Please help save our road trip!
October 1, 2013 9:00 PM   Subscribe

So, the National Parks are shut and husband and I are on a US road trip of a lifetime, during which we were due to visit/camp at many of those National Parks. Boo! Please help us salvage our trip and tell us about your favorite State Parks/hikes/non-NPS camping spots in OR, CA, AZ and southern UT!

We are travelling by car. Luckily, we got to the Tetons/Yellowstone in time and are now in Twin Falls, ID - missed out on Craters of the Moon :( , planning to see Shoshone Falls in the morning before heading west. Our route from here is west through OR to Portland, south to San Francisco (we were planning Crater Lake and Redwoods...) then over to Death Valley, Grand Canyon/Zion/Bryce/Arches (all NPS!), down to Davis Mountains in TX (which is State, so we should be ok there) then onward back to the mid-Atlantic coast - we need to be in NC by Thanksgiving.

This timing sucks so bad, we are hoping it doesn't last too long, but we want/need to prepare for the worst!
posted by atlantica to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Utah has fantastic state parks! See recently previously.
posted by willbaude at 9:05 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, in Southern California you might like Anza Borrego.
posted by willbaude at 9:06 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Big Basin south of San Francisco is a CA state park. Camping, reasonable redwoods. Good luck with your trip - what a disappointment.
posted by GuyZero at 9:08 PM on October 1, 2013

Look at my history keyword "road trip" and you'll find a lot of comments, but...Utah 12 is wonderful. YOu could spend a day or two there. If you're not too much later, I'd head up into the San Juan mountains of Colorado and catch some fall color.
I would imagine that the roads of Canyon de Chelley would still be open since they're Navajo highways.

Hell, there's a lot of really great stuff on the Rez you could check out.
posted by notsnot at 9:19 PM on October 1, 2013

In California headed down toward SF:

Mendocino - Van Damme State Park is lovely. You camp just off the beach, and there is are some great hiking trails up into the Redwoods.

Pt Reyes National Seashore will likely be mostly open - stop at Hog Island Oyster Company for shuck your own oysters!

Mt. Tam state park - amazing hikes. I really like Stinson Beach, the town of Bolinas. A great hike is starting at the Palomarin trailhead, stopping at Bass lake (find the rope swing!) and then going up to Alamere falls, where a beautiful waterfall goes right onto the beach and into the ocean.
posted by amaire at 9:21 PM on October 1, 2013

all the state parks in oregon are open and are really good. Silver Falls, all the beaches and the national forests are open, just no rangers. The drive down the coast on highway 101 (or PCH it changes names) from Tillamook to San Francisco is Fantastic and you go through the Redwoods in California as well as some of the most picturesque bridges (built by the CCC during the depression) is on that route. It WILL rain on be prepared. Lots of stuff in the Columbia River Gorge is also going to be open and worth seeing.

Lots of State Parks in Arizona, with a bunch of good ones around Sedona and Cottonwood (and this time of year the weather is fairly decent in Arizona everywhere). And the whole northern half of the state is public lands of one kind or another with lots to see.

Lots of great stuff in New mexico-Albuquerque has the best restaurants in the world (as someone who grew up in the southwest anyway). For more details do a search for my name and new mexico and you will get a lots of travel advice.

The silver thread highway in Colorado is awesome and goes along the great divide for like half the state. and the aspen will be changing about now!

There is SO much in the western US and while hte ranger stations and visitors center will be closed (and national parks and monuments) the national forests are still there, state parks and BLM land is open and you will see all the off the beaten path stuff by staying away from the big attractions.
posted by bartonlong at 9:23 PM on October 1, 2013

Another idea - go a little farther south and explore Carmel and the state parks around there. Or go all the way to Big Sur and camp at Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park (or Andrew Molera state park across the highway).

At 1am the Esalen Hot Springs are open to a limited # of people from the public each night (you have to call for reservations) - they are AMAZING baths built right into the cliffs overhanging the ocean.
posted by amaire at 9:23 PM on October 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This website featuring Utah's National parks has a great list of 50 alternatives to consider during the shutdown.
posted by beanie at 9:25 PM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Andrew Molera state parks around Big Sur, CA!
posted by scody at 9:32 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've always wanted to stay awhile at City of Rocks in NM.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:34 PM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: California State Parks has a list of California state parks that are very close or adjacent to national parks.
posted by 26.2 at 9:41 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We didn't camp at Kodachrome SP in Utah but we hiked around a bit and it is gorgeous.
posted by rtha at 9:46 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Butano State Park off Highway 1 near Half Moon Bay, Calif. has beautiful redwoods. If I had to choose between John Muir National Monument (which is closed) and Butano, I'd choose Butano, and if you're there midweek you could camp, too.
posted by wnissen at 9:55 PM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: You can still see fantastic redwoods - there's plenty of other parks near Redwoods National Park which are equally amazing. I'd recommend Prarie Creek State Park, which has some big ol trees, a herd of elk, and one of my favorite short hikes in the world on the Fern Canyon trail. Also nearby is Patrick's Point State Park, which features more redwood trees, Agate Beach, and some great tide pools. And on your drive down the coast be sure to turn off on the Avenue of the Giants - a scenic route off 101 (the old highway) which winds its way pass even more amazing redwoods.

Missing Crater Lake is unfortunate, but Lake Tahoe is also lovely.
posted by Gori Girl at 9:55 PM on October 1, 2013

I would like to second Silver Falls, Teddy Roosevelt actually wanted to turn it into a national park, but it was too small.

Also, some national parks may be sort of open (especially if they have commercial lodges on site that are semi-independently ran), so you may want to try calling any on-site commercial services.
posted by thebestsophist at 9:57 PM on October 1, 2013

Best answer: In case it's open by the time you're in my part of the woods, you might want to make other plans for Crater Lake regardless. I was just there last weekend and it is completely covered in snow, most of the roads are already closed for winter, which cut off all of the good hiking, and it was so foggy that I couldn't even see the lake. I'd opt either towards the Oregon coast, which is peppered with wonderful state parks and public beaches, or stick to the deserts of central/eastern OR. Smith Rock is pretty great. National Forests are remaining open (there's no real way to close them), and you're surrounded by them in that area.
posted by ltisz at 10:30 PM on October 1, 2013

There are SO many gorgeous state parks in Oregon.

Eastern Oregon is gorgeous and sounds like it would fit your plans pretty well. John Day is beautiful, then you could go down towards the Deschutes, Bend, etc. It's relatively easy to cut down to California, and roads go through beautiful areas. That said, the Oregon coast is also breathtakingly picturesque. The other benefit of going through Eastern Oregon is that there is plenty of non-federal sightseeing and hiking to do, for instance, Sunriver is privately owned/operated but not expensive, easy to visit, and there are so many neat things to see and do nearby.

- Saddle Mountain has loads of hiking trails and views of the Columbia going into the Pacific
- Cottonwood Canyon State Park near the John Day River is open, has campsites and rangers
- Deschutes River State Recreation Area has overnight camping
- Devils Lake State Park is near Lincoln City and very picturesque
- Smith Rock has gorgeous... rocks!
- Wallowa Lake has a lot of hiking, and mountains nearby, lovely views.

Crater Lake has campgrounds nearby that aren't federally-run, but yeah, you won't want to try to go up to the national park. It started snowing just before the shutdown (roads will not be accessible). On that note, be very careful to check around about any mountain passes you might need to take. This time of year, it's not uncommon for some to get squirrely.
posted by fraula at 12:41 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Arizona: All the places run by Navajo Parks & Recreation are open.
posted by belau at 5:29 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I actually did the Portland-SF part of this trip as well this summer. You can definitely still see the redwoods because Redwood National Park is only one small part of the parks in the Redwood park system. The system is actually made up of the one national park and many other California state parks, the latter of which are unaffected by the shutdown (see second paragraph of news release) and offer equally good, and arguably better, scenery as the national park.

(It's confusing because they are sort of co-managed as one big redwood park system, but formally there is a distinction between the national park and the state parks even though many of them border each other and it just feels like one big park.)

In particular, I'd recommend:

- Jedediah Smith: you'll drive through this if you come from inland Oregon, some of the best trees
- Prairie Creek: did a long hike here and it was gorgeous!
- Humboldt: would definitely recommend Ave of the Giants here. Also, Humboldt tends to be sunnier than the coastal parks, at least in the summer

I used this site to plan for my redwoods trip. You can see that Redwood National Park is in fact only one of the many redwood parks. I would say that the vast majority of the most impressive northern forests remain open, and I actually don't think I stopped in the national park (versus the state parks) this past summer.
posted by andrewesque at 6:13 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

In Arizona, you'll want to check out all the gorgeous state parks around Sedona.

Red Rock
Slide Rock
Fort Verde

Here's a map of all of the state parks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:24 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

In Arizona:

Tonto Natural Bridge in Payson. Breathtaking, awe-inducing.

Kartchner Caverns in Tucson. Ridiculously awesome.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have two great beach campgrounds at state parks to recommend. Cape Lookout in Oregon is a nice little campground, sheltered from the wind, on a beautiful stretch of beach. There are also gorgeous beaches just to the north and south, and some little beach towns. And there are some redwoods there.

Salt Point in California is on one of those beautiful grassy bluffs above the ocean that the Sonoma coast is full of. There are some nice walks to go on and beautiful tidepools. (My username is actually after the Gerstle Cove campground at that park, we spent a lot of time there back in the day.)

Have fun!
posted by gerstle at 9:00 AM on October 2, 2013

There are a lot of beautiful places in the Sierra Nevada that are not part of Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon (although those are beautiful places too).

A couple of favorite areas to dayhike or backpack: Desolation Wilderness which is just west of Lake Tahoe and Little Lakes Valley (on Eastern side of Sierras just south of Yosemite -- Tioga Road should still be open although you cannot stop to "recreate", they can't keep you from looking :)).

Oh, and on the ocean side of CA, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is very cool for tidepooling (check the tide tables).
posted by elmay at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013

There are tons of amazing BLM and local lands to explore around Moab (Arches area). Potash, Hunter/Gatherer Canyon, Right Hand/Left Hand on Mill Creek. Honestly, I would stop in Moab at the coffee shop and ask some locals and they will direct you.

The other thing is, honestly, and not that I endorse breaking the law exactly, but you'd be perfectly fine going into Arches or Canyonlands anyway if you are capable hikers. I don't know if you're comfortable with that. You couldn't drive into Arches on the main road obviously, as the gate will be down, but you can certainly hike in from Moab. We used to do it all the time.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:00 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can hike from Pantoll Station in Mount Tamalpais State Park into the back side of Muir Woods via several relatively short (3 mile?) trails. There *might* be signs saying it's closed at the border of Muir Woods, but frankly, I'd ignore them. Just don't get too close to the entrance station (which will be at the other end from where you would hike in) and leave if/when asked.

Also hike to the top of Mt. Tam for an amazing view of the Bay Area. Angel Island State Park in the San Francisco Bay will be open.

Point Reyes will be closed, but I'm betting you'll still be able to do a kayak tour of Tomales Bay, if you're so inclined.

Drive down Big Sur and visit some the state parks others have mentioned (adding Point Lobos). We saw some whales in San Francisco over the weekend, so it might make sense to do a whale watching trip in Monterey.

Stop in Lake Tahoe. You can see (and drive around) the entire lake without entering a National Park. Calaveras Big Trees State park (near Yosemite) will be open. There are also some very cool caves (Moaning Cavern is close to Big Trees) in the area. Mono Lake, Bodie and the June Lake Loop are close together in the Eastern Sierra and all worth seeing.

I know some of that is not on your planned route, but your planned route is likely to change anyway. All of this is *really* great stuff. Sorry about the timing, and good luck!
posted by cnc at 12:19 PM on October 2, 2013

If you missed craters of the moon, you can still check out Jordan craters in Oregon!

It's a 1.5 hr drive on a dirt road off of highway 95 in Oregon (no gas stations or people in sight, little radio reception so bring music), but if you have nothing to do, it's pretty awesome! You can see the way the lava flowed from the eruption and the shape of how it cooled. Look for the geocache container there too (behind/underneath a large lava "rock"), if you're into that. We were fine getting there in a regular non-4 wheel drive low clearance car, but I'd be nervous if it rained recently.

Also, Jump Creek waterfall is a great spot just a short (few hundred feet) hike away from the parking lot. It's near the town of Marsing, in Idaho. I would recommend those places on your way to Oregon, if it's not too out of your way coming from twin falls.
posted by at 3:17 PM on October 2, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the fantastic and quick answers. I'm not joking when I say this really did save 2 weeks of our trip! I have marked the answers we ended up using but really all of the information was so useful. We went down the Oregon coast and stayed at a couple of the SPs on the beach - wow what fantastic SP campgrounds Oregon has! - and then used andrewesque's link for our redwoods experience - also fantastic. We stayed in SF with a friend and then headed to Mono Lake - which I am so happy we ended up seeing anyway - and then the NPs were back open by Death Valley.

So thank you all once again!
posted by atlantica at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2013

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