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  1. Default West Coast Road Trip

    Hello All,

    I have been reading multiple topics here and i feel a bit guilty to open a new one about something similar. However i couldnt completely find the answers I needed, and i am sure that they are here :).

    We are a young Belgian couple that are planning a 3 week road trip through the West-Coast. We will fly out from Brussels on 14/sept, and we'll have to fly back on the 4th of october. This means we have about 20 days (flights excluded). About three years ago we visited Las Vegas on a 8 day trip, and there is where we got bitten to go back whenever we can, but now we just want to see alot more :).

    Basicly i feel like organising my trip around LA, SF & LV. I am searching for some advice in what order we should do it. I still have to book my flights, so we can still choose. So far i have been thinking to start in LA, drive the 101 to SF, and end in Las Vegas. We realy like to stop our trip in LasVegas, as this is a place "we know" and where we would like to finnish this amazing trip. However, by reading this forum, i understood it is a bit of a waste to have a hiered car in San Francisco. What would you suggest if you would like to combine these 3 city's in the trip, and if you prefer to end in Las Vegas?

    So far, this how it looks like:

    4 days LA (flight day included)
    4 day trip to SF
    4 day SF
    - Trip SF => LV: not sure yet (about 6 days left), has to include [Yosemite,Dead Valley] - Is Monument Valley a must? Bryce?
    4/5 days Vegas (flight day included)

    When we visited Las Vegas we did a one day trip to the Grand Canyon. I was told this was the less crowded side (south side?). We drove there and we saw an amazing sunset. We are not sure if we should visit the other side aswell. What do you recommend?
    We do love beautiful scenery and pure nature, but i have to admit that we quickly have the idea "we'v seen it". I don't mean this contemptuous at all, i just don't realy now how to explain it better. We do not intend to spend 2 or 3 days in one National Parc, unless it is that breaththaking :).

    We hope to avoid long driving-times so we can enjoy each day to the maximum.

    All sugestions are more then welcome, and i thank you in advance! I'll buy you a Belgian beer if i run into one of you experts during the trip ;-).

    Kind Regards,


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    The north rim of the Grand Canyon is far more remote than the south rim. Therefore it's less crowded and a bit more "primitive". I'm not sure whether you will have access issues in September or not -- it will depend on the weather -- as the road to the North Rim can be shut down early on. Someone else here will be better equipped to answer that question.

    Yosemite is gorgeous and so is Bryce. The two parks are so different. Have you been to Zion? That is another park within a day drive of Las Vegas.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default General and Specific

    Bienvenue sur les forums de RoadTrip Amérique. Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!
    (Sorry, my Flemish is non-existent.)

    Yes, your general itinerary is one of the most heavily discussed on these forums, so if you haven't read them yet, check out this collection of some previous planning sessions. But it's also true that everyone's concerns are at least a bit unique, so let's answer some of your specific concerns and questions.

    Three weeks should give you plenty of time to enjoy both cities and parks as well as the drives between them. None of you major points is more than a day's drive from one another, although San Francisco to Las Vegas is probably more than you'd like to do in one session. Fortunately, there are great places to see in between to break up that leg including Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks.

    The time of year you've chosen is almost ideal, as the heat (and the tourists) of summer will be but a memory and even the deserts and major attractions will be quite enjoyable. Another frequent suggestion you'll see here is that you do a loop trip, flying into and out of the same city and then driving to/through all your destinations and finishing up back in your arrival city. The advantage to this is that generally round-trip flights to/from a single city are cheaper, as is the car rental. If you make San Francisco your gateway city, then you can save a bit more money by not renting the car until you are ready to leave that city, as you won't need one there.

    As to specific things to see. I'm not sure where you saw the Grand Canyon. The 'less crowded' side would be the North Rim, but that's difficult to get to as a day trip out of Las Vegas. Typical day trip excursions by plane or helicopter go to the West Rim which is actually on an Indian reservation closer to Las Vegas and not in the national park proper. The best views of the Canyon are from the several rim overlooks along the 25 mile long Rim Drive which follows the South Rim east from Grand Canyon Village.

    One other loop you might want to consider would be out of Las Vegas, over Hoover Dam, to the South Rim, then northeast to Monument Valley (a Navajo Nation tribal park, and worth the drive) then back west using AZ-98 to cut to US-89 up to Bryce Canyon and then UT-9 over to Zion and then back down to Las Vegas. Done over three to four days, such a loop would let you see some of the best of the Southwest without either driving too hard or spending too much time at any one park.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I would do a "loop" trip starting and ending in Las Vegas. This would avoid a "one way" dropoff charge on your rental car and possibly wind up cheaper for your international airfares. Go from LV through Death Valley, then over Tioga Pass into Yosemite. From there, go to SF, then south along the coast to LA. Go from there direct to the Grand Canyon, then through any other areas you want to see before terminating in LV. Driving the coast from north to south will keep the scenic turnouts on your side of the road, avoiding crossing traffic to get in and out.

  5. Default

    Thank you all for the feedback

    So basicly your main reason to do a loop trip is that it should be cheaper? Our tickets only differ €10,00 pp, but i do not know what the fee in the rental company will be, thank you for informing there is one :).
    Basicly i wasn't planning on a loop so far cus i was not convinced the drive between LA & LasVegas was worth the time. Since you suggest to go straight from LA to the Grand Canyon, i assume my assumption was correct? Or do i get it wrong?

    About the Grand Canyon: We saw it on a one day trip from Vegas, including Hoover Dam and a lil town (Boulder?), kinda looked like Cars^^. U think we should visit it again somewhere else, or should we spend the time on something else? Maybe better to take Bryce or Zion instead :o.

    Your suggestion to drive from north to south sounds like a good idea though :P

    I'll work a bit on my map tomorrow evening and i'll post it here. If you could all could give some feedback on that, that would be amazing.
    Any comments on the Whale Watching from Monterey? It's on the top of my gf's list :P, i already talked her out of SeaWorld, so i am hoping this is a much better alternative :D

    thank you very much!


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default National parks.

    The Grand canyon NP is a scenic wonder of the world and it would seem that you went to the west rim on Indian lands, which is the common destination for day trips out of Vegas. You have the south rim and north rim areas in the National Park, both offering wonderful views of the canyon, the north is less visited and the south is more geared towards tourists, although during Sept/October it won't be difficult to find quiet spots.

    You have a nice amount of time for your trip, but it will soon disappear if you have multiple days planned as you have in the Citys, so it comes down to your priorities. If you went to the north rim you could invest some of that time in Zion or Bryce canyon, or better still both ! These National parks are all wonderful in there own unique way and you don't have to spend days there to enjoy them, but I would recommend a full day at the GC and Zion, at least half a day for Bryce canyon and 2 full days for Yosemite as it's a large park to get around. From Vegas you could do the 'Grand loop' and travel to Zion, Bryce, Monument valley and the South rim back to Vegas before heading towards Yosemite.

  7. Default

    Hello Guys,

    We have been working a bit more on our trip, but i am a bit stuck right now. We deceided for ourselves we'd prefer to fly to LA, and fly back from Vegas. We realy like to finnish our amazing trip with some straight days in Vegas before we go back to our normal life :). So far this is what i got:



    As you can see, I am pretty stuck between the 26th and the 1th of october. I would like to use these days to visit the NP's you recommended (Bryce, Zion, ?), but i am not realy seeing the best solution. Should we head straight to Vegas and use that as a base for a 2 (or 3?) day trip to Bryce/Zion? Or is there a different route that is definitly worth it? We still have the four days Vegas planned, so there is no direct need for us to arrive there earlier, but if so its definitly not a disaster :P.

    Next to that i have some small questions:
    1) 2 stops between LA & SF seems perfect? I read in a previous thread u suggested SantaMonica, SanSimeon & Monterey. I was thinking to skip SanSimeon to gain a day. What to do in SantaMonica? We don't mind a beach day if so :).
    2) How many days do u suggest (minimum) to discover SF? I have been reading alot about that city, and how more i read about it, the more days i seem to need :).
    3) I read in a another thread on this forum to drive through Sequoia/King's NP on the way from Yosemite NP to DeathValley, as you can enjoy the amazing trees & views directly next to the road. What road should we take to see this? On the map I attached it looks a bit strange so far.
    4) Someone told me the waterfalls might be dry in our period in Yosemite. Is this true?

    A huge thanks!


    Dimitri & Sandy

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default There's always too much to see !

    Two stops will work well along the coast and should make a relaxed enough journey. A lot of people just have the one.

    The same goes for San Fran, you could easily spend a week there exploring, but you could get a good overview with 2.5 days which would give you the opportunity to head for Yosemite on the 23rd. It's all about making the time you have to work for you and your tastes.

    It's not possible to get a clear picture from your map as it's so small, but you won't be able to get from Yosemite to Death Valley and visit Sequoia NP same day. There is a big distance between the two as you have to go around the mountains that stand between them. I would visit Mariposa Grove of giant trees in Yosemite and travel over the Tioga Pass to Mono Lake and down 395 towards Death valley.

    The waterfalls will most likely be all but dry when you visit, but fear not, you will not be dissapointed with what you find. Be sure to drive up to Glacier Point !

    From Death valley I would head to Springdale UT to visit Zion NP and then head for the North rim, Bryce canyon or both ! I would recommend both, but use an extra day [or half] which you could save along the coast, or from any of the City stops.

  9. Default

    Hello Dave,

    Thank you. I'll work on it. Maybe i can remove Santa Maria or a day in San Fran.

    Do you have some experience with renting a car? We have never done it, and i am wondering if it is a good idea to rent one from LA to the first day of San Fran, and then rent a new one the last day of San Fran when we leave for Yosemite. I noticed in San Fran you pay alot for a parking spot, we wont use the car much, so maybe it is worth stopping the rent for a few days. However i do not know the troubles it takes to get it all running, so maybe it's just not worth the money you save?

    Can u visit LA (including Universal Studios) easily with the metro, or is a car rather usefull in the wide city?

    I'll work a bit more on the planning and give you an update. Thanks for the feedback!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Check the costs.

    With regards to the car rental, it's worth checking what the cost will be for 2 rentals against keeping the one the whole way and work out if it's worth it. Sometimes one way drop off fees are not charged between these major City's, but can add up if they are charged on 2 rentals, plus you might find the rental more expensive if you are just having it for a few days, rather than at the weekly rate. There are a few Motels in SF that do not charge extra for parking the car. I know there are 2 or 3 around Lombard/Gough street of which there is one called the Buena Vista Motor Inn which isn't too far from the Piers and transport links.

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