We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
2,509 posts
24 reviews
Save Topic
Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

Thelma and Louise are itching to get on the road for about 9-10 days, round trip from San Jose. The only "musts" are Big Sur and a couple of days in Vegas. I would love to use a couple of days and go up to Zion (my favorite place in North America) but it is optional. Departure date is around Oct. 15.

Neither of us has been to Big Sur, which would be our starting point - we've been to just about everywhere from SJ to Carmel, so happy to shoot through (except for a quick stop at a Soquel winery).

How long should we allow for Big Sur? Any whales then? Other wildlife? Easy, scenic hikes are our style.

I think we'd enjoy the drive south on Hwy 1 - any pointers on stops along the way? Maybe Hearst Castle - can we decide last minute or do we need to reserve in advance?

At what point should we head to Bakersfield - or is there a better way to get to Vegas (not much interest in SoCal) ? Do we go as far as San Luis Obispo? Anything of interest there?

Lastly, I've never stopped when going through the Mohave. Is there "what to see" on the way?

San Diego...
Level Contributor
10,192 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

Another member of this forum took a trip around the central coast and posted an album of 200+ photographs with descriptions at https://picasaweb.google.com/Mjneenan/Califo…

Stop at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just 3 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, and spend a couple of hours there. That fills the bill for easy, scenic hikes. At least walk the Cypress Grove Trail there if nothing else.

For a general guide to Big Sur see http://jrabold.net/bigsur/

I'd stop at Point Lobos, Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. If you stop at all 3 on the same day, your day use parking fee $10 for one is good for the others on that day. If you want to tour Hearst Castle, I would make a reservation, though it is not required.

To spend more time in the Big Sur area, you could stay one night at some place in Big Sur, or even San Simeon, Morro Bay, Cambria or San Luis Obispo. One of the California Missions is at San Luis Obispo, but there aren't any major tourist attractions there, it's just a pleasant town.

If you drive the entire entire Big Sur coast, Highway 1 will take you to San Luis Obispo, and you can head east from there. San Luis Obispo to Las Vegas is about 400 miles and you could do the drive in one long day, about 8 hours of driving. It would first be through the central valley of California, then through the pass at Tehachapi and then through the Mojave Desert. None of it particularly scenic in my opinion. You could make a short side trip to Mojave National Preserve if that interests you.

After Las Vegas, you would have a choice of extending the trip further east, or beginning the return to California. If you went further east to Zion, for example, that would take extra time, at a minimum a day getting over there, staying overnight and the next day coming back. If this is a Thelma and Louise trip watch out for dropoffs if you go to the Grand Canyon.

You could go through Death Valley National Park and see some sights there, then continue west to Lone Pine, California, where you will have a view of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the United States except Alaska, and the picturesque Alabama Hills just west of Lone Pine, where many movies and TV shows have been filmed.

You could then do a drive north from Lone Pine to Lee Vining, and there is a great deal to see in that region. See http://395.com and travelswithbillandnancy.com/eastern_sierras.… for some ideas.

October is the time when the aspen trees on the east side of the Sierras are turning yellow. For a guide to where they can be seen, download this brochure: www.monocounty.org/docs/FallColorGuide.pdf

You could drive west from Lee Vining on Highway 120 through Yosemite National Park, and see the "upper park" including Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake, Olmstead Point and even Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias if that interests you. Then on leaving Yosemite drive the 4 or 5 hours to San Jose.

Edited: 16 September 2011, 18:37
Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
20,046 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

Did you explore Point Lobos State Reserve on your previous trip to Carmel? If not, this is a definite must for scenic hikes and wildlife viewing. It's located a few miles south of Carmel's Rio Road.

2 nights in Big Sur should suffice. Do you have a place in mind for lodging? Big Sur lodging runs from VERY expensive to expensive rustic. Glen Oaks Motel would be a nice option in Big Sur, as would Big Sur Lodge.

Between Carmel and Big Sur (besides Point Lobos) is the famous Bixby Bridge, an arch bridge spanning a deep gorge and Point Sur Lighthouse (tours are available, but on a limited basis).

You can hike in Andrew Molera State Park and some of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (some trails are still closed from the fire 3 years ago). Pfeiffer Beach at sunset would be amazing.

Whales are hard to spot from the shore, as most migrations are further away from the shore. You would need to do a whale watch tour out of Monterey Bay to actually see any. If this is important to you, then you should plan one night's stay in Monterey , since whale watch tours last for several hours.

Between Big Sur and Hearst Castle: Partington Cove, McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (11 miles south of Big Sur), Salmon Creek Trail, Ragged Point, elephant seal rookery near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.

Plan on either a late afternoon Hearst Castle tour or one first thing next morning. Spend the night in San Simeon or pretty Cambria.

You don't need to go all the way to San Luis Obispo. In fact, that would put you out of the way. 4 miles south of Cambria is Highway 46, which takes you east toward Paso Robles where you would connect with Highway 101 north for about 4 miles to Highway 46 East toward Fresno/Bakersfield.

You can either overnight in Bakersfield or take Highway 58 East to Tehachapi and spend the night there before continuing to Las Vegas.

Edited: 16 September 2011, 18:44
las vegas
Level Contributor
485 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

I agree you don't want to go all the way south to SLO; cut over from Cambria, or preferably, spend a night in Paso Robles. I have done this route a few different ways, and I would recommend going via highways 46 east to 5 south to 223 east to 58 east to 15 north. And no, there's no reason to stop between Paso Robles and Las Vegas except to get gas.

Edited: 16 September 2011, 20:11
Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
2,509 posts
24 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

Thanks for all the great suggestions.

Monterey - I'd stay overnight for a whale-watch tour. I don't think it would be hard for us to enjoy taking our time getting to Monterey, staying overnight and going out first thing in the morning for a tour. Any recommendations or warnings about which tour to take?

Then 2 nights in Big Sur. And on to Paso Robles, it is.

We used to go through Bakersfield - there was a restaurant we found that we liked to stop for lunch or dinner, but I can't remember what it was and it's been nearly 10 years, so we probably wouldn't find it, even if it's still around. Might just try 223 this time instead.

If we go to Zion (Thelma still has to talk Louise into it), we'll probably do that before spending time in Vegas. If she nixes Zion, then we'll probably spend more time on the California coast or in Vegas (the shopping malls are better than in the Bay Area!). Anyway, it'll be straight home from there. Going up the eastern side of the Sierras is a nice trip (been to Mono Lake before, even Bodie, and of course Yosemite) but we don't have the extra days this time.

Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
20,046 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

I would keep my eye on the road work along I-5, which is causing major traffic delays and may slow you up considerably. Like up to 3 hours!! I personally think it would be quicker to just continue east on 46 to Highway 99 south to Highway 58 east. You'll only have to deal with 46's 1 lane instead of both 46 & 223.

Do you remember what kind of food you had at that restaurant in Bakersfield? Was it close to the freeway? If you can recall any details, I might be able to figure out which restaurant it is. I used to live there.

Edited: 17 September 2011, 23:29
Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
2,509 posts
24 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

Thanks for the heads-up about I-5. Is there somewhere I can get up-to-date info on road work? It's no biggie to plan on 99 instead of 5, for the return trip too.

The plan is coming along nicely, many thanks to all of you, but still needs some work.

Saturday: Monterey Bay (maybe Point Lobos). Overnight in the area - budget-minded recommendations, please?

Sunday: 9 am. Monterey Bay Whale Watch tour. Overnight at the Ripplewood in Big Sur (the only night that a room with 2 beds was available).

Monday: Hwy 1 Overnight in/near San Simeon - recommendations? Cambria?

Tuesday: Hearst Castle (Grand Rooms and Upstairs tours). Wine-tasting in the afternoon. Overnight in Paso Robles - recommendations?

Wednesday: drive to Las Vegas, for 2 night-stay.

Friday: drive to Zion. 2 nights at the Driftwood Lodge in Springdale. Is it worth $20/night to get a balcony/patio room? Wanted Zion Lodge, but of course, it's booked solid.

Now I'm trying to decide on the return. We'd probably leave Zion on Sunday, late afternoon. I'm thinking - one more night in Vegas, then drive back on Monday. We won't be able to get all the way home Sunday night, and I suspect there may be heavy traffic out of Vegas on I-15 on Sunday night (ya think?) so might as well stay there as anywhere farther along the road.

I am getting SO excited.

Edited: 18 September 2011, 09:59
Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
20,046 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

You can check road conditions here:

http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

Just type in the number of the highway. Keep in mind that the info you see may not tell you which lanes, directions, etc. on your route are affected for the day you're traveling. I know both north and south bound lanes are being worked on, although not necessarily both on the same day or at the same time. The Caltrans site doesn't update for each day.

Lodging in/near Cambria: Motel 6 in San Simeon (used to be a Holiday Inn, so a little nicer than most Motel 6's), Creekside Inn, Cambria Palms, Bluebird Inn.

8. Re: Wanted - trip planning help: Big Sur to Las Vegas

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 23 October 2012, 02:20