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  1. Default Recommendations for family-friendly 6 week West Coast Road trip

    Hi all, I've already found a wealth of advice in the forums and really appreciate everyone's willingness to share, but our trip has a slight twist. We are a family of 4 with two boys aged 2 and 4 and are looking at doing 6 weeks on the West Coast in July and August. A key objective will be to take in the NPs and make the most of the beach. We're going to start in San Francisco, then head down the coast to LA, across to the Grand Canyon and then back up around via Las Vegas, Yosemite back to San Francisco.

    A key challenge for us is to economize given we haven't yet won the lottery and it's quite a long trip, so the plan is to camp as much as we can in the NPs. Does anyone have some good advice on the most Family-friendly Campsites in each of the key parks? Also, although the boys love the outdoors are there any unique things to see and do that kids would love? Btw, we are not a Disney family and prefer the reality of the NPs and more local attractions.

    Thanks in advance and no offense to those that love Disney!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    When my husband and I were raising children, we did a lot of camping in national parks and national forests. Those are family-friendly -- we never met one that wasn't. Some are more out of the way than others, but we never found that to be a huge problem.

    Get your dates established NOW and get on the reservations website. Once the window for your dates has opened, places like Grand Canyon and Yosemite fill up almost immediately. If they are full, keep calling back, as you never know when someone's plans will change. There are national forest campsites just outside of both parks, and some are first-come, first-served.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default In six weeks you can at your leisure visit many other parks as well.

    Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    With six weeks you have the time to include many of the spectacular NPs in southern Utah as well. Be aware that Aug/Sep can still be very hot in the south west.

    Check at the visitor centre for your little ones. You may find the older one is old enough to take part in the Junior Ranger (age appropriate) program.

    I'll leave family friendly camping up to others, as I have never camped within the NPs.


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


    I would very much agree with Donna, I've never found a National Park campground that wasn't family friendly, they almost always at least have a playground, and staying inside the parks is always a good idea in my book.

    Since you're talking about keeping expenses low, I'm assuming you're talking tent camping? If so, that's another reason to try to stay within the parks if possible, as private campgrounds tend to cater more towards RVs.

    With 6 weeks available, you might also consider checking out some of the National Parks in southern Utah, like Zion and Bryce Canyon - which could fit nicely within the loop you're planning. The loop you are planning is also the most popular basic idea on this forum, so I'd encourage you to check out the links in this thread, which are some of our favorite threads on this topic from over the years.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default National parks pass.

    Camping within the National parks is very good value as well, but it's worth having a cooler and take some food and drinks in with you, as they are not so cheap in the parks. Another good way to save money if you plan to visit 4 or more parks, is to purchase the annual pass which is $80 [cheaper than 4 major parks admissions] and can also be used for future trips within the year. That does not include camping fees and as noted above, you need to book asap and I to would include the parks of Southern Utah which you can visit after the GC and before Las Vegas. You could even go through Monument valley and out to Arches and Canyonlands before visiting Bryce and Zion, you certainly have the time available.

  6. Default

    All - thanks for such quick and insightful suggestions. Zion, Bryce and Arches are all on the list of places we want to see as well as Redwood if we can fit it in.

    Yes, to keep expenses down we are going to take a tent along with us and I was a bit worried about having to get reservations everywhere.

    Any thoughts on best family friendly places to stop along the way from San Francisco down to Los Angeles?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you are spending a couple days and are taking CA-1, I'd book a tour at the Hearst Castle.

  8. Default

    Thanks glc. I'd welcome recommendations of interesting places like that.

    I've now been able to get my head around the main NP, camping and some key hikes. Now I have to backfill with some interesting sites like Hearst Castle to break up the drives.

    Looks like after watching a recent Disney movie, I am going to have to bite the bullet and do a day there as well.

    Looks like we are going to try to do the following loop for 6 weeks after spending a week in San Francisco.
    - Highway 1 to LA via some of the state parks and towns along the way - is it worth heading inland to Seqouia as part of this?
    - Holywood and necessary LA sites including Disney
    - Head across to Joshua Tree to Death Valley /Las Vegas/Lake Mead to the Grand Canyon (ideally like to do both the North and South Rims)
    - From Grand Canyon - see Petrified Forest and then possibly duck into New Mexico to see some of the aztec ruins (something like Chaco Culture) and then onto Bryce/Needles/Canyonlands/Arches/etc
    - If time permits - hit a number of the local sites Bear Lake and then head up to Yellowstone
    - Yellowstone - Salt Lake City to Yosemite
    - Yosemite - San Francisco

    This doable in the time? Feels like this will allow two nights at most of the National Parks and reasonable driving (max 4-6 hours) on driving days.

    Any tips of booking the best pitches at campsites on ReserveAmerica? Do I just call each one and ask or is there another place to find out?

    Thanks, this is all gold dust advice...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Any tips of booking the best pitches at campsites on ReserveAmerica? Do I just call each one and ask or is there another place to find out?
    You can find campground info on the for each individual NP. Or you can go to and enter the park you are looking for. You will then see the different campground options at each one and when you choose a site you will then see options including a map so you can see site locations.

    As you plot out the places you mention the route will start to form and then you can think about whether you have enough time based on the pace you want to travel at. For example if you want to see both the North and South rim then it might not work [for you] to "Duck down into New Mexico". Yellowstone and the Tetons, which are basically joined, really need 4 to 5 days to get around the highlights at a sensible pace. The place is huge and very slow going and therefor takes a lot of time to get around, but you mind if you have the time, the scenery and wildlife jams are pretty amazing !

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