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California Road Trip: San Fran... but what else??

California Road Trip: San Fran... but what else??

Old Jul 5th, 2016, 07:39 AM
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California Road Trip: San Fran... but what else??

My husband and I are traveling to California in mid October. We are in our late 20s, traveling with no kids. We are working with 7 days, 6 nights. We want to fly in to San Francisco, spend a few days there, then rent a car and drive either up OR down the coast. We would prefer to fly out of a different airport to make the most of our travel time. Question is- what other locations should we hit? We'll probably spend the first 3 days in San Fran so we'll have about 4 days to travel up or down the coast. We will pick whether we head north or south based on the best destinations to see! We would love to see some sample itineraries as this is our first trip to the West Coast!

Thanks!
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 07:50 AM
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kellygates, CA is a huge state that offers every conceivable activity. Can you give us at least some idea of what you're looking to see and do here?
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 07:55 AM
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Yes! We'd love to see the redwoods, and in general we would prefer to stay along the coast. We like nature and outdoor activities. We also love staying in unique/quirky little towns/communities.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 07:56 AM
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Drive down the cost to LA and fly home from there. Plenty of things to see on that route: redwoods (Henry Cowell State Park, Monterey (the aquarium, its hitorical center), Carmel and its mission church, Point Lobos for sea otters in their natural environment, the Big Sur coast, Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara, museums in LA, etc. etc.

Here are pictures of that area, going from south to north: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...512998387/show
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 07:59 AM
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For me the best destination in CA is neither north nor south of SF, but east: Yosemite.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:23 AM
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With 7 days, I would do a loop in/out of SF. That would give you plenty of time to enjoy the coast south to say, Pismo/Morro Bay/Paso Robles. Plus save on a car drop off fee in LA. Plenty to enjoy in 7 days just doing that.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:29 AM
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While I prefer the drive north from San Francisco, the problem might be a departure city. For instance, LA is considerably closer than Portland. There may be another, closer possible airport but I don't know of one. So, if you had more time it would present more opportunities but, as is, south may be your best bet. There will be more fellow travelers but far fewer than during the summer season. And if you haven't visited that stretch of California coast then you really can't go wrong. Save the northern coast for another, more leisurely visit.

The other possibility might be to go north to the coast, then return to San Francisco by another route. There are no shortage of pleasant possibilities (stunning coast, redwoods, wine country) if you choose to stay closer to SF and do a circle instead of a line.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:31 AM
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October is really fabulous on the coast. It is also a great time for Yosemite.

If you decide on a northern loop then in/out of SF (or Oakland or San Jose) makes most sense.

If you want to travel all the way down the coast -- then in to SFO (or Oakland or San Jose) and home from LAX is better.


If it was me . . . and it isn't - from SFO I'd head up 101 all the way to the major Redwood parks almost to the Oregon border and then meander down the coast/Hwy 1 stopping/staying in places like Trinidad, Ferndale, Mendocino and Bodega Bay, then fly home from SFO.

Or I'd do a mid-coast loop -- SFO > Santa Cruz (see the Redwoods at Henry Cowell) > Carmel > Big Sur/Cambria > San Juan Bautista > SFO.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Given your list I'd head north instead of south. You could easily make it all the way to Seattle/Vancouver with a week.

The lists given by Michael and others are perfect imo if you decide to head south. There's much more to do going south, but also exponentially more people and traffic, even in the beach towns. We just spent three years living in Morro Bay and it's not the sleepy beach town it was in the 1960's.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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This is so helpful- thank you! Right now this is what I'm thinking based on these recommendations:

Day 1 San Fran
Day 2 San Fran
Day 3 Yosemite
Day 4 Redwoods/Henry Cowell State Park
Day 5 Monterey
Day 6 Carmel
Day 7 Big Sur
Day 8
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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As I read it, they don't have a week to drive the coast. They're staying 6 nights total and want "a few days" of it in SF.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:43 AM
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Day 8 would be LA. Please let us know of specific places we should hit in San Fran, other than just Alcatraz!
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:50 AM
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kellygates, it's only an hour between SF and Henry Cowell SP, whereas it's at least four hours from either SF or Henry Cowell to Yosemite. So you'd be doing a huge loop in your itinerary before heading further south to Monterey.

Given the distances involved it's usually best to choose either a coastal tour or a Sierra Nevada tour, not both on the same trip unless you have multiple weeks.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:51 AM
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>>Day 1 San Fran
Day 2 San Fran
Day 3 Yosemite
Day 4 Redwoods/Henry Cowell State Park
Day 5 Monterey
Day 6 Carmel
Day 7 Big Sur
Day 8
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:58 AM
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If you include Yosemite, I'd suggest 2 nights minimum for 1 full day in the park. Redwoods on the way to Monterey/Carmel for 2 nights, then through Big Sur and a stop before LA.

So,
2 nights Yosemite
2 nights Monterey or Carmel (stop at redwoods on the way)
1 night south of Big Sur (I like Santa Barbara)
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:59 AM
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Tanks- much to consider. We might just do a loop as some have suggested. I do really want to drive the coast for a bit and I for sure want to visit San Fran/Yosemite/Santa Cruz/Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur. LA is not necessarily a must I just thought it made sense for traveling out of that airport. If we just do a loop, are all of these locations doable? What would be the logical itinerary/time allotment?
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 08:59 AM
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Well, it's all about either-or choices, isn't it?

While I love Yosemite, IMO mid-October isn't the best time. Yes, there might be some autumn color in the valley, but it's also possible that there won't have been enough rain to supply the waterfalls with much if any flow; some dry up altogether by then. Plus, SF to Yosemite is a pretty long drive, out and back.

To me, the combination of the Monterey Bay, Big Sur coast, and Santa Barbara alternatives would very much outweigh the Yosemite option. You can see redwoods at Henry Cowell or Big Basin state parks, enjoy the cool beachfront amusement park in Santa Cruz, go whale watching and visit the aquarium in Monterey, visit the gorgeous old Spanish mission in Carmel, explore amazing Point Lobos...

You can pretend you're Orson and Rita at Nepenthe, see more redwoods at Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur, see the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas and visit the Hearst Castle just down the road. You can tour the "Sideways" wine country around the Santa Ynez valley, visit the "Queen of the Missions" in gorgeous Santa Barbara...

In my view there are few if any 400-500 mile stretches of highway in the US that can hold a candle to this route.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 09:02 AM
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BTW, my suggestion above would leave you less than 2 full days in SF, the day of arrival, then morning before heading to Yosemite. If you want longer in SF then I think you'll have to choose that or Yosemite. Or a shorter time on the coast, likely staying closer to SF and flying in & out of SFO.
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 11:37 AM
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With 7 days, 6 nights, you don't have time to do justice to the coastal drive. Spend 3 nights in San Francisco, and the rest split between Monterey and Yosemite if you can get lodging (tricky, you might have to call daily to get a cancellation). The Henry Cowell Redwoods are outside of Santa Cruz, you can stop and visit them en route to Monterey.
Monterey and Carmel are a 10 minute drive apart (when there is no traffic).
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Old Jul 5th, 2016, 12:05 PM
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Very helpful- thanks all!

This is where I'm at:
Fly in to San Fran

Day 1 San Fran
Day 2 San Fran
Day 3 San Fran
Day 4 Santa Cruz
Day 5 Monterey/Carmel
Day 6 Big Sur
Day 7 Yosemite
Day 8 Yosemite

Fly out of Fresno.
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