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  1. Default Beyond the West Coast in winter?

    Hi all

    My family (me, husband and 3 teenagers) will be renting an RV for a road trip on the US west coast in January 2012. Having researched sites such as this one, I now have a pretty good idea of the itinerary and time frame needed.

    We have just under three weeks to achieve the following -

    Fly into San Francisco

    Drive down Highway 1 to LA

    Continue down to San Diego

    Drive inland to Las Vegas (Grand Canyon?)

    Return to San Fran via Death Valley?

    My main concern is now with the weather. I'm pretty sure that the temp will be OK on the coast, however, I think it might be too cold to venture to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. (I would prefer not to have the RV winterized.) I'm thinking it might be better to spend more time on the coast and do a helicopter tour of the West rim on the canyon when we get to Las Vegas.

    I am also keen on driving through the desert areas. One thought is to drive from San Diego through Joshua Tree Nat Park, then through Mojave Preserve and into Las Vegas. We could then drive through Death Valley on our way to San Francisco.

    Do you think this is possible as I know deserts can get very cold at night.

    I would be grateful for any advice.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default The desert can and does fall below freezing.

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

    You need to be aware that taking a flight from LV over the West Rim, will not take you over the spectacular National Park, and all the great sights you are used to seeing when reading about the Grand Canyon. That is not to say that it is not a great experience. So long as you know what you are getting for your money. I loved it.

    On the other hand, if you do not want to get the RV winterized, the South Rim is not an option. And I suspect that Death Valley and maybe even LV may not be an option either. Temperatures in the desert can, and do fall below freezing. I am sure an experienced RVer who is familiar with those areas in winter, will be along soon to confirm that, one way or another.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I'm wondering if an RV is really the right choice for this trip.

    An RV can really make it difficult to get around big cities, with LA being particularly bad, but San Diego and San Francisco would have their challenges too. Really the places where the RV would be most advantagous, other than the coast highway, would all be questionable to reach without winterization.

    You certainly couldn't plan to drive to the South Rim, but even the other inland areas like Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Vegas certainly can get down below freezing overnight, and if that happens and the RV isn't winterized, you could be looking at some serious damage that might not be covered by your insurance. Its certainly something you'd need to discuss with the rental agency.

    If it were me, I'd be looking at renting a car/minivan/suv and staying in motels. That would eliminate the restrictions on where you can go, and its likely going to be significantly cheaper too.

  4. Default Winterize the RV?

    Mmmmm, this is not easy!

    Firstly, my plan was to collect the RV on the way out of San Francisco. I thought we could stay outside of LA, such as Malibu and Anaheim and hire a small car for our visit there. I didn't think having the RV winterized on the coast was necessary and almost defeats the purpose - that is being self-sufficient. We really want to travel 'free range' down the coast, sounds like there is much to see (apart from hotels and airports).

    Heading inland is my real worry. Maybe we could get the RV winterized in San Diego? Or leave it and rent another vehicle for that part of the journey.

    The Grand Canyon is obviously something we want to see. I've seen that it is possible to fly via light plane to the South Rim from Las Vegas. I wonder if this is an option.

    And yes, I can see the costs adding up as I write this :)

    Any advice please.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I really think you are making this way way way too complicated. Frankly, I think you may be vastly overestimating the usefulness of an RV for what you want to do.

    Being "free range" is fine, but ultimately, even in an RV you need to have a place to go at the end of the day, and for the most part, that means finding an RV park/campground. (Parking along the side of the coast highway, or on a street of a beachfront town overnight is not going to work) Finding a motel really should not be difficult, and with all of the extras you are talking about, like flights to the grand canyon, an extra car rental, etc, you could be staying in 4 star hotels every night and even end up saving money - not to mention the kind of time you are talking about to winterize an RV mid-trip.

    There are times when an RV can really be perfect and can really enhance a roadtrip, I'm just really not seeing how it works for this particular trip.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    As much as I LOVE RV'ing myself, I'm going to chime in with Michael and say that this just might be a trip to do without one. With careful shopping, you can find motels that are about the same price as a campground, anyway, and eat less expensively with tailgate picnics, etc.

    Winterize an RV in San Diego? I'm sure you probably could find someone that knows how to do that here. It would take time, though, and why would you want to pay to have that done to a rental? If you really want to pursue that possibility, let me know by private message and I'll see who I can find around here who can do it. (I have several contacts in the RV industry because we owned a few over the years.)

    Most plane trips from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon take you over the Indian-owned western end of the Canyon. Light planes over the Canyon in the National Park have been a controversy for years and they have a lot of restrictions towards their use.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default 'Winterizing'.

    I have to agree that RV'ing in January is not ideal, but you shouldn't have to fully winterize the unit during your trip. Rental Co's will make decisions regarding winterizing their RV's in keeping with the area you are travelling, and the office you are renting from is where you need to get the info. If you rent in SF and the unit has not been winterized, you will most likely still be responsible for any freezing of pipes in mountain areas. If you decide to head to the GC with the RV, you could simply drain your tanks of water before heading into the area and then top them back up when you arrive in Vegas, or wherever it is above freezing. In my opinion there should be no need to fully winterize the unit the same as an owner would for the prolonged winter months when it is left standing and not 'lived' in, as it would be while you are on the road. Emptying the tanks and having the heating on [which will be needed] should stop the risk of water droplets freezing in the pumps etc overnight. One of the problems might be that some dump stations close for the winter to avoid freezing and you would need to know where you could empty your tanks before getting into the colder area. Mather campground and the Trailer village at the south rim are both open year round and the trailer park does have hook ups, but you would need to check what services are available during this period. If there is a risk of freezing, never remain connected to the water mains supply. There is just no way of knowing how severe things might be until nearer the time when reliable forecasts are available.

    I have had nights in the RV when temps have dropped well below freezing and have been OK with tanks drained, heating on and plenty of blankets, but it wouldn't be for everyone ! We once rented an RV from the SF area from a family run company called 'Graner Family Motorhome rentals' and at that time their RV's were equipped with 'Arctic packs' that was basically, when turned on, a pipe warmer for use in colder weather to prevent the pipes from freezing while carrying water.

  8. Default

    Thanks so much for your replies (although not exactly what I wanted to hear!).

    First of all -I would much prefer to stay in 5 stay accommocation, believe me. However, my family are very keen on the RV. The idea of unpacking once is very appealing (I agree). Also, I have found that there are usually no family rooms in US motels, mosty twin queen beds. With three teenagers, we would have to book two rooms each night.

    We will be staying in a hotel in San Fran (booked already). The idea was to pick up the RV on the way out. We would then stick to the coast pretty much all the way down to San Diego. When I say 'free range', I mean not sticking to a tight schedule. We would definitely stay in proper RV parks. We do want to pop over to Las Vegas. Thought we would take a route that included areas such as Joshua Tree and the Mojave Preserve. The Grand Canyon is still up in the air, so to speak. Not keen on driving out ourselves, considering what the road conditions are like at that time of year.

    We would then leave Las Vegas for San Fran, hopefully through death valley and back down to Bakersfield then up the highway. We know that the mountain region up towards Yosemite is not an option.

    Finally, Ive contacted two RV companies who do not winterize their vehicles and allow them to enter areas such as Death Valley. Thank you Donna and Dave for your info - I'll have another thorough read of your advice and discuss with my husband.

    Any further advice will be gratefully received - particularly on good routes from San Diego to Las Vegas. (I have to make decisions soon, were are arriving mid-January!!)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default More thoughts.

    I would certainly consider driving through Joshua tree and Mojave NP with perhaps an overnight around Twenty Nine Palms. RV parks are quite limited in Las Vegas and I would recommend the Oasis RV resort as a place to stay. Not the cheapest but very nice with all amenities. This place is popular with the 'snow birds' who flock south and I am not sure if availability becomes scarce at this time of year, so you might want to check if interested. You have 3 RV parks in DV at Furnace creek, Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs.

    As for the GC, it's a tough call as we don't know what the conditions might actually be. An option could be to book an RV park in Williams and treat yourselves to a ride on the Grand canyon railway to the south rim. If that were an option it would be best to make your way to the GC from SD and then continue to Vegas.

  10. Default

    Sorry to be so tardy in my reply, but thank you Southwest Dave, we will drive thru those parks - and I hadn't heard of the train to GC, it is now on our itinerary. We are after all tourists and it sounds great. We will drop RV in Las Vegas and fly back to San Francisco. Death Valley would be great, but we save a couple of days on that drive and I think the South Rim would be a better option.

    Thank you and other contributors for your help. I will put up a comment on our return.


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