have car, will travel
August 29, 2006 6:45 AM   Subscribe

What is a good LA > Vegas > San Fran roadtrip itinerary that incorporates some national park visits?

I'll be doing a roadtrip in November from LA (Victorville) to Vegas then eventually end up in San Fran on the 16th. We have 10-11 days available and aside from spending a couple nights in Vegas we would like to visit some of the fantastic state and national parks in the area. Death Valley, Bryce, Zion and the Canyon all look interesting but I'm not sure what is feasible given the time available, distances involved and the weather that time of year.
posted by cwhitfcd to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Joshua Tree is nice and only an hour or so from Victorville.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:49 AM on August 29, 2006

There is a nice detour through the Mojave National Preserve - Baker to Primm. Worth it.
posted by A189Nut at 7:36 AM on August 29, 2006

Bryce and Zion are both pretty close to LV, especially if you have a heavy foot.

For the grand canyon, consider a chopper tour. they're really sweet.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:43 AM on August 29, 2006

LA -> Vegas -> San Fran roadtrip would be perfect for a King's Canyon NP and Seqoia NP trip. Visit the Ansel Adams Wilderness - good stuff.
posted by rlef98 at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2006

If I could piggy-back, I'd be interested hearing about the Golden Gate Recreation Area north of SF, particularly from an approaching it from Reno NV perspective. I'll be there in 2 weeks.
posted by cardboard at 9:44 AM on August 29, 2006

I just spent a weekend at Zion National Park and it was awesome - it's about 2 hours away from Las Vegas. I found my time there more enjoyable than the grand canyon, but maybe that's just me. I got to hike through a narrow cavern river as seen here. Highly recommended.
posted by escher at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2006

About 90 minutes out of Vegas is Valley of Fire State Park, and it's quite lovely at sunset. Highly recommended.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:00 AM on August 29, 2006

I recommend Mono Lake, near Lee Vining, CA. The tall volcanic tufa structures are other-worldly. It's a must see, especially if you're a Pink Floyd fan. (Directions)
posted by parilous at 10:16 AM on August 29, 2006

I can attest that Zion is pretty wonderful. I was there a few weeks back. However, it is more like three hours away from Vegas not two.
posted by mmascolino at 10:17 AM on August 29, 2006

Laws Museum in Bishop, CA
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2006

Seconding Mono Lake, especially at sunset.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2006

In November, all of the passes across the Sierras will be closed, unless you drive up to Tahoe. So that means if you want to end up in San Francisco, you're going to have to go via Tahoe, or else stick to the western side of the Sierras. This means you will inevitably have to double back on yourself a little bit, going NE from LA to Vegas, then back west again to get to the right side of the sierras.

The time it will take you depends how you drive, and how much time you like to spend in each place. How about LA - Palm Springs - Joshua Tree - Vegas - Zion - Bryce - Vegas - Death Valley - Bakersfield - King's Canyon - Yosemite - San Francisco.

I've done pretty much that route before and it was awesome. You could fit in the grand canyon if you took a loop around from Bryce back to Vegas, but it may add too much time. Also, don't stay in Bakersfield unless you absolutely have to.
posted by Joh at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2006

Take 395 up the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains and you'll see some spectacular scenery instead of a boring interstate highway. Others have already mentioned the beautiful Mono Lake and the very cool Laws Museum just outside of Bishop, California.

Additionally you can visit the Bodie State Historic Park, an old gold mining town turned ghost town. You can then hop onto Highway 120 over the Tioga Pass and into Yosemite National Park. From there it's a relatively easy 4 hour drive to San Francisco.

Finally, if you plan it right, you can go north out of Las Vegas and cut across into California through Death Valley National Park and then hook up to the 395. Careful though as there are long stretches of road with no services and it gets very, very hot during the day.

This is not a quick way from Vegas to SF, but it is incredibly scenic and a lot of fun. We did it in May and had a blast!

Oops, on preview I see you're going in November so as Joh points out, the Tioga Pass will be closed. Nonetheless you can still take this route, skipping Yosemite and cutting across to SF via Lake Tahoe.
posted by birdsong at 1:36 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

There are all kinds of hot springs along the Sierras, especially around Mammoth. Highly recommended.
posted by fshgrl at 10:36 PM on August 29, 2006

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