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  1. Default Atlanta to L.A. and back in May

    Hi everyone. I'm a longtime lurker. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip from Atlanta to Disneyland and back in mid-May. We have a pretty flexible block of time (I just finished grad school and have a month before starting my new job), but were thinking about 2 weeks for the whole trip.

    We were thinking of taking the fastest route to get there and then driving back more leisurely, but we're open to any strategy. Planned stops (in either direction) are Dallas and Austin to visit friends and the Grand Canyon. We'll spend a few days doing Disney and visiting friends in L.A.

    We'd like to visit some interesting parks if possible. (I lived in Arizona a few years ago and have done Chicago to Phoenix drives and the Phoenix to Houston drives a few times. I've also done most of the Arizona sights, a bit of route 66, and Monument Valley but not Zion or Bryce.) We also like quirky local stops/unique food, historical sites, and are fairly spontaneous on the road. We have lived in Atlanta for a couple years and have had fun exploring the southeast with shorter trips. Now we're ready for something a bit longer and in a westerly direction.

    I'd appreciate any route suggestions. From what I've read on this board, we should plan about 4 days to drive directly there. Does it make sense to drive straight there and then meander a bit on the way back? Or should we split up the visits/stops more evenly? What parks would we be able to hit and keep the trip to 2 weeks?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Welcome to RTA!

    The fastest, most direct route from ATL to LA is indeed 4 days, via I-20/US-78/I-40/I-15. Suggested overnights would be Little Rock, Amarillo, and Flagstaff. Any detours for whatever reason will start adding days.

    Do you have the weekends at both ends to work with, giving you 16 days?

  3. Default

    If you go via Amarillo, there's a good state park nearby (about 25 miles each way from the city): Palo Duro Canyon. It's the second largest canyon in the USA and you can easily drive down inside it.

    There are quite a few national monuments near Flagstaff, mainly Anasazi/ancestral pueblo people related: Walnut Canyon, Wupatki and Montezuma Castle.

    Nearer Los Angeles, you might want to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

    On the southern route, there's Casa Grande National Monument (south of Phoenix), and Saguaro National Park near Tucson (giant cacti).

    While I'd very highly recommend the parks in southwestern Utah, they are unfortunately quite a long way off the direct route and Zion in particular really deserves at least one full day at the very minimum so you can ride the shuttle bus up the scenic road and do some of the easier and shorter hiking trails.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA! Glad you posted after lurking so long!

    Two weeks is about the shortest time recommended for a semi-cross-country jaunt and back like that. You're looking at 4 days minimum for a direct route without sightseeing jaunts (except maybe an hour off the road here and there). Then 3 days minimum, probably, at DLR (so you can do both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure DL/DCA), right? That gives you 7 days to get back.

    You've gotten the main two routings, taking I-40 et al and I-10 et al. There's lots to see along either route, but it would depend on your priorities. My husband says he'd opt for I-40 in mid-May, only because it's a shade cooler than the heat of the desert, but bear in mind that we've done (and will be doing again) the desert of I-10 in June and July. I think if it were ME, I'd push for I-10 on the way to CA, and then I-40 on the way back if you are looking for a more leisurely return.


  5. Default

    Thanks for the advice! I lived in Phoenix, so I've done Saguaro and Casa Grande a few times already. I'm definitely interested in Joshua Tree and thanks for the tip on Palo Duro Canyon. We've both been to the Grand Canyon before, but I love it so much that I can't not stop there.

    We do have the weekends to work with. We're very flexible. We just need to be at Disney for an event on May 17 and 18 so I'm planning on being in the LA area for 3 nights. Since neither of us have obligations for the month, we could extend the trip by a few days. I'm trying to decide if some of those Utah sights would be worth adding a couple days. Once I start my job, I'm not sure I'll have an opportunity like this for awhile, so I want to pack it all in!

    Friends in San Fran have asked if we could drive up there from LA, which would add another couple days. But I'm thinking that it could be more pleasant than the desert in May? My boyfriend is also interested in Yosemite, so I would imagine that would mean adding days to the CA portion of the trip and not making as many stops on the way back to Atlanta.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post

    I'd push for I-10 on the way to CA, and then I-40 on the way back if you are looking for a more leisurely return.
    This is what I was initially thinking. In that case, we would stop in Dallas and Austin on the way there and hit the Grand Canyon on the way back.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Why There Is No "Best"

    You have gotten some good advice on general routing, but in the end, no one can tell you which route is best for either leg, because there simply is no "best" route, only the one you choose which best suits your needs and interests. I would make exactly the opposite case from what Donna has made. I'd recommend I-40 westbound and I-10 eastbound. The I-40 route is marginally shorter, both in terms of miles and time. You've apparently driven it before and have seen many of its great sights. The temperature difference isn't really that great and presumably your car is air-conditioned. And perhaps most importantly, the stops you have to make and spend some time at, Austin and Dallas, are more easily accessible from the I-10 route. Besides you'd have your Disneyland experiences as a topic of conversation on the way back.

    So, given a spare two or three days along that route headed home, where would I suggest you stop for both scenery and quirkery. You could start by getting off I-10 near Indio CA and taking CA-86 down past the Salton Sea (~100 feet below sea level) to I-8, visit the Yuma Territorial Prison, rejoin I-10 in Tucson, check out Kartchner Caverns and perhaps Tombstone, maybe see Fort Lancaster in west Texas and/or the LBJ Ranch outside Fredericksburg, treat your friends to the Salt Lick near Austin, head up to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, stop and see the spot where Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down just south of Gibsland LA (you're on I-20 now), walk the former battle lines in Vicksburg, and see the Petrified Forest of Mississippi. Certainly not all of those sites would fit into your return drive, and you will probably find others that appeal more to your own desires. But that's the basic case for the 'I-10' return.


  7. Default

    Thanks AZBuck! I've done Yuma, Kartchner Caverns and Tombstone when I lived in Arizona. The only thing I really wanted to see in AZ again was the Grand Canyon, so I'm okay with driving the TX-AZ portion of I-10 without major stops. (Incidentally, I'm a huge Tombstone fan and have been to the movie set at Mescal many times. I like it much better than the city of Tombstone and heartily recommend it!)

    I'm also into Civil War sights, so Vicksburg is a great idea.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    In 2012, we stopped at Vicksburg as one of those "let's drive through it" places. Well, that didn't work out quite that way. We stopped at a more than a few pullovers than we expected to, finally deciding a little later to only stop at the "big obvious ones". One of those was the Illinois Memorial, and the other was the USS Cairo and vicinity. Still, that was a 3-hour "drive through" of a 14 mile road. Just letting you know so that you can plan accordingly. After we were done, we still had about 2-1/2 hours to drive. We didn't pull in until 6:30 that evening (normal for us is by 3 or 4 pm), and we still had to find dinner. But we loved Vicksburg, and will stop again sometime!


  9. Default

    Thank you all so much for these tips. We had to plan a slightly different route in order to visit some friends along the way (which was a major reason for the trip in the first place). We are planning to take a more southerly route along I-10 in order to visit a friend in New Orleans and a friend in Austin (that's a bit of a detour). We were hoping to spend the night in these cities, but I'm concerned that we won't be making enough progress during the first couple days of driving.

    We are leaving Monday morning and need to be in LA by Friday evening. We were not planning to do many stops between Austin and LA, but it seems like a very long haul to tackle in two days. That stretch through Texas is brutal. I'm thinking maybe we don't spend the night in Austin, but if we keep pushing, I'm not sure how far we could get. I think Fort Stockton would be way too ambitious, but there doesn't seem to be much in between there and Austin.

    (We are taking a different route back at a much more leisurely pace.)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Please come back and let us know how your trip went. We even have a special forum for them, called Trip Reports, but even just posting here in the same thread may help someone else planning their trips.

    HAVE FUN and drive safe!!!!


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