Itinerary for July 7 – 23, 2018 road trip – ultimate tour of US western mountain chains, national parks, and interesting places.

Traditional Glacier National Park people hauler for group tours.

The motivation for this journey was pure bucket list – the intended destinations were all beautiful and still unvisited to date.  The challenge was how to efficiently execute the tour of remote and vast stretches of land, the key factors being cost, time away from home, and staggering distances to be covered in a relatively short time frame – two and half to three weeks at most – alone.

 

The key question was whether to fly to Denver, rent a car, and drop it off in Las Vegas for the return flight home to Atlanta.  The estimated total costs and reality that I’m not in the position to rent as good a car as I regularly drive demanded that I drive the entire trip and I covered over 7,100 miles in roughly 16 days.  Given that I am retired, five days of travel, about two and half days coming and going, was easy to invest. 

 

This left eleven days for exploring / discovering / enjoying / photographing around 4,000 miles of America’s most gorgeous territory – also much of its emptiest, some areas almost unnervingly so.  I have listed my itinerary (for the reader’s information) that really begins in Denver / Boulder and takes off in Jackson Hole. 

 

July 7 – Sat: Atlanta to Kansas City, 12.5 hours driving and 803 miles, more than halfway to Denver.  See below Colorado Welcome Sign and Historical Marker.

 

July 8 – Sun: Kansas City / Independence, MO, to Denver – about 10 hours and 730 miles – arrived at 6 PM at the Clarion Hotel located in Globe Ville, just north of downtown Denver.

 

July 9 – Mon: Spent day in Denver and Boulder areas “shopping” and visiting with old friend and Boulder realtor Carole Ades Kaye.  See below picture of the city’s famous Pearl Street Mall, a cool place to drink a craft brew and schmooze with friendly strangers. 

 

July 10 – Tues: Drove from Denver to Jackson / Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 8 hours, a distance of 514 miles. Spent next two nights in Rexburg, Idaho to strategically access both desired national parks.  Jackson Hole is an eighty-five square mile valley that Jackson, the town and entry point for the Grand Tetons National Park, is located in. 

 

July 11 – Wed: Drove from Rexburg to West Yellowstone, Wyoming, a town for entry into the national park.  The ride took 2.5 hours and 127 miles across pretty southeastern Idaho farmland to experience the western rim of Yellowstone Nat. Park (3 hours) and drive south to fully explore Grand Tetons National Park (4 hours).  Had dinner in Jackson then drove across Idaho’s pretty portion of the Jackson Hole Valley / farmlands back to Rexburg.

 

July 12 – Thurs: Drove again from Rexburg, Idaho, to West Yellowstone (127 miles) to fully explore Yellowstone National Park’s loop road and cover 138 miles to Bozeman, Montana to spend night there; total drive = 5 hours / 265 miles.  Route follows the Rocky Mountains chain.

 

July 13 – Fri: Drove from Bozeman to Kalispell, Montana, 2.5 hours and 133 picturesque miles.  Spent night there and also visited Whitefish historical district for dinner.  See below picture of Montana Rockies chain that follows I-90 and US 93 to Kalispell, Whitefish, and Glacier National Park.

 

View of Whitefish’s historical district.  A wild west show entertains the throng of residents and tourists.

 

Cattle & buffalo herds and rugged mountains and deep valleys nearly line I-90 all the way to US 93.

 

 

The below mural captures the spirit of Montana’s hearty people.

 

 

 

 

July 14 – Sat: Explored Glacier National Park and drove to Lewiston, Idaho and spent the night there.  During the drive, I explored the Frank Church Wilderness Area, Sawtooth Mountains chain, and northern half of the state that was full of big blue lakes and picturesque towns. 

 

July 15 – Sun: Drove west from Lewiston into dry southeastern Washington State and headed south to northeastern Oregon to Burns and spent night there. Burns is in center of eastern Oregon Rockies chain and took 3 hours and 188 miles to get there.  My aim was to begin a thousand miles long mission down US 395 to view Oregon’s Great Basin Area and California’s High Sierra’s mountain chain.

 

Sagebrush is prevalent in eastern Washington State, Oregon, and California.

 

July 16 – Mon: Drove from Burns, Oregon to Alturas, CA and spent night there.  It was during the 3.3 hours, 193 miles ride through Oregon’s Great Basin that I first discovered the phenomena of alkali lakes – large, deserted and faded blue bodies of water named Goose and Alfalfa and occupied solely by brine shrimp and mainly visited by birds. 

 

July 17 – Tues: Drove from Alturas, CA, down northern High Sierra chain that included a string of more deserted alkali lakes – Alturas being the largest on the way to Reno, Nevada, and spent the night there - 3.5 hours of travel time and 171 miles.

 

July 18 – Wed: Drove from Reno through Lake Tahoe down to Yosemite Nat. Park and spent night at Yosemite View Lodge.  Ride took 3.5 hours crossing 155 miles of scenic vistas and followed the spectacular southern High Sierra’s trail.

 

Mountain pass on the road to Yosemite. US 395 straddles the California – Nevada border and is a freeway from Reno to Carson City, Nevada.

 

July 19 – Thurs: Spent morning driving out of Yosemite National Park to escape a growing forest fire that made viewing scenery challenging – a majority of vistas were blurred by a smoke-caused haze.  The raging fire also caused chaos with electric power sources and food service and forced me to bypass smoke-filled CA 140 loop that included El Capitan and other spectacular treasures.  Next drove from Yosemite to Las Vegas, Nevada in 5.5 hours covering 390 miles of empty California and Nevada desert areas such as Death Valley, Joshua Tree, northcentral to southeastern Nevada and spent night at Harrah’s Las Vegas.

 

Example of smoke-caused haze that plagued viewing of Yosemite’s extraordinary scenery and vistas.

 

July 20 – Fri: Drove from Las Vegas, Nevada to Santa Rosa, New Mexico in 9 hours, a distance of 650 miles.

Picture of very threatening thunder storm and possible tornado near Albuquerque, NM

 

July 21 – Sat: Drove from Santa Rosa, NM, to Conway, Arkansas located 30 miles west of Little Rock and spent night there. Travel time was about 11 hours and 675 miles.

 

July 22 – Sun: Drove from Conway through Little Rock and Memphis to Nashville, Tenn. to visit friend.  Ride took about 7.5 hours and 520 miles.    

 

July 23 – Mon: Drove home to Atlanta; 3.5 hours and 238 miles.