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Did Grand Circle -- What other western "circles" are there?

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Feb 3rd, 2008, 05:34 AM
  #1
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Did Grand Circle -- What other western "circles" are there?

In 2005 our family of six (our kids are now ages 17, 15, 13, & 10) did the Grand Circle starting from Denver, to Rocky Mt. National Park, Arches, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Ouray, Mesa Verde, and back to Denver. A trip of a lifetime! (Somewhere on here I have a trip report about it.) Anyway, now we'd like to do another Grand Circle somewhere in the west for 7 -10 days. Looking for suggestions. Trip will be in early June. We could do Yellowstone, Tetons, Glacier. But the kids seem more interested in Southwest -- New Mexico, Arizona, California. Any good circles anyone can recommend. Or what US traveling would you recommend with a family of teenagers? They are easy to please, believe it or not, so it doesn't have to be packed with amusement parks, etc., but one or two would be nice. They love swimming, horseback riding, hiking & photography. You Fodors people are awesome & I appreciate any help people can give. If there's other forums on here where I might find help, please point me in that direction. I didn't know where to search since our trip involves a region of the US rather than a specific state. Thanks!
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Feb 3rd, 2008, 12:47 PM
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Do you have an idea of the starting point of this trip. From San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, one can figure out a circle within CA. Just a reminder, the California coast is usually foggy in the morning.

You could do SF - Yosemite - Monterey - SF and all the places in between.

With New Mexico, there's Santa Fe and Carlsbad; Arizona by Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon; California desert - Death Valley will be very warm, Palm Springs - swimming and hiking, etc. Hope you get a few more suggestions.

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Feb 3rd, 2008, 04:35 PM
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San Francisco, Yosemite, San Luis Obispo, Cambria (Hearst Castle), Big Sur, Monterey (Monterey Bay Aquarium, back to San Francisco, some day trips to the wine country and up the coast.
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Feb 3rd, 2008, 05:04 PM
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I like JTRandolf's list but I'd include Lake Tahoe and the Gold Country. Your kids are exactly the right ages for it.
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Feb 4th, 2008, 04:40 AM
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Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Wind Cave.

Carlsbad Caverns, Quadalope Mountains, Big Bend. (similar to what you did in 05).


Death Valley, Sequoia, Yosemite

Redwoods, Oregon Caves, Crater Lake, Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge


Consider a week long raft trip of the Grand Canyon. It is fantastic.
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Feb 4th, 2008, 05:17 PM
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OK, Grasshopper, I'll buy that. If AmishLou has time let's do it this way...San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite (coming in from the east on Highway 395 at Lee Vining and driving over Tioga Pass through Tuolomne Meadows down to Yosemite Valley), Gold Country, then as before...San Luis Obispo, up Highway 1 to Big Sur, stopping at Cambria or San Simeon for a pre-arranged Hearst Castle tour, then the Monterey Peninsula and back to San Francisco.
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Feb 4th, 2008, 05:52 PM
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we're doing something like this for the summer. It's not a cirle but I think you and your kids would really enjoy it. I've done wyoming before but not the SD end so I'm looking forward to it.

Idaho Falls, ID (Crater of the moon) -jackson hole, wy (rafting the snake river) - grand tetons national park, yellowstone (tons of wildlife for both of these parks - lots of swimming, hiking, kayaking oportunities), devil's tower, mt rushmore, windcave, jewel cave, spearfish canyon, custer state park, badlands, etc.
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Feb 6th, 2008, 10:06 AM
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Wow, thanks for the ideas. I love the thought of the SF circle that several were recommending. Jtrandolf, how long would you recommend for the circle you suggested?

My problem is I'd also love to do Yellowstone. But do you think early June is too early for Yellowstone...are the roads usually open at that time?

Thanks, all!
AmishLou
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Feb 6th, 2008, 04:28 PM
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AmishLou,

How long you take depends upon how often you stop to see things.

San Francisco to Tahoe is about 3-1/2 hours. You would want to spend the night probably at South Lake Tahoe. There are boat rides on the lake.

Lake Tahoe to Lee Vining, on Hwy 395, is abut 100 miles from South Lake Tahoe, then getting into the park via Tioga Pass is fairly slow, but you could get down into Yosemite Valley that day and then spend the night, or two so that you can enjoy the park. The Gold Country (Highwy 40 is about 35 miles from the Hwy 120 exit. You might want to poke around there and see Columbia State Historic Park where the children could pan for gold, and visit an old fashioned school house, etc. Coloma, where gold was actually discovered, is around here somewhere.

Then you are going to cross the Central Valley to the Coast at Hwy 1. From here it depends upon you timing.

If you have spent a lot of time in the Gold Country you might want to spend the night in Fresno. From there you will take Hwy 41 to Hwy 46 and the coast south of Cambria. Or you could make it all the way to the coast.

The drive up the coast is slow, and beautiful and there are parks and waterfalls to see on the way, not to mention the ocean. Some people spend the night in Cambria and tour Hearst Castle the next morning, but you need to have tour reservations ahead of time.

The next stop is the Monterey Peninsula where you will definitely want at least two days for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Point Lobos State Reserve, etc.

San Francisco is about 3 hours north of Monterey, taking freeways.

If you want, you can continue on Hwy 1 on the coast all the way to San Francisco, passing through Santa Cruz, which has the Beach Boardwalk with rides and games. It just celebrated its 100 birthday and has both an historic wooden roller coaster, The Giant Dipper, and an historic merry-go-round with the original wooden horses and a calliope.

The Municipal Wharf is here, with restaurants and souvenir shops and a colony os sea lions which lie under the wharf, swim around an bark. Sometimes they all pile in a heap on one of the boat landings.

There is a colony of elephant seals further north on Hwy 1 at Ano Nuevo

So you see, how many days to take for this depends upon how often you stop.

I forgot. Between Bridgeport and Lee Vining is Bodie, a cool ghost town 13 miles off the road. It is as it was left. They are not restoring it, just maintaining it so that it doesn't decay further. We have been there when we were the only visitors and it was eerie.
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