Road trip from Indianapolis to California

Nov 14th, 2016, 03:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 4
Road trip from Indianapolis to California

Wife and I are planning a road trip spring of next year. Hopefully in April. Our plan is to head from Indiana to San Francesco to LA to Vegas to Grand Canyon to home. I'm looking for some must see things along the way there and back. Plan on spending 2 full days in San Francesco the rest of the trip time is open to change.

Our trip should last 14 to 16 days. Would like to travel there and back taking separate routes to maximize the sightseeing. Would like to stay in unique roadside motels during the trip except in San Fran of course.
HoosierTravel is offline  
Nov 14th, 2016, 08:42 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,842
My 4th generation Hoosier girlfriend (later wife) followed me from Purdue to my home in Calif. in 1970 and never left. Two days in San Francisco is about 3 days too few.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 14th, 2016, 11:52 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,680
On the way to SF there is Rocky Mountain National Park, but the road through the park might still be closed because of snow. There there's Great Basin National Park ( ), although the top of the park might also be closed due to snow. I happen to like U.S. 50 through Nevada.

Between Sf and LA there's Highway 1 along the coast.
Michael is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 02:33 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,729
If you go west on a slightly more southern route say I-40 you can stop at some neat places in New Mexico, Arizona with a jog up into southern Utah, and miss some of the snow on the roads through the mountains (the mountains will still have snow). This would mean seeing Grand Canyon, Vegas, LA, etc. on the way out and taking a more northerly route on the way back.

For neat natural places, go to and see what is close enough to your route to stop in on. I would want to visit all the southern Utah parks like Arches and Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion as well as some in New Mexico and also some of the great state parks. Do drive through Death Valley between Vegas and LA.

Take the coast road between San Francisco and LA. You really need about twice as much time to do this trip with time to do more that a drive by.
emalloy is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 03:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,869
Agree with Stu.
That is not a real long period of time.

You may need to get out a map and stick pins in it with how long you'd like to spend in a few places--SF, Santa Fe, Grand Canyon, etc. and see how your time works out. Drivin the coast road is a good rec.
Gretchen is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,110
DH and I did a two week road trip right after we got married. We're in Chicago, so headed north up to the Dakotas/Badlands and the mountain from Close Encounters (can't remember the name) . Then the Salt Flats, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. Stayed with my folks for a day or two and visited Monterey. Then headed to Arizona for Grand Canyon and Saguaro park. Next was to New Mexico to see the caverns. Then home through Texas and the Midwest (booooooring lol).

We planned out a schedule/route and pretty much stuck with it, so not too rushed but still saw everything in two weeks.
cruisin_tigger is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 02:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 4
Thanks for the tips everyone. This trip isn't really so much about the destination as it is about the whole traveling to the coast by car like the way our Grandparents had to do. Only city we plan on spending more than a day is San Fran. Maybe LA.

We can fly back to the coast anytime but really want the road trip experience this time around.

I will definitely drive the coastal highway.

Any other suggestions?
HoosierTravel is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 03:42 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,842
I drove between LA & Purdue 12 times while in college. It is mostly a long & very, very boring drive until you get to Denver - if you go the "middle" route. Southern route through other mid-west states and then Oklahoma, Texas, & New Mexico is really boring also, IMO. The rock formations in Arizona are interesting and so are some smaller National Parks scattered here & there in Arizona and southeast Calif (Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Wupatki Natl Monument, Sunset Crater, Rainbow Basin, Red Cliffs) - but it is still a long & mostly boring drive.

Grand Canyon is an A+, Zion is an A, Death Valley is an A from November through April, Yosemite is an A+, Tahoe is a B+, Sierras are an A, Sequoia is a B+, the Gold Country is a B+ (these are my opinions only). I'm not a fan of Vegas - but the drive from LV to LA is really boring.

If you are only going to spend a day in LA - I would skip Southern Calif entirely. LA is not a "road trip" it is a freeway trip.

The coastal route from Cambria to Carmel/Monterey - including Pt Lobos/Carmel/Pacific Grove/Monterey is an A+. San Francisco is an A+.

If this was my trip, I would:
- Fly to Vegas & rent a car. Spend 2 nights in Vegas.
- Visit the Grand Canyon & stay overnight for 2-3 nights (reserve ahead).
- Visit Zion & stay 1-2 nights
- Visit Death Valley & stay 2 nights
- Drive up the eastern side of the Sierras, visit some small towns, and then stay in South Lake Tahoe for 1-2 nights (when we did this in April 2011 there was a heavy show - many roads were closed).
- Drive on Hwy 50 to the Gold Country & visit Sutter Creek, Jamestown, Sonora, Mariposa, Murphys, Columbia, Jamestown, and then Groveland. Stay in Groveland for 1 night
- Drive to Yosemite Valley & stay 2-3 nights (reserve now!!!)
- Drive to San Francisco and stay 3-4 nights.
- Drive to Carmel & stay 2-3 nights
- Head south on lovely Hwy 1 & visit Pt Lobos, and admire the fantastic Big Sur Coast. Stay in Big Sur for 1 night (reserve ahead if a weekend).
- Continue south on Hwy 1 & visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, then head to San Simeon & visit Hearst Castle in the afternoon or next morning. Stay in Cambria or San Simeon for 1 night.
- Drive to Santa Barbara, return the car, and fly home or stay the night & fly to Naptown the next day.

See the link I provided in my prior post for things to see & do in San Francisco, Carmel, and Big Sur.

My wife went to Broad Ripple HS.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,284
My ex is a Hoosier -- he had LOTS of experience driving out here from IN. Unless he was strictly on a mileage run road trip (maybe on his bike) and didn't care about sightseeing (or visiting me) he would not do round trip in 2 weeks.

I agree w/ Stu and would fly out and do a 2 week road trip up and down CA, or part of CA and the Arizona parks - ten fly back. Otherwise you are spending more than half your time just heading west and back home again through some boring territory.
janisj is online now  
Nov 15th, 2016, 05:11 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,842
When I drove between LA & Purdue, it took me anywhere from 36 to 40 hours. "Record time" was 35 hours. So that's 6 solid days of your 14-16 days - staring at the road in front of you. I had the car radio/tape deck "cranked up" & took no-doze to keep awake. It was boring, boring, boring - and flat (I took the southern route most of the time). Nothing to see or do. Except for the time I slept in my car behind a gas station somewhere in Kansas and woke up in the morning realizing that I had just turned 21 years old (June 6). Next night - Las Vegas!!! (we called it "lost wages" in LA).

When we did our 3 week trip in April 2011 from San Francisco to Yosemite/Gold Country/Arizona/Grand Canyon/Zion/Death Valley/Tahoe/San Francisco - we started in early April & ended in late April. In early April we could not get into Yosemite directly because the roads were closed due to snow (had to put on chains). Three weeks later, we barely got into Tahoe - most of the roads were closed. When we departed, only Hwy 50 was open.

So - your idea of taking two different routes to/from Calif may not be possible. Tioga Pass through Yosemite will definitely be closed in April. We were lucky to get over the Sierras near Tahoe - in late April.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 16th, 2016, 04:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 4
Yeah I'm rethinking the time frame or maybe the route based on the weather issues that could arise.
HoosierTravel is offline  
Nov 17th, 2016, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,842
Actually, April is the best time to visit most of the sites I mentioned. Fewer crowds in the Grand Canyon and Zion. Temps in Death Valley will be warm but hot 120F like they are in the summer. Waterfalls in Yosemite will be roaring (hopefully), and the grass in the Gold Country will be green - not brown like it gets in the summer. Fewer crowds in Carmel/Monterey/Hwy 1.

If you take the southern route out here - there should not be any snow to confront in the Sierras. Perhaps visit Yosemite at the end of your trip to minimize the chance of snow. The snow we encountered in late April 2011 was unusual - but it seems that every winter for the past 5 years has been unusual (dry - little snow or rain). If there is a lot of snow in the Sierras - take the southern route back to Naptown.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 17th, 2016, 07:52 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,842
>> warm but hot 120F<<

warm but not 120F
StuDudley is offline  
Nov 18th, 2016, 05:25 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 532
About ten years ago DH I and drove from Indy to Phoenix. My biggest regret is that we didn't spend time on the original Route 66. I had no idea that sections were still in existence, and only discovered it accidentally when our trip was almost over. If you're Indy based I'd suggest going quickly through the first day of driving. You can do all of that stuff on a weekend trip from home. Spend the bulk of your time on areas that are more than a day away. We stopped in Oklahoma City to see the memorial (fantastic), the Petrified Forest Natl Park, and wish we'd known the exit for the Cadillac Ranch in Texas. We saw it from the highway but it wasn't the same. There are so many more apps and tools now to help with your travel.
Checking my travel notebook Santa Fe at sunset was gorgeous, Rooftop Cantina there was yummy. Grants Cafe in Grants, NM was very cool and on Route 66 (when I figured out we could abandon the major highway). And BTW, we got to Phoenix in 2.5 days driving 363 miles day 1 leaving after work (spending the night at a cheap hotel in MO), then 1,042 miles the next (spending the night in NM) and getting to Phoenix the day after (Sunday) with a stop at Petrified Forest. So if you don't mind spending a lot of time in the car (books on tape is not a bad idea) I think you can totally do this. From AZ hit Grand Canyon for a day, then Vegas, then LA (or just north to avoid traffic), drive coastal route to SF in a day (which is beautiful! recommend a stop in Cambria and San Luis Obispo if you can) which is day 6 or 7... then I'm out of suggestions for drive back but others have good advice.
Have fun!
hlphillips2 is offline  
Nov 18th, 2016, 06:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 7,382 Rocky Mountain National Park, but the road through the park might still be closed because of snow......

Absolutely will be closed. It generally closes around mid November and the target date for opening is Memorial Day weekend. Most of the time CDOT makes it but they didn't this year. April in the mountains of CO can still have a potential for heavy snow. And the same for further north.
fmpden is offline  
Nov 18th, 2016, 01:52 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 4
Sounds like April is maybe the best time to avoid the crowds and just stick to the southern route.
HoosierTravel is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:34 AM.