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First visit to the West Coast - flying into SFO where do I start?

First visit to the West Coast - flying into SFO where do I start?

Old Sep 16th, 2019, 11:57 PM
  #1  
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First visit to the West Coast - flying into SFO where do I start?

When : Easter next year
Length : two weeks
Who : myself and wife (fit and 50) with 14 year old son (needs to be off anything made by Apple)

We are about to book flights from the U.K. to SFO, I would very much like some direction with planning, as I donít know where to start

We have travelled up and down the East Coast over 20 years and I really canít think of much of that coast we havenít covered.

We love wildlife, small sleepy coastal towns, hiking in the countryside, wine, good food. We have stayed on Cape Cod, the sea islands of SC, Asheville, Outer Banks and loved it all. Like renting houses or small posh B & Bs.

As Janis probably knows, I donít have any issue at all with driving long distances.

We do not like mass tourism, over hyped sites which usually donít live up to expectations and we have no interest at all in the glitter ball of LA or Fishermanís Wharf (whatever that is ) ( I know it must be naff based in the parents I know who rave about it).

First passing idea was a trip up to Yosemite and hire an RV for a few days. (Is it always mobbed?)
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 03:47 AM
  #2  
J62
 
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April is a perfect time to visit Yosemite. See if you can book lodging in the park NOW for any days during your trip then you can plan the rest of the itinerary around that. If you find something available for more days than you need, book the bigger block now to give you planning flexibility and cancel the unneeded days later.

IMO a car is far better than RV. Cheaper (net cost) and a lot more flexibility.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 05:00 AM
  #3  
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We have had a look around this morning and hadnít realised that there was so much accommodation in the park. We really donít like RV life, itís like driving an oil tanker around the canals of Venice, we arenít particularly tidy at times and canít find anything when in an RV. We have rented twice and each time said never again.

There seems to be one operator which offers a Winnebago to tow with a trendy Jeep but they seem to be slated for their customer service.

Wandering towards 3 nights in SF, 4 nights somewhere else and a week with Yogi bear.

Just found Sonoma Beach Lodge which looks great. Know nothing about the area. Would this make sense on a round trip from SF then up to Yosemite?

We have only done the West coast once (Vancouver) and we do remember being devasted by the time difference. The East coast doesnít seem to effect us, we have driven 300;miles after landing but taking off at Midday, flying for 11 hours and then landing at 1pm did very strange things to our brains. Staying in SF at first seems to make sense.

so far we have

SF 3 nights (apartment)
Sonoma Beach 4 nights ( hotel)
Yosemite 7 nights (lodge type rental)

Are we heading in the right direction?





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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 05:02 AM
  #4  
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Ps we donít give two hoots about the weather.

Spent most of of our life in Scotland and so we are used to, equipped and mentally prepared for anything.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 05:12 AM
  #5  
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If you are into long, strenuous hikes then 7d in Yosemite would be OK. If not, then I'd say 3-4 nights in Yosemite Valley would be perfect to explore the valley sites, so some mild to moderate hikes, or maybe even one longer hike such as the Mist or John Muir trails. That would also give you time to get to the southern end of the park to see the Mariposa Grove of sequoias and stop at Glacier Point, (but GP might not be open yet by mid April). The roads through the high country in Yosemite don't get cleared of snow until mid to end of june (or maybe even July), so definitely won't be open in April. No worries as the highlights of Yosemite are in the valley, and waterfalls should be roaring by then.

If you want other ideas in the area near Yosemite (eg gold country), others such as janisj are a trove full of knowledge and I'm sure will offer ideas. You would not do day trips from Yosemite but rather move on to a different location for a night or two.

We did a similar trip a few years ago and spent 3 nights in Carmel and loved it. A day or 2 just to enjoy strolling the beach, shopping/dining in town, and generally just enjoying some slow time was perfect. We did One day trip to Big Sur then had time to explore the coast area between Carmel & SF (incl artichoke tasting in Castroville, strawberry eating in Watsonville, and several lovely short hikes in the Santa Cruz mtns above Half Moon bay over several days.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 07:49 AM
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Just quick -- more later.

In April 7 nights will be too long in Yosemite (and this is from someone who loves Yosemite more than Mull). None of the back country wil be open/accessible, even Glacier point road will be closed. I might suggest 3 nights in Yosemite, 3 nights in/around Carmel/Monterey, San Francisco and somewhere on the coast north of SF. I'm not familiar with 'Sonoma Beach Lodge' -- is that the exact name??

And no -- you do not want a camper van, motorhome, or similar -- especially since there will likely be snow in the Sierra.

And if Monterey / Carmel doesn't grab you, then a couple of days in the Gold Rush foothills for old time villages, vineyards, wineries, caves etc. Spring is a great time there - before the heat of summer dries to to tinder.

Last edited by janisj; Sep 17th, 2019 at 07:51 AM.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 08:19 AM
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We stayed in the Gold Rush foothills in May two years ago, after visiting Yosemite for 4 nights in the Valley Lodge. Spent our time in a town named Murphys, recommended by local or experienced Fodorites (janis and Gardyloo, among others I think), which now I'll second. Beautiful trip.

And the year before that we spent two weeks in January in the central CA coast between Pismo and Cambria, venturing as far north as The Ragged Point Inn for a night. Absolutely fabulous trip as well.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 08:24 AM
  #8  
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Thanks you two.

No huge hikes wouldnít be ideal for one of us, not naming which one!

Two to three hours is fine. Iíll look at the logistics and trails around Yosemite and establish how long our stay in the park should be.

Sorry Janis, the hotel was Bodega Bay Lodge

https://bodegabaylodge.com/dining/dr...ireside-lounge

really like the look of it.

Any suggestions for hotels in SF up to say $400 a night.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 08:26 AM
  #9  
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I seem to remember Rick Stein (TV chef) doing an episode near SF , the coastal area reminded me of Cornwall. Any ideas?

I will try to track the series down.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 08:36 AM
  #10  
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SF: Last year we stayed at the Griffon for a splurge. Loved the location right on the Embarcadero so easy access to lots of walking, right across from the marketplace. Far enough away from Fisherman's Wharf (whatever that is). It would be a the top end of your price range. Comfortable room. Hard to say it was worth the premium price, but whatever.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 08:52 AM
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It appears to be booked for our first 3 nights.

Thatís a heck of a view from the rooms!

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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 09:01 AM
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>>Sorry Janis, the hotel was Bodega Bay Lodge
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 09:07 AM
  #13  
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Iíd really had not thought of the idea of snow. That would be a real bonus, although not for travel.We were going to go to Norway in February, as an alternative to this trip.

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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 09:27 AM
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There may or may not be snow on the floor of Yosemite Valley -- if there is that's a bonus. The waterfalls will be roaring which is a HUGE bonus. But what is certain is Tioga Pass (the road that crosses the Sierra and is the only access to the back/high country majority of te park) will be closed. Most years it is closed/completely inaccessible sometime in Nov (sometimes as early as late Oct) through at least mid-May. This year it didn't fully open until July 1. The Valley which will be totally accessible, is the iconic part and is 'bucket list-worthy' but it is a teensy % of the park as a whole.

There won't be any snow in the foothills or on the coast.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 09:44 AM
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Bodega Beach Lodge is very, very good; we were there last month and plan to return next month. From Bodega Bay you can visit any number of interesting places, such as Point Reyes (good hikes and bird-watching). Depending on your route, you can visit the old mission in Sonoma, which has a very interesting central area with good restaurants (esp. The Girl and the Fig).
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 09:53 AM
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Ideas for things to do & see around San Francisco.
San Francisco - Stu Dudley's Recommendations

I'm a native - and I agree with the others.

3 nights Yosemite
2-3 nights Gold Country near Murphys
2-3 nights Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur Better option than Bodega Bay - especially if you hit really bad weather (rains)
Remainder in San Francisco

Yosemite in April 2011. Notice all the snow. Gold Country is in the book also. Click "Full Screen". Because of recent Shutterfly enhancements, captions & titles ore often missing or truncated.
https://stududley.shutterfly.com/52

Stu Dudley
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 10:20 AM
  #17  
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OK! Everyone seems to love Bodega Bay Lodge but am I missing something?

They are offering me a basic double with an extra bed for $200 a night or a suite with two separate bedrooms for $320. This appears to be well below what I was expecting in view of the style of the hotel and the reviews both here and booking/TripAdvisor.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 10:21 AM
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I'm going to recommend a rather packed two-destination two-week trip. Just a thought experiment, of course, but what the h3ll... Google the places on the maps.

Week 1 (could be 8 or 9 days) - Map - https://goo.gl/maps/FJV7KY2gq68SsjDf7

Do a loop that includes the Henry Cowell redwoods, Monterey Peninsula, then over to Yosemite and back to SF via the gold country and a stop at the curious little town of Locke in the Sacramento River Delta, for a glimpse of the central valley's Chinese heritage. Visit the Monterey aquarium, amazing Point Lobos (just south of Carmel en route to the Big Sur coast) and the lovely old Spanish mission in Carmel. In Yosemite, be sure to see the Mariposa grove of giant sequoias, which you can compare with the coast redwoods earlier, and stop in the museum town of Columbia, maybe for a ride on the stagecoach.

Week two (could be 4 or 5 days) - Map - https://goo.gl/maps/kgq7K1HaUcCE2ZvYA

Fly from SFO to Portland. The return airfare is around $230, or one way half that (then arrange an open-jaw long haul ticket, LHR-SFO//PDX-LHR, which will probably cost around the same as SFO return.) Then spend some days along the Columbia River, both upstream and downstream from Portland. Upstream is the Columbia River Gorge, with a series of stunning waterfalls (like Yosemite quite spectacular with water from melting mountain snow) and various vista points. Visit the Hood River Valley, with orchards and vineyards in bloom, white water rafting if interested in White Salmon, WA (just across the Columbia from Hood River.) If you want snow, head up to Timberline Lodge on the side of Mount Hood, which looms over the valley, where ski season will be in full force. Or drive 40 minutes east of Hood River and visit the funky Maryhill Museum (Rodin in the sagebrush) and nearby weird "replica" of Stonehenge, sitting on the clifftops over the great river. Then head west down the Columbia to its awesome mouth at Cape Disappointment (lighthouses, waves on rocks, Lewis and Clark history) and visit nearby Cannon Beach before returning to Portland on the way home.

Like I say, this would be a pretty full couple of weeks, but this would give you a snapshot of some pretty terrific areas. Rocky coast, Spanish heritage, waterfalls and mountains galore, historic towns, wineries, a volcano or two, lots of great food, fine art and funky towns. Hard to beat.

Volcano, CA (gold rush country)



Big Sur coast, south of Carmel



Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge



Mount Hood from Hood River Valley, spring



Maryhill Stonehenge (not my picture)


Last edited by Gardyloo; Sep 17th, 2019 at 10:24 AM.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 10:40 AM
  #19  
 
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You'll want to check Yosemite availability first https://www.travelyosemite.com/ Midweek may be easier to book.

Murphys is my favorite foothill town.

April gets an uptick in visitors on the Monterey Peninsula/Big Sur due to spring break but not crazy like summer. It's a beautiful time of year and great for marine mammal watching, multiple whale species, harbor seal pupping, etc.
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Old Sep 17th, 2019, 10:49 AM
  #20  
J62
 
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In Carmel we like LaPlaya. Itís a larger property about halfway down the hill from The center of the town to the beach. Plenty of rooms, comfortable but not large. We loved wine and snacks on the deck with sunset views over the ocean and a nice breakfast spread in the same room.

Easy walk all down to the beach or walking trail at the top of the bluff for morning, day or evening stroll. Close enough to walk to restaurants and shops.
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