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  1. #1

    Default San Francisco - Phoenix. Where to spend 8 nights?

    Greetings! First post here, and I'm so glad I found this web site! Thumbs up to the creators! =)

    Me and two friends are planning a road trip in the Southwestern U.S. this spring, and need some help and inspiration.

    The scenario: We're leaving San Francisco in the morning of March 31st. Need to be in Phoenix by noon on April 8th (in time for Opening Day at Chase Field). We're staying in S.F. a few days before the road trip and leaving Phoenix for Las Vegas on the morning of April 10th. (We're then doing 5 nights in Las Vegas, before heading to Orlando, FL, for a week. Then it's time to head home...)

    The problem: What route shall we take and where shall we spend our 8 nights?

    One thing we'd like to do is drive south from S.F. along the Pacific Coast Highway. Don't know for how long, but we're looking at staying in Morro Bay. But that might be too long of a drive to do in just one day, maybe? We don't want to just drive, drive, drive the entire day. We're looking to do a handful of stops along the way.

    After Pacific Coast Highway, the plan is to head east towards Bakersfield and on. Some things that we've been looking at and are interested in:
    - Death Valley National Park and the surrounding areas.
    - The area in southern Utah, with Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Possibly with a stay in St George or Kanab?
    - Four corners monument and Southwestern Colorado. Been looking at and reading about Durango, CO, and it seems like quite a nice place.
    - Ghost towns!
    - Scenic routes along the way.
    - It would be nice to at least enter New Mexico in some fashion, just to set foot in another state and take one off the list. 37 states to go...

    We're not that interested in Grand Canyon this time around, since we've been to both the west and south rim before. Also, we did the trip between Phoenix and Page, AZ, in 2009 and have been to most of the parks and monuments along the way. Have been to Hoover Dam before as well, but we're planning to drive by when heading for Las Vegas.

    I understand that there's quite a distance - to say the least - between the west coast and, say, Durango, CO. And that there's a lot of driving involved. So I'm fully aware that we might not get to see all the things I listed above.

    As I mentioned, we'd rather not spend every single day in the car, driving. We want to do stops along the way, but not looking at any hiking or all-day adventures in the parks or such things. However, since there's three of us driving, if needed we can do some serious non-stop driving for at least half a day or more, in to the late evening, just to get to a place in time.

    Also, we're perfectly fine with staying more than one night at the same place. Durango, for example, seems to be a town where I'd love to spend an extra night. ;)

    So, with that said, please post your suggestions and opinions on how to spend our 8 days on the road. Thanks! =)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default So many options.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You certainly have many options available to you but if you don't want to spend your whole time in the car you will have to pick and choose accordingly. Everything you mentioned is wonderful in it's own right. If you went as far as the Cambria area down the coast you could cut across to Bakersfield, Barstow and up I 15 to Zion NP and down through Page AZ and to Monument valley and the Four corners area, where you can stand in 4 states at one time including New Mexico. You could visit Death valley on route to Zion but it's also possible as a day trip from Vegas.

    You would have more time to enjoy yourselves with a couple of days on the coast and Monterey would be an option to stop a night. Take a look around the forums and other roadtrip pages above and try and balance the trip out to your liking and then we can help to 'fine tune' it. From the coast following the route above it would be 3 full days of driving so it would become quite packed and you might want to consider shortening your time in the City.

  3. #3


    Dave, thank you for your input!

    I've been searching the forum and the rest of the web site, as you said, and this is what I've come up with, as a preliminary plan. All the distances and times are from Google Maps.

    Day 1: San Francisco, CA - Monterey or Carmel, CA.
    123 miles. Approx 2 h 30 min driving time. This should give us enough time for plenty of stops along the way, no?

    Day 2: Monterey or Carmel, CA - Bakersfield, CA.
    236 mi. 4 h 40 min. More stops along PCH during the first half of this leg, then heading east to Bakersfield.

    Day 3: Bakersfield, CA - Primm, NV.
    268 mi. 4h 35 min. Making our way towards Utah here. Mostly a "travel day". Definitely need suggestions here on what to do or see. I'm thinking ghost towns.

    Day 4: Primm, NV - Hurricane, UT.
    179 mi. 2h 55 min. We'll try to get to Utah as early as possible, and maybe have time to do Zion NP on this day. Or is that too optimistic?

    Day 5: Hurricane, UT - Page, AZ
    Unknown distance and time. We'll head north to see as much as possible of Bryce Canyon and the surrounding parks and areas. Then down to Page in the evening.

    Day 6: Page, AZ - Durango, CO
    288 mi. 5h 35 min. Quite the distance. Maybe too much. Included here is a stop at Monument Valley. Ideas on what else to see along the way would be appreciated!

    Day 7: Durango, CO
    Another full day and night in Durango, since we'll probably arrive real late the evening before. Million dollar highway seems to be a nice option. Or maybe the Durangon-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad? Other ideas and suggestions on how to spend this day are welcome!

    Day 8: Durango, CO - Flagstaff, AZ
    310 mi. 5h 40 min. Another not-so-nice leg with lots of drivning, but since we need to be in Phoenix by noon the next day, there's not much of a choice. Ideas?

    Day 9: Flagstaff, AZ - Phoenix, AZ
    147 mi. 2h 30 min. Opening day at Chase Field. (Go D-backs!)

    Basically, it's the part from Page and onwards that might be a bit too much. Even though we are three people driving and can switch drivers quite often. Suggestions and ideas on alternative routes are most welcome! Maybe, instead of doing two nights in Durango, we should just stay one night at Monument Valley and then head for Durango early the next morning?

    And yeah, sorry for the long post... ;)

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

    Default Another option.

    The best of the coast is to be seen from the Monterey area around Big Sur to Cambria and as you are only spending one night on the coast you could consider travelling all the way to Cambria on day 1 with an early[ish] start from San Fran and then push on further on day 2, possibly North of Vegas around Mesquite. It would be a long day on the road but this would lighten the load around Zion and Bryce and give you a little extra time to enjoy the parks, it's an amazing area. In my opinion time spent there rather than Bakersfield and Primm is time better spent. I would also look at the town of Springdale for Zion NP as it is right by the entrance to the park and you can catch the free shuttle bus from town into the canyon. Page to Durango with a trip to Monument valley is pretty full day but quite manageable.

    Don't concern yourself with 'not so nice legs' of the journey, the scenery will keep you fresh and hold your interest along the way.

  5. Default


    There isn't much in Primm.

    That being said, if you want to enjoy some casinos for a night they have a set of 3 casinos there. There's also an outlet mall as well. If you like rollercoasters, Desperado is located at Buffalo Bills Casino. At one time I believe it was the tallest coaster in the U.S.

    In my opinion, Primm would be a good changeup from national parks, etc. My wife and I made a day trip to Primm from Vegas last spring and we had a good time there.

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