View Full Version : Road trip California May/June 2010 - Just started planning

06-29-2009, 07:27 AM

Been here for a while looking around but just registered today. First, I just wanted to say that this seems like a great forum packed with useful information!

I'm planning a road trip for next year and have just started planning for it. I though I would ask for some advise on how we should set up the trip. We would like to see LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Yosemite & Lake Tahoe. Is it possible to see all this in 3 weeks and what itinerary would be the best?

Here are some thoughts:

Fly in to LA (hire car at LAX) and spend a couple of days there. Then head down to San Diego. From SD to Las Vegas. From Las Vegas to Yosemite. From Yosemite to Lake Tahoe. From Tahoe to San Fransisco and then the costal route down to LA again where we return the car at LAX and fly back to Sweden.

Is this at all possible to do in 3 weeks? Is this a logical route or are there unnecessary driving?

I'm not looking for any details on the stops (I'm sure I can get that just searching in the existing treads) but simply some advice on the route.

Many thanks in advance

Midwest Michael
06-29-2009, 07:42 AM
Welcome to the RTA Forum!

Your route outline is fine, except for one potential issue. Traveling from Vegas to Yosemite to Tahoe to San Francisco means you'd have to cross the Sierras 3 times. This is of particular concern because Tioga Pass (the crossing through Yosemite) typically doesn't open for the year until late may or early june depending upon the weather. If the pass is closed, you'll be much better off going to Tahoe first, then hitting Yosemite on the way back to SFO.

06-29-2009, 08:38 AM
If you do that, you can get back across the Sierras on CA-88 (Carson Pass) which is maintained year-round and to me, it's a lot more scenic and less heavily traveled than US-50 or I-80.

06-29-2009, 08:59 AM
OK, thanks!

So start and finish in LA is a good idea? We would like to start and finish at the same place due to lower air fare but would it be better to choose Las Vegas, San Diego or San Francisco instead of LA?

Midwest Michael
06-29-2009, 09:13 AM
Since you are doing a loop trip, I don't see why it would matter where you start/finish. You're going to go to all of the same places regardless. I'd shop around and see where you can find the best prices for airfare/car rental and go from there.

06-29-2009, 09:28 AM
That's true, probably the best way to do it.

But three weeks should be enough for this trip?

Midwest Michael
06-29-2009, 09:37 AM
We have thousands of posts and questions about a trip that follows this same general outline, and I'd say that 2-3 weeks is a pretty average amount of time for this loop. You really shouldn't have any problems having a great time with this amount of time.

06-29-2009, 09:39 AM
Perfect, thanks for your help!

Southwest Dave
06-29-2009, 10:32 AM
Hi Sofia,

Here are some of our favorite threads covering the area. (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?p=35699#post35699) As Michael said, there are many many more you can find using the search button.

Three weeks to do your outline itinerary is pretty relaxed and the Grand canyon is only 5-6 hours from Vegas and a couple of nights there would be time well spent. From Vegas to Tahoe you could drive across the fascinating landscape of Death valley and make an overnight stop on route.

When you have decided where you will be starting from and need more help with your itinerary let us know and we can help piece your trip together.

06-29-2009, 01:33 PM
Thanks, will look around here. Have already found loads of info that helped.

I'll definitely ask for help again when I'm a bit further in the planing process.

Many thanks!

07-09-2009, 12:51 PM
Hi again!

I've done some research now and has a plan for the trip. This will be our honeymoon, so basicly what we are after is a bit of romance, beautiful nature & good food. We are planning to go May 20th to June 10th so three weeks exactly. I've read that the weather is very unpredictable during this period so I'm not ecpecting hot days on the beach in San Diego and LA but don't want it to be cold either. Is this still a good time to go? (I know, an impossible question but I though I would through it out there)

So here is the plan:

Day 1: Arriving in LA
Day 2: Drive to San Diego
Day 3: San Diego
Day 4: San Diego
Day 5: San Diego
Day 6: Drive to Las Vegas
Day 7: Las Vegas
Day 8: From Vegas stay a night in Death Valley
Day 9 & 10: Death Valley towards Yosemite. As I understand it this route is depending on if the Tioga pass is open or not. If open we can take the 395 and maybe stay a night in Mammoth Lake and then head to Yosemite the morning after. If closed I guess we have to go "around" and enter from the south via Oakhearst? This is a very long drive isn't it? So any suggestions for a stop on the way?
Day 11: Arriving Yosemite
Day 12: Yosemite
Day 13: Drive from Yosemite to San Francisco
Day 14: San Francisco
Day 15: San Francisco
Day 16-18: Drive from San Francisco towards LA, 2 stops on the coast, Carmel? Monterey? Suggestions?
Day 19: LA
Day 20: LA (Six Flags)
Day 21: LA
Day 22: Flying back to Sweden

Is there anything you would change? Are there any problematic days? We don't want to spend too many "only driving days".

Many thanks in advance

Midwest Michael
07-09-2009, 01:45 PM
This is a very good outline.

The only area I would suggest some possible changes is the Death Valley/Yosemite section. Basically, you really don't need 2 full days to get between the parks. If you are going over Tioga or if you are going around, you can get between the two in a day, its just a fairly full day on the road.

But if you want an overnight stop, or you aren't planning to leave DV until later in the day, then yes, somewhere on 395 would be a good stop if the pass is open. If it is closed, the Lake Isabella area make a nice pit stop about halfway between DV and Yosemite.

07-09-2009, 02:20 PM
3 days to get from SF to LA down the coast road is plenty of time. From a drive time standpoint, dividing it up into 3rds, the logical stops would probably be in the Monterey and San Luis Obispo areas. It's not far from SF to Monterey, but there's a LOT to see in that area. The second day, you would have plenty of time to wander around Big Sur and take a Hearst Castle tour. SLO to LA on 101 is essentially a freeway all the way.

07-11-2009, 07:08 AM
Thanks! Good to know I'm on the right track!

03-31-2010, 11:32 AM
Hi guys!

It's getting closer and we are now finalising the plans. We have booked hotels in SF, LA, SD, LV and Yosemite but have left the nights in between open. Is this a good idea or will it be hard to get hotel rooms if booking the same day or day before?

Thanks for helping!

Southwest Dave
03-31-2010, 02:40 PM
Death valley has limited lodging and if you want to stay in the park it might be worth researching what is available but you should find options on the 395 at places such as Lone pine or Bishop.

The coastal route should have quite a few options and I would of thought it OK to wait and see if you are unsure of where you will stop for the night.

04-03-2010, 06:33 AM
OK, perfect. Thanks Dave.

Just had a thought and would like to hear what you think. We have left two night "open" between Vegas and Yosemite and got the idea to go to Lake Tahoe before heading to Yosemite as Michael suggested in the beginning of the thread. When looking at maps and searching in this forum it seems to be possible to drive from Vegas to Tahoe in one day but will that have to be just a transportation day with no possibility to make some stops along the way?

We still want to go through Death Valley and then drive 395 via Mono Lake and then up to Tahoe. Is this at all possible to do in one day?

When leaving Tahoe for Yosemite what is our options? If Tioga pass is open, is this our best option or is there another/better/more beautiful way to do it?

As always, I'm very grateful for all your advice

Southwest Dave
04-03-2010, 07:17 AM
I wouldn't attempt it in one day, it would be a 10 hour day before you stopped to do any sight seeing. Staying near Mono lake [Lee vining]is the furthest I would recommend in a day. You could then continue to Tahoe or over Tioga and that decision might be made for you by the road conditions.

If Tioga is open I personally would stop at Stovepipe wells and Lee vining and take my time exploring DV and bits in between but that's just me, I have not yet been to Tahoe but it does look nice.

You could check out "Bodie ghost town" near Lee vining but some of the road in is unpaved on the way in and might violate the terms of your car rental.

04-07-2010, 04:15 AM
Ok, thanks for the "reality check". I think we will follow your advice and take our time on the way instead of rushing pass all the beautiful sights.

Thanks for helping.

06-02-2010, 05:10 PM

We are about half through our trip now and we are loving it! Are taking a few days break now in Vegas and are planning to start for Yosemite tomorrow. It looks like Tioga won't be open so what's you advice to us? We have two nights before we have lodging booked in the park.

I believe these are our options:
Go 190 through DV and then 395 up to 108 and drive around and in to the park from the west? Is CA 108 open? And if so can we drive through with a normal car? Will we need snow chains?

Go through Bakersfield & Fresno.

Which way are the most scenic? We don't just want two days of transportation. Any advice you can give is much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance

06-02-2010, 06:05 PM
Caltrans (http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi) reports "NO TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS ARE REPORTED FOR THIS AREA." So Death Valley to US-395 to CA-108 is the way I'd go. It's certainly more scenic and interesting than the Bakersfile - Fresno route.


06-02-2010, 07:14 PM
Yep - Sonora, Ebbetts, and Monitor Passes are all open now. This was a late one this year.

06-02-2010, 10:16 PM
Thanks for helping!

Southwest Dave
06-03-2010, 03:08 AM
Hi Sofia, pleased to see you are having a great time, I will look forward to reading all about it when you return ;-)

You are right in thinking the Tioga is not going to be open, but the 108 is, and there are no chain requirements. You can update on the Caltrans site here. (http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/mtnhwys.htm) I have not driven the road but it is said to be very scenic. Heading North you could stop around Lone Pine or Bishop depending on the time you leave Vegas and spend in DV. You could also stop for a while at Mono Lake before continuing across the Sierra's on day 2. There is a gas station on the junction of 395 and 120, if you drive up the hill alongside it, you can get a great view of the lake. If you are hungry at this point there is a great diner in the gas station called "Woah Noah's Deli. Heading South you could head to the Lake Isabella area and then drive through Sequoia NP on the 198 from Three rivers [Visalia] and stop at the "Giants forest", home to largest living thing on the planet, the "General Sherman tree". North is overall more scenic, South will give you another National park, Sequoia.

There is no right or wrong choice, if neither choice stand out to you above the other, you might have to flip a coin ;-)

Good luck and enjoy the rest of your trip !