South-West Road trip september
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Jan 23, 2012 3:07 PM Last Post By: GeoinMT
Jan 22, 2012 3:59 PM
South-West Road trip septemberHi everyone!
Thanks for a great site, I've picked up loads of amazing tips!
Anyway, I'm planning my first ever US roadtrip this september and I would love to get some input concerning itinerary/ lodging/ places to eat...
I'm traveling with my boyfriend and we'll both be under 25 at the time, so I have concidered the extra fee for young drivers into the budget.
Unfortunately we only have 3 weeks, would love to make the trip even longer, but as I don't suspect I will be able to return any time soon, I would love to squeeze in as much as possible.
This is my plan so far (It's detailed, I know, but I just love the planning part of any vacation, it's so much fun, and you get so much to look forward to!)
Day 1: San Francisco arrival
Day 2: SF : Arcatraz, Golden Gate, other touristy stuff (though we might suffer quite a bit of jet lag...)
Day 3: SF - Monterey via Gilroy Premium Outlets (we'll probably be coming with half empty bags, since everything is much cheaper than in Norway)
Day 4: See the Aquarium, then head down Hwy 1 towards San Luis Obispo, stay in/near Ventura
Day 5: Ventura - LA via Malibu, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills... Do the whole Hollywood thing (sign, walk of fame, maybe a Warner Bros tour?)
Day 6: LA : Probably Universal Studio's, we'll definitively get a Front of the Line Pass, as we both hate standing in line. Also I would love to get some free TV studio audience tickets! Any tips on how far ahead we need to book? I know they fill out pretty fast...
Day 7: LA - SD: Any interesting things to do along the way?
Day 8: SD : Zoo, wander around town, maybe catch a baseball game (Anywhere we can get good prices?)
Day 9: SD - Wickenburg
Day 10: Wickenburg through Prescott, Jerome, Sedona to Grand Canyon, hopefully catch the sunset over the South Rim
I realise we're rushing through here, but I have to cut down somewhere and this was the most logical choice...
Day 11: GC: Get up early to see the sunrise, drive along the rim, stop at view points, maybe a short hike and then on to Page (Lake Powell). Sunset at Horseshoe Bend?
Day 12: Lake Powell: Antelope Canyon Morning Tour, maybe a swim in the lake before we head on to Monument valley and then to Moab for the night.
Day 13: Arches NP, Sunset at Dead Horse Point NP, stay in Moab
Day 14: Morning tour of Canyonlands NP (Island in the Sky - this is first of all so that I can finally take a picture MYSELF of my Window's laptop background ^^) then on to Torrey through Capitol Reef (We probably won't have time to explore this park, but at least we get to drive through)
Day 15: Bryce Canyon NP, stay in Hatch
Day 16: Zion NP and then on to Vegas
Day 17: LV : If we have the energy, take a tour of Red Rocks Canyon or Hoover Dam, maybe catch a show.
Day 18: LV - Death Valley NP
Day 19: DVNP - Yosemite
Day 20: Yosemite
Day 21: Yosemite - San Francisco
Day 22: Return flight
I know we're stuffing a lot in on little time, I would especially like to have more time for the Utah national parks
since they're so different from anything you can see back in Norway, or Europe for that matter... But unfortunately I can't
make myself remove anything else from the list... Luckily we both drive, so we'll be able to relax a bit in the car while
the other person is driving.
As for lodging, we'll probably book most in advance to keep the costs as low as possible, at least the big citys and Yosemite (maybe Moab?)
If you have any ideas / tips, especially on good / fun places to eat or fun stops along the road, please don't hesitate!
We're not VERY big on hiking, short easy to medium hikes are fun, but any longer than half a day is probably out of the question. Also I'm worried it'll still be really hot in the Utah national parks (and Death Valley) during the day and I'm not really that used to high temperatures (here in Norway we rarely have teperatures over 75-85 degrees in the midlle of summer, and they don't last very long ^^).
What should we expect mid-late september in these areas? Also will it be alot colder at night?
A question about days 9-10: Would we be better off to press on to Prescott on the first day, so that we have more time to enjoy
Jerome/Sedona/Flagstaff? Since we're spending practically the whole day in the car anyway, I figure an hour more or less isn't that big of a deal...
Also, if (HIGHLY unlikely) we could extend the trip for a week, where would you add the extra days? I was thinking an extra day in
both SF and SD, work in a tour to Joshua Tree NP, a full day at Lake Powell and a full day in both Capitol Reef and Zion (This would also give us half a day more in LV).Or should I add an extra day to the Grand Canyon instead? The extra days in the city are also a good way to get some extra time to just relax, sleep in and just hang at a beach/ pool.
I've already been to SF and LA some 8(?) years ago, not crazy about LA (but my boyfriend has never been, so he at least wants to see it for 2 days) but i love SF and I get the impression from other posters, that SD is a very nice city, much more so than LA.
I'd love some input here!
Also, about Zion. If in fact we only get a little more than half a day here (6 hours maybe), what hikes would you recommend to see the most in a short time?
Would you recomment 2 or 3 short hikes (15 min to 1 hour) or the first part of the Narrows (where no permit is required)?
For our budget, we're looking at 2000$ for lodging, 1500$ for food and another 1500$ - 2000$ for sightseeing, souvenirs and unexpected expenses. Obviously, if we manage to get an extra week, we'll have to increase it a bit.
Sorry for a long post!
Jan 22, 2012 7:14 PM
1Hi - we have done a similar trip a few times. Here is a revised itinerary proposal, and it includes dropping San Diego entirely, in order to make the national park circuit more achievable.
Night 1 - San Francisco
Night 2 - San Francisco
Night 3 - Monterey
Night 4 - Santa Barbara / Ventura
Night 5 - Los Angeles
Night 6 - Los Angeles
Night 7 - Las Vegas
Night 8 - Grand Canyon NP (Tusayan)
Night 9 - Grand Canyon NP (Tusayan)
Night 10 - Page (Lake Powell / Lower Antelope Canyon Slot Canyon)
Night 11 - Blanding (after Monument Valley)
Night 12 - Moab (Arches NP)
Night 13 - Moab (Canyonlands NP)
Night 14 - Tropic (after Capitol Reef NP, etc)
Night 15 - Tropic (Bryce Canyon NP)
Night 16 - Springdale (Zion NP)
Night 17 - Las Vegas
Night 18 - Las Vegas
Night 19 - Lone Pine (Hwy 395 - after Death Valley NP)
Night 20 - Yosemite NP
Night 21 - Yosemite NP
Night 22 - San Francisco
That is all doable in your time, and it's all wonderful - and you can look at some cabins inside the various national parks if you book early, or find quite affordable motels in the towns mentioned - prices about $US75-$US85 - and pretty good rooms. But you would need to pre-book for September.
Jan 22, 2012 8:16 PM
2Ian has done a good job of paring the proposal to a doable and hopefully pleasant tour...It will not take much driving to realize just how BIG our wonderful corner of the world is...September is a fine time to do this trip as you will probably need lodging reservations only within the Parks...happy trails...carracar
Jan 22, 2012 8:57 PM
I'd think long and hard about trimming some of your destinations. I know there's a great temptation to 'See as much as possible, but in my opinion the Utah leg of your trip is just absurd. You'll be spending more time in the car than out and, paradoxically, won't wind up seeing much of anything (except the inside of the car.)
If nothing else, drop the night in Death Valley. It will be too hot to do anything meaningful. Go ahead and drive Badwater Road, just to say you've 'been there,' but keep going to the Yosemite area for the night. As Ian suggests, consider skipping San Diego altogether. A zoo is a zoo, and it's out of the way. Use these three extra days to add actual enjoyment to your visits to Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, or Bryce.
Climate info at: http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/coopmap/
Zoom into an area, then 'show stations,' and click on the tag of interest.
Zion will be quite warm, even hot. Page, Arches, Capitol Reef, will be a little cooler, although they too can be very warm this time of year. Bryce is much higher and will be pleasant. Nights will be pleasant most places, with Bryce falling into the 'chilly' category with near-freezing lows possible.
If you do get the extra week, PLEASE resist the temptation to add even more out-of-the-way stops. Instead, spend a full day at the Grand Canyon. Spend a day or two at the North Rim, which is cooler and less crowded. Stop in Sedona or Flagstaff for the night. Camp under the stars in Valley of the Gods. Explore the slot canyons of Capitol Reef, and Goblin Valley (another nice place to spend the night.) There is plenty of scenery to inhale, and you will NEVER come close to 'seeing it all,' so take your time and enjoy what's in front of you! :)
Jan 22, 2012 9:40 PM
4I concur with many of the comments above. The only change I'd definitely make to the itinerary in #2 would be to drop the night in Blanding and drive all the way to Moab that night - it is maybe 2 hours extra drive at most and will give you two full days in Moab to enjoy the parks (you'll waste two hours easy just unpacking and repacking in Blanding, and the Moab segment is badly rushed without two full days/three nights).
A second change to the itinerary in #2, one that is more optional IMHO, would be to spend two nights in Springdale and one in Tropic. You can reasonably get up early, see a good portion of Bryce including a short hike to some of the best areas, and be in Zion by late afternoon. But whatever you do, make sure to be coming into Zion during the day, coming out of the tunnel from the east into Zion Canyon is one of the most dramatic scenery experiences you're ever likely to have. Better yet, steal a night from Vegas either on the front end (skip the stop on the 7th, and go straight to GC) or on the 17th, and give yourself a full day in both Bryce and Zion. You won't regret it.
Jan 22, 2012 10:00 PM
5I guess I included a stop in Blanding (bland as it is), because it's a longish 200 miles from Page to there ... so it depends on (a) when the OP plans to visit the Lower Antelope Canyon Slot Canyon and Glen Canyon Dam at Page, and (b) how long they allocate to Navajo NM, Monument Valley, and much more, along the way. I agree that Arches NP warrants a full day, but it's also a long haul from Page to Moab in a very scenic trip.
And if you only have three nights, I would still recommend (1) arriving into Tropic late after a long (rewarding) day from Moab, (2) seeing Bryce Canyon NP all day and having a second night at Tropic (or near the park entrance - plenty of motel choice there too), and (3) one night at Springdale, after you have been right through Zion NP, spending the whole day there.
So for me - logistics dictates two nights at or near Bryce Canyon, and one (it's enough) in Springdale after driving/bussing/hiking through Zion - certainly not an assessment of the relative merits of both parks - Zion is my favourite.
And I agree - the long downhill tunnel from the east (ie, from Bryce Canyon), and then the spectacle as you emerge into Zion - is one of the great experiences in US national parks - from what I've seen anyway.
Jan 23, 2012 4:59 AM
6Wow you guys!
Thanks for such quick and grear replies!
ianw6705 I see your point about dropping San Diego and although it's sad to leave something out, that's probably the most likely candidate... It would be much easier to take a shorter trip there later, as opposed to a short trip to any of the national parks.
About the Page to Moab itinerary: Are there a lot of wayside hotels/ motels on the way? So that depending on how early we leave Page and how tired etc we are, we could just decide to drive on as far as we get? Or would we have to go all the way to Moab if we drive by Blanding?
And what about staying in Hatch after Bryce? That's more on the way to Zion right?
And what about Sedona? Everyone keeps saying how beautilful it is. Is it worth taking a detour on our way to Grand Canyon after Las Vegas? We could leave LV early since we're going back there anyway and I'm not really interested in the Route 66 part of the way (Kingman to Seligman) that would take us through, so we probably won't be spending a whole lot of time there...
And if we were to have 2 nights at the Grand Canyon anyway, it wouldn't be too bad if we arrived fairly late.
Or maybe we just wouldn't have time to see anything worth seing... What do you think?
geo_nerd about Death Valley, we were thinking of staying in Lone Pine. Is that a good choice or would you recommend driving on to Bishop or Mammoth Lakes?
Again, thanks alot for all the great advise!
Jan 23, 2012 5:18 AM
7Sure - if you can find a good-value room in Hatch rather than Tropic / BCNP gate, then that would be okay too - although two nights in the one place saves a pack-in and pack-out. And Tropic / BCNP gate / Ruby's Inn are certainly more "atmospheric" (with better dining options too, I suggest). It's not far from BCNP to the Zion NP east gate.
Yes - if you have the time (and you'll have committed to two nights at the Grand Canyon Village or out at Tusayan) I would certainly endorse a diversion to Sedona, the Red Rocks, Oak Creek Canyon, and spend some time in Flagstaff too - interesting town in lots of ways.
But make sure you arrive at the GC Village for sunset the first night (check times) - Mather Point is the easiest place to get to and park, and it has stunning views.
Jan 23, 2012 6:19 AM
But by the time you get to Blanding, you're only an hour away from Moab anyway.
Jan 23, 2012 7:22 AM
9OP I hope you are following this advice using a detailed (and marked) map...Last day in LA. I suggest you spend the night in Barstow...Avoiding morning LA freeway traffic and crossing the Mojave in the cooler morning hours. At Kingman do drive the "Old 66" to Seligman. Then joining the I-40, up the hill to Williams... Or,alternatively put "in" Sedona ...by driving the 89 South & the 89a through Jerome...Spending a probably expensive night In Sedona will give you some idea of WHY you know of the place... That, from popular culture for,as you will find, the views there, can be put in a small corner of what you are about to visit...Next AM ,up the 89a To Flagstaff. Shop here for supplies as selection goes down & prices up from here... The scenic 180 then, to the South rim for sunset. If you cannot get early morning reservations for Antelope Canyon I suggest you give the attrection AND Page,a pass...Drive the 160 direct to M.Vy. take a tour(if you must). Then passing Mexican Hat, stop at Goose necks overlook and drive the "Moki Dugway (261) for a sunset view of the Vy.of the Gods. At the last "switch back". Into Blanding,(I like the town as well) on the 95. You might devote the next day into the drive (211) into Canyonlands & Moab hopefilly,by Dark. Leaving Moab for that sunset overview of Dead Horse SP, continue to Green River for the night to give you a leg up on the drive, and stops ,along the 24/12 into the bryce area...Happy trails...carracar
Jan 23, 2012 8:12 AM
10Thanks for all the great replies!
Carracar I'll definitively take your advice on staying the night in Barstow, it'll save us some money as well.
And I'm guessing it's not a very beautiful drive, so theoretically we could do it after it gets dark.
I'm officially concidering the Moki dugway! All the photos I've seen look amazing, and you just know that if the photos are amazing, that's nothing compared to seing it for real!
My only problem is in Blanding. There don't seem to be many choices for lodging (only one on booking.com!) Are there other motels/ hotels that aren't listed?
You've all given me a lot to think about!
Jan 23, 2012 8:58 AM
12There are 4 or 5 small towns between Page and Moab where you might find accomodations - Kayenta (before you get to Monument Valley, so not much use to you), there are two lodges right in Monument Valley, two or three motels in Mexican Hat (about 10 miles past MV), a handful of lodgings in Bluff, then Blanding (which is the largest town of the bunch), and finally Monticello. You won't find too many options on the big internet aggregators, most of the motels and lodges are of the small, independent "mom-and-pop" variety.
What I'd want you to avoid is getting into Blanding at dinner-time and wasting an evening there, when you could be getting settled in Moab. From a schedule perspective it makes WAY more sense to save yourself another unpack-and-repack event when the drive time is only a little more than an hour. UNLESS, you have a stop planned between Blanding and Moab, such as a detour to the Needles Distrcit of Canyonlands - in which case it makes sense to stop short of Moab; OR you've planned so many activities and detours that it is really getting late by the time you are finally heading on to Moab. Frankly, if that were the case, I'd prefer to stay at one of the small lodges or B+Bs in Bluff. Still, with just one full day in Moab you'll be pressed for time if you wanted to do anything besides Arches NP.
Jan 23, 2012 9:16 AM
Jan 23, 2012 2:08 PM
14I will strongly second the Moki Dugway, Gooseneck State Park, Valley of the Gods, and Natural Bridges NM.
Truly lots of good stuff in that region, after Navajo NM and Monument Valley. Hence my initial view that you stop in Blanding if it's late - rather than carrying on through to Moab. But either would be fine.
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