My trip on the West Coast in 10 days
By: Ondřej Svatoš, Summer 2015 Work and Travel Ambassador Scholar
This blog is for everyone who is going to travel along the West Coast and want some inspiration–or even a plan for the entire journey. My plan was for 10 days.
1st Day – Where did I decide to start? Las Vegas.
For some reason, you can get the cheapest flights to Las Vegas. You’ll probably arrive around noon if you’re going to fly from the east coast in the morning. The west coast time zone is 3 hours behind the east. Go rent a car straight from the airport. It’s better this way because the daily price for a rental car is lower than price for a taxi to the hotel. Parking in hotels is usually free.
Find an accommodation in Las Vegas. Hotels are usually very cheap because they expect that you’re going to gamble away more money there. If you’re lucky, you can see Criss Angel’s wizard show. The Hotel Stratosphere is also very nice. If you stay there, you can go to the top of the hotel’s tower for free and see the Strip from a height of 350 meters.
Now you have all afternoon to visit the city. Casinos are the main point of interest. All of them are very cool. There is also water or fire shows in front of some of them (i.e., Bellagio or The Mirage).
If you like to gamble and you have enough time, it would be good to stay in Las Vegas at least 2 days. In the north part of the city, there is the famous Fremont Street Experience, a tunnel with pretty cool effects, and many events going on.
2nd Day – Going in the direction of the Grand Canyon.
I recommend leaving Las Vegas very early morning and going in the direction of the Grand Canyon. About one hour on the way you’ll reach Hoover Dam, the mightiest dam in the world. If the whole of humanity in the world were to be destroyed right now, the Hoover dam would be the last building standing! You can stop here for a while and take some pictures.
You’ll arrive at the south part of Grand Canyon around 2 p.m. There is an entrance gate where you can buy an Annual Pass. It is valid in all National Parks in America, so it’s going to be very beneficial. The admission price is per car, no matter how many people are in it. There is a visitor center by the Grand Canyon with a walkway of several miles. There is also a free shuttle service running between the best viewpoints. It is a great pleasure to wait at one of them till the sunset. During this time, the Grand Canyon changes color. Go back to the parking lot and go to Flagstaff or Tuba City, where you can find a hotel.
3rd Day – Go to where Forest Gump stopped.
Wake up very early in the morning and go to Monument Valley. That’s the place where Forest Gump stopped running and said, “I cannot anymore.” The journey to Monument Valley is enjoyable in itself. You have to pay here, because the Annual Pass is not valid. Take some pictures and go to Horseshoe Band, a very nice place. You can also make a stop at Antelope Canyon if you have time. The next day you’re going to Bryce Canyon, so find a hotel close to it.
4th Day – Another day, another beautiful canyon.
Wake up early again and go to Bryce Canyon. It’s another beautiful canyon with a yellow-red color. If you have had enough of canyons already, you can skip this one. It’s much smaller than Grand Canyon, but it’s nice and different.
Then, still in the morning, go to Zion. You’ll arrive there from its east, so you’ll have to go through the whole park to the visitor centre. You’ll go through tunnels and see many beautiful viewpoints. Don’t stop anywhere. Park your car by the visitor center and use the shuttle to get to the trail. Go to the final stop. The best is at the end. At the end of the trail, there is a point at which you have to go in the water, so it’s good to have waterproof shoes. In the end, there is a waterfall. I didn’t see it because I didn’t have the right shoes, so we bathed in the river instead.
Now becomes the hardest part of your trip. You’re going to go to Death Valley overnight.
5th Day – Feel famous in Hollywood.
You’re going to arrive at Death Valley – the lowest point on the earth at approximately 86 meters below sea level. Temperature here is very high (almost 55°C in the afternoon) so you had better be here in the morning. This place is called the Gate to Hell. I could believe it because I didn’t feel good at all there. Anyway, since you’ll be there very early in the morning, the temperature’s going to be “low” (only around 35°C ). You can step on the salt lake (where there is actually salt only) and walk on it. After 10 AM, it’s prohibited because the temperature is too high then. You don’t need to spend a very long time here, so you better get away as soon as possible. Go to Los Angeles. It’s going to take couple of hours on empty roads.
You’ll reach L.A. around 10 or 11 a.m. I recommend going straight to the giant Hollywood letters. The best viewpoint to see it is 3100 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles. There is also a great view of the city. The next most interesting thing in LA is the Walk of Fame. The best place to park your car is at a shopping center right on Hollywood Blvd. If you buy something in the shopping center at Hollywood & Highland, you have parking for free. All the most famous celebrities have their stars on Hollywood & Highland. Don’t forget to see the handprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Continue in this direction three blocks and then come back on the other side of the street.
And what to do now? Since it will be hot and you will be probably tired from walking, the best thing to do is to go to the famous Malibu Beach to swim in the Pacific and wait for sunset. Malibu Beach is the only beach in L.A. area where you can see the sun go down in the ocean. After that, find a motel near Universal Studios Hollywood.
6th Day – Universally the best?
The biggest attraction you can see in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood. It is the greatest amusement park I’ve ever been in. There are many attractions, such as the House of Horror, shows with movie animals, extreme attractions based on the most famous movies, etc. There is also a shuttle which can take you for a tour through real studios. If you’re lucky, you can see a film crew in action. In the afternoon, you can go for a ride on Beverly Hills or see the city center.
7th Day – Trees as tall as the sky.
After two days spent in the city, go back to nature. Today, you’re going to see the biggest trees in the world – the sequoias. Sequoia National Forest is located 4.5 hours from L.A. The forest is not very big, so it’s ok to arrive around 1 p.m. After passing through classic American small towns, you start to climb into the hills of the Sierra Nevada. Go up the switchbacks along the hills where the sequoias grow, and head for Moro Rock – which offers a beautiful view of the countryside. Then go straight to the Tunnel Log, one of the most popular local attractions.
After you pass the Tunnel Log, drive to the parking lot. If you are in the mood to walk through the forest, you can walk from here to the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree. The forest has nice paved trails, so you do not have to worry about getting lost. If you don‘t want to walk, the General Sherman can be reached by car. Along the way, watch out for bears. They don’t attack people, but we met a bear with a brood– and it got respect from us.
8th Day – Wake up early, again!
Like every day, again I suggest that you get up early, especially this time. You’ll want to see a lot today. Head to Yosemite Valley. Along the way you will drive to nature’s most beautiful park in the U.S. You will be tempted to stop a lot. Do not stop anywhere, don‘t waste time. At one point, you will pass through a tunnel, behind which opens a view of the whole valley. This is the point to stop and admire the view! Then sit in the car, take the valley and park as close to Upper Pines Campground as possible. Take comfortable shoes (preferably hiking boots, but any solid athletic footwear will do). Put at least four liters of water in your backpack—there is no water available there–and a decent snack, and embark on the most beautiful trail to Half Dome.
Stop at two waterfalls – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall – which rank among the largest in the U.S., and admire the gorges that the rivers created. The hike to Half Dome takes about 3-4 hours, depending on whether you stay at the waterfalls or bathe. If you have an extra day, be sure to stay in the valley overnight, so you can go through the Snow Creek Trail the next day. The nature around Yosemite Valley is breathtaking. Anyway, tonight, go have a last, longer crossing by car to San Francisco. I recommend you to find accommodation in Oakland, an industrial zone of San Francisco, where there will be cheaper accommodation in a motel.
9th Day – Now here it comes!
San Francisco is, according to some, the most beautiful city in USA. It is also one of the friendliest climates. The average daily temperature here in the summer is around 22 °C and in winter it is 18 ° C. Go straight to the address 1100 Lombard Street, which is directly above the intersection with the famous switchbacks. Along the way you have to go up a few steep streets typical for this incredibly diverse city. Zigzag part of Lombard Street. You can then head to the harbor. There is a parking lot where you can leave your car and walk around the harbor shops and food stalls at Pier 39. At the end of the wooden pier, there are dozens of sea lions, the biggest attraction of the port. From the end of Pier 39 is also a very nice view of Alcatraz Island.
If you like fish, be sure to sample the local soup – clam chowder – clams cooked in a milk base. Strolling among the stalls at the port, you can go to Aquatic Park, where a turntable for the traditional cable cars is located. You can buy a ticket for a cable car ride. The entire route takes about 20 minutes. You can go back again by tram or walk across the famous Chinatown. In the afternoon, around 2-3 p.m., get in the car cross the Golden Gate Bridge! Your destination is Battery Spencer or another of the many prospects located on Conzelman Rd. Definitely go here in the afternoon because the sun will be from the west.
If you are traveling to the west just for 9 days, you just saw the most interesting of San Francisco and you can go to the airport. Nevertheless, it is really very little, so if you have a day more, that’s great!
10th Day – San Francisco at your fingertips.
In San Francisco, I recommend a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. At the western end of the park, there is a windmill and a sandy beach on the Pacific. Temperatures there are so low that you will not even think of swimming. In San Francisco there are really many beautiful and interesting places that you can visit. Let me mention just one more, the Twin Peaks hill towering over the city and offering San Francisco at your fingertips. Finally, I must mention the Googleplex, which is not in the city, but if you are fans of Google and want to take a ride on the color wheel, then go there, perhaps before leaving for the airport.
If you have one extra day, I highly recommend taking the path back to Los Angeles, but this time on the Coastal Highway, Hwy. 1. One of the most beautiful roads of the world will offer breathtaking views of the Pacific coast. With a little luck you may see whales.
And that is the West Coast in 10 days! Phew!
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