Road trip through the West Coast

Old Jan 14th, 2020, 12:14 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 18
Road trip through the West Coast

Hello, I’m planning a 3 week trip to the west cost of the USA for mid September. We would like to see LA, SF, Las Vegas, and some National Parks (Yosemite, GC, Bruce). This forum was very helpful for me some years ago when I visit the east coast, and I would like to ask you again about this new trip to the USA.

I’ve read some blogs and forums and I’ve prepared the following planning, even though some improves are needed, I guess:

Day 1:Arrive at Los Ángeles.
Days 2 and 3: Los Ángeles (maybe it is better to let LA for the end).
D4: Los Ángeles - Calico – Mojave (night in Needles, 412km)
D5: Rout 66 to South Rim – Grand Canyon (night in Williams, 378km)
D6: South Rim – Grand Canyon (night in Williams?)
D7:From Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (341km)
D8: From Monument Valley to Page, evening at Horseshoe Bend (205km)
D9:Visit to Antelope Canyon and Bryce Canyon (246km)
D10: From Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas ¿sightseen Zion NP? (396km)
D11: Las Vegas
D12: From Las Vegas to Yosemite NP, trhough Death Valley National Park (564km)
Dias 13 y 14: Yosemite NP
D15: From Yosemite to San Francisco (268km)
Days 16 and 17: San Francisco
Days 18 and 19: Big Sur (2 nights)
Day 20: Santa Bárbara (f.e.) – Airport.

I have another idea for the days 7 to 11, including Zion NP, but I am not sure whether it would be too much the day 7, and also few time in Las Vegas as we would be there D10 at night when with the other option we could be there for lunch.

D7:From Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (341km), visiting antelope canyon and horseshoe bend
D8: From Monument Valley (sunrise + loop)to kanab
D9: Bryce NP, night in Panguitch
D10: Zion NP , night in Las Vegas
D11: Las Vegas

What do you think about it? Any suggestion? My main doubts are:

- Are the journeys well balanced? I mean, I know this is a road trip, but I don’t want to be the whole day driving, but, on the other hand, It would be a pity to have to much time and finishing the visits at 15.00, for example.

- Would it be better to see LA at the end of the trip, after SF and Big Sur?

- Any suggestion about where to sleep between SF and LA?

Any suggestion is wellcome! Thank you very much in advance and sorry if my english is not perfect! .
Sircharles75 is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 04:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2020
Posts: 8
Here is a site that puts the Utah part of your trip into a map with a list of more realistic times for travel.

Southern Utah Map - OhioHick's Travel Tips

I would be concerned that you have spent too much time on the road and not enough in the parks.

Unless you plan on a lot of hiking, one full day would be enough for Grand Canyon, and I would want to spend the night in the park. If you can get there before sunset, see the light change, spend the night, see sunrise,hike a bit, head east on 64 stopping at the viewpoints, then head up towards Monument Valley.

In Page, try for seeing Horseshoe bend in the morning and Antelope Canyon during mid day. The sun will be overhead in antelope canyon and in the afternoon, the sun at Horseshoe is in your face, on the back side of
Horseshoe, so morning is better there.

Panguitch is out of the way for visiting the Bryce/Zion part of the trip. Look for lodging nearer or in Bryce, and in Zion or in Springdale for visiting there.
oldemalloy is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 05:24 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Regarding Panguitch - we did base there for a Bryce visit last time, but that was to stay at a particular B&B (which has since closed and the proprietor retired). There was really nothing more to recommend the town or any particular lodgings I'd stay at, particularly given the extra distance.
sludick is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
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Don't spend a night in Needles! If you can't make it to Las Vegas, spend a night in Primm (Exit 1). Leave Los Angeles for the end of the trip. If you don't want to drive all the way to Santa Barbara from Big Sur/Monterey try for SLO. Be sure to see the big Coast Redwoods at Henry Cowell or Big Basin.
Between Las Vegas and the south rim of the Grand Canyon, stop to see Hoover Dam.
Fill the gas tank at Tuba City on US 160. Gas station are scarce in northeastern Arizona.
tomfuller is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I'm going to be somewhat blunt, but believe me when I say I'm not trying to insult you.

Basically you're making a common mistake among would-be first-time road trippers to the western US. Too much too fast.

I know it's tempting to include everything you can given the amazing diversity of this region. But when you look at it realistically, you're going to see that so much of your time is going to be spent behind the wheel, much of it hot and boring, that even with three weeks you're going to feel rushed.

For one thing, I don't know what source you're using for time estimates, but if it's one of the major mapping sites like Google or Bing, you're going to have to add at least 25%, up to 50% on top of their time estimates, and count yourself lucky if that's all it is. Remember those are "wheels turning" estimates (they're still wrong) but there's hardly one segment of your route where there won't be numerous places to stop, get out of the car, get a meal, use the loo... one after another.

The other thing is timing. You will be in some of the hottest places in North America at the hottest time of the year. Death Valley didn't get its name for nothing, and actually when it's 48C (118F) it's not especially scenic anyway (heat haze) and you can't stay out of the car for more than a couple of minutes. Yosemite's famous waterfalls will be trickles or even dry; you'll be lucky if you can avoid the (now annual, it seems) forest fires that plague the Sierras, and lodging options in all the national parks will be extremely limited.

The good news is that you have plenty of time to plan.

Can I suggest a "thought experiment?" You're coming from Europe, so consider landing in Las Vegas instead of LA. In September prices will be cheap, and the beauty of using LV as your arrival point is that there's no better place in the US to overcome jetlag since it's a 24 hour city. When the bedside clock says 3 AM but your body clock says noon, no problem, things will be hopping downstairs. Or you can go out into the desert and watch the sunrise.

Anyway, what I'd suggest is two driving loops. The first one would be a "red rocks" loop out of Las Vegas that would include Bryce and Zion, then the Grand Canyon, then back to Vegas. I'd then drop the car and buy a one-way ticket to San Francisco (around US$75.) Visit that city, get another car, and do a one-way trip south. If you want to chance Yosemite, you can go for it, but bear in mind it may well be hot, smoky, and crowded. I'd focus on the coast, especially the area around Monterey Bay and south along CA Hwy 1 past Point Lobos, Big Sur and the Hearst Castle, down to the LA area.

If you're still desperate to see the desert and sample Route 66, then swing inland from the coast to Palm Springs. You can access parts of Hwy 66 from there, and if you want a desert national park, Joshua Tree is very close to Palm Springs and is easily visited as a day trip "drive-through" destination.

Here's a map showing an imaginary route for this second drive; google the places on it -
Gardyloo is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 10:14 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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I'd start all over again - sorry

As Gardyloo says, you are trying to cover WAY too much territory in WAY too little time. You won't see much but your steering wheel for many of those days. And places like Needles (OMG - no! ) and Death Valley could be insanely hot.
janisj is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Forget Needles (been there years ago for a BBQ) and in fact I would ditch the whole Route 66 part and drive LA to Vegas, then to Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, etc.
Do you have reservations for Yosemite? Places book up a year in advance, even campsites (in fact they go first).
Big Sur lodging is mostly rustic, or expensive or Uber expensive (like $600 per night and up for Post Ranch Inn) so stay two nights in Monterey instead, then a night in Cambria, Pismo Beach or Morro Bay (I am not a big fan of SLO unlike others on this forum) and then a night in Santa Barbara time permitting.
jamie99 is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2020, 10:26 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
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If you want to drive part of what was US66 you can get off I-15 in Victorville and drive to Barstow on the National Trails highway. Get back on I-15 and head for Las Vegas. Baker's claim to fame is the world's tallest thermometer. Sadly it does not work and the Big Boy next door has closed. The old Rt. 66 does not go to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. If you want to visit a ghost town, try for Chloride AZ off US 93 between Hoover Dam and Kingman. I've been to both - Chloride is better than Calico.
There are Rt. 66 museums in Victorville and Barstow. You are more likely to find the one in Barstow to be open. It is in the lower part of what was once the train station and Harvey House.
Another section of Rt. 66 you can drive that is not under I-40 is between Seligman (pronounced Se LIG man) and Ash Fork AZ.
I also favor flying to Las Vegas and renting a car there - cheaper than renting at LAX
tomfuller is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2020, 07:03 AM
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 55
Fodor's Forum and it's members is the best place to seek advice on tuning up your itinerary. You've already got many great advices, but at the end, you'll have to tune it up per your personal liking and the things you want to do.

As others noted, you need to be more specific how would you utilize your time during this trip? Would you like to spend a whole day hiking or you want focus on scenic drives with stops at the scenic viewpoints combined with short to moderate walks?
Once you clear this up, you'll get more realistic responds.

Anyway, it is a good idea to depart LA right away, and leave it for the end of this trip. While the weather should be great, it is important to be aware, this trip will fall at the end of the Monsoon Season.
Read more HERE:.
If you'll drive a lot, it would be good to allow some idle time to catch up or modify your itinerary if the weather backfires at you.If not, plan something extra around to see or to arrive earlier in your next destination.
Lodging may be expensive and hard to find at major sites like Grand Canyon, etc., you may want to look into booking it right away if you want to stay right at the Grand Canyon for example.
You already got many great advices here, I'll throw one more for the starter too, but only if you want to maximize the site seeing and spend a bit more time driving.
There are more majestic N.Parks to see then the Big Sur. After my road trip to the West, I'd spend most of the day day in Big Sur for photo opps. The time saved, plus maybe an extra day, I'd use it like this:
I'd depart Grand Canyon South Rim early in the morning and drive to the Horseshoe (aprox. 2 hrs 30 minutes drive to Page, AZ), morning is the best for viewing with the Sun in your back. From there, I'd take the Antelope Canyon tour (need to book one soon)
around 11/12 o'clock. Please verify the Page AZ time, they do not participate in the Daylight Saving Time if I remember correctly. After that, I'd drive to monument Valley and see it before the sunset, with the sun in your back again.
Sleep and next day, early morning again, rather the backtracking, I'd drive toward Moab and see Arches N.P. and Canyonlands. It is so worth the drive. I'd allow a half day driving around Canyonlands, visiting all the viewpoints and taking a short hike to the Mesa Arch. If you can do a longer hike, I'd recommend the Delicate Arch hike in Arches N.P. before the sunset. It's not as hot later on and you can come down from there in the dark, you won't be alone on the trail there. Many great stops at Arches with fairly short walks, the Delicate Arch is long and rewarding, the only long hike I wouldn't miss.
from there, take I-70 West, and engage in the whole line of N. Parks at any point you'd like on the way toward Vegas. Pick and choose, time dependable.

As other noted, pay attention to the Service Area signs (gas stations) how far to the next one. Don't fall below half full gas tank to stay out of trouble.

EDIT: You should purchase America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Buy it at the first park you enter, it'll be way cheaper than paying entrance fee at every N.P. you enter.

Last edited by andyg5056; Jan 15th, 2020 at 07:19 AM. Reason: Adding info on America the Beautiful annual Pass
andyg5056 is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2020, 01:14 PM
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 35
Hi Sircharles, I just did a similar trip (5000+ km in 28 days) in August (see my trip report: Trip Report: All Across the Southwest), and despite the warnings of this forum on the mileage, it worked out well for us. This does not necessarily mean that it will work for you, it really depends on your travel style, how many people you are, with or without kids etc.
I recommend to take the concerns of the other posters seriously and trim down your itinerary a bit. I would skip Calico (nothing there, really) and Route 66 which is over-romanticised in Europe.
We also chose to not visit Death Valley (for the heat) and Monument Valley, and I don't think we missed much.
Doing Antelope in the early morning and then be in Bryce NP for sunset is possible. Just passing through Zion, you would miss out. I would plan at least one-and-a-half days there (which you would have to cut out somewhere else).
With respect to crowds, I would not worry ... our trip was in mid August and it wasn't bad, yours is in mid September (and the most crowd prone place on your list, Yosemite, is towards the end, so late September), so you should be fine. Of course, book accomodation at Yosemite early still.
Not sure why you would want 2 days in Big Sur but just one in San Francisco, but of course this comes down to personal preferences (myself, I get a kick out of just simply walk the SF streets, I could do this for days, just love the place).
Hope it helps! Either way, have a great trip, and don't forget to post a trip report after.

mac_kraut is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 12:35 AM
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Posts: 18
Thank you all for your great advises!!!

Actually I’m not surprised about your concernings regarding the long distances I am trying to cover in “only” 3 weeks. In fact this is also one of my concerns and one of the reasons I posted here , I wanted to know your thoughts about it.

In any case, I am not worry about a whole day driving as long as I have many places to stop and visit during the route. What I definitely don’t want to do (at least no more than 1 or 2 days if necessary) is to drive f.ex. 5 hours with no stops, only to get to one particular place. I guess that in my planning the “hardest” days in this sense are the 10 (BC to LV) and 12 (LV to Yosemite), the other days will be more balanced, am I right?

I will study the options you provide me, including flying from LV to SF, it sounds good and it would avoid one of the main car journies we’ll have to face . And I’ll definitely discard Needles and Panguitch, no doubt about it!

Mac_kraut, I will be 2 days in SF, not one. Is this enough or should I try to add one more day to SF?. Regarding Monument Valley, this is a “must” for me, I saw it in many many western movies when I was young and I want to check whether John Wayne is still walking around

I have to review in detail all your advises and i will try to tune the planning, hope this weekenend I have enough time.

Greetings from Spain!
Sircharles75 is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 10:27 AM
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 55
Originally Posted by Sircharles75 View Post
Thank you all for your great advises!!!

Actually I’m not surprised about your concernings regarding the long distances I am trying to cover in “only” 3 weeks. In fact this is also one of my concerns and one of the reasons I posted here , I wanted to know your thoughts about it.
Well, we did a bit over 5000 miles, not kilometers, in like 23 days. It's doable with planning. But, make sure to allow yourself to run a bit ahead of the schedule, rather then trailing it. Also, just in case, have a plan of what you could skip or alter if you need to catch up with the schedule if necessary. Select several MUST SEE destination, especially the one with hard to find last minute lodging locations, like Grand Canyon, Yosemite. So you can book lodging way ahead of your trip. Also, make sure you'll allow some extra time to get there, for example, if weather delays your departure from last place visited. Or you just like something You see and want to spend more time there. Half of our nights we slept at roadside hotels/motels we just drove up to. But, there are available in populated areas. When it comes to Arizona/Utah Canyons and National Parks, there aren't that many, if any that are available and on your drive path. Just like the gas stations.

Also, rent a car with GPS unit, installed or attached. some areas have no Cellular reception at all, your phone based GPS will not work there.

P.S. You're thinking Monument Valley & John Wayne, and my kids were thinking Windows screen saver when they saw Monument Valley...

Last edited by andyg5056; Jan 16th, 2020 at 10:30 AM.
andyg5056 is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 10:56 AM
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I just drove from San Diego to St Louis and back. I found the time estimates on Google maps were fairly accurate. Of course, it depends on what speed you travel and you have to add on time for any stops you make. If your car has cruise control, use it. On the Interstates, beware of big trucks pulling out right in front of cars to overtake other big trucks, very slowly. I can't tell you how often that happened to me.

I would stay in Flagstaff rather than Williams. We stayed at the La Quinta on S. Beulah, traveling with a dog so La Quinta's were great. It has been completely renovated quite recently and was very nice, modern, very clean. It's in a lovely wooded setting.
Barbara is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Sircharles75 View Post
Mac_kraut, I will be 2 days in SF, not one. Is this enough or should I try to add one more day to SF?. Regarding Monument Valley, this is a “must” for me, I saw it in many many western movies when I was young and I want to check whether John Wayne is still walking around
OK I get the point on Monument Valley. Not sure if John Wayne is still around.

How many days in SF? This is impossible to say, really depends on you and your preferences. Of course you could spend weeks in a city like that and still not get bored. So it's really up to you. This forum has plenty of advice on what to see in SF, this will be a much better source than I ever will be.
From my limited experience: When we were there, we went drove across GG Bridge like any good tourist would. I took the kids to the Exploratorium which was great. And we did lots of cable car rides, the whole family loved this ... go early to avoid the long lines and buy the MUNI day tickets (7$). The rest was just walking around the different neighbourhoods and absorbing in the atmosphere.
mac_kraut is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 12:42 PM
Join Date: Jan 2020
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If you plan your lodging to ease the driving times, you can really cut down on some time behind the wheel. For example you have D5 in Williams. If that is as far as you want to drive before going to Grand Canyon, the fine, but if you could get to GC before sunset, then stay in the park or closer, perhaps Tusayan, or Cameron, then you could see sunrise and explore the rim west to Hermit’s rest and down into it a way on Bright Angel or South Kaibab trail, then head east on. 64 with stops at the overlooks on out to Cameron Trading post for night 6. This takes you part way to Monument valley so I less than 3 hours you can be there.

As has been mentioned, the times of travel when you are not on freeways are often longer than you plan for. Some of the areas have “open range” which means that animals like cattle and horses might bo on the road. Deer,elk, antelope and other wild animals are also often crossing your path,especially at dawn and dusk, try to avoid a close encounter with them.
oldemalloy is offline  
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