Road trip in California


Mar 20th, 2013, 10:35 AM
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Road trip in California

Wonder if any of you kind people can help
Coming over from Scotland and I am planning a road trip around California etc lasting a few weeks during June / July 2013.
I will have with me my wife, my daugter , my son in lawand my granddaughter (aged 13 years) We have a wide range of interests which include but are not limited to – horse activities (the bigger the horse the better especially welcome Heavy horses) – wildlife watching such as whales , seals, deer , bison etc: motor sports especially monster trucks : water sports such as jetskis, paddle boarding etc; old historic areas relating to the ‘wild west era’; shopping ( both big malls and small designer areas) and touring around checking out the scenery and other interesting things.
Our rough route is :- Arrive in Los Angeles – drive via Barstow to Las Vegas then on via Death Valley Giant Sequoia area and Yosemite to Lake Tahoe, then onto San Francisco via Sacremento and Monterey. This is merely a rough idea and the only hotels we have booked are in Los Anegeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco , and even these are only booked for a maximum of 2 days per place, this means that we are totally flexible about where we go and where we stay
I have checked out the various official sites around these areas but there is no substitution for the thoughts of people who live there or have travelled these paths before. Any ideas along this route for things for us to do and/or see would be greatly appreciated. As I said the route is not set in tablets of stone so any side trips which are worth it would be considered. My hope is to give my family and in particular my granddaughter a vacation to remember as this may well be the last time we can all get away together.
Thanks in anticipation
Jim Edmonds
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Mar 20th, 2013, 11:15 AM
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While in Las Vegas, consider including visits to Valley of Fire State Park and Zion National Park.

The routing would be better if you do (as most do) pass up Sequoia NP in favor of driving from Death Valley to Yosemite up Highway 395 and over Tioga Pass. (This route also gives you an opportunity to visit Bodie--our best preserved ghost town.)

From Yosemite, it is interesting to drive to San Francisco via Highway 49, which passes through towns associated with the great California Gold Rush.

Near San Francisco there are opportunities to visit the Napa and Sonoma wine districts and to see the giant redwoods.

Return to Los Angeles via scenic Highway 1.

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Mar 20th, 2013, 11:45 AM
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The VERY first thing you need to do is look for accommodations IN Yosemite Valley. Preferably at Yosemite Lodge but anywhere in the valley would be OK. It is a quite late to be booking there for the summer months. (Think August Bank Holiday/Lake District or Edinburgh at Festival time)

If you can't get into Yosemite, try either Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal or a condo in Yosemite West (the closest accommodations to the park)

Then depending on which dates you hopefully can book . . . Then plan the rest of your routing around that.

>>via Death Valley Giant Sequoia area and Yosemite to Lake Tahoe, then onto San Francisco via Sacremento and Monterey.><<

The fly in the ointment here is Sequoia National Park. There is no entrance to SNPfrom the eastern/Death Valley side. You must go via a hellish drive through Bakersfield and up to Sequoia and then into the central valley and north to Yosemite.

From Death Valley the best way to get to Yosemite is up Hwy 395 and then through the park from the east over Tioga Pass. This is a GLORIOUS drive. You would miss Sequoia -- but not to worry, since the same big trees grow in Yosemite National Park.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon is great but wouldn't fit in this scenario.
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Mar 20th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Agree with janisj, no eastern entrance to Sequoia and Yosemite has sequoia trees anyway so drop this one.
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Mar 20th, 2013, 01:00 PM
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No wild bison in California. Lake Tahoe will offer the jet skis, paddle boarding, and great hiking, so try to keep this option on your itinerary.
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Mar 20th, 2013, 01:01 PM
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I agree with both janisj and happytrailstoyou about skipping Sequoia. It is beautiful but the route through Yosemite will more than make up for missing it.

And do be sure to check out Bodie. It is fascinating - and about the only "wild west" you'll see.
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Mar 20th, 2013, 06:14 PM
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I just want to make sure you realize what the weather will be like in Nevada and Death Valley at that time of year - while I really like Valley of Fire State Park, the average high temperature there in July is 108 degrees. It's 118 at Death Valley. Los Vegas gets up to 104 degrees, on average, but at least there's plenty of air conditioning. And it's full sun.

OTOH, the Sierra Nevada and San Francisco area should have nice weather that time of year.
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Mar 20th, 2013, 07:39 PM
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We live in California and visit these places regularly. They are a great introduction to the state.

Coming from Scotland do you realize that the temps in Death Valley can easily be 120 degrees during the day? You will feel like you are melting. If you have never experienced these temps you will be in for a shock. Vegas is also hot but the activities are inside for the most part. You can walk the strip in the evenings when it cools down a tiny bit.

I agree with skipping Sequoia. Even though it is beautiful it is very difficult to get to.

Don't miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is wonderful. You might also like to look around the tide pools (though don't touch anything) that are located next to the aquarium. If you have time drive down the coast a bit to Big Sur and back. It is stunning and something you will always remember. You can do this as a daytrip from Monterey.

What is your interest in Sacramento? It doesn't seem to fit any of your interests listed above. It is a big city. Is it because it is the capitol of California? Then I understand.

San Francisco is a wonderful city. So much to see and do. Take the boat over to Alcatraz for a few hours. Don't miss riding a trolley car. The wine country just north of SF is gorgeous. Rolling hillsides covered in vines. You could do this as a daytrip from SF also.

I agree with making your reservations for Yosemite asap. Our schools let out the beginning of June so families start traveling then through September.

California is beautiful and big. Be sure to check the mileages as it can be deceiving how far apart things are sometimes. Happy planning!
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Mar 21st, 2013, 11:20 AM
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Thanks for all the replies. Your efforts are very much appreciated. Was in Death Valley a few years back so have an idea what the heat will be like but the family insist on going. Thank goodness for air con in the car.

Great tips about missing out the bit through sequoia. Looking forward to seeing San Francisco again but this time through the eyes of my granddaughter who has never been to that part of the States

Again thanks to everyone I do appreciate you taking the time to pass on your advice.

PS It is currently snowing where I live - hope it makes you jealous (LOL)
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Mar 21st, 2013, 12:06 PM
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Look into booking your car thru or the UK version of Hertz, Avis, etc. This will include all your insurance and often they can get the one way dropoff fees waived especially on a popular route like this one.
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Mar 21st, 2013, 07:35 PM
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Don't miss Tahoe. We have family on the North Shore and love it year round! South Shore if fun, but we really prefer the less congested North. Lone Eagle Grill, Incline Village, NV on the lake is a regular lunch, cocktail, sunset spot for us, winter or summer.
Depending on where you end on your trip, you could consider flying out of Reno. But I think you will find the cost of flying in and out of SFO or LAX will be much less then Sacramento or Reno.
You are also going a long distance, understand it takes 6-7 hours from SF to LA.
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 06:42 AM
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A couple of wild west thoughts....Highway 395 is terrific (as other posters have mentioned). Lone Pine, Bishop, Lee Vining, Big Pine, Independence and Bodie (the ghost town, be prepared for a long dirt road drive). All offer a slice of wild west and Americana. Stop at the nature center in Mono Lake.

Tahoe is an excellent place for hiking and water sports. We usually stay in South Lake Tahoe but reviews of North Lake Tahoe are uniformly good too.

On your drive from Tahoe to SF consider a slight detour to the Gold Rush area of Amador County - Placerville, Sutter's Creek, Grass Valley. There are lots of cute B&Bs and gold rush history in this area. We unexpectedly stayed in the area a few years ago when a blizzard kept us from continuing on to Tahoe. We had a great stay and said we'd come back in the summer to explore the area more (note to self...follow up on this idea). In addition to early California history, it looks like there are opportunities for wine tasting and trail rides too.

When in LA, plan to visit the Gene Autry Western Museum in Griffith Park. You can also hire horses and go for rides in the park - there are a few outfits in the area that offer trail rides and there is a large equestrienne center in Burbank.
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 06:57 AM
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If you do leave Yosemite driving through Gold Country/hiway 49 - you can come out at Placerville and then drive hiway 50 to South Lake Tahoe. South Shore has more casinos and is more congested - but does have some nice beaches up the east side - toward beautiful Carnelian Bay/Vikingshom - while north shore has some incredible views looking down the lake.

Can't go wrong either place. And check out renting mountain bikes and riding down the mountains - after taking a ski lift up, or just cruise along trails by the lake.

For me - driving through Death Valley - once was enuff.
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 07:05 AM
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And you can also visit some old mining caves/tours in the hills above San Diego (2 hours driving time south of LA - and much less congested) - at Julian - and enjoy their great apple pie. Good horse back riding opportunities around there too.Zy

BTW - we also have great beaches here too.

Just loved Scotland - and took the train from Edingburgh, to the Isle of Skye, and just loved Skye also. Stayed at the Eilean Airman (sp") estate on the south side - and had a marvelous tour of the island from a member of the Clan McDonald - and then back down the east side - past Royal Troon was it? - spending the night in Ayre? - birthplace of Robert Burns - if I remember correctly the great poet's name.

Lovely little town Ayre (even tried blood sausage? for breakfast) - and then down to catch the ferry over to Ireland.
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 07:07 AM
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how about the following rough itinerary (assuming it works with available lodging). It skips Vegas but another southwest trip that includes Zion, GC, Moab and other points could be in the future. Also the desserts in summer can be awfully hot.

LA - 2 days at beaches (Santa Monica or a beach town like Manhattan Beach, take a surf lesson, go whale watching, go horseback riding in Malibu)

LA to Yosemite (via Tioga Pass and Hwy 395, maybe with a stop along the way so the drive isn't such a long day and more exploratory stops can be made) - 1 night

Yosemite - 3 nights

Yosemite to to Amador County (Gold Rush area) - 1 night

Tahoe - 2 nights

Tahoe to SF - 3 nights SF

SF to Monterey - 2 nights in Monterey/Carmel

Drive Highway 1 to LA - 1 night in Cambria (visit Hearst Castle) or some other stop along the way like Big Sur, Santa Barabara, other suggestions?

LA - 2 nights in Pasadena/Glendale/Hollywood/Downtown (somewhere more inland and closer to other sightseeing)
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Mar 22nd, 2013, 02:52 PM
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Carniejim: POlson has given you a good plan. The main issue being when/IF you can get accommodations in Yosemite. Do that first and then you can modify POlson's route to match.

>>and then back down the east side - past Royal Troon was it? - spending the night in Ayre<<

Tom - Maybe it was as long ago as your CA trips so the details are lost in the deep dark past. Ayr/Troon are on the west coast of Scotland.
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Mar 24th, 2013, 10:44 AM
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Hi all

Thanks for all the great tips - really do appreciate you all making contact and time for me. May have given a slightly wrong impression. We fly into LA and about 5 weeks later fly out from SF - hence the route I kind of made up. Again thanks to all who made the effort to help

Arrabest from Snowy Scotland Just to help I live on the east coast of Scotland near the City of Dundee. I live in Carnoustie- one of the Open golf championship courses and live about 10 miles from St Andrews - the home of golf - but guess what I do not play golf !!! Figure that out
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Mar 24th, 2013, 10:56 AM
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>>Arrabest from Snowy Scotland Just to help I live on the east coast of Scotland near the City of Dundee. I live in Carnoustie-. . . . <<

And you have exactly one month to make that snow stop!

After a few days in Edinburgh and the Trossachs I'm staying near Anstruther for a week starting 26 April. Been in the area many times but my cousin hasn't so one day I'm taking her up to Glamis, then Dunnottar, and back through Carnoustie. Do NOT want to walk out to Dunnottar in sleet/snow
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Mar 30th, 2013, 04:33 PM
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I'm going to chime in with an idea in regards to your interest in horse activities since you listed it first and as a horse lover- I totally get that I think your family would really enjoy a stay at a dude ranch. Especially your 13 yo gd! It would satisfy the "horse activity" AND give you a taste of the "wild west". I am a life long horse owner and native Californian, but I have had some of my best vacations at a dude ranch. Now, I can't speak directly for this place as I have never stayed there, but it is just a few miles north of the route you would take from Death Valley to Yosemite via hwy 395. I CAN attest to the glorious views of the eastern Sierra from there as I have family nearby. You probably won't be able to stay for just a night, but they advertise 4 night stays in June. You won't find "heavy or draft" horses to ride ( pretty much limited to the Clydesdales pulling beer wagons at fairs and such. Since they are scottish as are you, I'm sure seeing a clydesdale is not a novelty for you). But, you will ride a nice quarter horse or other stock breed bred for cattle work. Much easier to manuever when chasing cattle! Bodie is very close and a VERY cool ghost town/State Park. We like it so much, we named our dog after it, lol. Mono Lake is on this route too has a great information center and is a unique place to visit.

I agree with janisj (and she has helped me greatly with my upcoming trip to Scotland- our families will be swapping places as we will be in Scotland and road tripping through Angus this June!)- get your Yosemite nights organized NOW and work the rest of the trip around it. If you can't get anything in Yosemite Valley (pretty likely),or one of janisj's other suggestions, my family stayed at this place for a family reunion. They have some nice, self-catering cabins, BUT it is almost an hour to the valley from there. Don't be fooled by the distance listed to the park entrance- the park is huge and the entrance is a ways from the valley where the main tourist sites are. Just throwing it out there if you have trouble finding accomodation.
The drive from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe along hwy 49 to hwy 50 takes you through a lot of little gold rush era towns and there are nice wineries along the way for the adults. It's a pretty drive. I live east of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills and can give you more info on the region if you need it. Sacramento (despite being the state capital) isn't all that exciting, but a visit to Old Sacramento on your way from Tahoe to SF might be a fun lunch stop. It's been restored to what the city was like during the gold rush in 1849. Wooden side walks, on the Sacramento River with a cool train museum. I know, not as historical as where you are from, but they best we have to offer
When you are in Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must see. Maybe do some sea kayaking, or kayak a little north of there at Elkhorn Slough to see otters and other sea life/birds. Go to Point Lobos State Preserve for easy hiking and incredible tide pools. The shopping and walking around in Carmel is fun (and expensive) and if you can afford the time, drive a bit farther south and see Big Sur. Eat lunch at Nepenthe, has to have one of the most spectacular coastline vistas of any restaurant!

There is sooo much to see in California, it's hard not to get overwhelmed with choices. I felt that way when planning our trip to the UK. We wanted to see ALL of England AND Scotland in 3 weeks. Ummm, not realistic. I think the dude ranch if you can fit it in, would be a really memorable part of the trip if the whole family likes the "horse thing". If not, I'll try to think of some more options for horseback riding along your route.
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Mar 30th, 2013, 04:50 PM
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If you are in Las Vegas, I would recommend that you start out very early (like 6am) for the two hour drive to Death Valley. Plan to reach DV around 8 or 8:30am at most because you still have to drive through the valley and it gets really hot. July and August are the hottest months in DV. Depending on which route you take and what you want to see, the drive through DV could take several hours. By then you are close to noon. Try to GET OUT of DV before that!

Gotta go, din din time, but will return to check on this thread.

Don't miss the California coast!
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