Hi has anyone got a suggested itinary they could forward me.
I am flying into LA and out of san fran in July. We have three wks in total. We are into nature as well as activities but not really the clubbing sort. Although las vegas and grand canyon is on our list. Also is renting a car the best way or dodgy ?
Rent a car, definitely; in most of the USA it's unfortunately really the only realistic way of getting around. (Note that you'll be paying through the nose because you're not 25 yet; shop around beforehand - I think when I did this when I was I 23, I went with Alamo which had some special package deal for young drivers.)
Make sure to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1 (/101 at points)) from LA to SF. The entire stretch from Santa Maria up to Santa Cruz is truly gorgeous, with the high point being around Big Sur. Avoid Highway 5 at all costs, unless the only thing mattering is getting there fast; it's probably the most boring road in existence, and I say that having driven through the midwest.
Yosemite is a must do, too, I'd say. I can highly recommend a sunrise from Sentinel Dome (a half hour hike away from Glacier Point; walk it the day before so you know where you'll be going in the gloom of pre-dawn light), standing on top of the world with not another living soul around for miles. (Well, there'll be a few each day at Glacier Point, and someone else might even have had the same idea of going to Sentinel Dome, but that's unlikely, and even then it doesn't really diminish the feel.)
If you have the time, it might be nice to go north of San Francisco. The redwoods, Avenue of the Giants, Lassen Volcanic Park, maybe back down via Lake Tahoe (never been there myself, but I hear it's nice) and then on to Yosemite. (Or loop the other way 'round.)
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are worth a visit, too, but given the choice, I'd prefer to spend an extra day in Yosemite rather than visiting those. (Well... up to four or five days Yosemite, at least.) It's definitely worth the detour and loss of a couple of hours to drive through and do some short walks if you're approaching Yosemite from the south though.
So, as a wild stab at a suggested itinerary: LA -> Las Vegas -> Grand Canyon -> LA -> Pacific Coast Highway up to Santa Cruz -> Yosemite -> Lake Tahoe -> Lassen -> Redwoods -> Avenue of the Giants -> San Francisco.
I think that should fit rather nicely in three weeks, with 2-3 days each at the National Parks, and still enough time to see San Francisco, Santa Cruz and other interesting cities along the way as well. (LA specifically is not an interesting city. Spend a day walking off the time difference and see Hollywood and such so you can say you've been there, but then move on.)
I also hear that Joshua Tree National Park (desert area east of LA) can be really pretty. Again, never been there myself, but you might try and fit it in.
[ Edit: Edited at Jun 25, 2006 8:58 AM by Sander ]
Thanks thats really helpful, i never thought about driving up the coast as all other itinaries do a loop from LA-Las Vegas-San fran. Cool thanks again.
I would in general agree with Sander. Only alternate opinion: Yosemite is very over-run, and if you are a naturalist it might be a little disapointing to see how the people treat the land there.
You could also keep going up the coast to Eureka - the coast is rugged and stunning in the northern section.
I agree that Los Angles is vapid, and I live there (because of our jobs), but if you have a need to come down- we can give you some local advisement.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is a good deal.
Have a great time!
Oh yes, Kim is right; the more accessible parts of Yosemite are very busy, especially that time of year. Give the valley floor a miss, and set out on hikes early in the day so you won't see the crowds.
Here are a couple of routes I have done with my Family in California
These may give you some ideas of what to see and how to get there.
Specifically when driving the coast route, I suggest you take Hwy 1 from Santa Monica to Oxnard/Ventura area, then take Hwy 154 over the hill from Santa Barbara, or drive up 101 to Buellton, but in either case cut over to Solvang in the valley to see an old Scandinavian town. Then go north to San Luis Obispo on Hwy 101, and from there take Hwy 1 along the coast all the way up to Santa Cruz--stopping in Cambria, visiting Hearst Castle (make sure you buy tickets ahead of time), Carmel, Monterey,and taking the 17 mile drive south of Monterey (turn off at the Pebble Beach exit).
Another thing to do is to visit a winery or two along the way.
The best ones are in the Napa Valley/Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco, north of Santa Barbara near Buellton, or on the road between Paso Robles and the ocean (east of Cambria). If you want to go to these last ones, instead of taking Hwy 1 out of San Luis Obispo, continue north on 101 to Paso Robles, then turn west on 46 to the coast. The wineries are there along Hwy 46 within the first 15 kilometres after getting onto this Highway. P.S. Don't drink and drive, though.