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  1. Default Advice/Opinions/Comments - West Coast Adventure

    Dear all.

    Many thanks in advance for any advice on the following route. I've done my research online but wanted an expert opinion from some of this excellent forum's members. We are three young adults from London, England. We arrive in Los Angeles at the beginning of July and fly out exactly 3 weeks later. We have hired a convertible car which must be picked up and dropped off at LAX. Our (very early stages) planned route is as follows:

    LA - San Fran - Napa Valley - Crater Lake - Yellowstone - Salt Lake City - Arches National Park - Monument Valley - Zion/Bryce Canyon - Grand Canyon - Las Vegas - LA

    This is about ~3500 miles, but we have all three of us insured to drive.

    Firstly, is this route too much? The other potential route is to go to Yosemite from SF/Napa and skip Yellowstone, then after Yosemite head across country to Salt Lake City and continue the route form there. This would save the miles going up to Wyoming etc:

    LA - San Fran - Napa Valley - Yosemite - Mammoth Lakes - Salt Lake City - Arches National Park - Monument Valley - Zion/Bryce Canyon - Grand Canyon - Las Vegas - LA

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Josh

  2. Default

    Crater Lake to Yellowstone is 850 miles. That's almost certainly too much for one day.

    I would suggest topping out at 600 miles for a day. That alone is 10-12hrs.

    Also, you are missing a lot of must visit places. Eg. In Moab (Arches), you haven't said you're going to Canyonlands (probably Island In The Sky), and Dead Horse Point. You are also missing Page (Antelope Canyon/Horsehoe Bend). And what about Grand Teton NP? You can't go to Yellowstone NP, and not Grand Teton NP.

    I think you need to cut down. You'd probably find that 3,500 miles turns into 5,000 miles very easily. It would probably also be easier for a one person trip, rather than 3. 3 people when it's really hectic sounds like it could cause issues!

    Your 2nd option is easier, and probably more doable. Though needs work to split up the long drives.

    Do not limit yourself to arriving/leaving from the same place. It's unnecessary and limits your options massively.

    You could do something like:
    - Fly into Bozeman
    - Yellowstone (3)
    - Grand Teton (1)
    - SLC (1)
    - Moab (3)
    - Monument Valley (1)
    - Page (1)
    - Bryce Canyon (1)
    - Zion (1)
    - Las Vegas (2)
    - Death Valley (1)
    - Mammoth Lakes (1)
    - Yosemite (2)
    - San Francisco (2)
    - Carmel (1)
    - Santa Barbara (1)
    - Fly out of LAX

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Do not limit yourself to arriving/leaving from the same place. It's unnecessary and limits your options massively.
    However, it will drastically increase your airfare and car rental costs, especially when a small airport such as Bozeman is involved.

    Speaking of car rental, a convertible is going to be VERY cramped for 3 adults. There is very little trunk (boot) room for luggage and the back seat is cramped for children, much less adults.

    I would recommend you adjust your route direction so you travel the PCH between SF and LA in a southbound direction. This will put the scenic pullouts on your side of the road, avoiding crossing traffic getting in and out.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Plenty of options with less miles.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Good advice above, no matter how many drivers you do not want to exceed travelling 550-600 miles a day no matter how many drivers, it just stops being fun beyond that point.

    That said I think either of your options are viable and it will be a case of how much time do you want to stay in each location. Some people like multiple days in one place and others like to keep on the move. It would be easy to spend a week in LA and SF with a couple of overnight stops inbetween along the scenic coast highway. Yellowstone is a place where you would need a minimum of 2 days just to get an overview of the main parts of the park.

    I actually agree that option 2 might be a better choice and keep Yellowstone, the Tetons and even SLC for another trip and include other places nearer to that area and concentrate this trip in a tighter circle.

    If I were to work with option 2, I would go from Mammoth Lakes down 395 and through Death Valley to Vegas. You could then head up into Southern Utah and Zion and Bryce canyon. From there head out towards Moab for Arches and Canyonlands via Utah scenic 12 and Capital Reef NP. From here you could drive down through Monument Valley to the Grand canyon South rim down through Sedona and across to Joshua Tree NP on the way back to LA.

    If that's not enough, there is always the North rim, and near Page AZ, Glen canyon, Lake Powell and Antelope canyon as options. Mesa Verde NP, Natural Bridges, Canyon De Chelley, Sunset Crater, Oak creek canyon are a few others to consider.

    Yellowstone is certainly an option, you just need to weigh up the pros and cons for the type of trip you want.

    Another thing you could consider is reversing the order of your trip so that you will head south along the coast highway and put the Ocean side scenic pull outs on your side of the road which also has the advantage of not having to pull across traffic.

    Having different start and end points can be costly with one way rental charges and the possibility of higher flight costs, especially when flying into small airports.

  5. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WhyHelloThere
    I think you need to cut down. You'd probably find that 3,500 miles turns into 5,000 miles very easily. It would probably also be easier for a one person trip, rather than 3. 3 people when it's really hectic sounds like it could cause issues!

    Your 2nd option is easier, and probably more doable. Though needs work to split up the long drives.

    Do not limit yourself to arriving/leaving from the same place. It's unnecessary and limits your options massively.
    Thanks very much for the input - the advice on the mileage increasing is very interesting and I'm sure very true, good to know. Unfortunately, coming from the UK, flights into and out of LAX were by far the cheapest. This has already been booked, so it's going to be a round trip I'm afraid. I like your route plan but maybe 2-3 to do SF - LA is potentially missing some of the better bits?
    Quote Originally Posted by glc
    Speaking of car rental, a convertible is going to be VERY cramped for 3 adults. There is very little trunk (boot) room for luggage and the back seat is cramped for children, much less adults.
    Thanks for the advice - in hindsight we overlooked this, but again this has also been booked and confirmed so can't change that. I think we'll sacrifice a bit of space for the wind in our hair!
    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave
    I actually agree that option 2 might be a better choice and keep Yellowstone, the Tetons and even SLC for another trip and include other places nearer to that area and concentrate this trip in a tighter circle.
    Certainly agreed. I don't think we want to be pushing out serious mileage in the car; we'd prefer a bit of time and space to properly explore areas and (potentially!) have a day or two just to relax.

    With all your advice considered, what do you think of the following route?

    Los Angeles
    San Francisco (Day 4)
    Napa Valley (Day 5)
    Yosemite (Day 6-8)
    Mammoth Lakes (Day 9)
    Death Valley (Day 10)
    Las Vegas (Day 11-12)
    Zion/Bryce Canyon (Day 13)
    Capitol Reef (Day 14)
    Arches NP (Day 15)
    Canyonlands NP (Day 16)
    Monument Valley (Day 17)
    Grand Canyon (South Rim) (Day 18-19)
    Las Vegas (Day 20)
    Los Angeles (Day 21)

    Couple of questions, if you don't mind:

    #1) Instead of going back to Las Vegas on the return to LA from Grand Canyon, is the route via Joshua NP worth a shot instead? I've read that without a 4x4 car, the roads in Joshua NP are difficult to negotiate! Is it still worth a visit? Or maybe another night in LV would be the better better?

    #2) Where would I take the 395 to before I move into Death Valley? What's your advice on the best route through Death Valley?

    #3) Can we see the Sequoia NP or are we on the 'wrong side' coming south from mammoth lakes?

    #4) Will 5 days in the NPs of Southern Utah be overkill?

    #5) Is the south rim of the Grand Canyon be sufficient or is a trip to the north side necessary?

    #6) Is the traffic issue going North on Highway 1 a large enough issue to reverse our plans? We fancied a relatively cool start on the coast before hitting the hardcore weather inland (pasty English people don't see the sun very often).

    Huge appreciation for all your help, it really is invaluable!!

    Josh

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Getting there.

    Your plan is taking shape and looks good. Day 13 is too much to do and enjoy both parks, you could easily spend a day and a half in Zion before moving on to Bryce where you could sight see in the late pm/evening and the following morning before continuing to Capitol Reef.

    From Mammoth Lakes you could drive to Vegas same day and still enjoy the DV landscape. It's going to be hot through there so even short walks from the car will mean using sun protection and having plenty of water available. You'll need to keep the 'lid' on the car as well and take advantage of the air con. You could also 'gain another day' if needed and make your way to say Williams or Kingman on day 19 [new day 20] after visiting the Canyon and on day 20 [now 21] drive direct to LA. I mention that as you do not make it clear what your first 3 days are planned for. You will need at least one overnight stop on route to SF if you take the coast highway and is one day in SF enough ? Union square, China town, Coit tower, Pier 39 and of course a trip to Alcatraz Island are just some of the highlights.

    1] I don't really see the point in adding the extra miles to revisit Vegas travelling to LA from the GC. Joshua tree can be driven through without a 4x4 although you do have options.

    2]Take 395 down to Lone Pine and then take 136 to 190 across the Park. When you get to Death Valley junction [where 190 meets 127] you turn right and immediate left onto State Line/Bell Vista Rd to Pahrump and then 160 into Vegas.

    3] You are on the 'wrong side' of the mountains for Sequoia. You can see giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite at Mariposa Grove.

    4] Definitely not in my opinion. As mentioned above you need a little more time for Zion and Bryce. Each park is unique and quite spectacular in it's own way.

    5] The south rim is the most popular side of the NP with more ameneties and viewpoints to choose from. This makes the North rim a more attractive proposition as it attracts less crowds. Both sides are viable options.

    6] Not really. It does have those advantages but if travelling up the coast suits you better then that's what I would do.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-18-2013 at 04:21 PM.

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by polopolop View Post
    Los Angeles
    San Francisco (Day 4)
    Napa Valley (Day 5)
    Yosemite (Day 6-8)
    Mammoth Lakes (Day 9)
    Death Valley (Day 10)
    Las Vegas (Day 11-12)
    Zion/Bryce Canyon (Day 13)
    Capitol Reef (Day 14)
    Arches NP (Day 15)
    Canyonlands NP (Day 16)
    Monument Valley (Day 17)
    Grand Canyon (South Rim) (Day 18-19)
    Las Vegas (Day 20)
    Los Angeles (Day 21)

    Couple of questions, if you don't mind:

    #1) Instead of going back to Las Vegas on the return to LA from Grand Canyon, is the route via Joshua NP worth a shot instead? I've read that without a 4x4 car, the roads in Joshua NP are difficult to negotiate! Is it still worth a visit? Or maybe another night in LV would be the better better?

    #2) Where would I take the 395 to before I move into Death Valley? What's your advice on the best route through Death Valley?

    #3) Can we see the Sequoia NP or are we on the 'wrong side' coming south from mammoth lakes?

    #4) Will 5 days in the NPs of Southern Utah be overkill?

    #5) Is the south rim of the Grand Canyon be sufficient or is a trip to the north side necessary?

    #6) Is the traffic issue going North on Highway 1 a large enough issue to reverse our plans? We fancied a relatively cool start on the coast before hitting the hardcore weather inland (pasty English people don't see the sun very often).

    Huge appreciation for all your help, it really is invaluable!!

    Josh

    This is a much more achievable route.

    Put it all into Google maps to get approx times (they are fairly accurate i've found... within 10% or so). Then take the times are put it onto a calendar to see how much time you actually have everywhere.

    I would suggest changing Capitol Reef NP to Bryce Canyon NP. Capitol Reef NP can be done as a drive through park.

    Grand Canyon NP to LA is achievable as a drive on it's own, with no need to stop. It's a long way though! (i did it a few days ago).

    For DV NP, stay in Furnace Creek, then you are vaguely close to what you need to be near. It's a VERY big park though, and the attractions are hours driving apart. So plan what you want to see.

    5 days for NPs in Utah is short. If you have any interest in the outdoors and amazing scenery then the shortness of your stay will become very apparent when you are there!

    I would suggest checking weather expectations also. DV NP will be insanely hot at that time (think mid 40s c). Most of the places you are planning on being at will be 35-45c. This makes hiking in national parks difficult, and something you do not want to be doing after ~11am!!!

  8. Default

    Thanks very much again for your input. I have considered the advice and come up with a plan with mileage and driving times. I've put them into a Google Docs spreadsheet for convenience. Feel free to edit:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/...BT3Q0aFE#gid=0

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave
    You will need at least one overnight stop on route to SF if you take the coast highway and is one day in SF enough ? Union square, China town, Coit tower, Pier 39 and of course a trip to Alcatraz Island are just some of the highlights.
    Understood - have added an extra day in SF to ensure all the best bits can be seen.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhyHelloThere
    I would suggest checking weather expectations also. DV NP will be insanely hot at that time (think mid 40s c). Most of the places you are planning on being at will be 35-45c. This makes hiking in national parks difficult, and something you do not want to be doing after ~11am!!!
    Thanks for the advice here - we understand that it will be extremely hot. Luckily the car we've hired has AC and we will ensure that we are safely protected from the sun and have plenty of water. If we do any of the hiking trails we'll make sure we're up early to avoid the midday sun.

    Any thoughts and opinions on the updated route would be much appreciated.

    Josh

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Looking good.

    I think your planning is coming along nicely and if you are happy with it it'll work. Expect the journey times to take up to 20% longer than mapping program estimates, they do not allow for delays such as congestion and construction or the need to fill with gas, go to the bathroom and eat etc. Then you need to allow for any sight seeing time, for example as you drive across the Sierra Nevada on Tioga Pass [CA120] there are splendid views and opportunities to get out of the car for a stroll, such as at Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne meadows.

  10. Default

    A quick point...for Arches/Canyonlands you can stay in Moab (unless you are camping). Arches is 5mins outside Moab, and Canyonlands is 40mins. You will almost certainly only look at Island in the Sky in Canyonlands NP. Make sure you take the quick trip to Dead Horse Point State Park too (it's near Canyonlands NP).

    For July 13th, i'd recommend staying in DV NP. Probably in Furnace Creek.

    Don't forget the following sights that you will pass:
    - Mono lake (Mammoth Lakes)
    - Moki Dugway (on the way to Monument Valley from Moab)
    - Gooseneck Bend State Park (on the way to MV)

    Also make sure you book up accommodation months in advance for national parks.

    Depending on your flight times, it might make more sense to do all the LA time at the beginning, and try to gain a day back?

    Between Bryce and Moab you should drive SR12. It's far more scenic than the interstate, and takes you right past Grand Escalante NM and Capitol Reef NP. You can see the basics of those two parks in hours rather than days.

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