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This is trip I did with my son and my sister hitting all the national parks of Southern California (San Francisco to San Diego). This is 9 days to fit one full week of vacation. I didn't include ALL the sights but just one or two that I found particularly interesting for me. Doesn't mean that you will find it interesting but you're welcome to check it out and decide for yourself.
Day 1: Arrived and checked into hotel. Frank Lloyd Wright inspired architecture. We chose this hotel because it was right by the Ventura Harbor, only to discover our boat left from Oxnard. Oops.
The main game in town for going to Channel Island. There were some hotel/cruise package and we had to reserve our ticket early to make sure it wasn't sold out. Professional outfit that specializes in cruises to Channel Islands.
Had to choose one of the Channel Islands to explore. The other islands happened to be "closed" so this was the only one that fit our schedule. Nice hike to the top of the cliffs (very windy!!) and blue ocean for miles and miles around.
It was cheap $99 when we went because it was HOT! Had to drive 2 hours after our day cruise to make it but nice to arrive when it was cooler. Plus we could get an early start on Joshua Tree while it was cooler in the morning. Very nice property but didn't really have time to enjoy the pool.
Basically drove around and stop with the aircond running, run out of the car and then run back in. Besides the Joshua Tree, the boulders and rock formations were interesting. More interesting that I expected. Would normally not drive an extra 4 hours out of the way for this... but my son wanted to hit ALL the national parks and this is on the list to cross off. But it was surprisingly interesting.
If I had to do this again, I would not have tried to make it all the way to Wuksachi Lodge from Joshua Tree. The drive almost killed me! But it was nice waking up and not having to drive to the park. Good base for exploring the park if budget is not a concern.
Sure it's crowded. And I had to have sturdy shoes. And I am afraid of heights. But there's a reason why it's so crowded. And by crowded, I mean crowded by Sequoia standard, not Yosemite standards.
Gotta buy tickets in advance so pre-planning needed (Call (559) 565-4251 for tour and ticket information). We enjoyed it -- especially when the guide turned off ALL the lights in the cave. Memorable.
Parking lot was full, so parked at the picnic area we passed by on the way and hiked down. Use the flush bathrooms in the picnic areas as the pit toilets down by General Sherman there were a little disgusting.
The drive down is a pain but very scenic. Grizzly Falls was very pretty and romantic and steps away from the road. Many people I know would say skip Kings Canyon and spend the extra time at Yosemite. And I would agree. Except we've gone to Yosemite lots of time.
No restaurant service, a small snack shop but we skipped that and grilled hot dogs by the Kings River. Nice. We decided to spend the night here because we didn't look forward to driving all the way OUT of Kings Canyon.
Nice historic hotel on the South end of Yosemite -- and easier to get reservations than Yosemite Lodge. But would stay in the Yosemite Lodge next time to avoid the 45 minute drive in to the Valley each day. My son actually stayed at Wawona Campground while we were in the hotel. Get the rooms in the annex -- the bathroom there is very nice and lovingly restored to look vintage (most rooms don't come with baths so we share bathrooms)
Lots of things to do and see in the Valley. Best was the hike to Vernal Falls
For someone afraid of heights, this is a wild ride. Highly recommended short hike to clifts and fissures that look down 2500 feet into the valley. But next time, I'll just turn right and go up Sentinel Dome.
Probably would skip it next time to cut down on driving time. But this could be a National Park if a bill makes it through the Senate. Best part is the trail through the caves. Gotta bring flashlights. There are two parts of Pinnacles -- East and West and there's no road to connect. The East end (via Hollister) is the more developed portion and has access to the caves and resevoir. THe park is right on top of the fault and half the mountain is moving north and the other half is moving south. Pretty cool.
Nice hotel by the golf course. But a tad expensive for what we got.
Didn't have much time to explore -- could have spent the whole day here. The Whalers Cove was interesting.
Sea otters playing with my oar as we sat quietly on the water. priceless. Had to get there early to avoid the afternoon winds.
Can you tell that I'm a Hyatt Gold Passport member? Non-descript hotel I chose just because it's by the airport for my sis who was flying out.
Gotta see the Golden Gate Bridge and get my National Park Pass stamped at Fort Mason