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Crazy Southern California 9 day Loop with Emphasis on National Parks

Aug 22, 2012  Google Maps Route (1250 miles) http://goo.gl/maps/h6Ysn
0.0 of 5 bubbles based on 0 votes

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.

  • 1. Night 1: Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor
    Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor, Ventura, California

    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.

  • 2. Island Packers
    Island Packers, Ventura, California

    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.

  • 3. Anacapa Island
    Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park

    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.

  • 4. Night 2: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa
    Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa, Indian Wells

    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.

  • 5. Joshua Tree National Park
    Joshua Tree National Park, California

    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.

  • 6. Night 3 and 4: Wuksachi Lodge & Village
    Wuksachi Lodge, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

    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.

  • 7. Moro Rock
    Moro Rock, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

    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.

  • 8. Crystal Cave
    Crystal Cave, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

    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.

  • 9. General Sherman Tree
    General Sherman Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

    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.

  • 10. Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (especially Grizzly Falls)
    Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

    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.

  • 11. Night 5: Kings Canyon Lodge
    Kings Canyon Lodge, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California

    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.

  • 12. Night 6 and 7: Wawona Hotel
    Big Trees Lodge, Yosemite National Park, California

    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)

  • 13. Yosemite Valley
    Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

    Lots of things to do and see in the Valley. Best was the hike to Vernal Falls

  • 14. Taft Point
    Taft Point, Yosemite National Park, California

    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.

  • 15. Pinnacles National Monument - East End via Hollister
    Pinnacles National Park, Paicines, California

    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.

  • 16. Night 8: Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa
    Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, Monterey, Monterey County

    Nice hotel by the golf course. But a tad expensive for what we got.

  • 17. Point Lobos State Reserve
    Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, Monterey County

    Didn't have much time to explore -- could have spent the whole day here. The Whalers Cove was interesting.

  • 18. Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
    Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, California

    Sea otters playing with my oar as we sat quietly on the water. priceless. Had to get there early to avoid the afternoon winds.

  • 19. Night 9: Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport - Burlingame
    Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport - Burlingame, Burlingame, California

    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.

  • 20. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
    Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Marin County, California

    Gotta see the Golden Gate Bridge and get my National Park Pass stamped at Fort Mason