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  1. #1

    Default 4 Weeks SF to SF Roadtrip suggestions

    Hey, newbie here :)

    My last Roadtrip was in August 2012 which was a 3-week-family trip and I wasn't able to drive a car back then. Our 3 week Roadtrip looked like this: San Francisco -> Los Angeles via Highway 1, LA -> Grand Canyon -> Monument Valley -> Las Vegas -> SF via Bakersfield. It was absolutely stunning!

    Now I'm finally planning to do a 4 week Roadtrip for myself next Summer (July - August). Although this time, I want to spend more days in national parks and on the road rather than the big cities.
    What I really want to see is: Lake Tahoe, Yosemite NP (drive the Tioga Road) and the San Juan National Forest. I'm planning to arrive and depart in San Francisco. So, could you suggest a nice route which includes the locations I want to see? (Would such a route even be possible to do in 4 weeks?) That would be awesome.

    Sorry for my basic english btw.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    It should be very easy for you to fit in a trip like this over the course of 4 weeks, and also have time to fit in a lot of other great sites between California and Southwest Colorado.

    One possible loop would be to go from SF to Yosemite, across Tioga Pass, to Death Valley, then head onto Utah for places like Zion, Bryce Canyon, perhaps the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. From there, continue to Colorado, going past Monument Valley again, and hit Mesa Verde on your way to Durango.
    Then you could make your way back by going up the Million Dollar Highway (San Juan NF), and then hit Arches and Canyonlands back in Utah, Great Basin in Eastern Utah, drive US-50 (the loneliest road) back across NV to Tahoe.

    That's just a real quick sample. There's also a lot more you could do. You could certainly do more exploring of Colorado, or even expand things farther, perhaps going up as far as Yellowstone and Grand Teton, or working some other stops in Northern California, such as Redwood National Park. It all depends upon your interest and what kind of pace would be comfortable for you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Welcome to RTA!

    Absolutely, you can do a route like you're describing, in 4 weeks. But a few questions first...is it just you? Are you camping or hotel-ing?

    Not sure exactly what you're looking for in the "San Juan National Forest". Most of our national forests here are set up to protect and control our forests, rather than a thing of scenic or historic beauty. Oft times, the national forest surrounds a national park. In this case, San Juan National Forest surrounds Mesa Verde National Park, which protects and showcases ancient cliff dwellings put there by native Americans (i.e. "Indians") thousands of years ago.

    If you are interested in scenic places such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, you might also love the Utah national parks -- there are 5 "mighty ones", namely Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands. Mesa Verde is just about 3 hours drive (one way) from Moab, the place where one might settle to enjoy Arches and Canyonlands.

    Just be aware that some of those areas can get HOT in July. I was just up at Capitol Reef and Canyonlands, which were both in the upper 90's (F).


    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    11,376

    Default Sounds great !

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    With 4 weeks you could drive across country and back so you should have no problem planning out a nice relaxed trip in the west. July and August is peak tourist season and can be hot in places, it's not when I would choose to travel given the option, but if it's what you have it'll work, but you would need to book lodgings in and around the National parks pretty early. A wonderful loop trip could include (as well as Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the San juan NF) Death valley, Las Vegas and 5 wonderful National parks of Southern Utah (Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Arches and Canyonlands) and include some beautiful scenic drives. In Colorado you have the Colorado National monument, Black canyon and Mesa Verde NP as well as the 'San Juan Skyway' drive including the 'Million dollar Highway'. On the return leg you could visit Four corners, Monument valley, the Grand canyon and Sequoia NP. These are just a few of many, many options, you might want to head further east to Rocky mountain NP and/or drive the scenic coast highway between LA and SF, so you need to research and see what appeals to you and your preferred pace of travel. Once you have a few dots on the map you can discover different ways to join them up with different routes. We are here to help join the pieces together and answer any specific questions but for now you have plenty of time to research and build your own amazing adventure !

    It is worth checking flight prices into LA against SF, especially if you will drive the coast anyway. I don't know about departing from Switzerland, but the flights from the UK are considerably cheaper.

  5. #5

    Default

    Hey everyone!

    Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I finally had some time to look into your mentioned places and they all look beautiful, I instantly fell in love, so i planned something:

    https://imgur.com/a/lk2o7Xc Sorry for the link, somehow I can't upload the picture here.
    I used the data from Google Maps and rounded them a bit up. Also, there are 4 spare days. What do you think, does this seem realistic?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    But a few questions first...is it just you? Are you camping or hotel-ing?
    I think it's gonna be just me. Sadly I don't really know anyone yet who'd be into a roadtrip next year.
    That would be the next question; I'd like to stay in Motels/Hotels, how many days in advance should I look for a free room? I think the best thing I could do is to book the rooms near National Parks some months before the roadtrip. But what about the Motels/Hotels in Cities/Villages?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Not sure exactly what you're looking for in the "San Juan National Forest". Most of our national forests here are set up to protect and control our forests, rather than a thing of scenic or historic beauty. Oft times, the national forest surrounds a national park. In this case, San Juan National Forest surrounds Mesa Verde National Park, which protects and showcases ancient cliff dwellings put there by native Americans (i.e. "Indians") thousands of years ago.
    Oh, alright :D I kind of used Google Maps, saw some pictures of the San Juan National Forest and thought "wow, that looks absolutely gorgeous, I need to go there". Thanks for clarify which parks belong to the San Juan National Forest. Mesa Verda is definitely on my route now!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Just be aware that some of those areas can get HOT in July. I was just up at Capitol Reef and Canyonlands, which were both in the upper 90's (F).
    I'm reconsidering doing the roadtrip in September, not only because of the temperature but also because the peak tourist season as Southwest Dave mentioned in his answer. Nothing against other tourists, but I don't like overcrowded places :))

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    It is worth checking flight prices into LA against SF, especially if you will drive the coast anyway. I don't know about departing from Switzerland, but the flights from the UK are considerably cheaper.
    Thank you so much for this tip. I'll definitely consider driving the Highway 1 once again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    I think you're off to a good start on your planning.

    Looking at your itinerary, I think the one thing I would change is how you're approaching California, as right now you're doing quite a bit of backtracking.

    Instead of going from LA up the coast to SF, I would go from LA to Yosemite (perhaps adding Sequoia along the way with one of your extra days), then after visiting Lake Tahoe, head to SF, and finish by going down the coast back to LA.

    With the other extra days you have, I think I would just work most of them into your existing trip, just to give yourself some "off" days where you don't have to do anything. That will give you a little more flexibility if something takes more time than you'd planned or you find something you want to explore for more than a day. I'd probably put at least one more day into the Zion/Bryce/North Rim area, and probably one more around Durango as a start.

    You could also do a bit more in Colorado too. For example, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Colorado National Monument are near the path from Durango to Moab. Actually, I'd probably break up the drive from Durango to Moab no matter what, perhaps staying in Ouray so you can explore the Million Dollar Highway without being too rushed.

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    I agree, you have a great looking trip ! Your itinerary is doable but as Michael said, you are back tracking in California quite a bit. One suggestion would be to actually reverse your trip and juggle things around a little. Something like this should cut out some miles and prevent hardly any backtracking. LA>LV>Zion>Bryce>North rim>Monument valley>Mesa Verde (via Four corners)>Durango (Million dollar Highway)>Moab>Great Basin>Lake Tahoe>Yosemite>Sequoia/Kings canyon>San Fran>Monterey>Santa Barbara>LA.

    Note. You could visit Sequoia at the start of your trip and then cross Death valley to Las Vegas

    Also if you wanted to drive UT24 to Capital Reef and UT scenic 12 (amazing drive) you could skip Bryce between Zion and the North rim and do it between Moab and Baker. To visit Zion NP I would spend 2 nights in the lovely little town of Springdale which is right next to the park entrance and has a free shuttle bus service into the canyon.

    At the first park you enter purchase the NPS annual pass for $80, it will save you money over purchasing individual entry fees at each one.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 07-31-2019 at 03:42 AM.

  8. Default

    Summer vs Fall.

    I’ve been “out West” many times, both in the Summer and in the Fall. For me, they are two completely different experiences.

    In the Fall, the crowds are much less or even nonexistent. The weather is comfortable if not chilly, depending on how high an elevation you are at. Despite these great advantages, I prefer Summer.

    When you think of Western America, you think HOT! I’ve hiked through Goblin Valley State Park with two water bottles strapped to my hips in 107 degrees heat under the bright sun. It was a desert, and it FELT like a desert. I went GEOCACHING through the hoodoos and felt like I truly got the authentic experience.

    I also visited the same park in September. It was very nice but the experience was lacking. There was no “effort” expended in traversing this surreal landscape. I even got caught in a rainstorm! It just didn’t seem the same.

    I feel the same way about Yellowstone, Arches, Bryce and Zion. Call me a glutton for punishment but the summer heat adds greatly to the experience. I’ve seen beautiful pictures of Bryce covered with snow, but it just doesn’t seem natural!

    The crowds can be terrible in Summer, but you’ve heard the old adage that there’s safety in numbers. Well, at least for me, I’m more likely to take some long hikes if I’m not the only soul for miles around. In Zion, there is the absolutely breathtaking NARROWS hike up the Virgin River, as you walk IN the river, up The narrowing canyon as the sheer 2000 foot walls tower above you. In Summer, you’ll have the company of hundreds of others walking with you.

    Also, Summer is tourist season, so you’ll find a wide variety of offerings such as Ranger led hikes and various interpretive programs that you’re not likely to have after a Labor Day.

    By the way, if you Really want to experience the West, look into the San Rafael Swell area of Utah. Hundreds of miles of dirt roads take you to some amazing areas. Some you can easily do with a regular car, others you’ll need a Jeep.

    Oh, and I mentioned Geocaching. Grab a handheld GPS and search for millions of hidden containers worldwide. Geocaching often takes you to places of interest you never knew existed. I once spent two days Geocaching the Swell.

    You can Geocache using a free app for your cellphone, but you’ll really need a handheld GPS when you’re in areas with no cell coverage.

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