Grand Canyon & Yosemite

Old Jan 1st, 2023, 01:12 PM
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Grand Canyon & Yosemite

I want to plan a road trip that will include the Grand Canyon & Yosemite. I have been to Yosemite before and would love to take my partner, however I have never visited the Grand Canyon. My biggest question is which airport you'd fly to, we would be coming from London. And if there are any other landmarks or hidden gems we should visit along the way. I've never planned a road trip like this so would be super appreciative of any advice.

Id preferably like to fly into one airport, hire a car for our trip and fly out of another airport rather than a round trip. And Im thinking only a couple of days at both place with maybe odd overnight stops at other locations.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 02:44 PM
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I would probably fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix and go to Grand Canyon then head for Yosemite and out of one of the California. This would probably involve a drop fee for the car and could be done in the reverse order if that worked better for you. If you are doing this soon, you are late arranging lodging in or near either park. This does involve a lot of time in the car so figure losing a couple of days with that.

if lodging in the parks is full, make a cancel label reservation as close as possible and keep calling back for a cancellation in the parks as time gets close to the trip.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 03:20 PM
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The peak for the waterfalls flowing in Yosmite is May. Try to go to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees which contains about 500 mature giant sequoia trees. Tioga Pass which is the back door to Yosemite may not be open until mid-June. I would try to work Zion National Park in as it is another premiere national park.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 03:58 PM
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These parks are far apart and neither is near an airport served directly from London. Your nonstop options are Phoenix or Las Vegas for the Grand Canyon, and San Francisco and I think San Jose (this is closer) for Yosemite.

It would help to know the time of year. Also, if you only have a couple days for each location it probably makes more sense to stay in one state and add another attraction near that. Yosemite in the-park-lodging is quite difficult to obtain 6 months or less in advance, you may have to wait for cancellations if looking for this summer.

Last edited by tom_mn; Jan 1st, 2023 at 04:00 PM.
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 04:04 PM
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And Im thinking only a couple of days at both place with maybe odd overnight stops at other locations.

That suggests a very short trip. In my mind it would make more sense to either do the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce loop out of Las Vegas, or do Yosemite, Sequoia and part of the coast from either LA or San Francisco.

https://flic.kr/p/7enZtM https://flic.kr/p/7usjz2 https://flic.kr/p/7usitk
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 04:36 PM
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Welcome to Fodors.

Before we can give any useful advice we need to know: 1) what month you plan on traveling. That makes a HUGE difference on what is drivable to/from Yosemite and even IF a road trip between the two parks is feasible. and 2) how many days total you have for the trip.

And no matter the time of year GC to YNP is more than a one day/night drive.

Without knowing more of your details, what I'd think about is flying into PHX, rent a car and visit the Grand Canyon and maybe Sedona. (OR you could fly from London in to Las Vegas and do both the GC and Zion National Park) Then back to PHX (or LVS), drop the car and fly to one of the following: SFO, SMF, FAT, SJC - or depending on the month - possibly RNO. Rent a car and visit Yosemite plus a few days for places like Lake Tahoe or the Gold Rush foothills, or San Francisco, and fly home from SFO.


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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 04:40 PM
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ps: Meant to add -- when looking for intra-US flights AZ or NV to various airports in CA, besides the usual airlines you'd find on Google flights etc - you should also look at Southwest, Allegiant, and other airlines that only book through their own websites.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2023, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Welcome to Fodors.

Before we can give any useful advice we need to know: 1) what month you plan on traveling. That makes a HUGE difference on what is drivable to/from Yosemite and even IF a road trip between the two parks is feasible. and 2) how many days total you have for the trip.

And no matter the time of year GC to YNP is more than a one day/night drive.

Without knowing more of your details, what I'd think about is flying into PHX, rent a car and visit the Grand Canyon and maybe Sedona. (OR you could fly from London in to Las Vegas and do both the GC and Zion National Park) Then back to PHX (or LVS), drop the car and fly to one of the following: SFO, SMF, FAT, SJC - or depending on the month - possibly RNO. Rent a car and visit Yosemite plus a few days for places like Lake Tahoe or the Gold Rush foothills, or San Francisco, and fly home from SFO.
Great questions and advice from janisj. If possible, fly to Las Vegas first and rent a car for Grand Canyon , Zion, Hoover Dam and other sites before flying to California for Yosemite and other sites in California.
If you didn't want to rent another car in California, you could fly to Sacramento (SMF) (or Fresno (FAT) from Las Vegas and take buses and train to Merced to Yosemite Valley..
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Old Jan 3rd, 2023, 10:02 AM
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You could fly from London to Flagstaff with one easy connection in Phoenix.
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Old Jan 4th, 2023, 12:24 AM
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Thank you all so much for your help and advice, it really is appreciated. I dont have a specific month in mind, I am likely to be travelling in 2024 as I have other trips planned this year already (India, Latvia, Norway & Snowdon). I expect I'd have about 10 days for the whole trip as I have work and parenting responsibilities also. We did a family trip when I was younger from LA to Vegas and stopped off at Yosemite, but only for a few hours!! So I have a rough idea of what the travelling might be like, but not as an adult - think I was 14 at the time so wasnt too concerned with the logistics of things, more sitting in the car with my ipod We travelled in July for 2 weeks and I remember Vegas to 14 year old fair skinned me was torture, the bottom of my converse actually melted!! So with that in mind, along with some of your comments Im thinking maybe April/May time may be better?
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Old Jan 4th, 2023, 04:35 AM
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Well, if you time your connection right and fly through Dallas you could catch a total eclipse of the sun April 8, 2024.

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/...s?iso=20240408

Noting that if nature really interests you, I would trim the time in the cities to the bare minimum and skip theme parks unless you are bringing children. Also note that Sixt does not usually charge a one way fee within regions (even state to state) so may be the cheaper rental.
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Old Jan 4th, 2023, 05:37 AM
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April / May is brilliant for Yosemite. Unfortunately that makes the drive from GC/Vegas to Yosemite really really awful. The high country passes are still closed due to massive snow packs so the only driveable route is through Bakersfield and up the Central Valley.

Something like LHR to Phoenix or Las Vegas for the Grand Canyon. Then fly from Vegas or Phoenix to either Fresno (by far the closest to YNP) or Sacramento or San Francisco or San Jose and driving to Yosemite from the west is the only practical option.

That would make a great 10-ish day trip . . . 2 days for Vegas (best city anywhere for jet lag recovery since its truly a 24/7 city), 2 days for the Grand Canyon, fly to FAT or SMF - 2 or 3 nights in Yosemite Valley (the back country will be closed so 2 or 3 days is plenty), and a few days in San Francisco -- fly home from SFO . . . or depending on which alliance you fly -- you could fly from SMF or FAT to either LAX or PHX and to LHR from there.
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Old Jan 4th, 2023, 06:58 AM
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One airport that has not been mentioned that does work for visiting the Grand Canyon is Albuquerque (ABQ) if you get a connecting flight in or out of there. There is a daily overnight train that goes between Los Angeles and ABQ. The Amtrak South West Chief #3 leaves Albuquerque a little after 4PM and arrives in Los Angeles Union station at 8AM. The #4 SWC leaves Los Angeles at 5:15PM and gets to Flagstaff at 4AM and Albuquerque at 11:20AM. If you could delay your trip until October, you could visit the annual hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. With a rental car from Albuquerque you could also visit Santa Fe and Taos NM.
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 10:50 AM
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Here are some things to do.

Note there is access to the Grand Canyon from either the South or North Rim. Most people go to the South Rim. The North Rim is closed in the winter but otherwise would fit in with a Zion visit. I find the North Rim a lot more peaceful than the larger South Rim and is less crowded. The drive into the North Rim is more scenic with high meadows and the chance to see buffalo along the road.

If you do the South Rim from Vegas take a short detour and get in some Route 66 nostalgia and visit Seligman just off I-40. Highway Route 66 once went from Chicago to Los Angeles but has been mostly replaced by freeways. Sections of Route 66 still exist across the country with some original landmarks. There was even a 'Route 66' TV show in the 1960s.

If you fly in from Phoenix there is cliff dwelling Montezuma Castle just off the highway in Camp Verde. Don't bother with Montezuma Well in the same area. A nice detour would be HW179 just north of Camp Verde to Sedona and then HW89a back to I-17 just south of Flagstaff. From Flagstaff there are three routes to the South Rim:
  • I-40 west to Williams and then north on HW64
  • HW180 out of Flagstaff that intersects with HW64 but may get snow in the winter.
  • HW89 north out of Flagstaff to Cameron and then at the roundabout HW64. This is the route I prefer.
If you use the Cameron route do a short stop at the Painted Desert Project on the way at Grey Mountain. Also there is a nice trading post in Cameron. Next to it is another shop that as wonderful Navajo art.



Painted Desert Project


Flagstaff has Lowell Observatory (where Pluto was discovered) and three national monuments in the area.

British Airways has direct flights London to Phoenix. I use BA to travel Phoenix to London. On return, the flights arrive late in the afternoon so I stay at the Crown Plaza hotel near the airport for the night. I then drive back home to Flagstaff the next morning when I'm more awake.

If you drive from Vegas to Yosemite, Death Valley might be included on your route. There is more there than just desert and sand dunes. Not in the summer of course!
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