Tuesday, 31 December 2013

USA South-West

We were in the south-west for 21 days. We, that is my family and me, in total 4 persons. Within the three weeks we crossed California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada that we traveled all by car. The trip started in Los Angeles and ended in San Francisco. You cannot believe how often I look at the photos, missing the moments when I climbed a mountain or ate a delicious slice of pizza at the sea. To give you some advice and spots that you should absolutely see when planning such a trip, I compiled my experiences.

For more pictures please click here.

Day 1-3: Los Angeles
We started our journey in Los Angeles. I listed all my favourite places in a different post: From beaches to downtown to Hollywood – you will find several interesting ideas for you trip.

Day 3: Los Angeles – Havasu Lake
Heading to the east our destination was Havasu Lake, a water reservation at the Colorado River. On our way we stopped in Corona for the Fender Guitar Visitor Center (not the official boring museum!) and crossed the Californian desert.

Day 4: Havasu Lake – Grand Canyon
After a very hot night in a Days Inn (40°C, not even the lake is refreshing then), we continued our trip to famous Grand Canyon where we stayed at the Red Feather Lodge. Standing at the rim the view is just impeccable. However, fuel your car in Williams as prices are high there. Same is appropriate for food because restaurants are rare and food expensive. As we were up to visit several parks we decided to buy the annual National Park Service Pass for 80 Dollar per car.

Day 5: Grand Canyon
We got up at 4 in the morning to be amongst a lot of other visitors to get a glimpse of the spectacular sunrise. Afterwards we started our hike down the canyon (Advice: Don’t go with a ranger who will explain every stone to you, at least on an easy hike). Next time I’ll come, I will try to make the 2-day-hike down to the river.

Day 6: Grand Canyon – Moab
After the impressive canyon, our route continued north-east towards Moab and lead as to Monument Valley (that is not part of the National Park Service but owned by Indians and not included in the yearly pass) and Canyonland National Park. In Moab we stayed in a town house that we rented on vrbo. The house was spacious for 4 people, had a community pool and was very clean. Perfect way to stay in Moab!

Day 7 & 8: Moab
Moab is the centre of biking, so all bikers are warmly welcomed. Another activity is river rafting on the Colorado River. I suggest that you don’t take the easiest offers as they mainly consist of eating and talking and not of rafting. I, for my part, swam most of the time next to our boat.
The Arches National Park is the reason for me to go back to Moab again. I love the red stones, the sculptures, the historical formations. Go hiking in the early morning to see Utah’s landmark: the Delicate Arch.

Day 9: Moab – Cedar City
This part is the longest in our 3-week-trip. Therefore you should start early in the morning and grab some typical American breakfast at “Denny’s” in Salina. Then stop at the Bryce Canyon: This canyon is not less impressive than the Grand as especially the stone formations are fascinating. Take some hours to either hike the rim or down to explore this magnificent world.

Day 10: Cedar City – Las Vegas
Cedar City is boring and was only a miscalculated stop before Las Vegas. We actually could have driven to Las Vegas but had unfortunately already paid a simple Days Inn. Therefore we early in the morning went then to Las Vegas to go shopping in the outlet and moving into our hotel: the Treasure Island.

Day 11: Las Vegas
This extra post about Las Vegas gives you places where a stay in Las Vegas is fun. I wasn’t that convinced though.

Day 12: Las Vegas – Yosemite National Park
Another longer drive expected us towards the mountains. I was glad to leave the desert and see some trees again. Of course we had to pass Death Valley before which was another reason for leaving Las Vegas early. It didn’t reach the famous 50°C then, however the landscape was great another time. As we left the hotel early in the morning, we were eager to have breakfast. Unfortunately there was no suitable spot until Bishop, CA. So either have breakfast with you or eat before because at some point you feel starving J

Day 13 – 16: Yosemite National Park
Admittedly we passed a lot of great time here. We stayed in a private wooden house in Yosemite West surrounded by bears (didn’t see any), trees and huge squirrels. We did a lot of hiking. We did horseback riding in Wawona. We climbed the Sentinel Dome. We went to Yosemite Village to see the non-existent Yosemite Falls (it was far too dry). And we did a long hike to Nevada & Vernal Fall. This hike is nothing for people with acrophobia. But remember: no food shall be left in the car, your car should be fueled before entering and buy food as restaurants are rare and food is above average prices.

Day 17: Yosemite National Park – San Francisco
The drive down to the sea is lovely. Before crossing the Oakland Bridge take the opportunity to go to Berkeley and its lively streets and the famous university campus. From the research centre you have a stunning view over the Pacific Ocean. Arrived in San Fran we moved into another apartment rented on www.vrbo.com that was clean but not in the best street. Dirty Mission Street is next to it; the other side to Dolores Street is much more convenient.

Day 18 – 21: San Francisco
San Francisco deserves to have its own special post because the city has so much to offer. Check it out and enjoy and get on the next plane for heaven’s sake!

Personal Highlight: 
Being among the first hikers to climb the amphitheatre where the Delicate Arch reigns over the red landscape & the 360° view from Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.

General tips: 
  • National Parks: As we entered a few National Parks we bought an annual pass for 80 US $ instead of paying each entrance fee extra. For more information see here
  • Accommodation: We were four people in a touristic region. Therefore a three weeks trip can turn out to be expensive. Thus we tried to stay longer at private places (LA & Yosemite), rented a place for longer stays (Moab & SF) and shared rooms from time to time. For all stopovers (Havasu & Cedar City) we went for cheap Days Inns.  
  • Fast Food: You will cross lots of fats food places, my favorites are Wendy'sDenny's and Subway. I absolutely forbid you to go to Taco Bell - this is just no Mexican food. 
For more questions how to organize such a trip, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

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