September 2024 - 5 wk Western US road trip

Old Jul 3rd, 2023, 12:44 PM
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September 2024 - 5 wk Western US road trip

Previous post Since my last post we have discussed and come to the conclusion of aiming for September/October 2024. With regards to the fire/smoke risk I will book accommodations that we can cancel and if we are so unlucky that we can’t go to Tahoe/Yosemite we will spend the first ~10 days along the coast or in wine country instead. I will make backup plans for that later on.

I have added more days, tried to give us more time in some places and also given us some time in the beginning where I feel we can take it a bit slow, do necessary shopping etc. The same towards the end with some relaxing days in Palm Springs. I have also tried to plan so we won’t be in the most popular parks during the weekend although I realise it will be crowded no matter what.

I thought about adding a stop between Lone Pine and Zion but that sort of messed with the rest of the plan, so don’t know where I should take that day from… Any input is appreciated. I realise some might think we should add more time in Death Valley but considering the heat in September I opted for the “drive through in the morning”-option.

Our flight from LA would leave early so I’d rather drive there the night before so we don’t feel rushed.

Any and all input is greatly appreciated, trying to think of everything before September rolls up and I want to start making reservations. I do like to plan far ahead

Itinerary

5 september: SFO->Dublin (1hr drive)

6 september: Dublin->Murphy? Sonora? Angels camp? (Shopping, sightseeing).

7 september: ? ->Tahoe (Calaveras)

8 september: Tahoe

9 september: Tahoe

10 september: Tahoe->Lee Vining (Bodie, Mono Lake).

11 september: Yosemite (Tioga road)

12 september: Yosemite (Valley)

13 september: Yosemite (Mariposa)

14 september: Yosemite->Lone Pine

15 september: Lone Pine->Zion (Death Valley AM, long day)

16 september: Zion

17 september: Zion

18 september: Zion->Bryce

19 september: Bryce (horseback riding)

20 september: Bryce->Capitol Reef

21 september: Capitol Reef

22 september: Capitol Reef->Moab

23 september: Moab

24 september: Moab

25 september: Moab->Mesa Verde NP

26 september: Mesa Verde NP->Monument Valley

27 september: Monument Valley->Page

28 september: Page (Antelope Canyon, boat ride?)

29 september: Page->Grand Canyon

30 september: Grand Canyon

1 oktober: Grand Canyon->Sedona

2 oktober: Sedona (jeep tour)

3 oktober: Sedona (hiking, chapel)

4 oktober: Sedona->Joshua Tree

5 oktober: Joshua Tree (sunrise, sunset)

6 oktober: Joshua Tree->Palm Springs

7 oktober: Palm Springs

8 oktober: Palm Springs

9 oktober: Palm Springs->Los Angeles (airport hotel)

10 oktober: Los Angeles (fly home)
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Old Jul 3rd, 2023, 01:24 PM
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Just quick -- I'd maybe rearrange the beginning a bit so you aren't driving Tioga Pass/395 twice.

(BTW - Is there a specific reason you opted for Dublin?)

In any case I'd do something like SFO > Dublin or some other reasonable drive > via I-80 to Tahoe. Then after Tahoe hwy 50 to hwy 49 for Plymouth/Angels Camp/Sonora/Calaveras etc. Then Yosemite. Then over Tioga Pass to 395 and down to Lone Pine.

And do have a Plan B in mind if there are fires in the Sierra.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2023, 09:59 PM
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Thank you! Dublin was chosen simply because it was not too far away from SFO, on the way to Angels Camp and seemed to have easy access to both outdoor gear shops and grocery stores. But definitely open for going to Tahoe first instead and than finding a good overnight stay on that route if someone has other suggestions.

Great suggestions doing in different order as to get to go through Yosemite from two different ways.

I will definitely make “in case of fire”-plans!
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Old Jul 3rd, 2023, 10:56 PM
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Re where to stop the first night . . . two questions -- what time do you land and where are you flying from (where will your body clock be) ?
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Old Jul 3rd, 2023, 11:00 PM
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We will arrive ~7PM, flying from Sweden and will be travelling for 18 hrs. So our body clock will probably be feeling like it’s the middle of the night. From previous experience and knowing we will have to wait for rental car etc I would rather not drive for more than an hour. Last time we drove to Half Moon Bay…
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Old Jul 4th, 2023, 12:00 AM
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In that case I wouldn't drive at all on the night of arrival. I might not even collect the rental car til early the next morning. The only problem wit that is being in heavy morning commute traffic in both the Bay Area and through Sacramento.

But IF you get the car that evening, stay in an SFO hotel, and get a good night's sleep, you could eave really early AM (like 0500 or 0530. You'd still get morning traffic in Sacramento but would begoing counter to the main direction of traffic so not bad. At that time of day the drive from SFO to North Shore would take about 3.5-4 hours. and SFO to Stateline/South Shore just a skosh more.

I live near Sacramento and never attempt to drive home from SFO after a transatlantic flight (and I'm typically flying non-stop from LHR so a lot easier trip than what you have)
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Old Jul 4th, 2023, 01:06 AM
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Thank you, I am definitely taking your advice - better to not get behind the wheel when tired.

Are there any advantages/disadvantages to picking up the car in the AM (asides from traffic)? Is there usually a better choice of cars in the morning.

Is there any worthwhile stops along the way if we are going the I80 through Sacramento? And do you know any good places to stop for shopping and lunch? Maybe around Sacramento?
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Old Jul 4th, 2023, 04:40 AM
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I think you are short changing Mesa Verde a LOT. And for whatever time you decide to stay there get reservations IN the park at Far View Lodge. It is a long drive in from the outside.
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Old Jul 4th, 2023, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by hojna
Thank you, I am definitely taking your advice - better to not get behind the wheel when tired.

Are there any advantages/disadvantages to picking up the car in the AM (asides from traffic)? Is there usually a better choice of cars in the morning.

Is there any worthwhile stops along the way if we are going the I80 through Sacramento? And do you know any good places to stop for shopping and lunch? Maybe around Sacramento?
You might find a better selection of cars in downtown San Francisco in the morning. They might even be a little cheaper than the rentals at SFO (without airport fees). If you didn't want to go as far as Sacramento for lunch and shopping, you can try Martinez or Davis. Davis is a nice little college town. There are a few good places to eat near the Golden One Center in Sacramento. I've even met janisj there for lunch once. At the north end of Old Town Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum if that interests you.
Gas is quite expensive on the east side of the Sierras so plan to leave Sacramento with a full tank.
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Old Jul 4th, 2023, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by hojna
Thank you, I am definitely taking your advice - better to not get behind the wheel when tired.

Are there any advantages/disadvantages to picking up the car in the AM (asides from traffic)? Is there usually a better choice of cars in the morning.

Is there any worthwhile stops along the way if we are going the I80 through Sacramento? And do you know any good places to stop for shopping and lunch? Maybe around Sacramento?
Probably in your case with a relatively early PM arrival, I'd get the rental car then and be able to just get up and leave as early as you want. (earlier the better). I find availability normally quite good in the evening because many people return cars before evening flight out.

If you leave SFO early AM and are using I-80 I wouldn't stop in Sacramento, There are some great restaurants, the Crocker Museum, the world famous Railroad museum, the State Capitol . . . but to see/appreciate them you'd need most of the day and getting in/out of the city can be a hassle -- plus if you play your cards right you'll have been through Sacramento/Roseville before any attractions are open. The next place that's iteresting is Auburn which might be a good place to stop for breakfast/brunch depending on the timing. Then when you get to Truckee -- instead of taking the first Tahoe exit (Hwy 89) continue to the 'Central Truckee' exit and explore Truckee. Old timey western town with boardwalk sidewalks, pubs, restaurants, shops. From there take Hwy 267 over the hill from Truckee to Kings Beach right ON the lake. The road dead ends at Kings Beach - turning right heads west towards Tahoe City, turning left heads towards Incline village/the Nevada side of the lake.

Originally Posted by tomfuller
You might find a better selection of cars in downtown San Francisco in the morning. They might even be a little cheaper than the rentals at SFO (without airport fees). If you didn't want to go as far as Sacramento for lunch and shopping, you can try Martinez or Davis. Davis is a nice little college town. There are a few good places to eat near the Golden One Center in Sacramento. I've even met janisj there for lunch once. At the north end of Old Town Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum if that interests you.
Gas is quite expensive on the east side of the Sierras so plan to leave Sacramento with a full tank.
Sorry tom -- but an SFO hotel would merely be a short over night pit stop and jet lag recovery before heading up to Tahoe. I would 100% (actually 10000% ) not schlepp into the SF city. And I would not recommend stopping in Sacramento. The logistics and timing would really mess up their day.
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Old Jul 5th, 2023, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Gretchen
I think you are short changing Mesa Verde a LOT. And for whatever time you decide to stay there get reservations IN the park at Far View Lodge. It is a long drive in from the outside.
I have read that people recommend 2 nights there, but I just don’t know where to “steal” that extra day from. Was hoping to stay at the Far View and do an afternoon tour and a morning tour.

The problem with planning is that you seem to need/want more time at every stop.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Probably in your case with a relatively early PM arrival, I'd get the rental car then and be able to just get up and leave as early as you want. (earlier the better). I find availability normally quite good in the evening because many people return cars before evening flight out.

If you leave SFO early AM and are using I-80 I wouldn't stop in Sacramento, There are some great restaurants, the Crocker Museum, the world famous Railroad museum, the State Capitol . . . but to see/appreciate them you'd need most of the day and getting in/out of the city can be a hassle -- plus if you play your cards right you'll have been through Sacramento/Roseville before any attractions are open. The next place that's iteresting is Auburn which might be a good place to stop for breakfast/brunch depending on the timing. Then when you get to Truckee -- instead of taking the first Tahoe exit (Hwy 89) continue to the 'Central Truckee' exit and explore Truckee. Old timey western town with boardwalk sidewalks, pubs, restaurants, shops. From there take Hwy 267 over the hill from Truckee to Kings Beach right ON the lake. The road dead ends at Kings Beach - turning right heads west towards Tahoe City, turning left heads towards Incline village/the Nevada side.
Again thank you so much Janis for your advice! I am listening to you and will follow your lead in this, checking in to an SFO hotel and getting the car in the evening so that we can head out early/when we wake up. Depending on departure time we want to find a good place to stop at Walmart/Whole Foods/REI to buy the food/stuff we need - any ideas? Is Roseville a good place (If things are open when we pass) or should we aim for Auburn?

Anything else in this overall plan that would benefit from shifting things around? I am thinking I would like to add a day/a stop between Lone Pine and Zion to avoid a super long drive, but I just can’t decide where I should steal that day from…
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 02:58 AM
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6-Sept is a Wednesday, which along with Tue & Thu are the busier work traffic days. To get to the Angels Camp you'd cross Rt92/San Mateo Bridge which shouldn't be too busy traveling east. If you area headed to Tahoe on I-80 then you'd be going through the city of SF where there mat be traffic delays... If you left your hotel say around 6am you would be ahead of traffic.

If this were my trip I would do your original plan. Upon arrival at SFO pick up a car and drive about an hour east. There is an REI, at least one Walmart, and supermarkets like Safeway in that area. There are Safeways or others all around CA so you won't need drive very far to find a supermarket.

A hotel near Dublin will cost you a lot less than a hotel near SFO, if that matters to you... I have picked up rental cars at SFO all throughout the day and have never noticed any lack of selection. Travelers in & out of SFO come and go all day long. Getting a car upon arrival will be less hassle than getting back to the rental car center the next day.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by hojna
I have read that people recommend 2 nights there, but I just don’t know where to “steal” that extra day from. Was hoping to stay at the Far View and do an afternoon tour and a morning tour.

The problem with planning is that you seem to need/want more time at every stop.
Steal it from Moab? Sedona? Palm Springs?
Mesa Verde is a true wonder of the world in my opinion. I don't see any Anasazi culture anywhere else in your itinerary or even native American (Canyon de Chelly for example or any native Pueblos). These are "only in America" sites.

Last edited by Gretchen; Jul 6th, 2023 at 03:57 AM.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Gretchen
Steal it from Moab? Sedona? Palm Springs?
Mesa Verde is a true wonder of the world in my opinion. I don't see any Anasazi culture anywhere else in your itinerary or even native American (Canyon de Chelly for example or any native Pueblos). These are "only in America" sites.
Thank you for your input. I have bookmaked a few of these places and am hopeful that we can visit them when we are in the area. I visited a few Native American places on a previous trip that had a lasting impact on me. I will spend some more time to read up on the different places.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 07:24 AM
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Your plan for Mesa Verde con work if you are lucky with traffic and weather. You will need to allow an hour to get from the VC near the entrance where you verify your tour, up to the top and far end of the Mesa where the tour will take place. Do plan to stay at Far View and wait to check in until after the tour if time is close. The last time we stayed there the restaurant, the Metate Room, was better than ones in other parks.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 07:39 AM
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Ideally I would like a full day at Mesa Verde and not having to stress about whether or not we will make it in time. I would like to be able to do both tours, although my mother will probably only be able to do one due to her knees.

I will look over the itinerary again to try to add another day/night - that way we would also have more time to visit other sights such as Canyon of the ancient, Hovenweep and Cedar Mesa on our way there and on our way towards Monument Valley.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 08:02 AM
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J62: actually Monday and Fri are generally busier traffic days than mid week -- does seem odd but its because there are slightly fewer commuters - and a lot more leisure drivers.

A main reason I suggested doing Tahoe then the Gold Rush towns/hwy 49 bit then Yosemite was so they would go in to YNP from the west and leave it to the east.

hojna: "Depending on departure time we want to find a good place to stop at Walmart/Whole Foods/REI to buy the food/stuff we need - any ideas? Is Roseville a good place (If things are open when we pass) or should we aim for Auburn?"

Vacaville has everything - and its right next to the freeway. Depending on how early a start you get they might or might not be open yet. At least the Walmart should be open. Roseville has everything you could possibly need -- but not near the freeway. There is a Walmart Supercenter and Bass Pro Shop right on the freeway just past Roseville in Rocklin. Auburn has most everything you'll need but not those specific merchants -- a huge Target, a next door Safeway supermarket -- but about 10 minutes off the freeway.

So depending on timing either Vacaville or Rocklin.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 08:48 AM
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Thanks Janis, seems like there won’t be a problem finding places to do some shopping!

We will arrive Thursday and leave SF on a Friday, the only downside I can see from doing Tahoe first is that it might be more expensive/and more people if we arrive there a Friday instead of a Saturday? But I do like being able to arrive at Yosemite through the west entrance.
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Old Jul 6th, 2023, 09:02 AM
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You'll be driving up early on the Friday morning so traffic should be OK. The earlier the better though. But even with an early drive you'll likely hit commute traffic through Sacramento. Not a huge problem because you be driving counter to the main traffic flow for most of the area.

Yes, accommodations will be pricier on the weekend but shouldn't be bad - this is the week after Labor Day weekend so things will be much less crowded.
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