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  1. #1

    Default Spring Trip Denver to San Diego

    We are planning a four-week family trip of a lifetime for this coming April when my husband gets back from a year in Afghanistan. The route at the moment is as follows: We would welcome any thoughts ideas.

    Denver/Boulder skiing 3 days
    Pick up RV Leave Denver
    Grand Junction 1nt
    Arches 1 nt
    Monument valley 1nt
    Grand Canyon 1 nt
    Zion and or Bryce 1 nt
    Las Vegas 1 nt
    Where to stay here on the way to Yosemite??? Do we go up into Sequoia?/Lake Isabella?
    Yosemite 2 nts
    Arrive in San Francisco. Leave RV. Hire car. Stay 2nts
    Highlights on the West Coast? Where to stop?
    San Diego 5 nts

    So, we have 11 more nights and the question is, where do we put them to balance the driving and resting/exploring/relaxing?

    All tips on places to stay/eat along the route would be very welcome, Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Challenges and Opportunities

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    April is an extremely 'interesting' time to be traveling in the southwestern United States. As you know, you can be skiing one day and traversing desert terrain the next. This can be wonderful, allowing you to enjoy both your mountain sports and get to some desert areas when they are still cool enough to enjoy - you might even get to experience a wildflower bloom. But it has a downside as well. You won't be able to get to the North rim of the Grand Canyon (which would make more sense between Monument Valley and Zion) or take the short scenic route between Las Vegas and Yosemite over Tioga Pass. Both will still be snowbound and closed.

    This actually causes me to question one of the basic aspects of your trip, and that is your use of an RV for the first portion of it. For much of this leg you will be at elevations well above 6,000 feet and even in the 'spring' it could easily drop below freezing at night. At a minimum, this will mean that your RV will need to be fully winterized for the trip, and at worst means that you simply won't be able to keep it warm enough overnight to be completely comfortable. In addition, should you encounter any snow or other adverse weather conditions, your home on wheels will be much harder to control than a typical car. If you haven't driven an RV in winter, you should look into the consequences. I would seriously reconsider this decision.

    So, that aside, where to spend your 'extra' 11 days? Well, there are certainly many sites worth visiting in the Southwest near your proposed route. Such sites would include Mesa Verde National Park on the way from Arches to Monument Valley. Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Petrified Forest National Park would make a worthwhile little loop between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. In the Grand Canyon area, Flagstaff would make a great place to take a break from driving and spend a day or two checking out the Lowell Observatory, the Museum of Northern Arizona and nearby Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments. Since, as noted earlier, Tioga Pass will still be closed, you will have to skirt the Sierra Nevada to the south through Barstow and Bakersfield. As long as you're going that way (and assuming your husband was not and will not be based there) you might want to consider a visit to Edwards Air Force Base, home of the 'Right Stuff'.

    Finally, the drive from San Francisco down to San Diego via the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) not only can but should be driven at a leisurely pace. Monterey/Carmel is another area where you could easily spend a few days. Highlights would include the Monterey Aquarium, 17 Mile Drive, the beaches, Historic Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Carmel Mission. Farther down the coast there's the Hearst Castle at San Simeon and several sea lion rookeries.

    Hope this gives you some ideas and food for thought. And thank your husband from us for his service.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-09-2012 at 08:11 PM. Reason: Typos

  3. #3

    Default Thank you for saving us from chilly nights!

    Thank you so much for your useful thoughts and ideas. We had thought that the RV was the ideal way to experience the National Parks, but I hadn't considered the overnight cold. We would still like to have the RV experience somewhere along the route - How about from Vegas to San Francisco via Lake Isabella, Sequioa and Yosemite? We'd be in Vegas from the 3rd or 4th of April? Do you think it might still be too cold then? If so is is worth doing the last leg, from San Francisco to San Diego in an RV or do you think that is better done in a car?

    You also mentioned going south through Bakersfield to Yosemite. Where would you stay on that leg? Lake Isabella?

    Thank you!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Not out of the question IMO.

    What a shame the weather is so unpredictable ! Everyones tolerance levels are different and you really need to decide for yourselves what yours are. We often travel by RV and out of the main season, where we have seen temps down to -10 on the odd occasion and although there is no denying it gets rather chilly in the RV, it doesn't put us off travelling this way at the time of year we generally do, October. It's also [like April] a risk as to what the weather might bring, as well as lows below freezing we often see days in the 70's and it's important to be prepared for each scenario. Although no guarantees, you can search for climate data to get an idea of what conditions you might face where.

    Buck's given you some great ideas of other places to visit but I would also consider more time at the places you have mentioned. By the time you consider travel time 1 night might not be as much as you would have liked at these natural wonders. I would also make that "Zion and Bryce" and not "or".

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default A Bottom Line

    The facts are that RV rentals are relatively expensive, one-way vehicle rentals are expensive, and one-way RV rentals are (you guessed it) very expensive. Instead of doing multiple one-way car rentals with a one-way RV rental tossed into the middle, perhaps you should consider simply renting a single one-way car from Denver to San Diego. You might be able to offset some of the extra cost by getting a good weekly rate and, who knows, you might even find a rental company that needs to move some of its fleet from snow country to the beach in April and will waive the one-way fee. Then, if you really want the RV experience, rent one locally in Las Vegas and use it to explore some of the sights north of town that you would otherwise miss because you have to head southwest initially to get to Yosemite. I'm thinking of a few days up into Death Valley, Mono Lake, maybe even as far as Lake Tahoe, but return to Las Vegas where you've left the car and give the RV back to the dealer you got it from.

    As for stopping between Las Vegas and Yosemite... At just under 500 miles, that could be done in a single day of dedicated driving, but if you want to take it easy, then I would plan on stopping for the night in Bakersfield. It's a bit over half way, which would leave you an easy drive to Yosemite, it's got the best range of accommodations, and you could spend the evening exploring nearby Carrizo Plain National Monument.


  6. #6


    Thank you both so much. My husband and I ( 1000 miles apart) are now reading up on your trips Dave, the pictures are amazing and talk about inspiring excitement, they are wonderful.

    More research now on the cards......

  7. #7


    So, the RV is now booked for 12 days, from Denver to San Francisco.

    The rough plan is:

    Day 1 Pick up RV, then Denver to Grand Junction area.

    Long drive having just picked up the vehicle but gets us into the interesting bits for an early start to day 2.

    Can you recommend any good RV parks in the Grand Junction area - do we go KOA or is there somewhere more independent?

    Day 2 Grand Junction to Arches

    Explore Arches and stay in the Arches National Park RV site (no showers or waste dump - I read that!) Are there alternatives?

    Day 3 Arches to Monument Valley

    Stay in the Monument Valley Hotel.

    Day 4 Monument Valley to Grand Canyon

    Stay in RV. Is the Grand Canyon Village the only option to be near the canyon, or can you stay off the beaten track at all in the RV? We were thinking that we are heading up to Bryce and wondered if there was an option en route?

    Day 5 Grand Canyon to Bryce National Park Which is the best route for this section? Stay RV site

    Day 6 Explore Bryce National Park Stay RV site

    Day 7 Bryce to Zion Stay RV site

    Day 8 Zion to Las Vegas. Stay at Circus Circus

    Day 9 Las Vegas to Bakersfield. (Any recommendations on RV parks?)

    Day 10. Bakersfield to Yosemite Stay in a lodge

    Day 11 Explore Yosemite Stay in a lodge

    Day 12 Yosemite to San Francisco. Return RV, Hire Car

    Day 13 Explore San Francisco

    Day 14 San Francisco to Big Sur

    Day 15 Big Sur to Hearst Castle

    Day 16 Hearst Castle to Santa Barbara

    Day 17 Santa Barbara to Pomona US Marine base

    Day 18 - 24 Explore Disney, Universal studios, Mexico, Surfing from Pomona.

    Day 25 Fly San Diego to London

    Thank you for any tips and hints! Charlie

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Personally, it seems rather silly to me to go to the major expense of renting an RV and then stay in hotels. That's especially true when you are staying in places like Monument Valley and Yosemite - which are exactly the kinds of places where RV have a huge benefit of letting yourself be surrounded by nature.

    As far as RV Parks, I think you'd be well served by picking up a Woodalls or similar RV Park Guide, which will give you a much better idea of your many RV Parks options throughout your trip. I will note that campground in National Parks tend to book up very quickly, and you should start thinking about reservations now, or look at your alternate options outside the parks. I will also say that Circus Circus is basically a big parking lot behind the hotel, and there are others off the strip in Vegas like the Oasis that have gotten much better reviews.

  9. #9



    Very useful advice. I hadn't twigged that we could stay in Monument valley in the RV, I thought that the one hotel was the only option!

    As for Yosemite, we had found a remote lodge, which we thought would be more remote and in the wilderness than the RV Park...

    I shall certainly get one of the guides you have recommended, thank you very much indeed.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    We always like the Trailer Life directory, but Woodall's has improved a lot. (That's one person's opinion.)

    As far as Circus Circus' Circusland RV park is concerned, we agree that it was a big parking lot with hookups. They did have lots of shower buildings and a decent pool and hot tub. If traveling with a pet, realize that they don't allow pets on the lawns, which pretty well means you have to walk your pets down to the Pet Walk area on the edge of the property. Our dog had to stay in the rig with us the whole time. She wasn't used to that! But...that is about the only option for an RV park that's right on "The Strip". We learned early on to use the public transportation, or walk to the places we wanted to go on the Strip, because our tow vehicle did not fit well in Strip parking garages.


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