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  1. Default Bay Area to Flagstaff

    Okay, so I need some advice on the best routes along with some questions answered about weather. I'll copy and paste my current itinerary below. I will be sharing the driving, although most of the driving will be done by myself.

    (2/15 - 5AM) Leave Bay Area to Lake Havasu City [Drive Time = 9h 45m]
    (2/16 - 11AM) Lake Havasu City to Flagstaff [Drive Time = 3h 25m]
    (2/17 - 8AM) Flagstaff to Williams [Drive Time = 45m] to Grand Canyon (via train)
    (2/18 - 11AM) Flagstaff to Phoenix [Drive Time = 2h 30m]
    (2/19 - 9AM) Phoenix to Santa Barbara [Drive Time = 7h 45m]
    (2/20 - Checkout) Santa Barbara to Home [Drive Time = 5h 15m]

    Not too harsh of a trip I don't think (better than originally planned, which was bay Area to Flagstaff in one drive) but I have never been to this part of SoCal or Arizona. I know during the summer months the desert can bring a lot of hazards, but how is it during February? Is there anything I should know or just go by Google Map's directions? Is there any must-see things along the way?

    Also, what type of weather should we prepare for in Arizona (Williams, Flagstaff, and Phoenix mainly)? We will be renting a car, so the weather may determine what type of car we end up renting.

    Thanks for any replies, as you can see we're leaving in less than 3 weeks so it's crunch time on getting all of this together!

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

    Default A few thoughts. [No real answers]

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    The 3 main questions asked are the 3 that we can't really fully answer. 'Must See's' and 'Best routes' should be based on your interests and goals for the trip, of which we know nothing about. One mans idea of 'Heaven on earth' would be anothers ultimate nightmare. The other question regarding the weather is one that no one can predict this far in advance. You can check out climate data like here and here but it still gives no idea what it will be when you travel.

    Now for some pointers. The quickest route between SF and Lake Havasu will be I5/CA58 through Bakersfield to I40. You really won't have time for anything but food/Refreshment and bathroom breaks and to fill with gas on this leg. Your drive time estimates look as though they come from a mapping program. With these breaks and any other 'real world' delays you should allow uo to 20% more time than estimated and get an early start.

    If you wanted to take your time on route to **Flagstaff** you could take route 66 through the old town of Oatman to Kingman and then through Seligman back to I40.

    Is there a reason for heading to **Flagstaff** and then doubling back to Williams rather than staying in Williams ? I can understand the appeal of the rail road, but I don't think the GC shuttle bus services run in Feb and that would limit what you can see to around the village area via train. I personally would stay in Williams [or Tusayan which is closer] and drive to the GC and then after looking around the rim near the village and possibly Hermits rest, exit the park along Desert view drive [east on 64] and enjoy all the wonderful viewpoints to the east kiosk and head down 89 to Flagstaff. Out of the east entrance there is the 'Cameron Trading Post' nearby which has a huge store full of Native American Art and Jewelry and good food. [Lodging too]

    Other places of interest around the area would be Sunset Crater and Walnut canyon and on route to Phoenix, Sedona and 'Red rock country' through Oak Creek canyon.

    You again won't have much time from Phoenix to SB but you could drive through Joshua Tree NP to Yucca Valley from I10. It might then be wise to head up to Victorville and past Palmdale to avoid heavier trafficked parts of LA, but I will leave that with someone who knows the area better.

    The weather should have no real bearing on which rental car you select and a Mid-size saloon will most likely offer the best in value and comfort. If the weather is such that you would need a 4X4 you should either avoid that area of your trip or simply pull off the road for a while and let the plow crews do their job of clearing the road. Having a 4X4 can actually give you a false sense of security.

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There's one big part of your trip that just doesn't make any sense to me. Why are you going to Flagstaff first, then doubling back an hour to Williams? Staying in Williams would make much more sense. I'll also note that using the train as a daytrip doesn't give you very much time at the canyon itself. You might think about just driving there, so you can get more out of your time.

    For that matter, Lake Havasu is about 20 miles off of I-40, which is a bit of a detour if you're just going for a place to sleep. Kingman or even Laughlin would likely be better choices.

    The other question I'd have is what is your goal? You've got a plan where you are driving every single day of your trip. Heading back via Phoenix and SB can be done, but you don't really have time to see or do much anything in either of those spots.

    Finally, weather-wise, winter conditions are certainly possible. Flagstaff is up around 6000 feet, so snow is common and may or may not impact your trip.

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

    Default doable, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    I can understand the appeal of the rail road, but I don't think the GC shuttle bus services run in Feb and that would limit what you can see to around the village area via train.
    The shuttle bus around the village and the bus route out to the the South Kaibab Trialhead and Yaki point actually operate all year, but the bus that heads out to Hermits Rest and the other viewpoints to the west of the village doesn't start back up until March.

    However, the train only gives you a little more than 3 hours to see the canyon, and just the bus ride out to Yaki Point and back takes nearly an hour.

  5. Default

    Thanks for your replies! The website didn't send me an email saying I had replies or I would have been on here sooner.

    I hope my reply does not come off like I don't appreciate all the information you've given! I really do, and I should have been slightly more clear in my OP about where we are in the planning of the trip.

    Okay, so first of all, the places we're staying are already booked. The point of this trip, all but phoenix, is more about the drive than the destination. We're going to lake Havasu because after looking at other cities nearby, we decided we couldn't miss seeing the lake! We got a place right on the water. I know there's not too much time to enjoy it, but its still an experience we wanted to do.

    As for flagstaff, that's a little different. That was my wife's choice, really. Again, it's more about the experience than the destination here and she looked at Williams and it just didn't appeal to her.

    Phoenix is because we're meeting up with a friend of my wife who she has not seen in 15+ years and would be a step I would have liked to avoid, but that's what happens when you're married! Unfortunately this means that we have one less day to explore the Williams/Flagstaff/Grand Canyon area (another reason we decided on Flagstaff)

    Although I'm REALLY excited about the train, I'm also curious about the drive. How is the drive from williams to the grand canyon and how long does it take? One of the main reasons for the train, even though it limited time, is that we don't have to drive for most of that day. Also, the weather might be a major factor in if we do the train or not.

    I'm going to look into some of the suggestions given about places to stop, in the meantime does anyone have any recommendations for restaurants in any of the cities or along the way? Me and my wife like pretty much all types of food and love to try new places!

    Thanks again!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    The drive from Williams to the Canyon is about an hour, however, if you are starting from Flagstaff, there would be no reason to backtrack to Williams unless you are going there to get on the train. Going to Williams would add about 30 extra minutes of driving. Flagstaff to GC directly is going to be about an hour and a half, going via Williams will push it up closer to 2 hours.

    There really are far too many restaurants, and they change hands far too often for us to offer any personalized recommendations. The best we can say it to ask the locals.

    Hotel reservations can always be changed, but since you're locked into your plan, I'm not sure what more help we can provide. Since you don't want to make changes, you don't really have any time to add anything else, so I think the best we can do is send our best wishes and hope you have a great trip.

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

    Default East to west.

    If you decide to drive and are starting from Flagstaff, I would actually head north on US89 and enter via the East entrance on 64. You will then start your 'rim' journey at the very beginning of the canyon with expansive views of the Colorado river from the Old Watchtower and 'follow it's path' into the main canyon area while stopping at viewpoints along the way.

  8. Default

    Ah thanks for pointing that the route from Flagstaff to the GC is that way!

    The main reason I came on here was to make sure that the route I had planned (with help of google maps) was fine and I wouldnt run into anything crazy. During my last vacation, heading to Big Sur here in california, GMaps took me a way I wouldn't recommend for ANYONE just to find out there was a way that was not only easier but faster that, for whatever reason, google didn't pick up.

    Thanks for all the advice, the more I think about driving the grand canyon the more I'm considering it. This will be the first trip of this kind for me and my wife (even though we've been married for 7 years!), hopefully only the start!

    You'll probably see me on here more often, this website is really nice and from what I see the community is awesome, thanks again you two!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    You've mentioned one reason to ALWAYS confirm with a paper map, any route given to you by any electronic mapping device (Google Maps, MapQuest, or your GPS). Some people have gotten into dangerous situations because of the electronic devices and maps -- and even lost their lives.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Come on in.... you're always welcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by JLCollier2005 View Post
    You'll probably see me on here more often, this website is really nice and from what I see the community is awesome...
    You are so right. Come in and ask questions, share your experiences and feel free to jump in whenever you can. The more, the merrier.


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