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California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

Bournemouth, United...
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California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

I have recently posted this in Road Trips but have not had much feedback so trying again here:

We are a family of 4, including a 17 year old daughter and 14 year old son, flying in to San Francisco on 21st August for an 18 day road trip around California flying out from San Francisco on 8th September. I have prepared an initial draft of our intended itinerary, and would welcome people's views on it, and whether the balance of time spent at various points is OK, and that I am not overstretching myself or missing out anything obvious.

Thurs 21st August - Monday 25th August SAN FRANCISCO (4 days)

To include Alcatraz, Chinatown, a bike ride to Sausolito (ferry back), a cable car ride, Lombard Street, North Beach, Mission District, Ocean Beach, views of the city from one or more of Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Twin Peaks or top of MH de Young Museum.

Monday 25th MONTEREY/CARMEL (1 day)

To include Monterey Bay Aquarium, Kayaking in the Bay (maybe), Monterey State Historic Park, Whale Watching trip (maybe), Carmel Beach, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, 17 mile drive.

Tuesday 26th BIG SUR - PISMO BEACH (1 day)

To include Pfeiffer Beach, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Colony, Morro Bay, Hearst Castle (maybe).

Wednesday 27th SANTA BARBARA (1 day)

Time to wander and take in the town/beaches.

Thursday 28th - Saturday 30th LOS ANGELES (3 days)

To include Hollywood sign viewed from Griffith Park Observatory, Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre, cycle from Will Rogers Beach to Torrance Beach, Universal Studios, Magic Mountain. Other possibilities - studio tour, surf lesson.

Sunday 31st DEATH VALLEY (1 day)

To include Zabriskie Point, Dante's View, Badwater, Devil's Golf Course, Artist's Drive, hire a 4WD for the more inaccessible areas (possibly).

*I am aware that this is the hottest time of the year, and perhaps DEATH VALLEY should be avoided and replaced by SEQUOIA and/or KINGS CANYON. I am not sure if driving or hiring a car is advisable in the heat*

Monday 1st Sept DEATH VALLEY - YOSEMITE (1 day)

Hopefully we will have secured a campsite for 4 nights in the Valley. Which route is best?

Monday 1st - Thursday 4th - YOSEMITE (3 days)

To include Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome, Half Dome hike (permit lottery), Yosemite Valley generally (tunnel view, El capitan, waterfalls), Mariposa Grove.

Friday 5th - YOSEMITE (TUOLUMNE MEADOWS) (1 day)

To include Tioga Pass, Mono Lake, Clouds Rest.

Saturday 6th AMERICAN RIVER RAFTING (1 day)

Full day rafting trip

Sunday 7th SAN FRANCISCO (NORTH) (1 day)

To include Muir Woods National Monument or possibly as far as Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Sonoma Vally and Sonoma Coast State Beach, Marin Headlands.

Monday 8th FLY HOME

There are a number of things I wanted to include but I don't seem to have time for, including Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon, Lassen Volcanic National park. I would also like to include a horse ride somewhere special if anybody has any recommendations.

I have just started to look at accommodations and found that the price for Sunday night in San Francisco seems to be higher than the first three nights. Perhaps I could set off on the Sunday afternoon and stay an extra night down the coast.

It appears I have not given myself enough time in Los Angeles as each theme park takes up a day. Perhaps I needn't stop in Santa Barbara, or should travel down the coast a day quicker. Everybody has their favourite places for which they would say I should spend more time there. However, it's about getting the balance right between seeing enough in one place, but not at the expense of missing out on somewhere else.

Your thoughts would genuinely be much appreciated.

Washington State
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1. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

You have created great 'wish lists' for each destination, but I think you know you can't do them all. For example, your Monterey itinerary would fill 3 days.

It sounds like you're an active family if you're attempting some incredibly challenging all day hikes. Drop 17 Mile Drive. Focus on being outside and enjoying the destination rather than riding through it.

Hearst Castle on Wed morning (if you really want it), a bit of scenery, then drive to Six Flags Magic Mountain. If it were my trip, I'd just choose one park ~ Six Flags or Universal.

Death Valley will be beautiful but hot, hot, hot. Have you tried to look for lodging for this holiday weekend?

Drive up the eastern Sierra on Hwy 395. (Day Two from this: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28926-c182361 )

Camp in Tuolumne Meadows for two nights, getting acclimated to the high elevation. Clouds Rest is an all day hike.

Then go to Yosemite Valley. Half Dome is definitely an all day hike; start at 5:00 am.

It may be 4 or 5 hours to drive to the put-in for your American River rafting; I don't know where you're headed.

One day north of San Francisco could be Armstrong Redwoods and a bit of Sonoma. Don't try to drive too far. Ideas; tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60713-c139373 Or it could be Henry Cowell Redwoods near Santa Cruz and a bit of time in Santa Cruz (wooden roller coaster at the Boardwalk?)

-------

If you choose to visit Sequoia Kings Canyon instead of Death Valley, you could add Yosemite Trails Pack Station in Fish Camp. Or you could take a 1/2 day ride up to Upper Chilnualna Fall in Wawona in Yosemite.

San Francisco...
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2. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

great advice above. LA needs 4 days and perhaps you can see Santa Barbara and drive South or go to Six Flags directly if you leave early Am.

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3. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

On your "Monterey/Carmel" day (the 25th), it appears that it also includes the drive from SF -- which is 2+ hours. Unless you can get on the road quicker than I'm usually able to, you'll probably only have 1/2 day on the Monterey Peninsula. And I don't know how early you'll be able to pick up a car on a Sunday.

There's no way you can do all those things -- even give a full day. But if it includes the drive down from SF you have even more limited time.

Napa, CA
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4. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

Your itinerary needs a lot of work. I would skip Death Valley and visit Sequoia instead. If you do go to Death Valley, it's not advisable to go off on your own in a 4x4 on back roads at that time of year.

No way you can do Cloud's Rest on the same day you visit Mono Lake.

For whitewater rafting, consider doing the Tuolumne instead of the American. It's right outside of Yosemite and you will avoid the long drive up to Auburn which is out of your way.

Bournemouth, United...
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5. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

Thanks for these suggestions. I will have a good look at all of them and tweak the itinerary accordingly.

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6. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

For LA, you can do the observatory (get there just before sunset so you can see the Hollywood sign, and remain into the evening) and Hollywood (just needs an hour or two - go right before or right after Universal) and Universal (generally takes around 6 hours) in one (long) day. Magic Mountain the 2nd day, and your cycling on the 3rd day but be advised that's quite a long ride you have planned.

Bournemouth, United...
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7. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

That sounds like good advice. We like to pack things in to our days. The cycle doesn't need to be that long, I guess. But we are pretty fit and active. How far is that ride?

Bournemouth, United...
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8. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

Could I do the "main" sights of Death Valley in a standard SUV at that time of year?

Napa, CA
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9. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

Most of the "main" sights are on the main roads which are paved. Taking long hikes is not going to be comfortable in the heat so sticking to the air conditioned car is your best bet. You really do not need a SUV unless you will feel more comfortable driving one.

It's not only Death Valley that will be hot but also the roads from LA and Las Vegas if you go there. There will be many hours of extra driving in the hot desert.

If you do go to Death Valley, it's best to drive up the Eastern Sierra on Hwy 395 to Yosemite rather than drive around the Southern Sierra via Bakersfield. The Eastern Sierra is quite spectacular and is where many Hollywood movies were filmed in the past. There's even a museum dedicated to them in Lone Pine.

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10. Re: California Road Trip Itinerary - Opinions please.

From Will Rogers to Torrance is about 20 miles riding each way - you have to take the bike path around Marina Del Rey inland a bit which adds a few miles.