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  1. #1

    Default That old chestnut - Las Vegas to San Francisco via 395 & Yosemite (120)

    Hi Gurus!

    This is my first time on this great site and on chat forums in general so please excuse my novice ways!

    Myself, hubby and 2 teenage kids are coming to Las Vegas at the end of July this year. We are flying out of LA the 3rd week of August, so 3 weeks of excitement on the West side!

    We've already secured 5 nights in LV followed by 1 night in Williams (after visiting the South Rim on the 6th day). I figured an early start from LV (as I've read on here that it takes 5 hours) will give us the required amount of time to do it justice without getting real down and dirty, donning hiking boots and crampons etc! I reckon staying until evening then motoring back to Williams in time for quick bite & shuteye. Next morning as we're approx one hour away in Williams and don't really want to do the journey back to the South Rim again, we thought about driving to the West Rim to do the glass skywalk before travelling some way back towards LV again and stopping in Boulder City overnight. I thought we could perhaps take in The Hoover Dam the same day but now I think this may be just too much to do in one day, what do you think? Next day we plan on travelling to Bishop via Death Valley (just stopping for a while in Furnace Creek to take it all in as I've checked accommodation already in the park and there's nothing available) but if we didn't manage to do the dam the previous day then do you think we could do the dam before we set out for Bishop taking into account our pit stop in Death Valley?

    We plan to stay in Bishop overnight and do some sight-seeing around this area the following morning/afternoon before we will leave heading northbound making our way leisurely to the 120, perhaps taking-in the June Loop. We're thinking we'd like to stop again on the 395 further up around Lee Vining, maybe, so that we can visit Bodie the following morning (kids especially want to see this). My hubby really doesn't want to commit to booking anywhere in advance for this night so we can be flexible with time and mileage but I'm afraid that as it's peak summer we may find ourselves without a place to stay - what do you think?

    After our 2 nights along the 395 we plan to travel leisurely in Yosemite, along the 120 and do an overnight stop in the valley before travelling on to San Francisco for 6 nights (the highlight of the whole trip for me, personally!). From there, we'll be wanting to travel down the scenic Pacific coast highway stopping 2 nights en-route to LA (suggestions for journey stops, must see's etc, very much appreciated).

    I hope we're not too far off as far as feasibility goes and we would really appreciate your expert input.

    Many thanks in advance......

    The Adams family

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Hi Karen, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    The one thing which jumps out at me is, of the three weeks (21 days) you have allocated more than 50% (11 days) to two cities, while at the same time rushing through and past some of the most magnificent natural wonders on the planet. Is there any special reason for this allocation of time? It takes much more than just a few hours to really absorb the magnificance and majesty of the Grand Canyon, even without hiking. Instead of driving to Williams, you could be better off driving the beautiful Desert View Drive to Cameron Trading Post for your overnight stop. Then next day, you could head back the way you came, for one more look at those sections of the canyon you never got to visit on the first day, before making it back to Hoover Dam and LV.

    Be aware that the Skywalk is not the spectacular Grand Canyon you have got to know from your research. It is on Indian land, very expensive, charged by the person (the NP is $25 per car for multiple entries), the road is not sealed all the way, so you will not be able to take your rental vehicle, their shuttle bus comes at a hefty cost and you will not be allowed to take cameras or telephones with you. Be sure you know what you are getting before you pay for it.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You also will technically be violating your rental car agreement if you go to Bodie. The last 3 miles going in and out is unpaved.

    It's going to cost about $90 a person to go on the Skywalk.

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

    Default Thinking out loud.

    Hi Karen and welcome to RTA from good 'ol sussex by the sea !

    You are in for a wonderful trip and have much to look forward too !

    Just to expand a little on what has been said about your Grand canyon plans. It's going to be rushed with just a few hours there as there are so many viewpoints all offering something amazing, from the village area up to Hermits Rest and along Desert view drive. Having rushed through this and then gone to the time and expense to get to the west rim I think you could end up dissapointed with Skywalk and the views at the west rim. What I would suggest you do is use the money you would save by not visiting Skywalk and try and book lodgings within the National park [you can't beat being there and witnessing a sunset] or nearby and re-visit the next morning. On the way back to Boulder City you could detour onto part of original route 66 through Seligman and it's quirkey Diners and Memorabilia stores before Hoover dam.

    Also and as mentioned previously, Bodie has unmade road and would be be in breach of your rental agreement. Even if this wasn't the case I would still recommend you stay 2 nights in Yosemite. To enjoy the views and to take stop and take a stroll in the meadows and around Tenaya Lake can take up time along Tioga Pass, and it's quite spectacular ! Then you have the valley that can easily soak up a full day and then you have other areas of the park such as Glacier Point with it's unbelievable view of the valley, and Mariposa grove, home of the Giant Sequoia Trees.

    Driving between SF and LA a couple of popular overnight stops would be Monterey for the Aquarium and check out the 17 mile drive. Next up dirve the spectacular coast road [CA1] and around Big Sur to the San Simeon, Cambria area, while stopping and taking in the views and State parks. Hearst Castle is a popular tourist attraction but you would be better off booking in advance if it appealed to you.

    I'm not much of a City person although I really enjoyed San Fran and can understand why this would be thought of as the highlight of your trip at this point. However, I'm not sure this will be the case after you have visited some of these natural wonders, but only you will know at the end of your trip. Just as 'food for thought', I would have had a couple of nights less in Vegas and San Fran and driven the 'Grand circle', going north from LV to Zion and Bryce canyon NP's in Southern Utah and then down through Page AZ to Cameron Trading post [with a possible detour to Monument valley] and then into the GC south rim via the east entrance and then out of the south kiosk back to Boulder via Hoover dam.

    Whatever you decide you are in for a real treat !!

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


    Expanding a bit on what others have said, I wonder if 5 days in Vegas might be too much. So much there is aimed at people 21+ that I think your teenagers might get frustrated with the limitations on what they can do and where they can go. I think Dave's idea of looping around to some of the Utah parks before the Grand Canyon might be a better use of a couple of those days.

    I'd also agree that I think you'll want more time at the Grand Canyon, and I'd much rather have more time at the National Park ($25 for your entire family) than add in the West Rim/Skywalk ($300-400 for your family). If you were really pushed for time, then just spending a half day at the Canyon would be ok, but with the time you've got, I'd spend at least a full day there. Its easy to underestimate just how massive the Canyon is, and how many viewpoints there are to see. For that matter, on a trip with Teens, I'd give some serious consideration to hiking into the Canyon itself a little ways. You don't need any special tools or skills, other than some comfortable shoes and some water, and you don't even have to be in amazing shape to walk down a little ways. Even going a half mile to a mile down into the Canyon is a pretty amazing experience. Just remember, it is always more difficult going back and never try to go to the river and back in a day!

  6. #6


    Just a few comments from a highly biased source. (For full disclosure, I really do not like Las Vegas...)

    I'd consider shifting your time a little bit. 5 days in Vegas would be near torture for me, but I think it would be quite a bit for almost anyone. I'd cut back a bit there and allocate some time elsewhere - maybe look at a little more time at the Grand Canyon (it is spectacular at sunrise and sunset) either staying at Cameron Trading Post or (harder on the budget but more convenient) Tusuyan.

    I like the idea of going a bit more leisurely than most people (including yours truly) tend to go up 395, but you do seem to be rushing Yosemite. I'd recommend, in addition to the valley, at least going out Glacier Point Road and doing a couple of the short walks to see the valley from above.

    If you want to spend time in a city, I'd (personally) prioritize San Francisco over Las Vegas. That being said, 6 days is quite a bit. With the amount of time you have, I'd try to see a little bit of the coast North of San Francisco before heading down. I particularly like the area around Mendocino and Fort Bragg, but if you don't want to go that far North, then perhaps Point Reyes for a couple of days and then through Muir Woods on the way down to San Francisco. Even if you choose not to do this, i highly recommend Muir Woods as a day trip out of San Francisco since you are going to want to go across the Golden Gate anyway.

    The Monterey Peninsula makes a great stop south of San Francisco - you have the Aquarium (as mentioned), 17-Mile Drive (do it leisurely and bring a picnic lunch to eat at one of the beaches on the way). I also recommend Asilomar, the beach at Carmel (although not really a fan of Carmel the town - others are though so take a look around and judge for yourself), and the state park at Point Lobos to see the sea lions. (Hint: you can do as the locals do and park outside on Highway 1 and walk in for free - the walk isn't long and the park rangers don't mind.)

    Others are much better authorities than I on the road South from here, but I can say that I really liked Santa Barbara and that, if I ever won the lottery and could afford to do so, I would consider moving there.

    Have fun - sounds like a great trip


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I did what would be considered a "rush" tour of the Grand Canyon - I came in from Kingman, taking Old 66 to Seligman, and stopping in Williams to prebuy my admission ticket at the tourist center. I arrived in Tusayan in early afternoon and got lucky, I got a room at the 7 Mile Lodge. I checked in and headed into the park, went to the visitors center and parked. I spent the rest of the afternoon on the Hermit's Rest shuttle - getting off at each viewpoint and getting back on the next shuttle. I grabbed something to eat at the snack bar at Hermit's Rest and rode the shuttle straight back to the visitor's center. It was sunset time, I watched it and headed back into Tusayan for the night.

    Next morning, I checked out, drove back in to the park and hit all the viewpoints on Desert View Drive, and got to Cameron in time for a late lunch.

    Why do I ramble like this? Just to tell you that it took me 10 hours just to see each rim viewpoint. You are planning a lot less than that. I would recommend you do nothing less than spend 2 nights at or near the Grand Canyon so you can dedicate a whole day to the park.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default An alternative view about Las Vegas!

    Quote Originally Posted by jcorb2d View Post
    I'd consider shifting your time a little bit. 5 days in Vegas would be near torture for me, but I think it would be quite a bit for almost anyone.
    Jon, RoadTrip America is based in Las Vegas and I've lived there for nearly 13 years and I've not come close to seeing everything one can do here! It's a pretty fab city for road trips and there's plenty to do and explore in town too. We also publish and you might find some of our articles interesting....

  9. #9


    Hi once again, and grateful thanks for all your wonderful comments which we've already started to act upon.

    We will now do as Southwest Dave and a few of you have suggested and try and do more justice to the GC by staying 2 nights instead of just one. We have managed to book in Valle at the Grand Canyon Inn which looks like it will do the job and @30 miles closer than Williams! We couldn't justify the high prices in the park (I suppose at this stage all the more reasonable rates have been booked leaving only the higher end stuff) - c'est la vie! Following Lifey's comment, SWDave's recommendation and our own exploration of prices, we've knocked the West Rim on the head - West Rim a-go-go becomes West Rim a-no-go! (shame it's priced itself out of our budget as that glass walkway has some appeal I have to say, even without the more spectacular scenery of the South Rim). Thanks to GLC, we will definitely try a short hike into the canyon - I surmise these are signposted?

    On the return to Boulder City, we've now decided to take the Desert View Drive to Cameron as suggested and do as SWDave suggests and go via Seligam onto the old 66.

    We've decided to use one of our LV days to do the side trip to the Hoover Dam which will provide us with a break from the razzmatazz and we no longer have to squeeze it in before we head for Bishop via the Death Valley.

    I'm still unsure what to do after staying the night in Bishop and where to spend the subsequent night on the 395 but we've taken your advice and will regretfully give Bodie a miss as we're not in the business to take any risks with the car. Wherever we decide to stay, would you guys recommend that we book or just take a chance and roll-up?

    Thanks again to you guys, we've decided to do 2 nights in the valley, unless there is a reasonable motel along the 120 route before we hit the valley in which case we could spend a night on the actual Tioga Pass and the 2nd night in the valley so we can take in Glacier Point?

    It'd be great to hear your views about some of the above question marks before I move on to the coastal part of our trip. I will say in answer to GLC's question about spending over 50% of our time in the cities - aw, come on, doesn't take much figuring out.....we women like to do the shopping thing and when you have 2 males and 2 females in your party, the females are always top trumps! Ooops, that sounds so sexist...believe me when I say my hubby's in full control...well almost!

    Thanks so much, once again....

  10. #10


    In my defense, I did preface that with saying that it was a personal (and highly biased) opinion.


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