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  #1  
Old 03-20-2017, 04:50 PM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Please give us some pointers for our South-West USA road trip and tell us we're not crazy...

Hello, Dopers!

I haven't posted in a while, but now I'm hoping that the teeming millions of Americans on the board can maybe give me a hint or two:

My fiancee and I (both from Germany, in case that matters) are planning a two-week road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles for our honeymoon this summer (late July, early August), and the itinerary we've come up with is... ambitious, to say the least. I'd love to hear what you think and if it's not only that, but completely, utterly batshit crazy. So here it is, broken down:

Day 1 - arrive at SFO at 2pm. Enjoy the city

Day 2 - tour San Francisco

Day 3 - get a car, go to Yosemite Village, have a look around

Day 4 - hike to Glacier Point, leave Yosemite to the east, stay somewhere (big question mark number one)

Day 5 - continue into Las Vegas, enjoy the city

Day 6 - leave that den of sin for Zion, stay somewhere

Day 7 - continue to Bryce Canyon, maybe stay there

Day 8 - (this one's crazy, maybe...) tour Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, stay somewhere (big question mark number two)

Day 9 - Antelope Canyon, take a photo at Horseshoe Bend, go to Grand Canyon Village

Day 10 - hike down (yay!)

Day 11 - hike up (nooooooo!)

Day 12 - go to Las Vegas again, sleep in a proper bed

Day 13 - go to Los Angeles, spend the evening

Day 14 - Six Flags Magic Mountain (non-negotiable!)

Day 15 - spend the morning in LA, leave LAX at 6pm


So, there you go. Our two specific questions:

1) Can you recommend somewhere to stay/to go between Yosemite and Las Vegas? Going there directly on the same day we did a major hike doesn't feel like a smart idea.

2) We're unsure where to rest between Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon. Looking at the map we don't see any obvious spots. Should we just get some motel by the side of the road (if there is one?) or can you think of an actual destination?

Thank you for any and all input. None of this is cast in stone yet, so we're open for suggestions to drop or add stuff.
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  #2  
Old 03-20-2017, 05:42 PM
janeslogin janeslogin is offline
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Isn't Horseshoe Bend near the north rim? See the dam at Page. See the North Rim if it is open and hike down and up from there. Skip Grand Canyon Village.

We once spent two or three weeks a year at the Utah places you mentioned. I don't think the decades have created too much distraction.

Been too long. I cannot help with lodging but doesn't Google now have all those places flagged?
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Old 03-20-2017, 05:49 PM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Thank you, janeslogin. Great suggestion about the North Rim, we'll check that out. The reason we're asking about where to stay is we're not even sure where to break up the trip at those points - we could go two or three hours in this or the other direction, depending on if there's anything worthwhile staying at/looking for.

Something I forgot: one thing that is obviously missing from our itinerary is the great Route 1 from San Francisco to LA, but due to the closing of the road at Big Sur that road has lost a lot of its appeal and we decided to just skip this one day of driving and split the airports instead.
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Old 03-20-2017, 05:55 PM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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BTW, this is the Horseshoe Bend I was talking about, right next to Antelope Canyon. We didn't plan on spending time in Grand Canyon Village, that would just be our base to take the South Kaibab Trail down and the Bright Angel Trail up. It looks like the North Rim would take us a lot out of our way, are those trails a lot better than those two?
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  #5  
Old 03-20-2017, 05:56 PM
Icarus Icarus is offline
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My only recommendation is that things in that part of the world are very far apart.

Take time on a mapping app to figure out the exact routes and travel times. At first glance, some of your days look like you'll be driving for 29 hours to get from here to there to there to there. I would also highly recommend figuring out your nightly stops and making reservations. Some of your ideas look like you are going to be in the middle of no-f*cking-where, there would be limit accommodations and the likelihood of walking in cold and getting a room are suspect.
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Old 03-20-2017, 05:56 PM
The Librarian The Librarian is offline
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Look at the drop-off fee for your car;

We did something similar and in retrospect I could have saved a lot of money by driving the car back myself.
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Old 03-20-2017, 06:05 PM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
My only recommendation is that things in that part of the world are very far apart.

Take time on a mapping app to figure out the exact routes and travel times. At first glance, some of your days look like you'll be driving for 29 hours to get from here to there to there to there. I would also highly recommend figuring out your nightly stops and making reservations. Some of your ideas look like you are going to be in the middle of no-f*cking-where, there would be limit accommodations and the likelihood of walking in cold and getting a room are suspect.
Yes, we do appreciate that. We mapped the whole trip out and it seems juuuuuust manageable, even though I'll be the only one driving. We tried not to have more than 5 or 6 hours of just driving at a time. To your point of being in the middle of no-where - that's exactly why we're asking if there's a somewhere close by. In any case, making reservations beforehand does seem like the smart thing to do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Librarian View Post
Look at the drop-off fee for your car;

We did something similar and in retrospect I could have saved a lot of money by driving the car back myself.
Our travel agency seems to have a deal with Alamo where they waive the one-way fee within California. We'll probably pay around 350$ a week for our car, which seems reasonable.
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  #8  
Old 03-20-2017, 06:07 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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What Icarus said. With your itinerary you are going to spend an enormous amount of time driving through featureless desert. Very HOT featureless desert from horizon to horizon, for hours and hours and hours. I've done it many times myself, but it isn't anything I ever look forward to.

I've been told that this is the #1 mistake visitors from Europe make when they visit the western US.

If it was me, I would think very hard about how many vacation days I want to spend in a droning metal box versus being someplace.
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  #9  
Old 03-20-2017, 06:21 PM
amarinth amarinth is online now
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I don't think you can make days 8 & 9 work.

A few years ago I went to the national parks in Utah. For each I got there in the afternoon - saw a few things, hiked a little, stayed overnight, and then did a very short hike/look around in the morning and headed to the next park. It was very rushed, but possible as I stayed late and started early. Ideally, I'd have taken a few more days.

If you want to do more than just having driven near the sites (like getting out of the car, walking up close to some of the arches for which the park is named), it's going to take more time than that.

Also, if you're not used to several days of long drives - it's tougher than you think it will be to do that.
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Old 03-20-2017, 06:25 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Seriously, you're trying to cram way too much into two weeks. 11 years ago, I spent six weeks hiking through the National Parks of Utah and Arizona, and only left those two states once, to visit Mesa Verde. Do you really plan to see Bryce, Arches, and Monument Valley in one day (and don't you want to add Capitol Reef, Painted Desert And Canyonlands along the way, not to mention Horseshoe Canyon)?

The thing is, there's no such thing as "driving to a place, checking it out, then going somewhere else." Many of these places, like the National Parks, require you to get out of the car and hike, sometimes a long distance, to see what there is to see. That takes time and energy. You can't just drive to Bryce or Arches, snap a few pics and check it off your list.

Visiting these places requires a certain amount of stamina, which you're not going to have after doing so much driving. My recommendation is to forget California and Nevada, and concentrate on Utah and Arizona. Make the trip more intensive, rather than extensive.
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  #11  
Old 03-20-2017, 06:31 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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You're crazy.

I'm Australian but I live in California. I KNOW about long distance driving. Don't do it.

Fly into SF, and spend some time there - it really depends what you're interested in seeing. Nature? Point Reyes, Muir Woods, South to Half Moon Bay on Hwy 1... all VERY close. Amazing restaurants. City sightseeing.

Then fly to Vegas, rent a car, pick one or two desert parks to explore, and EXPLORE them. Stay a few nights.

Fly to LAX or Burbank, rent a car, do LA stuff. Fly home.

If I wanted to hit all of your sights on a specific road trip vacation, I'd take at least a month to do it. It's miserable to roll into town at midnight, collapse in Motel 6 for a few hours, only be on the road again so keep on schedule. What if you find a spot you really love and want to spend an extra day there? What if you take a wrong turn out hiking and spend an unexpected three hours up a mountain? And with only one of you driving... eesh.

Can you tell us your motivations for this trip? Is it really just, squeeze in as much sight seeing as possible?

Last edited by araminty; 03-20-2017 at 06:32 PM..
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  #12  
Old 03-20-2017, 06:38 PM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Thank you all for your caveats. I did have the feeling we were a bit optimistic, we'll have to see where we can make some cuts. I know that I could spend two weeks touring every one of those places on their own, but, alas, this is all the time we have.

Of all those parks, I have only really visited Grand Canyon (did the hike down and up in 2009), and sort of "driven through" Zion and Yosemite. Looks like we have some hard choices ahead. Thank you, panache45 about your "checking off" comment, that is really not what we want. While I know intellectually that this is all really far, it looks like we were falling victim to that European mistake.

Oh, BTW, Horseshoe Bend has, AFAICT, nothing to do with Horseshoe Canyon, UT. It's just a bend in the Colorado River that is literally right next door to Antelope Canyon.
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Old 03-20-2017, 06:44 PM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by araminty View Post
You're crazy.

...

Can you tell us your motivations for this trip? Is it really just, squeeze in as much sight seeing as possible?
Well, I've done a similar trip before, in a similar timeframe. It was fun, and all of these sights/parks were places that came highly recommended. While I realize this is all a bit ambitious, I do stand by our general plan - as I said, no day has more than 5 or six hours of driving, with exceptions.
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  #14  
Old 03-20-2017, 06:47 PM
MoonMoon MoonMoon is offline
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What everyone else said, plus another reminder about the heat. The desert in August is not meant for human activity. It will be oppressive, unbearable, and can be very dangerous, especially while hiking.
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  #15  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:06 PM
Twoflower Twoflower is online now
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Originally Posted by Pitchmeister View Post
Day 4 - hike to Glacier Point, leave Yosemite to the east, stay somewhere (big question mark number one)...

1) Can you recommend somewhere to stay/to go between Yosemite and Las Vegas? Going there directly on the same day we did a major hike doesn't feel like a smart idea.
Um, yeah. That's an all-day hike (assuming you're in really good shape), followed by an all-day drive. Stay an extra night in Yosemite, and save the drive for the next day.
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  #16  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:08 PM
drewder drewder is online now
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You're hitting a lot of great places I worry that you're going too fast and you could easily spend a week for each day you have listed. Also if you've got your heart on Vegas that is fine however Reno is closer to Yosemite.
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  #17  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:27 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Originally Posted by Pitchmeister View Post
Oh, BTW, Horseshoe Bend has, AFAICT, nothing to do with Horseshoe Canyon, UT. It's just a bend in the Colorado River that is literally right next door to Antelope Canyon.
Right. I've been to both, and came close to actually dying in Horseshoe Canyon. I don't recommend it for someone as inexperienced - and old - as I was. (It's the place where Aron Ralston had to cut off his own arm.)

And another thing about the heat: the farther down you go, the hotter. When I was down in Horseshoe Canyon, it was a blistering 123ºF, and damn little shade.

Last edited by panache45; 03-20-2017 at 07:31 PM..
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  #18  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:32 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Originally Posted by araminty View Post
You're crazy.
This. Full stop. Underlined for emphasis.

You are coming in late July. Do you have any idea how hot it is going to be?

Cut that list in half. Either stay in the north or the south - don't try to do both. As others have stated, most of the places on your list require multiple day stays. If all you do is drive in (arriving in the afternoon), spend the night, then leave you might as well save the money and stay home.
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  #19  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:37 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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You're nuts.

Visiting some of the most spectacular places in the South West, arriving around noon to spend an active afternoon in the hot sun, spending the night and moving on to the next place is a waste of your time. I think any of the places you mentioned you should try to spend a full day (wake up and go to sleep in the same bed). If you follow the schedule you've laid out in the summer heat you'll be exhausted all the time and will need rest days above and beyond the travel.

Do you have reservations at Phantom Ranch?
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  #20  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:45 PM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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For our Honeymoon, my husband and I took a roadtrip with our dogs. I think we knew we were meant for each other when we both said at the same time "I want to take the dogs!"

We flew to Indiana, spent the night with relatives, then took a borrowed car (it had been my car when I lived in Indiana) from them, drove out west, saw the Hot Springs in Arkansas, some relatives I had not seen for a long time in Kansas, my grandfather's grave in Kansas, an old friend who was terminally ill (my son is named for him) in Texas, and some relatives of my husband's who hadn't been able to make the wedding, and then the petrified forest, the old Pueblos, and the Grand Canyon.

Just so you know, driving itself can make you exhausted. We drove 24 hours straight at one point, taking turns, and sleeping and it was exhausting. We had intended to do a lot of camping, but we ended up mostly in motels, because the driving was more tiring than we thought it would be (and the motels were more pet-friendly than we thought they'd be).

We didn't hike down, because we had the dogs, although there was a place to board them, so people who had pets and wanted to make the hike could do so. You have to camp overnight at the bottom, because you can't do both in one day.

However, you can ride mules to the bottom, and back, and I think you can do that in one day. We were there in March, and it was chilly, but the sun was still very bright, and it was possible to get a sunburn in this part of the country even when it wasn't very hot. In the middle of the summer, it is going to be dangerously hot at the bottom. You might want to go for the option of the mules, or just give up seeing the bottom. I'm here to tell you it is amazing even without seeing the bottom.

If you cut back on other things, but still go to the canyon, the Petrified Forest is nearby, and a short hike, and also amazing.

Do you really want to go to Six Flags when you will be so close to Disneyland? Six Flags is cool, but Disneyland is the original theme park. Also, I'm pretty sure Magic Mountain is at Disneyland, so maybe that's what you meant.

If I had to pick one thing to cut, it'd be Vegas. You want to see lots of natural formations that are only in the US, plus Disneyland/Six Flags, and theme parks are really an American phenomenon. Gambling casinos are not American, and you can always go to one of the much classier European ones than Vegas, which is the height of tack.

Confession: I was in Vegas as a small child. It was loud and smelly and I hated it. I also hate gambling. I was permitted inside some parts of the casino back then (I think the laws have changed), but it looked awful. Nothing I have heard from people who have been there has changed my mind.

Exception: if Penn & Teller are playing in Vegas, go see them. There is nothing typically American about them, but they are wonderful. I've seen them live twice.

ALSO, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: are you over 25? Many car places will not rent to people under 25. At least one of you will need to be 25 or over. And you'll need to get an international driver's license, and a major credit card that is valid in the US and has at least $500 free on it. They will not take cash as a deposit. Also, they may not release your deposit immediately, so if you want to drop off a car in one place, and rent another two days later, the deposit may not yet be released.

You should book the car online to get the best price, but then call the actual place on the phone to make sure you will be eligible and have everything you need.
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  #21  
Old 03-20-2017, 07:51 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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Originally Posted by drewder View Post
You're hitting a lot of great places I worry that you're going too fast and you could easily spend a week for each day you have listed. Also if you've got your heart on Vegas that is fine however Reno is closer to Yosemite.
A LOT closer.
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  #22  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:02 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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I have to echo what others have said. I am a very good (American) long-distance driver that has been to most states and I got exhausted just reading your list. That is a schedule for a long-haul truck driver, not a vacation. It is simply too much, too far in too little time.

You need to pick the 3 or so things that you really want to do and do them well rather than taking the shotgun approach. Don't be shy about flying domestically either. It could very well be easier and even cheaper than driving although driving through the desolate parts of the Southwest has its own charm especially for Europeans.

I personally like San Francisco (I recommend an Alcatraz tour if you can swing one) and Las Vegas even though I don't really gamble. Both of those are world-class destinations on their own. You could just make a triangle that goes San Francisco - Las Vegas - Los Angeles that would be enviable. That would cut out some of the nature stuff but Las Vegas has day tours of the Grand Canyon by helicopter or small plane. They aren't cheap but it would be very memorable.
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  #23  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:09 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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If I had two weeks in the West (instead of the 60 years I have actually had), I would either do two weeks in California (even if you never slept you'd not see a tenth of it), or two weeks in the high desert, which is tolerable in summer -- Canyon de Chelly, Taos, Santa Fe, Mesa Verde, Bryce. The low desert is deadly in summer, not fit for living beings at all.

You couldn't pay me to go to Las Vegas. Las Vegas in August? Just shoot me.

Yosemite is also hideously crowded in the summer, go to a lesser known but equally beautiful park like Kings Canyon. There are lovely places around Tahoe. Warning -- the Sierras are somewhat equivalent to the Alps. It takes a long time to get anywhere in them, other than on 80. There are few other passes. We've had record snow this winter, and there may well be snow fairly low down well into the summer. If you can swing it, don't miss Tioga Pass. At almost 10,000 feet, it is quite the driving experience. Just south of Yosemite.
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  #24  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:16 PM
Common Tater Common Tater is offline
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As an aside, Hiking "down" sounds easy, but it is hard on the knees and hips.

Distances look deceiving on maps, it takes forever to get anywhere out West. And there's lots to see. Don't be the Griswolds!
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  #25  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:16 PM
Athena Athena is offline
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So you're saying you want to spend 5-6 hours a day for two weeks straight driving through mostly dull desert in crazy heat, followed by a few daylight hours each day at spectacularly interesting and beautiful areas during which time you'll need to find a place to stay, eat rest, stock up on necessities, then wake up the next day and do it all over again? Your plan is GREAT!

(seriously, what everyone else said. Pick 3 places, spend a few days in each, with 1 day driving in between, and actually enjoy yourself.)
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  #26  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:23 PM
Twoflower Twoflower is online now
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Originally Posted by Ulfreida View Post
If you can swing it, don't miss Tioga Pass. At almost 10,000 feet, it is quite the driving experience. Just south of Yosemite.
Nitpick - Tioga pass goes through Yosemite. It's the "leave to the east" option in the OP. I definitely concur that it's a don't-miss experience. All the more reason not to drive it at night after an all-day climb to Glacier Point.
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  #27  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:39 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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Yeah, I guess you are right, it does go through Yosemite. Concur don't drive it at night. For one thing it is scary enough during the day!
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  #28  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:44 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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All the more reason not to drive it at night after an all-day climb to Glacier Point.
There's so much more in Yosemite than the Valley. Spending what amounts to a single day there buzzing through the park and doing a single (if spectacular) park misses so many of what the park has to offer. Hetch Hetchy, Tuolumne Meadows, the Mariposa Grove, and dozens of other places get overshadowed by the Valley, but they are just as spectacular and much less crowded.

If I just had 2 weeks I'd spend it mostly in CA, or hit the parks in Utah (although I wouldn't go in August, that's going to limit what you can do).
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  #29  
Old 03-20-2017, 08:49 PM
Arrendajo Arrendajo is offline
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I'm a life-long resident of the western U.S. Has anyone mentioned yet that your plan is overly ambitious? Reading your itinerary, I began to wonder if we were being whooshed. I would rather be beat to death, chopped to pieces, and fed to the dogs than take a "vacation" like that. Slow down and smell the roses!
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:10 PM
SandyHook SandyHook is offline
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Day 8 will be almost impossible. It's a several hour drive from Bryce Canyon to Arches NP (4 hours per mapquest). It will take at least 3-5 hours to look Arches over and a couple of days would be more like it. Then it's another 3 hours more to Monument Valley. You'll have a hard time making it in those times because there are just too many great places to stop and look.

Another vote here for cutting back a bit.

San Francisco is fun. Two or three days there is a hoot. Fly to Salt Lake City and rent a car and spend a week touring southern Utah (which in my opinion is some of the most beautiful country in the world). Fly back to SF, rent another car and drive down Highway 1 to LA.

I walked down into the Grand Canyon last year in October and it was tough getting back up. In July it will be really, really bad. IMHO unless you and your lady are monster backpackers it will be a bad experience.
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  #31  
Old 03-20-2017, 09:11 PM
zbuzz zbuzz is offline
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Originally Posted by Pitchmeister View Post
Day 14 - Six Flags Magic Mountain (non-negotiable!)
Why is Magic Mountain non-negotiable? I don't mean that in a judgy way, it just seems a bit out of place with the rest of your activities and then also taking into account all the other attractions of Los Angeles. Is this a David Hasselhoff scenario? Does Magic Mountain have a certain amount of honeymoon street cred in Germany that the rest of us just wouldn't understand?

Last edited by zbuzz; 03-20-2017 at 09:15 PM.. Reason: edited while riding Colossus
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  #32  
Old 03-20-2017, 09:15 PM
amarinth amarinth is online now
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Well, I've done a similar trip before, in a similar timeframe. It was fun, and all of these sights/parks were places that came highly recommended.
Could you share the itinerary of the earlier trip?
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  #33  
Old 03-20-2017, 11:41 PM
48Willys 48Willys is online now
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I have no idea where to start. I could write a book on what is wrong with these plans.

I have lived in the western US all of my life, over half a century. In August that part of the country is HOT!!! Take at least two gallons of water per person per day. I am NOT kidding! Keep it in the car & take it with you when you go hiking. I always carry four gallons of water per day with me when I plan on just driving, through that area, not hiking anywhere. I do this even in the wintertime. If my wife is with me, we carry eight gallons of water.

I have no desire to come look for you when you fall over from heat stroke! I am prepared & I will come look. I will help carry you out, but please, take plenty of water, so I do not have to. I have done that way to often. It is usually some tourist who thought that the locals were kidding them when they said to take along, & drink, a lot of water. Also, do us both a favor, read up on the signs of dehydration. Know them well. If you do half of what is on your list during the hot afternoons, you WILL get dehydrated. I guarantee that. Recovery time from dehydration is longer than most folks think that it is. A week, not a day, & certainty not hours.

Look at doing your hiking in the cool of the morning. Plan to be done with your hike by 10:00AM. I am serious here. I try to drive during the night time & hike in the AM. Then I sleep during the heat of the afternoon. Get motels with good air conditioners.

One of many roads to not drive at night is the one east out of Yosemite. The views are stunning, don't miss them. Be aware that at dawn & dusk, the wildlife is on the move. Think about deer & elk jumping in front of your car. On that twisty mountain road, deer & elk can kill you. Elk are the size of horses. Hitting one of them can ruin your whole day.

Oh yeah, IIRC, That area is free range. That means that cattle are allowed to roam free on the range & roads as well. If you hit one, not only will you be responsible to repair the car, you will also be buying some rancher a cow.

As others have said, you are planning way too much for way too little time. I recommend two or, at most, three places to see.

San Fran, can be a week all by itself. Go north up the 101 to Eureka. That will take you through one of the state redwood forests. That trip will take a day, or go all the way to the Oregon border. That will get you another state redwood forest & it runs beside the ocean north of Eureka.

Kings canyon over Yosemite is a good call. I like it because there are less tourist & it is not as crowded as Yosemite Valley is. Also, IMHO, it is prettier. I go to see the land, not the people. Again, a week is not enough time to see this.

Reno over Las Vegas, another good call. It is close to Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There, it will be cooler than on the desert floor in August. A week spent in this area is about right.

If you really must visit the desert country in August, I also recommend choosing an area & visiting the parks around that area. Do not miss some of the state & county parks. Some of them are at least on par with the national parks. Again, less people. Then again, maybe you like being all crowded up.

Moab, Utah comes to mind. There are three or more national parks to see in that area. You could get a motel for five days to a week, visit a different park each day & still miss some beautiful country.

Of course, with my user name, I would be out of line not to mention the Moab Jeep Tours. You get to see the country, & this is one time to be a passenger & not the driver.

IHTH, 48.

PS, Wow! I almost did write a book.
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  #34  
Old 03-20-2017, 11:50 PM
Nawth Chucka Nawth Chucka is online now
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You might could rent a small RV and have your accommodation w/ you wherever you go. I see them all over the place here in Utah when there's no snow on the ground.

Your itinerary is an aggressive one, w/ no built-in buffer for things going wrong in a country not your own and expensive flights bookending it, that's MY concern for you.
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  #35  
Old 03-21-2017, 12:49 AM
Bullitt Bullitt is offline
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Pitchmeister, you and your fiancée sound like road warriors. I like your style. My wife and I are road warriors. I do almost all the driving, and sometimes she does a little driving if I need some rest. We've driven these areas several times recently. A few years back we took 5 weeks off of work for what we call our Great Southwest USA Road Trip Adventure. We toured all throughout the SW USA which has some fantastic scenery. Your itinerary is ambitious but doable! Some may call you crazy but they don't get it.

I strongly suggest going to the North Rim and avoiding the South Rim altogether. The South Rim is crazy busy crowded, especially in summer. Also, check on road work being performed. US-89 near Cameron AZ was being widened last year, causing slow downs. Check road work along your routing, especially with an ambitious itinerary.

+1 for the poster who said to check the drop-off rental rates. It may be better to re-route yourselves so you pick up and drop off at the same place. Maybe you make a big circle. But if it's worth it to start at SFO and end at LAX, then go for it!

My wife and I have followed ambitious itineraries, like yours. We have also done very loose itineraries where we just "follow our noses" along the way. With the former, if you book every hotel you are committing to an aggressive pace that does not allow room for hiccups (e.g., what if you lose a half or whole day due to car troubles?). Not likely, but could happen. Could be costly especially if your good-rate hotels are no-refund deals. With the latter you run the risk of not having a room for the night. We have blankets and pillows and aren't allergic to spending a night or two in the car. For some, that is a No-Go Show Stopper. Not for us.

If you two are seasoned road warriors then you know what you can and can't do. If you haven't done this type of ambitious itinerary then I strongly suggest revising it. But if you're comfortable with this plan then go for it!

I have been called crazy too. Hey, it's not for everyone but it can be done, and done enjoyably. You are right when you say you can spend 2 weeks at each of those destinations.

Regarding the North Rim, I'd realign days 7-11 to put Jacob Lake and the North Rim between Zion/Bryce and Monument Valley. Jacob Lake has some decent hotels, BTW. And there are some real fleabag hotels throughout the SW USA, so watch for bedbugs and such. i stayed in one in Colorado City AZ a few months back. Not a relaxing place.

Monument Valley, BTW, is one of my favorite places. One of these days I will spend the night then get up at zero dark early just to watch the sun rise slowly, watch the colors change while having some soft music playing and we're curled up under a blanket in our folding chairs and sipping on a hot cup of joe. That is on The List.

BTW as I write this I am planning a road trip from Varenna ITA & Lake Como, north through some nice Alpine Passes, to Schloß Vaduz LIE, to Prien DEU, to Berchtesgaden, to Gmünd in Kärnten AUT. I am eyeballing the Deutsche Alpenstraße (Queralpenstraße) and trying to make that work! That will be in late June. Have you driven the Deutsche Alpenstraße? (Don't mean to hijack) We, BTW, are not making a loop, we are starting in Roma and ending in Venezia. The car drop-off fee is worth it to us.
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  #36  
Old 03-21-2017, 01:06 AM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Originally Posted by 48Willys View Post
In August that part of the country is HOT!!! Take at least two gallons of water per person per day. I am NOT kidding! Keep it in the car & take it with you when you go hiking. I always carry four gallons of water per day with me when I plan on just driving, through that area, not hiking anywhere. I do this even in the wintertime. If my wife is with me, we carry eight gallons of water.
This needs to be repeated. When I began my hike through Horseshoe Canyon, I left my cabin in Moab with six gallons of 50% Gatorade/water mix. By the time I returned that night, I had drunk all six gallons, and hadn't peed even once! It was just drink and sweat, drink and sweat all day. But my big mistake - HUGE mistake - was not telling anyone where I was going. I didn't see another soul all day. If something had happened to me, I'd have had no way to get help, and nobody would be looking for me. And for a 60yo with health issues, I was really putting my life on the line. So tell someone where you're going (like a park ranger), take enough water, wear a hat, and don't overestimate your abilities.
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Old 03-21-2017, 01:18 AM
Bullitt Bullitt is offline
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Definitely, bring water. Good point!
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  #38  
Old 03-21-2017, 01:49 AM
Robot Arm Robot Arm is offline
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Originally Posted by Pitchmeister View Post
BTW, this is the Horseshoe Bend I was talking about, right next to Antelope Canyon. We didn't plan on spending time in Grand Canyon Village, that would just be our base to take the South Kaibab Trail down and the Bright Angel Trail up. It looks like the North Rim would take us a lot out of our way, are those trails a lot better than those two?
I did a cross-canyon hike about 10 years ago, so I hope this isn't out of date.

Beds at Phantom Ranch are tough to get. They start taking reservations a year in advance on the first of the month. I finally got through on the phone about 2 hours after they opened and got the last bed they had for the month. I don't know if the campgrounds are quite as hard to book, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I see you've done the hike before. South Kaibab Trail does not have water, but has better views (or so I hear) than Bright Angel, so you want to go down South Kaibab, up Bright Angel. Sounds like you already know this.

If you decide to go to the North Rim, it's a tougher hike to the bottom from there. North Kaibab Trail is about 14 miles to the river, and an extra 1000' of elevation compared to the South Rim. Most of the descent is in the first 7 miles, so the last 7 miles is deep in the Canyon. There's a stream, but if you do that part of the trail in the afternoon in August it's still gonna be nasty hot.

Definitely take this seriously. Notify someone of your itinerary, have them send the rangers out to look for you if you don't check in, all that stuff. It's a spectacular place, and an amazing thing to have done, but I don't know if I'd want to book anything else for the same trip. I could barely walk for ten days.
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  #39  
Old 03-21-2017, 02:11 AM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Oh, and if you're planning on taking the Grand Canyon mule ride... it has to be booked a long time in advance, and there's a weight limit. And they turn people away who don't look fit enough. And if you do go, do not get on the last mule in line; mule shit stinks!
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  #40  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:11 AM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Wow!

That's a bit more opposition than we had anticipated. We will most definitely cut back somewhere and rearrange stuff, probably leaving out Arches and Monument Valley, as that seems to be the furthest out of the way, for least gain (at least in our timeframe). We'll have to talk about it, I'll get back to you with a revised plan.

In the meantime, while we are appreciative of all your concerns, it's not like we just took a finger to a globe and said "Looks like a smart idea!" For one, this exact trip was recommended on a travel website we trust, although with a bit more time. We hashed out all driving times, and fully intend to book accommodation along the way beforehand, so as not to lose time and end up in a dump. That's precisely the reason I came here. Like I said, I did a similar trip 8 years ago, at the same time of year, and while it was hot, it was survivable.

Here's our route from back then: LA - Las Vegas - Grand Canyon (hike down and up like we're planning to now) - go around Grand Canyon - Zion - Yosemite - San Francisco - Route 1 - LA

I believe it was in a little less time even, so I know a little bit what I'm talking about. Granted, the visits at Zion and Yosemite were of the sort we're trying to avoid now - drive in, "look, how awesome!", leave. About the heat in the desert - during the hike down Grand Canyon I'm sure it was about 110° many times, and we had indeed thought to bring water. Extreme, but also extremely beautiful, and we survived. This exact part I know for a fact I can do. This is also the bit my fiancee (who was not on this trip 8 years ago) is the most excited about.

I'll answer some of your questions below, but please know that my OP does not represent the full extent of our planning. We might be crazy, but we're not completely stupid!
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  #41  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:13 AM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Originally Posted by Twoflower View Post
Um, yeah. That's an all-day hike (assuming you're in really good shape), followed by an all-day drive. Stay an extra night in Yosemite, and save the drive for the next day.
Thank you! That's precisely the kind of objection I was looking for. So, no driving after Glacier Point, got it!
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  #42  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:29 AM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Do you have reservations at Phantom Ranch?
We'll camp at Bright Angel campground, right next to Phantom Ranch (we did this 8 years ago). They start taking reservations for the required backcountry permit today, and the success rate for getting it at this time for August seems to be close to 100% (and I suppose now I know why...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
F

ALSO, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: are you over 25? Many car places will not rent to people under 25. At least one of you will need to be 25 or over. And you'll need to get an international driver's license, and a major credit card that is valid in the US and has at least $500 free on it. They will not take cash as a deposit. Also, they may not release your deposit immediately, so if you want to drop off a car in one place, and rent another two days later, the deposit may not yet be released.

You should book the car online to get the best price, but then call the actual place on the phone to make sure you will be eligible and have everything you need.
Yes, I'm 32, and well aware of the pitfalls concerning drivers under 25. Of course we'll bring a major credit card - again, we're crazy, not stupid. We will have everything booked and confirmed weeks before we leave.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Common Tater View Post
As an aside, Hiking "down" sounds easy, but it is hard on the knees and hips.
Thank you, I know. I already did it, though, so I'm very confident I'm physically capable of that particular part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SandyHook View Post
Day 8 will be almost impossible. It's a several hour drive from Bryce Canyon to Arches NP (4 hours per mapquest). It will take at least 3-5 hours to look Arches over and a couple of days would be more like it. Then it's another 3 hours more to Monument Valley. You'll have a hard time making it in those times because there are just too many great places to stop and look.

Another vote here for cutting back a bit.
Thank you for that. While I was aware that day was hard, I did not quite realize just how much so, and that we can't just go there, and get all the awesome without a long, hard hike. Again, we'll probably cut that part of the Utah desert.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zbuzz View Post
Why is Magic Mountain non-negotiable? I don't mean that in a judgy way, it just seems a bit out of place with the rest of your activities and then also taking into account all the other attractions of Los Angeles. Is this a David Hasselhoff scenario? Does Magic Mountain have a certain amount of honeymoon street cred in Germany that the rest of us just wouldn't understand?
Nothing David Hasselhoff about it. The two of us just really enjoy rollercoasters, and I went to that park in 2009 and have never seen such a density of awesome, diverse, world-class rollercoasters anywhere. I'm aware that Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Six Flags don't necessarily go together, but we chose this park not for its ambiance, but for the amazing coasters. It's pretty much the only thing in the LA area we're really excited about (sorry, LA dopers!).
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  #43  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:31 AM
Driver8 Driver8 is offline
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I'll pile on with the general consensus that this is way too rushed. I did a road trip of this region many years ago and made sure to spend at least one full day (i.e. driving to was done the previous day and driving from the day after) at each park. Even that was too rushed and I didn't get to soak in the surroundings as much as I wanted to.

But it's your Day 10 and Day 11 plan that makes me genuinely concerned for your safety. I think you might actually die if you try that. It will be *so* hot at that time.
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  #44  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:40 AM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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But it's your Day 10 and Day 11 plan that makes me genuinely concerned for your safety. I think you might actually die if you try that. It will be *so* hot at that time.
Thank you, but again: did it and survived (in August of 2009).
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  #45  
Old 03-21-2017, 07:01 AM
Edward The Head Edward The Head is offline
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I'm going to go against the grain here and say it's doable, not easy, but doable. Google maps give me 35 or so hours of driving time, and around 1800 miles, 2900km. The longest day is between Yosemite and Vegas.

My only advice is to make sure you're making Magic Mountain during the week and not on the weekend. I've never been there, I'm going in a couple of weeks, and I understand it can get packed. I've been told to get a Fast Pass to be able to ride all the rides and that it's almost a two day type of park. During the week you'll have a lot less people.

Should you find you're doing too much then maybe flying in and out of Vegas would be a lot easier, though you'd be skipping San Fran.
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  #46  
Old 03-21-2017, 01:08 PM
cormac262 cormac262 is offline
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Intrigued by your OP. And having been to most of the places you intend to visit, I will agree with the others: "crazy." And for the reasons others have pointed out: it is ambitious but just how much will you "enjoy" where you are visiting ?

So in reviewing your schedule, I've been trying to think about how to scale it back to be more reasonable. And what comes to mind is: save SF and Yosemite for another trip. Which then raises the question of a good international airport to arrive at:
- Plan to fly into Las Vegas
- Do all the southwest activities (North rim, Zion, Bryce, etc.). Still lots of driving, but now you have more freedom as to just how much time to spend at a given place, and what you might want to cut out.
- Circle back to the south rim - hike down and up (if you want - be prepared to BAKE). There are some nice dayhikes that will get you "in" to the canyon, but not all the way to the river, that you might consider. I can recommend a couple.
- Head to LA/Magic Mountain (be sure to "skirt" LA and come to the I-5 via 18 to 14)
- Fly out of LAX

San Francisco is definitely worth spending at least a few days, and there's very cool stuff to see very close by. Yosemite will be PACKED with tourists at that time of year, so anything you might want to do (starting with even getting into the park) will take much longer than you plan.
So if you save those two stops for another trip (they're both definitely worth seeing), the logistics and driving time for the remainder is much more reasonable.

Last edited by cormac262; 03-21-2017 at 01:10 PM..
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  #47  
Old 03-21-2017, 02:25 PM
PaperBlob PaperBlob is offline
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Pitchmeister, I'm glad you are taking some of this advice to heart. You will still have an awesome vacation! If your flights are not set yet, here is an alternate itinerary to consider:


Day 1 - Fly into Las Vegas. Rent car, drive about 2 hours to St. George, Utah (or somewhere nearby). Shop for provisions, have dinner, and rest up!

Day 2 - Drive about 1 hour to Zion National Park. Spend the whole day there. When you are done there, drive about an hour and 15 minutes to Bryce, Utah. Stay the night there.

Day 3 - Spend the day at Bryce Canyon National Park. Stay the night again in Bryce.

Day 4 - Spend some more time at Bryce Canyon National Park. After lunch, drive about 5 hours to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. You can stop along the way for your Horseshoe Bend photo-op. Have dinner and stay the night.

Day 5 - Hike Down!

Day 6 - Hike Up! Stay the night on the South Rim, or drive about an hour south to Williams, AZ, and stay the night at one of the many hotels there.

Day 7 - Drive back to Las Vegas and stay the night. Maybe check out the kitsch on Route 66 along the way. There's no rush. Should take 4 to 5 hours (from Williams), depending on what stops you make. You should be able to get to your hotel in Vegas before mid-afternoon. Plan to take in a show that night! Before and/or after the show, walk The Strip and take in the spectacle. Shop and/or gamble if you have time.

Day 8 - Drive to Lee Vining, CA, outside the eastern boundary of Yosemite. This is a five and a half to six hour drive if you go straight through. You could plan on a few stops in Death Valley National Park to make the drive more interesting, and still get to your hotel in Lee Vining around dinner time.

Day 9 - Drive into Yosemite. This is supposed to be a very scenic drive. Spend the day visiting the park (maybe some of the lesser visited spots). Maybe at the end of the day, you will have time to take a look at the Valley with rest of the crowd. Have an early dinner, and drive about 4 hours to San Francisco.

Day 10 - San Francisco

Day 11 - San Francisco

Day 12 - Drive about 4 hours to Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park. Spend the afternoon exploring. Stay the night in one of the Grant's Grove cabins.

Day 13 - Spend all morning and afternoon exploring the park. Exit the park, have some dinner, and drive about 3.5 hours to Santa Clarita, CA. Stay the night someplace close to Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Day 14 - Six Flags Magic Mountain! Stay the night in the same hotel.

Day 15 - Drive about 4.5 hours back to the airport in Las Vegas, catch your flight home.


I struggled with Day 4, since I think the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is very beautiful. if you left Bryce early that day, you could spend some time exploring the North Rim, but it would add a lot of driving time. Plus, you're going to have great views on your hike down and up, so you could maybe save the North Rim for your next trip.

Flying into and out of Vegas means no drop off fee for your car rental. I think rentals are pretty cheap in Vegas too.

Here's a tip: When you get here (on my itinerary, this would be in St. George), go to the nearest Walmart and buy yourself a cheap styrofoam cooler and whatever food you need. I assume you will be packing lunches for your days exploring the parks, and this will let you keep your lunch materials cool as you travel around. You can just throw it out at the airport or at your last hotel before you leave for home.

Whatever you wind up doing, I hope you have a fun, safe trip!
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  #48  
Old 03-21-2017, 02:58 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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My wife and I did a two-week driving vacation to the West Coast and back (we live in Chicago) for our 10th anniversary, in 2002. We went from Vegas to Yosemite (through Tioga Pass) in a fairly long day's drive (Google Maps suggests it's about 400 miles / 7 hours), but what I mostly recall is that there was a whole lot of nothing on the way, and that we had to make sure to stop for gas when we could.
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  #49  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:02 PM
drewder drewder is online now
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One suggestion if you are trying to visit as many national parks as possible is that the National Park Service has a passport book they sell and stamps you can get at each park. It makes a great souvenir and reminder of your trip, plus the next time you visit you can fill it up more.
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  #50  
Old 03-21-2017, 03:07 PM
chacoguy chacoguy is offline
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Originally Posted by Pitchmeister View Post
Hello, Dopers!


Day 8 - (this one's crazy, maybe...) tour Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, stay somewhere (big question mark number two)

Day 9 - Antelope Canyon, take a photo at Horseshoe Bend, go to Grand Canyon Village





2) We're unsure where to rest between Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon. Looking at the map we don't see any obvious spots. Should we just get some motel by the side of the road (if there is one?) or can you think of an actual destination?
Don't plan on spending a lot of time at Bryce, it's basically overlooks. Bryce to Arches is about four hours driving. Arches can be seen in about 90 minutes if you don't get out of the car; there's LOTS of hiking though. After that, I would suggest the Island in the Sky at Canyonlands N.P.. There's hotels in Moab, Kayenta and Page, but that's about it.
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