Road Trip Advice request: Las Vegas to San Diego via San Francisco
Replies: 21 - Last Post: Aug 30, 2012 9:48 AM Last Post By: kenko
Aug 23, 2012 11:47 AM
My wife and I and 1 year old son (who is a good traveler) are planning our first road trip in the US, starting in Las Vegas, finishing in San Diego, via SF, for 18 days, starting on the 12th of October after time in Las Vegas.
With the baby, we are not going to be doing any serious hiking, but are keen to get a look at great scenery, with some light walks.
Our proposed itinerary is:
Oct-12 Leave LV, arrive Grand Canyon
Oct-13 Bryce Canyon
Oct-14 Zion NP
Oct-15 Death Valley
Oct-18 Lake tahoe or Sonora
Oct-20 SF -Susalito, Muir Wood
Oct-21 Muir Wood
Oct-23 San Luis Opisbo
Oct-24 Santa Barbara
Oct-25 Arrive LA
Oct-28 Orange County
Oct-29 San Diego
Any tips or suggestions?
We would also appreciate accommodation suggestions - good budget options ideally.
Aug 23, 2012 12:01 PM
1Cut Tahoe/Sonora. Add it to xSF.
Visit xMuir Wood before xSF. Cut the extra time there. Add it to xUtah to account for the drive between the Canyon and xBryce (about 6 hours, excluding stops). (I would make it a second night at xZion, with the morning in xBryce.)
Cut xSan Diego. Visit xMono Lake and xBodie State Park before xYosemite, or spend another day in xMonterey.
If you have to visit xSan Diego, cut xOrange County and spend the time there.
Book your Yosemite lodging NOW.
Aug 23, 2012 1:02 PM
2My first reaction to the top of your itinerary is that you simply are not allowing enough time in some
of your destinations for the hundreds of miles you will be driving. You'd be arriving in the late afternoon
at some of spots- Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Lake Tahoe- and you won't have time to enjoy. You need
to add time or cut a few destinations (I love Bryce/Zion but that would be a logical cut) I'd recommend
cutting Tahoe in favor of Sonora (Columbia State Park is near Sonora- an incredible preserved Gold-Rush
town.) After Monterey, skip either the overnight in San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara and go directly to LA.
Remember- you want to be able to ENJOY your holiday without driving all day, every day. Cheers!
Aug 23, 2012 1:49 PM
3I would agree--cut Lake Tahoe/Sonora and add the time to SF.
It looks like you are thinking of driving from SF to Muir Woods and spending the night in that area. Muir Woods is so close to SF that you don't need to change lodging. You can see most of the big tree area in 2-3 hours. You could then spend an hour or so in Sausalito & drive back to SF.
You need to be aware of one thing as you drive from Death Valley to Yosemite. See this map. The road you will take is highway 120 (right under the words "Yosemite National Park." It is also called the Tioga Pass Road. This road closes for the winter after the first significant snowfall. It usually closes early to mid-November. In 2004 it closed on Oct. 17. If there is an early season snow, the road may close for one or two days, and then open again.
What may be more important to you is that after October 1, there are no services along the road. You may have to wait a long time for help should you have a breakdown.
In any case, you should be prepared to do the longer drive from Death Valley or Las Vegas. Details here
If you have a cell phone or have Internet access, you can get current information on the road before you start the drive. Here. Just enter 120 in the box or after the prompt on the phone.
Don't forget to reserve a child safety seat with the rental car company. In California, at least, police will stop you if they see that your son is not in the safety seat, in the back seat of the car.
Aug 23, 2012 2:18 PM
Aug 24, 2012 2:16 AM
5Thanks all - so much!
A couple of things I should have mentioned:
1. we know SF well, and so are not worried about spending more time there;
2. we are flying out from San Diego, and are mostly visiting friends there, but can get there later than the 29th.
So, is this looking more sensible:
Oct-12 Leave Las Vegas, arrive Grand Canyon
Oct-13 where should we stay en route to Bryce Canyon?
Oct-14 Bryce Canyon
Oct-15 Zion NP
Oct-16 Zion NP
Oct-17 Las Vegas stopover
Oct 18 Death Valley
Oct-19 Mono Lake and Bodie State Park
Oct-22 Sonora and Columbia State Park
Oct-23 Muir Wood to SF
Oct-25 SF -Sausalito
Oct-27 San Luis Opisbo
Oct-28 Arrive LA
Oct 30 LA
Oct 31 Orange County (visiting friends)
Nov 1 San Diego
By budget, I am thinking under $100 per night, but happy to splurge in parts, and know that at least the cities are going to cost a lot more than that...
Aug 24, 2012 4:51 AM
1) I'd suggest making the drive. Spend the night at xBryce. Spend a part of the next day at xBryce, then drive to xZion for the night. Spend the next day and night at xZion. But if you do want to stop along the way, xPage works.
2) This website uses brackets (i.e. '[' and ']') for links. When you place text between brackets, the website thinks it's a link. If you don't have an actual webpage to link, it links as a defualt to thron tree. Use parentheses instead.
If you drive, go before you enter xSF. You could visit xMuir Wood, then head there for dinner, for example.
In fact, since you are well versed in xSF, why not just cut it altogether? Then you can spend some time in xSan Diego. Or are you experienced there too?
and know that at least the cities are going to cost a lot more than that
Aug 24, 2012 10:57 AM
7Since it's about 240 miles from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon's South Rim and another 240 miles
returning to LV-- you will save a lot of driving time by going to the North Rim. It will be a much shorter
drive out the next day to go to Bryce/Zion. And you're right-- it's going to cost a lot more than $100
per night for San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego. You might check into pre-booking reservations
which you can cancel up to 1 day prior now on a website like hotels.com Rates go up on the weekends
for San Diego, and they usually decline for San Francisco, Los Angeles on weekends unless there are
special events going on. Have a great trip!
Aug 24, 2012 12:34 PM
8Ordinarily I much prefer North Rim, except ...
- accommodation is very limited ... so you need to plan well ahead ... a quick check indicates lodging is sold out on Oct. 12
- lodging and other services close on Oct. 16. The reason is the increasing likelihood of cold weather and snow once you get very far into October.
Operating out of Vegas, North Rim is much more convenient to Zion and Bryce, as well as being much preferable (in June through late-September) for great short walks. But, in your situation (late preparation, late in year), you may well be better off with South Rim.
You seem to be arriving at South Rim early-to-mid-afternoon. You may not want to leave first thing the next morning, as would likely be necessary in order to enjoy the East Rim Drive as well as get to Bryce at a reasonable hour (days are shorter in October). Thus, Page is a reasonable overnight point (Kanab might be a second choice).
Note that Bryce can also be quite chilly in mid-October, and snow (although unlikely) is not entirely out of the question.
Aug 24, 2012 6:27 PM
9We have done the trip from the GCNP South Rim to Bryce Canyon / Zion a couple of times.
Have one night at the South Rim - seeing the sunset for sure. We prefer it to the North Rim.
Rather than two nights at Zion NP, I suggest you take basically all day to drive from the South Rim to Tropic (or one of the motels at Bryce Canyon Village), either via Lake Powell or via Marble Canyon - either is good. Then spend the next day in Bryce Canyon NP (it's not a big park, but to do a couple of the easy trails, plus drive to all the lookout points, can easily take a full day), and spend your second night at Tropic/Bryce Canyon.
Then next day go very early, through the long tunnel to the Zion NP visitors center, park and take the shuttle bus all day, and then spend the night in Springdale (making sure you see sunset there - the cliffs surrounding the town are very scenic). A more optimal mix for the four nights available, in my view. And I recommend you detour through the Valley of Fire State Park on the way from Springdale to Las Vegas.
PS We've stayed twice at the Zion Park Motel in Springdale - a mom&pop place that was quite cheap and fine.
Aug 27, 2012 6:43 AM
Aug 27, 2012 9:12 AM
Aug 27, 2012 9:13 AM
12From Las Vegas to the South Rim is about 240 miles. From the South Rim east to get to the North Rim
is about another 225 miles. Then from the North Rim to Zion is another 130 miles or 170 miles to Bryce.
If you're a long-distance truck driver, it's all in a couple days work- but you're on holiday!
Aug 27, 2012 10:21 AM
13North Rim (closest rim point) is a 44 mile (each way) drive from the US89A route between South Rim and Bryce, on a pleasant (quite lovely in its later stretches) but not very fast-going road. Moreover, the rim point you access in this way is by no means the most interesting point on North Rim (except perhaps to Canyon connoisseurs), especially middayish. To get to the best (easily accessible) Canyon view takes another 20 miles, on much slower road, out to Cape Royal. Thus, North Rim is not a brief side-trip; it will take at least the better part of a half-day. Great for someone who has lots of time, but you don't.
Again, I much prefer North Rim, but (assuming, as before, that you can't get lodging at or near North Rim) I suspect you would be better off taking the time to properly appreciate South Rim and Bryce.
Aug 27, 2012 1:08 PM
14I agree - the two rims are quite different in style and experience, but given your time-frame, I don't think they are different enough to take time from Bryce Canyon - Zion NP.
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