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  1. Default California Roadtrip.

    Hi

    I notice that this a fairly well covered topic and I've read some really useful information in similar threads already, but I'm about to embark on a tour of California and was curious as to whether we can fit as much into our roadtrip as we'd like to.

    Our plan as it stands is to fly in to LA from the UK for a few days with family before driving north up the coast on May 2 to San Francisco via Big Sur.

    Is it worth staying a night in Big Sur or should we go direct to San Fran? The reason I ask is because of how much we want to fit into the next 10 days.

    We want to spend 2-3 nights in San Fran, then a day or two in Napa valley before we drive to Vegas for 2 nights at the end of the trip via Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

    We'd also like to explore the Grand Canyon/Hoover Dam from Vegas before we return to LA for a final day or two with the family.

    Is this realistic given we want to fit it all into a 10 day roadtrip? I don't really want to spend the whole time driving. How would you break down this trip? And what, if anything, would you skip in order to leave enough time to see everything else properly?

    I'm also curious as to what are the best routes from San Fran to Vegas given all of the above. I understand that some of the routes around Yosemite might be shut due to weather, but I'd coose a less scenic route if it means cutting down on the amount of time behind the wheel.

    Many thanks in advance.

    Dan

    PS - are the giant redwood tree parks actually in Yosemite? I really want to see these but am unsure as to where are the best spots.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default Eyes Bigger Than Reality

    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    I think you have a bit of a math problem here.

    Lets look at what you are thinking to do with your 10 days.


    2-3 days in SF
    1-2 days in Napa
    2 days Vegas
    1 day Grand Canyon
    1-2 days LA

    So right there you are looking at 7-10 days before you've even considered travel time.

    If you really want to enjoy the coast, 2 days would be recommended. If you only have one day, you could stick to US-101, and just drive the Big Sur section of the Pacific Coast Highway.

    Similarly, you could drive direct from Napa/SF to Vegas in a long day, but adding Yosemite and/or Tahoe would each add a day. Tioga Pass will probably be closed in early May, making it even more difficult to do both on your timeframe.

    I think you might have to pick and choose here, because it will be very tough to fit in everything you want to do under you current timeline.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,059

    Default Yes and no

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan G View Post
    I notice that this a fairly well covered topic and I've read some really useful information in similar threads already,
    Thanks for taking the time to read some of the threads and welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum. In case you might have missed some of these posts about California road trips, this thread provides a quick index and also be sure to look at the bottom of each page for more ideas.
    Our plan as it stands is to fly in to LA from the UK for a few days with family before driving north up the coast on May 2 to San Francisco via Big Sur.
    The Big Sur is often gorgeous in early May with little fog and warming temperatures. Be sure to stop here and take the short walk to see the waterfall!
    Is it worth staying a night in Big Sur or should we go direct to San Fran? The reason I ask is because of how much we want to fit into the next 10 days.
    The trip from LA to San Francisco (along the coastal highway) is a very LONG day. It can be done in one day --but you will need to be on the road for 10+ hours. Normally, I wouldn't recommend this -- but given your other plans, it may be necessary. One alternative, would be to sleep overnight at Monterey -- thus allowing you to see the coast in daylight and reaching San Francisco somewhat refreshed.
    We want to spend 2-3 nights in San Fran, then a day or two in Napa valley before we drive to Vegas for 2 nights at the end of the trip via Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.
    It is extremely unlikely that Tioga Pass (the highway pass between Yosemite Valley and Owens Valley) will be open in early May. So reaching Las Vegas by way of Yosemite and Lake Tahoe in one day would be impossible.
    We'd also like to explore the Grand Canyon/Hoover Dam from Vegas before we return to LA for a final day or two with the family.
    This will be stretching the fabric of your trip to the breaking point. Hoover Dam is a wonderful day trip from Las Vegas -- but it is a full day's drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon West is a private park operated by the Hualapi Nation -- but it is an all day's journey (not because of distance, but because of their entry procedures and the condition of the road). Here are some more ideas about visiting Las Vegas.
    And what, if anything, would you skip in order to leave enough time to see everything else properly?
    I would drop Lake Tahoe and the Grand Canyon on this trip.
    I'm also curious as to what are the best routes from San Fran to Vegas given all of the above
    I would take the Interstate routes to Yosemite and then CA-99 to CA-58 to I-15 to Las Vegas.
    PS - are the giant redwood tree parks actually in Yosemite? I really want to see these but am unsure as to where are the best spots
    See this thread for more information about this.

    Mark

  4. Default Very Busy Trip....

    Hello Dan G,

    The route you laid out is roughly doable in 10 days, but its going to be a lot of time on the road. As an opinion, you might modify it a bit -- I agree with all the comments here, about perhaps focusing a bit more on some of the areas.

    Day 1 - Drive LA to San Luis Obispo/ San Simeon area. This will be a good day's drive, and put you in the late evening. If you stay at San Simeon, you may be next to the beach. You'll have to pick and chose a bit on how to go and where to stop, but a stop for coffee in Santa Barbara to see the mission would be nice, or in the San Ynez area (Solvang) for lunch. This sets you up for a day's drive north to SF, with the option of visiting Hearst Castle and Monterey. You *might* be able to make a late afternoon tour of Hearst Castle (about 5 miles from San Simeon)

    Day 2 -- Drive up PCH Coast, through Big Sur. I'd stop at the Elephant Seal Colony at Pedros Blancas, and stop at a couple of the very scenic spots in Big Sur (see the other threads on this). If you leave San Simeon/ SLO at say 8 am, you should be in Monterey about 3-4 hours later (longer depending upon stops, and this time does not include a Hearst Castle Tour). This will let you perhaps do the 17 mile loop at Carmel, or visit Steinbeck's Cannery Row, or the famous Monterey bay Aquarium, or etc. Monterey was the old spanish capital of California, and there's some history in the area as well. From Monterey to SF will be a couple of hours, but you can get to SF that night.

    Day 3 -4 SF. Usual SF things I presume.

    Day 5 - Drive to Napa valley. This will be about 2 hours from SF, depending upon your route. I'd do some basic wine tasting, tour a couple of the wineries, have a nice picnic lunch somewhere, and stay in Napa valley. Just be responsible -- I've seen too many people who chug down the dozen or more tasting samples and zoom off to the next winery to repeat the process. Moderation works a lot better, and you seem to buy better wine than having a clouded opinion. There are also some very good restaurants in the valley for dinner.

    You can spend several days touring wineries, as there are over 100 in the area, but for a quick visit a day's tasting and touring should be good. (How much do you want to buy and carry or ship home?).

    But from Napa valley, you're going to have to make some choices. I'm going to lay out one option here, but what you see and do is going to be needed to be modd'ed to your tastes I think.

    Day 6 - Napa to Sacramento to Tahoe. Napa to Sacramento is only a couple of hours if you take the major roads (eg, pick up I-80 from the south end of the Valley). From Sacramento to Tahoe is only a couple more hours. This means you can either visit a last couple of wineries, or stop somewhere around Sacramento for something. There are several good museums in Sacramento (such as the California Railroad musuem...), or you can go more direct to Tahoe and Reno. Spend the night here in this area.

    Day 7 - return west, then South to Yosemite. Tioga Pass over the Sierras will most probably NOT be open, so you'll need to return west over Donner Pass. The most direct route, down CA-49 is through the historic Gold country of California. But it will take you most of the day (4-6 hours in the car) to get to Yosemite.

    Day 8 - in Yosemite. I'd spend a day in Yosemite if possible.

    Day 9 - Yosemite to Las Vegas. Long day's drive. Maybe 8-10 hours in the car, but doable via Barstow. Spend the night in Vegas.

    Day 10 -- you can visit Hoover Dam and return to vegas in a day, but Grand Canyon is about a 6 hour drive each way. I'd spend this day relaxing in Vegas. This gives you 2 nights in Vegas.

    Day 11 -- return to LA.

    If you need to cut a day out, you can cut out a day in SF, or you can cut out the Tahoe visit and go from Napa to Yosemite. If you take the more major roads (I-99 south from Sacrament) instead of CA-49, you might save a little time on this route for a quick sightseeing stop in Sacramento, but you'll be spending at least a half day from Napa to Yosemite on the fastest route. You *can* cut a full day is Yosemite, but showing up in the early evening and departing at dawn doesn't really give tim to see something hugely scenic.

  5. Default thanks to all for your help

    some very useful info here guys - thanks a lot. as i suspected, we trying to cram too much into this one trip.

    of everything i've listed above, i think napa valley would be the one place i feel i could miss. would anyone go along with this?

    i'm going to find it tough going to vegas and not making time to see the grand canyon but six hour drive each way doesn't sound like much fun - isn't there a helecopter ride you can take there from vegas? is it worth looking into? or is the hoover dam a better daytrip?

    as it stands i've already booked three nights in a hotel in san fran and two in vegas. the day by day guide that larrison is very helpful indeed - how would you all fit in as much of the stuff mentioned above around what i aready have planned?

    our (very rough) current plan

    day 1: drive from la up the coast (possibly using the 101 for longer than originally planned) and stay at big sur

    day 2: drive to san fran (hotel already booked)

    day 3: san fran (hotel already booked)

    day 4: san fran (hotel already booked)

    day 5: drive to Tahoe

    day 6: day at Tahoe then drive find accomodation near yosemite (how long is the drive between LT and Yosemite?)

    day 7: Day hiking in Yosemite

    day 8: drive to vegas, stopping somewhere overnight...any suggestions? death valley perhaps?

    day 9: arrive in vegas (hotel already booked)

    day 10: daytrip from vegas either to hoover dam or grand canyon (hotel already booked)

    day 11: drive from vegas back to family in la.

    one final question... is it possible to drive from vegas to la in a day or is it wise to stop over somewhere on the way?

    thanks again for all the help guys. it's all much appreciated

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrison View Post
    Day 7 - return west, then South to Yosemite. Tioga Pass over the Sierras will most probably NOT be open, so you'll need to return west over Donner Pass. The most direct route, down CA-49 is through the historic Gold country of California. But it will take you most of the day (4-6 hours in the car) to get to Yosemite. .
    yikes. i only just noticed that you said it's 4-6 hours from LT to Yosemite.

    I'm starting to think we might only have time for either Lake Tahoe
    or Yosemite. Would anyone go along with that, given the other things I want to do on the trip?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,059

    Default Updates to the updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan G View Post
    some very useful info here guys - thanks a lot. as i suspected, we trying to cram too much into this one trip.
    A common problem with 90% of all road trips. The distances on a map are hard to place into "real world" context sometimes.
    i think napa valley would be the one place i feel i could miss. would anyone go along with this?
    I have spent hundreds of fun hours in the wine valeys, but I think you should forgo this pleasure on this trip.
    i'm going to find it tough going to vegas and not making time to see the grand canyon but six hour drive each way doesn't sound like much fun - isn't there a helecopter ride you can take there from vegas?
    Helicopter rides are fun (not matter where they go). There are 4-5 operators in the Las Vegas area that provide day excursions to the canyon. The thing to remember is that the air space over the Grand Canyon National Park is restricted and so you will not be able to witness the "famous" views that you can when you visit the south rim in person. But, given your schedule you can not reach the Grand Canyon and back in the same day.
    or is the hoover dam a better daytrip?
    That is a pretty tough comparison.

    I would suggest a combination of a hike in Grapevine Canyon (See above photo)


    and the tour of Hoover Dam.
    day 1: drive from la up the coast (possibly using the 101 for longer than originally planned) and stay at big sur
    Try and stay at the Big Sur Lodge...
    day 5: drive to Tahoe
    day 6: day at Tahoe then drive find accomodation near yosemite (how long is the drive between LT and Yosemite?)
    I would use I-80 to Lake Tahoe and drive down the western edge and then drive back west on US-50 to CA-49 and stay over-night at Sonora, or Groveland or even Mariposa. It is about 3.5 hours.
    day 8: drive to vegas, stopping somewhere overnight...any suggestions? death valley perhaps?
    I really love staying at the Furnace Creek Inn, very elegant and civilized.
    one final question... is it possible to drive from vegas to la in a day or is it wise to stop over somewhere on the way?
    Depending where in LA your are headed -- it is a 4-5 hour trip. I do it about once a month.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-20-2007 at 10:06 AM.

  8. #8
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    Default It depends upon what part you mean....

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan G View Post
    yikes. i only just noticed that you said it's 4-6 hours from LT to Yosemite.
    Larrison could be correct or my estimate could be correct at 3.5 hours -- it sort of depends upon what you mean by "Lake Tahoe" and "Yosemite" -- they are big places
    I'm starting to think we might only have time for either Lake Tahoeor Yosemite. Would anyone go along with that, given the other things I want to do on the trip?
    In my first post, above, I suggested you cut both Lake Tahoe and the Grand Canyon and I still think that would be wise....

    Mark

  9. Default

    i'm headed for santa monica. but 4-5 hours sounds fine, not really any need for a stop-over....although i understand la traffic is pretty awful.

    thanks so much for all your advice. this website has been really useful in helping us plan our holiday.

    i reckon we're going to skip napa and lake tahoe. if we do that, do you think we could fit in the grand canyon, even if it means a helicopter ride from vegas rather than going by car?
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-20-2007 at 09:47 AM. Reason: navigation

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Default It is all relative

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan G View Post
    i'm headed for santa monica. but 4-5 hours sounds fine, not really any need for a stop-over....although i understand la traffic is pretty awful.
    Depending upon the time of day, you need to figure 5-6 hours to reach Santa Monica from Las Vegas. Traffic is reasonably insane here in Las Vegas too. To minimize the challenges -- when you reach the I-210 exit from the I-15, follow I-210 into Pasadena and join the CA-134 (which turns into the US-101) to the I-405 for your descent into Santa Monica. Locals use one of the canyon routes (instead of I-405) like Coldwater Canyon -- which drops you into Beverly Hills for the run to Santa Monica.
    i reckon we're going to skip napa and lake tahoe. if we do that, do you think we could fit in the grand canyon, even if it means a helicopter ride from vegas rather than going by car?
    Sure, a little canyon is better than no Grand!

    A nice side-trip on the way to LA is to visit the Kelso Depot (south from Baker, CA) HQ for the Mojave National Preserve. Great exhibits and wonderful joshua trees in the area. Here is a field report from there.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-20-2007 at 10:00 AM. Reason: better link for the depot

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