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  1. #1

    Default 3 week road trip: LA-SF-LV-LA (including Yosemite & Grand Canyon)

    Hi all,

    I'm at the start of planning a 3 week road trip with my partner.

    In summary, our goal is to land as Los Angeles, travel north up the famous highway 1 to San Francisco, head east through Yosemite then down to Las Vegas, with some time to visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.

    I've done lots(!) of reading on here and realise this is a very popular route - which certainly helps from the planning aspect.

    There's so much to do - in fact, what was originally a 2 week trip has now been extended to 3 weeks as we felt we were trying to cram too much in!

    However, I'm concerned whether we are still trying to fit too much in. I'm a keen driver and happy with lengthy trips behind the wheel. I'm also keen to explore the natural wonders, and want to see some of real small town America (ideally not just tourist 'hot spots' and the big cities), & visit a ghost town. My partner is also a theme park enthusiast so we've scheduled some time to cater for this as well (which will help serve as a break from the driving).

    Day 1-4: Arrive. Explore LA, theme parks, etc.
    Day 5: Drive north up highway 1, 1/2 way to S.F. Stay somewhere like Cambria, Pismo beach etc.
    Day 6: Drive the rest of the way to San Francisco.
    Day 7: Explore SF
    Day 8: Plan to visit Alcatraz in the morning, then mid afternoon head towards Yosemite and find a motel (on or near route 120).
    Day 9: Explore Yosemite, find another motel near route 395 (possibly around Lee Vining or Mono City - again open to suggestions).
    Day 10: Head 1/2 way to Las Vegas & find a motel for the night.
    Day 11: Drive the rest of the way to LV.
    Day 12-13: Explore LV.
    Day 14: Hoover Dam, then drive to Grand Canyon area and find a motel.
    Day 15: Grand Canyon
    Day 16-18: Drive towards San Diego, exploring & staying in motels along the way.
    Day 19: Day & night in San Diego.
    Day 20: Head back to LA.
    Day 21: Fly home

    I've tried to base this on roughly a max of 4 hours driving per day (excluding stops along the way).

    Are any of these legs of the journey not feasible, or am I missing anything here?

    Also, if there are any "must sees" then please let me know!

    Still in the early planning stages so can be very flexible and can easily tweak to get the most from the trip.

    Thanks in advance,


  2. Default

    I am not one of the resident experts but it just seems to me that you are covering way too much territory to not only enjoy the sites but unless you love driving to enjoy yourselves. I did a very similar 3 week trip on the California side of things and am currently planning a 2 week Vegas Canyons loop trip now. I would make these 2 trips if it were me and try to add more California. Sequoia/Kings Canyon could be added and just unworldly cool. Here was my itinerary for what its worth for the California leg.

    Day 1 - Fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles

    Day 2 – Pick up an RV and overnight somewhere between LA and San Simeon

    Day 3 & 4 – San Simeon State Park Hike and Explore area near campground next day take a tour of Hearst Castle

    Day 5 & 6 – Big Sur (Big Sur Campground) (Explore and hike Area

    Day 7-10 – San Francisco (Marin RV Park)
    - Alcatraz
    - Walking tours – China Town, Lombard, Coit Tower, Cable Cars
    - Union Square
    - Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square,
    - Dinner at Spinnakers
    - Bike rides Sausalito area and Golden Gate Bridge and Park

    Day 11 & 12 – South Lake Tahoe
    - Emerald Bay State Park lookout
    - Vikingsholm
    - Explore the trails and mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park
    - Rent Boat at Camp Richardson or Meeks bay and explore
    - Bike Riding
    - Travel and stop at Boden Ghost Town

    Day 13 & 14 –Yosemite/ Tuolmne Meadow (Walkin site)
    - Hike and Fish

    Day 15 – Yosemite / Valley (Upper Pines) - Explore Valley sites

    Day 16 & 17 – Yosemite (Wawona)

    Day 18 & 19 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA (Lodgepole) – Explore and Hike

    Day 20 – Overnight somewhere between Sequoia and LAX (Need Recommendation)

    Day 21-24 (4th of July Weekend) – (Los Angeles) Turn in RV and staying in hotel
    - Venice Beach
    - Hollywood Homes Tour

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Looks pretty good.

    Hi Stephen.

    Your itinerary is certainly doable as some people try to cram in far more, to the point it doesn't look enjoyable with very little time to enjoy the places they are visiting. Yours is a set at a 'busy' pace, but as long as you are aware of that and happy to keep on the go, it will work out fine !

    Cambria would be good for a stop on the coast. Personally I would book an Alcatraz tour in advance [to avoid wasting time in queues and finding a boat that isn't booked up] during your full day there. Purely because you won't want to be clock watching and worrying about getting out of SF same day to travel to Yosemite. You could sight see in the City before heading to Yosemite, but you will be in more control of your time keeping. They also do a pretty cool night tour that many recommend.

    I think you will regret not having a little extra time in Yosemite and personally I would change this up a bit. I would spend day/night 9 in Yosemite and day 10 leave to explore Tioga Pass sights in the morning and get as far as Bishop or even Lone Pine for the night on 395. That will leave you a nice day to cross Death Valley on route to Vegas.

    You could spend a little more time at the GC on the morning of day16 and head to Sedona. That would mean on arrival you could explore the village area and the viewpoints up to Hermits Rest and on day 16, drive along Desert view drive and exit the east gate towards Cameron [cool trading post] and down through Flagstaff. If you don't mind a longer drive you could then head towards Joshua Tree NP [day 17] before finishing your journey to SD. [you are looking at more than 4 hours driving a lot of days, but not by much]

    One major thing you could alter is to turn your trip around and reverse the order. The main advantage would be that the oceanside view points will be on your side of the road heading south back to LA. Another thing to consider is that places such as GC and Yosemite are very popular in the summer months. If your trip is for this summer, it might already be too late to fing lodgings in the park, but you should consider booking nearby when you have finalised your plan.

  4. Default

    Agree with Southwest Dave as I partially take back the overdoing it comment. I have to remember that I was in a giant RV and also like to really explore places. Since your in to theme parks I would make this analogy. Its like going to the best theme park ever, riding one roller coaster then leaving and going to the next. A couple of final thoughts. Yosemite Valley is my favorite place on earth and I have traveled all over the world. Take Southwest Dave's advice and get some more time there. If you like to hike, do the Nevada Falls hike and make sure you have lots of SD cards ready for your camera. Rent some bikes in the valley and enjoy. Also, since your going up Highway 1 pay the $5 for the entrance to Pebble Beach and do the infamous 17 mile drive as it is stunning. As far as Ghost towns, don't know if it is possible to work into your route but Bodie was really cool and you could experience the Tioga Pass (All near Yosemite).

    Good Luck!

  5. #5

    Default Bodie v other ghost towns

    Hi all,

    Currently I've got a trip to Bodie on my itinerary for my forthcoming trip to CA. I understand Bodie is a town in a maintained state of decay, and it certainly looks impressive on the photos I've seen.

    What I'm wondering is whether a trip to a different ghost town might be more "authentic" because [I assume] other ghost towns are in a natural state of decay and aren't looked after by anyone.

    What are peoples thoughts on this, and are there any recommendations on other ghost towns to see?


    Mod Note] Please keep all questions connected to this trip in this one thread. Thank-you.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 05-13-2012 at 02:51 PM. Reason: Merged.

  6. Default


    If you are renting a car, the rental agreements preclude driving on dirt roads and Bodie is down a dirt road. Hope the regular posters know about ghost towns with paved access.

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