California on the road: our itinerary
We started our journey from SFO and ended it in LA, giving space to the nature between these 2 different cities; of course you can do the opposite according to flight prices and your needs.
The time given to each stop and the one to cover the distance between them have been designed with 2 things in mind:
1) enjoy the journey, so we never wanted to drive more than 4 hours per day to go from one stop to another. We preferred to see less instead of covering longer distance to see more
2) spend at least one day at the National Parks, by sleeping close to them and start the visit early in the morning until late afternoon before reaching the next hotel.
SAN FRANCISCO, California
3 days and 2 nights. We arrived here on 13th August early afternoon and after leaving our luggage at the hotel we immediately started exploring the city. Check our SFO quick guide here
Distance: about 4 hours from SFO, 1 night.
A small town located not so far from Yosemite Park entrance, often used as halfway stop in many travel itineraries.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California
Distance: 1 hour
Arriving early in the morning at the park entrance is highly recommended: we bought our Annual Park Pass at the Info Point and checked the park map where the main trails are indicated according to difficulty levels.
The park is well organized with free shuttles reaching out the main attractions and view points and there are several useful water bottle filling stations.
Our tip: we suggest you to bring some water bottles in this trip; you'll find filling stations almost everywhere, also at the hotels floors and at restaurants and it will be useful to have enough water with you while driving for hours in the middle of nowhere.
We went for ‘Lower Falls’ trail, quite an easy one to the waterfalls; in the afternoon we challenged ourselves with the less easy ‘Mirror Lake’ trail, a 25-minute nice trail going up for a bit till a lovely lake.
Don't miss to see El Capitan and the Half Dome, you can take a shuttle there if you are too tired for further trails.
Distance: 2.5 hours, 1 night.
The perfect place to have some rest after an intense day at Yosemite Park.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, California
Distance: 1.5 hour until Ash Mountain Entrance (recommended) - Park Pass valid
Once you get to the Ash Mountain Entrance it will take about one hour to reach the heart of the park through a panoramic road up to 4000 feet with a view on the Sierra Nevada and the chance to get in touch with the local fauna. The main attraction of the park? The General Sherman Tree, the largest known tree on Earth.
We also suggest to go for the ‘Congress Trail’, a wonderful loop trail of 1 hour among the giant sequoias. Staring upwards, all the time.
Distance: 2 hours, 1 night.
After visiting Sequoia National Park all day, we moved to our hotel in Bakersfield in the late afternoon for another halfway stop of our road trip.
DEATH VALLEY, California/Nevada
Distance: 3 hours - Park Pass valid
This is the day we decided to drive the most, from Bakersfield to Las Vegas through the Death Valley. It will take 3 hours to take the main street touching all the points we wanted to visit (HW 190) and then other 3 hours to reach Las Vegas, taking into account all the stops along the way to stare at the unreal Death Valley.
Something you can't absolutely miss.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada
Distance: 3 hours, 1 night.
With the Death Valley in our eyes and hearts we come to Las Vegas officially changing State and entering Nevada. One word to describe this colorful and noisy circus in the desert: freaky.
Luxury hotels with endless corridors covered by runner carpets, huge and crowded brightly-lit arcades open 24/7 (at 7 am too), any kind of restaurants; people wearing costumes in the streets, lights, sounds and weird things that will make you smile. One night in Vegas deserves the Caesar's Palace. And in case you're wondering, 'that' Caesar did not live here (cit.)
Distance: 4 hours, 1 night.
Changing State again, this time entering Arizona. It will be hard to forget the color palette of this place, from red to burgundy, our favourite shades.
After a quick stop at the hotel we have a walk at Lake Powell Wahweap Marina: here you can book a cruise, a boat tour or some water sport lessons. Park Pass is valid to enter, no additional fee.
But we have come so far for 2 reasons: see the Horseshoe Bend (at sunset) and visit the Antelope Canyon (the next morning, with a tour online booked months before) - keep reading
GRAND CANYON, Arizona
Distance: 2 hours - Park Pass valid
Driving here from Page we decided to explore the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park; recommended entrance: Desert View Drive, from 64.
We spent a couple of hours here: map in our hands, we used the free shuttles to move around the park and reach the main view points on the huge canyon.
Distance: 2 hours, 1 night.
There is no complete USA on the road trip without touching at least once the most popular road of USA and maybe of the whole world: the legendary Route 66. We have chosen to stay in the small town of Kingman as halfway stop because literally crossed by the Route and completely devoted to it! Writings everywhere, dedicated historical monuments and 50s diners just make it unique.
ROY’S MOTEL & CAFE Amboy, California
Distance: 2.5 hours
We stopped at Roy's on our way to LA. A former diner and gas stop in the past, now just a ghost shop selling souvenirs and the non-alcoholic Route Beet, literally ‘in the middle on nowhere’. Perfect to take some pics next to the vintage gas pump, under the historical big sign and on the boiling asphalt next to those 2 white figures.
The lady at the cash register asks for more info about our action cam, it seems she has never seen one and tells us that ‘Amboy’ stands for ‘American Boy’. I can still hear her laughing with that friendly American accent.
LOS ANGELES, California
Distance: 3.5 hours from Roy’s
5 days and 4 nights in our last stop, the city of angels.
We have chosen to stay in Studio City, Hollywood in a hotel close to the Universal Studios, the perfect compromise to reach the main attractions. The truth is there is no perfect area to stay in LA: you'll find traffic and chaos everywhere, you'll drive for hours to go anywhere and you'll struggle to find parking every day. Apart from that, we would gladly buy a house with garden in Beverly Hills today. Check our our LA quick guide here