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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    The Hague, Holland as an Expat Brit

    Default The South West, with the kids

    I realise this is one of the most popular routes but I couldnt see anything about it in recent posts, and going further back, I couldn't see much at all about a trip for kids!

    We will be going to LA at the end of July to pick up a camper for three weeks, dropping it off in Phoenix.

    There are some long runs in the route I planned, way too long for two young kids (who, at this moment, still believe a camper holiday means staying in bed watching DVDs while zooming down the Interstate!), so it would be nice to get some tips about good stops on the way, good routes, etc. anything with Tubing, family canoeing, natural swimming stops, activity stuff, nice walks, bicycling, anything like that.

    I need to split the long runs (>8 hours) into two runs.

    In particular I'm looking for good overnighters, and/or lunch stops, and/or overday for the following legs of the journey:

    San Diego -> Big Sur: (8 hours driving?)
    I need a good place to stop on Big Sur for the night (or maybe two) - I heard about a camping site with some tubing fun on offer? I maybe need a camping stop on the way as well, with anything like the above list.

    Yosemite -> Las Vegas (8 hours)
    Good camping needed with anything from the above list

    Las Vegas -> Grand Canyon (Helluva distance!)
    Not sure about Supai/Havasupai valley as a stop here, might be too much walking for the kids (too much money for the parents if we take the helicopter - $800 or so) - any other suggestions?

    Any other suggestions as to routes, real fun things to do, etc would be most welcome! What's the advice on Yosemite for this time of the year?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Specifics

    I'm a bit surprised that you couldn't find 'much at all about a trip for kids!', but then as a Moderator, I'm supposed to know my way around this website. For some general tips, check here, and for a recent discussion, read this thread (starting about halfway through). And yes, definitely break up any drive that you think will be over 8 hours. First because kids are not going to be able to put up with that much time cooped up in a seat (and YES, they MUST be in a proper seat with their seatbelt fastened any time the vehicle is in motion!), and secondly because however long you 'think' the drive will be, it will be longer. By the same token, plan to take at least a couple of stops on any full day's drive to get out of the car at a state park, forest or other natural setting for some fresh air and exercise. Walking into a McDonalds' doesn't count.

    I'd recommend looking through the California state park website for what's available in the way of camping along the Big Sur. Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP is about where you might want to spend the night. I'd call them and talk to a real person about what you might expect. I just read a news article today that due to California's budget problems, they may be forced to close some of their facilities. Also, this is a very popular destination so make reservations as soon as possible. Another possibility worth checking is Los Padres National Forest.

    Finding water and scenery between Yosemite and Las Vegas is going to be a problem. If you come down through the Central Valley, that is mostly farming country, but is the fastest way, so you could conceivably make the drive to Las Vegas in one fell swoop (subject to the caveats above). If you leave Yosemite over Tioga Pass and come down US-395, there are campgrounds around Crowley Lake, but that would still leave a fairly long drive into Las Vegas through mostly desert and by dry lakes.

    As for the Grand Canyon, the South Rim is the 'classic' place to visit for good reason. It offers some of the best views and the most services. Getting in and out of the West Rim is, as you noted, difficult, time consuming and expensive, but can give you some amazing experiences if you're willing to do some serious hiking. You might also find some cheaper flights over the Canyon out of Tusayn, AZ just south of the National Park, although flights into the Canyon have been prohibited for nearly 20 years now.

    For all the places you hope to visit and camp, my one compelling piece of advice is to make reservations ASAP. It may already be too late for Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Keep your eye on the news...

    Echoing AZBucks comments, and adding some more things to ponder.

    California is in the middle of a budget crisis, and the politicos right now are making noises about closing a lot of state parks. "A lot" means most, at this point. They are talking about closing 220 of the 279 state parks.

    It hasn't happened yet, but if you're planning a trip that includes staying in California (as opposed to national) parks, you need to stay on top of the latest news.

    Even worse, the Big Sur area was hit by massive fires last season, and the parks have not yet fully opened. Check the California State Parks website for current conditions and updates. Here's what is says right now about Julia Pfeiffer Burns:

    NOTE: Trails on the west side of Highway 1, including the McWay Falls Overlook trail, Partington Cove, and the environmental campsites, are open for public use and enjoyment. The picnic area is also open. All trails on the east side of Highway 1, including the Canyon Falls trail, Ewoldson trail and Tan Bark Trail, will remain closed until further notice due to extremely hazardous trail conditions caused by the fire and winter mudslides. Please carefuly observe closure signs.

    The ADA access ramp to the McWay Falls Overlook trail will also be closed until further notice.

    And here's what it says about Pfeiffer Big Sur:

    Reservations for Pfeiffer Big Sur SP will be available May 18, 2009 at 8:00 AM. Due to fire damage in 2008 a limited number of campsites will be available in South Camp and Weyland. Main Camp will be off reservations due to a major capital outlay project and is anticipated to be closed during the summer. The reservation period for 2009 will be from May 22 through October 31.

    Things can change, but right now it is probably NOT a good idea to make plans that expect a California state park to be open.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    The Hague, Holland as an Expat Brit

    Default Good Info..

    I thought with a KOA pass and a look of foreign innocence I could get anywhere..

    Does anybody have good tips for camping/sites for Yosemite or Grand Canyon South Rim?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default NP camping.

    Quote Originally Posted by dutchdavey View Post
    Does anybody have good tips for camping/sites for Yosemite or Grand Canyon South Rim?
    You can't beat the campsites in the National parks, but I fear that it may already be to late to find available sites. Look for your parks on the NPS site and check your dates for availability. Yosemite has lower/middle and upper pines campgrounds in the valley or Wawona campground and at Grand canyon is Mather campground, but do it asap.

    If you have no luck there are campgrounds at Oakhurst [High Sierra ]and at Groveland [Yosemite pines] which are adequate but use the search engine for other possibility's.

    In Las Vegas the Oasis RV park is a very nice park and has a shuttle bus service to the start of the Strip services although it goes around the houses a bit between different hotels and I would recommend taking a cab.

    Vegas to GC is not as great a distance as the others and could be done in 5 hours or so depending on Hoover dam delays and add any time you might want to spend there. From Kingman you could take part of old route 66 through Seligman which has some weird and wonderful memorabilia shops etc on route. I am not sure about RV parks between Vegas and GC south rim but out the East entrance on 64 and 89 you will find Cameron trading post. The RV park is more a dusty car park but the shops and food make up for it. I wouldn't recommend Havasupai in the RV without checking, I think it it turns into a dirt track towards the end, but I am not sure.

    If you want to share your full itinerary we might be able to give you some more tips and info on route. How long are you staying in Yosemite, GC etc ?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    The Hague, Holland as an Expat Brit

    Default Itinerary

    It looks like this at the moment. As you might guess, the idea is to 'pad it out' to the full 19 days. Both Jackson and the Supai are 'wishlist' items. The Supai looked really cool, and Jackson, well, I got drunk there in 1992 with a Scottish bar owner..

    I need good places to stop everywhere (the ideas above are a v. good start) and I need to break up the two long trips. Assuming I break these (somehow) into two days each, well I have another five days to spend in other places.

    One thing which seems to be an issue, (isn't it always?) is that I want to stay as flexible as possible. If we are staying somewhere where the kids are having a lot of fun, we might want to stay a day extra. This might rule out fixed reservations, unless we decide to add a day in as leeway. On the other hand, if there's room 20 miles from Yosemite, We might want to visit Yosemite or GC from a distance, say, and drive there and back for a day visit..

    Day:------From:---------To:-----------------Miles:-Hours:----- To Do:
    03-Aug----Los Angeles---San Diego-----------120---2-3.5 ------SeaWorld
    04-Aug----San Diego-----Camping on Big Sur--376---6.5-8.5
    05-Aug----Camping-------San Francisco------200---4
    06-Aug----San Francisco-Jackson-------------135---2.5
    08-Aug----Yosemite------Las Vegas-----------500---8
    09-Aug----Las vegas-----Supai---------------214---5.5
    10-Aug----Supai---------Grand Canyon-------60----2.5
    11-Aug----Grand Canyon-Monument Valley----184---3.5
    12-Aug----Monument Valley-Petrified Forest---185---4
    13-Aug----Petrified Forest-Phoenix------------279---4
    22-Aug Fly Home

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Flexibility

    Yes, I prefer having flexibility, too. And, having had many years of traveling with kids, I totally relate to wanting to stay longer if you find a spot where everyone is having a blast.

    I'd suggest that you make reservations for at least your first night when you've just picked up your rig and are tired from flying. And then come armed with contact information for campsites along your route. Here is a list of some campground guidebooks we recommend. These guides generally have reprints each year so make sure you get the 2009 version. This way you can call ahead a day or two, or even the day of, to reserve a campsite for the night once you know when you'll be where.

    Of course, you might find that you have to camp a bit farther from some of the things you want to see doing things this way but if you're cool with that, this may be your best option.

    For more ideas of what to see and do, the best thing you can do is read through some of our prior discussions about the areas you're traveling through. Check these out:
    California-Vegas: links to various posts on these areas
    Beaches between SF & LA
    CA-1 between Carmel and San Diego

    These should get you started. You could do your own search (via green bar search function above) to find more. After you've come up with further ideas, keep asking questions and we'll do our best to help you tweak things.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 06-02-2009 at 10:56 AM. Reason: added further info

  8. Default camping - national parks

    I found a couple great books that were very helpful in planning our cross country trip this summer. Both are Frommer's books. One is "National Parks of the American West" and the other is "National Parks with kids". Both were written in 2008, with good up to date info. They had lots of great info on the different campgrounds and many do not take reservations. The book even tells you the approximate time you should arrive at the campground if you want to get a site. Mind you, we haven't taken our trip yet, so I can't give you first hand info, but I got a wealth of info from those books.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    The Hague, Holland as an Expat Brit

    Default National Parks

    Does "National Parks" include State Parks?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default An option

    You can get all the info you need from the nps website and a great list of State parks posted by Howard.

    [originally posted by PNW Judy] I'd suggest that you make reservations for at least your first night when you've just picked up your rig and are tired from flying.
    dutchdavey, As far as I am aware you are not permitted to pick up the RV on the same day as arrival on an international flight. [just so you are aware].

    Your itinerary looks fine if you spread it out over the full time but depending on your decision regarding the Havasupai part, you could consider heading North from Vegas on I-15 and visit Zion NP and Bryce canyon before heading through Page/Lake Powell to MV and GC.

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