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  1. #1

    Default I need West Coast road trip advice!!!

    Hi! I am leaving on an 8 day road trip from LA on May 3rd. I have planned the first few days of the trip, but I'd like advice on whether or not what I'm planning is doable. I understand that I could spend days or even weeks at some of these places, but I've chosen to do a lot in the small amount of time that I have. This is the itinerary for the first 3 days:


    ***************************** May 3rd

    • Leave out of LA by 12
    • Drive 5 hours to Sequoia NP
    • Take the Congress Trail hike 2 mi. (1-2 hrs)
    • Drive to Moro Rock 2.2 mi.
    • Hike for sunset .6 miles (1 hr.)
    • Find somewhere to sleep overnight

    ***************************** May 4th

    • Drive 1.5 hours to Cedar Grove before sunrise
    • Drive the 180 scenic byway to Road's End
    • Hike to Grizzly Falls (15 minutes) and through Zumwalt Meadow 1.5 mi. (1-2 hrs)
    • Take a couple of other scenic pull offs for pictures
    • Leave Kings Canyon by 11 or 12 and start the long drive to Death Valley (gas up!!!)
    • Drive the scenic route 178 towards Lake Isabella
    • Arrive in Death Valley in time for the sunset at Zabriskie Point
    • Find somewhere to camp/sleep overnight

    ******************************* May 5th

    • Watch sunrise in Death Valley
    • Spend all day exploring Death Valley
    • Badwater Basin, Dante's View, Artist's Pallette, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Ubehebe Crater


    Another question I have is about sleeping. We decided not to make any reservations, since we don't want to be tied down to a particular place at a set time, as our plans may change last minute. Would it be totally out of the question to sleep in our rental vehicle in any of these places? If not, what are our other options?

    Last one, I swear!

    Am I able to drive my vehicle through every NP or am I required to use the shuttle service at some?

    Any help is appreciated!! Thank you for taking the time.
    : )

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

    Default A few questions answered.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    My first question would be, where did you get your drive times? If they come from a computer mapping program you need to add at least 20%. Those programs are complete fantasy, since they do not allow for congestion, construction, red light or any other reason why you may need to slow down or stop, such as food and fuel, etc.

    I doubt you would get to Sequoia in five hours, though it depends on where you are starting from. If you are flying in, and starting from near LAX, I'd be leaving immediately after morning rush hour.

    For the most part what you have so far is doing, although you pack a lot into one day, and may find some take longer than you have allowed.

    Unless the vehicle is set up to sleep in, it would not be wise to sleep in your vehicle. It is not possible for two people to get a good nights' sleep in a sedan. It could be cold overnight, or even hot and muggy. You can't leave the engine running Soon you will end up being extremely exhausted, not able to enjoy yourself and possibly a great danger on the road. Best invest in a cheap tent and some sleeping bags and mats.

    There is a plethora of canpgrounds in the area you are travelling, and if you have a good look at your maps (I take it you are planning this with good detailed maps - essential!) you will see them marked with little triangles or tents. Many non commercial campgrounds are a minimal charge or free. In the national parks, such as Death Valley and Sequoia there are campgrounds which are not terribly expensive. It would pay you to check now and reserve them.

    Should you be visiting four or more national parks it would pay you to purchase the annual pass ($80) at the first park. Check on the national park site what the entry fees are for each park. The annual pass does not cover camping costs. When entering a national park, you will pay your entry fee, be given information leaflets and maps and be able to speak with the ranger at the gate. There you will find out which parks have shuttles and which you drive through.

    Your plan for Day 2 looks like you may run out of time before you have done it all. Might have to let a couple of things go. In the same way, your plans for DV look great, but you might find yourself running short of time here too, even on a rushed trip.

    There is nothing wrong with packing a lot into a short time, if that is the way you want it. It will no doubt whet your appetite to come back for a more extended holiday.

    Enjoy!

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Alabama Hills.

    You will not be able to "Just find somewhere to sleep" along the road, you will need to find a designated campground so it's wise to check your options. Have you considered going direct to Kings canyon via Fresno and then making your way south through Sequoia NP and exiting through Three rivers. It doesn't make a lot of difference in time but it will be a shorter drive to Death valley and all day heading in the right direction.

    As we don't know what the rest of your plan looks like it's hard to make further comment, but if you want to spend the odd night in the car and want to slow the pace a little then you could look at an overnight stop in the Alabama hills just west of Lone Pine and explore DV the following day as part of your onward journey. The Alabama hills is one place you can find a convenient place and stay overnight for free.

    Alabama hills.

    DSCF0112 by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/103349558@N03/]

    DSCF0123 by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/103349558@N03/]

    DSCF0177 by David Gomm, on Flickr

    You can drive through the National parks you have already mentioned, no shuttles, but not every park, or at least, not every area of some parks, are open to cars and you need to take a shuttle.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    It seems to me your plan is really relying on best-case situations for it to work.

    I mean your first day, If you get to Sequoia by 5, and then hike 2 hours, then drive to another location, it's very likely going to be after sunset before you start your next hike. If you see any delays, it could easily be after sunset before you even finish your first hike.

    Day 2 is virtually impossible. You've basically got a day's worth of activities crammed into your morning, but then, if you are able to do that and leave by noon - you've got at least 8 hours of driving to make it to Death Valley, and thus it's almost certainly going to be after sunset when you arrive.

    That doesn't even mention that you hope to do all of that (including miles of hiking) on a day where you are planning to start your day at least 2 hours before sunrise, after not going to sleep until well after sunset. I'll tell you, overfilled agendas with overtired travelers rarely make for good travel experiences.

    Speaking of sleep, if you're planning to cram as much in as possible, then I think making reservations would be a very wise move, so you aren't wasting time trying to find a place to sleep. No, you can't just sleep in your car on the side of the road in a National Park, and the odds of more than one person getting a good night sleep while inside a rental car is virtually nill. I'd say reservations in Sequoia would be especially important because lodging is limited inside the park, and it's a long, slow, drive to leave the park to find a place to sleep - especially when you plan to go right back into Kings Canyon the next day.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Long-time resident of California here with some words of advice about California and national parks in general:

    Want to camp in California in spring, summer, fall? Get reservations.

    Want to camp in a national park anywhere near/on a weekend? Get reservations.

    Want to sleep in your car someplace? You'll probably get rousted out of a sound sleep and told to "move on", best case scenario, or if you really pick the wrong place, you'll need someone to bail you out of jail.

    Also, MWMichael and SWDave speak the truth -- your first two days are waaaaaay too crammed. You better get out of LA by 9 am to get all that accomplished on Day 1, and be prepared to give up something on Day 2. We aren't at Summer Solstice yet, so our days aren't quite that long. Sunset is around 7:15 pm these days, and it won't be that much later in a week or so when you're planning this trip.


    Donna

  6. #6

    Default

    First off, thank you for taking the time to give me some very useful advice! It's much appreciated! I did use Google Maps for my drive times. It said about 4.5 hours. We would be leaving earlier, but our flight doesn't arrive until 10. I gave us 2 hours to get our rental car and get on the road, which I thought was realistic. If we get out earlier, we could save a little driving time. The vehicle we have is a Rav 4, so we will be able to fold the back seats down and have a decent amount of room in the back. We're considering bringing an air mattress as well. We also have 2 15ฐ sleeping bags and a tent, so we are not opposed to camping. I guess I was asking are there any places/businesses to park our car overnight? Not trying to park on the side of the road or anything. If not, are there plenty of campgrounds that might have availability in early May? My next question is would it be possible to do Angel's Landing in Zion and do a scenic drive through Bryce in one day if we start at dawn? Lastly, is it safe to drive after dark from Death Valley to Zion or is that something that people generally stay away from?
    Last edited by hrbutler06; 04-21-2016 at 07:29 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Being midweek in May, I'd guess you'd be able to find campgrounds without reservations. However, considering your schedule, I still think making a reservation would make some sense.

    Also keep in mind, many campgrounds have restrictions about setting-up and tearing down during quiet hours, which could be a big issue with your plans to be traveling from before sunrise until after sunset. Sleeping in your car might work, but keep in mind, you won't necessarily get a RAV4 (you'll get a RAV4 or similar) and small SUV's don't always have as much room in back as you'd think. You'll also have to find a place for your luggage while you sleep, as you'll be taking up the entire cargo area.

    Being that your flight doesn't get in until 10, getting on the road by noon is a fair estimate, but you will still be fighting traffic as you make your way out of the city, but that means 5 is the very earliest you should expect to get into the heart of Sequoia.

    My concerns about your plans to be continually trying to be on the road from before dawn to after dark should also be amplified by the fact that your body clock will be 3 hours ahead (assuming you're starting from Atlanta), especially your first day when you'll have already been traveling for many hours before you've even started the roadtrip portion of your trip.

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

    Default Camping

    there are places where you can park overnight to sleep in a vehicle, but not really in the areas in which you will be. 24hr Truck stops will often allow overnight parking with permission. They probably are the safest and most convenient. Some 24 hr stores will allow it as well, but you always have to ask for permission, otherwise you might find yourselves being woken in the night and asked to move on.

    Unfortunately, in the areas of the national park and along the coast you are not likely to find much in that way, but if you look on your maps, campgrounds abound. If you want to stay within national parks you need to get onto their website a.s.a.p. and reserve your spot.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default

    My next question is would it be possible to do Angel's Landing in Zion and do a scenic drive through Bryce in one day if we start at dawn?
    It's possible yes, but again a full day and hoping for best case scenario. The quickest way to see Bryce canyon is to drive to the far end and then stop at all the viewpoints on the way back up. The pullouts will all be on your side of the road and save you having to keep pulling across traffic. You might make it back the top for a walk around the rim at Sunset and sunrise points in time for sunset. You will need to set off early though, I believe the Angels landing hike is around 4 -5 hours. Hope you have a head for heights !

    It's good to know all your options, but if it comes to it and you miss out on a part of Sequoia or elsewhere, then it's not the end of the world. It's far worse missing out on the enjoyment of being somewhere because you are constantly thinking of the next place on the list and the amount of time you have. Make sure you relax, enjoy the moment and realise that you don't have to do it all. As I mentioned earlier, seeing bits and pieces of your trip rather than the full picture doesn't make it easy to offer minor adjustments that might make the whole thing go a bit smoother.

  10. #10

    Default

    I agree that I am trying to pack a lot into my trip! We decided that we will try to follow our itinerary as best we can, putting the most important things first, then accepting that we more than likely will not be able to see everything on our list! Also, when we get there I'm sure our mentality will change a bit. We both love nature so much that we will have to stop to smell the roses and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us, no matter where we are. I like your idea about driving to the end of Bryce, then stopping at the viewpoints on the way back. Great idea! I wouldn't have thought of that! It is also a good idea to make reservations at campgrounds, just so we're guaranteed to have a safe place to sleep. I added this question to the end of my last post, which is probably why it wasn't answered, but is it safe to drive from DV to Zion after sunset?

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