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  1. Default Planning for 2014

    Hi there

    I am currently in the early stages of planning a Road Trip for July/August next year. We do want to visit Yosemite, so I will have to settle on dates soon as I would like indoor plumbing for those prices!

    We are coming from the UK and at the moment are planning to fly to Las Vegas and have a couple of nights there. Then we will visit Bryce and Zion and Grand Canyon before heading back to Vegas and on to Death Valley. We then want to spend some time in Yosemite before going to San Francisco and then heading down the coast to finish up with a few days in San Diego.

    I have a few questions about the route and what is feasible in a day. We have 2 kids (who will be 11 and 14) and husband is planning on doing most of the driving. I'm conscious that I don't want too many heavy driving days after each other.

    1. Is there any reason to go to Bryce and Zion after Grand Canyon or could we visit them first? I'm thinking of staying a couple of nights in Kanab so we're not rushing as they look like places you could spend some time.

    2. From what I can see, Death Valley will be pretty unpleasant to walk in at that time of year, so I think we're more likely to pass through to see the sights rather than camp/stay over. It looks like a pretty long drive from either Kanab or GC - I'd rather not have another night in Vegas, so is there somewhere else that's nice for us to stay over?

    3. It seems to make sense to come into Yosemite from the East and explore that way. Again it looks like a long drive from Death Valley to somewhere like Lee Vining - would it be worth breaking that journey up on the way? We're not particularly pushed for time as we're allowing 3 weeks maximum for the trip.

    4. We love the outdoors and fancy some walking in Yosemite. From what I've read the Falls might be Trickles at that time of year - in which case, is it worth concentrating on a couple of other areas rather than focusing on the Valley? I was thinking of staying somewhere like Mono Lake, then driving in and exploring Tuoholme and possibly staying there overnight. If not, heading for Curry Village and staying there. We could then walk/explore etc the next day and head out of the park at the end of the day and stay overnight somewhere a bit cheaper. Does that sound feasible?

    5. I'd like to go north of SF but is that more of a grown ups place than somewhere for kids? Would we be better to focus on spending more time around Yosemite and on the coast trip to San Diego than getting up to say Calistoga and back again?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Good job, great trip !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forumns !

    Sounds as though you have been doing your homework and have come up with a good plan ! With 3 weeks available you will have a wonderful and relaxed trip !

    To answer your questions.

    1] You have the option to visit the less visited North rim of the Grand canyon which is closer to Zion and Bryce or do the 'Grand loop' and visit the South rim. If you are planning on the South rim then you can go either to the Grand canyon then Bryce and then Zion, or the other way around, it really makes no difference. If doing the Loop you could include Hoover Dam and Monument valley along the way, and with either option, Page AZ would be an option, with Lake Powell, Antelope canyon, Glen canyon etc nearby. For Zion I would stay in the lovely town of Springdale UT as this closest to the canyon area and it would not be worth back tracking from Kanab.

    2] Death valley will be extremely hot, but still enjoyable to drive through and take a short walk from the car to a viewpoint. Make sure you carry plenty of water and are well protected from the sun. Furnace creek does have lodgings and arriving there in the early evening and getting up early morning would have the advantage of missing the Midday sun.
    Pahrump has some lodgings and is very close to the park although back to Vegas would be an option.

    3] Entering Yosemite from the east over Tioga Pass [CA120] is quite special ! You could make it to Lee vining from either of the above mentioned places, especially with an early start in DV. Bishop or Mammoth Lakes are both popular options, especially when starting out from Vegas.

    4] Yosemite Valley is spectacular and has so much more to offer than the waterfalls of which many could be dry. You should take your time crossing Tioga Pass at the Meadows and Tenaya Lake etc, it's certainly a big part of the Yosemite experience. Personally I would carry on to the Valley rather than doubling back. The following day would give you much more to see and do and driving up to Glacier point and taking the short walk to the viewpoint is something you don't want to miss ! Just south of Glacier is Mariposa Grove of giant Sequioa trees which is also well worth a visit. I would recommend you plan a night in Bishop or Lee Vining, one in the Valley and then another night just outside the park as you prepare to head to SF next morning.

    5] I'd say north of SF is just as 'Kid friendly' as any other place on your list in many ways, there is the Golden Gate Rec area, Point Retes National seashore, Giant trees [the Redwoods this time] as well as the Vineyards. However you need to consider the pace you want to see things at with the time you have. If I were thinking of a brief trip North of SF, I would probably go direct from Yosemite towards Calistoga/Napa and then into SF over the GG bridge, perhaps setting myself up someplace like Jamestown for the night after visiting Yosemite.

    You should allow at least a one night stop between SF and LA and take the spectacular coast highway around Big Sur. You could also look at the difference [if any] in car rental and flight costs and consider whether it's worth completing the loop and finish up in Vegas. In fact if you do a complete loop you could check flight and car rental prices to all the Citys and start at the cheapest point. For example LA and SF are often cheaper than Vegas for flights.

  3. Default

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for the reply - really useful information. I had written off staying IN Death Valley but the point about the cooler parts of the day is really helpful.

    I had assumed that SF would be a cheaper option for flights. We want to avoid LA but will fly to LAX if it is significantly cheaper. I guess it isn't too bad a drive from San Diego at the end of the trip either.

    Another option was flying to Phoenix and starting there. I'm feeling torn as it looks like a lovely drive to GC via Sedona but if we're to avoid doubling back, we would continue round the loop and miss out the Hoover dam as we go Bryce to Zion to Vegas.

    Any ideas on how flying to Phoenix compares pricewise to Vegas or LA? And any thoughts on which is preferable - seeing the Hoover Dam, or seeing the scenery going from Phoenix to GC??

    Too many choices!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Including Sedona.

    All you can do is search for flight prices as they alter constantly, but I'm pretty sure that Phoenix will be more expensive as part of an International flight. If you miss the rush traffic, I don't think going through LA will take much longer than having to go around it between SF and SD, and would be worth it if the flight was significantly cheaper. [There most likely won't be huge difference. ]

    If you did end up flying in and out of LA, then I would head to SD at the start of your trip so that you head south down the coast highway from SF with the oceanside viewpoints on your side of the road. From SD go direct to GC and then to Bryce and Zion and down to Vegas and therefor solving the problem of not wanting 'another' night in Vegas. This again would work from wherever you start in a loop trip, but would still not include the Hoover Dam unless you took a trip from Vegas. The Dam is kinda, cool but I prefer the natural stuff personally. Of course you could also go from SD to Phoenix to Sedona and then up to the GC to include that in the loop.

    So starting in any of the major Citys your trip could work like this. [let's start from Vegas]

    LV across Death valley to Yosemite. [stop on route Bishop/Lee Vining.] >Yosemite to SF >SF to SD [coast] > SD to GC [via Sedona] > GC to Bryce > Bryce to Zion > back to Vegas to fly home. Of course the 'bits' in between will require overnight stops but you can work on that based on your interests.

  5. Default

    Thanks Dave - you are really helpful! Husband really wants to avoid LA but will (begrudgingly) agree to fly in and out if it is worthwhile financially.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    The reality is that if you're planning to visit both San Francisco and San Diego, there's really no way to avoid the LA sprawl anyway - at least not without driving hundreds of miles out of your way. The greater LA area expands so far beyond the Los Angeles city limits, you might as well embrace it, even if you're just going to drive through!

  7. Default

    Good point! We didn't want to visit LA but there clearly isn't any avoiding passing through!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Fastest route is usually the most direct

    And even more importantly, going through LA is the fastest way between San Francisco and San Diego -- and you just might enjoy seeing some of the sights. It is one of the great cities of the World, after all!


  9. #9


    Is this a vacation for one, two or four people?

    I know having grandkids that 11 year and 14 year olds are not lovers of hours of on the road; they have to feel part of the trip and look forward to things they like. You need compromise so you all look forward to the road trip.

    It is a wonderful part of the world to find places not just for grown-ups but also kids. A day in Disneyland for the kids is one example.

    My advice would be to all sit down and equally talk it all through – you have lots of time to build a good itinerary. Happy travels.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Involving the kids is definitely a great idea. From experience, we traveled from SoCal to Fairbanks AK by vehicle when our kids were that age. While they didn't "love" the road, they knew that what they were seeing, they may or may not get to see again. My oldest told me this summer (she was 14 at the time of that trip) that she really enjoyed that trip. We always planned things that they would enjoy doing, as well as the adults.


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