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  1. #1

    Default 10 Day trip from Grand Rapids, MI to San Diego and back

    Hello! I have about 10 days off of work from May 30th to June 8th this year. I'm supposed to go visit my friend in San Diego, but as I was checking prices on flights, I realized that I would much rather drive (even if it's a long trip). Google tells me that it's about 2200-2500 miles from Grand Rapids, MI to San Diego, depending on the route I take. That's maybe 30-35 hours of driving time each way (a good chunk of my 10 days). I also would like to spend 2 or 3 days in southern California with my friend that I am going to see.

    I need your help to use the rest of my time wisely! I would like to spend a day (and night) in both the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. Any advice or recommendations on things to do with possibly only one day in each of these parks would be great. My friend (and driving buddy) and I would like to camp for most of the nights to and from San Diego. We're driving a Subaru Forester and we'll be camping in a tent. We're also beginner hikers (but hopefully our knowledge and experience is growing!).

    On the drive to California from Michigan, we will be going through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. On our trip back to Michigan, we will go through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

    Please let me know some recommendations and advice on places to camp and things to see in the two national parks and along our routes!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I'm sorry, but your plan just isn't going to work like you hope. You simply don't have enough time.

    Despite what online mapping programs might tell you, this is not a 35 hour drive. More importantly, you should be measuring this drive in days not hours. And when you do that - you've got a problem that the drive won't just take up "a good chunk" of your trip, it will take up nearly all of it.

    At the very maximum, you should be doing no more than 600 miles per day, even with 2 drivers. That's the limit for professional drivers because of safety laws, and with your plan to camp, even that is very difficult, factoring the extra time to get to campgrounds, plus set up and tear down camp.

    So when you think in those terms, you need 4 days each way minimum just to get from Michigan to So Cal, and that's before any extra detours and stops at places like Zion and the Grand Canyon. If you want to spend even 2 days in San Diego, that means hard drives both direction, without extra exploring.

    Flying is expensive, but unless you can push things out to a bare, bare minimum of 2 full weeks, I wouldn't even consider driving to California myself, and even that would be a rushed trip with very little time for extras.

  3. #3


    Is this plan really that far out of reach? I've driven 10 hours by myself before with stops only for bathrooms and food. Plus I'm on a night work schedule, so I thought my friend would drive however long she was comfortable with during the day and then I could drive through the night until we were to the western states where we'd like to make some stops. I've been consistently getting 5 hours of sleep per day for the past four years as a full-time student with two part-time jobs, so I didn't really foresee that as a problem.

    However, I posted on here to get input and advice, so thank you for lending your experience. It's very disappointing, but I'll reconsider just flying out there. I suppose I can borrow my friend's car while she is working during the week and just drive from San Diego to some other parks and camping areas.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-21-2016 at 03:26 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Doing 10 hours of driving 1 day is one thing - doing 10 hours of driving for 4 days in a row really is quite something else. Similarly, operating a 2 ton machine at 75 mph on just a few hours of sleep - especially when that "sleep" is a nap sitting is a moving car - is just dangerous. Fatigue is nearly as big of killer on the roads as drunk driving - and the effects are pretty much the same.

    Flying to SD would really be much safer and much more enjoyable - and you're just a days drive away from the Grand Canyon and Zion - so if your friend could get away from work for a few days, you could still get in a lot of what you hoped to see. Of course, there is plenty to see and do around So Cal as well.

  5. #5


    Thanks! I'll try to work on some plans factoring in the cost of a flight, and I'll find some ways to entertain myself while she is at work.

  6. #6


    Hillade, there is lot's to do in and around San Diego and San Diego County. You could also fit a visit to the Grand Canyon (~500 miles), one-day drive out, one-day drive back and 2 days camping. Grand Canyon plus flying to/from San Diego would account for 6 of the 10 days. It would be hard not to fill in four days in and around San Diego.

    If it isn't too hot, or if you are the hardy sort, you could camp one night on the drive to or from GCNP, at Joshua Tree National Park. Doing that would make it a very manageable 5-day trip to the GCNP, plus your two travel days by air.

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