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  1. Default Advice for LA-SF-Vegas in two weeks

    Hello forum!
    (Sorry if I picked the wrong topic for my first post, this could be either in the Vegas topic or the Fall & Winter topic I guess)
    Me and the girlfriend are planning the roadtrip of a lifetime, obviously the most discussed here on the forum: LA to SF on Highway 1, then on to Vegas via Yosemite. We fly in from Sweden and land in LA on October 16th (Saturday) in the afternoon and leave on the Saturday morning two weeks later (oct 30) from Vegas. A two week trip that is. I have read dozens of threads here om RTA about this particular roadtrip so I think I have the basics covered and the consensus seems to be that two weeks should be enough but not plenty. We hope to keep a hotel budget of around $80-$120 per night on average, including parking. As for what to see and do we are interested in the usual things: parks&views, food&wine, and we donít mind a hike to get a great picture.
    My first idea for a plan has 8 stops (my planned number of nights next to each):
    1. Los Angeles (2 nights)
    2. 1/3 of the way to SF. Suggestions? (1 night)
    3. 2/3 of the way to SF. Carmel? Other Suggestions? (1 night)
    4. San Francisco (3 nights)
    5. Yosemite (2 nights)
    6. Bishop? (1 night)
    7. Death Valley: Furnace Creek/Stovepipe Wells (1 night)
    8. Vegas (2nights) + (Grand Canyon 1 night)

    Is this the best way to fit this into 14 nights? Are we staying too long somewhere and rushing through something else? The only real constraint is that we have to spend the last night in LV since it is an early morning flight, and also we probably want two nights in LA to allow for a full day there while waiting for our lost luggage to arrive from Newark :)
    Other than that I have a few questions about each stop below
    1. LA is huge. What is a good area to stay and use as a starting point while exploring LA by car? Hotel recommendations welcome. The first evening we will probably just pick up the car, find the hotel and then deal with the jetlag.
    2. Is two night stops about right for Hwy1? Recommendations for the stops, hotels and activities welcome!
    3. Second stop, somewhere after Big Sur (Big Sur looks scenic but accommodation seems expensive and scarce so we shouldnít stay there, correct?)
    4. We probably want two full days in SF, three if one is used for a wine country day trip. Hotel recommendations? if possible somewhere with free or cheap hotel parking. I think we want to drive less and walk more while in SF.
      If we want to drive around Napa/Sonoma and see some wineries, would that be better as a daytrip from SF, as a night stop on the way to Yosemite, or possible to squeeze into the same day as driving to Yosemite (a detour) without rushing? Could we skip it entirely and catch a winery or two on the shortest way to Yosemite?
    5. Iím thinking we need two nights near Yosemite in order to get a full day at the park, that is, arrive in the evening somewhere within an hour from the park, spend the whole next day in the park and then return to the same hotel. Next morning drive over the hills. Is this unnecessary, could we spend a day in the park and drive to Bishop, even if Tioga is closed? Or could we leave early from SF and still do the park and only spend one night near Yosemite? Suppose we do spend two nights, how close would you recommend we stay? Itís hard to estimate the driving times from the park to the closer places (like Wawona) and the cheaper and more remote (like Midpines). Being from northern Sweden Iím more than used to driving on snow and Ice, but Iím confused about the snow chains too: where do we buy them and how do we know when they are required? From what I understand there is kind of a donít ask donít tell arrangement concerning rental cars and snow chainsÖ?
    6. Would Bishop be a good place to stay on the way to Vegas, or could we drive all the way to a night stop in Death Valley while still sightseeing and possibly having to take a longer route over the mountains? Ideally a single stop would be best, but not if we have to hurry and there are things to see on the way.
    7. We do want to stay I night in death valley, right? Sunset and sunrise I understand is the thing here. Choosing the right town and hotel is the question.
    8. We donít know how we are going to get to Grand Canyon but we understand it is more than a day trip. One option is just passing through Vegas from DV and continuing to somewhere closer to the canyon for the night (where?) Then see the canyon and return to Vegas and stay two nights there. The other option is an overnight excursion from Vegas (Vegas hotel on Vegas day 1 and 3 and somewhere near the canyon on day 2). Third option if we are really sick of driving we could even opt for a flight or other organized tour. I hope we can leave this decision for when we arrive in Vegas or shortly before? This would mean not bothering at all with a hotel reservation in Vegas, but I assume Las Vegas wonít be sold out, and prices wonít be sky high in the last minute? Perhaps we could even find a bargain? Regarding Vegas hotels: the south point gets great reviews but this is more than walking distance from the more famous parts of the strip, right? Any recommendations for a more central hotel if we should opt for that?


    Thanks for any help!

    Regards

    Anders

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,748

    Default Some thoughts.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Your trip is basically well thought through and planned out, so well done.

    The only part that might throw up a problem is from Yosemite to Bishop on route to Death valley. To get across the Sierra mountain range you have to use the Tioga pass [CA120] which typically closes anytime from mid October to the beginning of December, depending on when the first heavy snowfalls arrive in the mountains. This is not a big problem as you can head South towards Bakersfield and across to Death valley, perhaps stopping in the Lake Isabella area. I think you will be fine finding lodgings either way, so would wait and see, but take the Tioga if it is open, it's spectacular !

    1] I am not up on LA but it will be dependent on what is of interest to you in LA. You are right to take it easy on arrival and recover from jet lag and to let your body clock adjust accordingly.

    2/3]Two nights up the coast will be a nice pace with time to enjoy it, although many just stop the 1 night. For two nights, around Cayucos/San Simeon would be good [possible Hearst castle tour] and around Carmel for night 2.

    4] San Fran is a compact City and easy to get around by foot and cable cars. Parking can be expensive but there are a few Hotels that include it in the price so research carefully. Lombard street has a few options that do this and are reasonably priced, one we stayed at was Buena motor vista Inn, reasonable, free parking and OK lodgings as well as convenient to the Piers and cable cars downtown. If you want to do an Alcatraz tour you can book in advance to save queueing at nps.gov Alcatraz.

    5]I would definitely recommend 2 nights in Yosemite, it's breath taking ! Groveland and Oakhurst among others have lodgings near to the park and somewhere between Bishop and Lone Pine on the other side. As well as a day in Yosemite valley, you can visit Glacier point [out of this world] and the giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove. I doubt snow chains will be an issue but you should keep up to date with the latest info, if you are required to use them, then you must.

    6/7] If you get an early start from Yosemite you could go direct to Death valley or stay in Lone Pine [both cover the Tioga status]. The first lodgings in DV are Panamint springs and then Stovepipe Wells for a great sunset over the Dunes. If you got this far you could start your journey to Grand canyon later next day and stop over on route. Stopping between Bishop and Lone pine would make Furnace creek a good stop for the second night.

    8] Grand canyon is more than a day trip and is another place that you really should witness a sunset from, so I would head there first and finish your trip in Vegas. The tours from Vegas usually go to the West rim which is not part of the National park system but on Indian lands and home of "Skywalk". I would recommend the National park.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the quick reply Dave!

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    The only part that might throw up a problem is from Yosemite to Bishop on route to Death valley. To get across the Sierra mountain range you have to use the Tioga pass [CA120] which typically closes anytime from mid October to the beginning of December, depending on when the first heavy snowfalls arrive in the mountains. This is not a big problem as you can head South towards Bakersfield and across to Death valley, perhaps stopping in the Lake Isabella area. I think you will be fine finding lodgings either way, so would wait and see, but take the Tioga if it is open, it's spectacular !
    Yes I have seen the historical dates for the closing of the Tioga (odds seem slightly better than 50/50 for us). Is there no closer pass than Bakersfield that is guaranteed to be open? Or did you recommend that because it is a scenic drive? If we start from Yosemite in the morning and head for either the Tioga pass, Bakersfield or an alternative to the north of the Tioga pass if one exists and is open all winter (e.g. CA108)?, is there a point on the other side we can reach regardless? If I read the map correctly Lone Pine looks like one such place? If we want to book a hotel in advance that could be the place?

    Feels like a shame passing the sequoia national park without stopping in that case, but I gess even Yosemite to Lone Pine is a stretch without a night stop. If we would opt to squeeze another night out (for example by skipping one Hwy1 night or one of the stops east of the mountains) would you recommend Sequoia/Kings canyon? Booking that now however would rule out tioga even if it is open!

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    5]I would definitely recommend 2 nights in Yosemite, it's breath taking ! Groveland and Oakhurst among others have lodgings near to the park and somewhere between Bishop and Lone Pine on the other side. As well as a day in Yosemite valley, you can visit Glacier point [out of this world] and the giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove. I doubt snow chains will be an issue but you should keep up to date with the latest info, if you are required to use them, then you must.
    With two nights we would probably have one full day (arrive in evening and leave early after night 2). Depending on how early we reach the hotel on the first day near Yosemite (Midpines/Oakhurst/Groveland), we might drive to see something else than the valley during the first afternnon, Mariposa Grove or Glacier point perhaps depending on how long it would take.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post

    6/7] If you get an early start from Yosemite you could go direct to Death valley or stay in Lone Pine [both cover the Tioga status]. The first lodgings in DV are Panamint springs and then Stovepipe Wells for a great sunset over the Dunes. If you got this far you could start your journey to Grand canyon later next day and stop over on route. Stopping between Bishop and Lone pine would make Furnace creek a good stop for the second night.
    Do you mean we can reach Panamint Springs or some other DV town from Yosemite, even if tioga is closed? And then reach the overnight place near Grand Canyon from there in one drive? That would save us a night (the night in Bishop/Lone Pine) that we could use for something else, but perhaps it would be two very long drives without much sightseeing (Yosemite-DV and DV-Grand Canyon)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    8] Grand canyon is more than a day trip and is another place that you really should witness a sunset from, so I would head there first and finish your trip in Vegas. The tours from Vegas usually go to the West rim which is not part of the National park system but on Indian lands and home of "Skywalk". I would recommend the National park.
    Driving from DV to the overnight stop near grand canyon would mean arriving there after sunset I guess. But we could perhaps start early the next day to reach the canyon by sunrise, spend some time at the canyon during the day and be back in Vegas in the evening?

    Which Canyon rim is in the national park? And where is a good place to stop for the night? I'm going to search the vegas threads for this too now...

    Again, Thanks for all your input!

    Anders

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default

    Sierra passes - 120, 4, and 108 all close for the winter. Closing dates vary. I-80, US-50, and CA-88 are all maintained year round but are subject to temporary closures. To the south, CA-178 and CA-58 are maintained year round.

    If you need chains, Walmarts in California generally sell them.

    Both rims of the GC are in the park, but the South Rim is the one most people think of. The North Rim closes for the winter and has minimal facilities. The most convenient place to stay for the south rim is in the town of Tusayan, but rooms are $100+ a night. If this is too expensive, you can stay in Williams or Flagstaff.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    South of England.
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    Default Juggling time.

    Bakersfield is a quick alternative to DV if Tioga is closed, and as glc pointed out some of the Northerly ones are also subject to closure, and yes, Lone Pine would be such a place that you could reach either way. Seqouia NP is wonderful but would add another night to your journey to enjoy.

    With an early [ish] start from SF you could be in Yosemite early pm and have time to do a little exploring. Glacier point and Mariposa grove of giant Sequoias [Wawona] are nearer the Southern entrance so you could drive through there and look for lodgings around Mariposa, El Portal for the night, or a little further but more likely cheaper, Oakhurst.

    Do you mean we can reach Panamint Springs or some other DV town from Yosemite, even if tioga is closed? And then reach the overnight place near Grand Canyon from there in one drive?
    It is possible to get to Panamint springs/Stovepipe Wells from Yosemite and perhaps get as far as Kngman next day while continuing through Death valley, but it might leave you feeling a little rushed over Tioga and in Death valley. From Kingman it will take in the region of 3.5 hours to get to the Grand canyon South rim, you could have a look around, witness a sunset and stay in Williams or Flagstaff and head back to Vegas next day.

    If you stopped in Lone Pine and then Furnace creek [as you wanted to stay inside DV NP] it would give you more time exploring and then a long drive to GC South rim.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Note that if you are trying to get from DV to the GC in a hurry, you may have delays at security crossing the Hoover Dam. You may want to take the following LV bypass:

    Coming out the east entrance of DV on 190, turn right on 127 at Death Valley Junction. Take that to I-15 at Baker and go north toward LV. At Wheaton Springs, take the Nipton Rd exit, turn right and take that to Searchlight NV. Go south on US-95 to NV-163, turn left and go east into Laughlin. Cross the river into Bullhead City and turn left on AZ-68 which will take you to US-93 to Kingman. This is approximately 4.5 hours from Death Valley Junction to Kingman. Going through Pahrump and LV, the drive time is a bit under 4 hours with NO dam delays.

    Of course, if you are going to spend a night in LV between DV and the GC, this is a moot point. However, you CAN take US-95 from US-93 through Searchlight to avoid the dam, this is the posted truck bypass.

  7. Default

    Thanks everyone.

    It seems we are one night short if we need two nights in order to visit GC. Arriving late in Vegas the night before leaving doesn't feel right. I'll either figure out a way to cut a night from somewhere earlier in the trip (Just one stop on Hwy1? Two nights rather than 3 in SF? Yosemite with only 1 night? where would you save 1 night?), or if that can't be done, maybe we well opt for a flight to the Canyon to save time.

  8. #8
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    Default Decisions.

    I think you could pinch a night early in your trip, either a one night stop for the coast road or leave Carmel early[ish] so that you have 2 and a half days in SF, [2 nights] but I wouldn't drop one from Yosemite, as the travel time either side of a one night stop would limit your time there. Of course that is a personal opinion and it is where you most want to spend your time that is important.

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