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  1. #1

    Default California Roadtrip: SF to LA loop

    Hello there everyone!

    I've been studying past threads that pertain to our upcoming roadtrip and still have a few questions. We're a group of four (two Americans, two French) twenty-somethings that will be renting a car to roadtrip between San Francisco and Los Angeles over a 3 week time period, late July through mid-August. Here's our tentative itinerary, very open to changes:

    Days 1-3, San Francisco, getting over jet-lag (3 of us are flying in from France) and visiting the city
    Days 4-5, Point Reyes, camp site already booked
    Day 6, San Francisco, 4th member of our party flying in that day
    Days 7-9, driving south on Hwy 1, camping in Big Sur
    Days 10-13, Los Angeles, exploring the city w/ a friend who lives there
    Day 14, Joshua Tree
    Days 15-17, Kings Canyon, camping & hiking
    Days 18-20, Yosemite, camping & hiking
    Day 21, return to SF for evening flight

    My questions are these:

    1.) Is 2-3 days ample time to enjoy the drive down the coast? I'd like to be open to stopping and seeing any great spots, and having a nice hike in the Big Sur area.

    2.) Driving down Highway 1/PCH, between Carmel & Santa Barbara, where are good places to stay (not to expensive)? We're open to camping and to reasonably priced hotels/motels.

    3.) Is going to Joshua Tree in August a crazy idea? I see that the temps are at their hottest during this time of the year but I've also heard that its an amazing place to visit.

    4.) Are we doing too much if we try to swing Kings Canyon and Yosemite in 6 days? Drive times will be the longest I think to, between, and from these sites, but if it is doable, I'd like to try it. However, if you wise road-trippers advise to choose one or the other, I'd heed such advice!

    5.) Other suggestions welcome!!! I.E. places to stop along the way, lodging, great food, etc. Also, don't hestitate to let me know what you think of the timing I've planned in this itinerary!

    Many, many thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    The Netherlands


    3 days is ok for the drive between SF and LA but you also can take a week. I'd plan another stay between Big Sur and LA like in Pismo Beach or Avila beach.
    Joshua Tree will be very hot indeed. It's not in my top ten of National Parks and it used to be a National Monument. You can do rockclimbing and see the Joshua trees of course. I would not call it a must visit in summer.
    Your biggest challenge will be to get a campground in Yosemite NP. Prob they all are sold out. It's certainly doable to see Seki and Yosemite in 6 days imo.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Huntington Beach, CA


    Hello and welcome to California! I grew up on the central coast and i can share some knowledge of the area and give you my tips/advice...

    1.) 3 days should be fine in big sur. Campgrounds that are worth the stay... Julia Phiefer Burns is the north most and has a wonderfull waterfall right on the beach which is a short hike to get to. Limekiln is about in the middle and has a great bridge you can camp underneath and waterfalls to hike back to in the canyon. Plasket Creek is southmost and has a nice long beach a short walk away. I would also suggest taking Nacimento Ferguson road for a short drive up for the views. This road is just south of Kirk Creek campground and will take you to the highest peak in the coastal range mountains that is the closest to the ocean. Enjoy! The very south end of big sur there is a point called ragged point, they got a nice place to eat there.

    2.) I suggest you drive through cambria instead of staying on the highway. The main street is a page outa history. Main Street Cafe on the north end of Town is the best food in Town. Morro Bay (my hometown) is worth driving out to "The Rock". You cant miss it unless its foggy. There are two campgrounds in town... ONe right on the beach at the north end of town and one by the golf course in the back bay. I suggest Eating at the Hofbrau for a steak sandwich or Giovanii's Fish market for fresh fish. (both on the embarcadero) North of Santa Barbara there are three campgrounds i suggest... Refugio, El Capitan, and a private one called Ocean Mesa. (ocean mesa you can call ahead and get a spot, they also have a pool and hot tub)

    3.) I would skip Joshua Tree in August. Too far south in my opinion for your loop. To me its just a desert and it will be 115 outside. Maybe come in late at night and stay for the sunrise and get on your way. I would just head east from santa barbara and make your way to Yosemite. Again.. Just my opinion.

    4.) Kings Canyon and Yosemite in 6 days should be fine. Your toughest part will be finding camping this time of year. Look for private campgrounds and cabins and call right now.

    5.) Looks fun. Take time to stop and drive through the little towns eat at the restraunts with the longest lines! Stay of the highways when you can.

    Have Fun!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Relaxed.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    I would say youre trip plans are positively relaxed compared to many we see [and attempt !]. As mentioned previously, you may have problems with booking a campground in the National parks as they are very popular. You could keep checking the site for cancellations and you have the option of gambling on getting a non reservable site on a 'First come-First served' basis or you might prefer the security of booking campgrounds outside of the parks so that you know you have somewhere to stay, even if it was for the first night near each and get in early to try and secure a spot.

    A trip to SF usually means a boat trip to Alcatraz and I would recommend it. This would also be better booked in advance as it is also very popular and at the very least would save you waiting in long lines at the ticket office. These can be booked in advance through the NPS which is the only official booking office where you don't pay agents fees or have to book other tours with it. [The way they make their money]

  5. #5

    Default Thank you!

    Thanks to everyone who responded for the advice. I'm glad our itinerary seems to fit a good, relaxed pace - that's what we're aiming for!

    Definitely leaning towards lopping off the leg south to Joshua Tree in favor of more time in Kings Canyon & Sequoia Nat'l Park / Yosemite. Looking at staying in a Sierra Forest Service site one night and trying some Yosemite 1st come, 1st served sites early, if possible! A little worried that might be a delusional dream though... Yosemite seems like it'll be quite packed and touristy at this time of year (something I knew when we booked this trip, but still...). Another reason I'm leaning towards spending more time in the Kings Canyon area; I've read that its not as crowded.

    Also, the more I read about things along the stretch of Highway 1 we'll be driving, the more I think I'll want to stay forever! I've noted to drive through downtown Cambria, great tip, thank you!

    Thank you and happy trails!

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