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Thread: West Coast loop

  1. Default West Coast loop

    Hello fellow roadtrippers! Long time fan, and like most other posters on this site, I'm looking for feedback on a summer road trip. My wife and I reserved a little more than 3 weeks and we'd like to take in as much of the beautiful USA as possible.

    Originally, we planned to drive from Albany, NY to San Francisco and back. We wanted to take the northern route on the way (Chicago, Milwaukee, Bandlands, Yellowstone, SLC, San Fran) and the southern route on the way back (Vegas, Grand Canyon, Kansas City, St. Louis, etc). The original plan was 6,500 miles and we had three weeks to do it.

    After reading dozens of helpful comments/suggestions on various threads, I came to the realization that it was just too ambitious. 6,500 miles in 25 days wouldn't really allow us to enjoy all the sites, instead we would be rushing through each leg of the journey.

    The "tenative" alternative plan is completely different. I think flying to either Denver or Las Vegas and starting the road trip from there is a better option (someone in another thread actually recommended this to a fellow traveler). By doing this we're skipping the entire midwest, but that leaves us something to visit another time.

    Anyway, with Vegas as a "launch point", this is what I'm thinking:

    Day 1 and 2 - Vegas (no driving);
    Day 3 - drive to Hoover Dam and then to South Rim Grand Canyon (300 miles; 5 hours);
    Day 4 - drive to Phoenix (225 miles; 4 hours) watch baseball game;
    Day 5 - drive to Albuquerque (360 miles; 6 hours);
    Day 6 - drive to Denver (450 miles; 7 hours);
    Day 7 - hang out in Denver watch baseball game;
    Day 8 - drive to Badlands, SD (500 miles; 8 hours);
    Day 9 and 10 - camp at Badlands, see the sites;
    Day 11 and 12 - drive to Yellowstone, stopping at Mout Rushmore and one over-night stop along the way (575; 9 hours);
    Day 13, 14, 15 - stay in Yellowstone and make our way down to Grand Teton National Park;
    Day 16 - drive to Salt Lake City (300 miles; 5 hours);
    Day 17 - stay in Salt Lake City;
    Day 18 and 19 - drive to San Francisco stopping for one over-night along the way (735 miles; 11 hours);
    Day 20 and 21 - stay in San Francisco, watch a baseball game
    Day 22 - drive to Big Sur, CA (150 miles; 3 hours);
    Day 23 - drive back to Las Vegas (500 miles, 9 hours)

    The total trip would be 4,300 miles. This still seems like a lot for 25 days.

    I'm having trouble with a few critical decisions -

    1) Should I cut something out? If so, which places?
    2) A few of the places are just "along the way", not necessarily a place we're dying to see. For example, I'm not sure if Albuquerque has any of those "places you need to see", but if anyone has any ideas, they'd be much appreciated. Same situation with Salt Lake City. I've been there during the winter, but not during the summer.
    3) I'm stuck on the whole Grand Canyon, Bandlands, Yellowstone thing. I've always wanted to see all three, but they are so FAR away from each other. Part of me wants to limit this trip even more and concentrate on either Denver-North (Badlands, Yellowstone, etc), or Denver-South (Albuquerque, Grand Canyon, Vegas). The problem with this is potential not making it back for the places I missed!

    My wife and I are both 29, so we're young enough to handle long drives, but smart enough to know we don't want to "just drive".

    Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Can't wait to hit the road!

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

    Default breaking things up

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I don't necessarily think that you are doing to much in the list of places you want to go, but I think you need to do a much better job of breaking things up.

    For example, going from Vegas to Denver via the Grand Canyon and Phoenix in 5 days is a pretty brisk pace. Its doable, but if you're going to be in a hurry to get to a game in Phoenix, I think you might end up being rushed at the Canyon.

    Meanwhile, later in your trip, you're dedicating About 4 days to Yellowstone and 6 full days to Salt Lake City and San Francisco. That's nearly half of your available days, so it seems like you could take some time away from there, if you needed.

    I will also note that you aren't including any of the national parks of Utah or Colorado and you're also skipping Yosemite and Death Valley with your current plan. Now, you certainly don't have to visit those places, but they all end up falling inside the circle of your current loop.

  3. Default Thanks for the quick feedback

    Yes, I agree with you, the first few days might be rushed. Is the South Rim worth two days by itself? I don't really have anything planned for Salt Lake, but figured we'd need a day to relax by that point.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default at least one

    You could certainly spend 2 full days at the Canyon, I spent one full day there on my last visit and felt fairly rushed. One thing you need to keep in mind is that most of the lodging is at least an hour a way. If you are staying right on the rim or in the village just outside (where every room will be $100+), then you'd be better off. However, if you're going to have an hour drive to/from your motel in Williams or Flagstaff, then 2 half days is going to go by much faster than you might otherwise think. Also keep in mind that traffic at the Hoover Dam can be a significant slowdown that you should factor into your day.

    As far as SLC goes, its up to you, but if you're coming off of 3-4 straight days at Yellowstone/Tetons, I would think that those days should be pretty relaxing. It just seems odd to take a rest day here, coming off of that break from the road and just before another leisurely days in SF, when you've got other sections where you are driving almost every day for nearly a week at the beginning of your trip.

  5. Default very true

    Hopefully coming out of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons we'll be rested. If that's the case, we could always skip the day layover in SLC.

    Also, as with most people, we'll probably be amped to drive long hours early in the trip and be tired by the end of it. That's why I was hoping to get the New Mexico route out of the way in one aggressive day.

    Anyone have suggestions for a different route from Flagstaff to Denver? Also looking for ideas for the SLC to San Fran route.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    There are 2 ways I'd look at from Flagstaff to Denver. They both involve Monument Valley and would be best served by taking 3 days - it CAN be done in 2, but you will be VERY rushed.

    US-89 to Cameron, US-160 to Kayenta, US-163 through MV to US-191. At Monticello, here are the 2 choices:

    1. Stay on 191 up through Moab, visit Arches NP. Stay on 191 to I-70, take that to Denver. If you only have 2 days, this would be the easiest option.

    2. At Monticello, take US-491 through Cortez to Durango. Get on US-550 and take that to Montrose, take US-50 to Poncha Springs, and then US-285 to Denver.

    For SLC to SF, I'd do this rather than just blast out I-80:

    Take I-15 to US-50 and take that all the way across Nevada. You could either pick up I-80 east of Reno, or stay on 50 and check out Lake Tahoe. If you go to Tahoe, you can take 50 to Sacramento to pick up 80.

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

    Default A couple of options


    Anyone have suggestions for a different route from Flagstaff to Denver? Also looking for ideas for the SLC to San Fran route.
    You could consider travelling from Vegas to Phoenix and then to Flagstaff/Grand canyon and leave by the East entrance and head through Monument Valley on the 160/163 and 191 to Moab and Arches NP then I-70 to Denver.

    If you are not staying a day in Salt lake and would like to experience Yosemite it would be possible to cut down to Ely and Tonopah [93/6] and head over the Tioga pass [120] into Yosemite.

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