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  1. Default san francisco to utah

    Hello there - I am so glad to have found this website, there's so much great information here! I haven't found a thread that answers this question but if there is, if someone can point me to it that would be great.

    I have just started planning a road trip from San Francisco to Utah, and I would love any suggestions. I'm a single mom of an 8-year-old son (he'll turn 9 this summer) and he loves camping and the outdoors so I thought this summer we'd take a few weeks and visit the 5 national parks in southern Utah. (I've never been there either.) I work for a school, and so my plan is to leave the minute we're both out of school (June 15) and hit the road. I've realized that Death Valley is on the way to Zion, and I think he would love the sand dunes, but I'm wondering if we'd be crazy to go to Death Valley in mid-June, since I've heard DV in the summer is insanely hot. Or maybe it's not that hot by then? I'm also now wondering if hitting all 5 parks in Utah would be overkill in one trip, although we can be gone for about 2 - 2 1/2 weeks. I found another website that suggests spending 2 days in each park, so maybe it's doable?

    Also, Googlemaps seems to be suggesting driving south from SF - Vegas - Zion if we went to Zion first, and ending at Arches then driving back to SF through Salt Lake City. Does that seem accurate?

    I've gotten some guidebooks out of the library, and plan to go to my AAA office and pick up some maps, but my basic question is does this trip seem reasonable to do in a few weeks?

    SF - Sequoia or Kings Canyon NP (to break up the driving) - Death Valley - Zion - Bryce - Capitol Reef - Canyonland - Arches - SF

    Many thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    Our first suggestion, since you plan on visiting several parks, would be to get a National Parks Pass. You can use this instead of having to pay admission separately at every park.

    For the average temperatures in Death Valley during a given month, here is a graphic . Yes, it's definitely hot there in June!

    Also, Googlemaps seems to be suggesting driving south from SF - Vegas - Zion
    This is one possibility, but certainly not the only one. You could definitely visit Sequoia and/or King's Canyon, but you could also head East through Yosemite and into Nevada, take US-6 to NV-375 (the Extraterrestrial Highway), then into Utah on US-93 and NV-319 to UT-56, then heading to Zion that way.

    Two and a half weeks is a good amount of time to get to most places in the country and explore. Some of the distances are large within the state of Utah, but even if you give yourself two days to visit each, according to the mileage chart, you will have plenty of time. The longest park-to-park distance is just 235 miles - Capitol Reef to Canyonlands.

    When you are coming back, you can experience the beauty of I-70. You don't absolutely have to come back through Salt Lake City, though it would definitely make for a nice stop along the way home.

    You can find more information about the parks you plan on visiting here.
    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-22-2007 at 08:06 AM. Reason: Link to Death Valley temperature graphic added

  3. Default

    Thanks for the feedback and tips! Somehow I missed the utah.com website on my online searches - it's very useful. And wow, I-70 is beautiful - we'll definitely have to drive back on that road. And thanks for the link to Death Valley weather - very helpful.

    I just did a more detailed mileage/driving plan, and it seems like Sequoia and Kings Canyon are more out of the way, than halfway between San Francisco and Death Valley, so I think I'll eliminate that part of the plan. But now I'm trying to figure out where to stop between SF and Death Valley - someplace mildly interesting for a 9-year-old boy. All I can come up with in my preliminary research is Bakersfield, which doesn't sound too exciting. Also planning out the mileage, I see why Google maps takes me through Salt Lake City on the way back to SF, it's actually a teeny bit shorter than going back down to Vegas then over to SF, so maybe we'll make a big loop:

    San Francisco - Death Valley - Las Vegas - Zion - Bryce - Capitol Reef - Canyonlands - Arches - Salt Lake City - San Francisco

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Tioga Pass could be open by then!

    Quote Originally Posted by sfmom View Post
    I just did a more detailed mileage/driving plan, and it seems like Sequoia and Kings Canyon are more out of the way, than halfway between San Francisco and Death Valley, so I think I'll eliminate that part of the plan.
    Snow levels in the Sierras are much lower than in past years and it is possible that Tioga Pass will be open in time for your adventure trip in mid-June. (In fact, it is the running favorite right now here) If it is, a trip over Tioga Pass is very compelling for kids of all ages. Actually, it will be very hot in June and if you look at the link (just mentioned) you can read about Mono Lake and the ghost town of Bodie. I think your son would be fascinated by Bodie. Death Valley is one of my all-time favorite national parks, but I wonder if you might save that for a winter vacation and head north from here? If you go see Bodie, you could then head south on US-395 to CA-120 and follow that Benton and then follow US-6 to Tonapah. Tonapah has one of the best mining museums in the country and is full of artifacts and cool stuff to look at (and climb on) and then you could head over to Ely and check out the railroad museum. What is truly amazing about this place is that they let folks wander around -- very few of the working railroad buildings are closed to visitors and if the train is running -- it really is fun. Here is a little more about a field trip I took to Ely from Las Vegas. I think you would both enjoy staying overnight at the Hotel Nevada!

    From Ely you can follow US-50 into Utah to start your exploration of those parks. You can still swing south into Las Vegas and Death Valley on your way home, but I suspect you will have more fun if you focus your energy to northern California, Central Nevada and Central Utah. Here is a field report that includes info about Bryce, Coral Sands and other places and a brief one about Zion.

    Mark

  5. Default

    thank you for the suggestions! I've been resisting going east through Yosemite to Utah because we're going to Yosemite at the end of the summer, for the 5th summer in a row now, and I wanted to take us on a different route for our road trip. But with that said, I've never been over Tioga Pass. And I mentioned the ghost town & train idea to my son last night and he thought that would be "so wicked," in his 8-year-old words. And I have no real desire to go through Vegas, except that I heard Red Rock Canyon was cool.

    Now with Tioga Pass - when do they say when it will be open? Do they always announce on June 1, for example, what day it will be open, or is it more of a last minute thing, where they announce the day or weekend before?

    So many options!

    By the way, I talked to a really nice person at the Utah tourism board yesterday who gave me a whole bunch of other suggestions for routes. He's going to be sending me maps, and incidentally, he mentioned that I-70 is nothing special but Hwy 12 is amazing and he suggested I take that instead because it's way more scenic. Maybe because he lives there, he's jaded?!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Nothing like being the first in the new season!

    Quote Originally Posted by sfmom View Post
    thank you for the suggestions! I've been resisting going east through Yosemite to Utah because we're going to Yosemite at the end of the summer,
    Tioga Pass in summer is different than being one of the first to go over in the late Spring. That being said, if you are comfortable with moutain driving -- Sonora Pass is nothing short of amazing in earlly summer -- waterfalls everywhere!
    And I have no real desire to go through Vegas, except that I heard Red Rock Canyon was cool.
    It is and so is Valley of Fire and I really like Grapevine Canyon -- where one can see literally hundreds of petroglphys.
    Now with Tioga Pass - when do they say when it will be open? Do they always announce on June 1, for example, what day it will be open, or is it more of a last minute thing, where they announce the day or weekend before?
    The only rule is -- they will announce it. There is no way to predict -- we have tried to predict the actual date in the past -- but it is a very dangerous and challenging task for the snowplows to accomplish and there is good chance it will be open for you.
    he mentioned that I-70 is nothing special but Hwy 12 is amazing and he suggested I take that instead because it's way more scenic. Maybe because he lives there, he's jaded?!
    Highway 12 is gorgeous -- you have seen my photos and here are some from part of highway 12 -- it is all very special.

    Mark

  7. Default salt lake city to san fran?

    We're going to leave next month for this trip, so I've been busy solidifying our plans. Since Tioga Pass is already open, I decided to go that route, instead of down to Death Valley, and thank you for your suggestions because I'm going to take some of them!

    But now I'm wondering about the end of the trip, from Salt Lake City back to San Francisco - anything interesting for my son and I to see or do between those two places, or a good halfway point to stop for the night? On a map, it looks like it's just Hwy 80 across over to Reno to SF. Here's the plan so far:

    SF - Yosemite - Bodie - Tonopah - Ely - Zion - Bryce - Torrey - Moab - Salt Lake City - SF

    And now that I'm sitting here with a calendar, it seems like 2 weeks might be cutting it tight to do all that. I planned us to stay overnight in Bodie, but maybe we don't need to, and can just see it and press on. Any suggestions greatly appreciated! (And if there's another thread which covers it, feel free to point me in that direction. I searched but may not be searching for the right thing.)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Welcome back!

    Sounds like you've planned a great trip.

    Are you planning on staying the night in Salt Lake City? It's only about 240 miles from Arches so you could press on if you wanted to. Especially if you feel pressed for time and want to have plenty of time for the national parks you're visiting. However, checking out some of the sights in SLC would be fun. The temples are worth a look, at the very least.

    If you're not sleeping in SLC, you might consider staying in Elko, NV. 465 miles from Arches. San Francisco would then be about 500 miles the next day. Those are long days, but do-able.

    If you're staying the night in SLC, Winnemucca is roughly your 1/2 way point.

    Both are towns with some casinos and quite a few other motels so I don't think finding lodging should be a problem.

    Have a great time. You and your son are going to be building some precious memories together.

  9. Default

    Thanks for the suggestion, Judy. Winnemucca seems like a good halfway point between SLC and SF - according to the Winnemucca website, they're about 400 miles from both places. I had planned on spending a day in Salt Lake City, since we'll be there, and someone told me my son would like Antelope Island?

    I had planned to spend 1 night in Yosemite, 1 night in Bodie, 1 night in Tonopah, 1 night in Ely, 2 nights at Zion, 2 nights at Bryce, 1 night in Torrey, 3 nights in Moab, 1 night in Salt Lake City, and now maybe 1 night in Winnemucca. My plan was to drive about 4 hours a day, although I think there are a few 5-6 hour days in there too. I don't know if that's too much driving around in the beginning of the trip, or if that's just the nature of road trips - I am a novice!

    (I've also been following the thread of someone in another topic who is doing a very similar trip right now, from California to the national parks of Utah, which is helpful.)

  10. Default forgot one question

    I forgot to ask - looking at the places we're planning to spend nights, if anyone has a suggestion of where we could eliminate a night, I'm all ears. I now need to shave one day off the trip to get back for work. I'm guessing that maybe we don't need to stay overnight in Torrey, since that seems to be just a few hour drive from Bryce, and maybe we can just visit the town and press on to Moab from Bryce.

    Thank you!

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