Behind every successful vacation is the person with “The Plan.” There is no need to go Griswald and allocate every second of every hour of every day. But to enjoy the best our nation has to offer, you must plan ahead, as tickets to popular destinations and reasonable accommodations sell out early. Two of the most popular vacation choices in America are the Grand Canyon National Park and Redwood National Park. Both showcase classic examples of the vast and rugged landscape of the American West, from the stark, but breathtaking, desert to the overwhelming shadows cast by ancient forests. To plan your next holiday around these two contrasting settings, follow the steps in the guidelines below.
Step 1Decide which park you’d like to visit first. The Grand Canyon is likely to be the hotter and drier of the two, while the Redwood National Park offers the generally milder climate of coastal California.
Step 2Choose a method of travel. Many people prefer to fly to a nearby airport and rent a car for transportation to and from the parks. Popular arrival points near the Grand Canyon include Phoenix, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada. To arrive near the Redwood National Park, fly into San Francisco, San Jose or Oakland, California. Book a round-trip ticket arriving at the location closest to your first park and departing from the airport closest to your second. For example, if you’re going to the Grand Canyon first and then to the redwoods, arrive in Las Vegas and depart from San Francisco.
Step 3Map your route. Go to MapQuest or Google Maps and select driving directions. Enter the starting point of your destination and the airport where you will be arriving. Then enter the name of the first national park you will be visiting. Alternatively, enter the hotel where you will be staying as the destination address. Print out the results.
Step 4Make a second set of driving directions. Only this time, use your hotel or the first national park as the starting point, and use the second national park as the destination. Print this set of instructions out as well.
Step 5Print a third set of directions from the second national park to the departure airport. Place all of your maps and driving directions into a file folder inside your carry-on luggage, so they can be easily accessed when you need them.
Step 6Make sleeping arrangements—camping or motel—well in advance, as accommodations near these national parks tend to fill quickly. The best selection of campsites and rooms will be available to those who are able to plan their trips at least six months prior to arrival. For the Grand Canyon, the nearby town of Williams, Arizona, offers affordable alternatives if everything at the park is already booked or too expensive. For the redwoods, try the DeMartin Redwood Youth Hostel, located in the park itself, or check the nearby towns of Eureka or Arcata, California.
Step 7Choose what you’d like to see and do within each park. Visit the web pages for both the Grand Canyon National Park and Redwood National Park (see Resources) and explore the variety of activities they offer. If you see something you’d particularly enjoy, book it in advance, as popular activities, such as white water rafting and trail riding on horseback, sell out regularly.
- The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only open from May through October. It is less crowded, but there are also fewer services for guests.
- The majority of services and accommodations for the Grand Canyon are clustered around the South Rim.
- To ensure you’re heading in the right direction, request a rental car with GPS included.
- To break up the drive from “A” to “B,” plan a stop in Las Vegas along the way.
- Print copies of all reservations and keep them in one place, so they are easy to locate.
- Do not take any rocks from the Grand Canyon. It’s illegal.
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