My partner and are are planning a bit of a road trip around Western USA. Leaving UK in early July we want to fly into LA, hire a car then hit the road for the next 10 weeks, flying back out of LA.
We have done a bit of research and plan to drive up the Pacific Highway (via Yosemite) up to Seattle then come back down via Montana and into Wyoming and Utah before heading to Las Vegas and back to California. I have some guide books but am looking for advice on must see place or routes or recommendations from locals for places to visit off the beaten track.
Although we plan to do some camping, i am worried that the cost of accommodation could really add up - so any advice on reasonable hotel / motel chains that can help keep the cost down also appreciated.
This will be our first time to west coast of USA and very excited! Any advice people can give to improve our trip would be fantastic.
10 weeks, wow I am envious. You will see so many wonders in that time.
For some ideas on routes you could check out the ones I have done with my family over the years on http://www.uk-2-usa.com/routes.html. From this page you can see everywhere I've been except a recent holiday in the northern rockies which is not written up yet. From that holiday I would recommend Glacier National Park - Montana, Little Bighorn Battlefield - Southern Montana / Northern Wyoming (not sure where the state lines is) and Craters of the moon - Idaho.
For cheap accommodation check out Super 8 and Motel 6 as big chains, but in the smaller places you will find the 'Mom and Pop' motels can be cheaper still.
Do it in an RV - the amount of time spent looking for motels will add up. In an RV you turn up, plug in and chill out!
I currently live in Portland, Oregon on the Oregon/Washington State line, but I also know California quite well. Your plan is good, but it does cover a HUGE area! At least you are wise to plan 10 weeks for this adventure. As far as Yosemite is concerned - very beautiful, but the waterfalls are at their best in Spring, and it is usually extremely crowded in mid-Summer (caution there). One point you should check out is the fantastic Tioga Pass in Yosemite where you cross (at 10,000 ft) into the mountains of Nevada - only open for a few months in mid-Summer due to heavy snow (you shouldn't pass that up!)
You could then drive up to Reno, Nevada and into the mountains again crossing back into California at Lake Tahoe (Donner Pass) - another beautiful route.
As long as you're going north to Seattle too, don't fail to see the Victoria-Vancouver area in British Columbia as well as the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound (a spectacular area).
To cross into Montana means crossing some pretty high mountains, and from there south to Wyoming and Utah is a very tough drive (I've never done this route) - this will be difficult, and you should research this very well!
Utah from Salt Lake City into Las Vegas and LA will be monotonous desert and hills. Personally, It might be better to restrict your trip to Pacific coastal areas, but it's your trip! As I said B4, this is one HUGE area, and a great deal of driving!!! To rent an RV would cost a fortune in gasoline alone.
My best suggestion is to restrict your trip to one region (either Southwest: S. California, S. Nevada, Utah and Arizona or Northwest: N. California, N. Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia).
My commercial suggestions:
sounds like an interesting trip! (bring a pile of cash!)
In addition to the econolodge, consider also the Clarion/Hampton chain and the Motel 6 chain and the La Quinta chain of hotels. All of these are very nice and yet reasonably priced. Just google the names to get the websites.
Hope you enjoy your trip across the pond.
If you get a chance to get out to the National Parks near Las Vegas (Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Monument Valley, Sedona area, Mesa Verde, Painted Desert, Canyon de Chelly), I highly recommend them.
Here's a very unknown spot near Lake Powell that you might also consider:
When going through Montana, don't miss Missoula, it's lovely! Also I highly recommend Ashland, Oregon and the surrounding area. As far as Cali goes, my favorite smaller places are San Luis Obispo, Davis, and the Hearst Castle/San Simeon. Cheers!
Visit Yellowstone National Park for sure. It will be hard not to spend a great deal on accomodations unless you plan to do a lot of camping. Even with the dollar weakening, it still packs a punch!
Glad you're coming on out here! Many suggestions on here are good! If you are at all interested in seeing the natural sites of California, I would definitely suggest trying to make it over to Yosemite National Park. It's really beautiful. There's a ton of great hiking, fishing, some REALLY fun camping spots, and a lot of nice people to meet. I would also suggest driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and stopping at the various small towns and cities along the way, including Big Sur, which is known for it's beautiful water and beaches, and massive trees (150 miles south of San Fransisco).
If you're looking for a California-style beach city to appreciate, I would have to suggest Santa Monica. Santa Monica has a great night life, and much to do during the day including the famous Santa Monica pier. Have fun!
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos or personal details please. ]
Folks have already mentioned most of the commonly toured places, but if you are interested in a truly unique experience, see if you can be in Hardin, Montana (Custer Battlefield) over the third weekend in August for the Crow Fair. It's the largest gathering (pow-wow) of Native Americans in the country...rodeo, 2,000 teepees, 600 drums, lots of fry bread and silver jewelry...but don't go if you have a problem being a minority...Have Fun!