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  1. Default Planning for Summer 2008


    I know 2008 seems a lifetime away but I'm looking into the feasibility of undertaking a trip from San Francisco across to Las Vegas and then onto the Grand Canyon and Phoenix or Tucson.

    Background: I'm from the UK and next year is my 40th Birthday and my fathers 60th, so the plan at present is for me, him and my two brothers to do this trip as a 'birthday' one off.

    Ideally on the SF-LV leg I'd like to take in Death Valley, have a couple of nights in Vegas and then drive down stopping off at the Grand Canyon and Wilmslow before ending up in Phoenix. If time allows we might venture down to Tucson and Tombstone.

    So my questions....

    How long should you allow for a trip like this. I know you can drive from SF-LV in 12 hours but is 2-3 days with a stop-off about right?

    How safe/Dangerous is Death Valley in summer? I'm guessing we'd be making this trip sometime in late May or June.

    Any thoughts on the type of vehicle best suited? The car rental sites for US cars only talk about ‘intermediate’, ‘large’, etc. Not knowing much about US car models it’s a bit difficult to assess if a Chrysler Turbo Fandango or whatever it’s called is going to be any good with 4 adults in for x days?

    And finally, any particular routes I should look at? I've driven from Phoenix to Tucson and Phoenix to Flagstaff and Williams before so know that part of the trip. The California aspect is the new bit I have no idea on.

    All suggestions and thoughts welcomed.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Forethought

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    2008 is not that far ahead to be planning, especially for a trip as special as this. So my answers...

    There's no such thing as too much time for a RoadTrip or segment thereof. There certainly is such a thing as too little time. While two days is enough to get from San Francisco through Death Valley to Las Vegas, an added day would add greatly to your enjoyment of the drive. If you come over in June rather than May, you can also visit Yosemite National Park on this leg and then come over the Sierra Nevada Mountains through Tioga Pass and down into Death Valley, and Yosemite is worth at least a day to hike through and enjoy. For the whole trip, Ten days (if it's a one-way) to two weeks (if you'll be returning to San Francisco from Arizona) would be quite adequate.

    People visit Death Valley throughout the year, but if you are going to be there in June, or even May, then some precautions are in order. The main one is to carry plenty of water. Before you enter the park, get a cooler, a couple of bags of ice and several water bottles. On the cheap, you can probably do this for around $10 (£5). Drink often and lots. Bring good hats with wide brims as well as copious sunscreen. Temperatures will reach highs of 100-120°F in May and June, so don't be caught unaware. Plan to do any hiking in Death Valley (and there are a few short nature trails that are well worth it) in the morning, and keep in mind that all rental cars in the US come with air conditioning.

    Rental cars in America are reserved by size category, so don't worry if you don't recognize a particular model name. They are shown for "illustrative purposes only" and you'll probably get a different mark anyway. For 4 good sized adult men, I would get at least a 'full-sized' or 'standard'. If you'll be bringing a lot of luggage as well, then you may want to also consider a 'mini van'.

    This general itinerary comes up often on these forums, so try the Search function using the terms francisco, vegas, death valley, etc. to find previous discussions. For starters, this post will link you to a few previous threads.

    Good luck, and happy birthday to you and your dad.


  3. Default Details...

    Thanks for that AZ. you make some great observations and I've clicked through to work my way through some of the other links.

    One other question for you as your from the area. I've driven from Phoenix to Tucson several times to go to PIMA and AMARC. how much further is it to carry on to get to Tombstone (and is there much to see), or close up to the Mexican border. I know you can't cross over with hire cars but I'd like to see the area and the 'fence' that we hear so much about in the news here in the UK.

    I've seen on couple of AAA maps I have of that part of the world that ghost towns are marked. Are these really abandoned settlements or just the last few timbers of an old stopping point from the 1800's?



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Tucson and Environs

    If you come to Tucson on this trip, you should be aware that I-10 through town is currently torn up, and will be under construction/repair until 2010. Also, I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is now pretty consistently full of traffic. There is talk of building a whole new highway between Wilcox and Buckeye to bypass both cities, but that is many years in the future. A couple of weekends ago, I was driving up to Phoenix when traffic came to a grinding halt in front of me. I was fortunate enough to be right at an exit and took AZ-587 up into Chandler, but as I drove along the first part of this that was semi-parallel to I-10, I could see that all that traffic was going nowhere fast. This is all by way of saying you might want to consider AZ-79/AZ-77 as an alternate route down. (But then US-60 through Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert and Apache Junction is also under reconstruction - Oh well.)

    Addendum: While we're at it, Mecal asked how bad the Tucson I-10 construction is. Here's a website with updated conditions.

    Anyway, once you've gotten to Tucson, Tombstone and Kartchner Caverns make a great combined day trip and are one of the 'tours' we usually take visitors on. The other two are 1) Saguaro National Park (west) and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and 2) a trip down to Nogales, Mexico. Nogales is only about 90 miles south of Tucson, and most day visitors simply park their cars on the U.S. side, walk across the border, enjoy some shopping, sight-seeing and a meal, and walk back. If you've enjoyed visits to Pima (I assume you mean the Pima Air and Space Museum) and AMARC, then you might also want to take a tour of the Titan Missile Museum which is just off the highway (I-19) between Tucson and Nogales. Also south of Tucson, those are real ghost towns along the border east of Nogales including Lochiel and Duquesne, but they are only accessable by graded (dirt) forest roads - get a good map!

    Last edited by AZBuck; 03-13-2007 at 01:39 PM. Reason: Added Link for Tucson I-10 Construction

  5. Default

    Keep in mind, you arent really allowed to take Rental Cars on a dirt road.
    If you do, and something happens, you have to pay for it.

    Anyways, Arizona in the summer is pretty hot.
    Tucson, and AZBuck can correct me, is usually around 100-105ºF (or so) on average, while Phoenix can stay at 110ºF for many weeks in a row.

    However, the more North you go from there the temperature will drop.
    In Flagstaff and Grand Canyon, the temperatures arent nearly as high as Tucson and Phoenix (usually in the 90º's)
    Also, some places South East of Tuscon, small towns, Dragoon, Benson, Tombstone, they are generally cooler than Tucson.

  6. Default Good Advice....

    Thanks for the input guys. I’ve started to flesh the idea out a little more in order to 'pitch' it to my two younger brothers. At present I'm looking at a plan that goes as follows:

    Day 1 - Arrive SFO
    Day 2 - Collect car and aim to get as far as Groveland (sunset Inn?)
    Day 3 - Drive and time out of the car
    Day 4 - Drive and arrive Las Vegas (arrive late afternoon)
    Day 5 - Las Vegas
    Day 6 - Drive to Williams (old Route 66 from Kingman to Williams)
    Day 7 - Railroad into Grand Canyon
    Day 8 - Williams to Winslow and then to Phoenix
    Day 9 - Phoenix to Tombstone (Tucson area for overnight)
    Day 10 - Depart form Tucson

    At present it seems to work and cover the main features that will keep everyone interested. Personally I'm keen visit Yosemite and see the scenery as we drive across the SN and through DV. Brothers will want the Las Vegas buzz and my dad will enjoy the Grand Canyon visit and the Railroad trip from Williams. I'd like to do AMARC again given the chance and Tombstone would be good as my dada a big western aficionado.

    I'd welcome any comments you have on this as a plan (good and bad). Does anyone have any recommendations for good hire companies in this neck of the woods? I've looked at the big 4m or 5 and have been surprised at the surcharges for one way rentals.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Looks Like a Plan

    Just a few, final(?) comments. All of your driving days are quite relaxed, but I'm not quite sure what the plan is with regards to Yosemite. Do you plan to spend Day 3 seeing Yosemite and crossing the Sierra Nevadas with an overnight stop around Bishop? If so, that will work quite well. But if your plan is to spend the evening of Day 3 back in Groveland, then you're leaving yourself a hard drive over the mountains, through Death Valley and on to Las Vegas all on Day 4, and that would be a big departure form your other days' activities.

    Now, since you want some Old West... While you're on your Williams to Winslow leg, another stop you might want to consider is Walnut Canyon National Monument. While not as spectacular as some of the Anasazi ruins, these former cliff dwellings of the Sinaguas are a worthwhile hike. Just be aware that there are something like 250 steps to climb along the trail. Then, for the drive from Winslow to Phoenix, consider taking the shortcut south on AZ-87 to AZ-260 west to Camp Verde and I-17. This will take you through the Tonto National Forest, down the Mogollon Rim, and into the Verde River valley, a very nice drive.

    Sorry about the one-way surcharge on the rentals, but that is a fact of life, I'm afraid.


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