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  1. Default California Road Trip

    Hi all,

    I'm currently in the process of planning a Summer/Autumn holiday from Ireland to California. My initial plan was to drive up the West coast from San Diego to San Francisco and possibly into Napa Valley or in the opposite direction. After doing a little more research a few other areas of the interest have come to my attention i.e Redwood National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe, Yosmite.

    I have two (possibly three) weeks, I was wonderin are all of these places possible to visit in this time and what the best possible route to take would be? Also if I had to prioritise which sights would be the best to see, any information would be great.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Read These First

    Céad Míle Fáilte! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    That general area is probably the most discussed on these forums. A while ago, I gathered up the best threads on the topic, so have a read through those and you'll likely get some answers. At the very least you'll see how others have worked through the very same dilemma that you have. While three weeks is enough time to see and enjoy everything you've listed, two would be pressing it a bit but still possible.


  3. Default


    Im impressed with you're Irish vocabulary, you spelled it perfectly and even included the fada's. You're links were a great help, I've done some more research and have decided on a route.

    The plan is to fly into San Francisco, hang around there for a couple of days and maybe head up to the napa valley for a day or two. Then drive to Las Vegas taking in either Death Valley or Yosmite N.P. A day or two in Las Vegas would do as I'm not into gambling but would love to see the place.

    Las Vegas to San Diego Which I think will maybe take two or three days driving?? I'll probably spend two or three days there and then head up the coast to L.A, again two or three days there and then take the coast road from L.A back to San Francisco.

    I was wondering if you could tell me how long it would I would need driving from
    A) San Fran to Las Vegas
    B) Las Vegas to San Diego


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default You're missing one of the best things

    Grand Canyon! It's such a fascinating place that it would be a shame to be so close and miss it.

    San Francisco to Las Vegas via quickest route: 575 miles
    SF to LV via Yosemite: 560 miles (in summer when Tioga Pass is open)
    SF to LV via Yosemite & Death Valley: 600 miles (also using Tioga Pass)

    Not counting any time to stop and explore, figure 10-12 hours to drive any of these routes.

    Vegas to San Diego is only about 330 miles and you should probably be able to drive it in about 6 hours.

    Hope this helps a bit.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 03-18-2008 at 10:43 PM. Reason: clarification

  5. Default Random comments..

    If you're got 2-3 weeks you can do a fairly extensive trip -- depends upon your desires, and how much you want to drive, and where you want to go...

    Some ROM back-of-the envelope guides for preliminary planning

    LA to SF can be done in a day. It's a much more enjoyable drive in 2-3 days, going up the coast road through scenic Big Sur area.

    LA to San Diego is 2-3 hours. LA to Las Vegas is from 5-6 hours, or you can make it two days via Joshua Tree National Park, and through the desert with an overnight stop. Las Vegas to San Diego is 6-7 hours depending upon stops and what route you take. You can also make this a 2-3 day trip, going through the desert, including some very scenic and interesting backcountries.

    SF to the Redwoods is about a day's drive, each way. If you add in a day in the Redwoods, its 3 days roughly to do the drive (although it can be done in 2). SF to Lake Tahoe/ Reno is less than half a day's drive, via Sacramento. Yosemite National Park is roughly a half days drive from LA, SF, or Reno -- but depending upon the route (such as taking CA 49 through the old California Gold County) its a full day's drive from Tahoe.

    Yosemite to Las Vegas is a full day's drive, but most people break it up with a stop in Death Valley. The shortest route from Yosemite to Death Valley or Las Vegas is via the scenic Tioga Pass over the Sierras, but its closed about half the year, due to snow in the Sierras - typically opens in May, but the dates are weather dependent.

    From Death Valley to Las Vegas is about 2-4 hours depending upon route and stops.

    Las Vegas to Grand Canyon is about 1/2 to 2/3rds day drive, depending upon route and stops, and then the same time back again (This is to Grand Canyon Village on the south rim).

    OK.. so with (say) 3 weeks to play with, you could do a full loop trip without too hassle on driving long distances every day.. Starting from SF as an example..

    2 days -- SF to Redwoods, and a day in the Redwoods
    1 day -- up over the mountains to Grants Pass Oregon, then down to Mt Shasta area.
    1 day -- Burney Falls and Mt Lassen -- ending up about Red Bluff in the California Central Valley.
    1 day -- through Sacramento to Lake Tahoe/ Reno
    1 day -- back over the Sierras and to Yosemite
    1 day -- Yosemite to Death Valley
    1 day -- Death Valley to Las Vegas.
    1 day -- Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
    2 days -- Grand Canyon to San Diego (or 3, if you want to come down via Sedona and Phoenix/ Tucson -- without pushing it, with lots of sightseeing - you can do it in one long day's direct drive from GC to SD, but its a rather long day on the highways...)
    1 day -- San Diego to LA (short drive)
    2-3 days -- Up Coast Highway from LA to SF via Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Carmel/ Monterey, etc.

    That's 14-15 days, out of 21. If you only have 2 weeks, I'd drop sections of this to have more time to spend exploring stops along the way -- SF is at least a full day, LA at least 2-3 days (unless you just hit one part of the city), San Diego a full day, Yosemite is VERY scenic, etc etc.

  6. Default

    Thanks guys, those posts are great. I was also wondering how safe it is out on those highways and the more rural areas. Would you be driving for hours through the countryside and not seeing anybody or is there services at regular intervals?

    With regards to accomodation, from what I have read on other posts there is camp sites in these national parks. I wouldn't mind staying a night camping, what are the facilities on these sites like? While I will be in the cities obviously there will be plenty choices of accomodation but would there be limited choices if we wanted to stop over on one of the longer trips i.e S.F to L.V.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Underpopulated but not Empty

    Now it is true that you will be driving through some wide open spaces with few people on some of your legs. But it is also true that there are very few through roads in those areas, so that there will always be plenty of people around, unless you get off on some of the back roads. A good example is I-15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. This goes through some sections of the Mojave Desert, but is the main (only!) road between these two entertainment centers. You will not be alone. There are a few places in America where you can find 100 mile stretches of road with no gas stations or restaurants, but these areas are not among them. If you would like to camp, then by all means avail yourself of the National Park facilities. But book now - it is already getting late to book for this summer at some of the more popular parks. Since the roads you'll be using are so heavily traveled, there will be plenty of motels along them at most (but not all) exits. I doubt you'll ever be more than 25 miles from a vacant room.


  8. Default Comments..

    In comparison to Europe, some of the US roads can be very deserted. However, a couple of notes

    There's cell coverage on like 99% of all highways, and they are patrolled by the State Highway Patrol at least daily. If you're on a superhighway (like I-99 or I-15 or I-101) there's plenty of traffic, and you're virtually guaranteed to have cell phone coverage. Call 911 and tell them where you are and the problem, and they'll either send out a tow truck, fire truck, emergency services vehicle (paramedic), or the police. A lot of the major highways have emergency call boxes every mile to 5 miles along them - although the major highways going hundreds of miles across the desert may not. Your rental car company should have a number (toll free) to call to get help if you have a break down.

    Traffic on the major highways will be ever present. Even at the middle of the night, there will be passing traffic. Just about 90% of the cars have a cell phone in them, and the truckers also usually have CB (Citizen's Band) radios to talk between the trucks. If folks know you need help, they can call it in for you if your phone is dead.

    In general, when I've had problems I've had people pulling over within about 10 minutes and asking if they could help. (That's been twice -- in one case years ago they pulled my car out of the ditch, and in the other they stayed with me until the tow truck arrived -- young set of men on their way to work at a local scout camp...)

    In general, there are services (gas, food, etc) every few miles along the major highways -- and up to 10-30 miles apart along the major highways through the deserts or lessly populated areas of the country. I've taken roads here and there with no services for like 150 miles -- and there's a sign saying "No Services next 150 miles" next to the road as you start out. So. make sure the vehicle is running right before you hit that road, and you have enough gas, and don't do something stupid.

    Incidently, if you need to call a tow truck to come pull you out of the sand, or tow your car to get repaired -- they'll do it. I've heard of some going amazing distances to pull someone out of the back of nowhere when their car got stuck. But.. you may have to pay for it -- the mileage to the location, and the tow back. That's why you need the number for the rental car agency service, if you need it. If you're a member of something like the UK Auto Club, check to see if they have reciprocal rights for the US AAA (Automobile Association of America), which offers some free (for short distances) or discounted towing and emergency services if needed. They'll even come out and sell you 5 gallons of gas (although its REALLY expensive per gallon..) and jump start your car if you need them.

    But if you stick to the main highways and established roads and don't do something like head off an a dirt road into the mountains in the desert "just to see where it goes", you ought to be fine..

    Lastly -- there are lots of campgrounds around. City, County, State, Federal (National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, National Parks, National Monuments, etc), and private organizations all have campgrounds. What's available at each campground varies -- I've been in some with showers, coin laundries, snack bars/ restaurants, wireless internet, and swimming pools. I've been in others with no water and just a pit toilet (desert areas primarly).

    What's campgrounds are available in the area and what services do they have? Well... you need a map or guide to find this out. Woodall's is a good one, as is AAA.

    Campgrounds can get busy -- most take reservations, but some are "first come first served" for all their sites. If they take reservations, they keep some sites open for drop in guests (but this isn't guaranteed), or you can sometimes get cancellations. If its a desirable area, near a major urban area, and particularly on a summer weekend -- you really do need a reservation in my opinion. Reservations are done through a variety of systems, depending on who "owns" the campground. National Park camping sites can be reserved through the National Parks web site. A lot of state and other sites can be reserved on line through places like ReserveAmerica. Others (like county and city campgrounds, or privately owned ones) you may have contact directly -- usually a web page, but I've had to call a couple by phone to make a reservation.

  9. Default SF to SD

    Hi all,

    Myself and three friends are doing the same trip this July, we are fying into SF spending three days there and heading down the coast in a RV. Stopping off in Carmel and Hearst Castle on seperate nights. Then onto Santa Barbara and a couple of nights in L.A. Leaving L.A for a night possibly in Laguna Beach and three nights in San Diego, a quick day trip to Mexico and we will be flying out of San Diego. We have already mapped out the majority of the things we want to see and do, but I have a few questions.

    We will be taking Highway one for as much of the trip as we can, we have rented a thirty foot RV and I was wondering will this size RV confine us to certain routes a long the way. An example would be the 17 mile drive on the Monterey penninsula, do RV's drive this regularly? This will be my first time driving in the states and I know the roads there are way bigger than here at home with more volumes of traffic. Is it hard to navigate around and through the three main cities (S.F, L.A, S.D) and would I need sat nav or detailed maps?

    Any replies would be greatly appreciated,
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 04-23-2009 at 02:49 PM. Reason: Moved from a "dead" thread, to an existing thread previously created about this trip

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    ONE comment here - you may NOT drive a rental RV into Mexico. If you must visit Mexico (be very careful!) park it at the border, lock it up securely, and walk across.

    A RV is no fun at all trying to drive in big cities. The streets are certainly big enough but traffic can be terrible and parking very difficult to find - and expensive when you find it.

    I would recommend both a sat nav and paper maps. Before you rent a sat nav, find out how much it will cost - it may be cheaper to buy one at Walmart - they have Tom Toms for around 100 bucks that work okay.

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