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3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

Burlington, Vermont
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3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

Looking for advice & ideas.

We are a very active, adventurous, foodie family of 4.

Love to mix in roughing it (aka "primitive" camping), along with upscale splurges on hotels & food.

Three week road trip (mix of natl parks, CA coast & San Fran).

Itinerary is still in the works...our current thoughts are:

+Beginning in Vegas (2 nights-looking for good pool for teens):

+eastern Sierra's (Golden Trout Wilderness) ~2 nights camping & hiking

*thinking of Cottonwood Pass*

+Sequoia/King's Canyon via Kern River Preserve (or shortest driving route from Golden Trout Wilderness) ~1 night (?)

+4 days to get to San Fran via Big Sur, Carmel & Monterey

+3 nights in San Fran (on list Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Point Reyes)

+from Bay Area - need to make way back to Chicago with hopes of going through <Napa, Yosemite, National Parks in Utah--Bryce, Zion, Arches -- through Colorado from there we have itinerary directly back to Chicago.

Would love help in all of the above.

I will also post this in Utah forums for advice in that vicinity.

Thanks in advance to all that read, and respond.

VermontLand

---------------------------

Washington State
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1. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

Is this a trip for summer 2014?

I think it makes more sense to "do" the southwest parks when you're in that area (Las Vegas & beyond rather than returning to Las Vegas area after San Francisco.

Burlington, Vermont
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2. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

UPDATE:

We have 7 days for this portion:

(+from Bay Area - need to make way back to Chicago with hopes of going through <Napa, Yosemite, National Parks in Utah--Bryce, Zion, Arches -- through Colorado from there we have itinerary directly back to Chicago.)

Burlington, Vermont
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3. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

Thanks PacificNWFamily.

Trip is for summer 2013! We know it is late -- we will do our best to find waiting list accommodations.

There is a specific reason why we are leaving Vegas and going straight up coast to San Fran. We DO NOT need to return to Vegas if there is a better route to Natl Parks in Utah & Colorado.

Thank you.

Burlington, Vermont
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4. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

Thanks to much input from TripAdvisor folks -- particularly those who pointed out that our 3 week vacation was being squeezed into what would take a normal family 8 weeks -- WE HAVE REVISED!!!!

UPDATED ROUGH DRAFT ITINERARY IS NOW:

1. Fly to Las Vegas (rent car) ++++this portion is business so Vegas is non-negotiable part of trip, sadly).

+++(we have exactly 3 weeks to do the following)

2. Drive to San Francisco via northern route past Mammoth, Mono Lake and through Yosemite (~11 hr total, probably spend an overnight half way at any of ~500 campsites)

3. Spend 2 weeks in San Francisco and driving south along the coast

4. Drive to Las Vegas from the coast (8-9 hours)

5. Spend 5 days seeing the sights east of Las Vegas, Southern Utah Natl Parks, Monuments, etc.

6. Leave (from Vegas) for home with 2 days to spare.

Thoughts?

Washington State
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5. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

Skipping Yosemite other than a drive through the high country? For a family who enjoys camping and the outdoors, I would think spending several days in Yosemite NP is a given.

San Francisco and the Hwy 1 coast are likely to be foggy & cool. This maritime cool weather is welcomed by folks who live the hot areas of California but you might want to see some sunshine. Or maybe you're intending to be further down the coast in L.A. & San Diego for much of this 2 weeks.

Campsite reservations are going to be essential almost everywhere. Motel reservations will be even more important. Summer is a popular time to travel.

Nevada
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6. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

I think I am missing something in your trip plans.

But let me see if I have this information straight . . .

You are a family of 4 . . .

It is already mid-June and you are just now planning a 3 week trip to happen within the next 2 months to include national parks, Vegas, a mix of wilderness and upscale in California, visits to Napa, San Francisco and such . . .

You are allowing 7 days to drive from San Francisco to Chicago via Napa, Yosemite, and several of the national parks in Utah . . .

You have no reservations for accommodations . . . but you will do your best to find wait list lodging (of couse something is sure to open up in the highest tourist season of the year, especially in California! Hmmmm ) . . . and it sounds as if you still do not have any wilderness permits . . .

But you have specific areas in mind that you want to explore and visit . . . ie, Golden Trout Wilderness . . .

* * * * * * *

Just read your UTAH post and the replies so far received . . . wherein the replies speculated that this trip was *mostly insane* . . .

Your UPDATED trip plans posted on the UTAH forum are slightly less insane, although I would still label some portions as *insane*, especially when you write:

> > > > Drive to San Francisco via northern route past Mammoth, Mono Lake and through Yosemite (~11 hr total, probably spend an overnight half way at any of ~500 campsites) < < < <

REALLY? 500 non-reserved campsites just sitting there for you to pull in and camp?

I think what you might not realize is that people were making campground reservations last year between the Christmas and the New Years holidays for summer camping THIS JULY in these most popular areas of California.

* * * * * *

I don't think I can help you, except to add my *AMEN* to what Pacific NWFamily wrote that went something like, This is a trip for the summer of 2014.

I think your *REVISED* trip plans are more for a trip in 2014.

With all due respect, back in the 50s, 60s and 70s we would have *planned* a last minute trip like this in California and in the Utah national parks. My family did just this when I was a kid -- that's how I know. And I'm a native of California.

Sad to say, those days have long been gone out here in the West.

Edited: 17 June 2013, 19:12
Washington State
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7. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

How about if I take a stab at the itinerary? Three weeks from Las Vegas to Las Vegas (disregarding where you're flying from or driving from or whatever.)

Las Vegas ~ 2 required nights, ask on the LV forum for a family friendly hotel with a fun pool

Death Valley ~ drive through only or maybe camp in the high country like Wildrose, Thorndike, or Mahogany Flat. Ask on the DVNP forum about availability.

Eastern Sierra ~ camp at least two nights. Description of some of the best bits: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28926-c182361

Yosemite NP ~ Tuolumne Meadows two nights (get in line by 8 am for a First Come First Served campsite.) Then move to another campground closer to Yosemite Valley. Maybe you get lucky and find a cancelled campsite on the reservation website in the next few weeks, or maybe you drive to a First Come First Served campground and cross your fingers for luck.

San Francisco ~ find a family motel / motor inn that has free parking. This is where you're likely to need your fleece & long pangs. Stay at least 3 nights.

Hwy 1 coast ~ finding availability will be challenging. Maybe you mix up some motels and some campgrounds. We have enjoyed playing at Sunset State Beach near Monterey / Santa Cruz, but haven't camped there. Some of the state parks have individual nights available for camping, but finding two nights in a row will be a challenge. Maybe that's how you plan your itinerary ... what's available! Also check out Pismo State Beach.

L.A. ~ motel again

San Diego ~ not sure you have time!

Grand Canyon NP ~ again, can you find a campsite? It's best to stay right there.

Continue the rest of your vacation in states other than California. The Road Trips forum has some info about this combo of AZ, UT, and NV but there aren't many camping folks on that forum.

Fly out of LAS

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8. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

I'll focus on the part of the central coast south of Big Sur...not everywhere will reservations be needed...

Relative to motels/hotels, if you plan to stay in places like Cambria or anywhere along Big Sur, yes, reservations are a must. Pismo Beach is popular too. But you'd be surprised how easy it is to get a last minute motel in Morro Bay (except on holiday weekends).

Camping? With a little foresight, you can usually get campsites either at San Simeon State Park, Morro Bay State Park, or (best of all) Montana de Oro State Park without a ton of advance notice. The last of these three is the hidden spectacular gem that many people don't know about, because it's not right near the main highways...a slice of a coastline nearly as good as Big Sur without the crowds. There's also an outstanding campground called Cerro Alto ten minutes up HIghway 41 from Morro Bay, in the mountains (Los Padres National Forest)--about 25 campsites strung out along a creek among the oaks--great hiking too. Many people don't even know it's there, and if it's midweek, the place usually isn't even half full, even in the summer. I know, because I go hiking there about 3 times a week.

Motel rooms in San Luis Obispo are easy to get in the summer (but not the weekend Cal Poly goes back to school in Sept), and for a more "beach town" kind of that not a lot of outsiders know about, head for Avila Beach. Much better experience than Pismo in my opinion...

...just some random thoughts...

...best to get reservations everywhere you go...but there is still a little room for flexibility on the central coast...

Edited: 17 June 2013, 22:18
9. Re: 3 wk FAMILY rd trip -- Natl Parks, CA & UT

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