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3 1/2 week California trip

Old Jul 21st, 2012, 12:08 PM
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3 1/2 week California trip

My partner and I (late 20’s) are planning a 3 1/2 week California trip in September 2012. We are really active - love walking, hiking, the beach, biking etc. We like cities but we really want to see as much of the National Parks in California as possible. We will rent a car to get around. This is our itinerary so far:

1. Montreal to LA
2. LA
3. LA
4. LA to Death Valley NP (5 hour drive)
5. DVNP
6. DVNP
7. DVNP to Sequoia/Kings Canyon (6 hour drive)
8. Sequoia/Kings Canyon
9. Sequoia to Yosemite (4 hour drive)
10. Yosemite
11. Yosemite
12. Yosemite
13. Yosemite to Sonoma (4 ½ hour drive)
14. Sonoma to San Fran (1 hour drive)
15. San Fran
16. San Fran
17. San Fran
18. San Fran – Monterey (2 hour drive)
19. Monterey
20. Monterey
21. Monterey
22. Monterey to Santa Barbara (4 hour drive)
23. Santa Barbara (for the Channel Islands)
24. Santa Barbara
25. Santa Barbara – LA – MTL

My questions:

1. Is 2 full days in Death Valley enough?
2. Is 3 days too much in Monterey (to see Carmel, Hearst Castle etc.)?
3. Is 1 full day in Sequoia/Kings Canyon enough? Do I need to go here if we are spending time in Yosemite? Are they too similar?
4. We have only planned a short stop in Sonoma. We have read that Sonoma is nicer than Napa. Don’t want to spend too much time in this area though as we are Australian and have plenty of wine country down our way. We just wanted a short stop to break up Yosemite to San Fran.
5. Fort Bragg /area up to Fort Bragg – is this worth a trip from San Fran? If so, how many days?
6. 2 days in LA – worth it?
7. Are my drive times pretty accurate? We’re not scared of driving!

Thanks!
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 12:54 PM
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1. Yes. More than enough.
2. Yes. Spend some time elsewhere. Cambria, for instance, on the day you visit Hearst Castle. (Hint: There is a lot to see between Monterey and Santa Monica on Highway 1.)
3. I would prefer to spend another night in Kings Canyon.
4. Sonoma isn't nicer than Napa Valley, but it is more causal and laid back.
5. The drive up Highway 1 from San Francisco to Mendocino is quite spectacular. (It's worth a trip to me, but you divide your time among destinations much differently than I do.)
6. It's worth it to me.
7. Close enough.

From Death Valley you should drive to Yosemite on 395 and 120 over Tioga Pass. It is much more scenic that to drive from DVNP to Sequoia NP.

In 3 1/2 weeks you have time to see a lot of interesting places that you haven't included in your itinerary. It would be very worthwhile for you to get a copy of "Fodor's California 2012" and ask more questions after you have studied it: http://www.amazon.com/Fodors-Califor...alifornia+2012

HTTY
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 12:59 PM
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Sounds like a great trip. Not sure if I can help but I'll try to answer your questions.

1. I love Death Valley. But it will still be very hot in September (highs can still get over 100). For that reason, I think 2 full days will be plenty. Try to do your hiking in early morning/late day. Highly recommend getting up for sunrise viewing from Dante's View or other points.
2. Be sure to visit Big Sur as well when you are staying in Monterey. Great hiking there.
3. I hate to tell you to skip Sequoia/Kings Canyon but you might want to borrow that time to go up north. But I've only been to these 2 parks once so I should let someone else answer this one.
4. First of all, I grew up in Napa so I am biased. But to answer your question, Sonoma (or Napa, for that matter) is not a good place to break up that trip. It might take even longer to drive to Sonoma from Yosemite than directly to San Francisco. And the drive from Sonoma to SF can be more like 2 hours. There is a lot to see around Sonoma if you could stay a little longer. Not just wine tasting at all. It's near the redwoods of Russian River. And the Sonoma Coast is one of my favorite parts of California. Very different from the coast around Monterey.
5. I'm not sure what you heard about Fort Bragg-not much of a destination as far as I know. But it is near Mendocino, which is a very popular destination. The whole Sonoma and Mendocino Coast is gorgeous.
6. I think 2 days in LA is definitely worth it. It's a good amount too. I'm always ready to leave after about 3 days-no offense to anyone! That's just me.
7. You probably should add some time to all of your driving times. So much of it depends on traffic. For instance, SF to Monterey is more like 2 1/2-3.

I hope you have a wonderful time!
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 01:27 PM
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Oh my, all that time in Death Valley? In SEPTEMBER????
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 01:30 PM
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In the three days in the Monterey area I recommend: Half day hiking in Point Lobos State reserve, half day seeing the Monterey Bay Aquarium, half day visiting the shops and galleries in Carmel by the Sea plus strolling along Carmel beach, half day hiking or biking the coastal recreation trail in Pacific Grove, half day driving the 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach.
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 01:43 PM
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I like your plan.

A couple of thoughts though. September isn't the best time for Yosemite as the waterfalls will be dry most likely.

You might also want to consider Lassen and Redwoods. Much less people.

I haven't been to Channel Islands, but I'm really wanting to go there. A few companies offer overnight tours/camping there.

We spend 3 days in Death Valley and had plenty to do. This was in January though. Have been to 29 National Parks and this one suprised me the most, We weren't expecting to like it as much as we did.

There is a lot to do between SB and Monterey. McWay Falls, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, etc. So, I would plan on an entire day, not just 4 hours.

Look at kayaking in Elkhorn Slough near Monterey-amazing!


Buy a National Park Pass to save some $$$
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 06:43 PM
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Personally I think Yosemite is fantastic in Sept. Maybe no waterdalls but there is plenty of hiking, fewer crowds the leaves start to turn. Just really beautiful Check put hetch hetchy if you can. SF Gate just ran an article about a backpacking trip there. Some great pics.

hetch-hetchy-walking-with-the-ghost-of-muir
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 07:52 PM
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Perhaps, I should have said for a first visit. The waterfalls were what really left an impression on me. I did go to Hetch Hetchy. I hope to get back and do some backpacking at Yosemite at some point. I do think Sept would make great backpacking the high sierras. Just wanted you to be aware that the falls might not be going good or might even be totally dry.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 05:20 AM
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Hi

Thanks for all your responses.

Happy Trails. You say that we divide up time differntly to you. This is our first time in California and we have serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

Granted we could always come back. W

1)
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 05:29 AM
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Sorry Dbl Post

Hi

Thanks for all your responses.

Happy Trails. You say that we divide up time differntly to you. This is our first time in California and we have serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

I think maybe we could shave days on death valley,Monterey

Granted we could always come back. What do you think we are missing out on?

For you what is a must? We are super flexible at this stage.

We wanted a nice mix of city,small town and nature.

Maybe we are a bit time heavy in spots.

I guess for a 1st trip we want a great flavor to entice us to come back.

Thanks heaps everyone.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 06:52 AM
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What do you think we are missing out on?

It seems you have checked out some of our natural wonders without exploring what's between them. For instance, you were going to drive to Sequoia NP via a spectacularly non-scenic route rather than up the east side of the Sierra Nevada and over Tioga Pass.

Driving from Yosemite to Napa or Sonoma, you could drive on Highway 49--a scenic highway located with historic towns from the great Gold Rush.

Highway 1 from Monterey to Santa Monica is extremely scenic with much to offer, but you mention only Santa Barbara for the Channel Islands (which are accessed from Ventura, not Santa Barbara).

This is for starters. Also, you have some misconceptions. For instance:

We have read that Sonoma is nicer than Napa.

I don't know where you read this, but you won't find it is the guide book I suggested.

Some of your rationale's are not well reasoned:

Don’t want to spend too much time in this area though as we are Australian and have plenty of wine country down our way.

Using this reasoning you wouldn't go to San Francisco because you have plenty of cities in Australia.

I hope this helps. You have a big adventure planned, and it is worth researching beforehand.

HTTY

PS No matter what you think about Las Vegas, it has to been seen to be believed. You don't have anything like it in Australia.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 07:28 AM
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Why are you coming to California from Australia by way of Montreal?
If you went to Las Vegas first you could include the Grand Canyon south rim. I would trade a day in DV for a day at the GC anytime. You could do a loop from LV including Sequoia/Kings, Yosemite and Death Valley. Return the car to LV and fly to either San Francisco or San Diego to avoid driving through a lot of the Mojave Desert.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 08:23 AM
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You forgot San Diego.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 08:40 AM
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Hi Happy Trails,

This is planning i use forums to help get a better understanding.

I have been to Vegas and GC. Though GC was far to rushed for me. I would like to go back.

I don't understand the snark. I don't feel like doing a lot of time in wine country. That's fine its not intended as an insult.

I grew up in wine country and love it but i am trying to focus the limited time i have on what interests me. I have traveled the world over and i don't have the attitude you suggest.

Your comments about cities is ridiculous.

I didn't realize the route was boring between those parks and i will take your advice... its why i asked for it. On a forum where you seek opinions.

If i didn't have to work and had cash i would see everything.

Tom i live in Montreal. I really want to see Bryce canyon and Zion too so i was thinking it best to save GC and area for another trip so i can give it the time it deserves.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 09:06 AM
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I'm sorry that you are offended by my careful
reading of your post and that you don't see the
logic of my statement about cities.

You asked what you were missing out on. I tried
to give you some ideas, concluding sincerely, "I hope
this helps." I'm disappointed to receive a tongue-lashing
in exchange for my efforts.

HTTY
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 09:18 AM
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I dont see the logic, sorry. I just didn't want to spend a lot of time in wine country. Its that simple. Perhaps my reasoning seems crude.

I am sure its a jewel in the crown of the great state of California its just not one i want to visit to much on this trip, there is so much to see.

Sure I've seen New York so why would i need to see New Delhi... its all the same dont you know

I do like this Vegas idea though. I never thought of that. Maybe we could go LV - Death- Yos - KC/S - LV and then do the cities tour flying into SF.

Now i have to convince my partner into going to Zion.

So much choice it blows my mind.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Hey Easy,

We thought of San Diego but we figured that two big cities was enough for this trip.

I have always wanted to go to SF.

That being said i am a huge comic fan so Comic-Con in SD is a dream of mine..... not so much my partner
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 09:59 AM
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Now i have to convince my partner into going to Zion.

I wish you success. Zion is a beautiful place about three hours from Las Vegas. You could have most of a day there and the next day drive to Death Valley in 5-6 hours.

When we go to Zion, we stay in Springale and in Death Valley we stay at Death Valley Ranch.

Skipping Sequoia NP, this would make a good itinerary: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Zion NP, Death Valley NP, Yosemite NP, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Channel Islands, Los Angeles.

HTTY
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 10:42 AM
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Thanks Happy Trails.

I am wrangling for 3 extra days off work so fingers crossed.

What do you think of squeezing in Bryce canyon or is it a bridge to far.

Would you recommend starting in vegas and looping the parks then flying to SF like Tom mentioned.

Or just drive starting in LA?

I really do appreciate your help.

I worry about one way drop off fees.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 10:52 AM
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If you want to see Hearst Castle, which I believe you mentioned, it would be best to take one day away from Monterey and stay in Cambria which is just a short drive to Hearst. Or you could stay in San Simeon itself where Hearst is located, but that town has fewer lodging and restaurant choices than Cambria. Have stayed in both and liked both. Have a great trip.
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