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  1. Default Kansas City to San Francisco and Back

    Later this month, my girlfriend and I are going to be traveling from KC to San Francisco. I have the route nearly planned out, but I would appreciate any tips that I might have missed. This is the first big road trip I've attempted. Please let me know what you think of my plan and potential gear to bring along!

    The setup
    Vehicle - 2013 VW Golf R 3 door hatchback
    Tent - Marmot Limelight 4P (got this for a steal for $119 during the recent REI sale)
    Lodging - Camping and staying in San Francisco with family. No hotel fees, hopefully!

    The route there
    June 20, 2014 - KCMO to Longmont, CO
    • Staying with friends for the night

    June 21 & 22 - Longmont, CO to Pike's Peak
    • Drive/train ride up Pike's Peak
    • Camping at a KOA campsite
    • Find a place to watch the USA vs Portugal World Cup match

    June 23 & 24 - Pike's Peak to Grand Canyon National Park
    • Exploring the Grand Canyon, probably hiking a bit
    • Camping at Mather's campground in the South Rim

    June 25 - Grand Canyon to Santa Monica, CA
    • Check out the Santa Monica Pier
    • Camping @ Malibu Creek State Park

    June 26 - Santa Monica, CA to Monterey, CA
    • Monterey Aquarium
    • Find a way to watch the USA vs Germany World Cup match
    • Camping @ Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

    June 27 through July 4 - Monterey, CA to San Francisco, CA
    • Staying with family
    • Various touristy activities (Fisherman's wharf, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, etc)
    • Possibly our 1st time dispersed camping, at Redwood National Park
    • 4th of July firework display

    The route back
    July 5 - San Francisco, CA to ???
    • Not sure where we're going to stop on the first night back, might have to find a hotel.

    July 6 - ??? to Estes Park, Colorado
    • Camping at Moraine Park Campground

    July 7 - Estes Park, Colorado to Kansas City, MO
    • Uploading all of the awesome pictures we took to Facebook :)
    Last edited by AZBuck; 06-01-2014 at 09:08 PM. Reason: Formatting

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

    Default Tough ride home.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    Your first day on the road is a long haul, a bit beyond what we would recommend as part of a multi day trip, but resting up with friends and a short drive the following day makes it doable. Get an early start though.

    Near Pikes Peak and Manitou Springs you will find 'Garden of the Gods' which is very nice and doesn't take to long to visit. There is also 'Cave of the Winds ' which you should consider.

    Pikes Peak to GC is a very long day on the road where you won't have time to stop for anything other than for a quick stretch and to fill with gas. Getting to Mather in the village area on the same day would also mean little time to take in all the viewpoints along Desertview drive as you enter the park. One thing you could consider doing is to leave Pikes Peak around lunchtime on the 22nd and get as far as Pagosa Springs where there are a couple of campgrounds just west of town. That would also give you a chance to detour through Monument valley on the way to Grand canyon.

    Getting home is much more of a concern. Trying to cover over 600 miles a day and set up camp in Estes park is not going to leave you time for anything but the most basic stops and isn't going to be a lot of fun, plus you will be passing up on some amazing places. One possibility would be to forget about Redwood NP which is a long way north of SF and leave a day earlier form SF, although I see you plan on 4th July celebrations there. If that's a 'given' then you really need to find an extra day or forget about Estes Park and find a hotel in Denver. To split the trip equally you would be looking at Wendover UT as a first stop. If you had an extra day you could drive the wonderful Tioga Pass through Yosemite NP and stop over in Lee Vining or Tonopah. Next day you could head to Richfield UT or push as far as Moab UT. With an early start to the day you could drive into Arches NP before making your way to Denver ot Estes park. For me that would be far more rewarding then having to pass up the wonderful drives for a 'slog' on Interstate. If that's your only option, have you considered freeing up time on the way out there and staying in Longmont on the way home to see friends. Admittedly it would be a very quick visit, probably too quick if you don't see them very often.

    Upload some of them photos here and share your experience the Roadtrip fields report section !

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default camping concerns

    Have you made reservations for any of your campgrounds? I mention this because you've got some nights planned at some very high demand campgrounds. I would be a bit surprised if you'd be able to find a site at Mather or at Big Sur if you just pull up in the evening. Any first come first served sites will likely be taken quite early in the day.

    Dave touched on this, but your Redwoods NP idea is a bit flawed. First, it is a long way from San Francisco - basically a full day of driving each way, and that's assuming you are taking US-101, and not following the coast north of SF. Also be aware that National Parks generally do not allow dispersed camping. You'd have to be looking at National Forests or BLM lands if you want to go that route - which does require a little pre-planning to know exactly the rules for the areas you are looking to camp (for example, California requires a permit to have a campfire anyplace other than within a designated campground.)

  4. Default

    Thanks for all the great options and advice! I know the trip there and especially the trip back is going to be a lot of driving, but it's somewhat fixed due to work and family commitments.

    We're planning on leaving around 6 or 7 in the morning on our departure, so we shouldn't be getting into Longmont all that late. Pikes Peak to the Grand Canyon is definitely the biggest worry for the trip there. I already setup reservations for campsites at Pike's Peak, but I have been told by many, canceling the second night and getting closer to the Grand Canyon would be more rewarding. It sounds like Pike's Peak will be more of a "one and done" day trip.

    Getting home is definitely going to be rough. I really wanted to take an extra day or two, but I'm unable to because of a big project at work. Our route home isn't really going to be about the scenery, but getting home fairly quickly and cheaply by avoiding hotel fees. My family really wants us to spend the 4th with them, or else I would leave a day or two earlier. Lastly, staying in Longmont on the way back is not possible. Those friends are actually moving back to Kansas City while we are going to be in California.

    Thanks so much again for all of your excellent advice! I'm going to take a look at our routes and see if we can shift some stops around and move reservations.

  5. Default

    Michael, I have made reservations at all campgrounds I've listed. Like you said, the high demand campgrounds were hard to reserve even a month ago, so changing reservations too much isn't going to be easy.

    Redwoods NP was just a thought while I was typing this post actually, but I didn't realize it was so far away. My uncle just mentioned that he camps there often. We will probably scrap that for more adventures and family time in the city.

    Thanks for the reply!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    I would really suggest that you stay with family in SF. It's a long drive, and not by interstate conditions. I'm glad you got reservations at the state parks. When I read your post, I looked at my calendar and said, "OH NO!" California State Park beach campsites fill quickly, often on the opening day for the reservation. It is RARE to drive up to a CA state park and be able to get a site without a reservation unless it's one of the least known ones. Even there....not easy.

    KC to Longmont, at 630 miles, *is* long. However, it's mostly interstate highway conditions so you should be fine. The nice thing, you do GAIN an hour around Goodland KS when you go from CDT to MDT.

    Last edited by DonnaR57; 06-02-2014 at 10:14 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default A little can be a big difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elkizzler88 View Post
    My family really wants us to spend the 4th with them, or else I would leave a day or two earlier.
    When they understand what a huge slog the trip home will be, would your family not be happy to see you leave, even a few hours earlier. If you could get away not too long after lunch, you could get a couple of hundred miles along the route, and ease the stretch on the following days. Don't forget, you will lose a couple of hours going home/east.

    Have a safe trip.


  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    When they understand what a huge slog the trip home will be, would your family not be happy to see you leave, even a few hours earlier. If you could get away not too long after lunch, you could get a couple of hundred miles along the route, and ease the stretch on the following days. Don't forget, you will lose a couple of hours going home/east.

    Have a safe trip.

    The stay for the 4th is really for the display at night, or I wouldn't mind leaving in the afternoon. I do have an extra day of vacation for some projects I have to take care of at home, so I may try to change my reservation at Estes Park and add a day to the drive home.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    You can make the drive back in 3 days, but they will be three long and pretty hard days on the road. You're looking at at least 10-12 hours on the road each days, if you go the most direct route. That's roughly the maximum that professional drivers are allowed to cover in a day. Don't fall in to the trap of believing google map estimates that say it will "only" take you 8 or 9 hours for these drives.

    I would pretty strongly recommend you cancel your camping reservation at Estes Park as it is just too far off the direct route and will add too much time to your trip. I would look at taking I-80 all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska, and then use NE-2 and I-29 to get back down to KC. You should look to make overnight stops around Wendover UT/NV, and Kimball NE. Camping isn't out of the question, but you need to find campground that are not far off the interstate near those stopping points, otherwise you really should look for hotels.

  10. #10


    Couple of ideas. Take the cog railway up Pikes Peak. It's a great experience. Get a window seat & see the Colorado wild flowers & maybe some wild life. See Garden of the Gods while you're in Manitou Springs. If you have the time the drive on CO 82 to Aspen is an amazing trip thru the Rocky Mountains.

    Regarding the Redwoods, Old Redwood Highway is the best drive to see big trees unless you hike. If you have the time there are some amazing hiking trails to be experienced.

    Have a fantastic trip!

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