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  1. Default First Time Pacific Highway: Last Minute Trip Suggestions

    First of all, I apologize for posting this before thoroughly searching this website, but here is my dilemma.

    Yesterday, I ran across a good RV relocation deal (I've done these before) and will be taking a 31 foot RV from San Francisco to Phoenix. I have 7 nights, which really means 6 FULL days in between two half days. I pick it up September 17 and have to drop it off September 24. That gives me less than 3 weeks to plan this trip.

    I have never been on the Pacific Coast Highway but hear that it should be on everyone's "Bucket List", so this will be a major focus of our trip. I could spend the entire rental just on the PCH, but is there enough to see? Are there hidden gems in SoCal or Arizona? My wife and I are nature buffs and love sightseeing in National Parks, State Parks, etc. We like short scenic walks but both of us have knee problems that prevent strenuous or long hikes. We are not into art, antiques, nightlife but my wife does like wine.

    Are there any public or private campgrounds that stand out, and require reservations? If so, I can call every day hoping for last minute cancellations. This has worked well for me in the past. Any quirky attraction, restaurant, out of the way or unusual place to visit?

    I don't have to go directly south. We could head north several hours before turning onto the PCH if warranted. I read about a place called "glass beach". That sounds out of the way and quirky, but is it worth the detour?

    I will be planning this trip in earnest over the Labor Day Holiday, but don't want to miss out on some gems because of poor planning. With such a short time to plan this, I am worried that I will miss something obvious.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Some Thoughts

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There is certainly no shortage of natural settings and short scenic hikes in the areas of California and Arizona that you'll be driving through. The PCH is just one of many scenic roads. Other locations and roads that you might want to consider depend, of course, on your basic choice of routes. So here is my first offering for your consideration. After taking the PCH down to Cambria, head inland long before you get to the (shudder!) L.A. Basin and Inland Empire. CA-46 to the Bakersfield are would be a good choice, then CA-58 across to Barstow and I-40. You could then take I-40 to Flagstaff and loop around counter-clockwise (so the canyon and pull-offs are on your side of the road) through Grand Canyon National Park returning to Flagstaff. Next up would be AZ-89A south through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona an Red Rock Country. Finally, depending on time available and your comfort with driving your rig on less than straight, flat, and wide roads, you could finish off with a tour of Jerome, Cottonwood and Prescott before ending up in Phoenix.

    Along a route such as outlined above you'd find the following: Monterey with its old (great walking tours) historic district, San Simeon (Hearst Castle), Mojave National Preserve (at least check in at the Kelso Visitors Center), the longest remaining stretch of the old Route 66 roadbed (now signed as AZ-66 from Kingman to Seligman through Peach Springs), several great smaller National Monuments in the Flagstaff area as well as the Museum of Northern Arizona and Lowell Observatory, absolutely stunning short hikes in the Sedona area, the old mining town of Jerome, Tuzigoot National Monument, and the Old West flavored Prescott.


  3. Default Ca-58

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    After taking the PCH down to Cambria, head inland long before you get to the (shudder!) L.A. Basin and Inland Empire. CA-46 to the Bakersfield are would be a good choice, then CA-58 across to Barstow and I-40.
    Thanks so much for the suggestions! I like the variety of your choices.

    Regarding taking CA-46, I assume that by this point we would have seen the best the PCH has to offer? This route is interesting because it takes me to Phoenix by a more northern route than I had anticipated. That being said, RV travel into Death Valley IS allowed during this time of the year. I have never been there; is it worth visiting in mid September?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default There are no restrictions for RVs in Death Valley

    Quote Originally Posted by travelingman View Post
    That being said, RV travel into Death Valley IS allowed during this time of the year. I have never been there; is it worth visiting in mid September?
    Actually, RV travel to Death Valley is never prohibited. It's open year round. Some RV rental companies have their own rules about when you can visit -- but a state highway runs through much of Death Valley -- no such restriction is enforceable.

    And, OF COURSE, it is worth visiting in September -- or any other time too. Death Valley is my favorite national park. There are some restrictions on roads within the park for RV's (mostly on the unpaved ones) but otherwise if the roads are open for anyone -- they will be open for RVs.

    Now, I actually don't agree about leaving the PCH at CA-46. It is fine route if you are heading to Death Valley --- but the coast road is pretty all the way through the LA basin -- it get congested -- but you are driving along some of the prettiest beach areas in America....


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default James Dean Memorial Intersection.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Now, I actually don't agree about leaving the PCH at CA-46. It is fine route if you are heading to Death Valley ---
    And you will be passing through the James Dean Memorial intersection.... just a few days short of the 59th anniversary of the day the world lost one of its brightest stars. Just before you get to the intersection there is a cafe on the northern side of the road which has all sort of memorabilia.

    Guess it all depends on in which era you grew up.


  6. Default

    Trip completed!

    Well, I picked up a Cruise America 31 foot Motorhome in Newark California, across the bay from San Francisco. It had to be relocated to Phoenix Arizona; one of those one-way specials. Total cost for 8 days, 7 nights was $53.60 including tax. NOT per day, for the entire trip! These one-way relocation deals are fantastic, and this one, with a 95% discount off normal prices, was the best I've ever booked.

    I checked the Reserve America Website several times per day to find campsites in the California State Parks. Many of these are booked 6 months in advance, even for September, but life happens and plans change, and campsites open up last minute.

    My wife and I drove the RV to New Brighton Beach State Park, where I booked one of the rare premium sites overlooking the Pacific Ocean!

    The next day, we drove to Monterey and went with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. It was a 5 hour trip; fortunately we took Dramamine. Unfortunately, others who should have done likewise did not! It was fantastic and we saw over 40 Humpback Whales, along with many other mammals. We had lunch at a nearby seafood eatery and drove to our next State Park.

    Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park was great. We camped next to a big Redwood and took a nice long hike to the Redwood grove. What a beautiful and relaxing spot. It was a nice hour drive back from Monterey, but it was scenic and we enjoyed it. We didn't want to stay in a regular RV park (parking lot), so the tradeoff was worth it.

    The next day (Friday) we went back to Monterey and spent a lot of time at the aquarium which we thoroughly enjoyed. After a late lunch there, we headed down the Pacific Coast Highway to our next stop, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. THAT was another last-minute cancellation that worked in our favor and allowed us to drive the PCH in two leisurely days. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! The scenery was fantastic, and the driving was really not that bad. Of course, I have driven mountain roads many times, and this RV was only 31 feet long.

    The fourth night was at San Simeon State Park. We strolled over a mile down the beach and ended up downtown at "moonstone beach". (Well, the locals told me that the entire area was moonstone beach).

    The next day, we headed inland and rode through miles of vineyards, stopping at several "tasting rooms". Being the designated driver meant that I had to take my wife's word for how the wines tasted. That night we spent at the most unusual State Park I have ever visited, Emma Wood State Park; it was basically an unused section of the PCH, turned into a campground. It was therefore dry camping only, with all the sites on the shoulder of the road. Every site was waterfront, LESS than a stones throw away. We slept by the sound of the lapping waves.

    The RV had to be turned in at Phoenix, but we detoured North and went through Sedona and Red Rock country. It was an unbelievably beautiful area with beautiful red rock formations and well worth the extra miles getting there. It was like the best of Utah relocated into a small reserve area. The biggest drawback was how commercial the area was. Too bad it wasn't all set aside years ago.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Thanks.

    Thanks for dropping by with an update, it sounds like you had an amazing trip ! And thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 'One way special' from Cruise America, it is something I have considered a few times in the past and hope to find a suitable one in the future.


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