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  1. #1

    Default West Coast National Parks road trip advice?

    We are from Spain and we are planning our road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles visiting the National Parks, and we'd like some advice!. Our itinerary:

    Day 1: San Francisco-Silicon Valley-San Jose-Madera
    Day 2: Madera-Yosemite-Jamestown
    Day 3: Jamestown-Eldorado-South Lake Tahoe
    Day 4: South Lake Tahoe-Bodie-Mono Lake-Mammoth Lakes
    Day 5: Mammoth Lakes-Death Valley-Beatty
    Day 6: Beatty-Valley of Fire-Overton
    Day 7: Overton-Zion Canyon-Mt Carmel
    Day 8: Mt Carmel-Bryce Canyon-Hatch
    Day 9: Hatch-Page (Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powel Dam)
    Day 10: Page-Monument Valley
    Day 11: Monument Valley-Grand Canyon-Williams
    Day 12: Williams-Hoover Dam-Las Vegas
    Day 13: Las Vegas
    Day 14: Las Vegas-Mojave-Joshua Tree
    Day 15: Joshua Tree-San Diego
    Day 16: San Diego-LA
    Days 16, 17: LA
    Day 18: LA-Back to Spain

    Do you think that's feasable? Any suggestions, changes, additions? Only one of us is driving, that's why we are trying to keep it under 4-5 driving hours a day.

    Our first idea was to spend some more time at Yosemite, but lodging in the Park is ridiculously expensive (if available).

    Also, we wanted to go from Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes through Tioga Pass, but seeing the snow pack and the snow amount this year we don't think Tioga Pass will be open by May 29th... That's why we decided to go to South Lake Tahoe, no problems going that way, right??

    Is Eldorado worth a "proper" visit? Or is just driving by enough?

    Are we missing something? Any other places less known but worth a visit?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
    Posts
    249

    Default Too ambitious

    While I admire your wish to see as much as possible during your trip, I think "ambitious" is too mild a word to describe your itinerary. Unfortunately you would have to spend much more than 4 or 5 hours per day driving to see all the places on your list, unless you plan to simply drive past them.

    Day 1: San Francisco-Silicon Valley-San Jose-Madera
    Day 2: Madera-Yosemite-Jamestown
    Day 3: Jamestown-Eldorado-South Lake Tahoe

    Is there anything in particular you wish to see in Madera? So you can see more than the roads, you may want to consider going from San Francisco straight to Yosemite. You can take a short tour through Yosemite Valley in 5 or 6 hours (I did so last year in May, but I'd been there a number of times before) before heading to Jamestown. Jamestown has an oil old-buring locomotive that pulls old coaches for a short train ride, but there isn't much else to see there. There are more interesting Gold Rush era buildings a bit farther north in Sonora and Columbia State Park. While I've driven US 50, I've never stopped in El Dorado.

    Day 4: South Lake Tahoe-Bodie-Mono Lake-Mammoth Lakes
    Day 5: Mammoth Lakes-Death Valley-Beatty
    Day 6: Beatty-Valley of Fire-Overton

    I love Bodie and stop there every few years. The last few miles into the state park are dirt, so it can be slow going. The Mono Lake visitor center is right off the highway and doesn't take much time to see. There are plenty of places to see in Death Valley, however, and I'd recommend staying at Stovepipe Wells and exploring it a bit more than driving straight through to Beatty. I didn't see much in Beatty that made me want to stay the night there. I can't comment on Day 6 as I've never been to the Valley of Fire or Overton.

    Day 7: Overton-Zion Canyon-Mt Carmel
    Day 8: Mt Carmel-Bryce Canyon-Hatch
    Day 9: Hatch-Page (Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powel Dam)
    Day 10: Page-Monument Valley

    I'm glad to see you slowing down here. There are plenty of beautiful scenes to take in among the national parks here. Is there any reason you want to stay in Hatch? You may find better lodging choices in Kanab. Do you know where you plan to stay in Monument Valley?

    Day 11: Monument Valley-Grand Canyon-Williams
    Day 12: Williams-Hoover Dam-Las Vegas
    Day 13: Las Vegas

    This part of the trip looks easy to do. There are a number places to stop while in Grand Canyon National Park to get good views from the edge. If you are interested in old planes there is a great museum in Valle (between Grand Canyon and Williams). Williams is a nice little town, but be careful of your lodging's location. Most motels are situated right near the railroad tracks and can be a bit noisy at night. Rod's Steakhouse is an old Route 66 fixture and is a decent place for dinner in Williams. I tend to avoid Las Vegas, but I'm sure you can finds a lot of information about what to see there.

    Day 14: Las Vegas-Mojave-Joshua Tree
    Day 15: Joshua Tree-San Diego
    Day 16: San Diego-LA
    Days 16, 17: LA
    Day 18: LA-Back to Spain

    When going through the Mojave National Preserve, you may want to stop to see the Kelso Dunes. The visitor center is nearby in the old Kelso train station. While it's a longer drive, going from Joshua Tree National Park via CA 86 and 78 (through Anza Borrego State Park and Julian) is a much more beautiful drive than taking I 10 to I-15 south in order to get to San Diego.

  3. #3

    Default Thanks a lot!

    First of all thank you so much for all the info!! I know it will be more than 4 hours driving, I didn't make myself clear. What I meant was "just driving" without nothing to see, just to go from point A to point B. Anyway, we'll take into account your advice and we'll see if we can reduce the itinerary :)

    I know, nothing to see in Madera, but we'll be leaving San Francisco at about 3pm, so we would arrive a bit too late at Yosemite... Our idea was to spend the night close to the Park, wake up early in the morning (7am) and head towards Yosemite (entering from Oakhurst). We plan to spend the day at Yosemite, visiting the main POIs, and then go to Jamestown to sleep. We chose Jamestown just because is near the Park and in our way to South Lake Tahoe. We'd love to spend some more time at Yosemite, but with Tioga Pass (probably) closed, we just can't see how...

    We'll definetely have a look at those Gold Rush era buildings at Sonora and Columbia State Park, thanks for the tip! And just skip Eldorado. That way we should have enough time to enjoy South Lake Tahoe for a few hours before going to sleep, and some more next morning.

    We'll leave South Lake Tahoe around noon and head to Bodie. Spend some time there, and arrive to Mono Lake in time to enjoy the sunset at South Tufa. Sleeping in Mammoth Lakes.

    Next day, we'll be in our way to Death Valley, where we plan to spend the whole day. We've chosen Beatty for this night because it was much cheaper than Stovepipe Wells, but we'll reconsider our choice.

    For Bryce Canyon we thought Hatch was a better idea than Kanab cause it's near the Park, we plan to watch the sunset in Bryce and we want to avoid driving at night as much as possible. In Monument Valley we plan to stay at Goulding's Lodge, right next to Monument Valley.

    Thanks for the tip on Williams motels! We wouldn't have thought of that when looking for a motel. That's the third time in two days I hear about Rod's Steakhouse, that's something we'll definetely try!

    I'll make sure we take CA 86 and 78 when leaving from Joshua Tree!

    Once again, thanks a lot for all your help, really appreciate it!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Thoughts.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You certainly have a lot packed in and you may feel a little rushed in places. A couple of thoughts for you. As you say you are entering Yosemite from the South through Oakhurst, perhaps Oakhurst would be a better place to stay as it offers reasonable lodging rates and is a bit nearer the park.

    As mentioned, part of the road to Bodie is unpaved and therefor could be in breach of your rental agreement that usually states that you must stay on paved roads. If that was the case you could push on further that day nearer to Death valley.

    If you are heading from Beatty to the Valley of Fire State park you will driving right by Vegas, you could stop in Vegas at this point in your trip and then head to Joshua tree NP direct from the Grand canyon. You will miss the Hoover dam doing this but it will save you some miles.

    Although your itinerary is 'doable', I would consider dropping a little from your itinerary and enjoy more than just a 'drve thru' in the National parks like Zion and Grand canyon.

  5. #5

    Default

    Hi Dave, thanks for the welcome and for your advice!

    I'll have a look again at motels/hotels at Oakhurst to see if I missed something, I had a look yesterday and couldn't find anything suiting our budget (we'll be sleeping there on a Saturday night, so many places were already fully booked).

    Ooops didn't know about not beeing allowed to go with your rental car into an unpaved road (which makes sense, now you mention it). I'll check that with the rental company, thanks for the tip!

    If you are heading from Beatty to the Valley of Fire State park you will driving right by Vegas, you could stop in Vegas at this point in your trip and then head to Joshua tree NP direct from the Grand canyon. You will miss the Hoover dam doing this but it will save you some miles.
    I get your point, but by doing as you say we would not only miss Hoover Dam, but also Mojave? Unless we make Grand Canyon-Mojave-Joshua Tree, but in that case we would be entering Mojave NP from the south and then backtracking to I-40 (instead of crossing it from north to south).

    But you just gave me an idea: perhaps we could skip San Diego and go instead to LA from Joshua Tree, and spend just two nights there (our flight leaves at 18:15, so that gives us some extra time in LA). That way, we would have two spare nights we could spend at Zion and Grand Canyon. How does this sound?

    Thanks again for all the help and tips provided!
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 04-19-2011 at 01:04 AM. Reason: Fixed Quote

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    If you are looking for a place to stay close to Bryce Canyon, there are some reasonably priced motels in Panguitch. I've stayed at the "New Western" and it's acceptable. Hatch appears to be extremely limited. I also think there's a reasonably priced hotel in Tropic - America's Best Value, if I'm not mistaken.

    Something you might want to look at, time permitting - instead of going from Bryce to Page, then MV and GC, take UT-12 to Torrey, take a quick pass through Capitol Reef, then UT-24 to Hanksville and UT-95 to MV. From there, THEN go to Page and the GC. UT-12 is one of the greatest scenic highways in the country.

    Via this route, you can drive from Bryce to MV in one day. It's about 300 miles of single lane roads.

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

    Default

    But you just gave me an idea: perhaps we could skip San Diego and go instead to LA from Joshua Tree, and spend just two nights there (our flight leaves at 18:15, so that gives us some extra time in LA). That way, we would have two spare nights we could spend at Zion and Grand Canyon. How does this sound?
    To me, it sounds a lot better ! You really are rushed through these amazing NP's and what ever way suits you best to make more time for them will be time well spent IMO.

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    If you are looking for a place to stay close to Bryce Canyon, there are some reasonably priced motels in Panguitch. I've stayed at the "New Western" and it's acceptable. Hatch appears to be extremely limited. I also think there's a reasonably priced hotel in Tropic - America's Best Value, if I'm not mistaken.

    Something you might want to look at, time permitting - instead of going from Bryce to Page, then MV and GC, take UT-12 to Torrey, take a quick pass through Capitol Reef, then UT-24 to Hanksville and UT-95 to MV. From there, THEN go to Page and the GC. UT-12 is one of the greatest scenic highways in the country.

    Via this route, you can drive from Bryce to MV in one day. It's about 300 miles of single lane roads.
    First of all, thanks a lot for your advice!

    I've been having a look at the route you suggest from Bryce to Monument Valley through Capitol Reef, and google maps says it's 6h 30min, which perhaps it's a bit too much considering only one of us is driving.

    Perhaps we could split it into two laps AND skip Page:

    Bryce-Capitol Reef-Hanksville (aprox 3h 30min)
    Hanksville-Monument Valley (2h 50min)
    Monument Valley-Grand Canyon (3h 30min)

    Do you think skipping Page and going to Capitol Reef instead is a good idea? We were planning to visit Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam and Antelope Canyon (although we're still considering visiting Antelope, as it's quite expensive for just half an hour, plus some people says it looks better in photos than in person and it's crowded)

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks Dave! We'll have a look at it, then!

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    To me, it sounds a lot better ! You really are rushed through these amazing NP's and what ever way suits you best to make more time for them will be time well spent IMO.

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

    Default Heads or tails.

    Whether to skip Page and Antelope canyon for UT 12 and Capitol Reef really is a tough call, there is no right or wrong answer and they are both great options, you will have to go with your instincts ! [typing while 'sitting on the fence' isn't easy LOL]

    I have yet to go to Antelope canyon but I haven't seen any negativity from those members that have been. What might make a difference is the tour you take, I have heard good things about the photography tours and is what I will [one day] take. They are smaller groups and go at a time when the light is at it's best and are less rushed.

    Going along scenic 12 is a wonderful drive and doing it over 2 days you will have time to enjoy it and drive through Capitol Reef. From Hanksville [fill up with gas at the 'Hollow mountain gas station where the shop is in the rock] you can take UT 95 and then head South down the 261 which takes you to the Moki Dugway !

    From the top of the Moki !



    and a view on the way down.



    More info here !

    At the bottom you could take a small detour to Gooseneck state park for a view of the river winding it's way through the desert, below before continuing to MV.

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