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Phoenix to San Francisco

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hey everyone,

Somehow I got stuck planning the family road trip this summer...anyway. The parentals, my 13 year old brother and I (17/female) will be flying from the East Coast to Phoenix and then meandering our way to San Francisco. I've got the itinerary mostly planned out (see end of post) but I'm just curious about the awesome little places that aren't as famous as, say, the Grand Canyon. The main focus of the trip is the outdoorsy stuff - I'll be spending a week backpacking in Sequoia while the rest of my family will be on a trip up by Lake Tahoe (both trips organized by the Sierra Club). That said, we'll be finishing in San Fran and I'm totally open to hearing any suggestions about cool museums/various cultural activities along the way. The trip is from Aug 4th - Aug 26th.

Also, we'll probably be camping for most of the nights and I'm already working on reservations for those but I think it would be fun to surprise my parents with a night in a cool hotel, something pretty nice but keeping price in mind. Since we're already splurging on the Sierra Club trips and just by doing a roadtrip in general (first family vacation not to my grandparents house...ever), it would be great if the hotel could be $150 or under.
Thanks in advance!

Itinerary:

Aug 4th - Fly into Phoenix; spend night in Phoenix (any good suggestions?)

Aug 5th - Drive Phoenix to Grand Canyon (was thinking of stopping by Walnut Canyon and/or Sunset Crater on the way?)

Aug 6th/7th - at Grand Canyon (possibly spending the second day at the North Rim?)

Aug 8th - Drive Grand Canyon to Las Vegas (via Zion National Park); spend night in Vegas

Aug 9th - Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes (or somewhere around there) via Death Valley

Aug 10th - explore Yosemite
Aug 11th - explore Yosemite

**Aug 12th - My parents have to be at Tahoe by 3pm and I have to be at Lodgepole around the same time so I was thinking of doing something like driving the Taiga Road to Mercer, where my parents would drop me off at the Amtrak station and continue driving north. I would take Amtrak (bus, right?) to Visalia where I could catch a shuttle bus to Lodgepole.
Sierra Club trips: Aug 12-18/19th

Aug 18th - The Tahoe trip finishes a day earlier than my backpacking trip, so family will drive from Tahoe to Sequoia Natl. Park so that we can meet up the next day.

Aug 19th - Depart Sequoia Natl. Park in the early afternoon

Aug 20 - 26 - ??? <-- I know that we want to drive Highway 1 up to San Francisco and visit Big Sur. I would also like to do some more hiking. The beach might also be fun - would Santa Cruz be a good place to stay? These days are more open - we just have to be in San Fran. on the 26th to get to the airport. I know San Francisco is a city with tons to explore so would you recommend going there even if it would just be for a day and a night? or should we leave it for a another time entirely and just focus on getting the most out of the coast?

Thanks!

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