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  1. #1

    Default San Fransisco-Phoenix in February

    Dear readers,

    My name is Bram and I'm from the Netherlands. I'm planning to visit the United States in February and from everything I've heard the best way to explore your wonderful country is by car.

    I've browsed this website and it has a wonderful depth of information. However, there are some questions I still have. Let me start by describing the trip I have in mind:

    - We fly to San Fransisco and explore San Fransisco for a day or two. Probably we won't hire the car just then because from what I've heard San Fransisco is easier to explore by public transit.
    - We have three days to explore some national or state park. Currently we are considering either Yosemite NP or a trip down highway 1. I'm leaning towards the latter, since I have little experience driving in snow. Do you have any ideas or tips in this regard?
    - We visit LA for two days. After this, two people fly back to the Netherlands and a party of two (my girlfriend and I) remain. According to the Lonely Planet having a car can be a hassle while exploring LA. Will it be worthwhile to return the car at the start of our visit and rent a new one two days later? I am not very familiar with rental rates so I'm not sure which is cheaper - ponying up for initial fees twice, or paying for a car that won't be used for two days that needs parking too.
    - After this we head east. I have no firm idea on the exact itinary. All I know is that we have a week to reach Phoenix and want to visit Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Do you have suggested itinaries for this route? Are there things I really shouldn't miss? Will I definitely need snow chains or are there ways to avoid the snowfall on this road altogether?

    And last but not least: are there things I might have missed that are obvious to an American but not to a dutchie?

    Thanks in advance for any pointers and tips!

    Kind regards
    Bram

  2. #2
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Welcome to the USA!

    Quote Originally Posted by BramFokke
    My name is Bram and I'm from the Netherlands. I'm planning to visit the United States in February and from everything I've heard the best way to explore your wonderful country is by car.
    Greetings Bram! Welcome to the Forum and an early Welcome to the Western Half of the USA!

    - We fly to San Fransisco and explore San Fransisco for a day or two. Probably we won't hire the car just then because from what I've heard San Fransisco is easier to explore by public transit.
    If you're just going to be spending the day or two in Downtown San Francisco, you should be fine with the city's trolley, bus, and rail system. It will beat having to pay for parking, especially if you go with a Day Pass for the transit system(s).

    - We have three days to explore some national or state park. Currently we are considering either Yosemite NP or a trip down highway 1. I'm leaning towards the latter, since I have little experience driving in snow. Do you have any ideas or tips in this regard?
    If you're not comfortable with snow, I'd avoid the Yosemite area until you can visit during the warmer months. The coast highway (California Highway 1) will still offer you a breathtaking trip!

    - We visit LA for two days. After this, two people fly back to the Netherlands and a party of two (my girlfriend and I) remain. According to the Lonely Planet having a car can be a hassle while exploring LA. Will it be worthwhile to return the car at the start of our visit and rent a new one two days later? I am not very familiar with rental rates so I'm not sure which is cheaper - ponying up for initial fees twice, or paying for a car that won't be used for two days that needs parking too.
    I'm not certain about the rates either, you might try contacting some of the rental car companies in California and ask them exactly that: how much difference is it if you return the car for two days, or, leave it parked at the hotel. Personally, I'd consider keeping it, mainly because LA is large and you may decide to use the car to travel to a location not easily accessible by transit.

    - After this we head east. I have no firm idea on the exact itinary. All I know is that we have a week to reach Phoenix and want to visit Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Do you have suggested itinaries for this route? Are there things I really shouldn't miss? Will I definitely need snow chains or are there ways to avoid the snowfall on this road altogether?
    There is a lot to do in Northern Arizona and lower Nevada! If you're going to Vegas, you should also check out nearby Hoover Dam on your way into Arizona. If you're going to do the Grand Canyon and want to avoid the snow, I'd recommend stopping in Williams, Arizona, and taking the Grand Canyon Railway train up to the Canyon. While snow is not always going to be falling, Northern Arizona does see it's fair share of snow, so you may even encounter some down in Williams. Even if it does not snow, the Grand Canyon area will be cold, so dress appropriately. Between the Grand Canyon and Phoenix, you'll want to visit Flagstaff for a while. There's some good places to eat there, and if the weather is good, you may opt to take the Oak Creek Canyon road instead of Interstate 17 (see this thread for some more Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff ideas). If you do stop in Flagstaff and want to try some good American Barbecue food, Bigfoot Barbecue in Downtown Flagstaff is good. There are several other very good local restaurants in Flagstaff if Barbecue is not high on your list.

    Between Flagstaff and Phoenix, there is so many options of places to see. I do recommend visiting Arcosanti, just out side of Cordes Junction off of Interstate 17 north of Phoenix (See this article by Bob Schaller).

    Hope this is a good start!

    -Brad

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    219

    Default

    Hi Bram
    Brad has given you great information. If you want to go to Yosemite in this time of year you must have chains in your car, plus Tioga Pass road to us395 will be closed. So I agree, maybe better take the coastal drive. You can do without a car in SF although a car still comes in handy. Take at least 2 days, better 3 for driving hw1. Must stops are Monterey, Carmel, Piont Lobos SR, Cambria and visit Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, Solvang, Santa Barbara, just to name a few.
    You can't do without a car in Los Angeles. One of the best places to spend a night or 2 is in Hollywood. Maybe try Orchid Suites with tree parking and reasonable prices. The drive between LA and Las Vegas takes 4-5 hours, traffic permitted. You'll driving through the desert, maybe boring for locals but we enjoyed everytime we drove. Not too long before Las Vegas is Mojave National Preserve, a future Nation Park and very worth the detour, but it will add a couple of hours to your trip. From Las Vegas to GCNP south rim is 5 hours, traffic permitted, It can be slow driving near Hoover Dam. The new bridge will not be completed. A short visit to this dam is recommended. Park your car for free at the Arizone side. From Kingman you can drive I40 or take the detour on Route 66. Unfortunately this road has been renewed so no old R66 shields anymore. It's 65mph and a fast drive. Some must stops are Hackberry and Seligman. Will take an extra drivingtime app. 1 hour.
    From Williams take 3rd exit to GCNP. Williams is at the same level as GC and it's a flat and smooth drive from Williams to GC Village, app. 1 hour. Taking the train will take a lot of extra time. In GC make reservations asa possible. 4 hotels are right at the rim: El Tovar, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge. I highly recommend to stay at the rim for at least 2 nights.
    After visiting GC take the east entrance, stop at Desert View for your last overlooks on the canyon, have a taco at Cameron Trading Post a mile north of the az64/us89 connection. Then drive south on 89 and make the loop through Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano NM. Make a stop in Flagstaff and if you have the time visit the excellent Museum of Northern Arizona. Then 89A to Sedona stopping at Oak Creek Canyon, and maybe Slide Rock SP. Sedona is beyond words. Very scenic.
    On your way to Phx maybe stop at Montezuma Castle. Rock Springs exit 242 and have one of those famous pies at the rock springs cafe.
    In Phoenix is Heard Museum, as fantastic as the Flagstaff museum. Also maybe visit Botanical Gardens and maybe more places. Scottsdale makes a great places to stay one or 2 nights.
    Roads near Williams/Flagstaff can be tricky. Maybe hire a car with wintertires.
    Happy planning
    Yeehaw

  4. #4

    Default

    Hi Brad and Yeehaw,

    Thanks for your swift and elaborate answers! I'ts nice to be able to draw upon experiences of seasoned travelers :). I just rented the car and probably we'll take highway 1. It looks like a fun trip and relatively hassle-free compared to Yosemite. It's a shame - I'd really love to visit but I don't have the experience to drive in these conditions. On the road to Las Vegas I'd love to visit Death Valley national park. Do you have any suggestions regarding lodging and the must-see places?

    Kind regards,
    Bram

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    219

    Default

    You can visit Death Valley which is unbelievable beautiful but it will be hard to visit Death Valley-Las Vegas and Grand Canyon in only one week without being in the car all day. Suppose you are staying in Hollywood. After your LA visit take 14 to Mojave and drive to Death Valley NP via Ridgecrest and Panamint Springs. Maybe stay in Stovepipe Wells (reservations recommended at www.xanterra.com). Keep in mind days will be short with sunset at 4.30 pm. Try to visit Mosaic Canyon just west of Stovepipe Wels (3 miles dirtroad and a walk into the canyon) and admire Stovepipe Wells dunes at sunset.
    We have stayed long times in Death Valley but I think you'll hit Las Vegas next day. Best for a short visit is: See the Dunes at sunrise, see Devils Cornfield, drive to Furnace Creek visitor center to learn all about DV. Then see Zabriskie Point, drive to Devils Golf Course, make the one way loop form 178 to Artist point, drive south on 178 to Badwater, lowest point in the continental USA, drive to Soshone, Pahrump and to Las Vegas. Just before LV on 159 is Red Rock SP but I doubt if you will have the time for this.
    This will give you a good DV impression but to really explore this largest NP in the USA you'll need much more time.
    So maybe:
    Day 1: Drive to DV
    Day 2: DV to Las Vegas
    Day 3: Las Vegas
    Day 4: Drive to GCNP south rim
    Day 5: GCNP
    Day 6: GCNP-Flagstaff-Sedona (via GC east entrance)
    Day 7: To Phoenix.
    I can give you more details if you want.
    Yeehaw.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    219

    Default

    Typo. Sunset in februari is around 5.30. 4.30 is for december. Sorry.

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