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  1. Default Advice Needed:SF to LA via Yosemite and Death Valley,Kings, LA-SF via west coast

    Hi Everyone,

    It is so exiting to find this forum! My parents will come to USA this April and we are a trip in California for 14 days in early May. This is our first road trip so I am very exited about it and at the same time a little worried about all the preparation.. We will start from SF (actually San Ramon, CA) and would like to go though NPs and LV LA in 14 days. The trip we are planning are so hot that I have found a lot of discussions about the similar trips in this forum and modified my plan (as well as questions)as follows:

    Day 1:SF (San Ramon, CA) to Yosemite National Park. Drive to Fresno and stay one night there.
    Q 1: Is one day enough for Yosemite National Park? How many hours do you usually stay in the park? Since I don't think the Tioga Pass will be open by that time, we could only visit the south park of Yosemite. But I am still not sure whether the time is too limited here...

    Day 2: Drive to Kings Canyon/ Sequioa NP and drive down to Bakersfield. Stay one night at Bakersfield.
    Q 2: Also, not sure the time issue here. Would it be too busy? I donít want the schedule to be too busy. I heard that the road from Fresno to Sequioa is also close at that time? I am not sure though.

    Day 3: Drive from Bakersfield to Death Valley and get to LV that night.
    Q 3: Since Death Valley is quite hot at that time, is it the best just drive through and see the view on the way? What is the best route from Bakersfield to LV via Death Valley?

    Day 4: LV

    Day 5: Drive to Grand Canyon and stay one day there.
    Q 4: Any good place to stay around Grand Canyon?

    Day 6: Grand Canyon NP, and then drive back to LV.

    Day 7: LV- LA.

    Day 8-Day 11: LA and San Diego. Visit some friends also.
    Day 12: Drive on the Rd 1 to Monterey and 17 miles, hearts castle. Drive back to Oakland by that night.
    Q 5: How long will it take if we want to visit all these places? Still the time issue question. I heard that the speed at Rd 1 is just way to slow. Is it possible to finish these places and get back to Oakland?

    I also have some very important questions that I am not sure about:

    1. We are planning to rent a car in California. If the schedule is like above, is a midsize car like Mazda or Toyota camry enough? Or we need a SUV?
    2. I am planning to buy a GPS for the trip. But it seems that when using a GPS, you cannot choose the route even though there is some better scenic driveways.. Is there any suggestions on this?
    3. Time issue. I kind of think it is a little bit in a hurry in those NPs. If there is one more day, should we stay in Yosemite or Kings Canyon NP? I am not sure the time in NPs and also, time spending the road.
    4. I heard that the view going south (Bakersfield) is not as good as 395. Unfortunately, I donít think I have time to drive up to Tahoe lake and drive down 395 this time. But still, is there any recommendation of scenic driveway and good places to visit on the way of trip that I omitted?
    5. Is the estimate time in google map trustable?

    Look forward to hearing from you! Many thanks in advance for your help!

    Nicole

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    Default Lots of questions -- some answers

    Quote Originally Posted by julyrain View Post
    My parents will come to USA this April and we are a trip in California for 14 days in early May.
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!

    Day 1:SF (San Ramon, CA) to Yosemite National Park. Drive to Fresno and stay one night there.[/QUOTE]I would stay the first night near Yosemite -- maybe Mariposa -- driving to Fresno seems a little rushed to me.
    I heard that the road from Fresno to Sequioa is also close at that time? I am not sure though.
    I have never seen that road closed for more than a hour or two -- and then, only in heavy snow snowstorms in February.
    Day 3: Drive from Bakersfield to Death Valley and get to LV that night.
    CA-58 to US-395 to CA-190 to CA-127 to NV-160 to LV.
    Day 12: Drive on the Rd 1 to Monterey and 17 miles, hearts castle. Drive back to Oakland by that night.
    A trip from LA to Oakland via Monterey is 8-10 hours of driving.
    1. We are planning to rent a car in California. If the schedule is like above, is a midsize car like Mazda or Toyota camry enough?
    You don't need a SUV -- all of the roads you will be on are paved roads and you should drive what you are most comfortable in.
    2. I am planning to buy a GPS for the trip. But it seems that when using a GPS, you cannot choose the route even though there is some better scenic driveways.. Is there any suggestions on this?
    This is easy! Turn the GPS off -- use a paper map and make your own decisions.
    5. Is the estimate time in google map trustable?
    Not in the slightest. You should figure that you can average about 57 mph over the course of day's travel when you factor in stopping for fuel, food and traffic delays. Here are some routes that you might find helpful.

    Mark

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

    Default A few more thoughts

    Day 1:SF (San Ramon, CA) to Yosemite National Park. Drive to Fresno and stay one night there.
    Q 1: Is one day enough for Yosemite National Park? How many hours do you usually stay in the park? Since I don't think the Tioga Pass will be open by that time, we could only visit the south park of Yosemite. But I am still not sure whether the time is too limited here..
    You can usually quickly see most of the highlights in one day at most national parks. However, there are some places that do require hiking into to enjoy. If you're not into hiking, one day should do it. Of course, you're not going to see it all but unless you're willing to cut from elsewhere, it should suffice. (Tioga Pass will most likely still be closed until sometime into May or June.)

    Day 3: Drive from Bakersfield to Death Valley and get to LV that night.
    Q 3: Since Death Valley is quite hot at that time, is it the best just drive through and see the view on the way?
    I would stay near the car but you don't have to stay in it. Your own capacity to handle the heat will be the deciding factor. You can plan for short stops to explore. But unless you're into doing some heavy hiking and are fit, I'd stay very close to the car. Even if you're only hiking a short distance, take plenty of water with you!!!

    Day 4: LV

    Day 5: Drive to Grand Canyon and stay one day there.

    Q 4: Any good place to stay around Grand Canyon?
    Yes. Here's a link to the how you can look into lodging inside the park.

    Day 6: Grand Canyon NP, and then drive back to LV.
    Why drive back to Las Vegas? There is no reason to. If you're going to LA the next day this just adds miles and has you backtracking over roads you've already traveled. Stay someplace along I-40. If you spend a long day in the Grand Canyon, stay in Williams, AZ, before heading to LA. Or travel a bit farther west down I-40 before stopping for the night. But don't waste precious time going back to LV just to spend the night. It's not necessary.


    Day 12: Drive on the Rd 1 to Monterey and 17 miles, hearts castle. Drive back to Oakland by that night.
    Q 5: How long will it take if we want to visit all these places? Still the time issue question. I heard that the speed at Rd 1 is just way to slow. Is it possible to finish these places and get back to Oakland?
    Most people recommend 2 days from LA area to the San Francisco area. While 1 is slow, the views are so worth it.

    1. We are planning to rent a car in California. If the schedule is like above, is a midsize car like Mazda or Toyota camry enough? Or we need a SUV?
    Any vehicle that is big enough for your family and your gear will be fine.

    2. I am planning to buy a GPS for the trip. But it seems that when using a GPS, you cannot choose the route even though there is some better scenic driveways.. Is there any suggestions on this?
    You might enjoy reading UKCraig's experience with a GPS unit. Personally, I don't have one. Have never needed one. I might get one some day for a new toy to play with when prices come down a lot more. But I think paper maps and online mapping programs are far more helpful than a GPS for most travel needs. If you get one, only use it as one of your tools, not for everything.

    3. Time issue. I kind of think it is a little bit in a hurry in those NPs. If there is one more day, should we stay in Yosemite or Kings Canyon NP? I am not sure the time in NPs and also, time spending the road.
    Yosemite is one of the most popular parks in the US and considered one of the loveliest. If you can find another day, I think you might enjoy spending it in Yosemite.

    4. I heard that the view going south (Bakersfield) is not as good as 395. Unfortunately, I donít think I have time to drive up to Tahoe lake and drive down 395 this time. But still, is there any recommendation of scenic driveway and good places to visit on the way of trip that I omitted?
    We believe there are no boring roads. Yes, 395 is a very beautiful drive but you don't really have time to use it with Tioga Pass closed. Since these are new roads to you, I'm sure you'll enjoy the road to Bakersfield just fine.

    5. Is the estimate time in google map trustable?
    Once in awhile, I find it fairly accurate but not for the most part. Especially for longer trips. So use Mark's recommendations for computing travel time. It works.

  4. Default The drive from Kings Canyon to LV

    After you leave the Great Sequoia National Monument, instead of returning to the hot valley floor, proceed south on the Western Divide Highway (paved road) in good condition and then turn east on the Sherman Pass Road and then turn south again on Sierra Way, you will be following the Kern River. About two miles down the road, you will pass a roadside motel called McNallys Fairview Lodge. It is not fancy, but the rooms are clean and the setting is wonderful, you will go to sleep with the sounds of the river at your backdoor. Best yet -- McNallys serves the best steak meal in the area.

    In the morning, you can reach Death Valley by one of two routes -- both are scenic and fun. Either proceed on south, following the river to Lake Isabella and then take CA-178 to CA-14 and keep following CA-178 all the way through Ridgecrest and up to CA-190 for a trip through Death Valley and then over to Las Vegas (a couple threads about this route to Las Vegas are on this Forum).

    The other approach is to leave McNallys and then head north again and then turn east on the Sherman Pass Road which is a wonderful summertime drive over the Sierras. You may well see some bear and awesome views and a rather stunning narrow drive down the eastern slope of the mountains until you reach US-395 and then go north to CA-190 for a stunning drive over the Panamint mountains and then into Death Valley.
    Here are some ideas about our home town of Las Vegas.
    Thank you very much for the suggestions!

    I found this in one of the previous discussions. I am not sure which why I should choose from Kings Canyon via Death Valley to LV? The way approached Bakersfield or the way above? It seems that I can see more if I drive on the way above. How bad of driving would this road will be?

    And as this is my first road trip, is there any good tool books for this road trip that I can buy or read (like maps, information, etc.)?

    Many thanks in advance!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Default Which of the routes are you referring to?

    Quote Originally Posted by julyrain View Post
    I am not sure which way I should choose from Kings Canyon via Death Valley to LV? The way approached Bakersfield or the way above? It seems that I can see more if I drive on the way above. How bad of driving would this road will be?
    Um, in that post above there are two different routes -- either one is fine -- the roads are medium level of challenge -- all are paved, but the one over Sherman Pass probably still has significant potholes and so you have to go slower. Top average speed from Sherman Pass to the valley floor at US-395 will be 35 mph.

    Mark

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
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    Default You should always have a map

    Quote Originally Posted by julyrain View Post
    And as this is my first road trip, is there any good tool books for this road trip that I can buy or read (like maps, information, etc.)?
    Everybody needs a good map of the areas they're traveling through. Here are some reviews of maps/atlas you might consider getting.

    If you are looking for guidebooks, you might check our reviews of various guidebooks to see if any seem to meet your needs.

  7. Default

    We did the drive from Monterey down the Pacific Coast Highway to L.A. in one day. We've regretted it since. The only reason to take that drive as opposed to the inland highway is to see the sights and the beautiful coastline as you wind along it, at much slower speeds than inland. Trying to make it in one day, the sun will set and you'll miss half the sights (and if you're going north up it, believe me, you do not want to miss the second half - luckily from that respect, we were heading south), or you'll be frantically trying to pass cars where it is allowed.

    Either way, I would never recommend it. Take two days, you won't regret it.

  8. Default Plan updated!

    Thanks for all the advice provided!!

    We decided to stay one more day in Yosemite. But the lodging inside the NP is really expensive. If I would like to go to some inexpensive(under $80) place that can be as close to the NP as possible, is there any recommendation?

    For the GC part, if we head out early from LV, could we possibly finish the sight seeing in GC with plenty of time? I am thinking whether we should stay one night in Cameron or in Willliams? The loop of South rim looks really good and it seems that there are quite some scenic places around Flagstaff,Sedona and Prescott. But is it too ambitious to do LV -GC south rim loop and Flagstaff area(Prescott) and then back to Ontario in two days?

    Thanks very much in advance!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Posts
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    Default Yosemite Bug

    Quote Originally Posted by julyrain View Post
    If I would like to go to some inexpensive(under $80) place that can be as close to the NP as possible, is there any recommendation?
    If you stay at the Yosemite Bug, it could well be a highlight of your trip.

    Mark

  10. Default Need some help for this updated route:)

    Thank you very much!

    Since it will be Friday when I arrive in LV for the original plan, I am thinking the other option: Drive down to LA from Kings Canyon NP directly, stay 4 days in LA and drive via Death Valley to LV from LA so that we can go to LV on Monday instead. I couldn't find any other threads of this same route in this forum. Is this possible to do this? Am I wasting my time on the road?

    Thank you very much!

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