Visiting National Parks in September?
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Scott - DCSki Editor
May 7, 2000
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,251 posts
I'm planning to take a "road trip" in mid-September, driving out west and hitting many of the national parks. This is after the "summer travel season" (when kids have gone back to school), and I think that will result in some pros and cons:

Pros: A lot less crowded, easier to find campsites (particularly midweek).

Cons: Less services and activities available (ranger-led hikes, campfire programs, cave tours, etc.), possibly cold temperatures at high elevations.

Has anyone taken a trip in September? If so, what was your experience? I think on the whole it will be great due to smaller crowds and more comfortable temperatures, but I bemoan the fact that certain activities (such as "Wild Cave Tour" at Wind Cave National Park) close after Labor Day.

May 8, 2000
I've done two such trips. I highly recommend September, nearly all the services at most Parks are at 100%, the weather is great, and the crowds are at half, or less, than the summer. My recommendation is the Bryce Canyon/ Zion/ Grand Canyon combination trip (flying in and out of Las Vegas) and the Yosemite/ Lake Tahoe trip (flying into San Francisco, and out of Reno). Good luck
JimK - DCSki Columnist
May 9, 2000
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,982 posts
Afraid I don't have any Sept experience in that area. Last time I was in SD/WY area was many years ago as a 10 yr old to swing by Mt Rushmore during family trip. I have a friend with family property in nearby Newcastle, Wy. He's been there a lot, visits about every other summer, says it can be cool at night even in July-Aug, but actually perfect if camping. He has driven and flown. It's a pretty long drive, about 25-30 hrs of road time from DC/Balt. He recalls Iowa as seeming endless via I80&29. He found Devils Tower, Wy of Close Encounters fame to be interesting, especially if you're a climber. He's enjoyed all the tourist areas & parks, says Deadwood, SD has big gambling strip if you are into that for a diversion.
May 28, 2000
Member since 05/27/2000 🔗
2 posts
I used to live a few miles from Yosemite and spent many happy days hiking in the western parks.

September is the best time of year for low crowds and nice weather. The only downfall is the fact that the waterfalls have usually dried up by then. Thats OK, Yosemite offers so much more. If the cables are still up, the Half Dome hike is unbelievable. It is tough (4500+ vertical feet total), long (16 miles round trip) and at times scary (2000+ foot drop offs) but worth each and every incredible step. If you don't get sensory overload from this one, you never will. Leave before sunrise to make it to the top with the best morning light and bail out immediately at the first sign of storms - it's a huge lightning rod!

Other favorites are Zion, Arches and Canyonlands in Utah. There is great canyon hiking near Goblin Valley state park in central Utah. If you are in that area, make the side trip to Monument Valley Navajo Nation Park. The facilities are a bit cheesy but the scenery is amazing.

A bit further north, Yellowstone and Grand Teton offer the widest variety of oddities per square mile that I know of!

Happy hiking!

[This message has been edited by chris (edited 05-27-2000).]

Scott - DCSki Editor
May 29, 2000
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,251 posts
Thanks for the great tips! The last time I was near Yosemite, it was late May and I think the roads to get there (at least from where I was - near Mammoth Mountain ski area) were still snow-covered. On the plus side, I did get to ski at Mammoth on June 1. I won't say the skiing was great, but it was skiing.

Utah is great; I've been to Arches a couple times (great mountain biking near there) and I think in September I'll actually have a chance of getting a campsite. The past two times I was out at Arches, the national park campground was full. There's a number of "unimproved" BLM (or state park?) campsites along the Colorado River not far from Arches, which worked well. I remember the moon was so bright it cast shadows.

I'm also tempted to head up to Yellowstone and then up into Glacier National Park. I'll probably have to pick between going north or going west to Utah, etc. I might not decide until I'm out there! That's the way I like it - figure it out as I go.

Does anyone know what Utah temperatures (for example, at Arches) are likely to be in September? I was out there in May a couple years ago and daytime temperatures weren't too bad - in the 80's. Is September really hot? I'm guessing it will cool down at night.

Has anyone gone bike/camping (i.e., toss a tent on the back of the bike and set up camp next to the bike trail?) I had thought about doing this the last time I was in the Moab area but didn't see how to "equip" my bike with both camping gear and hydration gear (namely, water!) There's not a lot of space.

And while I'm changing subjects every two seconds, if I were to go backcountry camping in Utah, do I need to worry about getting eaten by a mountain lion? (Hey, you worry about these things when you're camping alone in the middle of nowhere. :-)


- Scott

June 2, 2000
Member since 05/27/2000 🔗
2 posts
Hey Scott, you don't have to worry about mountain lions too much. We've spent a lot of time in the Utah backcountry and have only seen one once. They are more afraid of us than we are of them! The San Rafael Swell area is a great place to bikepack if you are going on a mountain bike. Lots of old mining roads, great scenery and not too many people. It still could be fairly hot in Sept though. Have fun.
September 11, 2000

I am a member of an Arizona Outdoor travel club and found your message while I was looking up some information on taking a drive up to the Navajo Nation and checking out Antelope (Slot) Canyon, Monument Valley, and/or Canyon de Chelly.

If any are on your route, love to ear from you - if you have not yet left. tfdowling

If you are stating north and visiting the NPs in Utah - have a great trip. I was in the St George area in May and temperatures were in the low 90s but rather nice with low humidity. We are starting to cool down now, which translated means that not every day hits 100 and it cools down at night. You should expect 70 - 90 degree weather - Perfect!

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