Update: We've done the trip! You can read the trip report.
This page is something of an ongoing experiment. We're planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and some other national parks this summer, and I thought I'd collect some information in one place and expose it to the public in the help that it would help other people.
Unfortunately we're unclear on if we'll be going in early or late summer, or even exactly how long the trip will be. But in the meantime I can figure out what my priorities are and at least rough things out.
First off, books. I like Phil Frank's Yosemite book, and it turns out he has a book for the Grand Canyon as well as Yellowstone. I ordered those, as well as two other books (which I'll get to in a moment).
OK, so I've learned that I need two days at the Grand Canyon, two at Arches, and I don't really know past that. Using Yahoo maps I see that from San Francisco it probably makes the most sense to drive to LA one day, spend the night with relatives, and drive to the Grand Canyon the second day although that second day will be very long. Luckily my wife drives so that won't be so bad. Getting from the Grand Canyon to Arches is a little more problematic (see the updates on this). It's only 300ish miles, but Yahoo seems to think it will take about 10 hours. So I'll probably break that up into two days - maybe going to four corners on the way or something.
Getting from Arches to Yellowstone is again two days, but you go right through Salt Lake City. I checked out their website, and they have a nice historic district walk, the lake itself, and some other things in the area but it sounds like we're talking one day.
So now we have something that looks like six driving days, four days in parks and one day in the city. It's not as grim as it sounds because the driving days are manageable and we're now in Yellowstone. But clearly managing all of this driving is going to be critical to actually having fun.
So the unanswered questions are a) how long do we stay in Yellowstone? and b) do we have enough time to visit Glacier National Park? I found a pretty good book, Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park: A Complete Recreation Guide, but I've just skimmed it so I'm not sure if it's worth the thousand extra miles it will take to get there and back. I think I'll put off reading that (and writing a review) until I receive the Yellowstone materials.
If you found this at all interesting, bookmark it and check back! I'll be adding on as more planning materials arrive and as decisions get made.
Update: Well, I've given up on Glacier National Park, because once I dropped it that freed up enough time to break up the driving days considerably, and there's some cool stuff in the area. In particular, it's looking like after the Grand Canyon we'll take a couple of days and bop down to Meteor Crater, go through the Petrified Forest up through Gallup, NM to Mesa Verde, then head to Moab to visit Arches. The total distance is a lot greater but we'll be able to fit in some cool parks and the driving is a lot more manageable spread over more time. Unfortunately I'm still waiting on the Yellowstone materials, so I'm not sure what we'll do there, but I think I'm going to reserve a couple of days at the Old Faithful Inn and then plan on some backpacking after that.
Update: Wow, I have an itinerary. I'll spare you the totally detailed version, but here's the short form:
I pulled out my camping stuff, and everything seems OK. The stove fired right up. I put in an order at REI.com to get a couple of odds and ends -- some Mountain House freeze dried food, some stove fuel, and a new water filter. I think I have pretty much everything else although I should practice putting up that tent once or twice!
Update: The Yellowstone Handbook finally arrived! I should have just bought it from REI instead of Amazon, because REI has it in stock, but oh well. Ironically Amazon now lists it as in stock as well, so maybe I just got unlucky between printings. The good news is that it's just what I was expecting. It's in the usual FAQ format that Phil Frank uses, and it would have saved me a lot of time. As an example, to figure out how the backcountry stuff worked, I had to request a NPS brochure, then they wrote back with a generic brochure that said where to write for a backcountry permit. Well, they didn't include the phone number, but I had to dig around and find that on the net. Then once you have that number (it's 307-344-2160 by the way) you can call the backcountry office and they'll send you the paperwork, which you then need to mail back to them with a check. If you don't want a reservation you can do it in person at a ranger station, but I see no reason not to spend the $20 on a reservation. It's still going to be the cheapest two nights on the trip and that way I don't have to do the planning on the fly. There's something of a timing issue because they save up all their received applications until April 1st, then they randomize them and start processing. So it makes a big difference if you get the application in before April 1st or not.
Anyway, the book was as good as I had hoped, and it filled in a lot of corners I was still unclear on even after poking around the net a lot. I know it's going to save a lot of time once I'm there because it has a ton of little maps showing things like exactly where the geysers are. I would have saved a lot of time if I had ordered it earlier. I don't know how to link directly to The Yellowstone Handbook at REI, but here's a magic link that will pump that into their search engine: Yellowstone Handbook.
Update: I had picked up Trails Illustrated maps from REI for all the parks we'll be in (these are based on the USGS quads, but on really tough paper and a different scale), and between those and various hiking recommendations in the different books I think that's plenty. The exception was Yellowstone, where we'll be spending a lot of time and there are so many choices. So we picked up yet another book, which I'll review here: