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  1. Default Vegas - San Francisco - Splitting into 2 Halves


    Firstly, congratulations on a fantastic source of information. This site has been very useful over the past few weeks whilst I was trying to plan a Nevada/California trip which took in all of the places on our "must-see" list for this trip.

    Thought I'd share the plan I arrived at as I haven't found this exact itinery in any of my searches here, although I'm sure it has been done this way before.

    Here are our priorities for the trip, (in order top to bottom), which is planned for two weeks commencing 13th May 2012.
    I chose the start date based on Vegas hotel pricing being cheaper that week.
    For info, we haven't been to any of these places before but have spent time in Los Angeles previously which is why that is not a priority this time.

    Las Vegas, stay 4-5 nights, get married probably on Day 3
    Grand Canyon, (overnight stay if possible)
    San Francisco 3-nights at end of trip as planning to fly back to London from there
    Pacific Coast Highway, preferably southbound from Monterey to at least Cambria
    Sequoia NP
    Death Valley

    We're not Camping or RV people, and will be staying in Hotels/Motels throughout. We will be looking to do some short hiking and/or cycling in the NPs.

    So, I started to plan a single circular-type road trip to take in all of the above but struggled to make this work in the time that we have and without back-tracking, or making it a rush trip.

    The problems I faced were.

    1. Other half wants to get married near the start of our trip so that the rest of it can be classed as a honeymoon, which means Vegas is first port of call.
    2. Grand Canyon is in the opposite direction to the other non-Vegas places on the list.
    3. Driving up from Vegas to SF and taking in Sequoia, Yosemite and the Coast meant a lot of zigzagging and more time in the car than out.

    In the end, I came up with the following plan which allows us to see all of our priorities except for Death Valley which we'll have to see next time.
    This involves breaking the trip into two with a flight from Vegas to SF and means that we have a nice loop circuit from Day 7 to Day 12

    Day 1 - arrive LV
    Days 2-4 LV
    Day 5 Drive GC South Rim - stay Kachina Lodge (this is the only thing I've booked so far - based on tips that they get booked up pretty early)
    Day 6 Return to LV for one night - quick peek at Hoover Dam on way back (a tip from this forum was that due to Arizona not changing to DST we would have an extra hour on way back) - return car
    Day 7 - Fly LV to SF - drive down to stay overnight in Monterey area
    Day 8 Pacific Highway - Stay in Cambria area
    Day 9 Across to Sequoia NP - stay in Three Rivers possibly
    Day 10 Drive to Yosemite - not sure where to stay yet but options in park seem expensive.
    Day 11 Yosemite
    Day 12 - Drive SF - return car
    Days 13-14 SF
    Day 15 - Return to UK

    Any suggestions for where to stay, or particular roads that we should use, particularly between Cambria, Sequoia and Yosemite would be appreciated.

    I have one specific question.
    In other posts here I've seen trips that took in the Trail of 100 Giants and I see that we could travel more or less East from Cambria and then turn North to take in this route but given that we are planning to travel the Generals highway in Sequoia, is this detour worth taking, (i.e. will we see enough big trees in Sequoia NP and Yosemite anyway ?)
    If we travelled slightly more North East from Cambria it looks like we would have a shorter route to Three Bridges area.

    Many Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Fly from LA ?

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    You have obviously been doing your research and given some thought to the various options. Adding in the fact that Tioga pass into Yosemite may or may not be open, adds another consideration into options, but not with your current plan.

    I think the simplest thing to do would be to fly out of LA even though you have no real interest in re-visiting there. It would save you the cost and hassel of a flight in the middle of your road trip also. This would mean going from LV to GC to Sequoia to Yosemite to SF and down the coast ending in LA for the flight home. No back tracking either !

    The 'Trail of 100 Giants' is a lovely secluded grove of giant Sequoia trees. 'Secluded' is the key word here as it is a also a lovely mountain drive to get there. That means time consuming. Worth it ? I think so if time is available , but if not you will see enough of big trees in the NP's. If you decided on driving all the way, one option would be to go from GC to Lake Isabella/Kernville and then to Sequoia via the Kern river Highway to the Giants.

  3. Default

    Hi Dave and thanks for the response.

    Driving down the coast and flying back from LA was certainly an option I looked at but I came to the conclusion that we are at least 1 maybe 2 days short. We have to fit our trip into 15 days unfortunately and it is the 5 days in Vegas that leaves us a little short of time in the other places. As we are getting married there and it being our first visit we didn't want to rush that part of the trip.
    I did look at driving up on the route you suggested , (via Lake Isabella), as I had looked at the historic reports on Tioga opening and decided not to take the chance with that, but it is GC that costs us the extra day and we decided that was a high priority for us.
    I did look at using one of the Vegas days for a day trip to GC South Rim, (dismissed the West rim option) but I wasn't happy to take 13+ hours by bus or to fly, and in each case only spend a couple of hours at the Canyon. I really liked the idea of seeing the sunset and sunrise and also staying at one of the lodges at the rim. Lodging was also a factor as they are fairly well booked up for that period but booking a Thursday instead of the Friday I'd planned meant we could stay at the rim.

    Actually it was the photos and report from your 2007 loop that was one of the things that inspired us to stay in California for this trip. We were originally going to Vegas and then down to Mexico for a week but seeing the National Parks in photo, together with other reports of the Pacific Highway brought us round to a completely different holiday.

    The one thing that seems to be a common factor on these forums is that it is usually difficult to fit in everything that we want to do. Something has to give.
    It is fun putting the trips together though.

    Thanks for the information on the 100 Giants trail. Will take that into account.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    One very minor correction in your planning. Since Arizona doesn't do Daylight Saving Time, it will actually be on the same time as California and Nevada in May, so you won't actually gain or lose an hour. In the winter, Arizona is an hour ahead.

    Bravo on your planning to this point. If you stick with the flight, I think you've got a reasonable plan, but I'll throw another option out there if you'd rather just drive, see Death Valley, and likely save with a round trip airfare.

    Days 1-4 in Vegas as you've currently planned.
    Day 5 GC, again as planned, stopping at Hoover Dam if you're interested.
    Day 6 start driving to the coast, finding a place along the way like Barstow or Bakersfield depending upon what time you leave GC.
    Day 7 continue to the Coast and explore the Cambria area.
    Day 8 Big Sur/Monterey
    Day 9-10 SF
    Day 11 Yosemite.
    Day 12 Sequoia
    Day 13 to Death Valley via Sequoia Monument/Lake Isabella
    Day 14 Death Valley
    Day 15 Fly back from Vegas.

    Its just something to thing about, it also leaves you the option of including Tioga if the pass has opened, which might be a little more likely at the end of your trip, although it could be at the expense of Sequoia.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Or - see if you can fit all this in:

    Fly in and out of LA - go to the GC immediately, then on to LV. See DV and the mountain parks, go to SF, then back down the coast to LA.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Maybe not ?

    Driving down the coast and flying back from LA was certainly an option I looked at but I came to the conclusion that we are at least 1 maybe 2 days short.
    Are you sure ? I would estimate that the difference in road miles between your itinerary and the one I suggested could be as little as 400 miles and even less if you take the trip via the '100 Giants'. Now that might be 7-8 hours of extra driving, but when compared to returning your car rental, getting through customs, flying and picking up another rental, I bet there is not much in it at all time wise. It's a personal opinion but I would sooner be seeing things on the ground then sitting around in the airport in the middle of my holiday ![Honeymoon] ;-)

    From GC you could head to Lake Isabella instead of returning to Vegas,[or direct to Three rivers] day 7 through Sequoia, 8,9 in Yosemite, 10 and 11 in San Fran, leaving 12 and 13 for Monterey and Cambria and then on to LA, or nearby depending on flight times.

    Actually it was the photos and report from your 2007 loop that was one of the things that inspired us to stay in California for this trip.
    Thanks, glad it was of help and that you found that thread ! It was an amazing experience and I am sure you will find it equally so with your trip.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 12-03-2011 at 05:02 PM.

  7. Default More to Think About

    Thanks all for the replies.

    Has given us some more ideas to think about.

    Midwest Michael, thanks for putting me straight on DST for Arizona - it makes perfect sense now. Driving across time zones is not something that we have to worry about in UK :-)

    One reason that I'd planned to leave SF to the end is that I'd read that parking is expensive and not readily available at many of the hotels. Whether that factors in against the flight costs I don't know.

    With regard to flying between Vegas and SF. I was thinking that having had two consecutive days with 5 hour drives on each (Vegas to GC and back), on Day 7 we would have a fairly leisurely morning to recover, fly at about 1pm , be in SF by 3 and then a couple of hours drive down to Monterey. It does feel a little like we are wasting a night by returning to Vegas but the alternative - to start our drive over toward the coast or NPs directly from GC would make that a long driving day.

    I am conscious that it is very easy on paper to plan to drive several hundred miles in a day but in practice it's not something that we're used to doing and I'm trying to avoid it if possible.

    I do know that dropping off, and particularly, picking up cars can take time, but presumably getting through SF airport from a domestic flight would be a lot quicker than from an International flight. Have never flown domestically within the US, but I assume we don't have to go through immigration again. Not sure if the rental cars are on or off airport at SF but I know this can make a difference.

    For anyone reading this in future, here are few of the other factors that I have considered.

    1. International flight costs - UK to LV return is more expensive then UK-SF return which is more expensive than UK-LA return. Flying in and out of different airports doesn't seem to add any premium. Luckily I can bring the UK-LV, SF-UK flight cost down a little by part-paying with some airmiles.

    2. GC lodging is booked up early, maybe more options if you visit midweek. Same for other NPs I believe.

    3. LV hotel prices vary considerably - I was going to start the trip a week earlier but prices were 60-70% higher that week.

    4. Our current plan involves visiting Sequoia and Yosemite mid week - this was more luck in the planning than judgement but I assume it will be quieter for traffic and crowds than at the weekend.

    5. Our drive down the Pacific Coast will be on a Sunday - I thought that might give us a chance to see more Surfers, (I realise this is not the main reason to travel this route - just an added bonus that we don't see often in most of the UK), but maybe it will also mean more traffic.

    6. I was concerned that starting on 13th May, our trip would end on Memorial weekend Sunday - currently we're planning to be in SF that weekend and I wasn't sure how that would affect hotel prices. From what I read it may be a city that people choose to leave for that weekend rather than visit but I'm happy to be corrected if that is not true.

    7. There are just too many hotel choices, particularly in Vegas !

    Thanks Again

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    South of England


    Hi Drum

    Your trip sounds great, I do not have anything constructive to add, as I am also a Brit planning a similar trip! Though I have also found booking a LV hotel time consuming, I must have spent about 5 hours just choosing this one hotel, finally booked one a couple of hours ago!

    Good luck with your planning.

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