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  1. Default Solo 20-day Roadtrip: LAX-Yosemite-Yellowstone-Grand Canyon-LAX

    Hi!! I have been planning a road trip to the USA for months (I've never been to the USA), and now that the date is coming near I'm getting very worried that I may be doing too much.

    Basically from June 11th to July 1st, I'm planning on driving from LAX to Sequoia and Yosemite, then San Fransisco. From there Yellowstone, then back through Salt Lake City towards Grand Canyon National Park, and finally back in LAX.

    Here is my (extremely vague and rough) itinerary:

    Day 1: LAX to San Diego
    Day 2: San Diego to Los Angeles
    Day 3: Los Angeles to Sequoia
    Day 4: Sequoia to Yosemite
    Day 5: Staying at Yosemite
    Day 6: Yosemite to San Fransisco
    Day 7: Staying in San Fransisco
    Day 8: San Francisco to Reno
    Day 9: Reno to ??? (somewhere around the 80, 400km from Reno)
    Day 10: ??? to ??? (same here, somewhere 400km away from the last place)
    Day 11: ??? to Yellowstone
    Day 12: Stay in Yellowstone
    Day 13: Stay in Yellowstone
    Day 14: Yellowstone to ??? (somewhere on the 15 400km from Yellowstone)
    Day 15: ??? to ??? (crossing through Salt Lake City)
    Day 16: ??? to Grand Canyon NP
    Day 17: Grand Canyon NP to Sedona
    Day 18: Sedona to Las Vegas
    Day 19: Las Vegas to Los Angeles
    Day 20: Flying back out

    I am mostly thinking of winging it with only a rough idea of where I should be at all times. Some days I may drive 800km and other I may drive 100km, depends on the road and if there is anything interesting to do.

    What I'm asking is mostly any red flags that you may see here. Is it way too much? Should I stay longer at certain places or avoid others? I am planning on camping most days as well in campsites through my route as well as the National Parks.

    Thank you!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,749

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Is Day 1, the same day as your flight? If so, there's one place where you may need to change. You will definitely be tired after a day of flying, especially if you are coming from a place far, far away and have been on a plane for 12 hours.

    Why are you driving down to San Diego on the first day and then back to LA on the second day? Are you planning to see something in San Diego, perhaps the Zoo or similar? That was a puzzlement, to me, especially if you're doing that on the day you fly in.

    Donna

  3. Default

    Hi Donna, thank you for the quick response. I arrive at about 3am to LAX, from there I'm driving straight to San Diego to my uncle's house without spending time at all in Los Angeles. The plan was to rest from the flight in there, get some batteries and start fresh the next morning, and then visit LA properly.

    You reckon I should sleep in Los Angeles first, and then drive down? I can certainly do that, it wouldn't affect the schedule at all.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,281

    Default

    I think you may be underestimating the travel time between San Diego and LA, especially factoring in traffic. It just doesn't make sense to be driving back and forth between the two cities. You're looking at about 3 hours of driving each way, plus traffic which can easily add another hour or more. It also it pretty illogical to drive from LA to San Diego, then immediately drive back to LA and continue north.

    If you want to visit San Diego, it would make far more sense to either include it at the end of your trip (between Vegas and LA - since SD is quite a bit east of LA, this is much less driving) or reverse your entire trip and go from LA to SD to Vegas to Grand Canyon, etc...

    Reversing your trip also could be an advantage if you were to add the coast highway to your plans - which is something I would consider.

    If it were me, I would either do Sequoia or San Francisco, which would set you up to go from Yosemite straight to Reno via Tioga Pass, which is really a pretty amazing part of Yosemite. With your original plan, you'd either be skipping Tioga and Yosemite's high country or you'd be driving across the Sierra's 3 different times (Once over tioga, again back to SF, and yet again to Reno). There are still sequoia trees that can be viewed inside Yosemite, so again, if it's me, I'd probably go from LA to SF up the coast - a 2 day drive - then over to Yosemite, and onto Reno/Yellowstone from there.

    The other thing I'd do is try to cover more miles on your days before and after Yellowstone. You could quite comfortably make it from Reno to Yellowstone in 2 days, driving less than 400 miles each day (about 7 hours), and the same is true with Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon. I would use those 2 days you could save to include Grand Teton as well as potentially Zion or Bryce Canyon in Utah.

    The final bit I would warn you on is that camping isn't really a license to "wing it." While I also avoid making reservations when I can, you should know that campsites in busy National Parks, particularly Yosemite and Yellowstone fill up very quickly (the few sites that are first come first serve, often fill up well before noon). Considering how much you want to do, in a relatively short amount of time, I think this is a case where making reservations for at least some of your overnights would be a wise idea.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,966

    Default Reverse your trip.

    If going to your Uncles house in SD is a certainty then as Michael said, reverse your whole trip and go from SD to Sedona, Grand canyon and Las Vegas before heading to Yellowstone and then make your way to Yosemite etc and end in LA. I can't see any good reason to choose to go back and forth through the most heavily congested place in the Southwest.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,749

    Default

    OK, if you get into LAX at 3 am, by the time you get through Customs (I'm assuming you're coming from overseas) and get your luggage, it will well into Rush Hour in LA. While you'll be mostly going against traffic, once you get down to about Camp Pendleton, you'll be going WITH the traffic into San Diego. Not sure where your uncle lives, but you're looking at 3-4 hours travel during Rush Hour, which is probably about the worst in the US (maybe Atlanta and DC are close to it) in the LA area. Stop. Go. Slow. Go. Stop. Slow. Go faster. Slam on brakes. Go again. Slow. For miles and miles! (Even on Saturdays, and you're coming in on a Monday.)

    I agree with Michael, skip San Diego at the beginning, then swing your trip from Las Vegas down to San Diego (I-15 takes you right down, allow about 8 hours since that's on a weekend), then come up to LAX from there. Then you're looping without backtracking.


    Donna

  7. Default

    Hi Michael, Donna and Dave, thank you so very much for your answers.

    This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I will avoid San Diego at the beginning and come back to it by the end of the trip. Regarding the camping, everything seems to be fully booked everywhere, but I managed to make one reservation in Bridge Bay campground. Yosemite on the other hand is 100% full so I think I will sleep in my car somewhere off the roads, unless I can find something when I arrive. I don't have much experience with "legal" camping, I usually just put my tent anywhere I want to and camp there.

    My biggest concern is the drive to Yellowstone and back. I feel that I might be trying to do way too much and that I will burn out, when I did a roadtrip through Iceland I drove about 300km per day and it was very tiring, I can't imagine what driving 600km or 700km per day is like. Assuming that I skipped Yellowstone which I may end up doing (I'm going just because I feel it's a "must" in USA I don't know anything to do there), do you have any ideas for a good way to replace those 5-6 days in something closer?

    I'm thinking driving the coast to SanFran as you said, then turn right to Yosemite, through Tioga pass to the Grand Canyon via Las Vegas and then back to San Diego via the 40. This would be a great trip for two weeks but I have an extra 6 days to burn.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,450

    Default

    Driving here is nothing like driving in Iceland. You will be able to drive 600 miles (almost 1000km) on our Interstate highways (motorways) in 12 hours or less including stops for fuel, food, and bathroom visits. Speed limits in the west are over 100 km/hr and the roads are good enough to do this safely.

    We need to caution you about just pulling off the road and sleeping in your car. This is not legal in most places. You also can't just pitch a tent anywhere you want. Budget for some hotel stays.

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Driving here is nothing like driving in Iceland. You will be able to drive 600 miles (almost 1000km) on our Interstate highways (motorways) in 12 hours or less including stops for fuel, food, and bathroom visits. Speed limits in the west are over 100 km/hr and the roads are good enough to do this safely.

    We need to caution you about just pulling off the road and sleeping in your car. This is not legal in most places. You also can't just pitch a tent anywhere you want. Budget for some hotel stays.
    I know it is technically possible, people do this every day, but I've never done anything like this. Since I'm going solo I'm concerned that I'm not considering the implications of driving alone in the middle of the Nevada Desert for 1400km in two days. And then back another 1500km to the Grand Canyon in another two days. I don't even own a car in my country and I never really drive anywhere other than when I do these massive road trips. So I am planning for it but I'm thinking of alternatives in case I find out I can't do it once I'm there.

    Regardless the sleeping situation, I was planning on sleeping 80% of the time either in my car or in my tent, and 20% of the time in motels/hostels when I can't find a way to safely do that. Just pulling into some forest by the side of the road with picnic tables and such, walking 10 minutes inland and setting up a tent. Or finding a gas station, parking and sleeping there. I understand it is not legal but I assumed nobody cares as long as you don't leave trash out and don't bother anyone. Can you expand on that?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,966

    Default You could fill those days hundreds of times over, here's one way.

    You can easily fill that time experiencing some of Southern Utah's amazing National parks. Zion, Bryce canyon, Capital Reef, Arches and Canyonlands are all amazing !!

    If Reno is not a priority you could head from Sequoia to SF and then Yosemite and drive across the Sierra's on the amazing Tioga Pass. You could then consider driving across Death valley into Vegas and then to the Utah parks ( in the same order as above ) followed by a trip through Monument valley to the Grand canyon south rim, Sedona and finally back to LA.

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