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  1. Default Best of California

    Hi all,

    I am currently planning a road trip to California in June 2012 with my husband to be for our honeymoon (we are both 30 from England). This site seems to be by far the best for getting advice on these things so I thought i'd ask for your help...

    We have around about 18 days to spare and want to see the main 'must do' sites, but I'm struggling to work out what is feasible (i don't want to have to go on another holiday to get over this one!) This is definitely a trip of a lifetime for us so i'm being greedy and trying to cram lots in!

    At the moment, we have on our wish list - Vegas (maybe 3Nights), Yosemite (3N), Napa (1 or 2N), San Fran (4N) and the pacific highway coast (maybe 2N). Originally we weren't planning on doing the Pacific Coast, but having done some reading, I really think we need to experience Highway 1. Can anybody suggest a logical route that would minimise the driving? We are happy to fly in and out of different airports. Ideally we weren't planning on going to LA, so were thinking of perhaps San Fran and Vegas airports.

    The other main questions I have are:
    Is it worth going to Napa? (I know the film Sideways was filmed closer to Santa Barbara- is that just as good?)
    Should we stay a night at the grand canyon, or in our limited time is a day trip from Vegas Ok?
    Is it worth expanding this trip slightly to fill the full 18 days or limiting it to 13-14 nights and adding on a trip to Maui, Hawaii (4-5 nights) for a bit of quality beach time? If we don't go to Maui, can anyone suggest any great beach resorts on the Pacific Coast?
    Have I bitten off more than I can chew?! We don't want to be driving all the time so I want to find that balence between packing lots in and actually having the chance to enjoy it...

    Sorry for the long post- all help would be very gratefully accepted. And of course I am happy to share my experiences with the site once we are back,


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

    Default Wonderful !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums ! [and Congratulations !!]

    'Must See's' are something we don't really do here as we are all different and the road trip is unique to the individual, so what's worth it to you is what's important.

    The Grand canyon 'proper' [National park] is more than day trip from Vegas and an overnight really is a must.

    To follow your list, it really cries out to do a loop trip starting and ending in either SF or Vegas. It doesn't really matter which being a loop, so check out flight and car rental prices combined and go with the cheapest !

    So starting from SF, take a couple of days to drive the coast road and towns along it. From the Cambria/Morro Bay area you can start to head inland [no need to go to LA if you have no real desire] towards the Grand canyon south rim. You will want an overnight stop on route, Laughlin, Kingman or possibly Lake Havasu would be options. From the GC back to Vegas you could detour onto a section of route 66 through Seligman and take in some of the Diners and memorabilia shops on route to Kingman. Hoover dam is anothe rpossible stop. From Vegas you could drive across the spectacular landscape of Death Valley and head North toward Mono Lake on 395, perhaps stopping around Bishop or Mammoth Lakes for the night. You would then take CA120 [The spectacular Tioga pass in to Yosmite] before heading back to San Fran. [via Napa or not?]

    That would be quite comfortable with 18 days and possible in 13 or 14 days, but again only you can decide whether to 'expand' your trip or not to include Maui, although I think you will be amazed at the natural beauty and contrasting scenery this route will provide.

    A couple of notes. Heading south from SF will put the Ocean side viewpoints on your side of the road and you won't have to cross traffic to stop.

    You don't say when in June you are travelling, but it's possible the Tioga pass will be closed due to winter snow accumulation and you may have to go south or north around the mountains. It typically opens late May into June.

    Have a look around the forums and planning pages and you wil find much info. Once you have started getting your itinerary in place we can make suggestions and help to 'Fine tune' your trip.

  3. Default

    Wow - wasn't expecting that quick a reply- thats fantastic! hmm thanks for the tips. So it sounds like this kind of itinerary isn't going to be too much for us to fit in (hawaii aside), its just a case of working out how we do it...
    My instinct was to avoid a loop simply because I thought that may be far more driving. My initial thought was to go for something resembling a zig-zag, but in reality I really don't know if this will save us many miles.

    So I was thinking Vegas to Yosemite (without stopping if thats possible) - Yosemite to Pacific Coast (perhaps San Luis Obispo) - San Luis Obispo - San Fran - Napa. This would mean flying into Vegas and out of San Fran.


    Vegas to Yosemite (without stopping if thats possible) - Yosemite to Napa - Napa to San Fran - San Franc - Pacific Highway. This would mean flying into Vegas and out of LA.

    Is there any input you could give me on either of these two routes, or would you stick to the circular route plan?

    Thanks for your help!

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


    If you go non-stop to Yosemite, that wouldn't give you time to see any of Death Valley, which is something I wouldn't skip on a once in a lifetime trip.

    Your two options have you driving about the same distance, but by ending in LA, you'd spend more time driving down the coast, rather than across the farmland of the Central Valley between Yosemite and SLO.

    Doing what you listed will save you a couple hundred miles vs. driving a full loop, however, If you are planning to drive to the Grand Canyon, then a loop would make more sense. If you did "option 2" and then drove across from SLO to the Grand Canyon, before returning to Vegas, you'd be looking at basically the same number of miles vs. driving to the canyon and back from vegas and then heading out on the road.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default The journey and the destination.

    Doing a loop would add miles, but only 2-300 miles depending on your route choice and would no equate to much [5-6 hours] over 14-18 days, but as mentioned previously it's your trip and you base it on your preferences.

    You can get to Yosemite from LV in the same day, but I would ask why ? You have plenty of time and you would be rushing through some wonderful scenery to do so. The journey is as pleasurable as the destination !

    If I were to choose from the above 2 options it would most likely be option 2 with that overnight on route from LV to Yosemite with a trip through Death Valley.

    If it were I, I would include the GC and take the loop. That's my preference and doesn't represent 'best' as that is another term like 'must see' we don't 'do' here. It's all about the individual and that's the beauty of planning your own road trip. We are here to help in the best way we can but ultimately you should go with your goals in mind. For example with 18 days I would be looking at parks in Southern Utah like Bryce and Zion, the Grand canyon and maybe Monument valley and 'up' the pace a little, but that's not going to suit everyone and is another story !

  6. Default

    Cheers Guys - thats a real help.
    Well, good point re: death valley. I guess I was planning to push up on through to Yosemite as i thought it would just be unbearably hot in DV and as a result, not much for us to do. If thats not the case then I would definitely make a stop over there.

    It is early June that we are going, so what will DV be like then? I assumed that the Tioga pass would be open, but I'm gathering from the posts above that this may not be the case?

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

    Default Can't presume.

    In June the temps in DV can top 100F, but just the views from the comfort of your air conditioned car makes it a worthwhile drive, plus there are a lot of viewpoints/attractions to be found a few steps from the car. Carry water and sun protection and you will be fine. You can stay in DV or as I mentioned earlier, or you have the option of stopping out the other side somewhere. The main point is that Vegas to Yosemite is a very full day on the road and it wouldn't leave you any time to enjoy the drive.

    You will have to wait and see with regards to the Tioga pass, as it's possible it could be closed. The snow pack so far this year is almost non-existant, but that's not to say there won't be late and prolonged snowfall in the mountains. Tioga is a big part of the Yosemite experience and you could easily spend quite a bit of time taking in the views and walking and this is another reason it would be a shame to rush through. If it were closed and you had to go via Lake Isabella, you could alway's stop around Sequoia NP and see the giant Sequoia tree's on route.

  8. Default

    Thanks Dave. I'll do a bit more research on DV then. Any recommendations of good towns to stay in the DV area?

    As for your suggestion of some of the Southern Utah nat parks - it had crossed my mind, but i think for us we'd rather have a slow pace and have that bit more time to enjoy it. We shall see though...

    Okay, last question for now- are any tools that you are aware of that help you plot out a trip, work out the mileage etc?


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    There are several towns along US-395 like Lone Pine or Bishop that could be a good choice if Tioga Pass is open. If it is closed, then you'd likely want to look at the Lake Isabella area.

    There are several online maps that will plot miles, such as Google maps and Mapquest. RTA also has a map center which you may find helpful, but the focus there is more on finding attractions along the way, rather than specific routes and mileage.

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