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  1. Default Challenging roadtrip SF -> LA -> GC -> LV -> DV -> YO -> SF

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm glad to find this website which is a goldmine for the preparation of my trip. I'm planning a roadtrip of 12 days and i would like some insight about the feasibility and the estimation time between the different places (google + I add a margin). This is very challenging because there is like 2000 miles (3000 km), but i'm not afraid of driving almost everyday (I plan to rent a car):

    1. July, 29th
    a. Arrival at san francisco airport at 22H35
    b. Night in San francisco
    2. July, 30th
    a. San Francisco visit (alcatraz visit most probably)
    b. San francisco to Santa Cruz (Cabrillo highway, 125km, 2 hours)
    c. Night in Santa Cruz
    3. July, 31th
    a. Santa Cruz to big sur (if Cabrillo highway re-opens after carmel), ~100km, 1H30
    b. Big sur to Santa Barbara (Cabrillo highway + 101 at shell beach + Cabrillo highway at Gaviota , 340km, 4-5 hours)
    c. Night in Santa Barbara
    4. August, 1st
    a. Santa Barbara to Los Angeles (Highway 1, 160km, 2H30/3H)
    b. Los Angeles quick visit
    c. Night in Los Angeles
    5. August, 2nd
    a. Los Angeles to Joshua Tree (230km, 3H).
    b. Joshua National park visit at the afternoon.
    6. August 3rd
    a. Joshua Tree to (stop at havasu national wildlife refuge) Grand Canyon (588km, 7-8h).
    7. August, 4th
    a. Grand canyon visit
    8. August, 5th
    a. Grand canyon to (quick stop at Hoover Dam) to Las Vegas (450km, 5-6H)
    b. Las Vegas quick visit, mostly enjoy nightlife
    9. August, 6th
    a. Las Vegas to Death Valley (215km, 4H)
    b. Death Valley visit
    10. August, 7th
    a. Death Valley visit
    b. Death Valley to Yosemite (515km, 7/8H)
    11. August, 8th
    a. Yosemite visit
    12. August, 9th
    a. Yosemite visit
    13. August, 10th
    a. Yosemite to San Francisco (307km, 4/5H)
    b. Visit San francisco
    c. Take off from san Francisco at 23H00

    I don't know if I should cut one day along the highway 1 (santa cruz or santa barbara). I really want to enjoy the sea side and landscape there. At the same time, is half a day in joshua tree enough ? basically I didn't want to drive straight from LA to GC, It's too long.

    thank in advance for your help & advises!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I'm new enough myself to this website, but welcome. I gather you're coming in from overseas?

    A few comments:

    1) Hwy 1 in California takes longer to drive than Google maps will indicate (when Hwy 1 is open all the way through, that is). So does US 101, for that matter. First, Google assumes perfection in speed, does not include stops (and that would include pulling off the side of the road at rest stops and scenic viewpoints just to look), and Google doesn't realize some of the hairy driving situations that there are on either highway.

    2) I'm assuming you don't want much to do with big cities like LA? Also realize that it can take a couple of hours (or more) just to drive across the Los Angeles metropolitan area. It's HUGE.

    3) If you want to get out and see anything at Joshua Tree, allow a whole day. This is especially true if you want to take any of the hikes (even the little nature trails) or climb on some of the rocks.

    4) Death Valley is also huge. However, I'll let someone else chime in about that - I've never explored the whole place.

    5) I see you left plenty of time for Yosemite. Three days is plenty unless you want to do some serious hiking, fishing or other outdoor activity. Then you'll want more!

    6) "Quick" stop at Hoover Dam depends on what you want to do there. If you want to go inside the dam (an interesting tour), you may want a half day there. A stop on one of the beaches at Lake Mead may also be fun.

    7) I don't think you're going to want to drive Yosemite to San Francisco and then see anything in SF except maybe nightlife.

    8) LA to the Grand Canyon is about 8-10 hours, for South Rim, depending on the traffic in LA. My suggestion would be to leave LA at 3 in the morning, then stop for breakfast in Barstow. Then you'd get to the Rim at a reasonable hour.

    Are we assuming that you are staying in hotels along the way??


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Good job !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I think you have a nice plan there that has plenty to see, but at a reasonably relaxed pace. I would possibly spend another night in SF at the start if you were to alter the coastal part at all. [Presuming it is an International flight] You will be slightly weary and jet lagged after arriving late and to do Alcatraz next day [recommended] then I would just have a relaxing evening in the City and head out next day.

  4. Default


    thanks for your answers. I'll be arriving from new york actually, so just 3 hours jet lag. We should be alright the day after assuming there is no delay with the flight.

    Basically, we won't spend too much time in the big cities, that's right. We really prefer enjoying the landscapes. So the time I planned in those cities look enough. For Alcatraz i plan to go in a very early trip (there are different options from the company selling the tickets - it could be couple of hours or over 5 hours with the big tour), so I should be able to leave for Santa Cruz not too late, and should have enough time to drive around and enjoy the city.

    For Joshua Tree, i'll have a look in order to know what exactly what i want to do. I may not take any trail, but just enjoy while driving (assuming I can see interesting places while driving) and stop to take some pictures.

    For Death Valley, i have basically 2 half days + on my way to yosemite thru road 190, which sounds fairly enough ?

    Yosemite, I plan 2 whole days there since everybody seems agreeing this is the place to spend the more time. Maybe GC will be a great place as well to spend 2 days but i'm not sure it can fit in my planning.

    For Hoover Dam, I'll do only what I can afford in term of time. So it will depend when I arrive there basically (it will enable us as well to have a stop while driving from joshua tree to GC).

    The last day in SF, we will probably drive around the city, which seems very beautiful. I prefer to go early back to SF in order to have some "margin" for our flight back to NY, and feel being in a rush for the return.

    note: we won't go from LA to GC directly. We will stay 1 night next to joshua tree.

    Indeed i plan to stay at hotel along the way.

    thanks !

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    For Alcatraz i plan to go in a very early trip (there are different options from the company selling the tickets
    This is the only place to book official ferry tickets to Alcatraz directly, right here. that's if you don't want to take other tours through an agency/tour operator. I would recommend booking. Speaking of booking, popular areas like Grand canyon and Yosemite can get booked up. You should find something nearby, but once you have decided on your itinerary it is something I would look into ASAP.

    The last day in SF, we will probably drive around the city, which seems very beautiful.
    I am not a City person but SF is a fine example and I really like it. I wouldn't bother with driving around the City, it is compact with good transport links and you have to ride the cable cars ! The other thing to note is that parking in SF can be extremely expensive.

    Yosemite, I plan 2 whole days there since everybody seems agreeing this is the place to spend the more time.
    Wise choice. Allow quite a bit of time to cross the mountains on Tioga pass [CA120] on the way into Yosemite, the views are spectacular and you will want to stop. Make sure you have time to visit Glacier point and take in the views, amazing !!

  6. Default

    thanks Dave.
    Indeed for alcatraz there is only one company selling ticket. i'll consider taking the very long tour of 5 hours something that cost around 50$ or a faster one (according to my detailed planning).

    The main issue I found out so far, is to book hotel close to the national park. I have been told that it's fully book several months in advance, and indeed this is hard. For GC i found only 1 hotel in tusayan available, but does not look very "nice". In DV, it seems i can find the same kind of place at DV junction. I didn't check yet in yosemite and joshua tree, but i'm afraid it will be as difficult!
    Anyway from your feedbacks, I feel more comfortable starting booking hotels and making the detailed planning.
    If you have any tips along the road I chose, do not hesitate !
    thanks to all.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Another thought for the GC would be to stay in Williams. There are lots of choices for hotels. The only downside to it - it's about 50 miles to GC. On that road, it's an hour's trip. You're probably better off in Tusayan since you're planning on two days at the GC. Recommendation: don't drive that road from GC down to Williams at night - lots of wildlife on the road. We had a near collision with some deer on that road at 3 am once. (Long story why we were on it at that hour.)

    If you have time in San Francisco, and are so inclined, we found the Cable Car museum there to be very interesting. More interesting to us than the city itself, though, were the wineries in Napa and Sonoma Valleys north of there, and Muir Woods (also north) since you like the scenic.


  8. Default

    Indeed Williams a bit far in my opinion.
    Thanks for the cable car tips, It sounds goods!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Have you checked for room availability at the Cameron Trading Post?

  10. Default

    No i didn't, thanks for the info. I'll check that.

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