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  1. Default SF-LA-GC-Tahoe-Yosemite-SF (again)

    I have spent many an hour browsing your brilliant site (thanks for all your quite astounding efforts) and have used it to research yet another road trip from San Francisco. What's different about our requirements is that we are travelling with a young child (nearly two at the end of the year) and so need to keep each day's driving to under 5 hours, with plenty of stops and good breaks between road journeys.

    Using your advice to other posters, and googlemaps, I have sketched out a plan and just wanted to sense check it with the experts. We are travelling from the UK, flying direct to SF, for 36 days from 1 December (I have noted the big roads and included approx travel times to the destination):

    1-3: San Francisco
    4-6: Big Sur (US101) – 3 hours
    7-8: Morro Bay (US101) – 2h20
    9-11: Los Angeles (US101) – 3h30-4h30
    12: Needles, CA (i15-i40) - 4h10-6h20 - any other suggestions for a stop over?
    13-15: Grand Canyon (i40) – 3h30
    16-17: Zion (i89) - 4h40
    18-19: Las Vegas (i15) – 3 hours
    20-21: Lone Pine (via Death Valley) (US95-NV374) – 4h40
    22: Mono City (US395) – 2h40
    23-27: South Lake Tahoe (family gathering so dates fixed) (US395) – 2h20
    28-31: Yosemite (CA50-CA49) – 4h20
    1-2: Napa (CA120-CA12) – 4 hours
    3-5: Bodega Bay (CA12-CA116) – 1h30
    6: San Francisco (fly home)

    We did a four week road trip in January 2009 in South Africa so we have an idea of what we are getting ourselves into, however we haven’t done a trip like this in winter. The main priorities are landscapes, not cities although, as we are here, it would be churlish not to visit SF, LA and LV. Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite are musts so route chosen is due to winter road conditions.

    So, given your vast knowledge, does this trip sound vaguely sensible? Anything I should add/ leave out without increasing time on the road?


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

    Default Well planned

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you've got a very nice plan that you should have no problems with. Its really quite a relaxed pace.

    If I made any changes, I might spend a few less days at some places and spend a little more time in Northern Arizona and Utah. You could look at adding in places like Monument Valley and/or Bryce Canyon pretty easily.

    Also, going from LA east, I might instead head towards Palm Springs and visit Joshua Tree National Park on your way to the Grand Canyon.

    I think there are a few places where you could easily take some time away, for example, You could make the trip down the California Coast in 3 or 4 days instead of 5, or you could make the trip from Vegas to Tahoe via Death Valley in 2 days instead of 3.

    I'd also say that you could consider going up to the Redwoods in Northern California at the end of your trip. Again, this would just involve trimming some of your time at the other places you've listed after Tahoe. It might be more than you want to do, but its something you could consider.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Some comments:

    SF to Big Sur to Morro Bay is best seen by taking CA-1, not US-101. See if you can work in a Hearst Castle tour. I agree with Michael - instead of taking I-15, go through Joshua Tree and spend a night in 29 Palms. Then take Amboy Rd. and old 66 to meet up with I-40 near Needles. You can then head back to the old road up through Oatman and then on to Kingman - and stay on the old road to Seligman.

    My only concern with touring Utah in December is the possibility of snow. To enter Zion from the east can be tricky - the road is very mountainous and winding, you have to go through a tunnel, and the road is very subject to icing conditions. You will need to keep track of the weather and conditions.

    A better way into Death Valley from LV is the "locals route" - 160 to Pahrump, Bell Vista/Ash Meadows/Stateline roads to Death Valley Junction and in the east entrance on 190.

  4. Default

    Many thanks for your comments - I will amend our route to take on your suggestions. Our only date definites are Tahoe and, probably, Yosemite as it is high season and we should probably book accommodation early - we are going to keep the trip flexible and stay longer/ shorter at places/ change the route depending on how the moment feels (and the baby demands and the weather requires).

    The journey is definitely as important as the destinations and, as much as possible, we would like to go the scenic route, visiting the quirkier attractions en route. Any favourites?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default timing

    With the exception of your time right around christmas, you actually be in really good shape as far as not making reservations. The last week in November until just before christmas is typically one of the slowest times in the tourism industry. You shouldn't have any problem finding open rooms during the vast majority of your trip.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    What a great kid-friendly schedule you have there. It is bound to be a great experience.

    You might like to consider a small detour to Calistoga, north of Napa, to the Old Faithful Geyser of California. The little one is bound to love their mini zoo.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Redwoods are easy....

    Seems like a lot of time in Bodega Bay (more family?), but as long as you are there you can visit redwoods quite easily along the Russian River or (better) Muir Woods in Marin. No need to head 200 miles north unless you REALLY like redwoods. True Redwood country starts a little north of Garberville on 101 (Humboldt State Redwoods) and continues in bits and pieces all the way to the Oregon border. The National Parks are WAY up there, probably beyond your reach on this trip (one day up, one day back from the SF Bay Area).

  8. Default

    The Napa and Bodega Bay bits are more an indication of the general area we would like to explore, slowly - we would like a few days to chill out before the flight home and reality. We don't really want to drive too much more as it is already rather a mammoth trip for the little one (although, who knows what whim may take us or where we will end up?). Trees are nice but we love the sea and would like nice coastal walks to round off our trip - given the season, unfortunately swimming is out of the question. Any favourite chill places near the sea which are not too far from SF?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Seaside options near SF

    In SF itself you have Ocean Beach (which I always find kind of boring... flat expanse of sand fronting water too cold to go into), Baker Beach closer to the GG Bridge, then the whole northern tier of The City starting with Fort Point through Crissy Field to the Marina and eventually North Beach. Not true beaches perhaps, but very tied to the water.

    Outside The City (yes, natives tend to capitalize that; if you listen carefully you can almost make out the capital letters when we say the words):

    Point Reyes national seashore in Marin - see the beach where possibly Sir Francis Drake made repairs to his ship. This is less than an hour from SF. Good place to walk beaches, plus a lighthouse for good measure.

    Point Lobos a little past Carmel (two hours) is a gorgeous marine sanctuary - . More cliffside walks than beach time here.

    Carmel itself has a very nice little beach. Next door, Pacific Grove has a very scenic waterfront walk (on a small bluff maybe 10 feet above the water. Of course, Monterey and Cannery row are built right on and are extensions of Monterey Bay. The aquarium there is world-class.

    There are some state beaches along the San Mateo County coast just south of SF on CA 1 where you can walk the beach. These run from maybe 30 minutes to an hour from SF. Three are a number of small towns on the coast worth checking out for local flavor; Half Moon Bay is the biggest, Pescadero is one of the quaintest.

    For tide-poolers (check the tide tables), try the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve about an hour south of SF on the San Mateo coast.

    CAUTION: I almost hate to bring this up, but I must. December on the California coast is storm season. If you're on a beach, be somewhat wary of big waves coming out of nowhere. I don't want to make you paranoid, these are very rare occurrences. People at risk tend to be those standing on rocks right at water's edge who aren't paying sufficient attention (fisherman usually). It's no worse than crossing the street really, except people remember to watch for cars and they don't always expect that one wave that's much bigger than the last 10. If you go down to the ocean that time of year, keep an eye out for exceptionally large waves coming in, and move back a bit if you see one.

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