(Another) California road trip
Replies: 41 - Last Post: Jul 24, 2012 7:22 PM Last Post By: ThomasWeiss
Jul 22, 2012 7:42 PM
(Another) California road tripHi there,
I'm planning a 16 day road trip in California for this coming October (hope the weather is good at this time of the year).
I've already read lots of articles and posts on the topic, so I roughly know that I want to follow this path: San Francisco -> Los Angeles -> Las Vegas -> Yosemite -> San Francisco. I know that this may be quite dense for just 2 weeks of what should be vacations :) so I may drop Las Vegas (your thoughts on that are welcome).
Right now I already have a good idea of what to see from SF to LA, but I would like to get hints about what to see:
(1) from LA to LV
(2) from LV to Yosemite
(either places to stop by or best roads to take for the scenery)
Thanks in advance for your help,
Jul 22, 2012 8:31 PM
1Depends a lot on your interests ... if you are into national parks and great desert scenery, the very best reason to include Las Vegas is as a convenient gateway to the Grand Canyon South Rim, or a somewhat longer trip (GCNP North Rim, Bryce Canyon, and Zion NP, and back to Las Vegas). You have the time to include it.
There isn't a whole lot of specific attractions LA to Las Vegas - one option is to just drive it as directly as you can (in about 5 hours along I-15). If you start at 10:00am and arrive at 3:00pm, then you will avoid the peak of rush hour at either end. If you just include the South Rim, then one night Las Vegas, one night at the Grand Canyon Village (or nearby Tusayan), then one night back in Las Vegas - this way you don't waste day time in Las Vegas. If you do this option, definitely stop at Hoover Dam - it's a beauty.
If you take the longer northern option, then you need three nights out of Las Vegas (to not be too rushed - the parks are stunning).
Heading back, Las Vegas to YNP is a great drive, and you can stop somewhere along the very scenic Hwy 395 (Lone Pine, Bishop, etc). This route via Death Valley NP is very rewarding. You would be very unlucky to have an unusually early snowfall that closes Tioga Pass - in recent years it hasn't been earlier than November (in 2004 the date was 17 October, but that is a real outlier).
Jul 22, 2012 10:27 PM
Jul 22, 2012 11:26 PM
4Thanks a lot for your both replies, I especially appreciate the route from Vegas to YNP.
I wonder if I'll make it to Grand Canyon, though ; I mean, doing LA -> Vegas, than Vegas -> Grand Canyon, and Grand Canyon -> Vegas in three days means that we would spend something like 6 hours driving each day... I'm sure the sceneries are worth it, but that may be tiring as well ; I have to check this with my wife! :)
I'm also afraid there isn't much to see in Vegas besides hotels and casinos. Living in Hong Kong, I've been to Macau a couple of times and, despite being much smaller than Vegas, it's probably the same kind of experience.
Anyway, thanks again for your precious help. I may post my entire plan once it's defined, for you to review! :)
Jul 22, 2012 11:37 PM
5Las Vegas is an amazing experience - no doubt about that - but even if that palls, the drive out to the Grand Canyon is well worth it. And while 4-6 hours driving per day sounds a lot, the roads are a total breeze, and the scenery is very interesting indeed. I would encourage you to do it - with 16 days you certainly have the time to do it (even the North Rim - Bryce - Zion route - it is very good, and you might only come by this area once).
Jul 23, 2012 12:08 AM
6OK so you convinced me, I keep Vegas and the Grand Canyon in the list! :)
Now, refining the list of stops along the journey, I have some additional questions:
(1) I plan to go from SF to LA in 4 steps - that's slow but this area looks fantastic as well and I don't want to rush with 15 hours of jetlag still in the legs. The overnight stops I've selected so far are Monterey, than Grover Beach, than Santa Barbara and finally LA. Does it look good or are there better choices?
(2) Any recommended overnight stop between Las Vegas and Lone Pine?
(3) Is there anything to see back from YNP to San Francisco? I mean, something worth staying overnight?
Thanks again, I could not make such quick progress without your help,
Jul 23, 2012 12:33 AM
7Well done ... you'll thank me.
On the SF to LA journey, I know Monterey, Cambria, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara. Don't know Grover Beach. Many people would suggest three days in total is good, so SF > Monterey, Monterey > San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo > LA. But if adding another night, Santa Barbara is a really good choice.
No need to stop between Las Vegas and Lone Pine - nice day drive through Death Valley, but that's all that's required. From YNP back to San Francisco, there is a lot of agricultural country and some uninspiring towns (Merced, Turlock, etc). Lots of Mexicans toiling in broccoli fields ... that sort of thing. Others might be able to advise better, but if you want to add a night, you could head north after YNP, and go via some goldfields and maybe wine regions.
The Americans will wake up soon ... and they'll be able to add a lot more texture.
Jul 23, 2012 12:37 AM
Jul 23, 2012 4:32 AM
10We did much of this in 2004 in 16 days, and also fitted in San Diego. But as this was winter, we flew from Yosemite (Bakersfield) to vegas so removed about half your drive.
We only went to Vegas as a base to do the Grand Canyon, but ended up loving the place.
Yosemite is simply awesome, and we'd have loved to have more time here, but had to scramble to make a flight so skipped Kings Canyon.
I assume SF to LA is via Highway 1? If so, allow 2-3 days, the road is slow but there is much to see. We liked Pismo Beach, Cambria and Carmel-by-the sea.
You could drive to the Grand Canyon but we took a day trip - flying over the canyon, landing nearby, coach to the rim and then back, which we thought the best way to see it all, and keep down the time.
The drive between SF and Yosemite is unremarkable - knock it off in one go and spend more time in Yosemite or see the giants in Kings Canyon.
Jul 23, 2012 4:54 AM
Day 1 - Fly to xSF, spend night
Day 2 - xSF
Day 3 - xSF
Day 4 - xYosemite
Day 5 - xYosemite
Day 6 - xYosemite
Day 7 - xDeath Valley
Day 8 - xVegas
Day 9 - xGrand Canyon
Day 10 - xBryce
Day 11 - xZion
Day 12 - xZion
Day 13 - xVegas
Day 14 - xLA
Day 15 - xLA
Day 16 - xLA
Or something like that....
If you arrive before Oct 15 (the day facilities close), you can go to the north rim of the canyon to save drive time.
Book park lodging NOW. It's not as busy as summer, but you can still be booked or priced out in places (like the north rim).
Jul 23, 2012 7:39 AM
12Grover Beach is a very small town. There is only one place to stay--a Holiday Inn Express.
Cambria, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, or Pismo Beach would all be better choices. Cambria is a charing, artsy town with a lot of B&Bs and good places to eat. Morro Bay is larger, with ore to do.
Cambria is not far south of Hearst Castle. You could stay there & take an early morning tour. Book your tour in advance, as they do fill up.
If you can make it on a Thursday, then stay in San Luis Obispo for the Thursday NIght MArket. San Luis has lots of lodging, places to eat, and pubs.
Lots of wineries between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
Jul 23, 2012 8:00 AM
13@Harry_Ramsden: the day trip to the Grand Canyon in interesting. Is it from Las Vegas? You go there by coach? How much roughly per person?
@bzookaj: I land in SF on Oct. 5th and leave on the 22nd. Your route looks good, although I fly back from SF.
@nutraxfornerves: Thanks for the tips. I'm really looking forward going down the coast, it definitely looks unique...
Jul 23, 2012 11:23 AM
14Grover Beach is one of a series of beach towns just south of San Luis Obispo. I'd consider them all to be "greater" Pismo Beach. In summer they're a get-away for folks living in inland parts of California, and they're sort of honky-tonk. It's not a bad place to be, with the beach at your doorstep and San Luis Obispo just 20 minutes away. But I think SLO itself might be a better place to stay because it's a pleasant small city with restaurants, a Spanish mission on a lovely central plaza, etc. etc.
I wouldn't do a day trip to the Grand Canyon -- it's 10+ hours on a bus, for a couple hours at the canyon. If you want to see the Grand Canyon, do the drive and stay overnight at least one night.
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