We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

California road trip

Level Contributor
4 posts
22 reviews
Save Topic
California road trip

Hi there, I’m planning to do a road trip around California in just two weeks and just wanted to ask for some advice and feedback on what I’ve put together so far.

5 days in long beach, 1 night in ontario, 1 night in phoenix, (driving through grand canyon) 1 night in jacob lake, 1 night in st george (going to zion national park and bryce anyon), 3 nights in vegas, 1 night in death valley, 2 nights in yosemite, 2 nights in san fran, 1 night in santa maria and then drive back to los angeles to fly home.

Does this amount of driving seem do-able? Any suggestions on doing it differently? Any must see/ places to go on the way? I would appreciate any tips!

Thanks.

Mentioned in this post
10 replies to this topic
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,787 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: California road trip

Why the 5 days in Long Beach? What is there that you want to see or do? Why Ontario? What is there that you want to see or do? Why Phoenix? What is there that you want to see or do?

You can't actually "drive through" the Grand Canyon. You can drive through Grand Canyon National Park. What roads are you driving on that day?

You can't see both Zion and Bryce Canyon in one day. Too far apart. You would have to choose one or the other. Zion could be done as a day trip from St. George.

Your trip is two weeks from now... do you have lodging reservations for any of these places?

Mentioned in this post
San Francisco, Ca
Level Contributor
19,778 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: California road trip

I'm going to be really blunt (not trying to be rude, but to be 'real')... this trip needs to be re-thought. You've planned to stop in some places of limited tourist interest (and one potentially dangerous place -- Santa Maria). Other people started booking hotel rooms in Yosemite a year ago... you'll probably need to compromise on price, location or quality in order to find something at this late date. You don't allocate enough time for the California coast (particularly with the current road closure in southern Big Sur). Some of your routes don't make sense (you don't need to drive through Phoenix to get to the Grand Canyon).

So here's what I'd suggest to stay in more interesting places, use more efficient routes and allocate your time differently (assuming you have around 18 nights, based on your initial itinerary):

Day 1 - arrive LAX, 4 nights, hotel location to be determined based on what you want to see in the LA area, (but probably not Long Beach).

Day 5 - drive to South Rim, Grand Canyon, 1 night. If this is too long a drive, spend the night in Lake Havasu City, then continue to the Grand Canyon on Day 6.

Day 6 (or 7) - Drive to Las Vegas, 2 nights

Day 8 (or 9) - Drive to Death Valley, 1 night

Day 9 (or 10) - Drive to Yosemite National Park via Tioga Road, 2 nights (preferably in Yosemite Valley)

Day 10 (or 11) - Yosemite National Park

Day 11 (or 12) - Drive to SF, 3 nights

Day 14 (or 15) - Drive to Monterey, 2 nights

Day 15 (or 16) - Explore Big Sur, then return to Monterey

Day 16 (or 17) - Drive to Santa Barbara, 1 night

Day 17 (or 18) - Drive to LA prior to flight home

Yes, this route gives up the Canyonlands parks, but those are generally recommended as a separate trip or as part of a longer itinerary. Without spending all your time in a car (or removing some other stop), there's really not enough time to visit Bryce and Zion.

Mentioned in this post
Santa Maria
Santa Maria
California
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
Phoenix
Phoenix
Central Arizona, AZ
Long Beach
Long Beach
California
Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon South Rim
20,546 Reviews
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Tioga Road
Tioga Road
301 Reviews
Lee Vining, CA
Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley
5,830 Reviews
Yosemite National Park, CA
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
67,947 posts
122 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: California road trip

Hi

Oh dear.

It's not a California Road Trip.

What are your main goals for this trip?

Where do you already have reserved lodging? Most other summer travelers booked their lodgings months & months ago.

How much time do you want to spend driving and how much time enjoying the destination? Some folks just want to drive & drive & drive, stop for a photo or two, then drive & drive & drive. Some folks prefer to spend time enjoying a destination before moving on.

Mentioned in this post
Level Contributor
4 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: California road trip

Hey there,

Thanks for all the questions - sorry I didn't provide very much info!

Spending a few days in Long Beach because my brother has a gaming tournament.

Staying the night in Ontario because I'm going to a wrestling show.

I figured Phoenix would be a good place to stay so I could drop by Joshua Tree. I haven't really worked out what to do in Phoenix though.

Haha I won't be driving through the grand canyon, I actually booked one of those helicopter rides so I have that sorted :). Not too sure about which roads I'll be taking though. Do you have any recommendations?

You are correct, I'm not doing zion nation park and bryce canyon in one day. I wasn't very clear. I am going bryce canyon from jacob lake. Maybe try to catch sunset? The following day I was thinking of driving from st george on the way to vegas.

Yep I've booked accomm but if there's any other recommendations I'll make the adjustments :)

Thanks!

Mentioned in this post
Long Beach
Long Beach
California
Phoenix
Phoenix
Central Arizona, AZ
Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree
California Desert, CA
Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
67,947 posts
122 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: California road trip

Santa Maria is not a good choice for tourism. It is experiencing some troubles.

With the Hwy 1 closure and your very fast paced style of tourism, I recommend driving from San Francisco (abbreviated SF) to Monterey and then down Hwy 1 to some of the Best Bits. Then drive back to Monterey for the night. On the following day, drive to Salinas and then down Hwy 101 to Los Angeles. There is more info in the Top Questions on the right.

For your Arizona, Utah, and Nevada tourism you might repost on the multi-state Road Trips forum. Including details like lodging reserved will help.

Mentioned in this post
Santa Maria
Santa Maria
California
San Francisco
San Francisco
California
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Salinas
Salinas
California
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
California
Arizona
Arizona
United States
Utah
Utah
United States
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,787 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: California road trip

Phoenix is not close to Joshua Tree. Palm Srings, California is closer, about an hour from Joshua Tree. Twentynine Palms, California is even closer. Going to Phoenix would be going way out of your way.

I would suggest getting a map and marking on the map the destinations you want to see, then drawing a route which includes all those destinations, and that will help you avoid going out of your way. Change your lodging reservations if possible to lodging that is on your route. Stay near what you want to see.

For visiting Bryce Canyon, stay in Bryce Canyon, Utah, Tropic, Utah or even Panguitch, Utah.

Besides hotels or motels, consider alternatives such as camping, hostels or vacation rentals such as AirBnB, etc.

Note that Joshua Tree is hot at this time of year, Phoenix is hot at this time of year, Las Vegas is hot now and Death Valley is very hot at this time of year.

Edited: June 10, 2018, 10:16 pm
Mentioned in this post
Phoenix
Phoenix
Central Arizona, AZ
Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree
California Desert, CA
Twentynine Palms
Twentynine Palms
California Desert, CA
Utah
Utah
United States
San Francisco, Ca
Level Contributor
19,778 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: California road trip

>>I actually booked one of those helicopter rides so I have that sorted :)<<

Do read up on the destination for that helicopter ride... it's probably Grand Canyon West. While it has some nice views, it doesn't have the spectacular, iconic views that you've seen all your life (and which made you want to go there). Those are found at Grand Canyon National Park, from the South Rim.

Mentioned in this post
Grand Canyon South Rim
Grand Canyon South Rim
20,546 Reviews
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
LA
Level Contributor
11,200 posts
1 review
Save Reply
8. Re: California road trip

As mentioned above, this is a trip with too much road.

You don't mention what you want to do in these scenic sights, other than a helicopter tour of some part of the Grand Canyon. No mention of hiking or other outdoor activities.

You really need 2 nights in one place to experience one full day there. So the only hope you have of experiencing anything is one full day in Yosemite, one full day in San Francisco, and two full days in Las Vegas once you leave Long Beach.

That means that every other day will involve packing to move out of your accommodation. Getting gas, snacks, driving for 6-8 hours. Finding a place to stay, unpacking again, and having maybe 4 hours at some place before nightfall. If you don't have accommodations, that means you waste precious more time trying to find a place to stay and most likely being much farther from your intended place of interest than you wanted. Again, wasting time on a trip with far too little time.

.

This is essentially a tour of the gas stations and gas station bathrooms of the west.

As mentioned above, cut out the Utah portion entirely. Phoenix makes no sense at all in this trip. Drop that.

SFSusan has a pretty decent itinerary. Take a serious look at that.

Or get a Green Tortoise trip that might get you to some of these places but avoid the forced-march drives you'll have to do.

Mentioned in this post
San Francisco
San Francisco
California
Long Beach
Long Beach
California
Utah
Utah
United States
Phoenix
Phoenix
Central Arizona, AZ
Green Tortoise Hostel - San Francisco
Green Tortoise Hostel...
780 Reviews
San Francisco, CA
Carmel, California
Level Contributor
4,532 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: California road trip

How did you choose Jacob Lake which is over 2 hours from Bryce? Jacob Lake is only an hour from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon so maybe do that instead or stay closer to Bryce. We stayed in the town of Tropic last year and found it a convenient base. It was only 10-15 minutes to the entrance.

And Zion isn't "on the way" from St George to Vegas if that's what you mean.

Also don't stay in Santa Maria.

Mentioned in this post
Level Contributor
4 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: California road trip

Wow, thank you all so much for your advice! I really really appreciate it. It's all very constructive and I will definitely be making some changes :)

Thank you SFSusanW for a comprehensive itinerary. I've had a look at all the places you've suggested. I will look to book a few nights in Monterey and I won't be staying in Santa Maria. I had no idea that it was a dangerous place.

I am also looking at possibly cutting Phoenix, Lake Jacob and St George to make more time for other places and do less driving. Just looking at it briefly it looks like that will cut out at least 15 hours of driving.

I may have some difficulty changing my helicopter ride though because from memory there wasn't any flexibility with changing that so might be stuck with keeping that in the drive.

Thanks again so much. I have a big day of research.

Mentioned in this post
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Santa Maria
Santa Maria
California
Phoenix
Phoenix
Central Arizona, AZ
Reply to: California road trip
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted