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  1. #1

    Default Another West Coast trip!

    Have just booked a couple of flights with Air Canada for a trip to Western USA with my g/f. I have been to the area a couple of times before so have a bit of a feel for the lay of the land but it'll be her first time there so I am looking to make the trip as good as possible and would welcome your input.

    The following is the tentative itinerary but I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to make it better. We're both looking for a relatively laid-back trip (which is most unlike anything I have done before!!!) with lots of national parks and a lot of hiking (I have got very fat since I got back to live in the UK!)

    Monday 28th June: Leave LHR 15:00 : Arrive SFO 22:02. Overnight: Airport motel
    Tuesday 29th June: Drive to Yosemite NP. Overnight: Yosemite Camping (202 miles)
    Wednesday 30th June: Yosemite NP - Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove. Overnight: Yosemite Camping
    Thursday 1st July: Yosemite NP. Overnight: Yosemite Camping
    Friday 2nd July: Drive over Tioga Pass to Bodie Ghost town and on to Death Valley. Overnight: Death Valley (301 miles)
    Saturday 3rd July: Death Valley, Red Rock Canyon. Overnight: Las Vegas Hotel (167 miles)
    Sunday 4th July: Las Vegas then drive to Zion NP (via Valley of Fire??). Overnight: Zion campground (163 miles)
    Monday 5th July: Zion NP. Overnight: Zion campground
    Tuesday 6th July: Zion NP then drive to Page AZ - Horseshoe Bend. Overnight: Motel??? (148 miles)
    Wednesday 7th July: Drive to Mesa Verde NP via Four Corners. Overnight: Mesa Verde Campground (237 miles)
    Thursday 8th July: Mesa Verde NP. Overnight: Mesa Verde Campground
    Friday 9th July: Drive to Arches NP. Overnight: Cabin in Moab (153 miles)
    Saturday 10th July: Arches NP. Overnight: Cabin in Moab
    Sunday 11th July: Canyonlands NP (Islands in the Sky) & quad bike tour. Overnight: Cabin in Moab
    Monday 12th July: Canyonlands NP (Horseshoe Canyon). Overnight: Canyonlands NP Campground (105 miles)
    Tuesday 13th July: Drive to Monument Valley via Moki Dugway and Valley of Gods Road. Overnight: ??? (210 miles)
    Wednesday 14th July: Monument Valley jeep tour then drive to Grand Canyon NP. Overnight: Motel??? (270 miles)
    Thursday 15th July: Grand Canyon NP. Overnight: Grand Canyon Campground
    Friday 16th July: Drive to Joshua Tree NP. Overnight: Joshua Tree NP Campground (335 miles)
    Saturday 17th July: Joshua Tree NP then drive to San Diego. Overnight: San Diego Hotel (193 miles)
    Sunday 18th July: San Diego / rest day. Overnight: San Diego Hotel
    Monday 19th July: San Diego Zoo then drive to Long Beach. Overnight: Onboard Queen Mary (107 miles)
    Tuesday 20th July: Los Angeles. Overnight: Ventura Motel (93 miles)
    Wednesday 21st July: Channel Islands NP ??? then drive to Solvang. Overnight: Solvang Hotel (61 miles)
    Thursday 22nd July: Pacific Coast Highway. Overnight: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (170 miles)
    Friday 23rd July: Pacific Coast Highway and return car to airport. Overnight: Cheap airport hotel (144 miles)
    Saturday 24th July: San Francisco. Overnight: Downtown San Fran Hotel
    Sunday 25th July: San Francisco. Overnight: Downtown San Fran Hotel
    Monday 26th July: Depart SFO 11:55. Overnight: Overnight flight
    Tuesday 27th July: Arrive LHR 11:25. Overnight:

    Total estimated miles: 3059

    All mileages have been suggested by Streets and Trips which tends to be relatively accurate but I have tried to keep them down as much as possible as it is prone to the odd howler. I don't see any of the days as anything too troubling but I think there is enough flexibility in the schedule to just pull off the highway into a motel if need be.

    Would particularly welcome any input on the best way to get a good value Las Vegas hotel (on the strip - towards the centre ideally) and anything about the Channel Islands National Park trips. Has anyone been over there?

    Would also welcome suggestions on the best place to stay in downtown San Diego and San Francisco. I would have loved to have stayed on the pier motel in San Diego but it is very expensive and there is a minimum three night stay so we're thinking of just staying in a cheap out of town motel (what is the best way to get into town and where should we see/miss?) and using the saved money to fund a really nice place in San Fran to end the trip (which is the best area/hotel in San Fran?)

    Finally - we are hopefully early enough to secure spaces in Yosemite, Zion and Grand Canyon campgrounds; any suggestions to the best campground in each park (looking for somewhere with a good location, good surrounding landscape and a few facilities: toilet, shower, etc.) and the best location within. I hope that we'll be able to arrange camping on the other national park sites when we arrive?

    Sorry for so many questions but, as I say, any help would be appreciated!!

    Cheers
    Craig

  2. #2

    Default

    It all sounds good, except you don't need to do Valley of Fire because Zion makes it look insignificant.

    An alternative from Yosemite to Zion is to go via Death Valley.go down the 395 to Lone Pine, then over the 136/190 thro' the Valley to the 95 then to Vegas & up the 15 to Zion.....(Bryce Canyon which is close by is spectacular!)

    Any more queries PM me if it's possible, Mick/Vegas

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default First thoughts.

    Hi Craig,

    That's a very full and exciting itinerary, nice one !

    Finally - we are hopefully early enough to secure spaces in Yosemite, Zion and Grand Canyon campgrounds; any suggestions to the best campground in each park (looking for somewhere with a good location, good surrounding landscape and a few facilities: toilet, shower, etc.)
    Yosemite > Lower, middle or upper Pines on the valley floor. All in a wooded cluster close to each other, great setting.

    Zion > Watchman campground. Set back from the entrance to the park, fairly quiet. Shuttle bus runs to the Canyon and the great little town of Springdale for a night out !

    Mesa Verde > Morefield campground at the top of the Canyon, pleasant setting.

    Grand canyon > Mather campground. Located in woods near to the village and easy walking distance of the rim.

    I know you have a cabin for Moab, but I would recommend a night in Arches NP camping amongst the red rocks in Devils garden campground. It's right at the top of the road in Arches and you can hike from there. Really enjoyed the easy Trail to Broken Arch and Sand dune arch and one of my favorite campgrounds.

    I would book them at the earliest time possible to secure the spots, I think the booking window may be open already [?]

    Horseshoe canyon ? I think that is quite a remote area and will need a little Off roading in your rental unless you are using the Quads. Dead Horse point is OK in the Islands in the sky section, but you might have time to do that same day. Also worth a stop at Mesa Arch and Shafer Trail overlook and definitley walk to the end of the Grand view point trail at the top of the Canyon.

    I would have thought you could make it to MV in one go rather than stopping overnight but you could consider stopping at Goosenecks State park at the bottom of the Moki.
    Very quiet up there and nothing other than a view of the river winding it's way around the rocks, but we enjoyed the visit.

    You look busy enough but taking the long way around from Mesa Verde to Moab and catching the "Million dollar highway" would be a real bonus. You would need to find a night to really enjoy it though.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,269

    Default

    If you are looking for a hotel in Page, I would recommend you stay away from the Super 8. I had a poor experience there and if I had to do it over I'd probably look at the Rodeway or Holiday Inn Express.

    My first choice for MV lodging would be at Goulding's. The San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat is also a good choice. If you have to, there's a Best Western and a Holiday Inn in Kayenta but they ain't cheap.

    Your choice for hotels near GC are the Cameron Trading Post and a few overpriced chain hotels in Tusayan. There is one mom and pop on the main drag nestled in with the chains that's a good value (the only hotel in town I'm aware of that's less than $100) but I forget the name of the joint. They seldom answer the phone and do not take reservations, it's show up, first come, first served.

    Finding a cheap Strip hotel in LV on a holiday weekend may be difficult. I have a Harrah's Total Rewards card, and booked a hot deal at Bally's back on December 17 for $35. The same room with a hot deal on July 3rd is $189. The best Harrah's deal that date is $95 at the Imperial Palace, and it's a dump.

    For San Diego, there's a Motel 6 in El Cajon right off I-8 next to a large regional mall. It's in a reasonably safe area and the rates are around $65 a night. The Motel 6's in downtown, by the airport, and at Hotel Circle are over $100 a night and the one in La Mesa is $85. It's an easy 20 minute drive from there to downtown except in rush hour.

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks for all the tips - very much appreciated!

    Will get onto the case of booking the national park campgrounds as soon as I can. Need to check the individual booking windows but the two I did check already opened 15th Feb so I kinda presumed an across the board opening. I will check though.

    I know little about Horseshoe Canyon - tho I did read that it involves a 30-mile drive along a graded dirt road which isn't really an issue - and couldn't really find that much information about it. I simply added it as it sounded a good idea to visit the far side of the park given you can see so little from the Islands in the Sky side without a 4x4. But I am not massively worried if anyone has some better suggestions for that leg of the trip? In fact I'd welcome not having to drive those extra miles. The only thing is I'd like to drive down the Moki Dugway so would really like to factor that in.

    It is entirely possibly to save an entire day from the trip by removing this trip to the far side of the park: any suggestions where we could use that time more effectively? Is Joshua Tree NP more deserving of some more time? We could maybe split the drive from GC to JT in two, stopping 2/3 of the way on the first day (any suggestions for where?) and then finishing the day on the second before spending a few more hours in the park? Or I am open to any other good suggestions, of course!

    What is 'the long way around' from Moab to MV? I am not entirely certain where the Million Dollar Highway runs??

    With regard to accomodation, we are looking to do it on the cheap to a degree (hence all the camping) but wouldn't stoop to a Super 8. Awful places. Motel 6 tend to be better; Days Inn a luxury worth the extra few bucks. In San Fran we are planning on a nice hotel which we know will cost but it's the end of the trip and we want a reward for all the hardship of keeping the costs down to that point! We'd definitely consider a stay in a downtown San Diego hotel a good addition too if it came at a reasonable cost (ideally $120 per night max) but really don't know which area we should be looking in? The idea of staying out of town to save money is a good one but we'd really prefer not to have to take the car into town as it restricts us somewhat. Is there any public transport of note in SD? Or maybe we could park at a bike rental place in town and ride around the city? (Edit: found this excellent article which answers these questios)

    Sorry for all the questions over such seemingly inconsequential stuff but it'll be the first trip I have planned for me and K and I want to make sure she doesn't go home never wanting to do another roadtrip. It is my preferred holiday style and, whilst I generally book just the first nights accomodation and wing the rest, it is probably best that I plan this a little more to avoid any unexpected surprises which could taint her image of the roadtrip!
    Last edited by UKCraig; 01-11-2010 at 06:36 AM.

  6. #6

    Default

    Forgot to say: I'd really love to get out to the Racetrack whilst we're in Death Valley but, obviously, it is unlikely that an economy level rental car would be up to the job (though I would try if I were on my own!) so I wondered if there were any commercial trips or other suggestions for getting out there?

    Also in Death Valley: What would be your preferred accomodation? I took a room at the Furnace Creek Ranch last time I visited and fancied upgrading to the FC Inn but there are no rooms available on our planned stopover date. I notice that there are also rooms available at Stovepipe Wells (one of the rooms is just $80 plus tax though I think I would probably go with the room with a view at 50% extra) -- is SW worth a punt or should we stick with FC?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,747

    Default Million dollar

    What is 'the long way around' from Moab to MV? I am not entirely certain where the Million Dollar Highway runs??
    From Mesa Verde it would mean heading to Durango and up the 550 through Silverton and Ouray [Million dollar highway]. Those towns are great and the drive is spectacular. From Grand junction [possibly Colorado NM] take I70 and drop into Moab, you can take the 128 through Castle valley to Moab, take another look at my Colorado trip if you want to get a better picture.

    given you can see so little from the Islands in the Sky side without a 4x4.
    You can see plenty, you just can't get of the top of it without a 4x4.

  8. #8

    Default

    So, what you are recommending would be something like the following:
    Friday 9th July: Drive to Colorado NM via Million Dollar Highway. Overnight: Camp at Colorado NM (227 miles)
    Saturday 10th July: Colorado NM then drive to Arches NP (via 128). Overnight: Arches NP Campground (115 miles)
    Sunday 11th July: Arches NP. Overnight: Cabin in Moab
    Monday 12th July: Canyonlands NP (Islands in the Sky) & quad bike tour. Overnight: Cabin in Moab
    Tuesday 13th July: Drive to Monument Valley (via 191, 95, 261, Moki Dugway, Valley of Gods Road and 263). Stop en route at Goosenecks State Park? Overnight: ??? (255 miles)

    That actually adds a hundred miles or so to the journey and loses our stop at Horseshoe Canyon (which, admittedly, needs a little more research anyway) but, conversely, gains us a stop at the Colorado NM (which I'd never considered before) and a ride over the Million Dollar Highway. Do you think this is a worthwhile amendment? I will happily take advice on this as I know nothing very little about the Horsehoe Canyon area and the Colorado NM. Thanks for the suggestions, Dave. I'm off to read your field report whilst I await the thoughts of the forum :D

    Another note about the reasons for adding the stop at Horseshoe Canyon: I am always keen to avoid backtracking along a part of the route that I have already travelled so the decision to make this stop was also affected by my desire to avoid travelling up and back along highway 191. This problem would be eliviated by arriving in Moab from the north...
    Last edited by UKCraig; 01-11-2010 at 03:57 AM.

  9. #9

    Default

    I have just re-read your journal from your recent trip and I think that I'm sold on the idea of making the changes you suggest - it looks great! The only issue I have now is that I feel Colorado beckoning me and I am struggling not throw away the route we already have and cut inland some more :) Thanks again, Dave, looking forward to treading a few more new routes now!

    Edit: Have now been re-reading your first trip report too and now I'm really in trouble with so many ideas in my head!!!
    Last edited by UKCraig; 01-11-2010 at 03:59 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Keep your focus

    Quote Originally Posted by UKCraig View Post
    .....The only issue I have now is that I feel Colorado beckoning me and I am struggling not to throw away the route we already have and cut inland some more :) ......

    Edit: Have now been re-reading your first trip report too and now I'm really in trouble with so many ideas in my head!!!
    Craig,

    You said that you have been to the south west before, but your girlfriend has not. By adding CO, don't you think that you could be skimming over things which you have seen, but she has not, or rushing by things which should be stiopped at.

    Why not leave CO for another trip. The moment you take in the Million Dollar Highway, you will see the next pass / national park / monument, or whatever, and before you know you will be rushing through too many States. Besides, CO deserves a month (or more) on its own.

    Lifey

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