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  1. Default First timer: Roadtrip from San Francisco to Las Vegas

    Hi there,

    My wife and I are visiting the USA in April and planning a road trip (first time driving in US) from San Francisco down the west coast and ending up in Vegas.

    The basic outline plan is:

    Start in San Francisco (spending 3 nights here)

    Day 1: Depart SF and drive to Morro Bay and stay 1 night
    Day 2/3: Drive to LA and stay for 2 nights (do touristy stuff 1 day and Universal 2nd day)
    Day 4/5: Drive to San Diego and stay for 2 nights (tourist stuff and chill out)

    This is where it all gets a bit fuzzy...

    Day 6: Drive to Phoenix for 1 night
    Day 7: Head towards Grand Canyon and either make it there, or stop midway??
    Day 8: Drive to (or if already there, spend night at) Grand Canyon
    Day 9: Drive to Las Vegas for 4 nights

    Whilst we've got an outline plan, we're confused about whether we're doing this right...

    The first concern is over the Grand Canyon. I'm sure it's amazing, but we're travelling a long way from San Diego to get there. Would it be better to head straight to Vegas from SD and then do a day trip from Vegas? Or is the road trip from SD to the Grand Canyon worth while? Is Phoenix the right place to stop off at or are there alternative / better suggestions? As we've got 2 nights from SD to get to the Canyon where we'd stay for 1 night, are there any suggestions of how we'd best use our time (and which towns are good to visit) to break up the long trip to the Canyon?

    2nd concern is that we're currently missing all the national parks by driving down the beach route to LA. Would we better spend our time at a couple of the national parks (missing out Morro Bay), and then going straight from San Diego to Vegas and then do a day trip to the Canyon?

    If we've completely got it wrong, please feel free to suggest alternative suggestions as the only thing which is fixed is our start and end points (San Francisco and Las Vegas).

    Any help or guidance you can provide is much appreciated.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Just a Few Comments

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Your basic plan looks fine. There is, unfortunately, never enough time to do everything you'd like to and this is especially true of this area. You'll be particularly short on time on the day you drive from Morro Bay into Los Angeles. Even though you'll have most of the Pacific Coast Highway behind you, the drive through Oxnard and Malibu can be slow, as can getting through L.A. I really wouldn't plan on doing much "touristy stuff" in the city after about 3:00 PM when the evening rush hour traffic starts. You will have a bit more time in San Diego where I'd recommend Balboa Park as a first stop, followed by a harbor tour by boat.

    You are absolutely right in planning to go more or less directly from San Diego to the Grand Canyon. But unless there's a particular reason you want to see Phoenix, let me suggest a different route that might give you a better feel for the wide open spaces of the desert southwest. Leave San Diego on I-8 east through the Laguna Mountains and down into the (below sea level) Imperial Valley. Just after El Centro take CA-111 north to CA-78 northeast to I-10. In Arizona, take US-60 to Aguila, AZ-71 to Congress and US-89 north to Prescott. After Prescott, take AZ-89A through Jerome, Cottonwood, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff where you'd rejoin US-89 north to Cameron and then take AZ-64 through Grand Canyon National Park along the canyon side of the South Rim Drive and come out of the park southbound to Williams. From there, I-40 and US-93 will take you to Las Vegas across Hoover Dam. Your best overnight location on the way from San Diego to the Canyon would be Prescott or even Sedona if you fell like pressing that far.

    As I said, you will be missing some things. There's just too much. Resign yourself to that and enjoy the many wonderful places you will be getting to.


  3. Default

    Hi AZBuck,

    Thanks for the warm welcome and good suggestions.

    I've plotted your suggested route on Googlemaps and it looks good. My original route took me along the I-8 to

    My concern is the long journey from San Diego to Prescott (its saying about 8 hours!). As I have a spare day, are there any cool towns to stop off mid way for a night or would you press on to Prescott and then use the extra night at the Grand Canyon or Vegas?

    I forgot to mention (although you may have guessed), this trip is much as a relaxing trip (good hotels, food etc) as it is a road / sightseeing trip. Will Prescott be a good place to stay to keep us entertained for an afternoon / evening?

    Also, where would be a good stop at the Grand Canyon?


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default And a Few Alternatives

    If 500 or so miles is more than you want to cover in a day, I certainly understand. There's not a lot in the way of good lodging choices on the route I suggested, but a slight detour to Wickenburg using US-60/US-93 would be one alternative that offers a choice of places to stay and is only about 330 miles from San Diego, leaving you 250 miles the next day to reach the Grand Canyon. And I really do think you'd enjoy this route and taking time to stop in some of the smaller towns along the way, particularly Wickenburg, Prescott, Jerome and Sedona. If you can, try to book at one of the lodges in the park itself, such as the El Tovar. Failing that (They book up early), I'd recommend Flagstaff which has both some older motels from the heyday of Route 66 as well as more modern resorts.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If $100+ a night is acceptable, there are a few hotels in Tusayan, just outside the Grand Canyon south entrance. There is also the Cameron Trading Post on US-89 outside the east entrance. Flagstaff and Williams are going to be considerably cheaper.

  6. Default

    Hi there,

    We've been looking at this more and thanks again for our suggestions (which I've now modified my plans to!).

    More questions:

    1. Is Wickenburg a good place to stop for the night? Are there bars / restaurants etc?

    2. We're thinking we will follow your advice from Wickenburg and visit the smaller towns mentioned, but would stop at one of those places for the night. Would Flagstaff be a good choice for a night, or perhaps one of the smaller towns (e.g. Sedona / Cottonwood). Does this sound like a good plan?

    3. El Tovar is slightly out of our budget, but we've booked to stay at the Best Western Squire Inn, which is more reasonable and has some good reviews...

    One other question, on the other first half of our trip is on the journey from San Francisco to LA? Is Morro Bay the best central place to stay?

    Thanks again...
    Last edited by Sach; 01-16-2010 at 08:19 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default They're Options Rather Than Answers

    Yeah, I think Wickenburg would serve as an overnight stop that would fit in with the general tenor of your trip. Flagstaff would probably be the best goal for the next night. Only Prescott and Sedona really offer a selection of lodging options, and Prescott wouldn't be far enough and Sedona can get a bit pricey. The Squire Inn looks like a great alternative to El Tovar, so you clearly know how to shop around. Morro Bay is a bit farther than halfway down the PCH and a fairly sizeable town, which is why I suggested it. You might also want to check out Cambria and perhaps San Simeon as well, those being your only realistic options if you want to stay on or near the coast before getting into the more built up areas farther to the south.


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