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  1. #1

    Default Exploring the West Coast Summer 2013

    Hello everyone,

    I can not find another site with more knowledge when it comes to US road trips than this one however, having never been to the US before it is completely overwhelming, so many sights, so many ideas. We (me and my fiancee live in a little town in the South of UK).

    Me and my fiancee are soon to be married in late July this year and have 3 weeks (max 23 days) over August to plan a road trip in an effort to explore not only wonderful cities but also the great outdoors and spend some time in the popular, never to be forgotten National Parks. The time frame as stated is 3 weeks, the budget is £6,000 and it is just the 2 of us.

    What we enjoy...City life (eating out, restaurants, museums, art and culture, bars/clubs in moderation) Outdoors (Love to drive and explore, National Parks and sights of beauty, camping, being off the beaten track, opportunity to take some amazing photos).

    So far our very basic plan (it is a blank canvas of sorts) and welcoming any advice, sights to see is....

    1. Fly into San Francisco (start and end point for cheaper flights and easy car hire) spend 2/3 days
    2. Yosemite National Park (2/3 days?) - would like to explore this alittle and perhaps camp a night or two!
    3. Las Vegas (perhaps via Death Valley - 2 nights)
    4. Grand Canyon National Park - Don't know if this is somewhere you would spend a couple of days or just stop off at?
    5. San Diego - A long stretch from Grand Canyon NP but if there is somewhere recommended to stop off along the way? (2/3 days)
    6. Los Angeles - 2/3 days
    7. San Francisco (fly back to the UK)

    I know the above itinerary seems like a cliché but for our first trip out i think this would be a good adventure. There is probably alot we are missing here in regards to beautiful little routes to take and places to stop off at so i really appreciate any advice/tips. Again let me know if this is going to be stretched for just 3 weeks, we could always miss out San Diego to cut it shorter.

    Many thanks all, lookforwards to your ideas.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got an excellent start to your plan. This is one of the most popular trip ideas on the forum, because there are so many great things to see, and 3 weeks is a nice amount of time to do it.

    One thing you might consider is reversing your trip, so you head south down the coast to LA, which makes for easier driving and better access to viewpoints. You should plan for at least 2-3 days for the drive from SF to LA.

    Between SD and GC, you could go through Joshua Tree NP. Alternatively, you could head towards Phoenix and up through Sedona on your way to GC.

    If you have time, between GC and Vegas, you might consider heading north into Utah, and checking out Zion NP. You could also go this way if you want to visit the North Rim in addition to or instead of the South Rim.

    I'd plan for at least a night between Vegas and Yosemite so you can spend a little time in Death Valley. Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, or another city in that area could make for a good overnight, before heading over Tioga Pass into Yosemite.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Grand Canyon is a place where you'd probably love to spend an entire day. In August, that might also be a necessity since the South Rim gets a bit busy and thus, more traffic. There is a shuttle that runs between the lookout points that you'll want to use. If you decide to try to overnight at the GC, in the El Tovar, you'll want to get reservations NOW.

    San Diego to GC is definitely do-able in one day, on a modified speed run, as it's around 500 miles. If you want to stop along the way, Joshua Tree NP is one option. Another option was to go from SD to the GC along the "southern route", through Yuma, up to Phoenix, and then cut through to the GC via Sedona.

    Here's a link to information about San Diego itself:Around San Diego County


  4. #4


    This is exactly the sort of information im looking for thanks. I hadn't thought of doing this journey in reverse which is interesting.

    I will look further into Joshua Tree NP and Zion NP for potential destinations. Is it easy and not too expensive to find accommodation in these National Parks? I only mentioned Yosemite in my original plan as many people recommended it.

    Thanks again.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Joshua Tree has no in-park lodging except camping. There are loads of hotel choices in the Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs area.

    Zion has one in-park lodge: Zion Lodge. You'd want reservations, to guarantee a spot, especially in August!


  6. #6



    Excellent advice thank you. To be honest i think that i will explore the GC for a day or two so will look into El Tovar reservations sooner rather than later (don't know what the options for camping are?).

    Palm Springs is another location that had escaped me so that would be a nice stop to break up the journey. I take it you think the route would be more enjoyable in the reverse, so heading South from San Francisco down the coast instead of heading West immediately towards Yosemite NP?

    My notebook is definitely filling with great ideas for this trip. The National Parks are more of a priority for me over the city stops but it is always nice to see the likes of SD and LA.

    Cheers again Donna!

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

    Default Springdale option.

    Hello from the south of England !

    Lodgings in the NP's can get booked up well in advance during the peak season, so if you get your plan 'nailed down' you might want to consider booking in advance and asap, it could already be too late in some. You will find alternative lodgings outside the parks that are more reasonable priced, but there is nothing quite like 'being there.'

    Zion NP has the lovely little town of Springdale right on it's doorstep and is a very good alternative for lodging. The free shuttle buses that take you into the canyon actually run from town, so you can leave your car where it is and hop on !"

    Yosemite is definitely worth 2 or 3 days of your time, it's quite a large park where you have the giant Sequoia trees to the south of the park in Mariposa Grove and one of the finest viewpoints anywhere can be found at Glacier point. You then have the Valley and the Tioga Pass to explore, the Pass being on route to Death valley. DV will be extremely hot in August but the landscape is amazing. I would stop in Bishop and then drive across DV via 190 to Vegas.

    From Vegas you could then head north to Zion and possibly fit in a visit to Bryce canyon. You could visit the North rim at this point or alternatively you could continue to Page AZ [Antelope canyon/Lake Powell] and down to the South rim before heading off to SD.

    As Michael mentioned, heading south first will put the Ocean/Oceanside viewpoints on your side of the road.

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