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Planning a huge road trip


Original Post
Nick Thomas · · Fargo, ND · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 30

So it looks like a buddy and I will have some time off at the end of the summer (early August, ~20 days) and are looking to plan a climbing road trip from Colorado down to the SW, up the West coast, and back to North Dakota (the sadly flat place we live :)). Basically we just want to hit some of the most scenic spots, enjoy the views, and get on some classic routes. Here's a rough idea of where we're looking at as of now.

Moab/Arches - 2 days
Clear Creek, AZ (really want to give the DWS a try even if it's kinda out of the way) - 1 day
Lake Powell - 1 day
Zion - 2 days
St. George - 1 day
Red Rock - 2 days
Bishop - 1 day
Yosemite - 3 days
Tahoe - 1 day
Smith Rock - 2 days
Olympic Natl. Park (not much climbing? But I've heard it's beautiful) - 1 day

So now for the questions:

One of the things I'm worried about is how hot it'll be in the SW in August. Given enough water I can handle some heat (it's hot and humid in ND, not dry), but I've never climbed in it. Just how bad is it? Are some spots simply unclimbable at that time of year or is it just a matter of being in the shade or climbing at the right time of day?

Are there some other places we should definitely check out, or possibly take off the list? Obviously 3 weeks isn't enough to see every great climbing destination in the West so we'll have to pick and choose, but maybe I'm forgetting something. I especially don't have many destinations picked out up in the NW.

Camping: We're trying to be as cheap as possible and find it free when we can. Obviously I can research this and will but any info on that would be great. I've got a Highlander, no 4WD but decent clearance.

Any other random tips/bits of info that I might not think of to plan would be great as well.

James Witowsky · · Bend, OR · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 0

If it were me I'd pick a few places to go (not 11) and climb more than drive more. For camping, free or otherwise, checkout the iOverlander app.

Ben Horowitz · · Berkeley · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 123

I second the above sentiment! Even if you are interested in the not-climbing activities you will be short-changing yourself a bit by moving through such classic areas so quickly!

Some things you might consider removing...

Tahoe: Maybe worth stopping by to see the lake, but not worth spending a whole day there compared to some other locations. If you do go and climb, Donner Summit is your best bet for reasonable temperatures.

Smith Rock: It will be pretty hot in August... If you are really dedicated you can chase the shade, but probably better worth spending more time elsewhere.

Red Rock: Similar to Smith, but even hotter! See here: mountainproject.com/v/red-r…

Bishop: Unless you mean places like Pine Creek Canyon (sport/trad), the bouldering at the buttermilks/Tablelands will be pretty brutally hot in August...

Some things you might want to consider adding...

More time in the Sierras: I personally love climbing in the Sierras and there is so much to do at every grade on immaculate granite (i.e. Cardinal Pinnacle, Incredible Hulk, etc.) You may want to check out the Needles as well.

More time in Yosemite: I guess kinda overlapping with the last point, but Tuolumne in Yosemite is awesome and there are so many climbs worth doing there...

As for camping, I really like freecampsites.net/ ; for most of the places you mentioned you should be able to find extremely cheap if not free camping close by.

EDIT: removed Shuteye suggestion... probably too hot there in August...

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,763

There's not a single place on your list that I'd road trip to in August.

Unless you change Yosemite to Tuolumne.

Nick Thomas · · Fargo, ND · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 30

Thanks, I was kinda worried a lot of places would be too hot, I guess I was just hoping. The Sierras sound good though. Any specific spots you'd recommend Ben? We're down for sport/trad/alpine/scrambling, pretty much anything.
Might go with some more time in Yosemite/Tuolumne as well if the temps are doable there.

mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 6

what greg barnes said-- if climbing is your goal, your locations are almost all out of season (other than tuolemne and other high sierra objectives).

given that you need to go back to north dakata-- why not areas like squamish, the bugaboos, alpine stuff in washington state, the elephant's tooth in idaho, etc...

Dan White · · Western CO · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 125

That time of year I would go to the Black Hills and Ten Sleep, maybe Vedauwoo, the Wind River Range, the Tetons or even go up into Canada. You'd have arguably a lot less driving and could get a lot more quality time in each spot.

20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348

You're going to be spending far more time driving than climbing with that list. I would pick one or two locations and stay put. Keep in mind that not only do you have to drive to all these locations, you need to find camping/ places to stay, places to get food/ shower, and then you have to wonder around actually trying to figure out what to climb and where it's located since you're new to the area and dont know where anything is.

Since you're starting out in ND, I would just head straight north to Canmore. There is a ton of stuff out there, sport and trad. Canmore has some of the most scenic summer climbing in North America. If you really want to hit up a second place, take your vehicle west to Squamish.

Nick Thomas · · Fargo, ND · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 30
20 kN wrote:You're going to be spending far more time driving than climbing with that list. I would pick one or two locations and stay put. Keep in mind that not only do you have to drive to all these locations, you need to find camping/ places to stay, places to get food/ shower, and then you have to wonder around actually trying to figure out what to climb and where it's located since you're new to the area and dont know where anything is. Since you're starting out in ND, I would just head straight north to Canmore. There is a ton of stuff out there, sport and trad. Canmore has some of the most scenic summer climbing in North America. If you really want to hit up a second place, take your vehicle west to Squamish.
We'll actually be starting in Colorado as we're there for the summer, but Canada does sound like a cool option. Maybe drive up to Washington through Wyoming hitting the Tetons or Ten Sleep and then up into Canada to a couple spots before heading home, like mpech and Dan mentioned. A couple big days of driving but we'll get to stay put for at least a few days in each spot then.
Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

20 days is pretty short. climb and hang at places more than one day unless tha place does not do it for you..... don't have too much of a plan....

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 308

As others have said, fewer places and more time at each.

Driving takes up a good chunk of time. It's not just the mileage, but the navigation, finding a new spot to stay, orienting yourself in a new place, etc. If you've been to all the chosen stops before, that should help, but even then you're losing a lot of time to the road.

I think I counted you totalling 17 days at the various locations, on a 20 day trip. That's 3 days to travel between 11 different places. That's not going to work out well.

Optimistic · · New Paltz · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 300

If you have never been to Tuolumne I would just go there and figure that place out. It will be somewhat crowded then (mostly with tourists) but it's crazy beautiful and amazing rock. Stay well within your grade until you get a sense of the runouts, which can be a little bit...engaging. Plenty of alpine objectives easily accessible from there, and you could hit a few of the Valley routes that stay shady. As people have said it's not the ideal time to be there but it's the time you have.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

According to Mr./Ms. Google, North Dakota to Yosemite is 1500 miles, and 24 hours, Olympic National Park to North Dakota is 1300 and 21 hours.

Everything else is also big, honking long drives.

So, like they said upthread, pick what you really want, and enjoy it! Unless you want to be one of those drive by tourists gumming everything up in the summer. :-)

Mountains, anywhere, should be great in August. Sawtooths, if you go through Idaho, have more than Elephants Perch.

But, if the end of your trip, August 20 or so, runs through Oregon, Idaho or Wyoming, an arc through Smith, Sawtooths, and Tetons, beware the eclipse hoardes.

Best, Helen

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 420

August, if you assume the worst for heat as Greg said the only viable place on your list is Tuolumne.

You can spend years there, and many people have...simply visit the Valley floor on a rest day morning or evening. Not worth it to cram in some classic when it is greasy and unbearably hot.

Tuolumne also has ready access to the East Side which only has lifetimes of climbs to do too, East Face of Whitney/Whitney Portal, Bear Creek Spire, Cardinal Pinnacle, 3rd Pillar, Incredible Hulk etc many lifetime bucket list routes and the ability to adjust your altitude with an hour's drive depending on the weather.

Perfect road trip fun hogging.

You could make as fine a list in CO.

Or Wyoming.

I wouldn't drive all the way to Vancanuckistan unless I had been to places a lot closer first, although it is totally worthy, when not raining.

Not that I don't like road trips, but when it cuts into climbing or chilling time in the mountains...you gotta limit it to when necessary.

Eric K · · Washington · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 45

An alternative northern route could look something like
Head into Canada and up to Canmore/Banff...
West to Squamish...
South to Olympic National Park (It is super beautiful and unique)...
East to Idaho/Montana/Wyoming (tons of potential stops)

Four destinations in 20ish days is not unreasonable if you are excited about a big road trip and want to get a tiny slice of flavor of each destination without spending your whole trip driving. My wife and I made several road trips like this a few summers in a row and used them to figure out which places we wanted to go back to and spend more time.

Gavin Towey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

You couldn't pay me to climb the valley in August. Though if you do, carry some raw steaks when you climb. You can slap them directly on the rock to cook 'em! ... although the same goes for your hands.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

FWIW, I live in Vegas, and we're spending July and part of August this year in Squamish and the Cascades.

If I had 20 days in August starting from Colorado- I'd probably head north to the Bugs or maybe Squamish depending. Eric K's idea sounds pretty appealing.

Good luck and have fun!

David Mehr · · Lexington, KY · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55

Echo what everyone is saying, less driving equals more time for adventure.

Sounds like you're interested in more than just climbing, but for the climbing specific aspect, just a few options, some already mentioned:

Squamish in british columbia: Sport, bouldering, trad. Great in the summer and free camping at a number of areas including the Chek, literally stones throw away from the nearest climbing.

Ten Sleep: Sport. Great climbing temps in the summer shade, delicious deep fried bread tacos on Friday nights in town. And free camping along the old dirt road.

Wild Iris: Sport. Great climbing temps in the summer in the shade. Free camping abound around the area, and there's free camping in the city park too within Lander.

Uinta Mountains: Sport, trad. High elevation climbing around some alpine lakes. Climbed here last summer when it was 105 degrees around most of the western united states but it was 60 degrees and pleasant in the Uintas. Not totally free because you have to buy a national forest camping pass, I think it was like $10 or less for a 4 day pass. Once you've got the pass there are some really nice free camping areas within the area, as well as some established pricey campgrounds if you wand the running water, bathrooms etc.

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

20 days is a short roadtrip. Trying to see the entire western US in that time is a fool's errand. With the stated itinerary you will spend most of your trip driving. If that is your goal, fine. If you actually want to climb, then you should pare down the list considerably. Also, almost everywhere on your list will be 100+ degrees in July/August

For a trip of that length, you should choose one state/region to focus on, and visit 2-4 climbing areas within that state/region. Good options would be:

PNW: Squamish and North Cascades
California: Tuoloumne, Tahoe, High Sierra
Canadian Rockies: Canmore/Banff/etc
Wyoming: Tetons, Winds, Lander, Tensleep
Northern UT and Southern ID: Maple Canyon, Uintas, City of Rocks, Sawtooths
Colorado is great too, but since you are starting there I assume you want to see something different

Again, choose one. A little bit of mix'n'match is reasonable (for instance, for sport climbing, going to Maple for a week, then a few days in the Uintas, then a week in Tensleep would be a great trip), but resist the urge to see everything. If you do that you really not see anything at all.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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