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California & National Parks Roadtrip

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California & National Parks Roadtrip

Hi All,

I’m after a bit of advice regarding my September roadtrip. Although the planning is highly exciting, it’s also very confusing for a Brit who is relatively new to the USA! Below is my rough itinerary & a few questions if anyone could help me???

Day 1 to 3 – Fly into SF. Spend 2 days exploring the city.

Day 3 – Pick up rental car, drive to Yosemite. Explore Yosemite.

Day 4 – Drive to Death Valley early afternoon.

Day 5 to 8 – Drive to LV late afternoon. Spend 3 nights here.

Day 8 – Drive to Grand Canyon very early, stopping briefly to see Hoover Dam.

Day 9 – Drive to Monument Valley early afternoon. Explore Monument Valley, then overnight in Kayenta.

Day 10 – Drive to Sedona. Explore Sedona.

Day 11 – Drive to Phoenix / Scottsdale.

Day 12 – Drive to Yuma. (possibly omit this stop if not too tired to drive all the way to San Diego)

Day 13 to 14 – Drive to San Diego. Spend 2 days here.

Day 15 to 16 – Drive to LA. Another 2 days here.

Day 17 – Return rental car. Fly back to London from LAX.

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My questions are:

1) Is this a reasonable itinerary? Not trying to fit in too much? The section I’m not sure about is between Monument Valley & San Diego. The stops in-between are not as important to us – are they the right places to stop?

2) Car rental – what should I look out for with a rental in the small print? Is there a particular insurance I really need? And would you recommend hiring a Sat Nav?

3) Is booking required for the National Parks? And if so how far in advance would I need to do this?

4) The drives between SF to Yosemite, Yosemite to DV, DV to LV.. How long are they in reality? I’d rather not be on the road more than 4 hours a day. Is this possible? (I realise it will be a longer journey LV to GC).

5) Would we be missing out by skipping the stretch LA to SF? My partner is the National Parks kind-of-guy, but I love the coast. Would adding in an extra 2 days for the drive back to SF be worth it or would it be too much driving? Or perhaps stop at Monterey a night between SF and Yosemite?

6) Shopping – if I was restricted (!) to one shopping session along this trip – preferably an out-of-town shopping mall – where would you choose?!

-----------

I realise you do get a lot of similar posts - I don't know how people plan these kind of trips without the help of the TA buddies! You are all much appreciated!!

Many many thanks in advance...

Onmission

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Uden, The...
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1. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

You're packing a lot.

With 2 days and the day for the flight you're on the road by day 4.

Maybe:

Day 1: Arrive San Francisco

Day 2 and 3: San Francisco

Day 4: SF-Yosemite

Day 5: Yosemite NP (1 afternoon definitely is too short to see Yosemite.)

Day 6: Yosemite-Death Valley. Gorgeous drive over Tioga Pass. See Mono Lake and drive scenic 395 to Lone Pine at the foot of Mnt Whitney and its Alabama Hills. Will be a long day. Maybe stay Stovepipe Wells Village of Furnace Creek Ranch. This drive will take more than 4 hours. Count on most of the day with the stops.

Day 7: See as much of Death Valley NP as you can. DV is the largest NP in the continental USA and very much to see. Then drive to Las Vegas in the afternoon.

Day 8: Las Vegas

Day 9: Drive to GCNP

Day 10: GCNP

Day 11: Drive to Monument Valley. Visit to MV

Day 12: Drive to Sedona.

Day 13: Sedona

Da 14: Drive directly to San Diego in one long daydrive

Day 15: San Diego

Day 16: Drive to LA

Day 17: Home.

If you want to spend longer in the SD/LA my advice is to skip Monument Valley.

Yes, this itinerary can be done but if you can, add a couple of days.

For the carehire. Maybe make a reservation from England and include all insurances. Don't hire a too small car without enough space for luggage (at least a midsize car) A gps system can come handy in cities but you don't need it outside. Imo.

Don't rush through Yosemite and GCNP.

You're missing a lot stripping hw1 between SF and LA but you don't have the time for that I'm afraid.

Make reservations in the NP's starting right now.Do your shopping at one of the Las Vegas malls.

If your husband is a NP/NM buff maybe limit your time in SD/LA.

Happy planning

Tet

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2. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

I'm not sure what you two are referring when it comes to reservations for National Parks. Lodging might need reservations in Yosemite, but timeslots after Labor Day should not be so difficult to get. Otherwise, no booking or reservations will be needed for anything else in any park.

A National Parks Annual Pass goes for US$80 now. I'm not sure if that'll be worth your while. You'll be close to breaking even on it.

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3. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

Have you been out there last years DA? We have. September is becoming more and more popular especially with European visitors. We also already have been to the SW 20 years ago and never needed a reservation then. We still are coming without. I would recommend to make reservation at Yosemite NP, Death Valley NP and GCNP.

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4. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

I'm usually hoofing it in the high country at least a couple times per year, almost never in high season, and never with advanced reservations. Down in the popular and famous valley though, getting established lodging probably always needs reservations in those warmer months. I don't go down there much anymore. September can't be as crazy as May-August.

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5. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

Hi,

Cheers for your replies. I feel lots happier about everything knowing the itinerary sounds ok.

I may add in a couple of days to my trip if possible. Having thought a little more I think we would regret not staying longer at Yosemite and Death Valley. I have got my heart set on driving through Monument Valley so I'd rather not skip that, but shorten the Las Vegas & LA stops.

I'll look to book flight & National Park accomodation in the next week or so as this seems particularly important. Thanks for the advice..

I'm also now considering visiting Monterey/Carmel for 1 night after San Fran but before Yosemite. Is this a bad idea?

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6. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

Visting the Pacific coast is a good idea but the most scenic stretch is between Carmel and Cambria (and visiting Point Lobos SR is a must imo) so if you want to add hw1 (takes an extra day), drive from San Francisco to Monterey and on to Cambria or even San Luis Obispo. Stay for the night and drive to Yosemite NP from the coast then.

Tet

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7. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

Tet14's advice is worth heeding. Here's how t'do it:

«Day 1 to 3 – Fly into SF. Spend 2 days exploring the city.

»Day 3 – Pick up rental car, drive to» San Luís Obispo.

GOTO the page of DRIVING DIRECTIONS geocities.com/touringsfo/…DriveDir.html It's augmented by reports linked to the TouringSFO site at http://geocities.com/touringsfo/ entitled "A Trip to Las Vegas…" and "A Trip to Anaheim…"

From San Francisco to San Luís Obispo via the Cabrillo Highway. Thence to Yosemite.

Days 4-5: Yosemite

Day 6: To Death Valley

Day 7: To Las Vegas. Please see A BIT OF NON-GAMBLING LAS VEGAS at geocities.com/iconoc/Articles/LasVegas.html

«Day 8 – Drive to Grand Canyon very early, stopping briefly to see Hoover Dam.

«Day 9 – Drive to Monument Valley early afternoon. Explore Monument Valley, then overnight in Kayenta.

«Day 10 – Drive to Sedona. Explore Sedona.»

I find little of interest there and recommend taking the day for the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas.

«Day 11 – Drive to Phoenix / Scottsdale.

«Day 12 – Drive to Yuma. (possibly omit this stop if not too tired to drive all the way to San Diego

If you're going to San Diego from Phoenix, why not go via Palm Springs?

«Day 13 to 14 – Drive to San Diego. Spend 2 days here.

«Day 15 to 16 – Drive to LA. Another 2 days here.

«Day 17 – Return rental car. Fly back to London from LAX.»

It's a tough, but magnificent, trip. You'll drive about two thousand miles.

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London
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8. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

San Luis Obispo it is then! If the more southern stretch of the coast is the more scenic then I'm sure we won't mind driving an extra 100 miles & make a day of it.. It'll give us a chance to get used to the car. I presume it'll be a nice easy drive?

I am really happy with the new itinerary, spending less time in the cities. My only concern now is the amount of driving but I'm sure it'll be ok, it won't be anything like driving in the UK I'm pretty certain!

Thanks for the tips - especially introducing me to the TouringSFO website. It's brilliant for driving directions!

Onmission

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9. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

Hi onmission,

Your trip already sounds perfect, so I'm sorry to add a suggestion. However, your quote "My partner is the National Parks kind-of-guy, but I love the coast" struck me.

Have you considered Channel Islands National Park? This park consists of a few islands located off the coast of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Oxnard. (Oxnard and Ventura CA are two coastal cities about 50 miles north of LA, located on the 101 freeway--which transverses up to San Francisco).

You take a boat from either Oxnard to Ventura to one of the islands, spend some time there hiking and return the same day via the same boat.

Here's a link to the Park

http://www.nps.gov/chis/

Just a thought.

Have fun on your trip!

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10. Re: California & National Parks Roadtrip

Hi onmission,

One last thought. If you do decide to drive up the coast between San Luis Obispo and San Francisco, be sure to stop off to see the elephant seals. There is a sort of "sanctuary", where these seals congregate throughout the year.

Here's a TA link with some pertinent discussion.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28926-i29-k112664…

Have a good time in California!

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