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  1. #1
    Member saupacker's Avatar
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    Help needed: road trip to CA, NV, AZ

    Good day boys and girls,

    I hope, nobody feels that I'm abusing the forum for my question, but I feel there is a lot of local know-how here the owner of which I would kindly like to ask for advice.

    As you can see from my background, I live in Germany. I'm currently planning a two weeks vacation trip for my family (wife, girl 13, boy 16, me) to the US in probably fall (Oct) of next year. The rough outline is to fly into Las Vegas, hire a camper there and then take the next about ten days for a road trip passing a couple of national parks along the road to end in San Francisco. There return the camper, decompress at a friends place there and fly back.

    Now, I've done fairly much the same trip with my wife for our honeymoon, so I kind of know the area a little bid, but I'd still like to tap into everyone's knowledge:

    Which "must sees" are there one the way? Any "avoid-at-all-costs"? Which route should we follow?
    Any ideas on how to get a good deal on a camper for that period?

    Now, I will quite logically be bringing my hammock and will be spending many a night in it on the trip, but I fully realize that this is not a hammock related question. Yet, I'd very much appreciate if some of you were to help me out with some ideas.

    Thanks in advance for your input!

  2. #2
    cataraftgirl's Avatar
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    Since you're starting in Las Vegas, how about Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and north rim Grand Canyon NP. You could spend several days in southern Utah/northern Arizona before heading towards California.
    KJ

  3. #3
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    October in California, I can help with... October is a transitional month, when the snow hasn't yet begun in earnest in the mountains, but it's starting to spit flakes and hail. You'll want to think about any destination higher than 5,000 feet elevation and watch the weather, and have alternate plans in case it snows - I don't believe rental cars will let you use cables or chains on them, and they begin to be a recommended item in the trunk about September for mountain travel.

    If you mean by "national parks" Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon... be aware that you cannot simply drive from one to the other as there are no continuous roads in the mountains. You have to drive 2-3 hours into the Central Valley, head south on the freeway, and drive another 2-4 hours up into the Sequoia/Kings parks. That pretty much eats up a whole day. And as mentioned above it can be snowy in October. It will most certainly be colder, especially at night. Most of the services in the parks will be shut down - Yosemite starts to close up all the services and campgrounds along Tioga Pass, and beyond October 15 you cannot park overnight anywhere along Tioga Road or on Glacier Point Road. The only campgrounds available for you will be in Yosemite Valley or at Wawona - of the two you would be happier in the Valley, as Wawona's campground is just a parking lot with bear boxes. Half Dome cables will come down about this time. The good part - the crowds decrease to bearable levels in winter.

    You may want to plan to come over a pass other than Tioga - it closed and re-opened many times this year, and closed for good in November - closure depends entirely on snow and this is going to be a good snow year, like last year. Next year remains to be seen. Tehachapi is generally open year round.

    October is when my attention shifts to the west - the very best time to see coastal attractions is winter, when the fog goes away, and the summer crowds go with it. Point Reyes, Big Basin, all of the state and national parks/monuments along the coast, are my usual winter choices. My favorite area is the drive from Point Reyes south, across the Golden Gate, down highway 1 - there are hostels along this route that let you stay right on the ocean and long miles of beaches, with many places to pull off and walk on the sand. At Waddell beach you can park and hike up into Big Basin and see some falls and peak views. Once you get to Santa Cruz there's the beach boardwalk and the beaches themselves. Further south you arrive at the Monterey peninsula - the aquarium is awesome and there are lots of things to see and do along the wharf - and Carmel, and then more rugged coastline as you reach Big Sur and more redwood trees and ridgetop views of the ocean.

    If I were you, I would choose an area and spend the time there rather than driving - you can drive for days on end and never see all of California, there is simply too much to do and see. Choose one park or attraction and explore. I'd choose Sequoia/Kings - awesome views of the canyon, some good short hikes to do with great payoffs, like Tokopah Falls or Mitchell Peak, Moro Rock, Little and Big Baldy, big tree hikes like the one in Redwood Canyon or Grant Grove, good campgrounds - Lodgepole is open year round. Yosemite is always awesome but if you're looking for less strenuous hikes to great views, it's not the ideal place, fewer easy short things to do - Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome are about the easiest you can get, and tend to be pretty crowded.

    You're not going to find much joy hammocking in some of the campgrounds. I was lectured soundly hanging in Sequoia NP by a ranger - not because of the hammock but because I was not pitched over a designated tent site. I find that car campgrounds can be the most difficult places to hang in California. But there will be a few spots along the way, I'm sure...

  4. #4
    Senior Member dejoha's Avatar
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    Starting in Las Vegas, I would start my drive south and see the Hoover Dam.

    Next, take the 3.5 hour drive through Flagstaff to see the San Franscisco Peaks and the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest, but continue down to Sedona to catch some amazing red cliffs and the famed Oak Creek Canyon (oh, and the mysterious vortexes, if you're in to that sort of thing).

    Return back up route 89A and take a left at Cameron, Arizona, and take a quick stop-over at the Grand Canyon. Can't miss it. Walk around Mather Point and breathe in the views.

    Return toward Cameron, Arizona, turn north toward Page, Arizona. If you have the time, stop and tour the breathtaking Antelope Canyon. Leaving Page, drive over Glen Canyon Dam and enjoy the views of the reservoir as you drive toward Kanab, Utah.

    At Kanab, turn north (stay on route 89). If you want to catch some of the local pioneer culture, stop by the sleepy town of Orderville. This was one of the few settlements that successfully lived a social program where everyone had "all things in common" including wooly pants. Very fascinating. Back on 89. The entire route 89 is beautiful, but you will have a tough choice: turn left and go to Zions National Park, or continue north and hit Bryce Canyon? It if were me, I'd go to Bryce Canyon first. Once you've absorbed Bryce, return and go north on 89, but take a left (west) at Panguitch and follow route 143 past Panguitch Lake to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The drive alone is worth it, but Cedar Breaks is amazing. At 10,000 ft (3,000 m), the topology is amazing. The centuries-old Bristlecone Pine are something to see, and the cliffs at Cedar Breaks are awesome. Some of my favorite day hikes are in Cedar Breaks.

    Back down the road to Cedar City and turn south toward St. George on I-15. Along the way, you can stop by the rarely-visited portion of Zions called Kolob Canyon. It's a quick stop-off, but worth it.

    Back down I-15 and take exit 17 through Toquerville and on to Zions National Park on route 9. There is so much to see and do in Zions that you could spend days there. If you're up to it, hike Angels Landing for one of the most memorable hikes in your life.

    Heading out of Zions, go back toward Hurricane and down I-17 to St. George. If you have time, another cultural stop off would be the pioneer Temple and Tabernacle in the city. You can't miss them -- they are the tallest, most vibrant buildings in town. Free tours are given throughout the year for the Tabernacle, and the temple has a visitors center.

    Down I-15 toward Las Vegas, you'll go through a windy canyon. Drive slow and safe. After reaching Las Vegas, head to California to rest.

    I hope this helps! Just thinking about all those places makes me want to go on a road trip myself!

  5. #5
    Senior Member fin's Avatar
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    This is good info! I am leaving in a few days on a similar journey, traveling and hanging, living out of my car for awhile, snowshoeing where I can and hiking where I can't. I am heading towards Colorado first, then deciding which way to turn from there. Any particular places out west where you have really been hassled about hanging?

  6. #6
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    I have not been but I would try and add in Havasu Canyon. Everything I have seen looks amazing. But as a popular spot be sure to be there with tourists, and maybe Dejoha would know if the falls will even be flowing much that time of year. Sounds like a fun trip for sure
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  7. #7
    Senior Member dejoha's Avatar
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    You just need to get a permit from the Havasupai Tribe. The falls run year round. Mooney falls are awesome.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Law Dawg (ret)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cataraftgirl View Post
    Since you're starting in Las Vegas, how about Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and north rim Grand Canyon NP. You could spend several days in southern Utah/northern Arizona before heading towards California.
    KJ
    Very much agreed especially in October. The light can be wonderful for camera composition and the entire area is simply eye popping beautiful. California? Well Lori has made things very clear as far as the mountains being a roll of the dice. I'd not miss Hwy 1 from Morro Bay North but that's just me for cold stuff traveling...deserts and the coast!
    Mark is the name and If there is more than one way to understand what I just said....I meant the good one.

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  9. #9
    UncleMJM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lori View Post
    October in California, I can help with... October is a transitional month, when the snow hasn't yet begun in earnest in the mountains, but it's starting to spit flakes and hail. You'll want to think about any destination higher than 5,000 feet elevation and watch the weather, and have alternate plans in case it snows -

    October is when my attention shifts to the west - the very best time to see coastal attractions is winter, when the fog goes away, and the summer crowds go with it. Point Reyes, Big Basin, all of the state and national parks/monuments along the coast, are my usual winter choices. My favorite area is the drive from Point Reyes south, across the Golden Gate, down highway 1 - there are hostels along this route that let you stay right on the ocean and long miles of beaches, with many places to pull off and walk on the sand. At Waddell beach you can park and hike up into Big Basin and see some falls and peak views. Once you get to Santa Cruz there's the beach boardwalk and the beaches themselves. Further south you arrive at the Monterey peninsula - the aquarium is awesome and there are lots of things to see and do along the wharf - and Carmel, and then more rugged coastline as you reach Big Sur and more redwood trees and ridgetop views of the ocean.

    If I were you, I would choose an area and spend the time there rather than driving - you can drive for days on end and never see all of California, there is simply too much to do and see. Choose one park or attraction and explore. I'd choose Sequoia/Kings - awesome views of the canyon, some good short hikes to do with great payoffs, like Tokopah Falls or Mitchell Peak, Moro Rock, Little and Big Baldy, big tree hikes like the one in Redwood Canyon or Grant Grove, good campgrounds - Lodgepole is open year round.
    Great information...

    I am visiting my daughter in the Bay Area, (Walnut Creek) in a couple of weeks between Christmas and New Year's - any additions or changes to the above suggestions for December, 2010?

    We will most likely be doing day trips but could include an o/n along the way.

  10. #10
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