Before the kids were born (or even thought about), we decided to travel with another couple of friends. We managed to agree on the destination and started prepping for a three-week West Coast USA Road Trip.
The prep period was surprisingly easy as we had the same cities in mind (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas) and wanted to include as many national parks as possible.
After driving for around 2500 miles, here is how our road trip looked like.
We stayed with a friend who lived in Mission. That was pretty convenient as we had easy access to a lot of different spots in San Francisco.
It was great to have three days in San Francisco, because there was a lot to do.
Some highlights of these three days were: visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, climbing the famous Lombard Street, taking a cable car, eating gigantic Mexican burritos, watching a carnival, shopping in Union Street and, of course, snapping Golden Gate Bridge.
We spent a day in Yosemite Park, visiting the different point of views. We also went to Mariposa Grove where we felt very tiny in comparison to the gigantic Sequoia trees. We ended the day by watching the sunset on Glacier Point where the panoramic views on Yosemite were breathtaking.
If you do have more time, you should consider a little detour by the Napa Valley.
Death Valley was a bit of a shock just after the lush forest in Yosemite. It was so hot when we visited (107°F – 41°C) but the colors and the dramatic scenery were fascinating.
Our favorite spot was the Zabriskie Point where we went twice, in the sunset on the first day and the sunrise the next day to shoot pictures.
We only spent one day at first but came back after visiting the national parks. Las Vegas was exactly as we had seen on TV: a packed Strip, luxurious cars, countless casinos, nightclubs… We are not usually fond of this type of atmosphere so we visited a couple of hotels, enjoyed a dip in the swimming pool and went shopping instead.
On our way to Grand Canyon, we stopped by the impressive Hoover Dam.
Then, we spent two days visiting Grand Canyon, and enjoying short hikes.
The Park was breathtaking, and we got to discover unique views during our Helicopter tour.
Antelope Canyon and Page
Upper Antelope Canyon was mesmerizing. We were lucky to witness the iconic light beams shining down between the canyon walls. We had enough room and time to take countless pictures.
After that, we headed to Page for a boat-ride on Lake Powell. This lake is definitely a must-see in the area. It looks like a maze of canyons and some areas are so narrow that you can not even turn around in the boat.
Horseshoe Bend was our last stop of the day, the views there were truly mind-blowing.
Goosenecks and Monument Valley
We stopped at Goosenecks State Park and snapped some pictures of the famous Mexican hats nearby, before reaching Monument Valley.
We really enjoyed being able to self-drive around the different view points and admiring the panorama seen in countless movies. We took hundreds of pictures.
Arches National Park
Just before Arches, we had a quick stop at Canyonlands (remember when I said we tried to visit as many parks as possible!).
We really enjoyed Arches and learning about the history of the park. We took some short hikes to see Landscape Arch or the Double Arch and the Windows Arch.
But we also went on a moderate one to see Delicate Arch (3 miles hike). It was definitely worth the effort.
Once in Bryce Canyon, we followed the Rim Trail for a bit, to access some of the points before going on the Navajo Trail and the Queens Garden Loop. We felt we were on a different planet with all the hoodoos and formations. The hike up is a bit challenging but seeing the hoodoos up-close and personal was worth it.
On our second time in Las Vegas, we booked a room at the Bellagio. After being given the keys, we took the elevator to our room to find it still not cleaned, with no sheets…
Thanks to that, we got upgraded to a suite with a stunning view and a tv in the bathroom. Needless to say that we decided to spend a lot of time in the room enjoying the water show!
After a long drive from Las Vegas, we took a break at The La Jolla Seals And Sea Lions and admired the animals.
We spent the next day at the San Diego Zoo and loved seeing the Pandas. It really deserves its place among the best zoos in the world.
Los Angeles was the only city where we decided to take a different path than our friends. They wanted to visit Universal Studios but we had been to the Orlando ones a couple of years before so choose to skip that.
We headed downtown Los Angeles to see the Staples Center, the Financial District and the incredible Walt Disney Concert Hall, before visiting Chinatown and El Pueblo.
Then we went for the touristic spots in Hollywood, wandered around in Rodeo drive and Sunset Boulevard, admired the mansions in Bel-Air, drove the famous Mulholland Drive and visited the Griffith observatory. We definitely recommend a stop there, for the amazing views it offers.
We also went to Malibu and Santa Monica from which we biked till Venice Beach.
The water was cold as we were in late May but I couldn’t miss the opportunity of swimming in the Pacific!
A lot of people in our entourage, that have been to LA didn’t seem to enjoy the city, but we really did! So keep an open mind and check it our for yourself.
On our way back to San Francisco, we chose to follow the 450-mile iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Although it was a very long drive, the uninterrupted views of the Ocean were definitely astonishing.
The next day we went to Alcatraz and enjoyed learning about the history of this emblematic prison.
And that was it for our three-week West Coast USA road trip. We loved seeing so much nature, hiking in the parks and visiting famous cities. But we still want to go back with the kids and include Yellowstone.
Have you been to the West Coast? What’s your favorite park or place?
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