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  1. Default Central California Route - LAX-Santa Barbara-Monterey-Yosemite-Death Valley-LAX

    Hi All,

    Great forum, and reading through many posts has led me to this point in planning my 10 day central Californian road trip.

    Flying into LAX on the 9th September from Perth, Australia (long way!), pick up car and drive to Santa Barbara for 1st night (accommodation suggestions welcome). Drive up Hwy 1 next day to Monterey for what I hear is a great place to enjoy California's finest food, then head over to Oakhurst for the night prior to spending a couple of days in Yosemite NP. Exit via Tioga Pass, enjoy the wonders of Hwy 395 down to Death Valley NP, then head back to LAX for a flight out on the 19th September.

    Really looking for some guidance on the pacing of the trip and any accommodation suggestions, want to spend each night in some high end accommodation, and as the girlfriend and I love food any restaurant tips welcomed as well. Ideally would like to get back to LA on the night of the 17th, and do Six Flags Magic Mountain on the 18th prior to flying on the 19th. Is it enough time for what I have outlined? We like to travel at a slow pace, and avoid any really long days in the car.


    Hopefully I have managed to attach the planned route above, thanks in advance for any tips on the impending holiday!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Anti clockwise

    Hi Sean, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Eight Days is not a whole lot of time to give you much time in the magnificent National Parks you will be visiting. But definitely doable.

    Firstly, I highly recommend that you do this trip anti clockwise, so that when travelling down the Pacific Coast Highway, you will be on the ocean side, the side where all the pull-offs and viewpoints are. It is a much more pleasant drive if you do not have to cross over oncoming traffic each time you pull in and out of these areas.

    Secondly, it may not be the wisest idea to travel as far as you plan on the day you arrive. Be aware of the affects of a long haul flight. By the time you walk out of LAX it is likely you will have been on the move for the greater part of 24 hours. Jet lag is a reality which affects your concentration and reflexes. And you will be driving on the wrong side of the road. It is a combination which could lead you into trouble. (I make a point of picking up a car the day after I arrive... even though I arrive at LAX at 7.30am.) Stay awake for the day, and do some of the things you want to see in LA. Then go to bed early and have a good night's sleep. It will set you up for a great day the next day.

    You might like to consider driving from LA to Death Valley via Pahrump, and exiting to 395 at Lone Pine, before making your way into Yosemite over the spectacular Tioga Pass. And you may not make it all the way from Monterey to Santa Barbara in one day. I would recommend overnighting in Cambria or Morro Bay or at the most San Luis Obispo, and continue on to LA the following day. The PCH is a slow drive.

    You should be able to find some fine accommodation to suit your tastes by checking out the reservations tab on the green bar above.

    Lifey in Melbourne

  3. #3

    Default Day 2 is a killer

    Quote Originally Posted by tiger6969 View Post
    Hi All,

    Drive up Hwy 1 next day to Monterey for what I hear is a great place to enjoy California's finest food, then head over to Oakhurst for the night prior to spending a couple of days in Yosemite NP.
    I'll let others comment on the rest, but that is an extraordinarily long day and one I wouldn't even think about doing. I think you really want to scale this back. I know Google gives the total drive time as less than eight hours (which I seriously question), but do you really want to speed through Big Sur without stopping?

    FWIW, as much as I love the Monterey Bay (my wife and I have spent a good amount of time in the area several times over the past several years), I wouldn't really characterize it as a particularly foodie destination.

    Hope this helps,

  4. #4


    I'd second the remark about the stint between Santa Barbara and Monterey - we did that in one day last year (on a trip very similar to yours- though going the other way) and it became the longest drive we did, getting us into Santa Barbara after dusk, and it's defeating the point of such a trip a little to miss the scenery because it's dark!

    Santa Barbara for 1st night (accommodation suggestions welcome)
    We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on West Haley St; it was reasonably priced and comfortable, and had helpful and friendly staff. It's near lots of nice bars and restaurants too.

    Enjoy your trip!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California

    Default Stay in LA the first night!

    I know it's more expensive, but I would take Lifey's suggestion of staying in the LAX area the first night. That is one long flight (a friend of mine did it in June) and the effects are long-lasting. If it were me, I'd catch either a Best Western or similar, nearby to the airport.

    Normally, we don't make food or hotel recommendations on here. Restaurants change hands a lot. There is a hotel reservation place on this website. Look for the words "shuttle from LAX" on any hotel listing and pick up your vehicle the next day.


  6. Default Thanks for the advice, new plan!

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the very speedy responses and advice, it is very appreciated.

    I will flip the trip around to go in an anti clockwise direction, thanks Lifemagician, it is a good idea in regard to the PCH run.

    As to staying in LA, advice again well received, I have the great fortune of coming in on business class on Qantas so will have slept well and be good for a couple of hours of driving. With that in mind, would 1st stop be best at Lancaster, Mojave or somewhere else (thinking Indian Wells will be too far regardless of class of flying!).

    So trip could look like this:

    9th Sept LAX-Mojave
    10th Mojave-DV
    11th DV-Mammoth
    12th Mammoth-Yosemite
    13th Yosemite-Fish Lake
    14th Fish Lake-Monterey
    15th Monterey-Morro Bay
    16th Morro Bay-Santa Barbara
    17th Santa Barbara-Six Flags
    18th Extra Day
    19th LAX

    What would be the suggestion for the extra day (where could I spend two nights on this trip that would be worthwhile)?


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Yosemite and Death Valley

    Sean, if I had two extra nights, I would be spending an extra night in both of Death Valley and Yosemite. For me, it is a no-brainer. These places are so spectacular that you can never spend enough time there.

    As for how far to drive, well, I am not sure. You are going to have LA traffic to contend with, and that is no small feat at the best of times. I take your point of flying BC, though even in economy, I spend most of my flight sleeping, and sleeping very well. Guess I am just one of those who can sleep well anywhere. But it still has an effect of you... your body still has to adjust to the time change, and that is where the jet lag comes in. If I were you, I would not make a booking for that first night, and be very aware of what your body is telling you.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Other thoughts

    Sean, reading through your trip plan again, I have another couple thoughts for you to consider.

    Why not, on the day you arrive, go to Six Flags? You can then on your last day, drive from Santa Barbara straight to LAX, without having to stay in LA.

    And I am puzzled as to why you plan to go via Mojave? The best route to Death Valley would be to head straight for Baker through Barstow, and turn onto 127 to Death Valley Junction and into Death Valley. An easy day's drive, especially if you leave LA early. When leaving Death Valley, head to 395 and onto Mammoth. There just doesn't seem any point in backtracking.


  9. Default

    Hi Lifey,

    Thanks again for the sage advice, will do on the Barstow route through to DV. Will leave Six Flags to the end, I think leaving Santa Barbara early in the morning will allow us to pull in to the park at a reasonable hour and enjoy the last day in California on the rides!

    Any other advice welcome on planned route,


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