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funkychic Jul 25th, 2007 05:20 AM

touring california
Hi, we hope to go to California for my honeymoon next August/September (2008) and plan to fly to L.A, travel to Disney Land, then to Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite,lake Tahoe and finally San francisco and fly back to England from there. We want to hire a car so we can travel around at our own leisure and time scale. Can anyone recommend places to stay, flights, car hire, distances, routes to take - anything that can help really. Much appreciated.

nohomers Jul 25th, 2007 07:15 AM

How long are you staying in California? This is a lot of ground to cover.

janisj Jul 25th, 2007 09:18 AM

trust us - you don't want to go to Death Valley in Aug/Sept (it is called death valley for a reason)

Before anyone give you useful advice we do need to know how long you have for the whole trip.

Orlando_Vic Jul 25th, 2007 09:47 AM

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

I completely agree with janisj. You DO NOT want to go to Death Valley in August. Las Vegas will probably have triple-digit temperatures...maybe Grand Canyon too. If your trip will extend into September, it is best to leave these last two destinations until then. I would skip Death Valley altogether.

Yosemite is hugely popular in the summer. You will either have to lock in lodging reservations way in advance <> or try to go in September when some of the peak summer travel has abated. They are taking 2008 reservations now.

Since you mentioned distances, I should caution you that this itinerary will involve well over 1,200 miles of driving and probably closer to 1,500 when you factor in Grand Canyon. Are you sure you want to drive this much, on your honeymoon? If Las Vegas and Grand Canyon are "must sees" consider taking an escorted tour from L.A., for example. Or, if you want to trim your mileage down to more manageable levels, you could eliminate Lake Tahoe Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. Among the other destinations on your list, there is plenty to see. With out going out of your way very much, you could also add in Sequoia National Park <>. Time permitting, this is a very interesting and scenic park to visit.

What do you think?

boom_boom Jul 25th, 2007 07:53 PM

As a 25-year desert rat, I have to agree that Aug/Sept is the "hot" time for Death Valley, Vegas and even the Grand Canyon. Nonetheless, lots of European tourists visit Death Valley in the summer, do if you really want to go there, it's doable. Furnance Creek Ranch is open for lodging, even the golf course is still open.
The Grand Canyon adds a lot of miles to your trip, so think about saving it for another visit.
Figure 5 hours from LAX to Furnace Creek via either Ridgecrest or Baker. Or, drive staight to Las Vegas, about 6 hours and hit Death Valley on the return, by way of Parumph, NV and into Death Valley from the east. Then across to Lone Pine and follow 395 up the eastern Sierra to Lee Vining and Highway 120 into Yosemite.
In Ridgecrest you can stay at Heritage Inn or Carriage Inn. In Lone Pine, te Dow Villa or the Best Western. There is a nice French restaurant "Still Life Cafe" in Independence and if the remodeling is done, a B&B calledthe Winnedumah Hotel.
Another good restaurant is in Mammoth Lakes, about 45 miles north of Bishop, called Petra's Cafe. Mammoth has many lodging options, tons of condo rentals and some hotels.
Have fun!

janisj Jul 25th, 2007 08:20 PM

I think this must be a first on Fodors - actually recommending staying in Ridgecrest :) Can Barstow be far behind?!?

kleroux Jul 25th, 2007 08:34 PM

"Boom Boom" gives good advise. I think you will want to see Death Valley. Yes its hot, but you're coming so far, and probably won't come back see as much as you can.....just as we do when we do "all" of Europe in 21 days. That being said, I'd consider flying from LA to Las Vegas (Southwest Air or Jet Blue) and then rent a car, see the Grand Canyon..then attack Death Valley from the East..going up to Yosemite and over into the Calif. side to San Francisco. I think you could probably skip Tahoe if your time is short. Sounds OK to me.

janisj Jul 25th, 2007 08:43 PM

many of us spend a LOT of time over on the Europe forum trying to convince people to NOT "do Europe in 21 days", and for the most part we are successful.

Same goes for the west coast - one can dash all over from here to there and back again - but they don't actually <u>see</u> much that way.

mlgb Jul 26th, 2007 07:34 AM

Ridgecrest is the nearest town to Death Valley. If lodging is full at Furnace Creek and you are coming up from LA, it's convenient. I was lucky to find the last room in town a few years ago when Death Valley had that fantastic spring bloom. So yes, it's been recommended before.

Disneyland: one or two nights, two is better as it is exhausting to try to see it all in one day.

You can reach Grand Canyon in about 7 hours from Anaheim. I would recommend reserving inside the park as soon as possible (the Bright Angel Cabins in particular). You just need one night there, but you need to arrive in time for sunset! Get up very early in the morning for the sunrise and there won't be many people around.

Instead of back tracking, take Highway 89 to Springdale, see a little bit of Zion Park. It's about 5 hours driving.

From Springdale, it's about 160 miles to Las Vegas (2.5 hours). Las Vegas to Death Valley is 175 miles (Baker would be the closest motel town from the Vegas side but it would be better to stay inside Death Valley and to arrive in before sunset). Best to be up very early for a little sightseeing before the temps get too hot. Bring lots and lots of water with you from Las Vegas (gallon jugs worth), and don't go too far from the car. Don't rent a piece of junk, either. With A/C you will be fine.

It is approximately 200 miles from Death Valley to Lee Vining on 395, where you take the Tioga Pass Road into Yosemite Park. There are some cabins in Tuolumne Meadows which is a bit less hectic than inside Yosemite Valley. (Also if you stay there, then you don't have to backtrack when leaving via Tioga Pass Road to get to Lake Tahoe). Being summertime, Glacier Point Road will be open inside Yosemite Park. I would allow two days and two nights minimum. (Three is better).

It's another half day drive from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe, and the same from Lake Tahoe to S.F.

If I was going to drop one thing from the agenda, it would be Lake Tahoe.

But depending on how much time you have, your agenda is actually quite well thought out.

I like for driving distances and route planning.

For booking a car, I use to search because they have a one-way option, and show the total price. I contact the car companies directly for reservations. Be sure to find out if you have any existing auto insurance coverage (such as on your credit cards). Adding insurance can nearly double the cost of your rental.

janisj Jul 26th, 2007 08:42 AM

mlgb: I was <u>joking</u> - I know Ridgecrest is convenient to DV. (but you must admit - recommending Ridgecrest in August is unusual to say the least)

MaureenB Jul 26th, 2007 08:53 AM

I disagree with dropping Lake Tahoe, in favor of seeing Death Valley in August/September. Having been to both places, I'd highly recommend Tahoe for its gorgeous lake ringed with mountains over the deathly heat of the desert.

janisj Jul 26th, 2007 09:31 AM

I 100% agree w/ MaureenB. Death Valley is an amazing place. But you won't be able to get out of the car or take a hike.

Tahoe in Sept is wonderful - all the summer crowds have left but all the beauty is still there.

Ag3046 Jul 26th, 2007 09:54 AM

You MUST have reservations in Yosemite to be able to stay there. You cannot just show up and expect to find vacancies.

The &quot;cabins in Tuolumne Meadows&quot; mentioned by mlgb are Tuolumne Meadows Tented Camp, a canvas tent with metal cots, and a central shower/bath facility. They cost about $85 a night. You can reserve them on the website, but it's too early to reserve for next year. They will book up by September of this year, so don't delay. You should go to the National Parks website to review the information on the other parks, too.

mlgb Jul 26th, 2007 10:22 AM

Actually there are a few wood cabins with private bath at White Wolf, as well as canvas tent cabins at White Wolf and Tuolumne Lodge. The correct website for lodging is

You can reserve one year and one day out.

mlgb Jul 26th, 2007 10:27 AM

Yes, but they've got lots of lakes and forests in England. So I'm thinking of what is more unique for the OP, not where the best weather is.

janisj Jul 26th, 2007 11:37 AM

&quot;<i>Yes, but they've got lots of lakes and forests in England. </i>&quot;

but nothing like Tahoe - a huge, vibrant blue lake at 6000 feet surrounded by 9000-11000+ ft mountains.

The Lake District is lovely - but really just gentle rolling hills compared to the Sierra.

MaureenB Jul 26th, 2007 11:38 AM

Of Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Death Valley-- I'd pick the Grand Canyon and drop the other two. But I don't know exactly how far that is from L.A.

Because it's hard to enjoy any place, when it's boiling hot. If you've never been to Death Valley, it doesn't even cool down much at night in that desert in Aug/Sept. It's hard to imagine such heat, unless you've done it. We have, by default, twice. Look at the names of towns and places in Death Valley-- they have such deathly graphic names for a reason.

My husband was based in the Mojave desert of California for four years. Your car interior reaches ungodly heats, if left for the shortest time. Even the shade doesn't help much. You'd have to be immersed in water to think it's fun to be in the desert in August! We have visited many deserts, and love them, but not in the summertime.

On the other hand, Lake Tahoe would be purely refreshing and gorgeous in Aug/Sept. England has lakes, yes; but not big, deep blue mountain lakes like Tahoe, I don't think.

We recently stayed a night in Lake Tahoe, at the base of Squaw Valley ski area. It's a nice place, the Squaw Valley Lodge, with studios and larger condos. A condo/hotel place with free covered parking, a nice outdoor pool, and full services. If you're interested, I'll dig up the name of the leasing company I used. They gave us an unbelievably good price there.

The tram to the top of the mountain is right next to the Lodge, and that's a fun evening trip to take. (But don't buy the dinner package-- the food and restaurant are nothing special.)

Of course, you can also go to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, if you like gambling and clubbing, etc.

I guess I'd recommend L.A. (not necessarily Disney Land for a honeymoon, though), the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco. That gives you two great cities, very different from one another. Five total places to visit, with lots of beautiful and diverse and wild sites. (I'm dyslexic with maps, so that's probably not actually the order you'd visit those places.)

You'll definitely need to rent a car for most of this trip. Maybe not in S.F., depending. Find out about renting at the LA airport, and returning at the Bay Area airport you'll use. Price leaving from Oakland, because Southwest airlines has great national fares from there.

Have fun planning your trip. California is an amazing state. So much to see, so little time. . .

mlgb Jul 26th, 2007 12:52 PM

Suggest you travel to Scotland, Inverness, specifically on your next visit. I did not say &quot;the Lake District&quot;.

You can't fly nonstop from Oakland to London as far as I know.

I have traveled extensively in Britain, as well as hosting numerous visitors (my sister lived there for over 10 years) as well as California (many ski trips to Tahoe included). Just giving you my personal perspective as well as what others have indicated they've enjoyed. The visitors do love to drive the Big Sur coastline, and I would substitute that for Lake Tahoe also.

MaureenB Jul 26th, 2007 03:57 PM

No, you can't fly to London on Southwest, either, which is why I said &quot;national&quot; flights. Don't know if there are any nonstops to London from California. But, do check Oakland's Southwest prices to fly the first leg home.

And, check other airports in the LA area, too. LAX has the international traffic, of course, but other airports could work from the east coast.

Big Sur is another idea. But isn't it similar to UK oceanside cliffs?

mlgb Jul 26th, 2007 04:39 PM

I can't really think of a road that follows the coastline the way US1 does. And they seem to be fascinated with Clint Eastwood and want to stop at the Hogs Breath in Carmel.

You can fly nonstop to LA and I think to SFO also.

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