Fly Drive Holiday in the West Coast

Nov 3rd, 2009, 11:32 AM
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Fly Drive Holiday in the West Coast

We are 4 active pensioners travelling to the west coast next September from the UK. Fly drive probably. We want to see as much as possible but looking at organised itinaries they seem to pack too much driving and sight seeing into each day. We have 3 weeks. Any advice or suggestions please. Not bothered about LA but San Francisco, The coas,t maybe a park and think we ought to see the Grand Canyon.
murraysmithson is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 08:06 AM
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My choice would be

3 days in SF
1 day in Carmel
1 day exploring the seaside trails and town of Pacific Grove
1 day visiting Point Lobos and a drive down the Big Sur Coastline
1 day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
3 days in Yosemite
1 day at Grand Canyon
several days driving time between these spots

This is a quick itinerary and probably does not fill up your 3 weeks. You could make it a very relaxed trip by spending more time in each area. Or you could fill in the rest with more destinations for which you will probably get recommendations from other posters. Is Las Vegas an interest?
montereybob is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 09:48 AM
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You should definitely go to the Grand Canyon. It's one of the
natural wonders of the world.

Consider a visit to Death Valley National Park. It is very scenic in its own non-vegetated way. It boasts the lowest point in the western hemisphere. It will be hot there in September, but strangely this attracts people from northern Europe, and presumably mad dogs and Englishpersons. The facilities there are air conditioned. This could be on your route to or from the Grand Canyon.

Do not miss Sequoia National Park with the largest living things on earth, the Sequoia Sempervirens trees.

You will have ample opportunity to see the coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, in the San Francisco area.

Visit one of the 21 California Missions. If you are in Carmel, the mission there would be a good one. The history of the missions is key to the settling of California by the Spaniards/Mexicans. All fourth graders in California are required to learn about the missions as part of their standard curriculum.

Skipping the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which exemplifies the southern California lifestyle, is sort of analogous to visiting England and skipping London. LA, second largest city in the US, has gone far beyond being the "movie making capital of the world". I'll say no more unless you ask.
dbdurand is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:23 AM
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If you go to Yosemite, which you should, there's not much reason to also visit Sequoia unless you're all tree fanatics.

I agree that you should go to Death Valley. There's nothing like it in the UK, or anywhere else in the US. Of course it will be hot, but that's part of the attraction.

While the Grand Canyon is worth a visit, it's a LONG drive from the other paces in which you have expressed interest.

If you do go, then you might consider driving to San Diego via Sedona and surrounding interesting sites. Lots to see here, including the first of the California Missions. If not San Diego then the most logical place to go in California fromm the GC would be Los Angeles. LA has some very interesting places to visit.
Barbara is online now  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:28 AM
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It's fine if you want to skip LA. I often visit NZ and skip Auckland. LA is a lot to absorb and if you aren't interested it isn't necessary.

If you want to see the Big Sur coast (and I would) I would not do it as a day trip, you can finish up at around Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo/Santa Maria, take one of the roads to cut across to Bakersfield and from there can head in really any direction.
mlgb is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 10:36 AM
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In September a logical routing might be

San Fran-Carmel-Big Sur-San Luis Obispo-Bakersfield-Barstow-Grand Canyon (via 40)-Las Vegas-Death Valley-Hwy 395(east side of Sierra Nevada)-Tioga Pass-Yosemite-SF.

However it is a fair amount of desert. A/C and scheduling light activities in the morning is the best way to go. Death Valley is scenic even if you are just driving thru.
mlgb is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 11:27 AM
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I'd suggest a grand circle route: Fly into Los Angeles and drive to Las Vegas, then to the Grand Canyon.

Return to Las Vegas to go northbound and spend maybe one day with a tour of Zion National Park.

Then continue west-north and go through Death Valley.

Continue north on Highway 395 and approach Yosemite from the east.

From Yosemite head west to San Francisco.

From San Francisco, go south along Highway 1 along the coast back down to Los Angeles.

If you have extra time, visit San Diego as a separate trip.
easytraveler is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 12:49 PM
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A great responce from everyone.
Monterey Bob Yes I guess we ought to see Las Vegas. I haven't ever met anyone who was not impressed with it.


I take your point about not visiting LA. As a Limey I have an image of a vast sprawling metropolis, but I am sure there is much of interest.


Yosemite is recommended by everyone so I think it is a must do. How long to drive to The Grand canyon from the coast? Would we do better to fly to Las Vegas and spend a few days touring from there? Living in a very small Island like Britain, I think we tend to underestimate the distances involved.

Sounds a very interesting itinerary.
How hot will it be in Death Valley?

Easy Traveller,
Similar suggestions as one or two others so I guess a picture is developing in my mind. thanks.
murraysmithson is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 01:02 PM
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Well now you've met me (although I guess even I could say it's impressive in its own way, I just don't like it)
sf7307 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 01:38 PM
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Aren't there direct flights to Las Vegas from the UK? It is usually the least expensive place to rent a car. You could pick one up there and do a loop:

Grand Canyon (South and North Rims), Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite (via the east entrance), San Francisco, down the coast to San Luis Obispo area; pick up one of the crossover highways (46 or 166, which is beautiful) to Bakersfiled and the freeway back to Las Vegas to return the car.

This will save you drop fees on the car, and you avoid Los Angeles entirely. We manage to fly into and out of Las Vegas without ever spending a night there, but with the overseas flight you may need to.

This is a fairly standard loop, and populaar for good reason. I met friends from the UK at the Grand Canyon last September, and a number of them did parts of this loop either before or after the Grand Canyon. They loved it.

Death Valley will be hot, but your car and accommodations will both be airconditioned. You just won't spend a lot of time outside, unless in the swimming pool.
enzian is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 01:43 PM
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>Well now you've met me (although I guess even I could say it's impressive in its own way, I just don't like it)<

And me too!!! Las Vegas does nothing for me. I took far too many math courses in college to have any desire to spend time gambling. Plus the other "non-gambling" stuff seems pretty fake to me - isn't there a replicated San Francisco and also a Venice? I would rather spend time visiting the "real thing".

Here are some ideas for the San Francisco Bay Area:

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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I'd say the drive from the coast to the Grand Canyon is too far. Best to fly into Las Vegas and make the 4.5 hours drive to the canyon. Or take the helicopter or airplane tour from Vegas. Then while in Vegas see for yourself if you are one of those who love it or hate it -- impossible to predict. Then fly to San Francisco to proceed with all the coastal destinations and Yosemite.
montereybob is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 02:51 PM
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murraysmithson, I'm from Edinburgh originally. Yes, the distances here in California are huge.As you'll be spending many hours in the car, make sure that you get one that's not going to be too cramped. You ought to carry bottled water with you all the time, but especially when you're driving through the desert. Cars break down, there are accidents that block the road, many things which could cause you to be stuck in a very hot, dry area for hours. Also, when you're in and around Yosemite the altitude is high. At its highest point, the road over the Tioga pass is about 10,000 ft above sea level. Yosemite Village is at about 8,000ft, I think. So you need a car that will hold all of you(and your luggage) comfortably, be able to handle climbing to high altitudes and still have the air conditioning functioning well.

I think if you get to Las Vegas via Death Valley (which is almost 300 ft below sea level in one spot! One extreme to another!), then you'd find the drive interesting. The Grand Canyon is still quite a drive after Las Vegas, it's not just down the road. If you were to drive from Yosemite down the 395 to Death Valley, then on to Las Vegas, you'd be in desert the whole way...and it's a long way. But, you'd discover that there are different kinds of desert, most of it isn't rolling sand dunes, although there are some of them in Death Valley.

From LA or San Diego to Las Vegas is about a five hour drive depending on traffic. That would be on a freeway (motorway).

You can take a tour of the Grand Canyon by bus, plane or helicopter from Las Vegas if you just want to see it.
Barbara is online now  
Nov 4th, 2009, 02:59 PM
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To see your estimated driving times between any two areas, you can put them in the "directions" page of or
Also, for inexpensive flights between San Francisco (or Oakland) and Las Vegas check the website of Southwest Airlines. (also for many other flight plans in the Western US)
montereybob is offline  
Nov 4th, 2009, 09:53 PM
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If you go near San Luis Obispo (at southern end of Big SUr, kind of) and are there on a Thursday evening, make sure you make it to their farmers market. It's a big deal weekly event, and they have great barbecue along with the veggies.
suz24 is offline  
Nov 5th, 2009, 11:28 AM
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I believe you did not get an answer to your question about how hot it is in Death Valley in September. According to "Weatherbase", the daily average high temperature is 105F, or about 41C. Of course some days are hotter and some cooler. See:

For comparison, Baghdad is 103F in the same month, and 7.5 million people live there!
dbdurand is offline  

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