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  1. Default Big NM, NV, AZ and CA trip!

    Hi everyone,

    I've only recently joined after trying to plan routes and itineraries for an upcoming trip to the States. Basically, my boyfriend and I are flying over from the UK to attend a wedding in Las Cruces, New Mexico next May. We want to combine this with as much as possible to get the most out of the trip.

    So our ideas were to try and see Las Vegas- Grand Canyon- LA- San Francisco and Yosemite, as well as attend the wedding! I know there are several threads about this type of roadtrip but because of the New Mexico factor in ours, I'm finding it a little tricky to find the best routes and itineraries.

    We are thinking of arriving in the States on April 26th and leaving on May 17th or 18th (so approximately 23 days to do everything!) We have to be in Las Cruces from May 2nd until the 4th. We are flexible about which airports we fly into and out of and because of limited time, I realize we will probably need at least one internal flight (possibly from El Paso Int'l Airport to LA.) The dates I have mentioned can alter. For example, we could fly directly to El Paso on May 2nd for the wedding and then spend the next two weeks travelling. Or I thought we could fly into Vegas on April 26th and spend a week in Vegas/Grand Canyon before heading to the wedding and then onto to CA.

    As you can tell, it's all a bit confusing! If you can give me any advice on itineraries or routes I would be so grateful. Also, if this seems impossible to cram everything in, please let me know and advise me which bits of the trip would be the best.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default A Big Loop

    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    I think you have enough time to make this a big loop, which would allow you to avoid the internal flight, and the one way drop off fees.

    I would start in either LA or Phoenix, and explore the desert as you head toward Las Cruces. After the wedding, I would then start heading back towards the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite, and San Francisco. Then Head down the coast back to LA (and/or across to Phx). You'd have to keep moving at a pretty good pace to get all of that in, but I think you could do it. You could also cut out a section, like the Coast/LA portion and start in PHX and End in SF if you want to be a little less rushed.

    I don't think I would start your trip in El Paso. Despite it being the closest airport to the wedding, its also going to be pretty small and harder to find good deals with flights and rental cars. If you decide to go with an internal flight, I would go to either Phoenix or Albuquerque, and drive to Las Cruces from there.

  3. Default

    Thanks for that advice. I know it's going to be hectic! We've been trying to come up with a priority list in case it is too busy, but there's too much to see!

    One thing I'm not too sure about is the drive from Vegas to Yosemite. Because we'll be there in early May I doubt the Tioga Pass will be open and I was wondering how long it takes to drive from Vegas to Yosemite via Bakersfield and Fresno? Can we do it in one day or do you think we should stop over night, in which case, where?


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Start with a Basic Recipe and Alter to Taste

    I think Michael is correct in his recommendations. Perhaps it would help you if we laid out a possible itinerary that you can modify to meet your own needs. I would start by flying into Los Angeles on the 26th of April and take a few days to get over your jet lag, see some of L.A., and get used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. Then take a couple of days for the drive to Las Cruces, with possible stops along the way including Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, Saguaro National Park, Kartchner Caverns, Tombstone, Chiricahua National Monument, and others. After the wedding, take a couple of days to drive to the Grand Canyon seeing Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon National Monument, etc as you go. A day at the Canyon and in the Flagstaff area is in order, followed by the drive to Las Vegas on or about May 9. After a couple of nights and a full day in Vegas, head out on the 11th for Yosemite. You are right in not counting on Tioga being open, but the drive around to the south via Barstow and Bakersfield can be done in a hard day, or you can pull up a little early in Fresno and be ready to explore Yosemite on the 12th. Next day, go on into San Francisco for a couple of nights, and that still leaves you the 15th and 16th to do the Pacific Coast Highway down to Los Angeles for your flight home. That is jam-packed, but eminently doable, and you do get to stop for a rest every so often. And of course you can adjust as you see fit.


  5. Default

    Thanks AZBuck.
    This website is a lifesaver!

    Just another quick question (sorry!) I'm slightly confused about the best route from Vegas to Death Valley and then on towards Yosemite via Barstow and Bakersfield. I've looked at several maps but I'm still not sure what would be the most straight forwards, bearing in mind we won't be taking the 395 through Tioga Pass.

    Also, another quick question... the drive from Las Cruces towards the Grand Canyon... do you know how many hours/mileage that is? Would you advise the I-25 to Albuquerque and then onto the I-40 west? Is there much to see on this route? Should we break the journey somewhere before reaching Grand Canyon?

    Thanks again =) Am getting so excited and I've still got ages to wait!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default My Preferences

    Keeping in mind that everyone is different, here are the roads I would choose.

    Las Vegas to Death Valley: US-95 to Amargosa Valley, NV-373 south, CA-190 west to Furnace Creek, etc. If I had time I'd continue north through the valley to take the tour at Scotty's Castle before continuing out of the park on CA-190 to US-395 south to Mojave where I'd pick up CA-58 to Bakersfield, etc.

    Las Cruces to the Grand Canyon is around 630 miles via I-25 and I-40, which would be a very hard day. You'd also be hurrying by some great stops like the VLA in Socorro, Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, Petrified Forest National Park outside of Holbrook, and quite a few others. If you can spare a day, take two for this leg and stop to see at least a couple of things along the way. Gallup, NM is a little farther than halfway.


  7. Default Another Opinion!

    Here's another option...

    Fly into LAX, and then catch the puddle hopper plane to Phoenix. Phoenix is a nice town, the airport is the hub of America West Airlines, and it gets you about half the wave from LAX to Las Cruces without hassle.

    I'd spend a day or so in Phoenix area relaxing and catching up on Jet Lag. Somewhere like Scottsdale would be nice, although there are lots of place to stay in Phoenix area. From there I'd rent a car and drive to Tucson, and visit Saugaro National Park and the Dessert Musuem. From Tucson to Las Cruces is a long day's drive -- superhighways allt the way. You can split this drive if you want, but you can do the drive in about 5 hours or so.

    The big loop for a drive I would recommend on the way back -- with a final destination in LA. From Las Cruces you can visit White Sands National Monument in a day -- this can be done as a day's drive from Las Cruces. It's about a half day's drive beyond to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, so that's possible too -- but unless your detailed schedule gives you the leeway for that, you might end up missing it.

    From Las Cruces I would drive north up the Rio Grande Valley to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. From Albuquerque I'd head west through Gallup NM (the biggest town near the Navaho Nation) twoards Flagstaff. You have the option to swing north into the Navaho or Hopi Nations, or visit the Acoma Peublo on the way. Very much worth it. Gallup is a good place to look for Navaho or Hopi silver, jewelry and textiles.

    If you continue west from Gallup, you go through Petrified Forest/ Painted Dessert National Park and its worth a few hours to drive through. West of Holbrook, you'll go past Meteor Crater. Now this is the old Route 66 to the west, so there are some funky and kitchy places to stop along here, such as Windslow AZ.

    From Flagstaff, you can swing north and come into the Grand Canyon from the east and along the south rim. A very amazing drive. I'd spend the night somewhere near the Grand Canyon and put at least a day sightseeing here, to give you the chance to walk around a bit. You can spend several days here if you want to take the mule trip to the bottom of the canyon and back (need reservations to stay overnight at the bottom of the canyon).

    From the Grand Canyon, its about a half day west to Las Vegas, via Hoover Dam. Plan on at least a full day in Vegas, and make sure you see at least one night of night life.

    Now from here, your goal is to see as much as reasonable without killing yourself before departing from LAX. Depending upon time and schedule -- you're about 2-3 hours from Death Valley, and the weather ought to be fine in May. From Death Valley to Yosemite is about a half to full day's drive -- if you can take Tioga Pass over the Sierras its an amazing route in the spring/ early summer. Yosemite is simply amazing from a scenic standpoint.

    I regret to say that depending upon time, you're probably not going to be able to continue to the coast and visit California Central Coast, but may have to head for LA. Yosemite to LA is about 5-6 hours via superhighway and depending upon Traffic in LA's large urban area. There are many places to visit in LA ranging. One option would be to pick somewehre with a nice beach nearby and just relax for a day in the late spring/ early summer weather before finding your way back to LAX and the flight home. This could be done in the Santa Monica area, or my favorite the surfing beaches of Orange County, about 45-60 minutes south of LAX from Seal Beach through Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

    So... grab a pen and a map and start noodling out where you'd like to go and about how long it might take. Travel between cities on the superhighways is pretty fast -- the web site here recommends about 57 mph as a good average for planning (including some gas and other stops), but you still need to add in for sightseeing stops and not to over push for time on the road.

  8. Default Does this AZ-NV-CA itinerary work??

    Hi everyone,

    A few weeks ago I posted a thread about a trip to the States next May. We will be flying in from the UK for a wedding in NM but we want to take advantage of our time out west and see as much as possible afterwards. Several of you offered me a variety of routes and schedules which were all really helpful, so thank you so much for that. They have definitely helped me sort out distances/times/places of interest.

    After checking out flight costs over from the UK and car rental rates, we've come up with a rough intinerary. It's a little unusual compared to some of the more "obvious" roadtrips I've read about on this forum, but, given the time and schedules we have, I think it's the best way to see everything we want to. However, I am open to suggestions, advice and even criticism!

    The first week or so we will be busy with the wedding celebrations etc so most of that is already planned. I've written out a rough plan for the rest of the trip:

    Day 1: Fly to Phoenix from NM. Hire a car and drive to Grand Canyon, stay overnight
    Day 2: Explore Grand Canyon, stay overnight
    Day 3: Drive to Las Vegas, stay overnight
    Day 4: Las Vegas
    Day 5: Fly to San Francisco
    Day 6: San Fran
    Day 7: San Fran
    Day 8: San Fran
    Day 9: San Fran
    Day 10: Drive to Yosemite on Highway 120, stay overnight in/near Yosemite
    Day 11: Explore Yosemite
    Day 12: Explore Yosemite
    Day 13: Head towards coast (Monterey?) on Highway 140
    Day14: Drive South on Pacific Coast Highway, stopping overnight (where?)
    Day 15: Drive South on Pacific Coast Highway, arrive LA
    Day 16: LA
    Day 17: LA
    Day 18: Fly to UK from LAX

    I know this plan includes 2 internal flights but after lots of research I think this is the best way to see everything without collapsing with exhaustion and stress by the end of the vacation. Ultimately, we also want to relax! I know the drive from Vegas through Death Valley and up to Yosemite is great but I'm worried it will take too long. If we spent one night in Death Valley, could we make it to Yosemite in 1 (long!) day's drive? Or (if we were driving) would it better to drive to Death Valley early on Day 5, spend a few hours there then drive on towards Yosemite, spending the night somewhere like Bakersfield? Also, how hot is it in Death Valley in early May?

    I am also wondering about accommodation for Days 1 & 2. I've read mixed reviews about places to stay in the GC National Park. We're not bothered about staying in a great hotel but we do want to be close to the main sights and areas to explore the Grand Canyon. I'd appreciate any advice about this.

    My other query is about the roads we'd take into and out of Yosemite (Highway 120 and Highway 140). I've read they can be dangerous with very tight turns. We have done several road trips around Europe so we're used to mountain roads but I don't know how "rough" we're talking here!

    And any tips for must-see places along the coast would be great =)
    And if anyone thinks we are spending too long or not enough time in any of the places I've included, please tell me. It's hard to know where we're going to like to the most and where we might not be too bothered about!

    OK, I think that's all my questions out of the way! Please do let me know what you think about the schedule. As I said, I'm open to criticism!
    Thanks so much =)

  9. Default Day trip to San Diego?

    Hi everyone,

    Just a quick question- is it feasible to have a day in San Diego if we're based in LA? My boyfriend and I really want to go to San Diego zoo but I don't know if we have time to stay overnight in San Diego. So I was wondering if it's possible to have an early start in LA, drive down to San Diego and have a day at the zoo and then drive back to LA that afternoon/evening?

    Or am I underestimating distances and traffic??


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Yeah, you can do it

    My son just got back from a week in LA. They chose not to get a car as most of their time was spent at Disneyland. But they took a bus to San Diego to go to the zoo. It was a one-day trip. I know they left early and got back late but I don't know the details.

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