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  1. Default San Fran - Vegas Road Trip

    Hi guys,

    Not another post on this road trip I hear you say! I am arriving in San Fran from Ireland on January 28 with my girlfriend. We will spend New Years in San Fran and we are planning on doing a road trip from 2 January until 6/7 January. I have drafted a travel plan based on some of the info I have got from your site - amazing site by the way, fair play to you all for putting so much time into responses - but I have also been left with some questions which I need some help with and I'm sure with your experience here you should be able to answer no problem.

    Draft Itinerary:

    2 January - San Fran - Mojave/Vegas
    3 January - Mojave/Vegas - Sequoia National Park + Death Valley - Vegas
    4 January - Vegas - Grand Canyon - Vegas
    5 January - Vegas - San Luis Obispo
    6 January - San Luis Obispo - Carmel/Monterey
    7 January - Carmel/Monterey - San Fran

    Ok Question time.

    1. I see that the fastest route San Fran - Vegas is I 880 to I 580 to I 5 to Stockdale Highway to CA 58 to I 15. Is there any risk of any of these roads being closed at the start of January? We will be renting a car so we want to avoid any risk of damage to the car and obviously ourselves.

    2. On the first night I am not sure whether to go straight to Vegas or just go as far as Mojave. On the second day I plan on going to Sequoia and Death Valley NP so might be better to base ourselves at Mojave. What is Mojave like? Or would you recommend somewhere better to stay on way to these NPs?

    3. As I said, on the second day we plan on going to Sequoia and Death Valley, is there any risk of these being closed due to weather? And is this too much to try and squeeze in to a short winters day?

    4. On day 5 we plan on going from Vegas to San Luis Obispo, what route would you recommend? Again want to avoid bad road conditions, while would like to take a quick route but also scenic if possible.

    5. Finally, I am uncertain whether or not to make it straight back to San Fran from San Luis Obispo on 6 January or stay overnight in Carmel or Monterey. Is this a long journey? I have heard that the coast road, Highway 1, can be a quite tiring road to drive, because of the bends.

    Again, I must complement you for this amazing site. I will keep searching for more info for my trip but these few questions were bothering me and preventing me from booking hotels etc.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    While it is possible for any section of highway to be closed in the winter (or, truthfully, any time of year,) you stand a much better chance of getting through by sticking to the Interstates. These are the primary thoroughfares and, outside of a major catastrophe, will be maintained in good working order. That said, I don't think you will run into a problem.

    Your first day plan to go straight to Las Vegas gives you quite a bit to overcome - jet lag combined with a roughly 11-hour drive in unfamiliar territory. I would highly advise against doing the entire distance in one day given those circumstances.

    On the Sequoia National Park's web site, there are notes that state:
    1. "The roads to Cedar Grove and Mineral King are closed." Generals Highway may be closed at certain times.
    2. Your vehicle should have tire chains.

    Visiting both Sequoia and Death Valley in the course of a single day, and then onto Las Vegas, does not appear practical.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Needs a Rework

    Céad Míle Fáilte! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    As you have described it, your itinerary would have you behind the wheel of the car nearly 6 days of the 4 or 5 you have available, so clearly something's, actually several somethings, got to give. Assuming that you are OK with simply driving by or through most of the places you mention rather than visiting a few of them in depth, let's see if we can't rearrange things to try to give you a fighting chance. On your first driving day (which should NOT be the day you arrive after a long trans-Atlantic flight, but only after a good night's sleep in a real bed) your first destination should be a drive through of Sequoia National Park and spending the first night in Bakersfield. Day two would consist of exploration of the Mojave National Preserve on you way to Las Vegas for the evening. Day three would take you to the Grand Canyon for a very brief visit and finishing up in Williams or, at a stretch, Kingman. Day four would be a long drive to San Luis Obispo and Day five a long (timewise) drive up the coast back to San Francisco. So, you see that you need a minimum of five days to even begin to see most of what you want, but even then, you can't count your day of arrival or departure, and we've had to drop Death Valley.

    Some specifics to help you in your planning. All of the roads over the Sierra Nevada will be snow bound and closed. You will have to go around to the south through Bakersfield. The Pacific Coast Highway is a great scenic drive, but it is slow and you will want to stop frequently. If your flight out the next day is late, then you can plan on only going as far north as Monterey, and continuing on to San Francisco the next day. Finally, it is typical that our European visitors can get a better rate on their hire car by booking through a European consolidator rather than directly with the US rental agencies, so be sure to check out what is available to you locally.


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

    Default On it's head.

    It doesn't look as though jet lag will be a concern, I presume you meant to say that you are arriving on Dec 28th ?

    If the 'Generals highway' [198] is open, it is a slow going road at the best of times, with a real possibility of ice and snow it will be even slower. As the crow flies Death valley to Sequoia isn't that far, but having to go around the mountains between the 2 means no chance of visiting both and putting lots of miles under your belt in the same day.

    The coast Rd is slow going and very scenic, but given the time I wouldn't describe it as tiring.

    Now you could turn things around by heading down the coast first, this will also have the advantage of having the Ocean and turn outs on your side of the road. You could then head direct to Grand Canyon and then back to Vegas. In Vegas you could get a heads up on the weather and road conditions in Sequoia and decide whether to head there, or take a little more time in Death valley. Another consideration would be Yosemite valley, you can see giant Sequoia's at Mariposa grove and the valley is very scenic, but like Sequoia there could be a lot of snow and chain restrictions.

    As mentioned earlier, either something has to give or you need more time.

  5. Default

    Thanks a million for the replies guys. Thought I was being a bit over enthusiastic alright. I will have a rejig things and drop something or a few things I guess.

    Yep, I meant to say December 28 alright so jet lag won't be an issue, although a hang over from NYE/NYD could be!!

    Regarding the method of getting to Vegas/Grand Canyon etc. I wanted to get the bulk of the driving out of the way on the first day thus selecting the quickest route to Vegas. However, I am just looking at the map here so the reality of driving on these roads in perhaps difficult conditions is completely different and I know it would probably take me at least 12 hours to get to Vegas from San Fran all going well.

    Regarding Sequoia NP, the thought of needing to put chains on the wheels of a rental car is not very appealing so I might just skip the sequoia park this time around. Thanks for the link though MassTim, I will have a look at the site and see what they say.

    Thanks also for the suggestion SW Dave on Yosemite, however I have already been to Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa grove a few years back so wanted to get something else in this time around.

    If I was to make it to Mojave on the first day and head for Death Valley for the second day and night, what roads would you guys suggest to take?
    Regarding that road 395 up towards Death Valley from the map I am looking at it appears to be low lying enough, is this a road that might also close?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Save miles.

    It would take some pretty serious weather to shut the 395, it is a main, year round Highway.

    However, if you are headed to the Grand canyon I would go from Mojave to GC to Vegas to Death valley and back towards SF, so that you can drive across Death valley without going back on yourself, it would save you up to 200 miles and valuable time also.

  7. Default

    Excellent. I'll have another proper luck at the roads so and work off that. Thanks SW Dave.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I would suggest you take fastest route from SF to the GC, and see how far you can get the first day. This would be I-5/CA-46/CA-99/CA-58/I-40. With some luck, you may be able to make it as far as Kingman. You need to get ahead of the game, and this first day is your best opportunity.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Mojave ?

    That will of course depend on whether you still want to spend time in the Mojave preserve.

    To answer your earlier question.

    What is Mojave like?
    Take a look at this RTA link.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I was assuming "Mojave" was referring to the town on CA-58 between Bakersfield and Barstow, not the preserve. Mojave the town is a dusty little desert town just outside Edwards Air Force Base with a few motels and fast food joints. Its only claim to fame is the airport with the aircraft boneyard which is not open to the public.

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