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  1. Default Family Camping Trip to California/nearby Advice appreciated!

    We have just booked the flights that will hopefully let us have our dream holiday this summer, have organised car rental and are now frantically trying to organise the rest!! We are a large family of 2 adults and 4 children (15, 13, 11 and 10) and will be flying in and out of SF. We would love to see Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon etc but need advice on the best routes and wether this will even be possible in the time we have. In my mind I have us travelling out of SF to Yosemite, down through some more parks towards Grand Canyon, across to the coast and back up via the coast to SF - is this totally unrealistic in the time we have or do you think it can be done?!! Also, we will be on a limited budget and in the UK we always camp (in a tent) and want to do this again for the holiday, so can anyone tell me if we can just rent the equipment we would need or should we budget to bring it with us / buy in America? Really sorry for the questions and vague route, we have only just come into the money to pay for all this so are rushing around like mad trying to organise it all - though it is very fun!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default a classic

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The trip you're talking about is basically the most popular trip idea on this forum. Here are some of our favorites on the subject.

    One suggestion, you might want to reverse your order, so that you are going down the coast first. That means you'd be driving on the ocean side of the highway, and you wouldn't have to cross over to get to the turnouts and viewpoints.

    There's really no place that I know of to rent camping gear. I suspect your best bet would be just to pick up some basic gear at a place like Walmart. If you've got a few favorite items/gadget, or even a tent that will pack down fairly small you could bring those, but bulky things like sleeping bags can be picked up pretty cheap when you arrive.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Two Weeks Plus

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    You neglected to say how long you have for this 'dream trip' but you'd need a minimum of two weeks to do it justice. anything over that is a plus. You also failed to tell us when you'd be making your trip, but since you posted in the 'Summer' forum, and seem a bit frantic, I'll assume that you plan to come over in the next few months. Unfortunately, a significant section of the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) south of Monterey recently slid into the ocean and is closed for an as yet to be determined amount of time. But given the nature of the damage and the engineering required to repair it (and the state of the4 California budget) I would not expect it to be re-opened this summer (maybe not even this year). You can still drive the highway south and north of Monterey, but getting around the closed stretch necessitates a long detour inland using US-101 from Paso Robles to Soledad.

    Camping, however, is certainly possible, with state parks providing your best options. If you plan to stay in the more popular national parks, such as Yosemite, Kings Canyon or Grand Canyon, you should already have made your reservations by now. Still, check and see if anything is still available for your travel dates. Another option are national forests, some of which have 'distributed' or 'dispersed' camping where you are allowed to set up camp away from established camp sites as long as you observe certain rules. I'm not aware of anywhere that rents camping equipment, but you can certainly buy it here in a number of different price ranges (including used) and resell it to recoup a (small) part of your investment when you return home. Even at that, it might be cheaper to buythan to pay the outrageous baggage fees being charged these days by the airlines.

    AZBuck

  4. Default

    Thanks the replies, sorry I forgot to put how long we are coming for or when! We will be in the US for 3 weeks but have allowed three nights when we first arrive to spend in SF before we start to tour - thought that it might help us to adjust to time diference and also to organise camping gear, plus obviously to see SF. We are going to book to see Alcatraz and do all the usual touristy type things while there that we can cram in. As far as camping goes, sounds like we will need to bring what we can within our lugage allowance and buy the rest but that's fine. We are arriving on 27th July so it will be peak season unfortunately. I have already started to look at campsites and know that the ones in the centre of all the big parks are already booked but expected that, we are happy to stay nearby and travel in to see the main sights. I am sorry if I sound frantic, I am just aware that places are geting booked up so fast and am woried that if I leave it too long then we won't be able to stay anywhere even near the things we want to see.
    I hadn't thought about which side of the road to travel on but it is a great suggestion to reverse the route so we will be coast side so will definately do that. I have got a huge(!) map of the area so will have to think about the landslide and the best way to get around, but we would still like to see at least part of the coast as it looks so stunning. Any suggestions on how best to do this would be appreciated - we don't mind if we only do a little bit of coast before heading inland. Thanks again for the replies, I know this sort of route has many many threads and I have been reading them too so I am sorry if I repeat any questions.
    Thanks again.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default good news

    The good news is that you aren't traveling for 4 months, so there's a good chance that the coast highway will be reopened by then. If it is, then the answer is easy, head down as far as Cambria and then head east via Bakersfield.

    I wouldn't panic too much. It is true that some of the very popular sites fill up quickly, there are usually other options that still work well and you do have time to get things together.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default In the Event...

    ...that the PCH has not re-opened by the time of your trip, and you don't plan on going down to the Los Angeles area, there are still a number of sights worth visiting along the California coast. First, don't forget that the coast doesn't end at San Francisco. You can cross the famous Golden Gate Bridge and head north to Point Reyes National Seashore, Bodega Bay, and Point Arena as a day trip out of San Francisco. There is also still plenty to see before you get to the road closure including CA-1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz through Half Moon Bay and past several shoreline state parks, historic Monterey and its world class aquarium, 17 Mile Drive (toll) through Pebble Beach, and Carmel with one of the great old Spanish Missions (still an active parish).

    AZBuck

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Budget tips.

    You can book your Alcatraz tickets here. It is the only official ticket office where you don't have to use a ticket agency who sell the Alcatraz tours with other tours to make their profit.

    As you are visiting at least 4 major parks [Death valley and Sequoia could be added] you will most likely find the $80 annual parks pass better value than paying admission at each park individually. You can purchase it from the kiosk of the first park you visit. Alternatively, if you find yourself on Pier 39 in San Fran [recommended] the NPS have a small retail shop up one of the stairways where it can be purchased and leaflets, books and other info can be found.

  8. Default

    Thanks for the replies, there are some great suggestions and we will certainly consider them all. Thanks also for the links in the first post as there were a couple of old threads I hadn't found when looking before that were very useful. This is such a great site!
    I think that the idea of buying the park tickets that way is great - but is this per person or per vehicle? We will definately be going to Pier 39 so will probably buy there.
    It definately sounds as though our dreams could come to reality and we haven't been too ambitious which is good to know. Can I just check a couple more things please. First, Death Valley in August is obviously going to be incredibly hot - any advice on travelling through it? Secondly, could someone please tell me exactly where the coast road is closed from in both directions.
    Thanks in advance,
    Louisa

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    The NPS parks pass admits the whole vehicle.

    Traveling through Death Valley, make sure the A/C in the vehicle works well, and don't plan on camping. When you leave the vehicle, make sure you have plenty of water and put sunscreen on, and I'd wear a large brimmed hat. Expect daytime temperatures between 40 and 50 Celsius, and intense sun.

    CA-1 is closed about halfway between Carmel and Big Sur. It's only a short stretch that's closed, but there is no detour available without going back to Carmel or Cambria. There is a rugged mountain road available about halfway between Big Sur and Cambria, but it's not recommended for the faint of heart and it goes through an active military reservation.

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

    Default Surprisingly.........

    it looks as though renting camping equipment might be an option.

    This company in Arizona do equipment rental and can ship it to a UPS store by arrangement, of which there are a few based in San Fran. I then came across this rental company in San Jose. A large and well known company known as the REI outlet store also does rentals.

    As mentioned, DV will be extremely hot but OK to travel across with the above precautions. I would plan on spending a night camping out either side of the park or use one of the lodging facilities. For example you could spend a night in the Bishop/Mammoth lakes area while travelling between Yosemite and DV [or vice versa].

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