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San Francisco as a base for Yosemite?

Old Jan 18th, 2016, 12:02 PM
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When I did a similar trip, I flew into Burbank, not LAX. It was cheaper to rent a car there, also, than LAX. Then I drove to Santa Barbara from the airport, that's not bad at all if you get there at a reasonable time of day. It's only about a two hour drive. So I'd check your options for Burbank.

For the drive up the coast, I stopped in Cambria in-between Santa Barbara and Monterey, where I stayed a few days. I did visit Hearst Castle while I was staying in Cambria, I think I was there 2 days.
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Old Jan 18th, 2016, 12:04 PM
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I'd take the 1 from LAX up through Malibu then cut over to the 101 around Oxnard, through Santa Barbara which I also love a lot and then Cambria. It is better to have two overnights on Highway 1, one night is doable but you would have to choose your stops carefully. Cannery Row is a big tourist trap but the Aquarium is worthwhile.
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Old Jan 21st, 2016, 04:58 AM
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I've done a couple trips to SF in the last few years. I did the Pacific Coast Highway/Hearst Castle and Yosemite on different trips but I did other things as well (visiting family) but you could do what I think would be a decent week long trip and do both. But even two extra days would help a lot if you could get it.

I would fly into SF and drive to Santa Cruz (about an hour) for the first night since you will be tired from the cross country flight. The next day drive the Pacific Coast Highway/Big Sur to Hearst Castle (lots of places to stop but reasonably done in a day). See Hearst Castle late in the afternoon (but make a reservation).

The next day drive to Yosemite (4-5 hours). Spend two nights there. The afternoon of the third day drive to SF (4 hours to the airport to drop car) and spend last 3 nights there.

With two extra days I'd put one in Yosemite and one in SF. Even then that's kind of the minimum but you would get a reasonable trip to those three great places.

Here's my trip reports. Might be something useful in them and there are links to the photos.

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...oma-and-sf.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...-the-coast.cfm
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Old Jan 21st, 2016, 01:50 PM
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If you decide to head to Santa Cruz, it's about six (winding) miles up Hwy 9 to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which is in Felton. Beautiful and huge redwood trees on the loop trail, and a very nice visitors' center. Much easier to get to than Big Basin State Park.
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Old Jan 21st, 2016, 01:56 PM
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That's true - I love Big Basin, but Henry Cowell is an easier 'get' for many visitors since it is so near Santa Cruz.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2016, 05:45 PM
  #26  
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I found a lodging deal in Santa Cruz. If I based my trip from Santa Cruz is seeing Hearst and Big Sur doable. I could fly into San Francisco. Is it possible from Santa Cruz to have a day in San Francisco as well as see the coastal Red Woods.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2016, 07:50 PM
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I was posting when the site went down again . . . so I'll try again and paraphrase . . .

No you can't really use Santa Cruz as a base for Hearst Castle and Big Sur. Santa Cruz to San Simeon takes 3.5 to 4 hours down the coast through Big Sur and about 3 hours on 101 avoiding the coast. So driving one way on Hwy 1 and the other on 101 would take about 7 hours RT plus any tours at Hearst Castle and any stops in Big Sur . . . so a VERY long 12-15 hour days all together.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 04:24 AM
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What do you mean a "lodging deal". There are plenty of lodging options in Santa Cruz, near Hearst Castle and in San Francisco. Why would you want to keep driving back and forth to the same place, wasting time on a trip that is already too short to really accomplish what you said you wanted to. If you just want to stay at a nice resort and enjoy the place then do that, but what you were asking was how to see several places (Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Yosemite and SF) in one trip. That is doable, but certainly not from one base. Look at a map. (or look at the responses above).
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 05:21 AM
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Thank you for all of your help. The lodging deal I referred to is that I have been given free lodging (X number of points) with one chain of hotels. If I stay in one location I the 5th night is no more points. To get the most from this gift, I need to stay in one location. I can move from hotel to hotel within this chain but the chain is limited along the coast and costly in san francisco. I am just trying to decide which is best. My husband an I both enjoy scenic rides, but no one likes congested traffic. So it is a hunch that maybe basing 1 1/2 hr from San Francisco is doable. Before researching for this trip I didn't realize I wanted to see San Francisco. I have always wanted to see the Redwoods but long hikes are not possible as my husband has a bad knee. Short easy 1 mile hikes are great. When I looked at Santa Cruz it seemed like they have a lot to do near there and maybe I could stay in San Francisco "out of pocket" for a night to fit in a few sites there. I'm not sure Hearst is doable round trip from santa cruz in a day, But seeing the coast and redwoods is my main goal. We own property on the Gulf of Mexico and would love to see the beaches on the Pacific. Still the Redwoods are our top must see. I have even thought of just going to see the northern most forrest and coast. It, however, seems like San Francisco and Big Sur may be the best choice. We have 8 children (one with special needs) and have this opportunity to take a trip alone. The decision is big, as the opportunity to leave the east coast area may not arise again. All of your information has been very helpful. I hope this clears up what I mean by "lodging deal".
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 08:10 AM
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Free is always good -- but free doesn't work if it isn't convenient to the places you want to go.

Having said that -- you can have a great few days just concentrating on the Santa Cruz area.

Big Sur is 'possible' from Santa Cruz -- it will take about an hour to Point Lobos (a must IMO) and about another hour to Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP. So that would be a long-ish but doable day trip. You'd be driving through Monterey -- but really wouldn't have time to stop, so another day trip could be Monterey/Carmel which is about an hour from Santa Cruz. Then you have Henry Cowell State Park right outside SC. And places like Aptos/Seacliff beach and Capitola which are just minutes from SC.

So of budget is an issue -- definitely take the free accommodations . . . but you will have to stay a night in SF to see the city. Or for your SF night consider staying in Millbrae -- it is near SFO, has several inexpensive hotels/motels, and is on BART so you can pop into the city. Staying IN San Francisco is better if you can afford it, but staying near SFO is definitely doable.

And enjoy your rare time alone . . .
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 11:49 AM
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You can easily see Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz. However I would not try and visit Hearst Castle from a base in Santa Cruz, too much driving on a very windy road. You will have to decide which is most important to you.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 11:58 AM
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Oh - I hope my post was clear . . . yes, you could manage the Big Sur area as a day trip from SC, but squeezing in San Simeon really isn't doable.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 02:34 PM
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Thank you janisj. I am thinking I will fly into Oakland (flight is $150 cheeper) rent a car and head into Santa Cruz for 5 nights. From there we will try to see Big Sur and other mentioned attractions. Then for nights 6-7 we will be in San Francisco where I plan to book an Alcatraz tour with Muir Woods & Sausalito. I am excited and think missing Hearst is sad but not wise on this trip. After all relaxing some would be nice. Thank you so much
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Old Jan 23rd, 2016, 02:56 PM
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That is a good plan . . . However -- I'd forget about Muir Woods. You will see much better stands of redwoods @ Henry Cowell and also some down in Big Sur. Muir Woods gets VERY crowded (they frequently have to close the parking area) and is over used. The main reason it is so busy isn't because it is the best park -- but because it is the closest to San Francisco.

So concentrate on redwoods while you are staying (for FREE ) in Santa Cruz, and use your limited San Francisco time for Alcatraz, maybe take the ferry to Tiburon or Sausalito and then to Angel Island. And exploring other bits of SF.

Just book your own tickets to Alcatraz -- don't combine it w/ a tour to Muir Woods. Big waste of time.
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 09:25 AM
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Hi Bobbie -

Welcome to California! (when you get here)

I live in San Francisco and have a place in Santa Cruz, so go frequently between the 2 places. Just want to let you know that traffic on the normal route "over the hill" on Hwy. 17 can be very bad at rush hour on weekdays and also during the day on nice summer weekends. People live in Santa Cruz and commute to San Jose/Silicon Valley, so on week days rush hour traffic is from Santa Cruz in the mornings and towards Santa Cruz in the afternoon/evenings. The traffic on nice summer weekends is the opposite - it is towards Santa Cruz in the morning/lunchtime and then from Santa Cruz in the evening on Saturday/Sunday. When I say traffic can be bad at those times I mean it can add an hour or two or more to the normal 1 1/2 hours from Santa Cruz to SF - although at least you can be looking at thousands of redwood trees covering the Santa Cruz mountains and redwoods right next to the road while you sit there. ;-> Anyway it may make sense to take traffic-timing into consideration when you head to SF.

But enough of the traffic-downer talk, on to the sight-seeing!


Both Big Basin State Park and Henry Cowell State Park have taller trees than Muir Woods, with Big Basin having taller trees than Henry Cowell. Since you say redwoods are a primary interest, you could go to both Big Basin and Henry Cowell pretty easily. They are only half-an-hour drive apart on Hwy 9/236.

When you do the Big Sur drive, I would recommend driving as far south as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There is a short easy trail from a parking lot there to a beautiful overlook of a waterfall onto a beach. Stop at Nepenthe either on the way down or way back.

I would probably do Carmel/Monterey on a different day. The Monterey Aquarium is very worth seeing, IMO.

Hope you have a wonderful time!
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 07:40 PM
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My opinion - Yosemite is the place you do NOT want to miss. It is truly spectacular. Make reservations well in advance to spend at least a night or two inside the park. It's over a 3 hour drive one way from San Francisco to Yosemite.

I would stay a few days in San Francisco, a few days in Yosemite, and if time head south to the Central Coast visiting Monterey and Carmel.
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 09:07 PM
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Janisj

Your opinion would be welcome here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...m#last-comment

See the last comments

Stu Dudley
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 07:41 AM
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OMG Stu

I'd say 'unbelievable' - but it isn't considering the source.

I avoid responding to most of you know who's posts - she is a psycho.
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Old Jan 25th, 2016, 07:57 AM
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I agree. I'm not responding to her latest nonsense & contradictions.

Stu Dudley
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