can cry in April when it's still cold and dreary and the tulips are still a month away from blooming.

You might also consider a swing through MN/WI and a stop in ADK on your way to NH, rather than a sprint across the country. The north country has its own unique and sublime grandeur, from Superior to Gothics. It is different than the overstated West, but not lesser. And every climber should be humbled by Devil's Lake at least once in their life. Since it's out-of-the-way most of the time, it's worth the stop when it's actually on the way to where you're going.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply