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  1. Default Los Angeles to Phoenix and back to San Diego in 7 days

    We are planning a road trip with our kids age 7 and 5 out of Los Angeles and returning to San Diego in Spring. We are visiting friends in Phoenix so have to end the trip there, but have about 6 days to get there. Looking for route ideas that allow for some non driving days and most other days of less than 3 hours driving time. Last year we did LA to Grand Canyon to Sedona to Phoenix. Would like to find a slightly different route if possible. We really love hiking and historical locations. Any suggestions appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Have you considered going "past" Phoenix and heading to the Tucson/Southern Arizona area?

    Lots of hiking in the Saquaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, etc, lots of history in the area, like Tombstone, the various Missions, and lots of fun other things like the Desert Museum (basically a zoo) and Old Tucson Studios. And that's a few things off the top of my head.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Spread It Out

    The first thing I'd look at is to break this trip up into more equal sections. As I read your original post, you will take up to 6 days to get to Phoenix, but have then only left one of your total of seven days to get home (after an all too brief visit with your friends. I would suggest that two days to get to Phoenix, two days in south-central Arizona, and two days to get home would let you break things up pretty well and keep something enjoyable and 'new' in hand for each leg of the trip. So, what would I suggest would be a good fit for each of those three basic legs?

    Los Angeles to Phoenix: The obvious major stop would be Joshua Tree National Park. As with all national parks, monuments, etc. be sure to check in at the visitors center or ranger station for the Junior Ranger activities and whatever else they would suggest as appropriate to your exercise level and interests. You might then spend the night in Blythe and on the next day take a short detour up to Wickenburg.

    Phoenix Area: As a Tucsonan, I heartily agree with Michael's suggestion that you include Tucson as part of the "Phoenix area". You could, perhaps, entice your friends to join you in a visit down south from which they would return home as you head on to San Diego. In Phoenix, you might want to check out McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, Phoenix Mountains Park, the Arizona Science Center, as well as the usual theme parks. If you get down to Tucson, there's the Pima Air and Space Museum, the Arizona-Sonora Museum, and Saguaro National Park.

    Phoenix/Tucson to San Diego: Even if you don't make Tucson part of your trip, you should drop down to I-8 as soon as you can on your homeward leg, then sights along the way would be: Dateland (if for no other reason than to have a date flavored shake), Yuma Territorial Prison, Imperial Sand Dunes, Desert View Tower in Jacumba, and either Pacific Southwest Railway Museum or Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

    AZBuck

  4. Default

    Our vacation time and our friends vacation time only overlap during the last 3 days of our trip hence the 2 full days in Phoenix and the 1 day alotted to return to San Diego. I really like the Joshua Tree and Tuscon ideas though. Someone was trying to tell me about some caves in the Tuscon area. Can anyone recommend any fun ghost towns en route. Also, outside of Phoenix we are trying to avoid big cities. Are there any recs for places to stay in the natural parks or historical areas. (not camping?)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Tucson Caves Etc.

    There are two major (readily accessible) caves in the Tucson area. Colossal Cave is just outside of town to the southeast and is adjacent to the eastern section of Saguaro National Park. It is a 'dry' cave with none of the calcite formations associated with caves, but does have a bit of local history including a legend regarding the loot from an Old West robbery The other is Kartchner Caverns about 90 miles southeast of Tucson and just south of Benson. This is a 'wet' cave with stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations. It was only 'recently' discovered (about 25-30 years ago) and its existence was kept secret until it could be developed as a state park, so that it is in a more pristine condition.

    There are also a number of ghost towns in the mountains south of Tucson along the Mexican border. However, due to the nature of the terrain and the increase in cross-border incursions, I would not recommend them to the casual tourist, nor are they likely to be what you have in mind when you think of the romantic version of 'ghost town'. Reservations for all lodgings within the national park system are handled by Xanterra.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-17-2012 at 04:04 PM.

  6. Default

    Thanks for all the advice so far. I am thinking about starting at Joshua Tree as suggested than bypassing Phoenix for the sites around Tuscon and then back to Phoenix to end our trip. Does anyone have any route or itinerary ideas if we allow ourselves 4 days (Monday morning till Thurs afternoon) to do the Joshua Tree to Phoenix route. Where are good places to stay as well. Trying to find something more intersting than a straight highway shot to Tuscon. I like the the Karchner Caverns and tombstone ideas in addition to any others.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Joshua Tree is a nice day's tour -- or at least it was a number of years ago when we took our daughters there. My husband and one daughter loved climbing around on some rocks there! As AZBuck suggested above, spend the night in Blythe or Quartzsite. You could then head south on AZ 95 to Yuma. There's the Yuma Territorial Prison there, as well as the Fort, which would probably interest your kids. Then head for Tucson (C before S) on I-8 and I-10. In Tucson, AZBuck has made some great suggestions. Saguaro National Monument West is the grove of saguaro cacti, and the eastern grove is the OLD grove (or do I have that reversed???). Old Tucson (theme park) is nearby to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum ... love that Museum ... then there are the caves. Colossal Cave is closer to Tucson.

    It's about 120 miles from Tucson up to Phoenix. Phoenix to LA is about a 6 hour drive, depending on your exact departure and arrival places.

    A word of warning: Arizona has closed a number of rest areas along I-10 and I-8. California has done that as well. At the current time, the three rest areas on I-8 between San Diego and Yuma are all open. On the Arizona side of I-8, the one at mile marker 57 has been closed for years, but the one at mile 87 is open. I won't comment on I-10 because I haven't used that in 18 months, but there were two closed back then (and one of them was closed permanently on the AZ side).


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default As Long as You're Heading South First

    Head south early, and after entering Joshua Tree from Twenty Nine Palms, leave from the southern entrance via Box Canyon Road and continue to Mecca and then come down the east side of the Salton Sea (110' below sea level) through Salton Sea State Park to I-8 east with a stops at Yuma Territorial Prison State Park and in Dateland for the date flavored milkshakes. Then do your loop of Tucson/Kartchner/Tombstone before heading up to Phoenix on the 'back road', AZ-77/AZ-79. For a couple of quick stops on that leg consider the prison store at the Florence State Penitentiary and/or Boyce-Thompson Arboretum just east of where you join US-60.

    AZBuck

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