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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    San Francisco, California, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default San Francisco to Chicago in July

    Hi all,

    I spent a few hours this week going through some of the very helpful posts on this board. It certainly helped me get a better idea of my proposed trip below. Anyways, I'm moving from SF to Chi. I'll only be moving with 6-8 boxes so I decided to rent a small SUV and do the trip via road. It's a perfect time for me to attempt a road-trip! Unfortunately, I am somewhat crunched for time. My current proposal is:

    28-Jun San Fran to LV (via Death Valley?). No plans for stops, I just want to drive through the desert. Is this possible?
    29-Jun LV to Bryce Canyon
    30-Jun Stay in Bryce Canyon
    1-Jul Drive to Denver
    2-Jul Denver to: Omaha or Kansas City?
    3-Jul Drive to Chicago

    I have to be in Chicago by the night of the 3rd. I can leave no earlier than the 28th. This isn't leisurely, I have to get across. However, I do want to spend a day in Bryce Canyon and possibly get to see Death Valley.

    Any thoughts? Alternate suggestions? I think Denver is the only stop I have to make to see a friend. I have a friend in LV as well so it'll be a nice stop but not needed. No interest in Yosemite since I've visited many times. Since I'll be making the trip alone, non-boring drives are generally appreciated as long as they don't add a high # of hours to the trip. Link to Google Maps here.

    Thanks all!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    One thing that jumps out at me is the length of the drive from San Francisco to Death Valley. If I add up the mileages correctly, you're looking at well over 650 miles in one day, with a good 150 of that on the two-lanes. That's a very, very long day, particularly in the heat in July.

    As for taking the SUV through Death Valley ... check with your rental company. Most are probably okay with it, as long as you stay on maintained roads.

    Denver to Chicago -- the more direct route would be to take I-76 up to I-80 and across Nebraska, Iowa into Illinois. Going through Kansas City adds a little more than 100 miles onto the journey -- doable. However, my husband always comments (as a former commercial driver) that the highway between Kansas City and St Louis is among some of the busiest highways for truckers, and both cities take some negotiating to get thru/around. You're probably better off on I-80, or so my husband thinks. Either way it's two days on the road.


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Your first day is pretty tough, but not impossible - although really the way to do it will be to go through Yosemite and over Tioga Pass, or perhaps Sonora Pass instead. You might consider spending the night in Death Valley. While rental RV's often have summer restrictions for Death Valley, I've never heard of such rules for regular rental cars/suv's, other than the standard staying on pavement requirements.

    None of your other days are too bad at all. Instead of spending 2 nights at Bryce, I might consider taking advantage of some of that time to see some other parts of Utah. For example, you could leave Bryce on the afternoon of the 30th and make your way along scenic highway 12, perhaps getting as far as Moab. Then the next morning you could take a quick look around Arches or Canyonlands before continuing onto Denver.

    I-80 would be the faster way to Chicago, and is the way I'd go unless you want to try to head through KC or St. Louis, but you wouldn't have much time to spend in either location.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default UT 12 scenic byway. Wonderful !

    I agree with Michael, you could get from Las Vegas to Bryce in 5 hours and as wonderful as it is, it's a park you can explore quite quickly with the views being close to the road. Utah scenic 12 to UT24 is a fantastic drive and I would do this one of two ways. The first is as Michael suggests, leaving Bryce earlier and heading to Moab, or go from LV [or DV] to Zion NP and check out this wonderful park, stay either in Springdale or, if there available rooms, Mt Carmel junction where there is a Best Western. Next morning visit Bryce canyon and then continue to Torrey UT. The following morning you could take a quick peak at Capitol Reef NP before continuing to Denver. I think the advantage of the latter is that these 3 parks might fit better with quick visits while on a bit of a time crunch than Arches or Canyonlands will.

    When in Bryce, drive to the far end of the canyon and then visit all the viewpoints on the way back up, they will all be on your side of the road and you will not have to keep crossing traffic.

    If you are going through Death valley, take the Tioga Pass [CA120] over the Sierras as Michael suggested, but get an early start out of SF. The only down side is you will have to pay the entry fee to enter Yosemite NP. However, if you decide to visit 4 or 5 parks you would be wise to purchase the NP annual pass for $80 as it would work out a little cheaper and can be used on any future trips in the next 12 months.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Loveland Pass.

    The route described by Dave is the one I took last year. It is very scenic, but you will need to be disciplined not to stop at every turnout. It is a real time killer.

    You will be driving one of the most scenic interstates once you get onto I-70. If time permits, you might like to take the short detour over Loveland Pass.

    Lifey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    San Francisco, California, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks for the welcome and the thoughts!

    Donna: Day 1 is adventurous but hopefully I'll be the most energized and be able to pull it off. I don't think my rental car has any restrictions but I can make sure that is the case.

    Good point on KC. I'll likely skip it and go straight to IL. BBQ can wait for another trip!

    Michael: I did read up on Tioga a bit but haven't been able to fully understand it. For one, how twisty are the roads? I hate being a passenger on mountain roads but don't mind being the driver. Still, if the mountainous roads go on for 5 hours, I'm not sure I'd enjoy it. Also, if I did want to hit LV on day 1, how much time would going through Tioga Pass save me?
    Also when you say through Yosemite - does that mean entering the park and driving through it? Again, a little concerned on potential time loss here.

    Love the alternatives on Bryce as well. I'll chime in on this a little more below. Agreed on I-80.

    Dave: Thanks for providing a little more detail to Michael's idea. Sounds like I need a real map and the iPhone isn't going to cut it!

    Leaning towards your second suggestion: leaving LV on the morning of the 29th, getting to Zion, spending a bit of time in the park, and then stay at Springdale or the Mt Carmel Junction. Next day, Bryce Canyon and spend the night at Torrey, UT. Depending on my appetite for parks, a quick stop at Capitol Reef is certainly possible. Initially, I had picked Bryce because my understanding was that this was a smaller park and best to cover in a day. I didn't realize I could do it mostly in a car. Is the same true for Zion?

    Thanks for the tip on the annual pass. I guess that also answers the question earlier about entering the park. I'll attempt to leave SF as early as I can.

    I'm having a little bit of a tough time mapping the Tioga Pass on Google Maps - is there a trick to it?

    Lifey: Thanks for the tip!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Never travel without paper maps.

    Tioga Pass is CA120 and if you want to go through Death valley it would not take much longer to drive as opposed to going around the south of the mountains via Bakersfield and it saves about 70 miles in distance. To route it on Google simply use your cursor to 'drop and drag' the route line. The Tioga Pass is part of Yosemite NP, so yes you will have to enter the park, but not go to the valley. Tioga is a mountain pass but by no means is it twisty with steep drop offs along it's lenght and is a wonderful drive that will keep you energized. I and many others have travelled over it in large RV's so it's not so bad. If you wnat to make it all the way to LV then you should be thinking of a 12 hour day on the road with the minimum of stops, but as Michael also suggested you could stop in DV for the night [Furnace creek] or just outside the park in Pahrump.

    You really do need to always travel with paper maps and should never solely rely on electronics. To enter into Zions main canyon you need to take a free shuttle bus as no cars are permitted. Once you are off the bus you can stroll along the Virgin river and at various trailheads. You could spend a week here but you can also benefit from 2 or 3 hours. You are right in thinking that Bryce is a small [albeit spectacular park] and is quite easy to view. These are just suggestions of what you could do, but if you are happier to spend more time in one place then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    San Francisco, California, United States
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Hi all - had a couple of quick changes to my schedule which ends up giving me an extra day or so for the drive. I did have a couple of questions for the drive.

    SF --> LV: To do this while driving through DV, should I take CA120 - 395S (right below Mono Lake) and then 190 to cut through DV? If so, the drive is 600 miles which is fairly tough. Is there a stop I can make before entering DV for the night and then take off early in the morning? I think Lone Pine, CA looks like one of the few options.

    If so, I can drive to Lone Pine on Day 1, giving me even some time to stop at Mono Lake for a few pictures.

    Is there a less touristy / cheaper town to spend the night than Lone Pine? $100+ for motels seem a bit high for middle of nowhere, no?

    New itinerary:

    23-Jun SF to Lone Pine, CA
    24-Jun Lone Pine to LV via DV
    25-Jun LV to Zion. Spend 1/2 day in Zion. Night at Springdale or Mt. Carmel Junction.
    26-Jun Zion to Bryce. 1/2 day in Bryce. Night at Torrey, UT.
    27-Jun Drive to Denver with a quick stop at Capitol Reef or Arches. Any argument for either?

    At this point, I can either drive straight from Denver to Chicago with an overnight stop in Omaha or Des Moines.

    An alternative to this would be to go up from Denver to Custer, SD or something around there. Wake up early on the 29th, drive by Mount Rushmore and through Badlands, make one more stop along the way and end up in Chicago on the 30th. Does this seem too crazy?

    Thanks again for all the help!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Bishop might be a lot cheaper than Lone Pine, and more to offer. Realize that you're right next to some major tourist places -- June Lake, Mono Lake, the eastern side of the Sierras, Yosemite -- so the demand is high. Thus the expense.

    Torrey to Denver is about 469 miles. To get either CRNP or Arches into the day, you'll be adding a lot of time and mileage. Either is possible, though Capitol Reef is right along the route. Just be prepared for a VERY long day, as the scenery through CO on I-70 is also breathtaking and worth a few stops at the rest areas and towns to look around!

    Denver to Chicago is a 2-day drive by the shortest interstate route. If you would drive up to the Black Hills of South Dakota, you'd drive up to Custer the first day and see Mount Rushmore and the Badlands that day after a 350+ mile trip. Then you'd spend the next two days driving 450 miles each day to be in Chicago by the 30th. You could do it -- you just might feel a little gypped.


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default A great opportunity.

    Quote Originally Posted by clegster View Post
    26-Jun Zion to Bryce. 1/2 day in Bryce. Night at Torrey, UT.
    27-Jun Drive to Denver with a quick stop at Capitol Reef or Arches. Any argument for either?
    These will work, so long as you realise it will be no more than a drive through in most places. You might consider trying to get an early night in Torrey, so you can experience a sunrise in Capital Reef. Bring your breakfast with you and choose a good spot to watch the sun do its magic on the rocks. It would be a great start to that day.

    Lifey

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