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  1. Default June trip to West Coast and inland

    Hi everyone,
    Love this site and the advice given.
    My husband and I would love some expert advice on our trip in June this year. We enjoy the beaches and bushwalking but won't have any camping equip with us and won't be doing any hikes longer than 3 hours. We will be hiring a car.

    Fly into LA early - look around beaches.etc.
    Take 2-3 days to drive up to San Fran (will probably stop around Monterey for a night - do we need to book or can just get accommodation easily?)
    SF- 2-3 nights
    Yosemite - have booked 2 nights at the Curry Village
    Drive via Tioga Pass towards Vegas - don't know whether to stop at Bishop or Death Valley
    (and again should we book?)
    We then want to visit Zion and Bryce National Parks - maybe 2-3 days (accommodation??? walks??? Dive through Vegas???? Or stay in Vegas for the night before heading out???)
    Before heading to Vegas for 4 nights to enjoy the big city!!
    We will probably visit the Grand Canyon, maybe fly over, but others have told us that Zion and Bryce are way more amazing.

    Any advice would be appreciated

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Just a few points.

    Hi Sue, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Great trip you have planned there. You'll love it. Just a couple of suggestions I would like to mention, for your consideration.

    If it is still possible think about reversing the trip, so that you can travel down the Pacific Coast Highway in a southward bound direction. You will then have all the scenic turn outs and pull offs on your side of the road. Not a deal breaker, but does make it more enjoyable, not having to cross over oncoming traffic each time you pull into and out of the overlooks.

    You could drive from your accommodation in Yosemite to Death Valley, and stay overnight at Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells. Death Valley is an amazing place, especially for the night sky. It will be very hot in June. If you want to stay within the National Park, I would definitely book.

    You could drive from Death Valley direct to Bryce and Zion. Bryce is one of those parks which can be seen in half a day, unless you want to go down in the Canyon and walk among the rock sculptures. For hiking, Zion is fantastic. Especially the River Walk and up through the Narrows. There are many other opportunities to hike in Zion. It is a wonderful park. One of the more popular places to stay, if you are not staying within the park, is the town of Springdale. There is the shuttle bus which runs from the town into the park. If you take that, you will not have to worry about parking in the park.

    I would caution you about flying over the Grand Canyon. Most of the flights do not go over the National Park. They fly over the less spectacular areas of the western rim. There is absolutely nothing like standing on the Rim seeing the Colorado River down below, and 'feel' just how huge this park is. At the South Rim you can take the shuttle bus and explore the canyon further. At the North Rim you can drive yourself to the many overlooks and view points. Once again, staying within the park is highly recommended. It will also make it easier to experience a sunset or sunrise (or both) over the Canyon. See the walls of the canyon change colour as the sun rises and sets. Unforgetable.

    I don't know who told you that Bryce and Zion are more amazing. All these parks are breathtaking, but if I could only visit one, it would be one of the great wonders of the natural world - The Grand Canyon. It is also a great place to hike a short way into the canyon. That enforces the huge size of the canyon.

    (I suspect the advice you were given could be from folk who took a flight over the canyon, and never really saw the National Park.)

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Gotta see the 'real' Grand canyon.

    I have to agree, you need to drive to Grand canyon NP and spend a night to really appreciate it.

    What you could do is drive from Yosemite to Lone Pine and then across Death Valley and to the lovely town of Springdale for Zion NP. This would be two full days on the road with the slower roads and sight seeing, but boy what an amazing 2 day's ! I would spend 2 nights in Springdale to get a full day in Zion before heading to Bryce canyon for the night. You could then spend a night at the Grand canyon before heading to Vegas for a few days. It will be cheaper and a lot more rewarding than doing a tour from Vegas and by the time you have considered the time to do a tour from Vegas, you really wouldn't have missed a large amount of city time, however I would recommend spending another night in this area of your trip, again 2 nights around the GC for at least a full day. You could visit the North rim which is closer to Bryce canyon, there are NP lodgings or outside the park there is Jacob Lake Inn and cabins. The south rim is still an option and would only take an extra couple of hours driving overall.

    For SF I would recommend booking an Alcatraz tour in advance if it's on your agenda, I would certainly recommend it. There can be long queues for tickets with no guarantees of getting a place on the boat if you don't book and it's popular ! Use the National park site to book as that is the only place you can buy official tickets without agents fee's or having to book other tours that you may not want.

    I would look for San Fran hotels that have parking included, as it can be expensive to park and you don't really need a car to get around the City or Piers.

    In Yosemite be sure to drive up Glacier Point and take the walk to the viewpoint, it is something else !

    If you drive to Grand NP and visit all 5 listed then you should purchase the NP annual pass for $80. It will be cheaper than individual fees and is available from the first entry kiosk you come to, or you could visit the NP store upstairs on Pier 39 in San Fran and purchase one there. [I think it's still there]

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Walkabouts

    Since you asked about bushwalking, let's try to give you a few insights specifically geared to that activity. First and foremost, make abundant use of the national parks that you'll be visiting. Make your first stop within each of them at a visitors center and talk to the rangers on duty. They will have the best and most up-to-date information on which trails are open, where the wildlife is, and most importantly which hikes are the best match for your interests and activity level. The same is true with our many national forests along your route. For these you may need to do a bit of prep work to find out where the ranger stations are since they are not as heavily used or advertised as their counterparts in the national parks, but then you'll meet fewer people on your trek. Another resource, particularly if you're interested in seeing critters, is our national wildlife refuge system. State and local parks often have hiking trails as well, but these tend to be considerably shorter than those in the national parks and forests. At the other extreme are long-distance, interstate trails such as the California Coast Trail, the Arizona Trail, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, the Hayduke Trail, and even a trail in an urban setting - the San Francisco Bay Trail.

    AZBuck

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    There are other long-distance interstate trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail, and the California Hiking and Riding Trail. The latter has its issues (check the link) but the greater portion of it appears to be in good shape, and quite a few spots are shared with the PCT.

    These two trails can be utilized by day hikers. It's not always possible, though, to do them as a loop.


    Donna

  6. Default

    Thanks for your in-depth replies. It is much appreciated.
    Unfortunately we can't reverse our trip to drive south on the Pacific Coast - so we are prepared for doing the turnoffs, etc.

    We like the idea of staying at Stovepipe Wells so will look into that further. Is Mammoth Lakes worth stopping for a look? Suggestions for what to see there??

    At Zion NP, it looks like we are going to have a go at The Narrows and Observation Point if the weather permits. They look like the most amazing walks and a bit different (yes we are going to hire boots and poles). Springdale looks like the place to stay so are looking at a nice B&B there.

    Have taken your advice about the GC and we are looking at making a decent visit there. Yes we were warned about the flights just going over the western rim - are there any recommendations of companies that do a good flight over the National Park? Will consider staying there for a couple of days as well.

    Cheers
    Sue

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    There are both helicopter and fixed-wing tours over the park at the Grand Canyon airport in Tusayan. There are altitude restrictions over the park, even for those commercial operators.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default The Canyon Deserves a Day

    The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder, unlike anything else anywhere else in the world. If you are willing to spend the time and money to take a flight out of Las Vegas to see the Grand Canyon, and if you are devoting a full four days to Las Vegas in addition, then it would seem to make sense to me to devote a bit of additional time to the Canyon and see it properly. That means two things: See it where it displays all of its splendor, and see it from ground level.

    You can do that by making a loop clockwise from Zion/Bryce around the Canyon to the east through Page to Cameron via US-89 and then driving along the South Rim of the Canyon for a full 25 miles on AZ-64 which has many pullouts and overlooks with absolutely spectacular views of the main part of the Canyon. Continue on AZ-64 south out of the park through Tusayan to Williams and from there finish the loop on I-40/US-93 to Kingman, over Hoover Dam, and into Las Vegas. Such a loop would take roughly a day of driving, but the payoff would be well worth it. Besides letting you stand literally on the edge of the Canyon, the drive is a destination in its own right, taking you through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (and over Glen Canyon Dam), the Vermilion Cliffs Monument, and the Navajo Nation.

    And if you have your heart set on a flight over the Canyon, they are available from Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan. Note especially that Tusayan is 10 miles from the heart of the Canyon and flights start at $100 when booked on-line in advance, while flights from Las Vegas run $350-450 from an airport 100 miles away from the less scenic West Rim.

    Perhaps the best way to do all this would be to depart Zion/Bryce in time to spend the night in Page and then get an early start the next morning, see the Canyon, take a flight, and if you leave the Canyon by late afternoon, you can drive into Las Vegas in the evening, get the full effect of all its glitzy lights as you enter, and still be in time to check in and get a good night's sleep.

    AZBuck

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Grand Canyon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Sue View Post
    ... are there any recommendations of companies that do a good flight over the National Park?
    Far be it for me to discourage you from taking a flight. The way to go is, as mentioned, out of Tusayan. But as Buck mentions, there is absolutely nothing like standing on the rim. I think that will impress you much more. I look at it this way. Have you been to Uluru? Would you recommend folk to fly over it, or would you urge them to walk up to it, touch it and see it tower over them?

    Will consider staying there for a couple of days as well.
    Good. Try to catch a sunset or sunrise. You will never regret it.

    Lifey

  10. Default

    Thank you so much for the great advice AZBuck. You have convinced me to do the loop and see the South Rim of the Canyon as it looks fantastic from the research I have done. We may even stay at Grand Canyon village for the night so we can fit in Hoover Dam on way to Vegas. We may not even need to do the flight over the canyon as I get the impression we will see a fair bit doing the drive indicated.

    When I look at the routes on Google Maps it indicates there is a toll on some of these roads. How do you pay for the tolls in the USA?

    Cheers
    Aussie Sue

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