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  1. Default October - Grand Canyon / Las Vegas / Yosemite / San Francisco

    Hi everyone!

    My boyfriend & I are travelling to the US from Australia later in the year. We are planning to visit New England for the last two weeks of September, then have a week and a half to explore somewhere else. We are thinking of visiting the Grand Canyon / Las Vegas / Yosemite National Park. I have done a road trip through a similar route in the past (though my boyfriend has never been) and I really loved it. We’d really appreciate some advice about whether our plans are do-able in the time frame we’ve allocated or whether we will need to change things around.

    After a bit of research, I’ve worked out the following route. We don’t mind a bit of driving, but would love an opinion from anyone who knows the area/has done it before as to whether all this will be possible – as it’s a long trip from Australia we do want to fit in as much as possible.

    - Day 1: fly into Phoenix and stay overnight (picked this as there are direct flights from the north east & it’s close to our route
    - Day 2: drive early morning Phoneix to Grand Canyon (about 3.5-4 hours?) then spend the night
    - Day 3: drive Grand Canyon to Las Vegas (about 4 hours?), spend the night
    - Day 4: further full day & night in Las Vegas
    - Day 5: drive Las Vegas to Death Valley & spend the night (2.5 hours?)
    - Day 6: drive Death Valley to Yosemite (this is a long one, 7 hours? Not sure if it might be better to just go direct Vegas to Yosemite and skip Death Valley), stay the night in Yosemite
    - Day 7: full day & night in Yosemite
    - Day 8: drive Yosemite to San Francisco, stay the night
    - Day 9: full day & night in San Francisco
    - Day 10: fly home

    Thank you for any tips you can provide! Much appreciated :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Seeing it all in 10 days.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    You've got a great route laid out, but there is a lot more to see along each of these legs. You might like to get hold of a Rand McNally road atlas which will give you a lot more detail than what you have been able to see on a little scree. Go to the RTA store via the link at the bottom of this page. That is of course if you have not been able to get good maps at home. But I have never been able to get decent detailed maps, which show all the attractions along the way, the towns both large and small and all the options of routes at your disposal - including scenic routes. If you order it now, you will have it in a couple of weeks. Be sure also to bring it with you, paper maps are essential on the road.

    Your driving times appear to come from computer mapping programs, which are outlandishly optimistic and do not relate to real world conditions. As a rule of thumb, assume you will be covering 50 - 55 miles each hour driving on highways. Back roads and scenic routes often take longer.

    I take it you are aware of the one way drop fee to which you will most likely be subject. It may be worth checking up to see the difference in cost of flying into and out of the same airport, and dropping the rental car where you picked it up. That is usually the most economical way to travel. You could do all you want to do by flying into either San Francisco, LAX or Las Vegas. Your trip then would look something like LA>Grand Canyon>LV>Death Valley>Yosemite>SF>down the Pacific Coast Highway to LA.

    Here's a suggestion how that or a variation of it, could work.... spend the first night in LA, drive to GCNP and spend one day and two nights there, LV a day abnd a half and two nights, drive through Death Valley, one night east of Yosemite a day in Yosemite and a night on the west side. Next day to SF, 2 nights in SF, drive down the coast road, two days and one night, and back to LAX. Such a trip would give you a great overview of the wonderfully scenic south west in the time you have available.


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


    You have a good workable plan, but as mentioned above, check out the one way rental fees. With your current plan what I might do on day 5 is to explore DV during the day and continue towards Bishop or Mammoth lakes for the night. This would make an easier drive into Yosemite and allow time to stop along Tioga Pass [CA120] and marvel at the beauty of Yosemite's high ground.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default More thoughts.

    On your way to the north east from downunder, will you be transiting through SFO, LAX or DFW? I am assuming that it could be SFO, since that is where you planned to end the road trip. If you were to fly into SFO from the north east, then you could do the loop outlined above, and save a little time by-passing LA, and heading straight to the Grand Canyon from the Cambria area via Bakersfield..

    If you are a member of the RACV, RACQ or similar, bring your membership with you. It will give you access to tourism information from the AAA, wherever you are in the country.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    - Day 1: fly into Phoenix and stay overnight (picked this as there are direct flights from the north east & it’s close to our route
    Depending on the time of your arrival in Phoenix, you might want to pick up your car rental and see if you can stay on the north end of Phoenix. I would choose something around Anthem. That way you can avoid the early morning traffic -- unless the second day of your travels fall on a weekend.

    Day 2: drive early morning Phoneix to Grand Canyon (about 3.5-4 hours?) then spend the night
    Grand Canyon is about a 4-5 hour drive from Phoenix. Electronic mapping programs will tell you it's around 3.5, but that's with absolutely no stops, for bathroom, scenic viewpoints, gasoline, etc. If you are only planning a half day at the Grand Canyon, that seems a shame, unless you are going to wait until the afternoon of Day 3 to drive to Las Vegas. The West Rim drive requires either walking or taking a shuttle from viewpoint to viewpoint, either being a time-consumer. The East Rim drive allows you to use your own vehicle, but you will be maneuvering for parking places. Don't miss either a sunset or a sunrise over the Grand Canyon. There's a reason that Ferde' Grofe' wrote a piece of music about it -- it's majestic.

    Day 3: drive Grand Canyon to Las Vegas (about 4 hours?), spend the night
    Make that about 5 hours, and you'll be closer to the real thing. The problem with electronics is that they never allow for stops or even traffic congestion or construction.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona


    All of the above are great suggestions, but I'll add one more: again, depending on the time of your arrival in Phoenix, consider taking Donna's advice and finding lodging for that night north of the city--unless of course you want to see Phoenix while you have the chance. Phoenix is my home town, and it does have its charms, but if your main interest is scenery, you need to get out of there. If you can pull it off? Consider driving all the way to Sedona from the Phoenix airport. Depending on traffic, it will take you a bit more than two hours to cover the 100 mile distance. Sedona is a one-of-a-kind sort of a place that is just extraordinary (Red Rock country)! The next day, on your way to the Grand Canyon, you can take Highway 89A north from Sedona through Oak Creek Canyon, where you'll quite possibly be treated to some of the best fall colors that Arizona has to offer (peak time for the foliage varies a bit from year to year, early to late October).

    When you're doing your tour of New England, I'll make one other suggestion: your primary focus should be Vermont. Between the riot of colors and the bucolic countryside filled with covered bridges, old red barns, horses in the fields, and waterfalls? You'll feel like you've crossed over into an alternate reality.

    Enjoy your trip, when you go! If you have more questions about the Phoenix area, just ask. I not only live there, I was actually born there, back in the days when you could still ride a horse down Central Avenue. (No joke--you really could).

    I'm still too new to this forum to post external links, but if you'd like to see my photos from a recent road trip through Vermont, or of the Grand Canyon (pictures taken on an eight day rafting trip through the whole business), you can Google my screen name, rcquinn, and add a qualifier, such as "Vermont", or "Road trips", or "Grand Canyon".


    Rick Quinn

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