Backpacking advice for a new traveler

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1. Posted by Jase96 (Budding Member 4 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

I plan on backpacking across the United States at the end off the year it's my first time traveling alone and out off the country (I'm Australian) so is there any advice I could receive of anyone.. by the way I will not be driving. Europe is also a big yes for me is it more convenient to go backpacking through Europe???

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jan-2020, 14:36 GMT by Jase96 ]

2. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 643 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

What's your plan for getting from point A to point B? Bus service in the US is woefully infrequent, limited in coverage area and, at times, quite dear. Trains are a lousy value too and are even more limited in coverage, especially over great distances.

3. Posted by Jase96 (Budding Member 4 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

To be honest I was going to try busses/planes and trains or hitch hike if need be but that makes a great point. would you happen to have any suggestions?

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2097 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

You said end of the year. Depends where you're going but a lot of things close out of tourist season.

I think the USA has a few specifics worth seeing but as a backpacking destination too much of it is just ordinary towns where people live. Have you done some research into what you'd try to see? Personally I'd struggle to put together a meaningful itinerary, particularly without driving.

5. Posted by Jase96 (Budding Member 4 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

For me a lot off it was the national parks, I have been torn between America or Canada and possibly Europe but Europe will take a lot more planning

6. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 643 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

Quoting Jase96

To be honest I was going to try busses/planes and trains or hitch hike if need be but that makes a great point. would you happen to have any suggestions?

I hope you mean with plenty of planning you were going to use buses and trains - using those efficiently and without breaking the bank requires a plan rather than just trying. :)

Most National Parks in US are difficult to reach by public transport. Also, I consider many of them underwhelming and low-hanging fruit when it comes to trying to figure out what to see and do; many are too packed at certain times of the year. Save your money, do some more research and, if you still settle on the US, consider National Historical Parks, National Monuments, National Recreational Areas, etc. Some of these are still managed by the NP agency but many are free and, IMO, much better for the user.

Many of these are still tough to reach by public transportation though....

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jan-2020, 15:15 GMT by road to roam ]

7. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1804 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

I rarely see hitchhikers anymore. It is possible to travel by train and/or bus, but as road to roam says - most of the parks with spectacular scenery (like the Grand Canyon) are difficult to get to that way. I don't agree that the National Parks are underwhelming, but I guess that depends on what whelms you. :) Some of them have goals to preserve things that are not scenery, like history.

The other thing that you will need to take into account is - the US is VERY big and the distances in the west where you will find the big parks are great. You might be able to do California on public transportation (I have not done it but people have assured me it can be done), but if you are talking about Utah or Colorado or Montana or South Dakota you might as well forget it. You will do better in that respect around the east coast. It is pretty easy to get trains from Boston at least as far as Washington D.C.

You won't be able to do the Blue Ridge Parkway without a car, but you can certainly do the cities on public transportation.

8. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 643 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

Quoting greatgrandmaR

I don't agree that the National Parks are underwhelming, but I guess that depends on what whelms you. :)

I did say many of them rather than National Parks entirely, and I only say that because those I consider underwhelming are the ones which offer little chance to do anything other than drive from one vantage point to another, snapping photos and repeating that process. Because of that, I am more impressed with Federal lands which offer great natural beauty, often don't charge admission and give me much, much more of a chance to actually see and experience something other than just a photo op, a gift shop and a snack bar to grab a bite to eat :)

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jan-2020, 15:36 GMT by road to roam ]

9. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 1525 posts) 36w 1 Star this if you like it!

Having tried to explore some of the US by public transport I can speak from personal experience when I say doing so is hard....and, in many cases, it's simply impossible.

There are train routes (Amtrak) and long-distance buses (Greyhound, Megabus) but their focus (for obvious reasons) is city to city, or commuter routes (at commuter times) into and out of a city. Getting public transport to explore e.g. a national park is very likely to be impossible, though I suspect there are some organised package-tour options. I've found even getting into 'proper' countryside from a small-town or city base is pretty much impossible without a car.

European countries...including accessing countryside/national parks... are much, much easier to explore by public transport than the USA. Every European city or town has a network of local buses serving villages in the surrounding countryside.

Re hitch-hiking. It's no longer commonplace in European countries and I've never seen a hitch-hiker in the US. I think it would be a risky undertaking, not just the personal safety aspect and the possibility of drawing police attention, but also the chances of being stuck in a location with no lift.

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jan-2020, 16:37 GMT by leics2 ]

10. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1804 posts) 36w Star this if you like it!

Quoting road to roam

Quoting greatgrandmaR

I don't agree that the National Parks are underwhelming, but I guess that depends on what whelms you. :)

I did say many of them rather than National Parks entirely, and I only say that because those I consider underwhelming are the ones which offer little chance to do anything other than drive from one vantage point to another, snapping photos and repeating that process. Because of that, I am more impressed with Federal lands which offer great natural beauty, often don't charge admission and give me much, much more of a chance to actually see and experience something other than just a photo op, a gift shop and a snack bar to grab a bite to eat :)

The very popular parks do charge admission and I think that is reasonable - there are costs associated with catering to hordes of visitors. I have a Golden Age Passport (for people over 65) which gives me free admission to National Parks (although for places like Fort Sumter I still pay the concessionaire for the boat ride out there), but there are many parks which are free, and a lot of the state parks have very reasonable admission fees

So would you consider the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Colonial National Historical Parkway to be a park which don't give you a chance to do anything? I would agree about the Colonial NHP, which I think is a little silly, but I think there are hikes and walks along the Blue Ridge. I cannot think of another park which does not have hiking trails or canoeing or something of that nature. Even the strictly historic parks usually have a museum.

To give you an idea of where I am coming from - what experiences I have had, these are the National and State Parks that I visited prior to 2010. (I hadn't been to Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, Vermont, North Dakota, Hawaii or Alaska when I made this list, and I haven't been to any National Parks in Utah, Nevada or New Hampshire.

  • Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

  • Arkansas

Buffalo River National Park
Central High School National Historic Site
Hot Springs National Park

  • California

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument
Joshua Tree National Park
Pinnacles National Monument
Sequoia National Park) (administered with Kings Canyon National Park)
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Yosemite National Park

  • Colorado

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park (visited in 1948)
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Mesa Verde National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

  • District of Columbia

Lincoln Memorial
National Mall
National Zoological Park
President's Park (White House)
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Washington Monument

  • Florida

Big Cypress National Preserve
Biscayne National Park
Canaveral National Seashore
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Dry Tortugas National Park
Everglades National Park
Fort Caroline National Memorial Park
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Key West National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve

  • Georgia

Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

  • Kentucky

Lincoln Memorial National Historic Park
Mammoth Cave National Park

  • Louisiana

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

  • Maine

Acadia National Park

  • Maryland

Assateague Island National Seashore
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Hampton National Historic Site

  • Massachusetts

Boston National Historic Park
Cape Cod National Seashore
Minute Man National Historical Park
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site

  • Mississippi

Gulf Islands National Seashore - This seashore has several sites and stretches along the Gulf coast from Mississippi to Florida. When we visited, there was still hurricane damage so we went to the Live Oaks Visitor's Center in Florida near Gulf Breeze

  • Missouri

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site
Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

  • New Jersey

Ellis Island National Monument
Statue Of Liberty National Monument

  • New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (visited in 1948)

  • New York

Castle Clinton National Monument

  • North Carolina

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Great Smoky Mountains National Park This park straddles the NC/TN line
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Wright Brothers National Memorial

  • Pennsylvania

Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Gettysburg National Historical Park
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
Independence National Historical Park (the Liberty Bell)
Valley Forge National Historical Park

  • Puerto Rico

El Yunque National Forest
San Juan National Historic Site

  • South Carolina

Fort Sumter National Monument

  • South Dakota

Badlands National Park - visited in 1948
Mount Rushmore National Memorial - visited in 1948

  • Texas

Big Thicket National Preserve (Headquarters in Beaumont)

  • Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park - St.John, VI

  • Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway
Cape Henry Memorial
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Colonial National Historical Park
Colonial National Historical Parkway
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge This National Wildlife Refuge is in VA and NC, and there is also a State Park associated with it.
Jamestown National Historic Site
Shenandoah National Park

  • West Virginia

Bluestone National Scenic River
Gauley River National Recreation Area
New River Gorge National River (Park Headquarters in Glen Jean)

  • Wyoming

Devils Tower National Monument (visited in 1948)
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jan-2020, 16:29 GMT by greatgrandmaR ]