Roadtripping across the West Coast takes a lot of planning and organisation especially considering sometimes you’ll be driving for hours without civilisation in sight. To make your life easier, here are some essential tips!
The $80 “America the Beautiful” annual pass which you can buy at any of the NPS entrance gates gets you into most of all the National Parks for up to 2 cardholders so if you have a friend who is planning to go later in the year you can always share it with them! (https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm)
USA NATIONAL PARKS IN WINTER: Winter is definitely the shoulder season for all the National Parks, because the temperatures are usually below freezing SO PACK WARMLY, some of the difficult hikes are closed and the trails are all covered in ice or snow which makes it really hard if you don’t have the right equipment.
I would definitely recommend proper hiking shoes or ice/snow grips that can be easily strapped onto shoes for extra safety, and so that you’re not walking at the pace of a snail making sure you don’t slide (like me), or even end up sitting and sliding down a measly slope because ICE makes it so much harder. The hours of daylight are also shorter, and with the potential for ice to form on the roads, it’s preferable to minimise the time you spend night-driving.
On the plus side, you won’t be fighting for photo ops with hoards of noisy tourists and it’s quite ethereal to be able to see these places in a truly natural state that feels preserved from a hundreds of millions of years ago. Also, for someone in Australia who barely gets to see snow, clambering amongst snow-capped peaks and feeling the magic of this feathery light dust surround you as if you’re in a real-life snow globe is quite the experience.
FOOD: The USA National Parks are not designed for luxury travellers, with limited food and hotel options in the small nearby towns, with exceptions for a couple of the bigger parks, like Yosemite and Zion – but these are generally booked out months in advance during peak season (July – August)
We generally stocked up supplies like fruit, veggies, water etc. at Walmart Supercentres which you can find in some of the big midway towns, such as Bakersfield, Page and Hurricane. Plus Walmart has an insane amount of items that make perfect roadtrip snacks or hiking energy boosters (Reese’s peanut butter cups are my personal favourite!)
FUEL: Fuel up on the road! Places like Death Valley National park have like 1 petrol station that you still have to drive an hour or two to get to (Furnace Creek) with exorbitant prices so don’t let that meter dip below half or a quarter if you want to live life on the edge.