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  1. Default Denver to eventually San Francisco - two weeks?


    I would love to get other peoples opinions on what i should divert to, add in or change about the below trip itinerary i have planned for the end of Sept/start of Oct.
    There are some long driving days and seems like im ending up with two days spare to fill in somewhere.
    Was thinking of an extra day in Lake Tahoe. Would mean i would have to know what day i will then be in Yosemite as it seems you need to book accommodation well in advance.
    Also i suppose i could cut out the stay over in santa cruz and go from monterey to San Francisco - this will get me that day back.
    Just not sure if it will be worthwhile adding in an extra day along the way to before Lake Tahoe.

    1 - Fly into Denver from Ireland
    2 - Denver to Estes Park, CO
    3 - Estes Park, CO through RMNP to Vernal, UT
    4 - Vernal to Salt Lake City Area (not sure where to aim for there yet - will just be an over night stay)
    5 - Salt Lake City Area to Ely, Nevada (planning to go along US-50 (so thinking of going along I80 and cutting down US93 to Ely) - could probably go further this day but dont want to caught out with nowhere to stay in Eureka and Fallon may be too far to continue to - not sure on this day)
    6 - Ely to Lake Tahoe
    7 - Lake Tahoe to Yosemite (down the 395 highway - not sure where to stay in Yosemite and looking to book now - need a motel/hotel so looking at Mariposa)
    8 - Another day in Yosemite
    9 - Yosemite to Monterey/Carmel - scenic route and going down as far as Cambria to take in a good stretch of US-1 up to Monterey
    10 - Monterey/Carmel to Santa Cruz
    11 - seems this day is spare
    12 - Santa Cruz to San Francisco ( have last three nights booked in San Francisco so need to be there on this day)
    13 - San Francisco
    14 - San Francisco
    15 - Fly from San Francisco back to Ireland


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

    Default ideas

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got a very reasonable trip planned so far.

    With a couple extra days to work with, I think I might focus a little more on your Colorado/Utah areas. With your current plans, you'd be right near Dinosaur National Park and Flaming Gorge. Another option would be to dip further south and check out Arches and Canyonlands.

    I'd also add in a stop at Great Basin National Park outside of Ely. If you are only going to travel from Salt Lake to Ely in one day, you should have enough time left over to spend several hours there.

    One other thought about Yosemite, Mariposa is a pretty long drive from the Yosemite Valley (45 minutes or so). Its certainly a good place to find a room, but you might be kind of rushed if you start your day at Lake Tahoe. I might instead spend a night around Lee Vining, so you have a little more time making your way across Tioga Pass. You might also look into spending a night inside yosemite national park, although rooms will probably cost a little more than those in Mariposa.

  3. Default

    Cool. thanks for the info.

    I was thinking of going by great basin NP instead of up to I80. May even be worthwhile booking a (the) hotel in Eureka and continue a bit onto there seen as there will be an hour gained that day.

    Had planned to take in Dinosaur National Monument and Vernal seems to be the place to stay for it. Seen as would be a short enough drive to Salt Lake city could start the day by having a look at that.

    Will have a look into Flaming Gorge and further south in Utah.
    Is US50 the best option to get across Nevada? Hopefully there is fuel in the few filling stations along it. I heard I80 can be very busy and full or trucks so may be a good alternative.

    Lee Vining idea sounds good. May do that. Not sure about the tent stuff on yosemite. Cant figure out if there is any motels there - or equivalent rooms. Paying bit extra for the one night would be much bother.

    Also thinking it might be a bit ambitious for the drive from Yosemite to monterey on the route im taking. May add a stay in Cambria

    Thanks again

  4. #4

    Default Utah and California

    Hello Steven,

    I have just a few thoughts about parts of your trip, and they follow:

    Salt Lake City area: Great city and I enjoy it, but I spend rather more time about 30 miles east and 3,500' higher in elevation in the Park City area. Coming from Vernal, you'd pass through Heber City on US 40 and that takes you directly past Park City. The Main Street downtown area is full of art galleries, bars, brewpubs, and good restaurants. I would hope you'd find affordable accomodations at that time of year, pre-ski season. For something even more out of the ordinary, actor/director Robert Redford's Sundance resort is just off the main highway between Heber City and Provo, the most direct route between US 40 and US 50 as it leaves western Utah headed into Nevada. I've spent but part of a single day there, but it appears to abound with "green" accomodations, vegetarian fare, galleries, and plenty of short hiking and cycling trails. At that time of year, unless there is a freak snow storm, you should be able to drive from Sundance "over the pass" and down into Spanish Fork, just north of Provo. It's a very windy and steep but paved public road and passes through lots of aspen forest, much of which should be in full shimmer in late Sept/early October.

    California: It's not clear to me how you plan to approach the Monterey/Carmel area. You mention going as far south as Cambria, and I think you mean first accessing CA-1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH), thence up to Monterey for the end of the day. I say this because, in my opinion, the Cambria-Monterey section is the most spectacular section of the PCH between San Francisco and LA, and travel is slow due to the very curvy roadway and the want and desire to stop frequently. When I traveled from Monterey to Cambria in November 2007, we took a leisurely 4.5 hours for that section and that did not include touring the Hearst Castle at San Simeon (which I understand is about a 2-2.5 hour activity), but we did spend around 45 minutes observing the sea elephants on the beach close to San Simeon. The point is that to travel from Yosemite to Monterey, then down the PCH to Cambria, thence back to Monterey, would seem to be a very long day and the return trip up the PCH might not be quite as enjoyable as the southward ride down was. What I would do is venture south from Yosemite to Paso Robles initially, thence CA 46 through the Coast Range to Cambria, and do the one-way northbound trip to Monterey. Taking CA 41 to 46 just east of Paso Robles also gives you a chance to stop by the James Dean Memorial junction, the intersection of CA 41 and 46 where the iconic movie star met his end in a high speed car crash in 1955. A final comment would be to be sure to top your fuel tank before leaving Paso Robles, as fuel is rather more expensive at Cambria and positively breathtaking in price at the few places one can purchase it between Cambria and Monterey.

    Enjoy the planning and the trip! Welcome to the States!



    Steven- The route down from I-80 at to Flaming Gorge Dam is beautiful high plains canyon and butte country. The dam itself is a great sight, and the aspens should provide much scenery and color from the dam the rest of the way past the forested Uintas towards SLC.

    Seeing your comments, posted while I was typing the main body of this, concerning "more adventurous" travel from Yosemite to Cambria, let me heartily recommend a route: Take CA 41 through Fresno to CA 46 (the James Dean Memorial Junction) at Cholame. From a point immediately west of Cholame, the Bitterwater Road takes you for a beautiful ride through rolling ranch country to CA 58 at California Valley. There you'll find the Carizzo Plain National Monument, featuring a large dry lake (Soda Lake) and some amazing up close and personal views of the San Andreas Fault. From there, you can either go back north to CA 58 and take it west to a point just south of Paso Robles, or take Soda Lake Road, a 30 mile gravel road through CPNM, to US 101 and thence CA 46 to Cambria. If you overnight in Cambria, you'll want to arrive early in order to enjoy the beachfront motels, bars, and restaurants. Cambria will be a one or two stay stop on my next trip to the California coast.

    Last edited by Foy; 08-19-2008 at 10:06 AM. Reason: Added comments about Flaming Gorge and central CA

  5. Default

    Hi Foy,

    Thanks a million for the detailed and very helpful suggestions.

    We altered the plan and think have finalised on it and is as below. Have booked a couple of hotels just to be sure to have somewhere to stay - namely in Eureka, NV!
    When in Vernal think we'll take a trip up to Flaming Gorge before we leave and will head onto to somewhere around Provo area or wherever we find thats nice for the next night.
    Also took the suggestion to visit Great Basin NP and will continue through Ely since we gain an hour and stay in Eureka.
    Also took the good advice to stay in Lee Vining for first night of Yosemite -which will give us more time to spend in Lake Tahoe and then got a room in Wawona Hotel for next night.
    Had planned to go to Cambria the way you said and will certainly consider the detour to Carizzo Plain National Monument - its in the plan but will depend on my mood and of course the weather and time.
    Then after all that driving a bit more leisurely pace to San Francisco over next couple of days

    Thanks again

    1 - Fly into Denver from Ireland
    2 - Denver to Estes Park, CO
    3 - Estes Park, CO through RMNP to Vernal, UT
    4 - Vernal to Provo Area (exploring Dinosaur NM and Flaming Gorge before leaving Vernal)
    5 - Provo Area to Eureka, Nevada (taking a detour to Great Basin NP on the way)
    6 - Eureka to Lake Tahoe
    7 - Lake Tahoe to Lee Vining
    8 - Lee Vining to Wowona, Yosemite and rest of day in Yosemite
    9 - Yosemite to Cambria - scenic route through Fresno and Paso Robles
    10 - Cambria to Monterey
    11 - Monterey to Santa Cruz
    12 - Santa Cruz to San Francisco
    13 - San Francisco
    14 - San Francisco
    15 - Fly from San Francisco back to Ireland

  6. #6

    Default Yes, the weather and Carrizo Plain NM

    Quote Originally Posted by xd-data-ii View Post
    Hi Foy,
    will certainly consider the detour to Carizzo Plain National Monument - its in the plan but will depend on my mood and of course the weather
    Great point, Steven, as the Soda Lake Road within CPNM is impassible by conventional autos immediately following a rain (from the visitor center on south, it's a clay + gravel surface).

    I think you'll appreciate having plenty of time for the Cambria to Monterey segment of your trip.

    If you're a "map oriented" individual, you might enjoy acquiring a copy of Benchmark's California recreational map book for CA. I had purchased one before my November 2007 trip and it proved invaluable for all of the bushwhacking I did, plus I enjoy seeing the upcoming topography in map form before I drive through it (ie along the PCH). Finally, you should know that annual passes are available which are good for admission to all US National Parks and most Federal fee admission areas. To the best of my knowledge, they're available to citizens and visitors alike.


    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-20-2008 at 10:01 AM. Reason: fixed the format

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    The Netherlands


    You've got excellent advices and you are going to make a wonderful trip.
    Some details:
    There already can be snow at the higher Co. elevations a we experienced some years ago. Not likely tho. Take your time for Trail Ridge Road and it will be a long day to Vernal. Also keep in mind the NM's Visitor's Dinosaur Quarry still will be closed. Vernal isn't very exiting but has ample lodging.
    The side trip to Flaming Gorge is highly recommended with all the red, yellow green and blue. You'll drive from Vernal on a curvy road to it and there's a nice lodge but probably too far on a one day trip from Estes Park.
    The drive on us50 via Delta is scenic but you'll need your time for Great Basin NP if you want to explore a bit and Eureka is pretty far from there. Don't underestimate distances. My pick would be Ely (Pron: "Elie"). Also more accomodation than Eureka. The drive on "The Loneliest Road in America" (a gimmick!) us50 from Ely to Lake Tahoe is through Range and Basin terrain. Very scenic. You can pick up a booklet says: "I survived the Loneliest road in America)...well. Just keep in mind it's 1 hour from Great Basin to Ely and 1.5 hours to Eureka. Also a great idea to drive from Lake Tahoe only to Lee Vining. Don't miss Bodie Ghosttown, one of the best, and Lee Vining. Have dinner at Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining at the pumpstation. You will thank me for this tip! Yosemite Valley to Cambria will app. be a 5 hours drive and very doable. Then take next day to Monterey as mentioned before. Great trip. Have fun!

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