Road trip suggestion

Discussion in 'Travel' started by constantin_milea, Jan 10, 2016.

  1. Hi.I live in New York City and plan to take a road trip with my two kids (10 and 12) in July for about two weeks.My plan is to fly from New York either to California or Arizona and the rent a car .I always do it at a slow pace stopping 1-3 days in more interesting places and moving around from there .I was thinking starting in San Francisco and going down to San Diego either on route 1 or making some detours to places like Yosemite or Joshua National Park,but I got very lost ,there are many many ways .Some ,like Death Valley looks too hot in July and probably Grand Canyon is extremely crowded .Maybe I find here some suggestions of nice little towns (for example along route 66) .
    I apologize being too vague ,I am not very familiar with the western US .Many thanks,
  2. Pretty much all of the places you have heard of in the west will be busy for the same reason you are travelling in July - school's out. It's just inevitable. Be thoughtful in your planning - the west has many, many places worth seeing, but it's easy to become so ambitious that you can spend way too much time in a car driving from one to the next - the west is very spread out.

    Will your sons enjoy hiking in a national park? It's a huge factor in choosing how much of your time should be spent in parks, and whether your guys would be happier at Disneyland. The LA area has Disney, Universal Studios, and Magic Mountain, to name a few, and amusement parks like this seem like good choices for 10-12 year olds.

    Glacier - on the Canadian border in Montana, unbelievable scenery, some wildlife, the park on the Canadian side is every bit as amazing if you have the passports to get there. You can fly in and out of Kalispell, MT. You could easily spend the whole 2 weeks here. But you should give it at least 3 full days in the park, excluding travel to and from.

    Yellowstone - my personal favorite. Lots of wildlife, thermal features you'll find nowhere else in the world. Another one that could take all 2 weeks (I've done it!). This also needs no less than 3 full days.

    Grand Teton - also known as Jackson Hole (the valley along side the mountains. Lots of wildlife, exceptional scenery (12-13,000 ft mountains with no foothills on the Jackson Hole side). Unless you really like to hike, this one will require 2-4 days. Hiking and horseback rising could fill 2 weeks.

    Zion - exceptional scenery, lots of hiking. Good for a few days.

    Bryce - geologic formations like nowhere else, easier hiking than Zion. Without hiking, one day with decent weather is adequate. Hiking could add a couple more days.

    Grand Canyon - go to the north rim, not the south. 90% of the park's visitors go to the south rim - the north side will be far less crowded. Mighty impressive hole in the ground, your first sighting of it is quite an experience. Worth a couple of days unless you would like to hike down into the park. That could add anywhere from 2 to 10 more days, depending on your camping plans.

    Death Valley - You're right that Death Valley will be too hot. It's an interesting to experience Death Valley's summer heat, but only for a few minutes. After that, it's just too hot to have fun.

    Yosemite - exceptional scenery, will be very busy, it may already be too late to get summer reservations inside the park, accommodations outside the park aren't especially close. Yosemite is one of those place that can capture your heart and mind - you could spend the whole summer there.

    CA Hwy 1 - the coastal highway has very good scenery and interesting towns along the way - there's some sightseeing in the Monterey area, San Simeon farther south -is that something your 10-12 year boys would enjoy for a day or 2?

    If you fly into one of the coastal cities in California and want to see some of the western parks, you're setting yourself up for some long distance driving. You might consider flying into Las Vegas. It's not a good destination by itself for a trip with kids, but it's more centrally located for going to southwestern parks like the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. Another option would be to fly into Salt Lake City because it's centrally located for going to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, Zion, Bryce, etc. Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone, etc get lots of summer visitors and will be busy, but they get even busier on weekends, so try to plan to be in them on weekdays if you can. Glacier and the Grand Canyon don't seem to get the same jump in park visitors on weekends.

    Hope this helps some. Each park has a web site that has lots of practical information that will help your planning. I recommend doing your research and making your choices by early spring, and make reservations. The parks are very popular and waiting too long can make reservations harder to get.
  3. First, D. Valley and Joshua will be unbearable in July....anywhere from 95-120+ degrees. Bob gave you a decent overview. You can do Grand Circle (or good part of it) in two landing in L. Vegas...and you could even add No. Rim of GC to it (I would)
    Another way is to do Rte 1 from SF to Central Coast....and then veer off to Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite & return to SF.
    I prefer more alternative spots (away from massive crowds) like the Redwoods, Lassen, Point Rayes, Crater Lake and various coastal locations.
    Overall tho, being a tourist season, you'd have to have a solid itinerary (+ reservations)....from which you may not have the luxury to deviate. So unless you give yourself more time at each location (or between), this could become quite stressful...and you'd not be recharging your batteries but working hard.
    Enjoy yer trip to the West.
  4. david_henderson


    On the basis that its important to stay reasonably cool, and that kids like the sea, have you considered driving from San Francisco to Seattle or even Vancouver. there's a decent mix of city and more remote. The crowds won't be entirely absent but won't be as bad as they will be at the big National Parks. And there is the opportunity to dive inland for a couple of days at a time to see places like Crater Lake , Shasta, Cascades/Mount Rainier, the Redwoods and so on for a bit of variety. You might find with kids that places with a mining heritage have more of a wild west feel today. Oregons beaches take some beating.
  5. You know your family and what they will like. If it was up to me, I would spend two weeks in the Yellowstone/Grand Tetons area. The geysers and other thermal features are fascinating. I don't know of any other place where you can see large herds of bison and elk. You stand a reasonable chance of spotting a bear or two and a few moose. If you are lucky, you will see or hear a wolf. On top of this, there are spectacular canyons and waterfalls. There are lots of hiking possibilities from casual walks to backcountry hikes. The Grand Tetons offer more scenery and hiking. I understand Jackson has grown since I was there (in 1994), but I hear that they still hold up the stage coach every evening. Jackson is also the place to make arrangements for Snake River rafts trips. There are scenic trips by the Tetons and white water trips in a canyon south of town. There are significant crowds in the summer, but it is manageable.
    Since I'm no longer constrained to school vacations, my next trip to Yellowstone will probably be in the winter. I enjoy cross country skiing and I'm told the geysers in the winter are even more spectacular.
  6. Many of the major destinations in the west/southwest are quite far apart. Distances may come as a surprise to visitors. So, for example, a "side trip" from the coast at Monterey to Yosemite is about 4 hours or so (I entered "Monterey to Yosemite" on Google and got several results, timed to park entrances so to the valley would likely add some time as well.) So a lot could depend on how tolerant of just plain driving the kids are in some stretches. Also, what their interests are. As noted, the low desert areas are almost certain to be too hot to be enjoyed. Even the higher elevation destinations can be hot. Both San Francisco and L.A. can be pretty entertaining for kids with some thought, there are multiple museums aimed at kids as well as amusement parks, etc. The drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles could easily occupy a couple of days. Monterey has a world class aquarium, and is pretty walkable, a waterfront area that is interesting. Rocky and sandy beach areas although the water is cold for simple water play. At the south end of 1 through Big Sur/San Simeon is Morro Bay and it's interesting with potential for kayaking, etc., on the bay, birding and nature as well as sea/landscape areas. L.A. has tons of things that could interest kids and adults, museums - natural and modern history from dinosaurs to space shuttles, Hollyweird, the Disney resorts.
    The Grand Circle around the Grand Canyon offers a lot, some areas will be hot. Vegas is a little less kid friendly than it was and daytime temps will be bad, but Zion, Bryce, the Page area (Antelope Canyon, Horsehoe Bend and Lake Powell can take up some time. South Rim and Flagstaff areas have numerous little landscape and historic/pre-historic sites, ruins, red rocks, train rides, etc.
    North from San Francisco on the coast then through redwoods, across to Mount Lassen, Mount Shasta, maybe to Crater Lake, less modern, more natural, probably somewhat less crowded than the southern/central part of Ca.
    One might need to ponder the possibility that the Tioga Pass may not be open depending on the extent and timeframe of the snowpack in the Sierra high country and potentially in other high elevation western parks although things are usually open by Memorial Day, this could be an unusual year.
  7. In Arizona, check out the Red Rock area around Sedona. Classic western scenery there, and the location for some classic western movies. There are jeep tours but you can also rent a jeep and head out on your own to be able to concentrate on photos.

    Who is going to watch the kids while you're out shooting pictures? Best light is at dawn and dusk -- can you leave them alone or will you drag them along? Are they willing to carry your tripod or will they complain the whole time like mine? Family can be either a huge help or a huge hindrance when trying to take serious pictures.
  8. An option that could be interesting photographically and fun for the kids would be to start out in San Francisco-spend a couple of days, then go to Monterey/Carmel; a world class aquarium, a beautiful California Mission Carmel and some great coastline between there and Point Lobos. A trip down Highway1 stopping to shoot Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, visit Hearst Castle, maybe staying in Cambria or San Luis Obispo. This section of the drive is very slow, but with great scenery.A drive down to Los Angeles maybe with a stop in Santa Barbara-both the Mission and Courthouse are great photo opportunities. In Oxnard turn off of the freeway and follow the Coast Highway (US 1)through Malibu and Santa Monica (avoid doing this on a Saturday or Sunday in July) into Los Angeles. Besides Disneyland, the beach areas such as Huntington, and Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach have some pretty beach scenes. I'm not too familiar with shooting around the San Diego area, but the cliffs around La Jolla come to mind. As was mentioned earlier, things are spread out in the West much more than on the East Coast
  9. I'd like to reiterate what others have said about heat. From northern California south to San Diego, the immediate coastline will usuallly have reasonable temperatures in summer, though the frequent fog can be chilly in the more northerly areas. As one goes inland average temperatures rise, to the point where they will be 90 F. or higher once you are some distance from the coast (20-30 miles, depending on inland penetration of coastal air). Still farther inland it'll tend to be in the 100s, and Death Valley in the 110s. My own preference in summer is to stay near the coast or get pretty high up into the mountains, say 6000-7000 feet or more, to avoid the heat.
    One idea would be to do the coastal trip Phil has suggested, then take U.S. 395 (or State Route 14 to 395) north to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. The latter leg can be a quick shot north to the Bishop or Mammoth Lakes areas, after which you can slow down and take side trips into the mountains. I particularly recommend State Route 168 west from Bishop, or Upper Rock Creek Road a bit to the north. It'll be crowded (lots of LA folks doing the same thing) but really beautiful, and once you get into the mountains a lot cooler than Yosemite Valley due to higher elevations.
    From that area you can take State Route 120 west into Yosemite National Park. You could even bypass the overcrowded Yosemite Valley and just enjoy wonderful and cool places like Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake (your kids will enjoy the beaches at the latter). Or instead, you could continue north on U.S. 395 and State Route 89 through beautiful mountain country, much of it uncrowded, north to Lake Tahoe, Sierra Valley, and Lassen Volcanic National Park. The last of these is a really family-friendly place which I certainly enjoyed as a 6- or 7-year old. Don't miss the geothermal features at Bumpass Hell which is an easy hike, and which a certain young child found absolutely fascinating over 50 years ago.
  10. Thank you very much for all these great suggestions.There are so many places mentioned that is hard to choose.I believe,though,based on the great replies that I will stay mainly on the coast either from SF to Seattle in the north or to the south .I will leave the fantastic canyons from Arizona and Nevada to another time .The kids are used to travel abuse,I dragged them everywhere from Africa to Guatemala -:) .
  11. If you get to Oregon, look for the Haystack Rock area along the coast near Tillimook/Astoria. Dramatic scenic stuff right along the road. And easy on the kids. Good to hear you have them well trained. :)
  12. Should you get to Monterey, you should probably check out Dennis the Menace Park. Unless they've gone completely modern and plastic, it was one of the first playground areas that went beyond the jungle gym and swings, etc., to climb-on/climb-in structures. Some of them would almost certainly not be acceptable these days. Rebar, expanded steel mesh, unprotected drops, a slick steel slide on a steep concrete dune, extra bars to allow climbing all over a steam locomotive.
  13. If you are driving north from SF into Oregon, make sure the kids take some dramamine. Hwy 101 is very twisty, but beautiful. You might want to investigate the Lost Coast area around Petrolia, CA. Crater Lake is a must-see, as is Mt. St. Helens. We love the northern Oregon coast better than the south and central parts, but that's just us. If you get as far as the mouth of the Columbia, go to the little town of Ilwaco, Wa, and have fish and chips at Ole Bob's on the embarcadero. Driving east up the Columbia River Gorge is beautiful, particularly the water falls. Have fun.
  14. I can make no suggestion, but I would like to mention jealousy here. Lucky you!
  15. Well it seems that you have got lots of suggestions regarding which place to visit with respect to your and your child's interests. I would like to suggest you on different domain altogether. Its about what kind of vehicle you should choose to go for such a trip. In my personal opinion, you should opt for vehicles such as campers and RVs or in common terms, a motor-home. It would add a sheer luxury and comfort in your trip. You would probably be much lesser tired while traveling with a motor-home. In my last trip, like the same way as your, asked for suggestions as to the kind of attractive places to visit. But ignored the point of type of vehicle to be used. The places I visited in San Francisco and to the whole western US were awesome but I was being too tired since I was traveling with my car.
    So its my pure suggestion to use your RV instead of a car or if you don't have the same then contact to any transporting rvs company which can ship the motor-home to your place. This way you could probably enjoy the whole journey experience; both sight seeing and traveling. Good luck for your present and future trips!

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