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  1. Default Road trip Toronto, Ontario to California

    We are planning a road trip, 8-10 week duration, leaving Toronto around April 10. We are seniors.

    We'd like help in planning routes, attractions to see, places to eat, places to stay (motels, camping - we have a van and need a place to sleep). Other suggestions, recommendations that anyone may have concerning duration of stays in each place. We are interested in nature, culture (indigenous), national & state parks, scenic routes, etc.

    - The first day we expect to stop somewhere around Cleveland, having crossed the border at Buffalo.
    - We then want to drive to Lexington, Kentucky. While here we want to visit Berea.
    - Next stop, Nashville to see the country hall of fame, etc.
    - Then on to Memphis to see Graceland
    - Next stop San Antonio (pls suggest route and stopping point). Any must sees in Texas? Or, should we forget about San Antonio and just go thru' Amarillo to Albuquerque? Which route would be more interesting?
    - Then heading back north towards Las Cruces, NM and the White sands National Park. Any other must sees in NM?
    - We then west towards Arizona to: Monument valley,Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon. We also want to see Colorado's Mesa Verde. Should we do this at this time or on the way back? Sedona & Red Rock County, Cathedral Gorge state park,etc. We were thinking of making Flagstaff our base to see a lot of this. Does this make sense? Is it worth stopping around Phoenix? Also is the Saguaro NP worth a stop?
    - We'd also like to see Las Vegas, Death Valley. In California we want to travel to Yosemite NP.Kings Canyon and Sequoia & Joshua Tree. Please suggest sequence duration and routes.
    - Once we get to the Pacific coast, we would like to travel LA, Big Sur, Monterey, San Francisco and go north towards Oregon, Seattle.
    - In California if we were to visit wine country should it be Sonoma or Napa?
    - Heading east on our way back we want to stop at Glacier park, Montana, Yellowstone, Wyoming, Theodore Roosevelt, N. Dakota .
    - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, back to Toronto through Buffalo.

    I know that I am asking a lot but any assistance that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks.


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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    A few things I will suggest to start.

    First, Memphis to San Antonio is a fair bit farther than we'd recommend for a day of driving. It's well over 700 miles, which works out to 12-14 hours on the road. Stopping in Dallas, or even Austin is something to consider, or just breaking up the trip with an overnight at a hotel en route would work too. If you decide to skip SA and head to Albuquerque, know that it requires 2 full days on the road to get to Albuq from Memphis.

    Along the same vein for distance, I would not recommend Flagstaff as a base to explore Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, etc, as it is just too far away. Using it as a base for Red Rocks and the Grand Canyon could work, but otherwise, you're spending too much time driving both ways to use a single base. It would also likely make more sense to stop at places near the 4 corners as you come in from New Mexico anyway. There are a ton more National Parks in that area to consider too.

    In California, you're looking at some zig-zagging no matter what, but I'd say going Vegas, Death Valley, up to Lake Tahoe, across the Sierras, and down through Yosemite and Sequoia on your way to LA is probably your best bet. Tioga Pass will be closed at the time of your trip, so you have to cross the Sierras by Tahoe or down near Bakersfield. Otherwise you could go from Vegas to Death Valley, down to LA, up the coast to Monterey, then drive back across the valley to Sequoia and Yosemite, before heading back to San Francisco.

    You should know that even in mid-may, much of Glacier and Yellowstone will still be in winter mode, and won't be fully accessable.

    If you are coming back through Michigan, why would you go all the way back to Buffalo before returning to Toronto? It would make a lot more sense to cross the border in Michigan, either near Detroit/Windsor, or up at Sault Ste Marie and down to Toronto via Sudbury.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Start with a good map.

    Hi Debbie, and welcome to the Great American Road Trip Forum.

    Here at RTA we actually do not do 'best' or 'must see', as this is so dependent on what you want to do. One person's best or must see, is another's fly by quickly. That said, you have listed most of the best the US has to offer, in the time available to you.

    Are you set up and planning to camp *in* your van? If that is the case, I would highly recommend that you look at camping in some of the great National Parks you will be visiting. There really is nothing like being there, able to experience a sunset/rise. Places are limited and are taken up quickly, but in April and May you may still be able to pick up some, or find a cancellation in some parks. I'd get onto that a.s.a.p.

    As to more detailed routing than what you have already planned, fold open a large map of the US, or the individual States, such as is available at CAA, or a road atlas such as Rand McNally, and see the scenic routes between the places you have already mentioned. That will make it clear as to which order to visit places, and how to avoid too much backtracking.

    Enjoy the planning.


  4. Default

    Michael, thanks so much for taking the time to respond in so much detail. Good suggestions and info. Will follow your guidance. We did not realize that several of the parks did not open until later in the year. I guess we'll have to visit those parks some other time. We will do Vegas-Death Valley as you recommend and Michigan, Sault Ste Marie.

    Thanks again.


    We have purchased both the Rand McNally road atlas and a good map of the USA.

    Our plan is to "camp" in the van - it will actually only be a place to sleep enroute to another destination. We will use state/national parks or if that is not possible KOA camps.

    Thanks so much for your help.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    On the camping in the van issue....there are loads of campgrounds, other than state/natl park and KOA's, where you can stay. KOA's have a tendency to be pretty high priced and they do cater to motorhomes and travel trailers. Get yourself a Woodall's guide, which is a listing (with loads of information) of campgrounds of all types.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The national parks are open year-round, the only things that will be closed are some of the roads and facilities. You can get complete details at the site.

  7. Default


    Thanks for the info. You are right KOA is really meant for mobile homes and trailers. We are considering them simply because there is a standard in regards to cleanliness and overall quality. We will also be using reasonably priced hotels/motels. Any recommendations on hotel chains?

  8. Default

    Yes, we have referred to the national parks site. Tks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    There are several major hotel chains, and within each chain there will be several brand names to cover the budget ranges. It's difficult to recommend specific brand names, in the lower budget range the quality of each individual property can vary widely. If you click on Hotels & Cars, then Hotels & Motels in the green menu bar at the top of the page, you can search for hotels in specific locations, and you will be able to see both rates and reviews.

    What do I personally do? I am a member of Wyndham Rewards, so I generally try to stay at Wyndham properties. Some of their lower budget properties are Super 8, Days Inn, Travelodge, and Knights Inn. With all, I've been in decent ones and lousy ones.

    One low budget chain that's somewhat unique is Motel 6. That is their only brand, they do not list with any of the booking services, and they are very bare-bones. This can be good and bad, and I've used them occasionally. Some are good and some are awful. They do not offer breakfast and they do not have in-room coffee, you have to go to the lobby to get a cup. Most of them charge extra for wi-fi. You are lucky if you get a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo, and if you need any sundries they may charge for them. No microwaves, refrigerators, hair dryers, or irons/ironing boards in the rooms. Channels are usually limited on the TV's and they generally do have phones in the rooms, that's about it.

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