2 week road trip in October with family

Old Feb 5th, 2020, 09:34 AM
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2 week road trip in October with family

Weíre finalising details and routes/stops for our trip in October and thought Iíd see what others thought of our plan, locals/people whoíve done the trip.

We arrive on 16th October at SFOIdea so far:
Pick up SUV car at SFO & First night in SF as we arrive 11pm PT. BOOKED
First day shopping and spend afternoon in Santa Cruz
Stay night 2 somewhere east of Santa Cruz
Nights 3 4 5 in Yosemite (North Wawona) BOOKED
Night 6 Mamouth/Bishop
Night 7 Death Valley (Stovepipe Wells hotel or Ranch at Furnace creek)
Nights 8 & 9 Silver City Mountain Resort (I know its a long long drive, but the boys really really want to stay here)
Night 10 Morro Bay
Nights 11 12 13 Monterey (we will then explore from here, down Hwy1 to Big Sur state park etc, whale watching trip, bike hire etc)
Drop car back at SFO and bart to hotel (Fishermans wharf)
Night 14 back in SF (giving us 2 days, 1 night to explore the city before flight at 10pm back to London)

I'm slightly questioning the first day and night option. I was thinking we could have a chilled out day buying supplies (food, cooler, etc) for the places we can self cater on our trip, afternoon on the boardwalk at Santa Cruz and a good nights sleep before heading to Yosemite OR,
do we get up really early on day one, do the shopping etc as quickly as we can and head straight to Yosemite?

Where then do we spend the night we saved? Move Yosemite lodging forward one night.
Or will we really need that first day to recover from the journey so as not to ruin our precious time in Yosemite??

I am a certified over thinker!
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 09:56 AM
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The plan starting in Santa Cruz and ending in Monterey makes no sense that I can see. Go from SF to Yosemite, then hit Santa Cruz if you want after Monterey en route back to San Francisco.

Also this part is confusing "Night 10 Morro Bay
Nights 11 12 13 Monterey (we will then explore from here, down Hwy1 to Big Sur state park etc, whale watching trip, bike hire etc)"

Since Big Sur is between Morro Bay and Monterey on Hwy 1, you would drive through/visit it on the way north, not from Monterey.

On your arrival night I'd just stay at an SFO hotel and leave first thing in the AM and head east - maybe to somewhere like Sonora for that night and visit Columbia State Historic Park and other bits of the Gold Rush Foothills.

You do realize North Wawona is an hour+ from Yosemite Valley?


Mid October will most likely be fine but you will have to be on the lookout for early winter storms in the Sierra.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 10:22 AM
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The plan starting in Santa Cruz and ending in Monterey makes no sense that I can see. Go from SF to Yosemite, then hit Santa Cruz if you want after Monterey en route back to San Francisco.
The reason for this is the previous day we will leave our home at 7am to do a 4 hour drive to London, then we will board a plan for an 11 hour flight to SF, landing at 11.45pm (UK time), I figured that having a chilled day after that marathon, in a cool place like Santa Cruz which is not too far from SF with good shopping options on the way and adding no distance onto our onwards trip to North Wawona, was fairly sensible? Or if you think its a waste of time, we could head straight to Yosemite after shopping.

Since Big Sur is between Morro Bay and Monterey on Hwy 1, you would drive through/visit it on the way north, not from Monterey.
We actually would like to explore this area and hike in the Nat Park and as there is NO affordable lodging options for a family of 5 on this stretch of coast (I have searched extensively!), I thought it made good sense to have a nice base for a few days after a hectic trip. If we had an RV, we would camp in the JPB state park, but we don't, so need to find a base elsewhere.


North Wawona is as close as we could get and get the accommodation that suits us. We will be there mid week and in the second half of October so have been told the traffic will be minimal and that is only an hours drive maximum. Also, its close enough to visit the sequoia trees, so an added bonus? We have a budget that does not allow us to stay in the valley without roughing it and having to eat out (ie cabins with no kitchen and only sleep 3).

We have the weather for Tioga pass on our radar and understand that if it gets closed for snow, we'll have a very long detour! We check out of NWawona at 10am, so if the worst happens, it will mean we loose a day exploring over the Easter Sierra. Fingers crossed this doesn't happen.

Many thanks
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 10:31 AM
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There is a HI Hostel about 50 miles south of SFO at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. I've stayed there at least twice. If you can't get a private room, you might end up in dorm rooms. The kitchen with stove and refrigerator space is a bonus in my book.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 11:32 AM
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Also hope for no fires. Smoke can ruin national park views. I personally found the power cuts last October in Northern California disruptive even over 200 miles from active fires: hotels can't keep food fresh so aren't preparing breakfast and won't let customers use the elevator (since the power might be cut at any time), restaurants may or may not open between power cuts, gas stations may be mobbed after being closed from the last power cut or in anticipation of the next one, and everyone takes 10 minutes because they are filling up 5 enormous containers for their generators, and so on. I haven't followed whether PG&E is changing their strategy this year with respect to power cuts.

Death Valley is a long way to go for a single night, you really need 3 nights to see very much of the park. Ranch at Furnace Creek was renamed a few years ago to Oasis at Death Valley.

October is cruising season in Monterey so you may want to schedule your downtown activities around when ships are in port.

Last edited by tom_mn; Feb 5th, 2020 at 11:38 AM.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 12:04 PM
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Wow, not much to look forward to then.....

We don't have time in a 2 week road trip to spend 3 nights in DV. Lots of people just drive through so I think we'll be ok with 1 night & 1 day. Its too expensive to stay longer. The Ranch at Death Valley is under the umbrella of the Oasis, but the actual lodging is called The Ranch at Death Valley.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 01:14 PM
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On your drive up Hwy 1 from Morro Bay to Monterey, you can prioritize sights on the southern side. During your time in Monterey you can backtrack to see anything you missed on the northern side.

Are you sure you want to stay in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park? It's a remote area of the park and from there you can't easily access other parts of the park https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm If your priority is seeing giant sequoias, I wouldn't base yourself in Mineral King Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 02:15 PM
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Just a comment re Yosemite -- "We will be there mid week and in the second half of October so have been told the traffic will be minimal and that is only an hours drive maximum." It isn't the traffic -- it is the road. An hour each way on a VERY winding road will get pretty old pretty fast.

There are budget accommodations much closer/more convenient to the Valley than North Wawona. Check Yosemite View Lodge and Cedar Lodge in El Portal Yosemite View is nicer, Cedar Lodge s cheaper), condos in Yosemite West, and cabins in Foresta.

North Wawona just isn't that great a location.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 02:29 PM
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[QUOTE=Patty;17058827]

thank you, thatís a good plan. Silver city was on the itinerary for the cabins alone. We love them and that kind of stay, itís far more us than motels etc. Planning to see the sequoias at Mariposa so wasnít a priority for Sequoia.

Two alternative options would be
1. cut out mamouth and Dv and go from Yosemite down to sequoia then to Morro
2. cut out Sequoia and go straight from DV to Morro.

North Wawona works for us. We have found a great cabin/lodge tgat isnít on a complex (yay). Also has a large area of land a creek, hot tub. And itís booked! We can driver to Glacier point and Mariposa easily and are very used to long windy roads where we live. We regularly drive over moors around coasts for walks and days out, Weíre not city folk.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 05:47 PM
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In Yosemite, it's not the roads per se. It's the speed limit. 35 mph or less, and enforced.

Just an opinion from a California native... I wouldn't include Death Valley on this trip unless you just want to say you've been there.

Rather than Mammoth or Bishop, I would stay in June Lake somewhere on the June Lake Loop road. If you can skip DV, add that night to this stop and explore some of the following which are within an hour's drive from JL: Mono Lake, Bodie Ghost Town, Mammoth.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:31 PM
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"We’re not city folk"

Neither am I. I've been to Yosemite many times (entering via all three highways on various trips) -- If you want to spend two hours a day on Wawona Rd/Hwy 41 . . . so be it. It is your trip..
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 10:38 PM
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[QUOTE=Jean;

Just an opinion from a California native... I wouldn't include Death Valley on this trip unless you just want to say you've been there.

Can I ask why not please? A good friend of mine did a California trip last year and said we would love Death Valley as itís like nothing else weíve ever seen. We donít get a lot of desserts in Devon so I think itíll be fascinating?

Rather than Mammoth or Bishop, I would stay in June Lake somewhere on the June Lake Loop road.

Why please?

As for staying in North Wawona, youíll notice I wrote BOOKED next to it. Telling us itíll be awful isnít helpful at this stage. The reviews from the cabin are all good, they report itís in a good position and none have moaned about the drive. It may not be perfect, but itís what suits us, for our family and our budget. Itís going to be an adventure and like nothing weíve seen before. I often advise visitors to Devon on the right route for this and that or the Ďrightí places to go, because I think theyíll want to see what I think is the best of Devon. Invariably they donít all take my advice and do their own thing. None have said it was wrong or awful because it was new to them and they just loved the countryside here whichever way they went.

tbh, Iíve actually had nothing but negatives about our California trip. Not sure how there have been so many people reporting good trips of all different lengths and all different routes 😕
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 06:09 AM
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As far as the possibility of fires in October, don’t worry about it. There is also the possibility of NO fires or power outages. It is out of your control, so enjoy your trip! . Janis’s recommendation for Columbia State Park is a good one for your kids.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 07:56 AM
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DV is fascinating, but your plan wouldn't give you enough time to see much. It would be a long drive to get there and a long drive the next day to Sequoia. As janisj says, if you want to spend this much time sitting in a car, so be it. It's your trip. If it was my trip, I'd rather spend those hours seeing different things involving less driving.

And you don't have to go to DV for scenery unlike anything you've seen before. As you drive on the eastern side of the Sierra (Hwy. 395), you'll pass through the Owens Valley which will look desert-y in parts. A detour from Bishop would take you to the oldest trees on the planet, Bristlecone Pines. If you're hungry when you get to Big Pine, stop at the Copper Top on the east side of 395 for great BBQ.

As you continue south on 395, you'll see evidence of ancient volcanic activity. Cinder cones, lava flows, etc. If you stay on 395 instead of going to DV, look for the signpost for Fossil Falls (south of Coso Junction) and take the dirt road a short distance east off 395, park in the small lot and take the short walk to the view point. Nothing like that in Devon.

You can google other sights to see on/just off Hwy. 395. A fish hatchery, hot springs, lakes, western film locations and museum (Lone Pine)... So much to see in this area.

Mammoth v. June Lake. Mammoth is a small city and spread out, and June Lake is a very small town. The June Lake Loop is a road that circles around four lakes, and the area is called the Switzerland of California. Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, boat/kayak rentals, all within a small area (unlike Mammoth), and close to other things like Bodie and Mono Lake. Mammoth isn't far (about 30 minutes) if you wanted to go there for dinner.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 08:22 AM
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Bodie has been mentioned a couple of times. IMO, it really does merit your attention, as it offers a peek into the history of the area. On this link you'll find more information as well as a short video that will give you an idea of the landscape in the area. https://www.bodie.com/
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 08:56 AM
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"As for staying in North Wawona, youíll notice I wrote BOOKED next to it. Telling us itíll be awful isnít helpful at this stage.'

I know you said you've booked, and I'll drop it - but for future reference, unless you pre-paid non-refundable which is seldom necessary, especially nine+ months in advance for October, having booked a place does not mean one has to keep the booking and stay there if there are better options.

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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 01:14 PM
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OK just wanted to make sure you knew the location of Mineral King relative to other parts of the park. Both of your alternative options would work allowing a more relaxed pace.

June Lake is a tiny village. There are motels in the village and cabins and lodges along the loop. It's really beautiful in the fall with the aspens turning.

Mammoth is a larger town and a ski resort with condos, strip malls, etc, a bit of sprawl but not huge, more restaurants, grocery stores, shops vs June Lake. There are lakeside places to stay outside of town such as Crystal Crag Lodge or https://www.tamaracklodge.com/ that are very scenic and you'd hardly know there's a town nearby.

Bishop is more of a western town and is much lower in elevation vs June/Mammoth (4000 vs 7000-8000 ft) so has less alpine scenery as you're now in the high desert.

Fall is a wonderful time of year along 395 and very quiet. I'd take a look at what activities might interest you to help decide where to base. In addition to the places already mentioned, there's Devils Postpile National Monument (chance of early snow closing the road) near Mammoth and the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine. This area has very interesting geology.

If there's a storm, it may also affect Sierra passes other than Tioga, 395 and June/Mammoth. Early snow usually melts/gets cleared quickly but just be aware of CA traction laws https://dot.ca.gov/travel/winter-dri...chain-controls


Fall aspens on the June Lake Loop

Devils Postpile

Rainbow Falls

Bodie

Ancient Bristlecone

Alabama Hills where many westerns were filmed
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 01:17 PM
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Great photos, Patty!

Do you have one of Mono Lake? I think it's also totally unique and worth a visit.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 01:26 PM
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Thanks, Jean! I couldn't find a good photo of Mono Lake but agree it's definitely worth a visit.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 05:15 PM
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https://www.tripsavvy.com/mono-lake-pictures-4116584

https://www.tripsavvy.com/scenic-highway-395-4064574
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