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  1. Default Last minute planning San Fran to vegas

    Hello, my husband and I are plannig a last minute holiday/honeymoon and would like some advice planning a road trip.

    We have 3 weeks in total most likely starting very early April or possibly late April. We would like to combine a road trip with a beach break at the end.

    Our initial plan is to
    • fly into San Francisco, spend 2-3 nights there exploring the city
    • hire either a car or camper and drive early to Yosemite via hwy 140 spend 1 night nearby or in the park
    • drive through Death Valley to reach zion without an over night stop
    • spend 3 nights near or in Zion to do some hiking and break from driving, we would also like to see Bryce Canyon here
    • drive to monument valley and take a guided tour here for a couple of hours or possible overnight wilderness camping trip
    • drive to Grand Canyon spend 1 or 2 night here
    • 1 day in Vegas, maybe just to see it but it's probably not a great highlight for us

    And then either drive to a beach in Southern California or drop the car/camper in Vegas and fly to Mexico for a week.

    Does this itinery sound like we are giving ourselves enough time to see things without feeling like we are just driving past everything? Would anyone suggest changing our route?

    As we only have a few weeks to plan it seems most of the camping spots within the parks were booked long ago. If we hired a camper would we be able to use the free camping places outside the parks or would this add a lot of driving to get back to the parks each day? Also what are the chances of us finding accommodation as we go in April/may, rather than booking ahead so we can be flexible with our itinerary?

    One last question...if we stayed in US and took a beach break in California, where would be a nice beach to go to at that time of year, would it be warm enough yet for the beach?

    Many thanks!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default With One Exception

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Your plan looks quite workable and enjoyable with one notable exception, the first couple of days on the road after leaving San Francisco. I suppose you might be able to pick up a car, drive to Yosemite, take a few quick pictures of some of its iconic scenes, and get set up for a night's sleep all on day one, but that would be it. And the next day is simply impossible. To get from Yosemite to Zion by way of Death Valley and Las Vegas takes 600 miles of driving. That's hard enough to do on an all-Interstate route with no significant stops. But you're planning to do it on mostly two lane highways, over mountains, through national parks and a congested city while presumably trying to see something of both Death Valley and Las Vegas. It's just not going to work. You either need to find a day in your schedule to move to this part of your itinerary, or give up on either Yosemite or Death Valley.

    By the same token, an RV will be both slower on the roads and more expensive overall than simply renting a car and staying at motels. I am not aware of any 'free camping' near any of the major national parks although national forests can be quite low cost. Do not plan on just camping on the side of the road.

    Typical single-use entrance fees to a given national park are good for a few (up to seven) days, but if you're going to visit four or more just buy an annual parks pass ($80) at the first one you come to and that will be good for all entrances to all national parks and monuments for a year.

    Finally, which beach to visit at the end of your trip depends almost entirely on where you're departing from. Most of the California coast experiences a Mediterranean-type climate so the beaches will be warm enough for walking and sun-bathing. However, the ocean current (the Humboldt Current) that washes those shores is a cold current coming down from Alaska. You will see few bathers and the surfers will be in wetsuits.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Enjoying the drive and reducing the miles.

    As Buck said, the first part of your trip from SF to Zion is to frantic and hardly possible. Rather than spending 3 nights in Zion to get a break from driving I think you would be better off taking a slower pace so you won't feel the need to have a big break from the driving. I would suggest you look at visiting Las Vegas after Death valley and then head to LA or San Diego after the Grand canyon to save some mileage. I would also just continue to Bryce canyon after Zion and then on to Monument valley rather than driving to Bryce from Zion and back again, again reducing mileage. So something like this. Yosemite [I would stay 2 nights nearby so you have at least a full day there] > Death valley >Las Vegas>Zion>Bryce>Monument valley>Grand canyon >coast.

    I think you would have a much nicer Honeymoon if you relax the pace, even to the point where arriving totally relaxed at 'the beach' for 5 days will be more fun and 'chilled' then arriving exhausted and having 7 days.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 03-16-2016 at 01:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I don't think it's been mentioned, but it's worth noting in April, Tioga Pass, across the Sierra's through Yosemite, will still be closed.

    As others have mentioned, going from Yosemite to Zion via Death Valley in one day is a bad idea anyway, but since you have to go around via Bakersfield, just going from Yosemite to Death Valley is almost a full day on the road, all by itself at this time of year.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Note that Tioga Pass won't be open in April, so you will have to go south through Bakersfield to get from Yosemite to Death Valley.

  6. Default

    Thank you all for your replies. Having read all your suggestions and looking at better road maps, does this sound like a better plan?

    • 3 nights in San Francisco
    • 2 nights Yosemite
    • 1 night stopping somewhere in or near to Death Valley
    • 1 night in Vegas
    • 2 nights in Zion
    • 1 night Bryce Canyon
    • 1 night monument
    • 1 night Grand Canyon
    • 2 nights LA

    That would be 2 weeks of driving and then we could still have a week to crash on a beach somewhere.

    If we hired a car instead of a camper, would we have to book all the accommodation before hand at this time of year or could we find places along the way? I am thining the busiest tourist destinations such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite would be worth booking but could we plan to be more flexible with the rest?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    In response to your last paragraph: at this late date, it's probably easier to get non-RV/camping reservations outside of the national parks than it would be to book inside the parks, now. I'd book anywhere near a national park - for the main reason that April is "spring break season". Some of our schools are off next week, some the week after Easter. Still others are off anywhere from the week of April 7th, the week of April 14th, and the week of April 21st. There's no set time!


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Looks great !

    That looks good and has all the makings of an amazing trip ! Whether to book or not is a personal thing, you usually find somewhere, but how close or how expensive the lodgings are is left to chance. I am one that when travelling with limited time and staying in popular places, I like to book so it's one less thing to think about and I can go about enjoying a full day.

    If you decide to lodge then some ideas are as follows. Your second night around Yosemite you could drive south to Oakhurst which has a good range of lodging and would be part of an onward journey to Death valley. [If your budget can manage it, there is nothing like staying in the park for a night] Ridgecrest is close to DV or you could look at both Panamint Springs or Stovepipe Wells. For Zion NP, Springdale is a wonderful town and the closest to the park entrance. Bryce canyon has a few options nearby, Ruby's Inn being very nice, or the town of Tropic has better value rooms. Monument valley has limited lodgings, but you can also find alternative in Kayenta. If you were on the road fairly early from Bryce you could stay at the Cameron Trading post, a pretty cool place close to the Desertview drive entrance to GC which would maximise your time there, staying in Tusayan or Williams after a day there.

    Have fun !

  9. Default

    Brilliant, thank you all so much, your advice has been really helpful.

    I will look up those places to stay and hopefully start getting some things booked.


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