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Thread: new to the US

  1. Default new to the US

    hi everyone,

    I'm a belgian girl travelling with my husband to the US 2 weeks in april.
    I'll start with apologizing if I'm not writing/speaking your language correctly, but I will do my best to try to make as little mistakes as possible!

    I have been reading a lot of threats on this forum and maybe you will feel like this question has been asked to much. But I will take the liberty to ask it, because I didn't actually found an answer yet.
    We have tickets from and to LA. I would love to drive the coastal road to San Francisco. From there we would like to go to Vegas. From Vegas do Zion, Brice and Gran Canyon and then back to LA.

    Because we have only 13 days (it wasn't possible to take a longer holiday at my work), we have been thinking what we would like to do and which things we could skip.
    We would like to do the coast, SF, death Valley, Vegas, grand canyon and LA.
    The questions I have are: we are landing in LA and would like to drive that day a couple of houres, to drive the following day up to SF... where would you stay the night then?
    Departing from SF, we would like to drive a long way up to Death Valley. Is that possible, because we need to cross the mountains. I know... we'd skip Yosemite. And I agree, it looks lovely on the pictures, but we need to make choices and we're not the kind of people that like to hike - and... yosemite looks at first glance the most similar to nature in europe...
    So if possible we'd like to drive up to death valley and overnight. would we be able to reach death valley in one day? Next day, we'd have time to visit and drive to Vegas.
    so i think we'd need:

    day 1 arriving, driving up to ?
    Day 2 coast and overnight in SF
    Day 3 SF
    day 4 SF
    Day 5 drive up to Death Valley
    Day 6 visit Death valley drive up to Vegas
    Day 7 vegas
    Day 8 - day 11 brice, zion, gran canyon
    day 12 drive to LA overnight in LA
    day 13 LA
    day 14 LA
    day 15 leaving in the morning

    is this a possible way to visit evrything?
    thank you so much for your help!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Pourquoi Pas?

    Bienvenue sur les forums de RoadTrip Amérique. Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    (And my apologies if your native language is Flemish)

    It is actually quite possible to do everything on your list in a couple of weeks and many people do. You will have to organize your stops carefully and limit yourselves to a day or two in each location, but that would still allow you a wonderful tour of some of the best sites that the southwestern United States has to offer. The driving portion of your trip (just the time spent in the car) would amount to around 4½ days, leaving you a full 8½ days worth of time to enjoy the sights. Note that your "4½ days" of driving is not 100 hours, but rather about 35 hours of actual in-the-car-time, with plenty of time for scenic, food, fuel, and rest stops.

    The first thing that I would suggest is that you do your loop in a counter-clockwise direction. That would have you leaving Los Angeles to the east and heading for the Grand Canyon as your first stop. You would then leave the park by the eastern entrance and head north on US-89 to Bryce Canyon. Next head west to Springdale and Zion, and then south on I-15 to Las Vegas. After Vegas you would head up through Death Valley, exiting to the west onto US-395 north and then using CA-120 to cross the mountains over Tioga Pass and through Yosemite (It's right on the way, so why not?). Continuing westward to San Francisco and following your time in that city, you would finish your trip by taking the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH, CA-1) back down to Los Angeles.

    A few reasons and caveats: Going counter-clockwise has the advantage that you will have the ocean on 'your' side of the road when driving the PCH, which makes pulling off and getting back onto this often twisting road a whole lot easier. Also, I have found leaving the Los Angeles Basin from LAX going east to be somewhat easier than leaving it to the northwest. Using I-105, CA-91 and CA-60 to hook into I-10 east would be my recommendation. I would also caution against planning to drive more than an hour on the first day. Jet lag, the time change, and the inevitable wearing off of the excitement of starting your journey will all combine to result in a very rapid loss of energy once you actually hit the road. Instead just plan on getting through customs and immigration, getting your rental car, clearing the airport proper and then find a bed as soon as you can and spend the next 18 hours or so catching up on your sleep and getting adjusted to the change in your circadian rhythms. As noted, you don't have to come through Yosemite, but why wouldn't you. It is true that CA-120 is closed (snow-bound) for a good portion of the year, and you don't say when you're coming, but if the ]road is open, both it and Yosemite are well worth the drive.


  3. Default

    Hi there,

    my native language is indeed Flemish, but still :-) thank you very much for welcoming me in my second language (flemish all need to speak french, you know...) and for your kind and extensive reply!

    Doing the trip counterwise may indeed a good suggestion. I noticed that most people do the trip clockwise, but I didn't understand why. I thought about doing it the other way around, because then we could take a whole day to drive from San Fransisco to Death Valley and overnight as close as possible... depending on how far we got, we'd take a longer time for death valley or a shorter time. A second reason was, that it seemed easier the first day to drive up north and to overnight in a town near the beach.

    But maybe that are not the right reasons to turn our trip around and are there more reasons to take the clockwise trip. And you'll have more experience than we do!
    We would indeed only drive an hour or two on the first day... we've been talking about that... is there anything worth seeing if you take the trip in the clockwise direction? In my first idea I'd take a stop in Santa Barbara or some beachtown. It seemed nice :-)

    if we go clockwise it would be like this:
    do day 1 arriving, driving up to ... -- anyone who can give suggestions?
    vrij - ma Day 2 - 5 grand canyon - bryce canyon - springdale - zion ending in Las Vegas
    -- suggestions on how to plan these 4 days?
    di Day 6 Vegas
    wo Day 7 drive to death valley + visit + overnight
    do day 8 long drive from DV to SF
    vrij day 9 SF
    zat day 10 SF
    zon day 11 drive from SF to south up to -- suggestions?
    ma day 12 from ... to LA
    di day 13 LA
    woe day 14 LA
    don day 15 leaving in the morning

    Is there anything we need to keep into account, like weekends or something (I know we better not be in Vegas in weekends)
    We're planning our trip from 29 march until 12th of april, so it's really short notice, due to a sudden period of holidays and we had been dreaming of coming to the US for a while and we've kind of impulsively decided to just book our tickets and go for it. Normally we're a little bit more well-organised I must say :-)

    The CA-120 will not be open, that's why I'd choose to skip Yosemite.
    Would you leave death valley and drive in one day up to san francisco? What road would you recommend if CA-120 is not possible?

    I'm also wondering about the temperatures in beginning of april. Should I expect nice weather or should I pack a lot of sweaters :-)
    What I've been reading is very diverse...

    Thank you very much for your help!

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

    Default Pack layered clothing.

    I doubt you will want to drive far when you arrive. It's a heck of a flight and by the time you add on travelling to the airport, check in and out times, clearing customs and collect your rental while taking into consideration your body clocks will be out of whack, it's pretty exhausting. If you are arriving anytime near the afternoon peak period you might be better off just getting an airport hotel and get up bright and early next morning and beat the traffic that way. Otherwise just look to get to the east of the City, maybe around Upland or San Antonio heights, but will leave that to someone who may have local knowledge.

    Day 2 will be taken up mainly by travelling to the GC, but you may catch a sunset. GC has lodging or Tusayan is the nearest town to the entry kiosk. You could spend the following night in Page AZ after spending part of day 3 at the GC. Either way, days 4 and 5 are going to be a little rushed to really appreciate Bryce and Zion and get to Vegas. Actually, I think you might be better off heading to Kanab rather than Page the night before, and then visit Bryce and spend the night in Springdale, using day 5 to visit the park and head to Vegas in the afternoon. You will wish you had another day here !!

    Bryce is wonderful, but you can get a feel of the place quicker than in Zion as the viewpoints into the canyon are close to the road, whereas in Zion you can stroll through the canyon walls along the Virgin river. In Bryce, drive to the far end of the canyon first and stop on the way back up, that way all the viewpoints and pull outs will be on your side of the road.

    You could actually visit DV and stay a little closer to SF if you wanted to, around Lake Isabella/Bakersfield area. If I were going to skip DV, I would most definitely be looking at a visit to Yosemite valley. CA120 is highly unlikely to be open, so going to the south around the mountains via Lake Isabella/Bakersfield is your only other option with the time you have.

    On route to LA you should plan on staying in the Cayacus/Cambria area to break the journey up nicely.

    Expect anything weather wise ! Pack layered clothing as the temperatures can vary greatly.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default More to Consider

    In that case: Welkom!

    As with most well planned RoadTrips, there are a number of things to consider in choosing the direction of your drive. One of those things is how things are going to go on the first day. The vast majority of flights from Europe into LAX arrive in late afternoon or early evening after a minimum of 12 hours in the air (plus boarding and deplaning security, customs, and immigration checks. Again, add the time to pick up the rental car and you are already at the end of a very long day with the sun going down. Your bodies are going to be screaming for sleep. I would try to do nothing more than get through the worst of Los Angeles and then immediately take a room and give myself what I need. This is easier to do if you are doing the trip in a clockwise direction and are leaving town to the northwest along the coast. You would really only need to get as far as Santa Monica or Malibu along the coast to be clear of the next morning's inbound traffic. That would also probably let you find a room within walking distance (or a very short drive) of the beach to get a little exercise after you long flight and put you in the right frame of mind for the rest of your journey.

    Trying to leave town to the east is a bit more problematical. You would have to traverse the entire 'Inland Empire' as far as around Banning before you'd really be clear of Los Angeles Basin traffic, and that can take two hours at the best of times. It's also pretty much urban sprawl all the way so an evening walk to unwind and get in the mood would be harder as well. But not impossible. You could pull up early, around El Monte and use Whittier Narrows Dam County Recreational Area, or near Rowland Heights and use Schabarum Regional Park, or around Riverside and use either Santa Ana River Regional Park, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park, or Box Springs Mountains Park.

    The trip you've described is in what we would call the counter-clockwise (or anti-clockwise in British English) direction and is the way I would recommend going except for the problems with getting out of Los Angeles as noted above. I outlined a general routing and timing in my initial response. Since you are arriving on a Thursday, that would put you in the Grand Canyon on a Saturday and, as you note, in Las Vegas early the next week, not on a weekend. Spring is a great time to see Death Valley, warm enough to remind you that it is a desert and one of the hottest places on Earth, but still manageable. But even though it will not be as hot as in the summer, still always have lots of water on hand, especially if you choose to take some short hikes in the Valley. With Tioga Pass still closed, you will have to leave Death Valley to the west and then skirt around the Sierra Nevada to the south, through Olancha, Bakersfield and then up the Central Valley on either CA-99 or I-5 to San Francisco. I would caution you, however, that I just don't see where you will have 4 full days to devote to San Francisco and Los Angeles as your current plans call for. Between your limited time for this vacation, the number of miles you'll need to drive, and the great places you'll want to see along the way, I just wouldn't count on having more than a day to spend in each of those two great cities. That's a shame, but so would be leaving out any of your other destinations.

    Most of your trip will be in the Mediterranean climate of the California Coast and the desert environment of the Southwest, but you will still have to pack some seriously warm sweaters and/or coats because northern Arizona and southern Utah are at elevations of 7,000 feet (2,500 m) and up, and April/May is still early enough in 'spring' that these areas may see snow during your travels.


  6. Default


    thank you all for your responses! After what we've been reading here and in other places we have been searching and thinking how it would make it easier with less driving and still see the things we would like to see.
    We have booked an extra flight on thursday from LA to SF, so that we can start our journey there.
    this would make our plans as following:

    29/03 SF
    30/03 SF
    31/03 SF - picking up car
    01/04 (Hw 1) ?
    02/04 Death Valley
    03/04 Las Vegas
    04/04 Las Vegas
    05/04 Zion - sleeping in Zion
    06/04 Bryce - sleeping in Bryce
    07/04 Lake Powell - Lake Powell
    08/04 Grand Canyon - Grand Canyon
    09/04 LA
    10/04 LA
    11/04 LA
    12/04 leaving

    Big question I have for you now is: how to drive from SF to DV ... We'd like to take the coast but up to where? and how long would it take to get to DV... maybe we need to take one day less in LA and a day more along the way? or maybe we're taking too much time now in Zion bryce, lake powell and Grand canyon?

    please feel free to give any remarks, suggestions or how you'd do it if you were us...



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

    Default Possible 'tweaks'.

    A good place to stop along the coast would be around San Simeon/Cambria area. That would give you a little time to enjoy the scenic coast Road after Monterey around Big Sur. That would leave you with a 6 hour [+] journey to the Panamint Springs area into Death Valley.

    I certainly don't think you are spending to much time in the Zion/Bryce area, it's only just enough time imo. You have to remember the travel times involved, as well to get to see each place. Depending on the time you pick up your car, you could possibly look at spending the night of the 31st in Monterey. You also might consider stopping between the GC and LA and spend part of the morning enjoying Grand canyon before leaving and arrive in LA following morning instead of the night before.

  8. Default

    anyone suggestions on the roads to take from San Francisco along the coast to Death Valley?
    any nice places to stop between LA & GC?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    It will be 2 full days from SF to DV via CA-1 to Cambria, CA-46 to CA-99 to Bakersfield, CA-178 to CA-14 to US-395 to CA-190.

    It is possible to drive from the GC to LA in 1 long day - about 9 hours or so - via I-40/I-15. Add about an hour if you want to take old 66 between Seligman and Kingman. If you want to split it up, your best bets would be Kingman, Lake Havasu, or Barstow.


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