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  1. Default Toronto to San Diego

    Hello...glad I found you all...appears to be many experienced road travelers here.

    My wife and I (with dog) make an annual drive out to San Diego from Toronto. Typically we make the drive in four 10-11 hour days stopping for dinner and a good night sleep at decent chain hotels. This year we have three weeks available and have decided to do the drive using as little or no interstate highways as possible.

    I was looking for advice on sites to see, things to do and places to stay that you have experienced.

    Thank you.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The First Task is Up to You

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Even if the three weeks is for a complete round-trip t San Diego and back, but particularly if the three weeks is just for the one-way drive to San Diego, you've got enough time to visit almost anywhere in the Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, and California Coast regions that you want. So, the first bit of work is actually up to you - Where would you like to explore? Remember that this will be different from your past experiences where you've just blown through the bulk of the US without so much as a pause. If you are now going to slow down and savor the lands you're driving in, it makes sense that you choose what those lands are. Note that your route could take you through the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys to the south and then out through the west Texas plains and desert Southwest; or it could take you around the Great Lakes, out the old Oregon Trail, and through the Rockies and red rock country of Utah, or out through the upper Midwest, the Badlands of South Dakota, perhaps Yellowstone, down through the Basin and Range area of Nevada and through Yosemite to San Francisco before following the coast to San Diego. The possible combinations are almost limitless. So, before we suggest detailed "advice on sites to see, things to do and places to stay", you'll have to at least give us some idea of where you would like to go.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default That information is mostly on good maps.

    Do you have good maps of the area the trip will cover? Most of what Buck asks you to tell him is marked on good maps. So check out some maps and see what it is that interests you along the way. Good maps also mark the scenic routes, which is what I look for when I want to stay off the interstates. If you don't have any, you should be able to get them all from CAA (free if you are a member). Or you may prefer a quality road atlas of north America.

    When you have that, here is a paragraph to get you started:

    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.


  4. Default


    Thank you for the response.

    We are very fortunate to have three weeks for the one way drive out west. Our preference is to travel through the upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest before turning south.


  5. Default

    Thanks Lifey...will definitely arm ourselves with CAA maps. I appreciate your input.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Bring your CAA card with you. If you need extra maps, etc., you can stop in at any AAA office and ask. Local offices also have a myriad of other informational brochures about their area, as well.

    One thought for going across country would be to use US-2. We were on many parts of that over the last few years, and there are a number of scenic places. It would take you across the UP, northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington State.


  7. Default


    Thank you for that...have never been on US-2. I will be sure to look it up.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Just a few of many western wonders.

    Glacier NP is a wonderful place to visit and not far from US2, although further south is Yellowstone and the Tetons. In the PNW you will find Mt Baker, Olympic NP and Mt Rainier to name a few. As you turn south you might like to visit Mt St Helens, the Columbia river Gorge and Crater Lake. You could head over to the Oregon coast and Redwoods NP in California on route to San Francisco or continue on an inland route to Burney Falls, Lassen volcanic National park, Lake Tahoe to Yosemite and across to San Fran and then take a few days to drive down the coast around Big Sur to LA and San Diego.

    Many, many great options are possible and once you have a few dots on the map we can help to fill in the blanks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Continuing...

    If the idea of US-2 appeals, and you're headed for the Pacific Northwest before turning south to San Diego, and you have plenty of time, and you want to stay off the Autoroutes, then...

    The first thing I'd recommend is that you head north! Take ON-410 up to ON-10/ON-9/ON-6 up to the Trans-Canada, ON-17, at Espanola. Note that this involves taking the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry from Tobermory over to South Baymouth. Cross into the States at Sault Ste. Marie and take I-75 south for a few miles to MI-28 west. This will take you along the southern shore of Lake Superior and give you access to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and eventually join US-2 near Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. However, rather than staying on US-2 through Minnesota and westward, I'd suggest you start to drop a bit southward, using MN-23 south from Duluth all the way down to US-14 at Florence MN. This does a couple of things, It lets you avoid the Brakken oil fields of North Dakota and sets you up to see the many attractions of western South Dakota.

    Once you're on US-14 you can follow that all the way west to I-90 at Wall SD. Unfortunately, there are places, especially in the west, where the old highways have been completely replaced by Interstates. They are now technically 'duplexed', that is they share the same physical roadway, so there is no way to really avoid the Interstates in a few places and for a few miles. Just south of Wall is Badlands National Park, and if you enter from Wall and travel through the park from west to east, you can leave the park and take SD-377 south to SD-44 west which will take you to Rapid City. South of Rapid City there are a number of worthwhile attractions including Mount Rushmore, Wind and Jewel Caves, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. You can then leave that area on US-385 north up to Deadwood and then continue on US-85 north towards Belle Fourche, taking SD-34/WY-24 west to Devils Tower National Monument. When done there, return on WY-24 the way you came to WY-112 north to US-212 west. Where US-212 joins I-90 is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Then at Hardin MT you can leave I-90 and take US-87 across to Billings. From Billings to Laurel you're again going to have to be on I-90, but then you get to leave it for one of the most scenic roads (albeit quite twisty) in the west, US-212 - the Beartooth Highway, up into Yellowstone National Park. While in the Yellowstone area be sure to also take the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway down to Grand Tetons National Park.

    Leave Yellowstone through West Yellowstone MT and take US-20 through Idaho past Craters of the Moon National Monument to Mountain Home. Between Mountain Home and Boise US-20 and US-30 are duplexed with I-84, but the old US-30 roadbed still exists, running parallel to I-84 just beside it. So you can take that if you prefer. From Boise, US-20/US-26 will get you to Portland in a relatively straightforward manner, but I'd suggest that you take OR-35 north from near Mount Hood to the town of Hood River and follow the Columbia River on I-84 and the Historic Columbia River Highway (old US-30) into Portland. Finish up by taking either US-30 or US-26 to the coast and then follow the Pacific Coast Highway (US-101/CA-1) down through San Francisco to Los Angeles. Both Oregon and northern California have several state parks on the coast, Redwoods National park is near Orick, and Point Reyes National Seashore is just north of San Francisco. From L.A. to San Diego, you can follow the coast if you like but it will be quite built up with lots of shore towns and traffic, and through Camp Pendleton you will have no choice but I-5, so from L.A. to S.D. I-5 is probably your route of choice.

    I see that Dave has made a different routing suggestion and that's fine. There are dozens of ways you could go, especially since you don't need or even want to stick to the Interstates. The final choice will be up to you, all we can do is offer suggestions.


  10. Default

    These are great ideas...much appreciated.

    I will need to begin plotting them on maps and researching some of these suggestions. Crazy as it might seem to some I love the planning stage of these trips. I've made the east-west portion of the trip previously but only as far as the west exit of Yellowstone before heading south so the WA, OR and CA parts of the drive are especially exciting.

    The idea of heading north from home (Toronto) and crossing over at The Soo is one that never crossed my mind but I love that plan.


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