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California Road trip - advice needed!

Paris, France
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California Road trip - advice needed!

I am planning a road trip in December to California. My husband and I are flying into LA on the 18th December and so far our rough plan is this.

From LA we will go straight to Joshua Tree for one night, then we will drive upto Death Valley and spend 2 nights here, then we want to spend 2 nights in Yosemite - but don't know where we should base outselves as it is so big! Then onto San Francisco for 2 nights, then to Deetjens on Big Sur where we have booked for the 25th - then we have until the 30th to slowly drive back to LA.

We have a rough plan of where to stay in Death Valley but are lost when it comes to Yosemite and the days inbetween Deetjens and LA.

We generally like more rustic, off the beaten track places with character - any help would be greatly appreciated! Also is this route slightly optimistic in terms of driving hours?

Washington State
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1. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

Hi

Since your entire trip is in California, I recommend using that forum. All of the Top Questions on the right side of the California page are about travel in California. tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g28926-i29-Califor…

I'd skip Joshua Tree and go directly to DVNP. The long drive to Yosemite NP will be around the southern end of the Sierra. Stay in Yosemite Valley. Then drive on to SF. Stay in Carmel or Monterey for a night, then get to your reserved lodging in Big Sur on the 25th. But I'm not sure if you'll have enough time for this. Does Deetjen's have to be on Christmas? You've really stuffed the first part of your itinerary full!

The CA forum Top Q has info about the coastal drive on Hwy 1.

Some of the information here is helpful for planning. In particular, read the info about visitors renting a car in the US and driving in the US.

Uden, The...
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2. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

No. I would not want to skip Joshua Tree NP. It's an awesome park and you can drive from Joshua Tree (stay 29Palms) to Death Valley via Amboy and R66 and via Mojave National Preserve. That's a great drive in itself.

2 nights for DV is great. As Tioga pass will be closed drive south of the Sierra via Bakersfield. Suggest to stay Oakhurst first before visiting Yosemite (check weather, chains reguired). You can drive between DV and Oakhurst in one day. We stayed at the excellent Best Western in Oakhurst.

On the way to LA make a stop in Cambria and stay Cambria Pines Lodge. Life music and an excellent restaurant. Very romantic place! Also suggest to spend time in Santa Barbara. Awesome! Visit one of the missions and stroll down town and the esplanada. For couples it will be hard to beat places like Cambria and Santa Barbara for a stay.

Tet

Houston, TX
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3. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

As Tet mentions, at that time of year you may be required to have and use chains for the tires of the car. The problem with that is that the rental companies generally will not allow the use of (potential damage to tires/vehicle) chains, nor will they provide them. If chains are required and a ranger sees you have none on your vehicle, they can tell you to leave the park or prohibit your entrance. You may want to have a Plan B that takes the time you have allotted for Yosemite and gives it to SF, depending on the weather.

Depending on your budget, another suggestion for Cambria accommodations would be the Blue Dolphin Inn.

Aubrey, Texas
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4. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

After Big Sur I suggest you spend a couple of nights on the Monterey Peninsula. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the world. Allow at least a couple of hours to enjoy it. The Monterey wharf is touristy but fun with decent restaurants on the water and sea otters to entertain you. Monterey has good museums downtown and near the aquarium.

Carmel is a must place to visit as well. If weather permits, take a long walk on Carmel Beach followed by a coffee, tea, lunch, whatever at one of the local places. Carmel has good boutiques for shopping. The 17-mile drive between Carmel and Monterey is very beautiful and interesting. There are a few places to stop and have a picnic lunch but of course that may not be possible in December.

Uden, The...
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5. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

Instead 17 miles drive I suggest to visit Point Lobos SR near Carmel unless you want to see those fancy houses near the extremely expensive golf course Pebble Beach.

Houston, TX
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6. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

On the drive from SF to the Monterey area, have a look at the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. There is an easy loop trail that takes about 45 minutes to walk, among the big trees. You can pick up a brochure with lots of info at the start so you can understand what you are seeing. The park is only about 9 miles inland, so you could drive there from SF, take the walk, drive back to the coast and have lunch in Santa Cruz. Then on into Monterey, visiting the Aquarium.

Just south of Carmel is Point Lobos State Natural Preserve--stunning coastal scenery. There are at least 3 easy walks here--allow about 2-2.5 hours to take it all in. Other places to stop in the drive along the coast are the Bixby Bridge overlook, Nepenthe for a meal, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for the short walk to McWay Falls, the elephant seal rookery on the beach near Piedras Blancas just north of San Simeon, and Hearst Castle. Then Cambria, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, perhaps San Luis Obispo.

Washington State
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7. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

Here is one of the dozen or so links about the Hwy 1 drive that are in the Top Questions about California.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28926-c182762/Califo…

Wednesbury, UK
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8. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

Like Tet , I think 17 mile drive is overhyped and not worth the time or toll fee considering what else there is around that area thats's free or within State Parks.

Drove it again last time we were there just to check I was not being too critical of it based on first visit...................I wasn't!

Aubrey, Texas
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9. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

This will come as a shock to some folks, but many people enjoy seeing beautiful scenery and lovely homes where lucky people live amidst natural beauty. Not that the 17-mile drive is packed with homes because it isn't. While you may not think it worth paying a small fee to see it, many others do including me. Chloe, check the TA reviews which rate the drive very highly. tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g32737-d14…

Washington State
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10. Re: California Road trip - advice needed!

Chloe has stated "We generally like more rustic, off the beaten track places with character." I think Pacific Grove is more off-the-beaten-track than Carmel and that 17 Mile Drive is an expensive look at scenery, houses, and golf courses. If she has requested small romantic towns w/ boutique lodgings and opportunities to drive by lovely scenery, then I might have thought of Carmel & 17 Mile Drive.

Luckily for Chloe, she will receive a variety of ideas from all kinds of people, and then she decides where she wants to go and what she wants to do.