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Thread: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Somewhere between SoCal & Norway
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    258

    Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    My son will be returning soon from Europe and will have to quarantine with me for 2 weeks. So I thought why not travel around and spread any potential contagion he may have picked up - no just kidding, I was thinking we'd go camping and see some of the west coast while he's here (he came here to go to high school in Los Angeles), while staying far away from others.

    A colleague recommended Big Sur, I haven't checked all the campgrounds there, but so far all I've looked at are fully booked. It looks amazing though.

    Another idea that struck me was to drive past Vegas and visit Bryce Canyon and Zion, although I expect both are pretty hot this time of the year. Maybe even the Grand Canyon, it doesn't seem to much further away. But we could head due west from there to the coast and see some of the sequoia national park on the way to the ocean where there are more redwoods, forests and beaches.

    Again, we will be staying far away from other people and wearing masks anytime we're out and about, it seems to me a good way to use the time he has to be in quarantine anyway before going back to school (and where he's coming from there have been no new cases for over a month, I'm more worried about the airplane back to the US). If school even opens, it's looking more and more unlikely.

    He's really into photography and hasn't had a chance to see much around here yet, and it would be a great opportunity for me to take the 4x5 out on a real road trip.

    So my question is simple - can anyone recommend one or more camping spots in the general geography mentioned that are open, and more importantly that might still have available space? I.e. California, Nevada, western Utah or Arizona?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Sep 2008
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    SF Bay area, CA
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    14,499

    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    You have to keep up with immediate website info postings on all the respective parks, because things can turn on a dime right now. Formal campgrounds are likely to require a formal reservation if the spot is popular, or might be outright closed for the duration. But there are countless numbers of spots you can unofficially camp all over the West on National Forest lands or even undesignated forest or desert if it's not private property. Our northern California coast and redwoods are almost entirely closed to camping or picknicking, but open to hiking with social distancing. The central Calif coast around Monterey, Big Sur,etc,is rightfully extremely concerned about too many people arriving from out of the area, and various restrictions will probably get re-imposed if needed. Nevada is mostly open range, with lots of little nooks and crannies in the sagebrush to pull over. But developed campgrounds up in aspen in the Ruby Mtns or Great Basin Natl Park would require you to check in advance. Utah is similar: abundant places to camp, but not necessarily the formally developed ones. Remember, some rural towns might not be too happy to see out-of-towners show up this particular season. There are now even quarantines involving travel between certain states. So you have to factor in not only where one might fly in and out of, but any significant road route. It's a mess. Better to select a relatively limited area to explore where the virus isn't in panic mode.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Canmore Alberta
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    557

    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    "Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
    Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. "

    "Again, we will be staying far away from other people and wearing masks anytime we're out and about" 6x6TTL

    I don't think you get the picture.
    Last edited by Greg Y; 15-Jul-2020 at 20:24.

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    "Far away" is relative. Right now, much of the viral explosion seems to be traveling from hot spots over the interstate highways to rural locations. There is also no way to know who is a carrier or not. Current tests are quite imperfect, and, for the average person, too slow. For example, Hawaii will now let you visit, provided a test less than 72 hours old comes back negative and you have the paperwork - so you wait in line for hours and maybe even days, and wait up to a couple weeks for the results, planning a trip to the Islands? The plane already left. Similarly, it took me weeks bouncing back and forth between different agencies just to get my summer wilderness permit for high country backpacking. I'm not angry with them, because, with so many different variables and jurisdictions involved, they didn't know what to expect either. Just stopping at a gas station imposes risk. Total isolation is impossible, and quarantining is a constantly shifting patchwork system in this country, devoid of centralized oversight. On the positive side, gas prices are cheap. But my own strategy is to get to high country quickly, with a minimum of human contact, which fortunately, is fairly easy to do here. Same goes for our coast - I can zip over there and hike for the day with very little risk because I know of all kinds of trails and special spots with little visitation. But there's no place for anyone outside the area to camp or otherwise stay. Other than food stores and gas stations, and take-out food, every other kind of convenience is shut down.

  5. #5
    Foamer
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    Oct 2010
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    South Dakota
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    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    Wife & I live in South Dakota, a state well known for being sparsely populated. Last weekend we went to North Dakota which is the even less populated Dakota. There have been very few COVID cases in my state and even fewer in North Dakota, so we felt pretty safe going to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. It's in a remote part of the country and well over a day's drive from any major city. We were surprised at how many people were there though! I talked to a couple who had just left Yellowstone National Park. They said it was so jammed with people you couldn't find a place to park anywhere, and people on foot were easily passing the cars that were lined for miles. I'm thinking all the parks are probably like this now. Wife & I are now planning our next get away to places that are quite beautiful but have no well known attractions. We're thinking of the northwestern corner of our state or the western side of the Black Hills in Wyoming.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    Just sounds like any summer in Yellowstone, etc. Things over at Pt Reyes Natl Seashore near here are actually less crowded than a typical summer. Very few foreign visitors; and as usual in any Park, 95% of the people only go to 5% of the spots, and even those are easy to stay well distanced from others on. There were special closures imposed over the 4th of July holiday. Most of the high Sierra is open, provided one factors in that most of it is designated wilderness with no vehicle access. Yosemite Valley has restrictions, but if it didn't, it would be overwhelmed just like Yellowstone. Why anyone goes there in summer heat anyway, I can't understand. Cross over the top, over one of the high passes, then the greater Yosemite Park offers oodles of total isolation. But even it is just a minor portion of a greater equally impressive mountain range. The popular JMT (John Muir Trail) and PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) are exceptions to the probability of isolation, and that's probably why permits for any trail system connecting to them require phone-in approval near the time of entry. There are no restrictions to just day hiking. ... But I've scratched off a trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming again this summer. It's super easy to get away from people there. But there isn't a single medical clinic for certain entire counties - just doctor or two begging visitors to simply stay away lest they get overwhelmed.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Posts
    9,082

    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    How about a trip up 395? Lots of classic Sierra scenery without the hassle of the National Parks unless you want it. Plenty of dispersed car camping opportunities as well.
    Check out:
    June Lake Loop
    Lee Vining
    Saddlebag Lake
    Virginia Lakes
    Twin Lakes

    Also there are camp grounds on the Truckee River between Tahoe City and Truckee(Granite Flats is a favorite of ours), but I don't know if they're open or not.
    If you have a 4WD I can recommend Brewer Lake in the Sierra National Forest---a great place to chill with very few visitors. It's not far off of HWY 168 so it's also an easy back pack in if you don't have a 4WD

    Big Sur beaches will be open (or closed) according to the whims of Gov Hair Gel----next to impossible to plan on anything on the coast beyond a few days notice right now in my experience.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #8
    Foamer
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    South Dakota
    Posts
    2,134

    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    Just sounds like any summer in Yellowstone, etc. Things over at Pt Reyes Natl Seashore near here are actually less crowded than a typical summer. Very few foreign visitors; and as usual in any Park, 95% of the people only go to 5% of the spots, and even those are easy to stay well distanced from others on. There were special closures imposed over the 4th of July holiday. Most of the high Sierra is open, provided one factors in that most of it is designated wilderness with no vehicle access. Yosemite Valley has restrictions, but if it didn't, it would be overwhelmed just like Yellowstone. Why anyone goes there in summer heat anyway, I can't understand. Cross over the top, over one of the high passes, then the greater Yosemite Park offers oodles of total isolation. But even it is just a minor portion of a greater equally impressive mountain range. The popular JMT (John Muir Trail) and PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) are exceptions to the probability of isolation, and that's probably why permits for any trail system connecting to them require phone-in approval near the time of entry. There are no restrictions to just day hiking. ... But I've scratched off a trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming again this summer. It's super easy to get away from people there. But there isn't a single medical clinic for certain entire counties - just doctor or two begging visitors to simply stay away lest they get overwhelmed.


    I think what's going on is since people aren't traveling overseas they are going to domestic locations. At the Roosevelt NP I was at last weekend I paid close attention to the license plates on the cars. About 70% were in-state, and 25% were from an adjoining state (mostly Minnesota.) That left about 5% from out of the region. This park is not well known and is far from any major population center, and about as far as you can get from East/West coasts and still be in the continental U.S.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Posts
    193

    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    It's going to be a long summer before school starts, and while wherever he is probably safer than the US, the plane and airport are a worry. Stay home for a week or two before going out on a road trip. You or he don't want to wake up with a cough one morning in the middle of nowhere in the Canyonlands or camped along a national forest dirt road somewhere and have to figure out how to get to the ER that is almost a 100 miles away. It's extremely unlikely but the consequences are also potentially severe.

    I don't know what is open, and it can change from week to week. Zion will be hot this time of year, Bryce less so (Bryce rim is much higher elevation than Zion canyon bottom), but both could be crowded. Last time I was in Zion NP it was ridiculously crowded although though it wasn't even summer yet. The Grand Canyon rim is also high and would be less hot, but the inner canyon will be very hot, and again campgrounds are likely to be crowded if open.

    There are lots of places like Drew mentions where there are no developed facilities and no crowds, but different people have very different ideas about camping, from "I can pack two weeks of food and not see another person" to "I want to stay in developed campgrounds with a bathroom and a nearby snack bar or food store."

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Newbury, Vermont
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    1,010

    Re: Camping suggestions on the west coast or western states?

    Not sure how things are out west right now...state-wise, but here in Vermont and nearby in NH...absolutely everything open is booked up - 24/7.

    Even though we'd had to cancel a two-week trip due to Covid, my wife kept her two weeks off intact (I'm retired) so we could do some camping in Vt. and NH. Foolishly, we figured we could wait until just a few days ahead to make reservations, to get a sense of weather patterns...and now everything that is open is booked solid! Pre-Covid, all of these places (mostly state park campgrounds) would have had lots of last minute openings...but not now!

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