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  1. #1

    Default California Road Trip - Itinerary check

    Hello Everyone,
    My fiance and I are planning a road trip for our honeymoon in California in July/August. We have already got loads of great advise from the forum here so thanks to everybody for that. The total length of our trip is 25 days

    Our itinerary so far is:
    Arrive LA 23rd July

    LA 2 days
    PCH 3 days (Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey)
    San Francisco 3 days
    Napa/Sonoma 3 days
    Lake Tahoe 2 Days
    Yosemite 2 days
    Death Valley 1 day
    Las Vegas 2-3 days
    Grand Canyon 1 day
    Departing Vegas 16th August

    As you can see we have a number of days left and we are trying to decide where best to spend an extra few days. We have confirmed our hotels as far as San Francisco so that part is fixed.

    A little bit about us, we are both from Ireland and have travelled in other parts of the US a couple of times. We have fairly broad interests and love american culture. We want to get to see the major tourist sites but also also enjoy smaller towns particularly during weekends if there is some night life. (We both enjoy live music) We are not into long hiking trips but do enjoy nice walks. We love our food though and seeking out nice restaurants is always part of our trips.

    Some specific questions:
    Wine Country - We both like wine but think 3 days would probably be enough for us in Napa or Sonoma, are there other areas worth visiting in this area?

    Wine Country to Tahoe or Yosemite - Is it worth building in a day on this leg of the trip any places particularly worth a visit?

    Yosemite - We will be staying outside of the Park and have been looking at either Groveland or Mariposa, any suggestions/ recommendation on which would be better?

    Yosemite - Death Valley - Vegas - Should we allow 2 days here?

    Grand Canyon - Where is the best place to stay for a night close to the canyon?

    Also given we are travelling in July/August how important is it to book accommodation in advance, we are fine with Motels in many places and have never had a problem in other parts of the US but is are there any particular places that we would definitely need to book?

    Would welcome any suggestions on the questions above or the trip in general.

    Thanks to all in advance,


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome aboard RTA!

    Per your question about 3 days in Napa and Sonoma Valleys for wine tasting: your mileage may vary, but one or two days should be plenty. My husband and I prefer Sonoma Valley.

    If your flight to LA isn't already set in stone, going south on the PCH is more conducive to stopping at the viewpoints which are on the west side of the road. However, if your flight is set, just be careful when taking a viewpoint across the road!

    Grand Canyon -- You COULD try to get a spot at the Inn on the rim. It's a gamble, because the place books up very quickly during the summer months. Tusayan has some motels and hotels. Otherwise, it's Williams or Flagstaff.

    Whether you do two days at Las Vegas depends on you. My husband and I spent 2 days there a few years back, which was just fine. But I've known others who spend a week there. It really depends on what you want to do there. There are plenty of shows there, though perhaps some of your personal favorites may be "dark" during August.


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

    Default Some thoughts.

    You have certainly been doing your homework and have come up with a nice plan !

    1] As you cross the Golden Gate you could visit the Golden Gate Recreation area and Muir woods National Monument.

    2] You have a few options here. If you head to Tahoe first you could cross the Sierras on one of the other scenic mountain passes, such as CA4 past Calaveres Big Tree SP to the gold rush towns of Murphys and Jamestown and possibly Columbia State Historic park. You would then visit Yosemite and exit over Tioga pass [CA120] to Death valley. You could choose to go down 395 from Tahoe and take Tioga pass into Yosemite and then head south on the western side of the mountains and visit Sequoia NP and continue around Lake Isabella to Death Valley.

    3]Both Groveland and Mariposa are good options.

    4]I would certainly give Yosemite 2 full days to explore. You might find one day in Death valley enough. It has a wonderful landscape that you can enjoy a lot of from the car, it will also be extremely hot and you probably won't want to spend too much time out of the car.

    5] Donna has mentioned 3 options to the south of Grand canyon and there is also the 'Cameron Trading post' just outside the east entrance. It's worth a visit in it's own right for the store.[s]

    6] Personally, I would be looking for lodging asap near all the major parks.

    As you can see we have a number of days left and we are trying to decide where best to spend an extra few days.
    You have many options of places to check out on the route you have, but with some extra time this is what I would do; From Death valley head direct towards the Grand canyon [you will go through Vegas but no need to stop right now] via the Hoover Dam. You could get to GC same day or you could stop in one of the route 66 towns of Kingman or Williams [depending on] and perhaps take route 66 through Seligman, a quirky '66 town. From the GC head out the east entrance [Cameron Trading post] and visit Monument Valley. From Monument valley head through Page AZ and to Zion National park in Southern Utah. [If you have time you could stop in Page and visit Antelope canyon and Lake Powell. You could also spend a night at Bryce canyon and witness it's spectacular rock formations. From Zion head down I15 and end your trip in Vegas.

  4. #4


    Thanks for the replies,

    Some very worthwhile points to think about there.

    Our flights are set in stone at this stage so we will be travelling north on the PCH. Have accommodation booked in LA, Santa Barbara and San Francisco already.

    Any thoughts on heading further up state past Sonoma and Napa?

    I have had a quick look at some of the towns you have both mentioned near the Canyon and they are definetely worth a closer look when I have time later.
    I like the idea of visiting a gold rush town and possibly something on Route 66 so I will look at building that in.

    I realise we are a little late in booking accommodation in or close to the NPs, but we are quite content with the chain hotels and motels outside the parks if that is what we can get. We are trying to manage our budget also hoping for max $150 - $200 per night.

    I will get planning in more detail later but thanks for all the advise so far, I'm sure I will be back with more questions.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    $150-200 will usually get you some very nice lodging, and that budget should make it possible for you to stay right within the national parks in most cases.

    The biggest advantage of staying in the park really is location. Mariposa and Groveland, for example, are both about an hour away from the Yosemite Valley. They are enjoyable and scenic drives, but you'll spend about 2 hours of your day commuting. Similarly, at the Grand Canyon, if you don't stay in Grand Canyon Village, you have some other options just outside the park in Tusayan, however, beyond that you're also looking at about an hour drive to your next options in Williams, Flagstaff, or Cameron (although the Trading Post is closer to the additional viewing opportunities along the east rim drive.)

  6. #6


    Thanks for that -

    What are the pros and cons of the south v's north v's east rim. both the North and South appear to be similar distances from Vegas, but given their distance apart I would be reluctant to cover both.

    South Rim would look like a better route if going to Monument Valley as Dave suggested above which I have to say looks impressive.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    The South Rim is much more accessible; as a result, it is also more populated. The North Rim is a good 5-hour drive (if I recall) from Flagstaff; therefore, not as many people go to the North Rim.


  8. #8


    Thanks Donna,
    Just booked a hotel in the South Rim within the Park for the 11th August (last date left). We can cancel if necessary but I think we should be able to build our trip around it.


  9. #9


    Any views on going up to Mendocino from Sonoma? We are trying to get the most from the coastal areas before moving further inland. Would love to hear of other towns/villages worth a visit on the coast in that general area.

    We have decided to go to Lake Tahoe after Wine country as suggested by Dave above (Thanks Dave) but I think we will spend an extra day before going there as we will have a good few days left.

    Any other ideas, thoughts or suggestions greatly appreciated.

  10. #10


    Point Reyes is on the way from Sonoma to Mendocino. There's beautiful scenery and hikes around there. You could definitely drive on Highway 1, which winds along the cliffs right by the ocean. The views are spectacular and go on for miles. It would add an hour or more to your trip, which may or may not work for you. If not, the 101 is more direct and also pretty interesting.

    I have to second Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais as my favorite places to hike and take in nature in the Bay Area, though they are a bit south of Sonoma in Marin County. The redwood boardwalk at Muir Woods will be packed with tourists, but you can take any one of the trails and the crowds will quickly disappear. I recently did the Cataract Falls hike at Mount Tam, which was truly gorgeous.

    Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and San Rafael are all charming towns to visit. Stuff isn't cheap there, but you will find gourmet food and interesting stuff to look at. Bolinas, Stinson Beach and later on Gualala are right on the coast on Highway 1 - very nice places to see. Occidental and Guerneville are farther up the coast and a bit more inland. Sea Ranch is a great resort town, and the Sea Ranch Lodge Restaurant is good for a leisurely dinner on the ocean.

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