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The Insider’s Guide to USA Road Tripping – Nigel’s Route Suggestions

The Insider’s Guide to USA Road Tripping – Nigel’s Route Suggestions
September 10
08:00 2015

The Two-Week Tour

In part one of our Insider’s Guide to Road Tripping, we answered 5 of Nigel’s most asked questions regarding the planning of a road trip. Now it is time to put these tips into action and plan our route! There are literally thousands of options when it comes to possible routes for your road trip, depending on how much time you have and what your interests are. The first part of our itinerary is designed to take two weeks and is loosely based on our first road trip.

usa road trip

Stop 1: San Francisco, California for 3 Nights

Fly into San Francisco and see the beautiful ‘City by the Bay’ with The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz prison and its cable cars. I wouldn’t bother with a rental car in San Francisco as it’s easy to get around and parking your car can be a big problem as there are so many parking laws and restrictions in most areas. We learned the hard way when we discovered a ticket on our car, which was parked near our house overnight on a street that had street cleaners coming the following morning!

Stop 2: Sedona, Arizona for 3 Nights, Day Trip to the Grand Canyon

Visit beautiful Sedona and experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. I would recommend to take the 2 hour flight from San Francisco rather than spending 2 – 3 days just driving here. Pick up your rental car at the airport in Phoenix and take the 2-hour drive north to Sedona through saguaro-cactus-lined desert roads. The Grand Canyon is about a 2-hour drive from Sedona so it is possible to do a day trip. If you wanted you could spend 2 nights in Sedona and camp at the Grand Canyon for a night. Be aware however that you may need to reserve your campsite many months in advance as they are very popular, especially at weekends.

Stop 3: Monument Valley, Arizona for 1 Night

Monument Valley, on the border of Arizona and Utah, is a must see on any road trip of the South West. It is instantly recognisable from many movies from the Westerns of the 40s and 50s, starring John Wayne, to more recent movies. One night gives you enough time to see all the sights.

usa road trip

Top: Monument Valley & our view of San Francisco from the top of Lombard Street. Bottom: Hiking in Sedona and Telluride (Rocky Mountains)

Stop 4: Telluride, Colorado for 2 Nights

Monument Valley isn’t far from Colorado, so for something really different I would recommend the 3 to 4 hour detour to Telluride high in the Colorado Rockies for some truly amazing mountain scenery.

Stop 5: Page, Arizona for 1 Night

Head west again to the town of Page in Arizona. This will be the longest drive of your road trip, but I am sure you will think the detour to Telluride was worth it. Whilst Page itself isn’t particularly memorable, the spectacular Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell can all be reached within 10 minutes. One night should give you time to visit these unforgettable places before you leave in the late afternoon for the town of St George in Utah.

Stop 6: St George, Utah for 2 Nights

St George is the nearest large town to beautiful Zion National Park where it is easy to spend at least a full day enjoying its hiking trails.

usa road trip

Left: Cooling off under Rainbow Falls and a moment of rest at Crystal Lake (Mammoth Lakes). Right: Zion National Park & Lake Tahoe

Stop 7: Las Vegas, Nevada for 2 Nights

Your final 2 nights will be spent in Las Vegas which is about a 2 – 3 hour drive south from St George through desert canyon roads. As with San Francisco you don’t need a rental car in Las Vegas so you could return it before taking the short taxi ride to your hotel.

It Only Gets Better

Have longer than a fortnight? Lucky you! You will not get bored though and the following options are ideal if you are not limited to a two-week time frame.

Option 1: Sierra Nevada Bliss

If mountain scenery and adventure are your thing, then your options could perhaps include seeing the beautiful Sierra Nevada and Yosemite National Park. Instead of flying out of San Francisco, drive east to beautiful Lake Tahoe for a couple of nights before heading south to Mammoth Lakes and maybe even spend a day exploring the grandeur of Yosemite National Park.

Travelling south from Mammoth Lakes, you then have a number of options. Death Valley’s spectacular and surreal landscape is about a three-hour drive away, so you could spend a night there for a truly memorable experience and then travel on to Las Vegas for a couple of nights.

las vegas

You also have the option of visiting Palm Springs for almost guaranteed sun at any time of the year. Relax by the pool or be more adventurous and take the cable car into the mountains for cooler temperatures and hiking opportunities. Joshua Tree National Park is nearby. In the evening take the short drive to Pioneertown for America’s coolest road house, ‘Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace’, with live music and an authentic Wild West movie set adjacent to it.

Option 2: Beaches Galore

The famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH1) is one of America’s great journeys. You could include it in your journey by driving from San Francisco via Los Angeles to San Diego. Although it would be possible in theory to drive from San Francisco to LA in one day, I would recommend you include a stopover to give you time to fully appreciate the towns and scenery along the way. After spending a few days in LA and San Diego, head east to Las Vegas or Palm Springs.

Where to next?

From Las Vegas or Palm Springs you can do a round trip, which is a mini road trip in its own right. This portion of the trip would be an excellent option if you only had a week in total, as it takes in some of the best scenery you can find in the west. It includes the previously mentioned St George (for Zion National Park), Page (for Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon), Monument Valley, Sedona and the Grand Canyon. You can then travel back to Las Vegas along part of Route 66 and stop off at the desert town of Seligman where the spirit of Route 66 lives on!

Usa road trip

Top: Driving Pacific Coast Highway & at Pioneertown near Palm Springs. Bottom: Malibu & Santa Monica Pier (LA area). Centre: The Grand Canyon.

No matter where you go, you should be able to find accommodation to suit every budget. There are some great deals available in the low seasons, which are still great times to visit. In places like Palm Springs this tends to be in the peak of the summer in July and August, but beware as the temperatures are extremely high which makes it difficult to do anything but staying beside your swimming pool!

Wherever you go and whatever you do you will come back with memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy!

Read Most Asked Questions on USA Road Tripping here!


About Author

Martha and Nigel - BayBreezin'

Martha and Nigel - BayBreezin'

Martha and Nigel are an international couple who live in beautiful Northern Ireland. Martha is German, Nigel is 100% Norn’ Irish and they met when Martha spent a summer working in Sweden, a country they share a love for. After several trips to London, Germany and Prague together, Martha finally settled in Northern Ireland in 2010. They have since travelled large parts of Scandinavia, the US and Ireland together, as well as Portugal and Spain. Nigel has developed into a real travel expert, always finding the best deals, routes and places to stay. They got married on the Beach of Coronado Island in May 2015.

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