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  1. Default Guidance needed! SF/LA/LV etc. circle trip

    Me and my GF are going to the U.S (we're from Sweden) this summer and are planning a roadtrip. I've read through loads of threads here on the forum and have a pretty good idea on what we will be able to do, and how many days it will require. However, since the route isn't identical to any other thread I've seen, and since I have a couple of questions, I was hoping that someone would be able to help us out.

    The route, as planned, is:

    Los Angeles - 3 days (including the car trip to Las Vegas)
    Las Vegas - 2 days (including half day trip to Grand Canyon West Skywalk)
    Death Valley - 1 day (driving from Las Vegas to Bishop)
    Yosemite - 2 days (including drive from Bishop)
    San Francisco - 4 days
    SF to LA - 2 days (drive along highway 1, visiting Monterey etc. Not decided where to stay yet)

    Here's a link to the full route on Google Maps

    The above route is approx. 14 days. Now, we haven't booked our flight tickets yet, and we are aiming for 15-18 days. Adding a day in LA or SF or someplace else is definitely an option, as long as it doesn't make the schedule too tight. We want to be able to relax on the journey and maybe make som unplanned stops. We're going in july (5th to 20th or so).

    There are a couple of things that I've left out of the route described above, that I want to ask about.

    1. We want to see Napa valley and maybe visit a vineyard or so. Is that plausible?
    2. The nature in Utah looks very tempting, but it's also a bit far from the rest of the route. Is it worth it?
    3. Grand Canyon is on everyone's bucket list (ours too) but going there from LV takes 4,5 hours so we'd have to use two days if we want to include it in the trip. Instead we've included the West Skywalk, but the facilities there have received some pretty bad reviews.

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 01-15-2014 at 02:42 PM. Reason: New Members May Not Post Off-Site Links

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

    Default very possible

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Napa could easily be fit into your trip, probably working best right before San Francisco. There are also wineries along the central coast between SF and LA.

    Utah is filled with great things to see and do, and it is always "worth it," but the question really is at what cost? In this case, the cost is time, and you'd have to decide if you're willing to give up time at other places. Right now, you don't have a lot of extra time, and shortening your city stays really is your only option, unless you can extend your trip.

    The West Rim really is not the Grand Canyon. The canyon there is only about half as deep as it is within the National Park, visiting the Indian Reservation there is also very expensive. It just doesn't really compare to the actual Grand Canyon. If I were you, I would make actually visiting the Canyon a top priority, if that means shortening your city stays by a day or two, or using the extra time you think you'll have.

    If you do go to the National Park, You'd want to go there directly from Los Angeles, you can get there in one full day on the road. After Grand Canyon, then you'd go to Vegas. If you were interested in adding some stops in Utah, you'd most likely do them after Grand Canyon but before Las Vegas. The exact routing, of course, would depend upon which stops you end up adding.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default A wonder of the world.

    As Michael has said, the West rim is not part of the Grand canyon National park and will not give you the views of the main canyon that has been made famous the world over through photography and film. I would 100% recommend you experience the 'real thing' and spend a night at, or near to the south rim of the National park and witness a sunset over this natural wonder of the world. As Micheal also said, the best way to do this would be to go straight from LA.

    You're gonna have a great trip !

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Photos

    Be aware also, that you will not be allowed to take any photos at the Skywalk. On top of that, you will not be able to drive there with your rental car. When in LV you will see many advertisements for flights over the GC. These too, do not go to the NP. You would be short changing yourself if you do not take that extra time to experience one of the great natural wonders of the world. Stand on the rim. Take photos. There's not much which can compare with a sunset / sunrise over the Canyon. The route Michael described is the way to go.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Piling On


    I'm afraid I have to join the chorus here. Neither z visit to the Skywalk or a plane ride from Las Vegas will give you anywhere near the experience of actually going to the National Park and visiting Grand Canyon Village and points on the South Rim to the east of there along East Rim Drive (AZ-84). And in the end, because you have to use their bus, drive along dirt roads, and be a captive audience, you don't really end up saving all that much time.

    Before I deal with my suggestions, it is also worth pointing out that you really haven't allotted hardly any time for driving. You list three days in Los Angeles, two days in Las Vegas, two days in Yosemite, and four days in SanFrancisco, but other than a brief mention of seeing Death Valley on the drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite, there's no mention of where the time will come from for the three days needed just for the driving between those points. You have to keep in mind how far apart points are in the American West. And often those distances can't be driven as rapidly as you might hope. For example, Los Angeles to Las Vegas is 'only' 270 miles and you might think that you can drive that in less than five hours. But it's quite possible that it could take you that long just to get out of the Los Angeles basin and Inland Empire if you're fighting the morning rush hour. And there goes one of your 'two days in Las Vegas'. Then the other would be spent just getting to the Skywalk, stepping out on to it for a few minutes (no pictures, though) and getting back to Las Vegas.

    Also note that by going to Las Vegas and trying to do the Grand Canyon as a day trip from there, you are going to be doubling back on yourself instead of constantly seeing new road. What I'd suggest instead is that you depart Los Angeles in early to mid morning (9:30-10:00) and drive to Williams AZ and set yourselves up in a motel room. Then, if there's time before sunset, drive up to Grand Canyon Village and experience the real Canyon at sunset. Then the next morning, whether you got to the Canyon the previous night or not, get up early and go up to the Canyon for sunrise. Enjoy the morning there and then take the rest of the day for a relaxing drive to Las Vegas, perhaps taking a detour onto one of the longest remaining stretches of historic Route 66 from Seligman through Peach Springs to Kingman, and over Hoover Dam. You still will have spent two days and not seen Las Vegas, but you will have seen the real Grand Canyon and driven fewer miles overall. If it were me, I'd spend one day less in Los Angeles and use that day to see Las Vegas after having first visited the Canyon.

    The same thing is true of the drive and visit to San Francisco. You're going to have to take a day from the visit and spend it on the driving if you really want to visit a vineyard in Napa Valley. Note that evening traffic between Napa Valley and the Bay Area (including San Francisco) is brutal. My wife and I spent close to two hours going about seven miles on a recent visit there, and actually took the opportunity to get out of traffic and make an unplanned stop at a winery just so we weren't needlessly burning gasoline sitting in traffic.

    So, while your overall trip is doable, I really think you need to reallocate a couple of days from the major cities and spend that time on the roads between them


  6. Default

    Thanks for all the help! We've been laying low with the final details of our route after having booked the flight, but now that its just a couple of months away we've picked it up again. Especially since we need to apply for Visas pretty soon, and I think they need to know where we'll be staying the first nights or so.

    Anyway, I've taken your recommendations to heart and have made a new plan:

    Day | Activity (est. hours driving)
    1: Landing in LA around noon. Stay at hotel.
    2: Drive to Williamz AZ. See sunset if possible. (6h)
    3: Visit Grand Canyon in the morning, then rest of the day driving to Las Vegas. (5h)
    4: LV
    5: Leave LV around noon to drive to Bishop (4h)
    6. Drive to Yosemite. Spend rest of day there. (2h)
    7. Yosemite
    8. Leave Y and drive to SF in the morning, find hotel. (5h)
    9. SF
    10. SF
    11. SF
    12. Drive to Monterey. Spend rest of day there. (3h)
    13. Drive to Cambria. Spend rest of day there. (3h)
    14: Drive to LA. Find hotel (6h)
    15. LA
    16. LA
    17. LA

    Now, as you can see, the last day is the 17th of july (we're going from 1st to 20th july), so we have 48h (not counting the 20th because we leave early that day) that's not accounted for, which should leave us with some room to experiment.

    What do you guys think? Have we underestimated driving times? Is Monterey and Cambria good places, or should we visit anything else on highway 1?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    With this plan, I'd pretty strongly recommend trying to actually stay at the Grand Canyon, rather than about an hour away in Williams. A half day isn't a lot of time to see this massive natural wonder. If you actually stay at the Canyon, you could potentially see a bit of it after you arrive in the evening, and you'll be able to see it first thing in the morning, without spending that hour just getting to the park.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Allocating two spare days.

    With two days to spare, I'd allocate one to each of Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. If you possibly can, follow Michael's suggestion of staying within the park for at least one night. In which case I would make the first night either Williams or Flagstaff, and then enter the Canyon through the east entrance, and follow the Colorado river into the canyon. There are numerous viewpoints along this drive. You could explore the Canyon all day (there's much more than a day's worth of sightseeing there), withness the sunset and if you are up to it, the sunrise as well. Then either spend some more time at the Canyon, or leave for the drive to LV, stopping at Hoover Dam along the way.

    Same thing with Yosemite, spend one night outside the park, one night in the park and then leave for SF when you have had your fill of that Park. (Hard to get a fill of that magnificent place. lol)


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    2: Drive to Williamz AZ. See sunset if possible. (6h)
    3: Visit Grand Canyon in the morning, then rest of the day driving to Las Vegas. (5h)
    LA to Tusayan will be closer to a 9 or 10 hour drive, depending on the traffic out of LA. It's about 485 miles from LA proper to Tusayan, the gateway to the south rim. Just wanted you to be aware so you weren't surprised when you were still 150-180 miles away when the 6 hours you allot is up.

    If you can't get a spot at the hotel on the GC rim, try for something at Tusayan. It's a lot closer to the Canyon than Williams!


  10. Default

    Thanks for the tips Lifemagician and Donna.

    One thing that crossed my mind is that everyone has said that getting out of LA might take a lot longer than I have anticipated. I've taken that to heart, so I have another idea that I'd like to vent.

    What if we, on the first day, drive to the outskirts of LA instead of just checking in to a hotel straight away. Then we'd have a shorter trip on the 2nd, right? And if so, where should we go to the first day (Pomona, Ontario, Chino)? I know absolutely nothing about the places east of LA (in the LV direction).

    Would that be a good/bad idea?

    Also, where would you recommend that we rent the car from?

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