Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 17
  1. #1

    Default 3 Week West Coast Roadtrip

    Hi there. I'm new here and just looking for a bit of advice regarding a Roadtrip I am planning in May. I am spending some time in Los Angeles, before picking up a campervan, which we have rented for 21 days in total. I have done a lot of reading on your forums to get an idea of what I aim to do but really want to check for any specific advice or tips.

    A rough plan of what we intend to do is.

    • Drive from LA - San Francisco via Big Sur
    • Spend a couple of days in and around San Francisco
    • After San Francisco we aim to head to Yosemite for a few days before heading towards Yellowstone NP. However I gather that a lot of Nevada is pretty much a lot of nothing. Is the best idea just to head to Reno and then straight accross to Salt Lake City? Or am I missing something?
    • Once in Yellowstone we plan to spend a few days here before heading down to the Grand Canyon for a few more days.
    • We then aim to have a one night stop over in Las Vegas before heading back to drop off the campervan in Los Angeles and fly to New York.

    As you can see my plan is fairly vague and this is partly because we want to keep our options open. Before we get too committed to any ideas, we just want to know if this is a realistic distance to be covered in 21 days. Our main aims are to see San Francisco, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, and above all spend as much of the trip as possible driving down some of the most scenic roads America has to offer.

    Any advice which will help us do this would be greatly appreciated.


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

    Default Time flies.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    However I gather that a lot of Nevada is pretty much a lot of nothing. Is the best idea just to head to Reno and then straight across to Salt Lake City? Or am I missing something?
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder ! Personally I find the desert landscape through Nevada a breath of fresh air in itself, if you open your mind and eyes to it that is.

    When you leave Yosemite I would recommend you do so by crossing the Sierras on the spectacular Tioga pass [CA120]. Doing so would have you adding miles and time going via Reno. You could head up through Fallon to Wells and up through Twin Falls/Pocatello and Idaho Falls on route to Yellowstone. Alternatively you could head out towards Tonopah, an historic mining town. Just before Tonopah there is 'Millers Rest' which is [as suggested] a rest area where if the timing was right, you could spend the night in your camper, free ! Just after Tonopah is Warm Springs, a deserted town of just a few buildings with a Hot tub that is fed water from the natural Hot spring that comes out of the mountain just a short walk away. Next up is the town of Ely with Great Basin NP not to far away. From here you can hook up with the route mentioned above or if you want to visit SLC, head there.

    A "few days here" and a "few days there" soon eats into your time, especially when you add the travel times in, so you will have to work out how long you want where. Your trip is doable, but you do have about a weeks worth of driving to consider. From Yellowstone to the GC you should spend a bit of time in the Tetons and you could also visit a couple of parks in Southern Utah like Zion and Bryce canyon.

    Keeping your options open is possible, but the National Park campgrounds can [and do] book up real quick and you may have to settle on staying outside of them if you don't book. This could amount to quite a lot of driving just getting in and out of the parks. The NP's also offer good value campground fees and are in surroundings that are second to none !

  3. #3


    Hi Dave, many thanks for your quick response! We are open minded and I've always liked the idea of the Nevada deserts but had been slightly put off by people who probably don't share the same sort of ideas! I think it's safe to say the advice coming from a forum devoted to road trips is the better choice to listen to.

    Your info was just what I was looking for, a quick google search for 'Tioga Pass' has made that a definite on our tick list!

    Other than San Francisco we don't have much of an urge to explore big cities, like I said our main aim is to explore some of the great national parks and scenic routes of Western America. Therefore a big part of our 3 weeks can be devoted to this, I do however understand that we need to be more specific than a few days here and there, that is why I was trying to get a better idea of the must sees and places worth staying around for a bit longer than a flying visit.

    We will definitely take your advice in regards to booking national parks ASAP. However I was under the impression a fair proportion also have first come first serve spots?

    Thanks once again, I look forward to any further advice.

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


    Most NP campgrounds do have first come first serve sites, but they can and typically do fill up very early in the day. Yellowstone, for example, as several campgrounds that do not take reservations, but its not uncommon at all for all of those site to be completely full by 9 or 10 am.

    If Vegas is among the big cities that aren't a priority, you might think about skipping Vegas and driving straight back to LA from the Grand Canyon which trims some extra miles off your trip. Alternatively, you might see how much it costs to end your trip in Vegas - its quite likely the prices wouldn't be that much different and it would save you several hours of driving.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Reverse?

    Hi Tom,

    Have you thought about doing this trip anti clockwise? That way, when you are driving the magnificent Pacific Coast Highway you will be on the ocean side of the road... the side where most of the pull-offs and view points are.


  6. #6


    Hi Lifey,

    We hadn't actually made a decision to go clockwise consiously and on reflection I think the trip might work better going anti-clockwise like you suggest. 2 days into the trip is my 23rd birthday, spending that in Vegas could be just as rewarding as spending it in San Francisco would have been, and some of the best driving is saved for the final third of the trip if done anti-clockwise.

    Thanks for the suggestion!


  7. #7


    Hi Guys,

    We are now a bit further down the line with our planning and our trip is looking better constructed. I have used googlemaps to work out rough time estimates of some sections of the trip but obviously realise these are just a guide and am expecting longer sections at times. There will be two of us splitting the driving.

    • 1st-5th May - Los Angeles.
    • 5th May: Pick up Campervan - Los Angeles - Vegas: 265 Miles - 4 1/2 Hours
    • 6th: Birthday in Vegas!
    • 7th: Vegas - Grand Canyon 276 Miles - 5 Hours - Campsite BOOKED
    • 8th: Grand Canyon - Campsite BOOKED
    • 9th: GC - Monument Valley 180 Miles - 3 1/2 Hours - Campsite BOOKED
    • 10th: MV - Zion - 241 Miles - 4 1/2 Hours
    • 11th: Zion - Antelope Island (Salt Lake City) 309 Miles - 5 Hours
    • 12th: SLC - Yellowstone 350 Miles - 6 1/2 Hours - Campsite BOOKED
    • 13th: Yellowstone - BOOKED
    • 14th: Yellowstone - BOOKED
    • 15th: Yellowstone - Teton
    • 16th: Teton - Reno/Carson City 700 Miles - 12 Hours
    • 17th: Visit Virginia City
    • 18th: Currently Blank
    • 19th: Yosemite Tioga Pass
    • 20th: Yosemite
    • 21st: Yosemite
    • 22nd: Yosemite - San Francisco - 220 Miles - 4 1/2 Hours
    • 23rd: San Francisco
    • 24th: San Francisco - Big Sur - 150 Miles - 3 Hours
    • 25th Big Sur - Santa Barbara - 200 Miles - 4 Hours
    • 26th: Santa Barbara - LA - Drop off campervan in Los Angeles

    As you can see from the 16th when we plan to leave Teton there are quite a few gaps to be filled. We don't mind a day of driving to get down to the Lake Tahoe area but equally if there is somewhere well worth stopping this could be factored in, potentially Twin Falls as previously mentioned by Southwest Dave?

    Hoping for some 'must drive' scenic roads which could join some of our stop overs and any insight into the second half of the trip, recommended campgrounds? Should we spend the extra time in Yosemite/San Francisco or split the journey from Teton?


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You need to add 20% to Google time estimates!

    I doubt that you can get from LA to LV in 4.5 hours. There's just too much traffic in the LA area.

    Plan on closer to 6 hours to get from MV to Zion. Plan on 7+ to get from SLC into Yellowstone.

    Teton to Reno is something that you should definitely not try to do in 1 day, you certainly can't do it in only 12 hours. I'd stop for the night around Elko. Use your extra day here.

    You are grossly underestimating the times from SF to Big Sur and from Big Sur to SB. There is absolutely no way you can average 50 mph on those roads.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Split it.

    Should we spend the extra time in Yosemite/San Francisco or split the journey from Teton?
    I think you should split the journey from the Tetons but it doesn't need to be halfway. You might find somewhere in the Winnemucca area to stop overnight which might leave you with a bit of time left with the 'free day' to take a peep at Lake Tahoe or Mono lake.

    Another option if you could move the booking on Antelope Island, would be to go from Zion to Jackson then to Yellowstone for your booking and then split the journey to Reno with a night at SLC. It would most likely add a couple of hours to your overall journey, but perhaps make the stops fit better. Actually getting to Antelope Island could take considerably longer than you are planning for, it can take well over an hour from SLC depending on traffic.

    I would try the Watchman campground for Zion NP. One of the 'Pines campgrounds in Yosemite valley would be my first choice but it might be too late. There are other options outside of the park if you have no luck within, Yosemite Pines in Groveland being one of them.

    Seeing as you are mentally prepared to be on the road for longer than estimated, I would say you are in for one heck of a trip !! Any other questions then please ask, if not we would really appreciate it if you come back and share your trip highlights with us !!

  10. #10


    Cheers for the recalculated times glc. Googlemaps is pretty accurate in the UK so glad of some experienced advice USA-wise. No biggies all in all.

    We will split that long day into two, I think we have some time to play with in the second half of the trip so will find a decent place to break it.

    Luckily we havent booked Antelope Island, haven't got our hearts set on it either just seem to be a nice place to stay near SLC (which a few American friends have given me less than poor feedback on!). Will have a better look at all of your advice tomorrow but just wanted to post a quick response.

    And I have already planned on posting a full report (hopefully with some good pictures as well!) as a way to say thank you for all the advice and which can be used by anyone hoping to do a similar route in the future, hopefully by the end of it we will have seen our fair share of campsites and stunning roads! Lots of driving but we are well up for it and I couldn't have better company with me for the holiday. Music is the final ingredient and I've already started making some road trip playlists!

    Cheers guys!

Similar Threads

  1. Newbie....on a West coast 2 week road trip.....
    By ClaretandBlue in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 04-17-2011, 12:48 PM
  2. Two week trip: Texas to the NW to the West Coast
    By theneener in forum Spring RoadTrips
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 04-12-2011, 01:15 AM
  3. Six week solo roadtrip to the west
    By Scott90 in forum Planning Summer RoadTrips
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-03-2011, 01:44 AM
  4. December- 3 Week Road Trip- West Coast!!
    By bd85uk in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-12-2010, 04:28 PM
  5. One week road trip on the West Coast
    By perlay in forum Fall & Winter RoadTrips
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 08-24-2007, 09:30 AM


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  • Find the Perfect Hotel
    Search RoadTrip Motels
    Enter city name