west coast

Astonishing vastness

Hereafter you will find an outdoor-lover itinerary for the West Coast including gorgeous National Parks as well as L.A. and San Francisco. 

West Coast in 29 Days!

May 2018: Hello, Bonjour and Hey from a four weeks travel route around the West Coast. You can find some ideas here which itinerary fits you best and what you would like to discover along this route. Prepare yourself for the stunning Grand Canyon spreading until the horizon, crazy cities for the rich and famous as well as colorful canyons below and above the ground. Both Antelope Canyons are worth visiting and I couldn’t choose between them.

Short summary:

  • Length – 29 days / 28 nights
  • Total mileage – ca. 2.150 miles
  • Vehicle – 2WD SUV sufficient
  • Road conditions – mostly well tared
  • Accommodation – Airbnb, Motel / Hotel / Camping
  • Highlights – Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell

If you have four weeks of vacation and you are looking for an outdoor fun experience that doesn’t lack big city vibes – the West Coast tour is a perfect fit for you. This itinerary can be easily shortened if needed; it’s up to you to decide what you want to skip. In the States, the hotel booking works really well through the portal Hotwire, where you can choose a motel or hotel category and will be surprised with one of four possibilities given in each category. This could save you some money.

L.A. – San Diego drive about 130miles; 2hr 30min

Day 1 – 2: After landing in L.A. (LAX) pick up your SUV close to the Airport station and drive about 130miles; 2hr 30min south to San Diego. Start your vacation with one night in San Diego where you can book spontaneously your accommodation via Hotwire. Enjoy two days of maritime city life while exploring Coronado Island. “Olàlà crêpes” is a good place for breakfast, offering authentically French crêpes.

San Diego – L.A. drive about 130miles; 2hr 30 min

Day 3 – 5: A short drive to La Jolla, 30min away from San Diego, is directly on your way to L.A. Enjoy the awesome view towards the endless ocean, where plenty of sea seals and sea lions play or just doze at the waterfront. For water lovers you can book a kayaking tour onsite to explore the caves for 2 hours or descend 145 steps from a small kiosk leading directly into the cave and to the waterfront. During the later afternoon you can then continue the rest of your driving towards L.A, Hollywood that should take another 2 hours for the remaining 120 miles before reaching the glory of L.A. – Hollywood! Taking an Airbnb is a good option for three nights, which gives you plenty of time to explore Beverly Hills, The Walk of Fame, the Griffith Observatory, the Getty Center or even Santa Monica Pier.

L.A. – Santa Barbara drive about 90miles; 1hr 30 min

Day 6: will bring you to Santa Barbara once you have explored the city of Angles to its fullest. During the day you can book through Hotwire a Motel in Santa Barbara, Kimpton Goodland could be an option. Once you will depart from L.A. don’t miss little Malibu and its beach. A very windy city, build along the beach just in front of the rolling mountains at the backside of the road that is home for lots of surfers.

Santa Barbara – Grover Beach drive about 80miles; 1hr 30min

Day 7: You could wander around in the cute city center and admire the biggest fig tree in the States, get lost in shopping or enjoy a care-free walk along the beach nearthe Santa Barbara Pier (Stearns Wharf). Close to the little harbor of Santa Barbara you could even spot some sea lions bathing in the sun. Afterwards, your driving route will still follow route 101 for a next overnight stop at Grover Beach. Along the way you will drive automatically through Solvang a cute little Danish town, where you can get most likely the best American bread that could compete with German bread (the bakery closes at 6pm). For the overnight accommodation, Airbnb is a quite good option to enjoy this tranquil place at Grover Beach

Grover Beach – Monterey drive about 150miles; 3hr 30min

Day 8: If you can’t withstand American shopping malls the Pismo Shopping mall can take up a whole day of activity resulting in plenty investments. Afterwards, head further North on the scenic route 101. While driving this section enjoy the view, take time to pause every now and then. It is by far most the best part of this route with gorgeous views on the ocean and short hiking trails towards the waterfront winding through thick green grass. You will pass by San Simeon, a splendid little town at the waterfront with a shoreline full of huge sea elephants that are quite lazy. Definitely take a rest here to relax while relishing an outstanding sundowner at the ocean. On your way along the coast, you could book through Hotwire a motel in Monterey; Days Inn by Wyndham is alright.

Monterey – San Francisco drive about 120miles; 2hr

Day 9 – 12: A good option is to start with a short drive off to Carmel by the sea that is just close by. It’s a gorgeous little art town with an oceanfront and nice views. From here you can head towards Pebbles beach to enter this scenic drive (10USD$) or you head towards Pacific Grove a butterfly lovely town with beautiful views on the ocean. After a lunch, head for the big city of San Francisco. Airbnb is a good option for San Francisco. You will most likely need to get a parking permit for about 6USD$ per day (Saturday / Sunday are free) in order to have a slight chance to find a parking space. 4 nights in this lively city is plenty of time to visit Golden Gate Bridge, admire the Painted Ladies, enjoy a stunning view from Coit Tower or relax in the remarkable old cable car. To enjoy a great night view of San Francisco from a roof top bar, the Hilton cityscape bar on 46th floor is a good option. Getting around in the city with the Ford bikes is a fun option. Ashbury Heights or The Castro district are great areas for restaurants or bars at night. If you are more into hiking, try some trails at Lands’ End with great views on the Golden Gate Bridge. When opting more for a visit to Alcatraz, be advised to book well in advance your tickets as they are sold out quickly for months. A visit to Lombard Street is worth the view it offers before the steep, hairpin turns lead you down the hill.

San Francisco – Yosemite National Park drive about 170miles; 3 hr 15min

Day 13 – 14: Off on the road again heading east towards half dome Valley, Yosemite National Park. You will pass through nice landscapes, rolling hills and also lakes in the Mountains. You can opt here for a tented accommodation. I recommend a minimum of 2 nights to have time for some great hiking trails, such as Mirror Lake or the more adventurous Half Dome Hike. Also Yosemite falls are a nice option to get a splendid view of the water falling down the rocks and offering a short hiking trail to a point called “falls view” and another point that leads directly to the lower falls. If you are very lucky you might have the chance to spot a bear in the park, but more commonly seen are mule deer, squirrels and birds.

Yosemite National Park – Bakersfield drive about 200miles, 4hr

Day 15: on your way to exit through the south exit of Yosemite, you can do short hikes e.g. El Capitan, before heading south to Bakersfield. Airbnb is a good option for this overnight stop.

Bakersfield – Lake Mead, Boulder drive about 310miles; 4hr 45min

Day 16: Another longer drive is ahead to Lake Mead in Nevada. On your way you will pass by Stallion springs agreat desert landscapes with gravel roads. At Lake Mead there is a lake overview parking lot to enjoy a sundowner. Sands Motel of Boulder city is a good option if you wish to see Hoover Dam at the next day.

Boulder – Grand Canyon drive about 250miles; 3hr 45min

Day 17: Another long drive today to the Grand Canyon. Tusayan is a great option to stay for 1 night and from here you can take a bus to the Tourism Center where all hiking trails start. The blue bus line takes you to angel’s trail. The red bus line goes to the Hopi point that is great for sunset. If you are lucky you can spot a few free-roaming elks. You can either do some other hiking trails in the Canyon or take a helicopter flight to experience the stunning Canyon and the amazing Colorado River size from the sky. If you wish to hike through the Canyon from South Rim to North Rim and back, one night will be not sufficient, you should plan at least 2 or 3 nights.

Grand Canyon – Monument Valley drive about 180miles; 3hr15min

Day 18: From the Canyon it is a 3,5 hours’ drive to get to the wild Monument Valley on which you will drive forabout 30 miles on gravel road with gorgeous views. Next goal directly on your way to Monument Valley could be the Navajo National Monument where you will be driving through a beautiful red sandy road for about 10 miles. Once you have arrived, you can walk to the monument and admire the whole town that was established in a cave in the 1300 years. From here you are close to a camp ground just outside the Monument Valley which is perfect for 1 night. You could still do the scenic drive with a stunning view and amazing rock formations in the Valley. Driving around the loop in the Valley at sunrise is highly recommended, most likely time span to spot some wild mustangs. There are a few hiking trails with epic views and a riding place at Dinéh Trailrides in the Valley to relish you between the splendid rock formations.

Monument Valley – Page drive about 130miles; 2hr

Day 19 – 21: Off to Page towards Horseshoe Bend with a breathtaking view that really is at its best as the sun sets down. On Hotwire you can check for a great motel deal; Days Inn is fine. Allow yourself 3 nights here to explore the area and visit the Glen Canyon, hike to the hanging garden, rent a jet ski or SUP on Lake Powell, do a full day boat trip to Rainbow bridge, or book a tour for the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. These tours need to be booked well in advance to get the best time spot around noon. You can also do your own Canyon hiking if you take an SUP and paddle for about 1,5 hours to a spot where you can enter the Canyon from the Lake. The Wahweap Look out Point in the National Park of Lake Powell offers nice beach view, if you would like to rest for a bit.

Page – Bryce Canyon drive about 150miles; 2hr 30min

Day 22 – 23: Today your route will bring you to Bryce Canyon, where the Best Western Ruby’s Inn is a good place to stay for 2 nights. You can exercise on the many hiking trails such as Queens garden, Navajo Loop trail and Peek-A-Boo Loop that really offers epic sceneries or book a horse riding tour to experience the Canyon. During the evening you could join a rodeo show close by, adore the famous amphitheater within Bryce Canyon or just do a stargazing adventure.

Bryce Canyon – Zion National Park drive about 130miles; 2hr 30min

Day 24 – 25: Today will be the Zion National Park waiting for you, where Majestic View Lodge is an awesome hotel to spend the next 2 nights, offering a great view on the mountains. You can drive into the park and take shuttle to number 6 stop to hike the famous Angels Landing trail, Mooney Falls, Watchman’s trail or opt for an amazing 14 miles Riverwalk „The Narrows“ inside the Virgin River for one day.

Zion National Park – Las Vegas drive about 180miles; 3hr 30min

Day 26 – 29: Las Vegas is waiting for you today. On your way you can drive through the Valley of Fire State Park that you should arrive at after a 2,5 hour drive.  White Domes road offers magical views accross the valley and its rock formations. The scenic loop comes across impressive rocks as well with some cave paintings that are over 4.000 years old. If it is not to hot hiking is a great possibility to explore the park. Afterwards, you can leave the park via the west exit to head to Las Vegas which is another 45 min drive from here. Another shopping possibility is awaiting for you north of Las Vegas the Premium Outlet. The following 3 nights could be spend in the Gold Coast Hotel. From here a shuttle brings you to the Linq & High roller. You can stroll through different Hotels such as the Venetian Hotel with the Grand Canal, the Mirage hotel with its volcano show during the evening hours, Caesar’s Palace to enjoy the nice pool area or watch the great fountain outside of Bellagio hotel. From the Eiffel Tower you have an amazing sunset view behind the Bellagio hotel. Walking along the Strip is just fascinating by itself to see the craziness of Las Vegas. Enjoy your last night of a great vacation before you will be flying back home on the next day. Bye bye, salut and see ya

If you have any questions, contact me or check out my advices for the west coast on Instagram.