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  1. Default Chicago to West coast

    My wife and I are thinking about doing a west coast trip this year. We would leave May 15th and have about 3 to 4 weeks to do the trip. We are both 22 years old. I enjoy doing a lot of sight seeing and nature exploring but my wife, on the other hand, enjoys relaxing on a beach. I'm not sure where to really start because this would be our first time doing such a long trip. I created a rough list of the places we would like to see/do.

    1st Stop: Mesa Verde Durango, Colorado.
    2nd Stop: "The Wave" in Paria Canyon-Vermillion cliffs wilderness, Utah.
    3rd Stop: Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
    4th Stop: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
    5th Stop: Havasu Falls, Arizona.
    6th Stop: Los Angeles, California.
    7th Stop: Sequoia National Park, California.
    8th Stop: Yosemite National Park, California.
    9th Stop: Big Sur, California.
    10th Stop: San Francisco, California.
    11th Stop: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
    12th Stop: Portland, Oregon.
    13th Stop: Multnomah Falls, Oregon.
    14th Stop: Seattle, Washington.
    15th Stop: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.
    Final stop: Chicago, Illinois.

    Based on my calculations, on the high end we are looking at 7,000 miles if we decide to drive around a lot in California and Seattle and 115 hours of driving.

    I read that California is cloudy during late May and June but we would like to spend a lot of our time in California so that we can enjoy some of the beaches. Also, we want to spend as much time as we can in Seattle because I have a lot of family there, and I used to live there. We want to enjoy the nature as much as we can so we will go hiking, canoeing and camp out some of the days.

    My biggest concern is the length of the trip. I don't want it to feel like all we did is drive the whole time and didn't do much exploring and relaxing.
    The questions I have for all of you experts out there are these:
    1. Is this too many stops for a 4 week trip?
    2. How should we go about planning this trip so that it's not only about reaching each destination? My wife doesn't enjoy long drives so I want to make the drive as enjoyable as possible.
    3. Will we be able to enjoy some sun if we visit the California beaches in the areas I listed? Or is it too early?
    4. What would be the most effective and efficient way to plan this trip?
    5. Is there anything in particular I should be concerned about?
    6. How long should we be looking at staying at each stop?
    7. What should our budget look like? I calculated and $5,000 on the high side of things should be enough for the trip. In Seattle, we won't have to worry about lodging and some meals.

    I know everyone has their own personal preferences but we are open to any suggestions! Perhaps we should stop our trip in California and return to Chicago from there? Is there anything else that you would recommend we see along the way?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Start with a good map.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    One of the easiest ways of starting to plan a trip like this is to lay out a good wall sized detailed map of the US. Mark on it all the spots of your chosen stops and lay out the route. You cannot get this overview within the confines of a computer monitor.

    7000 miles will translate into at least 14 days of driving, more if your wife is not fond of long driving days. A trip of this size is not measured in hours. It is measured in days on the road. So taking into account the time you want to spend relaxing at each of your major attractions and with family, will give you the time available for driving.

    Now you can start prioritising your stops, and decide whether all are essential, considering the focus of the trip - hiking, relaxing and family. Maybe deleting those which are off direct routing or which involve backtracking. Only you can decide which those places will be. As more questions come up, feel free to come here and ask.

    Enjoy the planning.

    Last edited by Lifemagician; 03-01-2014 at 10:58 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I can try to answer your question regarding the beaches and sun in May. You are right to be a bit concerned. "Morning low clouds and fog" exist along the coast through May, June and into July in many areas. It *usually* burns off by noon or 1 pm. It's very easy to get a "cloud burn", though, so if you are on the beach when "June Gloom" (or its May/July equivalent) hasn't yet burned off, continue to use sunscreen!

    If you are thinking of driving up the PCH, you need to realize that most of the pullouts will be on the "wrong side of the road" going north. However, for the purposes of seeing the other national parks on your list, the rest of your trip is in a good order -- doing the trip clock-wise.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I foresee some problems with a trip of this scope in this time frame if your wife likes beaches and doesn't like long drives.

    EDIT: What you can do to help you visualize just how much time you will be spending in the car is this - plot out your routes on a paper map, then use software to get driving times and distances. Add 20% to the computer generated driving times.
    Last edited by glc; 03-02-2014 at 12:35 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Thoughts.

    Your "First stop" would require a minimum of 2 overnight stops just to get there and that's if you can convince the 'other half' to have a couple of reasonably long stints in the car. You would also be driving by places such as Rocky Mountain NP and possibly Black canyon of the Gunnison. If you took US50 to 550 at Montrose you could head south on the 'Million Dollar Highway' through Ouray and Silverton, a wonderful mountain drive.

    If I remember correctly 'The Wave' has a long waiting list and limited visitations that require you to get lucky in picking a winning number in a morning lottery of who gets to go. Havasu Falls is quite a tricky and time consuming place to visit so you might want to check both of those out for details [If you haven't already] as they could be time consuming.

    From Crater Lake you could drive the Columbia River Gorge from Hood River and visit Multnomah Falls before Portland which would also take you close to Mt Hood. I agree with what others have said that given the goals for your trip, you might be stretching yourself on the miles. It's easy for time to slip by, for example it really needs a minimum of 3 days just to get around Yellowstone NP. One way to cut back and still make the Cali coast would be to drive up the coast between LA and SF and then visit Yosemite [there are big trees here that might be enough to substitute Sequoia NP for you] and then take a more direct route towards Yellowstone.

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