Have just booked a couple of flights with Air Canada for a trip to Western USA with my g/f. I have been to the area a couple of times before so have a bit of a feel for the lay of the land but it'll be her first time there so I am looking to make the trip as good as possible and would welcome your input.
The following is the tentative itinerary but I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to make it better. We're both looking for a relatively laid-back trip (which is most unlike anything I have done before!!!) with lots of national parks and a lot of hiking (I have got very fat since I got back to live in the UK!)
Monday 28th June: Leave LHR 15:00 : Arrive SFO 22:02. Overnight: Airport motel
Tuesday 29th June: Drive to Yosemite NP. Overnight: Yosemite Camping (202 miles)
Wednesday 30th June: Yosemite NP - Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove. Overnight: Yosemite Camping
Thursday 1st July: Yosemite NP. Overnight: Yosemite Camping
Friday 2nd July: Drive over Tioga Pass to Bodie Ghost town and on to Death Valley. Overnight: Death Valley (301 miles)
Saturday 3rd July: Death Valley, Red Rock Canyon. Overnight: Las Vegas Hotel (167 miles)
Sunday 4th July: Las Vegas then drive to Zion NP (via Valley of Fire??). Overnight: Zion campground (163 miles)
Monday 5th July: Zion NP. Overnight: Zion campground
Tuesday 6th July: Zion NP then drive to Page AZ - Horseshoe Bend. Overnight: Motel??? (148 miles)
Wednesday 7th July: Drive to Mesa Verde NP via Four Corners. Overnight: Mesa Verde Campground (237 miles)
Thursday 8th July: Mesa Verde NP. Overnight: Mesa Verde Campground
Friday 9th July: Drive to Arches NP. Overnight: Cabin in Moab (153 miles)
Saturday 10th July: Arches NP. Overnight: Cabin in Moab
Sunday 11th July: Canyonlands NP (Islands in the Sky) & quad bike tour. Overnight: Cabin in Moab
Monday 12th July: Canyonlands NP (Horseshoe Canyon). Overnight: Canyonlands NP Campground (105 miles)
Tuesday 13th July: Drive to Monument Valley via Moki Dugway and Valley of Gods Road. Overnight: ??? (210 miles)
Wednesday 14th July: Monument Valley jeep tour then drive to Grand Canyon NP. Overnight: Motel??? (270 miles)
Thursday 15th July: Grand Canyon NP. Overnight: Grand Canyon Campground
Friday 16th July: Drive to Joshua Tree NP. Overnight: Joshua Tree NP Campground (335 miles)
Saturday 17th July: Joshua Tree NP then drive to San Diego. Overnight: San Diego Hotel (193 miles)
Sunday 18th July: San Diego / rest day. Overnight: San Diego Hotel
Monday 19th July: San Diego Zoo then drive to Long Beach. Overnight: Onboard Queen Mary (107 miles)
Tuesday 20th July: Los Angeles. Overnight: Ventura Motel (93 miles)
Wednesday 21st July: Channel Islands NP ??? then drive to Solvang. Overnight: Solvang Hotel (61 miles)
Thursday 22nd July: Pacific Coast Highway. Overnight: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (170 miles)
Friday 23rd July: Pacific Coast Highway and return car to airport. Overnight: Cheap airport hotel (144 miles)
Saturday 24th July: San Francisco. Overnight: Downtown San Fran Hotel
Sunday 25th July: San Francisco. Overnight: Downtown San Fran Hotel
Monday 26th July: Depart SFO 11:55. Overnight: Overnight flight
Tuesday 27th July: Arrive LHR 11:25. Overnight:
Total estimated miles: 3059
All mileages have been suggested by Streets and Trips which tends to be relatively accurate but I have tried to keep them down as much as possible as it is prone to the odd howler. I don't see any of the days as anything too troubling but I think there is enough flexibility in the schedule to just pull off the highway into a motel if need be.
Would particularly welcome any input on the best way to get a good value Las Vegas hotel (on the strip - towards the centre ideally) and anything about the Channel Islands National Park trips. Has anyone been over there?
Would also welcome suggestions on the best place to stay in downtown San Diego and San Francisco. I would have loved to have stayed on the pier motel in San Diego but it is very expensive and there is a minimum three night stay so we're thinking of just staying in a cheap out of town motel (what is the best way to get into town and where should we see/miss?) and using the saved money to fund a really nice place in San Fran to end the trip (which is the best area/hotel in San Fran?)
Finally - we are hopefully early enough to secure spaces in Yosemite, Zion and Grand Canyon campgrounds; any suggestions to the best campground in each park (looking for somewhere with a good location, good surrounding landscape and a few facilities: toilet, shower, etc.) and the best location within. I hope that we'll be able to arrange camping on the other national park sites when we arrive?
Sorry for so many questions but, as I say, any help would be appreciated!!