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Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

Dorset
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Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

We will be visiting USA next summer (end August 2013) - we have been taking about and saving for this for two years so great excitement. We are a family of 4, 17 year old daughter - already loving all things American (likes music/shopping/sports/people), 15 year old son into bikes and sailing. Hubby and I have broad interests and are game for most things. I have already booked a 4 day Lower Grand Canyon rafting trip at the end of the holiday which will be followed by 3 days in Vegas before coming home.

The children are desperate to visit New York so most likely will fly into New York (2 nights) and then take the train to San Francisco. So this leaves 9 nights to spend in California.

At present the plan is 3 nights San Francisco, 1 night Hwy1, 3 nights LA, 1 night LV prior to starting our Grand Canyon adventure. We have 1 night in hand so ....

a) Would we be better to get off the Zephyr at Reno (arr am), drive down hwy 395 to Yosemite and spend a night there before going on to SF or

b) spend the night in Death Valley between LA and LV

c) have the extra night in either LA/SF/HWY 1

d) Lose a night in either SF/HWY1/LA and visit both Yosemite and Death Valley.

e) Any other ideas? In a perfect world I really want to see big trees, husband geisers and mud baths, daughter shops and modern culture, son rollercoaster.

We will share the driving (would consider driving to Grand Canyon from LA in a day). This may well be the last "family holiday" we have together so I want it to be just great!!

Many many thanks for taking the time to read this, I would really appreciate any input as I want to book any national park accommodation asap!.

Happy travelling x

Alcatraz Island
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Washington State
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1. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

I'm curious why you've chosen a train to cross the country. It might be your best choice, but most folks would fly so that they can spend more time in the destinations rather than seated on a train.

In late August, I think Yosemite is a better choice than Death Valley. It's just too darn hot in DVNP.

Where will you be over the Labor Day holiday weekend?

Napa, CA
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2. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

New York too can be quite hot in late August. It can be like a sauna. I'd skip it this trip and skip the train ride. That will be very expensive and mostly a waste of time. There's little to see until you get to Colorado and then you will spend much of your time riding through the best scenery at night. If you want a great train ride, go to British Columbia instead. The Canadians have a great train that goes through the Rockies.

For this trip, you should stick to the West. See the national parks. Sounds like your husband would most like to see Yellowstone. And for big trees, the best are in Sequoia National Park. Skip Death Valley unless you really have to experience the hottest place on earth.

San Diego...
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3. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

For an August trip, I wouldn't go to Death Valley as it is extremely hot, possibly 120 F (48 C) in the afternoon. In fact I wouldn't even go to Las Vegas in August. Not much point in going there with kids, in my opinion. I would stick to the coast and the mountains, so my choice would definitely be Yosemite. It’s the best thing in Calfiornia, though August is not necessarily the best time, as it can be crowded and hot in Yosemite Valley and the famous waterfalls may be a trickle or even dry. But the high country of Yosemite could be at its best in August.

You could include Yellowstone/Grand Teton national parks in the trip if you want. But it's such a long drive to get there, and the drive is not particularly scenic, that I would highly recommend you fly to Jackson Hole airport, which is within the boundaries of Grand Teton national park. It's a tiny airport but is served by American, Delta, Frontier, Skywest and United Airlines. You can rent a car at that airport and be touring Grand Teton national park literally minutes later. And Yellowstone is just a short drive away (actually only 6 miles separate the 2 parks) though Yellowstone really deserves at least 3 full days.

If you don't go to Yellowstone, you can see a geyser at Calistoga in the Napa Valley of California, though you have to pay $10 per person to get in to see it. And Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California has hot springs and pools, mud pots and steam vents, giving you a tiny sample of what Yellowstone is like, though it’s nowhere near the scale of Yellowstone which has thousands of geothermal features, at least you will see some features at Lassen.

Big trees, meaning the giant sequoias, can be seen at Yosemite or at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and coast redwoods can be seen at Redwood National Park, Avenue of the Giants, Muir Woods National Monument and various state parks along the California coast. You mentioned geysers and mud baths in the same sentence. None of the mud pots at Yellowstone or Lassen you are able to actually get into. If you did you would die. If you want mud baths, you will have to go to a private spa, such as Club Mud at Glen Ivy Hot Springs near Corona, California, or any similar spa that provides that service somewhere else.

If you see Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, you will have seen what I think are the 3 best national parks; others are deserving and have their merits but those 3 are in a way the "signature parks" of the park system. You can buy the America the Beautiful pass for USD $80 at the first park you go to, and it will allow you entry into all U.S. national parks, monuments, forests, seashores, recreation areas, battlefields, historic sites and other federally-managed lands, for a year. It does not include state parks, but those rarely charge more than $10 day use parking fee.

For your drive along the California coast I would recommend at least 2 nights, for example one night in Monterey and one night in Cambria. For a travelogue of that region posted by another member of this forum, see this page: https://picasaweb.google.com/Mjneenan/Califo…

Dorset
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4. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

I think we are all very keen to see New York and may not get the opportunity again. Might pass on the train ride but have always wanted to sleep on a train! The train leaves late afternoon so we would get another full day in NY rather than loosing a day for a flight. We would also get a little time in Chicago which appeals as well as time together as a family. I guess I'll put this out to the family - thank you for your warning!

Yellowstone seems a long way out but I will see if I can work it in with a flight from NY, might be another option.

Thank you again.

Dorset
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5. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

Wow!

Ok, definitely will visit Yosemite and skip Death Valley that seems to be the overwhelming vote. Also we can then drive to the Grand Canyon from LA which means we don't have to stop in LV but find somewhere more quirky.

Will look into then discuss flying via Yellowstone rather than the train with the gang (my gut feeling is this would be very very expensive).

We were planning to leave LV on Sat 31st August. Could easily slice a day off the end and come back on Friday 30th if you think this would be more sensible.

Thank you all once again.

Edited: 18 August 2012, 19:02
York, Pennsylvania
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6. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

Shave time off Vegas and do two nights in Yosemite. It's jaw droppingly beautiful. Don't come all the way to the U.S. and miss it.

Dorset
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7. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

I wish I could shave time off Vegas. Unfortunately the dates follow the Grand Canyon trip (fixed) before flying home. I think we will be ready to use the 3 nights/2 days shopping and getting ready to fly home. Might be able to shave a day off San Francisco though!

LA
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8. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

Spend as much time in the mountains or coast away from Las Vegas, Death Valley or Grand Canyon as you can

August in that area will be days and nights of unrelenting heat. The average high in Las Vegas will be 106 (41C) and the average low 85 (30C). Sleeping outdoors will be a challenge. It gets hotter the lower the altitude to Death Valley and the Colorado river level will be even worse.

Fortaleza, CE
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9. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

One night in Yosemite would be a real shame. Do be sure to reserve accommodations well in advance (up to a year, I believe). Reservations in August will go very, very quickly. Death Valley in August? I love the park, but in mid-summer, with kids? I hope you research in advance what there is to do at your destiantions. Why can't you shave a day off of Vegas due to flights?

According to weather.com the average high and low in Death Valley in August are 115F and 86F. For Las Vegas they are 102F and 79F. Kids aren/t allowed on the casino floor, just the edges. The hotels in Vegas can be special, but in August I'd rather gamble at Lake Tahoe (the scenery is much beter). the drive from Las Vegas to L.A. is boring. And hot.

Before you decide on taking the train to Reno, do check accommodation prices. It's a long ride, and you'll have to change trains in Chicago. Trying to do the whole thing in seats (no beds, no shower) would be uncomfortable, even for a couple of travel-seasoned adults. If you fly, you can expand your trip. Lots to see around Yosemite, and there's the beautiful drive on the coast from SF to LA. I do love the train, and you could even take just the Reno-SF leg (well, really Reno-Emeryville, then train from there). If you stop in Sacramento, see the state railraod museum: really, really good.

Edited: 18 August 2012, 21:27
Fortaleza, CE
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10. Re: Where to spend 1 day either Yosemite or Death Valley?

p.s. I meant the price of accommodations on the train. They are high.