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2 Weeks California

Level Contributor
32 posts
2 Weeks California

Hi All

I am looking at travelling to San Francisco feb/march next year for 2 weeks. It doesn't look like a great time to visit some parts due to road closures but it is the only time I can go. Is the below itinerary doable in the time frame? Am I spending too little time in some places? I am interested in both nature and cities.

San Francisco - 3 Days

Pacific Coast Highway - 2 days

- Monterey & Carmel

- Big Sur

- Santa Barbara

Is 2 days enough to see these places and any little places along the highway?

Santa Monica/LA - 2 days

Joshua Tree National Park - 1 day

Death Valley National Park - 1 day

Can I even get to Death Valley/Yosemite? Do I have to detour through Bakersfield?? I have read so much I am confused...

Yosemite National Park - 3 days

Napa Valley - 1 day

Back to San Francisco to catch flight.

I have read about Mammoth lakes, gold country, Lake Tahoe....are these places I should try and fit in to my itinerary?

I had planned to spend 2 weeks in California, followed by 2 weeks in Hawaii.....

6 replies to this topic
San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
60,396 posts
149 reviews
1. Re: 2 Weeks California

By next Feb the road along the big Sur should be open so. Sf Monterey for a night then drive the big Sur to Santa Barbara for a night and then check out wineries there the next day then head to LA then to JNTP to DVNP then yes via Bakersfield to Yosemite. Where you should perhaps take Yarts into YNP

Skip Napa

Level Contributor
7,180 posts
61 reviews
2. Re: 2 Weeks California

All the mountain passes south of SR 88 and north of SR 58 close for the winter. So if you are on one side, like Yosemite, and you want to visit the other side, like Death Valley, you need to go around, either north through Lake Tahoe or south through Tehachapi. Either way is slow and time-consuming.

San Francisco, Ca
Level Contributor
22,299 posts
79 reviews
3. Re: 2 Weeks California

The other issue with visiting some of those destinations at that time of year is that you need to be prepared for snow. If it is snowing when you want to drive to Yosemite, for example, the rental car companies won't let you put snow chains on their cars... but the law will require it. Hence the suggestion to take the YARTS bus from somewhere like Mariposa into the park.

In addition to the weather, you'll need to be aware of limited daylight hours at that time of year... it will be dark shortly after 5 pm, making your sightseeing hours pretty limited.

When you say "1 day" in a destination, how many nights are you planning on spending there? If you are planning one night, you need to take into account the driving time to get from place to place. You effectively need 2 nights to get 1 full day of sightseeing in a destination.

>>Is 2 days enough to see these places and any little places along the highway?<<

Not really... especially in winter, you really should spend 3 days/2 nights for this drive (if not more). Spend 1 night in Monterey/Carmel, then the second in the Cambria/Pismo Beach area. That will make for a more enjoyable trip where you'll have time for some walks, photography, ocean-gazing, etc.

I'd skip Yosemite because of the weather complication and redistribute the time something like:

Day 1 - Arrive San Francisco - 3 nights (2 full days)

Day 4 - rent car, drive to Monterey (3 hour drive) - 1 night

Day 5 - drive via Big Sur to Cambria (all day drive with sightseeing) - 1 night

Day 6 - lunch and afternoon sightseeing in Santa Barbara, continue to Santa Monica/LA - 3 nights (2 days)

Day 9 - Joshua Tree National Park (3-ish hour drive) - 1 night

Day 10 - Death Valley National Park (4+ hour drive) - 2 nights

Day 12 - drive to Harris Ranch (Coalinga) (5+ hour drive) - 1 night (this is just to break up the drive, but they serve great steaks!)

Day 13 - Napa Valley (3 hour drive) - 2 nights

Day 15 - Back to San Francisco to catch flight

Southern California
Level Contributor
15,776 posts
1 review
4. Re: 2 Weeks California

I also agree with adding one night along the coast since it will get dark very early that time of year, and the extra day will give you more time to linger and make stops, visit places, etc. instead of driving by.

Level Contributor
32 posts
5. Re: 2 Weeks California

Thanks for your replies. Sorry I didn't see them sooner

Yosemite is a place I really wanted to see, so the YARTS sounds like the way to go. I was thinking just parking hire car at Mariposa for the 3 nights...has anyone on here done that?

I have adjusted itinerary to include the nights not the days as suggested....I also included the day in San Francisco at the end of the trip because I wanted a day to chill before flying home because flights made it cheaper to go to Hawaii at the beginning of trip.

Day 1: Maui to San Francisco

Day 2-4: San Francisco

Day 5: San Francisco - Monterey

Day 6: Monterey - Cambria

Day 7: Cambria - Santa Barbara

Day 8: Santa Barbara - Los Angeles

Day 9: Los Angeles

Day 10: Los Angeles

Day 11: Los Angeles - Joshua Tree NP

Day 12: Joshua Tree NP - Mariposa - Yosemite

Day 13: Yosemite

Day 14: Yosemite

Day 15: Yosemite - Mariposa - San Francisco

Day 16: San Francisco

Day 17: San Francisco - Brisbane

Thanks again for any tips you all have

San Francisco, Ca
Level Contributor
22,299 posts
79 reviews
6. Re: 2 Weeks California

Yes, that looks fine. While I've not parked in Mariposa to take YARTS, I believe the Yosemite forum has posts from people who have.

Another weather note: when driving from Monterey to Cambria (via Big Sur), if it's raining heavily (or rained heavily in the past day), I might think of going around Hwy. 101 instead. I know it defeats the purpose of the visit, but heavy rains (especially over a long time) are what led to the closure that's taken 18 months to repair! Even if a rockfall isn't that dramatic, imagine what would happen if even a single large rock fell onto the road just as you drove by.

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