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Advice Road trip 15 days California Grand Canyon

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May 23rd, 2016, 03:13 PM
  #1
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Advice Road trip 15 days California Grand Canyon

Hi,

I will be visiting California with my girlfriend from the 3rd to the 17th of September this year. We are currently planning our road trip in south west. We have in total 15 days and we want to see as much as possible (even if I know that a lot of people will disagree on that). We are quite used to intense road trips and really enjoy them. For sure we can’t do everything this time but we already know that we don’t want to go down to San Diego (already seen) neither spend a huge amount of time in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We also made the choice to skip most of the scenic pacific coast highway (hopefully for another time). We will rent a car for most of our trip.

The full details are below. However, our most important interrogation is about the national parks (Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce and Zion) and the time to spend in each ones (4.5 days in total). Should we spend more than 1.5 day on the south rim of Grand Canyon even if we can’t hike to the bottom instead of going to Bryce and/or Zion. I wonder if 1 day in Zion and 1 day in Bryce is doable.

Full itinerary:
We would first land in Los Angeles on the Friday 2. We stay over the weekend there with a day driving through Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.

On Monday 5 morning (very early) direction the Grand Canyon area. Do you think we can do something in the park during the afternoon/evening or the drive will take too long for that? If yes, should we go to Havasu/Supai area or directly to the Grand Canyon South rim (we are going to GC the day after but not for long, cf below)? (we were also thinking about going down the canyon near Havasu but also too late for the booking unfortunately)

Tuesday 6, we do the South Rim (unfortunately to late to book something in Phantom ranch which was the original plan) with an early hike down the South Kaibab trail (Cedar Bridge or Skeleton Point). Hopefully, we have time to drive along the Rim eastward during the afternoon with overlooks.

Then, it starts to be complicated because we are not sure whether we should stay one more day on the South Rim or not.

If you think 1.5 day might be enough, Wednesday 7 would be a drive along the east of the South Rim until Page. (Antelope canyon, horseshoe and other things if possible).

Thursday 8, drive directly from Page to Bryce on the morning and do the scenic road the afternoon. Watch a sunset and night around Bryce.

Friday 9, drive from Bryce through Zion park and see whatever is possible in a day. Night between Zion and Las Vegas (maybe St George)

Saturday 10 Las Vegas

Sunday 11, drive from Las Vegas via Death Valley with a night in Mammoth Lake, June Lake or Lee Vining.

Monday 12, Go to Yosemite valley and night around.

Tuesday 13, head to San Francisco

From Wednesday 14 to Saturday 17 afternoon stay (3.5 days/4 nights) in San Francisco.

Thank you very much for your feedbacks. And I hope this discussion will also help other people in our situation.
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May 23rd, 2016, 06:45 PM
  #2
 
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My advice leaving Santa Barbara would be to fly over the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas and rent another car there.
After seeing the Arizona and Utah parks you will be disappointed with Death Valley.
Return the car to Las Vegas and fly to Sacramento or maybe Oakland to go see Yosemite. See Hoover Dam on the way to the Grand Canyon.
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May 26th, 2016, 06:59 AM
  #3
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Thank you tomfuller for your reply.

Do you think we will save time by flying to Las Vegas since we need to rent another car and drive to the south rim again?

Also, if I understood your point, your advice is to go only on the west side of Yosemite park and skip the Death Valley (and the East side with Mammoth Lake, June Lake, Lee Vining, etc). Is it right?
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May 26th, 2016, 07:47 AM
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Are you flying home from SFO?

LA to the Grand Canyon is a very very long drive.

If it was me -- I'd consider flying from LAX to Phoenix, collect a rental car there (though a car will likely cost more there). Then you will be about 3 hours from the GC. Yes -- the flight/airports will take time but IMO saving about 5 hours in the car would be worth it.

Then your loop through the Utah parks. I would consider not staying in Las vegas. It woulds take about 6 hours from Zion to Lone Pine. Now -- Death Valley is a problem - in Sept it could very easily be 110°F or even hotter. So you could spend a few hour in DV but I'd personally drive through and just take a few photo stops. Then up 395 (GORGEOUS scenery) and in to Yosemite via Tioga Pass. Stay a minimum of 2 nights in Yosemite becasue it will take several hours just getting there. Then on to SF, and drop the car.

The drop off fee may be high -- but is still worth it if it IMO. Plus flying to CA will cost more for a family than any drop off extras.
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May 26th, 2016, 08:11 AM
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I would skip Death Valley in favor of more time in Yosemite.
Could you fly to Phoenix or Las Vegas first and then rent a car for Arizona and Utah?
I saw nothing about a family. Just a guy and his girlfriend unless I missed something.
Allegiant has a few flights a week from Las Vegas to Fresno which might make it easier to get to Yosemite.
There is now YARTS bus service from Fresno into Yosrmite if you didn't want to rent another car at the Fresno airport.
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May 26th, 2016, 08:16 AM
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oops -- sorry. Was posting to another thread about a family traveling much of the same territory. But even w/ just a couple -- I would just deal w/ drop off fees

(you do have to understand tom's PoV -- he sometimes suggests itineraries including two trains, three buses and a flight to avoid maybe $200 in drop off fees)
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May 26th, 2016, 08:54 AM
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When you say at least 2 nights in Yosemite, could it be 1 in leening + 1 in Yosemite Valley or 2 in Yosemite Valley is better. I am just worried about the price and fully-booked hotel for september.

Ok for DV, we didn't want to stay there anyway, just drive through because it looks like the road between Las Vegas and Yosemite.

What about flying to Flagstag from Los Angeles and rent a car there if it is possible? Might be better than Phoenix, no?
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May 26th, 2016, 09:01 AM
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>>could it be 1 in leening + 1 in Yosemite Valley<<

if you mean Lee Vining -- that is not in Yosemite -- you will still be hours from the Valley. I meant one night somewhere along 395 - Lee Vining is just on option.

Then 2 nights IN Yosemite Valley. 2 nights will give you 1.5 days in the Valley.

>>What about flying to Flagstag from Los Angeles and rent a car there if it is possible? Might be better than Phoenix, no?<<

The only flights to Flagstaff AFAIK are from Sky Harbor so you'd be flying from LA > Phoenix > Flagstaff. And those end in June so no, you couldn't fly to Flagstaff.
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May 26th, 2016, 09:28 AM
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Sorry for my typos in my last post.

Thanks for the advice for Yosemite.

For the flights to Flagstaff, indeed there is a stop at Phoenix but it looks still possible in September with America Airlines.
It takes between 3h30 and 5h so still faster than renting a car in Phoenix I think.
I saw another airport around (Prescott) but less choice and I suppose it is more difficult to rent a car there.

What do you think about my trip in the parks? Does it look doable or should I remove some of them and spend more time in others?

Thanks for your feedbacks.
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May 26th, 2016, 09:48 AM
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doable - I'd spend the Zion night in Springdale and part of the next day still exploring Zion. Then in the early afternoon head to Vegas.
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May 26th, 2016, 09:49 AM
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I would not skip the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley! It's beautiful and unique.

I thought your plan was fine.

The McDs in Lone Pine has a good view of Mt. Whitney. If you have time take a detour up toward the fish hatchery. Further up you might stop at Manzanar (Japanese WWII internment camp), Schat's Bakkery in Bishop, be sure to gas up in Bishop, and a stop at Mono Lake Visitor just north of the turnoff to Yosemite.

The Motel 6 in Mammoth isn't bad if you run out of options.
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May 26th, 2016, 09:51 AM
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I forgot to say, staying in Lee Vining allows you to spend more time the next morning stopping along the way into the park, and in Tuolumne Meadows which is part of Yosemite.

Vs rushing through in the dark.
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May 26th, 2016, 12:10 PM
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To answer your question about GC. If you decide to drive to GC, on the Sunday day 4, leave Santa Barbara area and drive a couple of hours, and get east of LA. Driving through in the morning would add a lot of time to the trip. You still will have about an 8 hour drive without stops to get to GC, so if you leave at the crack of dawn, you would have couple of hours or so to check out GC before sunset.

I do love Death Valley, but if you decide to fly over this time, it gives you an excuse for another trip. I've found that air fare and car rentals tend to be less expensive there than Phoenix or California so returning your first car and renting one in Vegas might save some money. You would need to do a bit of research to see how the time and costs compare to driving.
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May 29th, 2016, 05:42 AM
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Than you for your advice.

We don't want to skip DV and the Eastern Sierra. We just wonder which stops are possible in this 3 days (2 nights) trip between Vegas and San Francisco.

If we leave Las Vegas around 9am to drive through DV up to Bishop, which road would be the best? Do we have time for the scenic road?

The next day would be Bishop to Yosemite valley via 395, Mono lake, Tiago pass, Tuolumne Meadows. Do you have other stops to recommend on this road?

On the 13 we visit Yosemite valley (hopefully we can catch the sunrise) and drive to San Francisco. What time should we leave to be at SF before midnight?
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May 29th, 2016, 06:57 AM
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>>We just wonder which stops are possible in this 3 days (2 nights) trip between Vegas and San Francisco.<<

Unfortunately you would need 3 nights to make this work at all realistically. You won't get to Yosemite Valley until mid afternoon and unless you have accommodations in the park will have to continue on through to at least El Portal. So really only that evening in the Valley.

>>Do we have time for the scenic road?<<

There is only one road really -- and it is very scenic.

>>What time should we leave to be at SF before midnight?<<

If you don't need to be in SF until midnight, then you obviously aren't doing anything IN SF that day -- why not add another night to Yosemite and head to SF the next morning.
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May 29th, 2016, 07:48 AM
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stefbach, there are multiple ways from Las Vegas to Death Valley. Be advised that cellphones and cellphone based GPS don't work there, so it's a good idea to have a paper map.
The National Park Service has conveniently put together a map of routes between DV and LAS. The link to the map is on this page. I'd also print out the park map.
https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/maps.htm

They have them sorted into shortest, most scenic, easiest, etc.

In my opinion the best route is to come in from Death Valley Junction (shortest route) and with limited time, I'd try to see Zabriskie Point, drive the Artist's Palette Drive, and possibly go to Badwater. Then return to stop at the Visitor Center for a photo with the big thermometer and restroom break. These are all short stops or driving routes that you can do even when it's very hot. It will likely be too hot and take too long to walk to the sand dunes, but you can see them from the road.

Be sure to check the website for closures. Flash floods are not unusual (even in summer) and roads can be closed for a while until repaired. Scotty's Castle is closed now as is the Badwater Road to the south (so DON'T use the 'most scenic' route on the map).

From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to Manazar is about 2 hours. The Visitor Center closes (4 or 5?) so you may not have time for that, but you can still drive through the site until dusk.

Bishop is less than an hour from Manzanar. You should have time for a quick stop at the McD's I mentioned where Mt. Whitney is visible (it can be confusing to pick out the correct peak, so look it up on the internet first).

PS. I would try to leave LV earlier than 9 am, but I know how that happens. Carry a jug of water in the car and drink often even if you don't feel thirsty!

The next morning you would be able to have a quick stop up at the Mono Lake visitor center. I think it's an interesting spot.
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May 29th, 2016, 08:02 AM
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For Yosemite, allow an hour from Bishop to Lee Vining, and approx 3 hours to drive the Tioga Pass Road to the Village. If you have time on that day, I'd also drive up to Glacier Point (about one hour each way). That's about 6 hours total drive time. Leaves you a few hours for walking around Glacier Point and exploring the Valley floor. The next day you can visit some of the Valley floor waterfalls, and on the way out you hit the viewpoints at the west entrance. Do go up to Glacier Point if you didn't make it the arrival day.
Of course check for any road closures before making your final plans.

Drive time from Yosemite Village to San Francisco is about 5 hours allowing for some traffic...it could be longer depending on which day. At least if you arrive toward midnight that won't be a factor.
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May 29th, 2016, 09:09 AM
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By 'only one road' I meant there is only one viable route from DV to Yosemite . . .
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May 29th, 2016, 10:25 AM
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Actually there are several, but the most efficient is via Panamint Springs to Lone Pine.
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May 29th, 2016, 10:33 AM
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RE accommodations in Yosemite Valley, keep trying for Half Dome Village formerly known as Camp Curry. Cancellation window is 7 days out so you may see some around then.

Camping is another option.

Link
http://www.travelyosemite.com/lodgin...-dome-village/
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