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  1. Default our first road trip: LA to Vegas

    Hi everyone,

    I have been reading a lot on this forum the last couple of these and it has already helped us a lot. My boyfriend an i are planning a road trip to California and the Southwest, probably the most discussed trip on this forum but some questions still pop up in my head.
    We’ve have an itinerary in mind but we haven’t booked anything yet so we’re still very flexible and open to suggestions. The only real constraint is money, as the trip we are planning now is already a bit too much for our budget.

    A general question: is June or September a better time to do this trip? Can we get away with not booking accommodation beforehand?

    Any comments or advice on our itinerary would be most welcome. I’ve read about some of the scenic routes you’re advising. We’re trying to leave enough time to properly visit the parks. I’ve looked up the driving times on an online route planner, but not really sure if I trust them, so any comments from people who’ve done these routes would be great (are we leaving not enough time or maybe too much?).
    This is what we have so far:
    Day1: late arrival LA (any recommendations on motels in LA?)
    Day2: visit LA (how is public transport here? We won’t have a car yet)
    Day3: visit LA some more in the morning, then fly to SF early afternoon (we’re choosing to fly instead of drive because of budget reasons), maybe see something of SF already this evening
    Day4: visit SF (how is public transport here?)
    Day5: visit SF some more in the morning, pick up the rental car and drive to somewhere near Yosemite (what place has a decent cheap motel and is less then 2hr from Yosemite? Is there any sightseeing to be done on this route?)
    Day6: visit Yosemite (valley, glacier point – hiking or maybe horseback ride), overnight in a cabin in the park
    Day7: Yosemite (high sierras), leave via Tioga pass in time to find lodging on the 395 towards Death Valley (any suggestions for motels?)
    Day8: drive to Death Valley (probably only driving through the park, we’re a bit afread of the heat) – stay somewhere on the route to Vegas this evening.
    Day9: drive to Vegas (arrive around noon?) – spend the evening and stay in a casino on or near the strip
    Day10: sleep late, then drive to Flagstaff
    Day11: drive to Grand Canyon (2hr drive?) – spend the day here – then head towards Bryce Canyon (find motel somewhere on US-89?)
    Day12: drive to Bryce Canyon (arrive late afternoon) – see something of the park and stay somewhere near the park
    Day 13: visit Bryce Canyon
    Day14: drive back to Vegas, drop off the car and fly out in the afternoon.

    I would love to read everybody’s thoughts on it!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Some suggestions.

    Hi Elkie, Welcome to the R.T.A. forums.

    If you have a long flight it might be worth finding an airport hotel on arrival as they often have a free shuttle bus service from the airport.
    I am not sure with L/A but S/F has good transport links into and around the city. Depending on where you are picking up your car rental from could determine the best place to stay. Union Square is right in the centre and will most likely be more expensive, Lombard Street has reasonable priced motels [for a city] or you could choose an airport hotel. [Best Western Grosvenor is good]. Again there is a shuttle bus service that you can use to and from the airport. From the airport you can travel into the city by the Bart rail system which is quick, cheap and frequent.

    From S/F one possibility would be to stop in Groveland on the 120, a short drive from Yosemite. I have not stayed there but the Hotel Charlotte is a quaint B@B place in the town.

    From Yosemite there are plenty of little towns on the 395 offering accommodations from Lee vining to Lone pine. Or you could head to Stovepipe wells, just inside Death valleyand witness one of the glorious desert sunsets over the sand dunes.
    You can get some great views of Mono lake by driving up the hill next to the gas station on the junction of 120 and 395 coming of the Tioga pass.

    If you are driving through Death valley then I would continue on to Vegas as you will only be a couple of hours away by the time you have crossed it.

    I would recommend planning your time so you witness at least one sunset/rise at the G/C and not just drive through.
    If you left late there is The Cameron Trading post just outside the East entrance on the 89. Massive shop, Restaurant and has lodgings.
    Bryce has Ruby's Inn shops restaurant, shops and Old town on the doorstep of the canyon.

    Bryce is a wonderful place and has easy to reach viewpoints so doesn't take up to much time. If you drive to the far end of the canyon and visit them on the way back up all the pull offs will be on your side of the road. If you get an early start I would return to Vegas with a quick detour to Zion canyon by driving up the Mount Carmel highway and through the tunnel [very scenic] and then come down I-15.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 01-15-2009 at 03:17 PM. Reason: Typo

  3. Default

    Thanks a lot for your comments and suggestions.

    How long would it take to drive from somewhere on the 395 (say Bishop) through Death Valley and on to Las Vegas? The route planner says 6,5 hrs from Bishop to DV and then another 4hrs to Las Vegas (i've put in the 'local route' i read about somewhere on this forum, via Pahrump). Does this sound accurate to you?
    Thanks for pointing out the Cameron Trading Post, seems like it's ideally situated!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A surprise


    How long would it take to drive from somewhere on the 395 (say Bishop) through Death Valley and on to Las Vegas? The route planner says 6,5 hrs from Bishop to DV and then another 4hrs to Las Vegas (i've put in the 'local route' i read about somewhere on this forum, via Pahrump).
    That's a first ! Normally the mapping system doesn't allow enough time for such journeys. With just the driving I would estimate you to get from Bishop to Vegas in the 6.5 hours. However with sight seeing stops you could easily turn that into a 10 or 12 hour day, albeit with short journeys and rest stops along the way.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    It is no more than 2.5 hours from Bishop to the west entrance of Death Valley on Hwy 190. It's just about the same from the east entrance (still on 190) to Las Vegas via Pahrump. So - figure Bishop to Las Vegas is 5 hours plus whatever time you spend in the park. It is a 1 hour drive through the park on 190 if you just drive and don't stop to see anything or take any other roads in the park. So - Dave's 6.5 hour estimate to just drive the whole route from Bishop to Las Vegas is spot on, and a very doable day with sightseeing in the park.

  6. Default

    Thanks Dave and glc for the clarification! This would give us a day extra which perhaps we could use to visit Zion National Park (i was disappointed because it looked like we did not have time for it). But maybe i'll have to rethink the plan a bit cause doing the Bishop - Las Vegas stretch in one day with some sightseeing in Death Valley will have us arriving late in Vegas. And if we leave the following day for Flagstaff, our time in Vegas might become a bit short (especially my boyfriend really wants to see Vegas). So we might use the extra day there. Some more food for thought :-)
    (i am already having loads of fun planning this trip)

    So anyway, now i'm sure not to trust the mapping system, i'll find another one to check some of the other distances with.

    I also wanted to ask a bit more advice on the San Francisco to Yosemite route: i looked at the website for Hotel Charlotte, it looks nice and quaint as Dave said but a bit more expensive then what we were hoping to spend (so does the Ruby inn unfortunately). I looked around on the internet and found some cheaper motels (super8, not as much character off course) in Merced and maybe in Mariposa so i was thinking if we would stay the night in that area, we could drive into the Park through the south entrance. Is there any of the two entrances, south or west, that is really more scenic or a must see?

    Thanks for all the help!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Cabin type lodging ?

    Hi Elkie,

    If you can find accommodation in Mariposa it is better situated than Merced but the closer you get to the park the harder it is to find budget lodging.

    If you fancy trying something a little more rustic have a look at the Yosemite bug. I have not stayed there but have heard good things and it is closer to the park than Mariposa.
    You could also check out the town of Oakhurst for lodging if you get stuck. It's a little further South but a short drive to the park, not much there other than a places to have something to eat and get your head down.

    I loved the 120 going towards Yosemite but it pales into insignificance when you get to the park so I would concentrate more on finding the right place to stay.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    The Netherlands


    I would not be driving from Yosemite to Bishop but to Lone Pine thatday. Cheap lodging there and a great location at the foot of Mount Whitney. Also see some of Alabama Hills just at the west side of Lone Pine. From Lone Pine to Las Vegas only is a 4 hours drive and you can see a fair bit of Death Valley NP then although you could stay days in this great NP.

  9. Default

    Thanks for your replies! The Yosemite Bug looks perfect.

    My boyfriend an i are rethinking our initial idea about flying from LA to San Fran. The idea was to save money on the car rental by getting a car only from San Francisco onwards and flying from LA to San Fran. But we've discovered now that the cost will be much the same as renting the car from the beginning. So my question is, can LA be visited using the public transport (Metro?) or is it worth having a car there?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default car town

    LA does have a mass transit system, and its possible that you could use it to get around, but I wouldn't recommend it.

    First of all, LA is very much a car town, where people drive to their destination. That means it is an afterthought to most of the locals, and thus gets funded/designed like an afterthough.

    Second, and more importantly, because LA is such a huge sprawling area, mass transit can be a real confusing mess. It can easily take 1-2 hours getting between parts of the metro area by car, if you're taking mass transit, you could very well have to make several connections and spend several hours just trying to get to your destination. There are a few cities in the US where you can get by without a car pretty easily, but LA wouldn't be on that list for me.

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