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  1. Default ATL-LA-SF-ATL (~3 weeks)

    Hi guys,

    In June 2016 my boyfriend and I are planning an across the country road trip. It's something we've always wanted to do, and now we have enough funds to actually do it.

    We are planning on camping majority of the time and do understand the amount of time spent in a car to make this happen.

    On the way to Los Angeles we plan on going through Austin-El Paso-Pheonix-Los Angeles. On the way back we plan on doing San Francisco-Las Vegas-Page, AZ (Grand Canyon), Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Nashville, Atlanta. That's around 90 hours of driving which isn't too terribly bad.

    Within this route (50-100 miles), do you have any MUST sees or tips for the road trip altogether? I'll list below what we want to see so far.

    THANKS!

    Hamilton Pool, TX
    Carlsbad Caverns, NM
    Hollywood & Santa Monica, CA
    Sequoia National Park, CA
    San Francisco (Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge), CA
    Yosemite National Park, CA
    Death Valley, CA
    Hoover Dam (Las Vegas), NV
    Bryce Canyon, AZ
    Horseshoe Bend/Antelope Canyon, AZ
    Grand Canyon, AZ

    Thanks again!

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

    Default Getting started.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Are you planning this trip with maps? Good maps, such as are produced by AAA and Rand McNally have a wealth of information on them. Not just roads, but all the places, large and small, as well as most of the attractions to be seen along the way - natural, historical, even touristy.

    You might find the advice in the following paragraph useful during the planning stage:-

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.
    Enjoy the planning.

    Lifey

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

    Default must knows

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    When people start laying out their first big roadtrip, they often overestimate just how much they can do, and underestimate how much time they need to accomplish things (especially if they follow the completely inaccurate travel time estimates of online mapping programs). I think you may be in danger of that here already.

    The loop you've laid out is about 6000 miles of driving. Not only is that not 90 hours of driving (it's more like 110), its not a distance you should be measuring in hours - it's something that really needs to be measured in days. Specifically, that's 10-12 full days of driving. On a multi-day trip, 600 miles is very much the top end of what you should plan to drive in a single day, and that doesn't leave any significant time to see or do anything beyond what's along the side of the interstate.

    On top of the 10-12 days of driving, you've listed 11 things you want to see. Now, not all of them will require a full day to enjoy, but I would think some of them, like LA and San Francisco you'd want to spend more than just a day, so that means you've already got at least 21 days accounted for.

    I would suggest you might want to trim back some of your stops and your rather big detour after Las Vegas. Rather than jumping up to Bryce Canyon, down to the Grand Canyon, then going way back up to Denver, I think you might be better off skipping Utah and Colorado, and just head to the Grand Canyon and make your way back east on I-40. That's going to shave quite a few miles off, and is going to leave you more time to enjoy California, which is what it seems like you're bigger goal of this trip is.

  4. Default

    I do see where you are coming from on the driving side of things. In the beginning of the road trip we have 8-14 hour days of driving to give us extra time for Arizona/Utah. I was just thinking that if we were taking the time to go all the way up to Utah, we might as well hit up Denver too.

    Do you think it would be better to spend more time at the Grand Canyon (Horseshoe Bend/Lake Powell) and cut out Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park? I've just read that these two places are less grand than the grand canyon, but more powerful in its actual formation...more erosion and things like that. When I initially posted this thought all of these plays were much closer than they actually were...I don't know why I thought they were in Arizona. I think the excursion to Utah only takes 8 hours longer than the straight route on I-40.

    If you have visited those places, I'd absolutely love to hear your input on them. I know that this isn't going to be my only road trip in my lifetime, but I'm excited to see these places as soon as possible!

    Thanks for the response!

  5. Default

    I'll definitely have to look in to buying some legitimate paper maps. I've been mostly using the maps on here actually, but I think you're right about buying the real deal. Thanks for the tip!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    In the beginning of the road trip we have 8-14 hour days of driving to give us extra time for Arizona/Utah.
    What are your first days of driving? We got a list of places you want to stop, but it might help us help you better, if you give us an idea of these "8-14 hour days". As was mentioned above, the maximum drive per day that we recommend is 600 miles, which is right around 10-12 hours. Don't believe the fantasy travel times that Mapquest, Google Maps, and other online mapping programs give you. You need to add 20% to those times. Or better yet, take their mileage (good to use) and divide by 60. We would never recommend a 14-hour driving day. You arrive so exhausted at your overnight, and then get up and do it all over again the next day??? You'll be a menace on the road.

    Do you think it would be better to spend more time at the Grand Canyon (Horseshoe Bend/Lake Powell) and cut out Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park? I've just read that these two places are less grand than the grand canyon, but more powerful in its actual formation...more erosion and things like that. When I initially posted this thought all of these plays were much closer than they actually were...I don't know why I thought they were in Arizona. I think the excursion to Utah only takes 8 hours longer than the straight route on I-40.
    I've been to all of them -- both rims of the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. They are all gorgeous in their own right, and very different from each other. You're right, they do look closer to each other on the map, than they really are. Zion and Bryce are only about an hour or hour and a half apart from each other, but the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Zion is more like 6 hours. That's because part of the road, if I recall correctly, is a detour due to a landslide. If you stop to look at Lake Powell, near Page, you'll have to add time.

    I see a trip that takes you from Atlanta (are you flying in? Can you fly into Dallas and save some driving?), to Carlsbad Caverns, up to the Grand Canyon, up to Las Vegas, through Death Valley if you can stand the heat, up to Yosemite over the Tioga Pass Road, and then down into LA on the western side of the Sierras. Skip the two Utah parks, Denver, and even San Francisco for this trip, and keep them for another trip.


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    That's because part of the road, if I recall correctly, is a detour due to a landslide
    That's all been fixed. US-89 has been open since March.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KHoffman4 View Post
    When I initially posted this thought all of these plays were much closer than they actually were...I don't know why I thought they were in Arizona.
    That is the problem when you don't have good maps you can lay out and see just how far and where they all are, and show all the other attractions in the region. The sooner you start working with maps, the better off you will be.

    I know that this isn't going to be my only road trip in my lifetime, but I'm excited to see these places as soon as possible!
    Have you thought of maybe doing a few road trips closer to home, before setting out on such a massive adventure. There is so much to see within a couple of days from Atlanta. I know the anticipation of seeing the great national parks of the west, but be assured, they will all still be there when you have more experience and time (and maybe funds as well).

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    As was mentioned above, the maximum drive per day that we recommend is 600 miles, which is right around 10-12 hours.
    Be aware that that is for experienced drivers and roadtrippers - not first timers. For a first multi day camping trip, I suggest that you scale that back to at least 500, if not 450. Allow ample time for pitching the tent and packing it up, as well as for meals.. Start each day well, with a hearty breakfast and allow time for a walk and a good meal at night. (All these things computer mapping do not take into consideration.)

    If you arrive late and are too tired to pitch the tent, you could be tempted to just sleep in the car. Neither of you would get a decent rest, compounding the problem.

    You also need to know that fatigue (one of the biggest killers on the road) is an insidious enemy. It creeps up on you without you being aware of it. As well as that it accumulates day after day. One tiring day ads to the next one, and the next one. By the time you get to your first sightseeing destination you will be so exhausted, you won't be able to enjoy it. Having two drivers does not mean you can drive further. It is tiring just sitting in a moving vehicle. When you are not driving you are not resting either.

    Why not give all this a trial closer to home - drive to Orlando (+/- 450 miles) and back and then to almost Miami (600 miles) and back on back-to-back days. It will give you a good feel for how much stamina you need.

    Lifey

  9. #9

    Default

    Camping from Atlanta through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and most of Southern California in June may not be feasible. That is the hottest part of the year. Lots of great camping out here, but you'll need to be at least over 5,000 ft in elevation. So, for budgeting purposes you might consider adding some motels, especially for the longer driving days at the beginning and on the way home.
    -Pat

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default more than hours

    Quote Originally Posted by KHoffman4 View Post
    I do see where you are coming from on the driving side of things. In the beginning of the road trip we have 8-14 hour days of driving to give us extra time for Arizona/Utah. I was just thinking that if we were taking the time to go all the way up to Utah, we might as well hit up Denver too.
    As Donna mentioned, there is a huge difference between 8 hours on the road and 14 hours on the road. You're going to have to drive at least 8 hours on many of your days just to get to the west coast and back on your timeline. Planning to be on the road for 14 hours at a time, on the other hand, is a very bad idea. That's a distance where you'll be pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion, where not only where not only will you be at risk of being a dangerous driver (fatigue can be as dangerous as drunk driving), but even if you don't have safety problems, being exhausted doesn't make it easy to have fun! Being tired is going to make it difficult to enjoy the things you visit, and That fatigue will likely carry over for several days after you've stopped the long haul driving too. Think of a trip like this a bit more like a marathon. If you go as hard as you can for the first few legs, you'll be out of energy long before you get to the middle, much less the finish line!

    Do you think it would be better to spend more time at the Grand Canyon (Horseshoe Bend/Lake Powell) and cut out Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park? I've just read that these two places are less grand than the grand canyon, but more powerful in its actual formation...more erosion and things like that. When I initially posted this thought all of these plays were much closer than they actually were...I don't know why I thought they were in Arizona. I think the excursion to Utah only takes 8 hours longer than the straight route on I-40.
    Yes, I think it would be much better to just focus on the Grand Canyon on your timeline.

    Don't get me wrong, Zion and Bryce are both amazing places, but do you want to actually explore and enjoy them, or do you just want to check them off a list to say that you've been there?

    Once again, it goes back to thinking in terms of days instead of hours. If the extra driving "only" takes 8 more hours, that's still 1 more day on the road. Zion and Bryce are each parks that deserve at least a day of your time, so now that "8 hours" is actually 3 extra days. When you've only got 21 days to work with, and you need about 10 of them just to drive to California and back, that's a very significant amount of time that you wouldn't get to spend elsewhere.

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