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  1. Default San Franciso to Vegas - what to do ?

    My wife and I are trying to work out the best way to see a little of your country by driving from San Francisco to Vegas over 2 days late december this year. We are on our way to friends for christmas, and ended up arriving a few days early, and decided that although we would love to do a long road trip accross the states, a quick one was better than nothinig.

    We have investigated enough to realise that trying to go through Yosemite at that time of year is best left for people who can spend more time and who are better prepared than 2 australians just landed. We have found that a few guide books recomend to drive the big sur coast, therefore we thought we could drive down highway 1 to Santa Barbara and then onto to Vegas.

    My question is, if there is an easy way to do yosemite, would love to know, and if there is any other ways to go that might offer a quick view into a few uniquely american experiances from culture to sights, probably more on culture, ( from diners, truckstops, cute small towns, etc). would love to stop overnight in a small town if that could be advised.

    look forward to hearing from all who can help.

  2. #2
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    Default Do Be Do Be Do

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    First things first. If you're arriving directly from Australia, I wouldn't count on doing anything on your first day in the States. The time difference between Sydney and San Francisco is about 6 hours (8 hours for Perth to San Francisco) and you are going to be seriously jet-lagged. Otherwise, that particular trip is one the most discussed (if not the most discussed) on these forums, so for starters, look into the similar threads listed at the bottom of this page, and this thread which contains more links to other threads discussing this route. But basically you should probably be looking at the route down through California's Central Valley (I-5) and then across CA-58 to I-15 into Las Vegas. That set of roads will let you get to Las Vegas in one hard day's drive, or more to your liking, two more relaxed days while seeing some Americana.

    I wouldn't head to Yosemite at that time of year. It will be mostly snowed in and you could easily get yourself snowbound for a while if the weather turns nasty. But it will be possible for you to head down the coast a ways on CA-1 to see Big Sur, but I wouldn't recommend going as far as Santa Barbara. It would be a bit far to go with your limited time frame, and if you did, you'd be committing yourselves to a drive through at least the outskirts of the LA metropolis. I think you'd be better served by turning inland just south of Cambria on CA-46 to the Bakersfield area where you'd join CA-58, etc. as above. If you do this, then you will have seen a gorgeous piece of coast, and can also think about visiting Edwards Air Force Base, home of the "Right Stuff", and Mojave National Preserve, with some otherworldly landscapes. If you time it right, you could hike to the top of the Kelso sand dunes in time for sunset and still make it up to Las Vegas. Also, this route keeps you in pretty rural environs once you leave the Bay Area, so you'll get a chance to see some small town America. Bakersfield, while not exactly a small town, is about the halfway point, and will pretty much guarantee that you'll be able to find a motel room if you can't find one in the smaller farming communities that surround it.

    Best of Luck

    AZBuck
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-20-2006 at 02:57 PM. Reason: Add link to field report at Mojave Preserve

  3. #3
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    Default Most discussed route on this board!

    Quote Originally Posted by aussie chris
    My wife and I are trying to work out the best way to see a little of your country by driving from San Francisco to Vegas over 2 days late december this year.
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! As I mentioned in your "Welcome" letter a route between Las Vegas and San Francisco is one of the most discussed roadtrips on this Forum. Five of those threads are shown at the bottom of this page -- look at the "Similar Threads" box.
    We have investigated enough to realise that trying to go through Yosemite at that time of year is best left for people who can spend more time and who are better prepared than 2 australians just landed.
    Actually, it has little to do with your experience or state of mind or anything else. Tioga Pass (SR-120) is closed in December due to snow and you can not use Yosemite valley as a transit corridor to Las Vegas. Now, you could still visit the park on your way to Las Vegas -- but I am not sure you really have enough time.
    We have found that a few guide books recomend to drive the big sur coast, therefore we thought we could drive down highway 1 to Santa Barbara and then onto to Vegas.
    The Pacific Coast highway (SR-1) is an awesome road -- but in December it is subject to rain storms and rock slides. Of course, you could be very lucky and hit one of the stunningly clear days that we often see in December. Look at this thread to see some of those stunning views. The best guidebook I have ever found for the coast highway is this one by Paige. Make sure you do the 17-mile toll scenic drive in Monterey! If you do the coast route, I would stay over-night at Cayucos or Avila Beach and then head northeast on SR-168 (which becomes the Maricopa Highway) along the Cuyama River up to SR-99 and then north to Bakersfield and then SR-58 over Tehachapi to US-395 and then north to the Randsburg Red Rock Road (drive around this coming-back-to-life-sorta-ghost-town-of-Randsburg) and then north on Trona Road to SR-178. Just before you get to Westend, take the graded dirt road to Trona Pinnacles (if you saw the most recent "Planet of the Apes" movie, you will recognize the place) and then go back north on SR-178 past Trona to either the Panamint Valley Road and on up to SR-190 for the ascent over TownePass into Death Valley OR: if you are feeling "frisky" instead of heading north on the Panamint Valley road, take the lesser traveled road (Trona Wildrose Road) and follow this windy, but more-or-less paved road over Emigrant Pass and up Emigrant Canyon. [There is short section 2-3 miles in Wildrose Wash where the road surface has been eroded by scores of small springs -- it is a very pretty road, but you do need to pay attention!]

    Either way you will reach Death Valley NP -- cruise around a while and then follow SR-190 out to Death Valley Junction and then you can follow the "local's shortcut" back to Pahrump. [State Line road turns into Ash Meadows Road] head south on SR-160 and follow it all the way to Las Vegas.

    This route would provide a glimpse into small coastal towns, a couple of western ghost towns, a famous emigrant trail, Death Valley NP and some incredibily awesome coastal and desert scenic views.
    My question is, if there is an easy way to do yosemite,
    Alternatively you could do Yosemite, but since you only have two days. I would suggest you go directly from San Francisco to Yosemite -- spend the rest of the day exploring whatever roads are open (snow again) and then spend the night at Mariposa or one of the Gold Rush country towns. And then make a beeline south and either follow my suggestion above (the Death Valley route) or stay on SR-58 all the way over to Barstow, California where you will pick up I-15 for the drive to Las Vegas.

    Route segments: Assuming you stop and check out the views, take some photos, eat a meal or two and enjoy the ride: Coast route to Avila Bay (8 hours); Avila Bay to Las Vegas (11 hours). San Franciso to Yosemite and Mariposa (8+ hours). Mariposa to Death Valley to Las Vegas (10.5 hours); Mariposa to Las Vegas (direct) (7.5 hours).

    Happy Planning!

    Mark

  4. Default san francisCo to vegas

    thank you AZbuck and Mark. I will need to refference this to a map and work it out. I realise there is a lot of info on the forum about this route, but having trouble placing things as I know SF LA and LV and that's about it, so putting it into perspective for me is greatly appreciated.

    Give me a day to reveiw, and I'll get back with my ideas if you are happy to have a look at for me.

    Tham you both for not pointing out I can't spell san francisCo !

    chris

  5. Default which way ?

    I have plotted a rough drive thanks to both your replies. a few questions if anyone has time to advise. have purchased the book you suggested Mark, should be more up with highways and places soon, but hasn't arrived yet so appologies for my exteamley limited knowledge.

    -leaving San Francisco, should we start on 1 and drive the coast from their, or should we drive the 101 and get down to santa cruz before hitting the coast?

    - have found AZbucks route accross from Cambria, but if we went further south to avila beach, my maps arn't detailed enough to follow marks rout up to bakers feild. do you start just north of Santa Maria off the 101 throuh to 5

    - have plotted Marks suggestion up through death valley, if we stay in avila beach, does that leave a a big drive on the second day from there to las vegas, your should we stay in bakersfeild. getting the impression that avila beach would be more of an experience for us.

    look forward to hearing from you, thanks again, your help has been invaluable.

  6. #6
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    Jan 1998
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    Default My suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by aussie chris
    -leaving San Francisco, should we start on 1 and drive the coast from their, or should we drive the 101 and get down to santa cruz before hitting the coast?
    Given the time parameters I would avoid using any of US-101 south from San Francisco! I would suggest you use I-280 to SR-85 to SR-17 and follow that to Santa Cruz and then south on SR-1. [While it is true you could follow SR-1 all the way from San Francisco and it is a pretty road -- but you still have a time problem]
    - have found AZbucks route accross from Cambria, but if we went further south to avila beach, my maps arn't detailed enough to follow marks rout up to bakersfield. do you start just north of Santa Maria off the 101 throuh to 5
    Don' forget you can use anyone of the online mapping programs and get more detail than you will ever need. Google Maps or Yahoo's Earth are pretty fun. But, yes, SR-168 joins US-101 just to the north of Santa Maria and then it skirts the southern edge of the Carrizo Plain National Monument -- but I am suggesting that you bypass I-5 and go all the way over to SR-99 before heading north to Bakersfield.
    - have plotted Marks suggestion up through death valley, if we stay in avila beach, does that leave a a big drive on the second day from there to las vegas, your should we stay in bakersfeild. getting the impression that avila beach would be more of an experience for us.
    It can be done in a day -- a long day, but not a killer day.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-24-2006 at 07:01 PM. Reason: removed the "stranded" quote (oops)

  7. #7
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    Default Any Which Way

    Quote Originally Posted by aussie_chris
    Should we start on CA-1 and drive the coast from San Francisco, or should we drive US-101 to get down to Santa Cruz?
    Actually, you are going to see plenty of coastline, and US-101 is a bit built up, so consider a road that I have fond memories of. CA-35 and CA-9 down through Boulder Creek and Felton was a serenely wooded and lovely drive when I last did it - but that was more than 20 years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by aussie_chris
    My maps aren't detailed enough to follow Mark's route up to Bakersfield.
    I think there might be a typo there. I believe the route number should be CA-166 rather than CA-168. It passes through Santa Maria and Maricopa, and joins CA-99 about 10 miles south of Bakersfield.

    Quote Originally Posted by aussie_chris
    If we stay in Avila Beach, does that leave a big drive on the second day from there to Las Vegas?
    It would be about 440 miles if you just went from Avila Beach to Las Vegas without a side trip to Death Valley. So that's quite within reason for a day's drive. It is unfortunate that we have to choose a limited number of destinations on a road trip, but such is life.

    AZBuck

  8. Default SF to Vegas

    A few months ago, AZbuck and Mark gave me some great information of how to drive from SF to Vegas. We are now 3 weeks away from arriving in SF, I was hoping to post the route I have worked out ( from their advice ) and see if anyone can give me any other tips, or more importantly, let me know if we are heading for trouble. Would also love to hear if I have left little time etc for where we are going.

    280 out of SF to Redwood City, 35 to Boulder Creek, 17 to Santa Cruz. Take the 1 from Santa Cruz to make sure we go down Montery toll, Big Sur all the way to Hurst castle. We plan to turn off the 1 just after Cambria on the 46 and follow that all the way through to the 99 and down to Bakersfield for the night.

    We were assuming we can play it by ear as far as accomodation is concerned, hoping to find something. is this stupid?

    From Bakersfield we are planning to head down the 58 to the 14 and head north to Death Valley. this is where I'm not sure. Would love to go to Edwards AF base, but only if there is something to see and not take too much time away from Death Valley and be able to still reach Vegas that early evening. Anyway, back on the road, up the 14 ( or to Four Corners then north if we do Edwards ) to the 178 and west to Ridgecrest and onto the Trona Pinnacles. From here my map seems to go to very local roads. I don't want to get off bitumen, as I will have a rental. Assume I need to get up to Death Valley by getting to the 190, heading north east past the Stove Pipe Wells, then south east down the national scenic byway to DV junction. from here, I think AZbuck said to take the Pahrump back road, and into Vegas. is this route down 127, up 178 into 372 to Pahrump, or is it the no number road on my map that looks more direct alond the state line? from Pahrump, I assume the 160 into vegas is the best way.

    If anyone has the time to look at this I would greatly appreciate it. I must thank all those who have made getting to this point very easy, it was your advice and encouragement that convinced us to drive, which if we didn't, we would be missing out on a great part of our US holiday.

  9. #9
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    Default A couple of modifications

    Quote Originally Posted by aussie chris View Post
    280 out of SF to Redwood City, 35 to Boulder Creek, 17 to Santa Cruz. Take the 1 from Santa Cruz to make sure we go down Montery toll, Big Sur all the way to Hurst castle. We plan to turn off the 1 just after Cambria on the 46 and follow that all the way through to the 99 and down to Bakersfield for the night.
    This route is too long for one day. Either you will need to drive too fast or you need to "straighten" some of the curvy sections. I would cut county road 35 and take I-280 directly to CA-17. (I-280 follows the San Andreas fault and is very scenic -- plus you might even reach the posted speed limit in a couple of places).
    ...Take the 1 from Santa Cruz to make sure we go down Montery toll,...
    Um. What? There is no toll road -- oh wait a moment -- you are referring to the Pebble beach road. It is a gorgeous route, but you do not have time to include this road (average speed = 30 mph) and still travel the entire length of the Big Sur and reach Bakersfield before 9:00 pm If you are going to spend any time at Hearst castle -- you need to make sure that you can get there in time for a tour. (You can't enter the grounds unless you are a tour). If you are going to leave CA-1 at Cambria, I would stay overnight at Paso Robles (and allow more time for exploring the coast). But Bakersfield is fine too.
    We were assuming we can play it by ear as far as accomodation is concerned, hoping to find something. is this stupid?
    It is how I prefer to travel.
    From Bakersfield we are planning to head down the 58 to the 14 and head north to Death Valley. this is where I'm not sure. Would love to go to Edwards AF base,
    I am not sure if you can even visit the AFB in these days of higher restrictions. Perhaps someone else can jump here on this point, but I really don't see how you have enough time. What I would suggest is to proceed east on CA-58 as planned and then take CA-14 north along the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, through Red Rock Canyon State Park and and then CA-178 through Ridgecrest (since you wanted to see the Trona Pinnacles).
    From here my map seems to go to very local roads. I don't want to get off bitumen, as I will have a rental. Assume I need to get up to Death Valley by getting to the 190, heading north east past the Stove Pipe Wells, then south east down the national scenic byway to DV junction. from here,
    Not really, it is all state/county roads and if you don't look at the map (too much) you won't really be aware when you are not on state highways -- After Trona, it is called Panamint Valley Road. The road surface in Saline valley is a little rough -- but certain RTA editors have been known to travel some version of three digits on this route. (The road to Trona Pinnacles is a graded, gravel road...)

    Actually a great place to catch a soda and check out the immense redwood burl bar is only a short three minute detour... When you reach CA-190, turn left (west) and drive to Panamint Springs. Nice, friendly staff -- very cool western photographs and then you can jump in the car and head east again on CA-190.

    You will be driving through one of my favorite places in the world. Don't speed thru -- there is so much to marvel at in Death Valley NP.
    I think AZbuck said to take the Pahrump back road, and into Vegas. is this route down 127, up 178 into 372 to Pahrump, or is it the no number road on my map that looks more direct alond the state line? from Pahrump, I assume the 160 into vegas is the best way.
    But, yes, you follow CA-190 past Furnace Creek out to the Death Valley Junction -- but when you reach the junction take the locals route! There are lots of signs! What you do is turn left (east) on State Line Road -- this turns into Ash Meadows Road and changes its name a third time to Bell Vista Avenue when you reach the outskirts of Pahrump. (You don't make any route changes -- the names of the road change). When you reach NV-160, turn right (south) and follow it all the way through town and all the way over to I-15 and then north into downtown Las Vegas.

    If you want to follow NV-127 from the junction -- that works too -- it goes through the little town of Shoshone -- very cool little museum and lots of ghost town stuff in the surrounding hills. This route is about twice the distance of the "local's route".

    Mark

  10. #10
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    Default So much stuff so little time

    I will say it sounds like you are trying to cram in a whole lot of stuff in not very much time. Are you sure you can't add another overnight? Even on a rush schedule, I think you'll help yourself out a ton by staying around Paso Robles the first night, stay in DV the second night, and finish out your trip to Vegas the following morning.

    We were assuming we can play it by ear as far as accomodation is concerned, hoping to find something. is this stupid?
    That said, hotel reservations are a little tricky. Bakersfield isn't usually a place where its tough to find a room, and for this trip I wouldn't want to make reservations either, in case you discover you have bitten off a little more than you can chew that first night. No reservation would give you the flexibility to change your schedule en route.

    However, since this trip is over the holidays, it is more likely that rooms would be filled. I'd say how close your trip is to actually falling on Christmas will be a significant factor in finding a room. If its midweek the week before christmas, I wouldn't worry, if its the weekend right before christmas, I'd lean towards making a reservation.

    I am not sure if you can even visit the AFB in these days of higher restrictions. Perhaps someone else can jump here on this point, but I really don't see how you have enough time.
    You can still get on the base. I've been on it a few of times in recent years, a couple times for work and once for leasure. You'll have to have your ID checked and your car searched, but you can otherwise go on the base. Until I was there, I never realized just how much of a small city the base is - complete with its own high school football team.

    I believe there is a museum on the base, however, I don't see how you'll have any time to visit. You're looking at at about 7 hours of driving from Bakersfield to Vegas via DV. Its going to be hard enough to make it to Vegas in the early evening with just quick stops in DV, I don't see how you'd be able to add anything else in to this leg.
    Last edited by Quebec Gen; 11-22-2006 at 08:36 AM. Reason: typo

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