- Time: 21 days
- Expenses: less than $55 or 50€ per person per day (excludes airfare, rental car)
- Season: all year round
Money and time-saving tips:
- Buy the cheapest flight to one of the cities and start from there
- Rent a car to get around and soak up the beautiful scenery
- Check the national park fees, basic information, operating hours and seasons before you go
The United States of America is a popular travel destination that really takes time to explore as it offers a vast diversity of landscapes and cities to discover. It’s perfect for multiple road trips. Here is ours, a three-week itinerary of our trip on the west coast where you’ll get a taste of big cities and amazing nature.
This trip is around 1817 miles (2924 kilometers) long, on average you’ll drive 4 to 5 hours every couple of days and will drive through 3 states: California, Arizona, and Nevada, so you’ll need to take into account the traveling costs for a plane ticket, rental car and gas money. Despite the long miles, don’t worry you can travel on a somewhat budget.
Our 3-week itinerary:
1.day – San Francisco
2.day – Big Sur & Los Angeles
3.-6.day – Los Angeles
7.day – Las Vegas
8.day – Grand Canyon
9.day – Hoover Dam & Las Vegas
10.-11.day – Las Vegas
12.day – Rhyolite Ghost Town & Death Valley
13.day – Sequoia National Park
14.-16.day – Yosemite National Park
17.-21.day – San Francisco
Day one – San Francisco
We started here, got settled after our flight, rested, and headed out the next day, but not before heading out to the city for a quick walk to enjoy its vibe.
Here are the obligatory stops along the way:
- McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, short trip 0,6 miles (0,96 km) long, with a view of an 80-foot high McWay waterfall.
- Salmon Creek Falls in Los Padres National Forest, 0,25 miles (0,4 km) long hike, with a view of a 120-foot high waterfall.
- Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery to Piedras Blancas Light Station in San Simeon, here you can observe the Elephant seals in their natural habitat, and you can get really close. The round trip is 3,2 miles (5,1 km) long, with some beautiful ocean views.
- Carpinteria Bluffs Trail to Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary Overlook in Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve, this 1 mile (1,6 km) round trip, offers you beautiful views of the coast west of Santa Barbara and a Seal Sanctuary Overlook.
After an amazing day of beautiful scenery, enjoy your evening in the city of Los Angeles.
Day three – Los Angeles: adrenalin day
What a better way to start your trip in Los Angeles than to get the blood pumping through your veins so go to Six Flags. Go and taste the pulse-pounding roller coasters. In the evening explore the nightlife in Los Angeles.
Day four – Los Angeles: Hollywood Studios
Take the day and have fun in the studios of Hollywood. Los Angeles is known for its TV and movie industry. Go to Universal Studios and/or Warner Bros. Studios and explore the behind the scenes. A full day of packed entertainment.
The universal studios offer a peek into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, King Kong and much more, whereas at the Warner Bros. studios you can get a peek into Friends Central Perk Cafe, DC Universe, Gilmore Girls, The Big Bang Theory, etc…
Day five – Los Angeles
Take the day and discover the city. Walk down the Hollywood Boulevard, where you’ll find the stars of your favorite celebrities.
Take the tour of the Dolby theatre, to get a sneak peek into the place, where the biggest and oldest worldwide entertainment awards ceremony happens. The Academy Awards, known as the Oscars, are given here annually.
Don’t forget to take a picture of the famous Hollywood sign. You can get a great picture from the Hollywood – Highland shopping complex. You can also take a tour of the Sunset Boulevard or Beverly Hills, to get the vibe of the city and a look into the most expensive neighborhoods.
For a beautiful sunset, head to Venice beach and/or Santa Monica Pier to conclude your amazing day.
Day six – Los Angeles
This day is reserved, to find that child in you, so go to the Disneyland Park and enjoy your day with your favorite Disney characters. After a day of fun, get a good night’s rest.
Day seven – Las Vegas
Early in the morning start your way to Las Vegas. It will take you about five hours to get there. Along the way, you can stop at Bottletree Ranch, Calico Ghost Town or in the town of Baker, where you can see the statue to the discoverer of the North Pole, get a strawberry shake from Mad Greek and then a picture of the world’s largest thermometer.
Get settled in, and enjoy your evening exploring the Las Vegas Strip.
Day eight – Grand Canyon
Today you will be astonished by 277 miles (446 km) long, a mile (1,6 km) deep and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide, unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms of The Grand Canyon.
Early in the morning start your drive to the Grand Canyon, it’s a 4-hour drive, but well worth it. If you are up to it, you can take a hike there, but be were, it’s a difficult trail, don’t overestimate your capabilities. Whatever is your pleasure, you have the day to explore the beautiful sights it has to offer. Wait for the sunset and see how the color of the canyon changes, it’s gorgeous.
Take a ride to the large concrete structure of The Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume, which provides power for Nevada, Arizona, and California. It was constructed between years 1931 and 1936, such a large concrete structure had never been built before. It’s an amazing tour, that takes you into the depth of the construction of The Hoover Dam.
In the afternoon head up to the Stratosphere Tower, to enjoy a great view of Las Vegas. There are some insane activities that you can sign up for, from sky jump to some terrifying roller coaster rides.
In the evening, head out. Las Vegas is full of entertainment, where you can enjoy a good concert or go partying in some of the clubs, you have a lot to choose from.
After a good night of partying, relax and sleep in.
In the afternoon go to Downtown Las Vegas, you can spend your day in one of the museums, gambling in one of the casinos or having a drink in one of the bars. Don’t forget to go see the Fremont Street Experience.
Day eleven – Las Vegas
Spend your last day in Las Vegas getting lost between Las Vegas Hotels and shops, where you can visit Venice, Paris, Rome, New York and much more.
Day twelve – Rhyolite Ghost Town and Death Valley
In the morning start your way to the Rhyolite Ghost Town, it’s about a 2-hour long drive. Rhyolite is a ghost town in Nye County, the town rose in early 1905 as one of mining camps during the gold rush. The city declined by the year 1911, production fell, after the gold was exhausted and many workers moved away, now it remains as a ghost town.
Your next stop is The Death Valley National Park. After an hour drive you’ll arrive at the hottest, driest, and lowest elevation in North America, The Death Valley.
There is actually a lot to do and see here, but make sure you don’t miss:
- Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (86 m), a landscape of salt,
- Zabriskie Point – the most famous viewpoint in the park offers some amazing views,
- Dante’s View – a viewpoint 5,475 feet (1,669 m) high offers the most breathtaking views in the park.
Settle in a hotel near Sequoia National Park, to get an early start in the morning.
Day thirteen – Sequoia National Park
This day is reserved, to get lost between the giants. You’ll be surrounded by groves of the world’s largest living things, it is amazing. The park is the highest point with natural resources in the USA, raising nearly 13,000 feet (4,000 m) up. In the Giant Forest you’ll find the General Sherman tree, the largest living tree on Earth, the forest contains five out of the ten largest trees in the world. You can visit the Giants museum and go for a hike, it’s magnificent.
In the morning head up to Yosemite, it’s a two and a half hour long drive. Get settled and explore the Yosemite Valley.
You can rent a bike, go climbing or on a guided tour. Depending on which season you are visiting you can also go bird watching, fishing, ice skating, rafting or swimming.
Day fifteen – Yosemite – hiking
Now that you’re all rested and relaxed, start your day with a hike on the Upper Yosemite Fall.
- Distance and elevation: 7.6 miles (12 km); 3,967 feet (1,347m)
- Difficulty: steep
- Approximate time: 7-10 hours
You’ll be tired at the end of the day, but the views will be all worth it. It’s magnificent.
Day sixteen – Yosemite – hiking
An easier hike for the day The Mist Trail.
- Distance and elevation: 3 miles (4.8 km) round-trip; 4,000 feet (1,200m)
- Difficulty: moderate
- Approximate time: 3 hours
Day seventeen – San Francisco
Take the first day to walk around San Francisco. First on the map is the Ferry Building Market, where you can buy fresh products, then walk through the financial district and enjoy your morning coffee at the Union Square. A short stroll from there will take you to the oldest Chinatown in the USA Chinatown, where you can take a lunch break.
Next is Washington Square Park and then a walk to Coit Tower on the Telegraph Hill with amazing views of the city and Alcatraz Island.
Visit Alcatraz on a day tour in which your $30 (28 €) ticket includes the boat ride, park entrance, and an audio tour of the Alcatraz.
When arriving back from Alcatraz Island, go from Pier 33 to Pier 39. You will walk through Fisherman’s Wharf filled with souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. At the Pier 39 you’ll be welcomed by dozens of seals catching some sunlight.
To conclude your day, walk or drive through Lombard Street the most crooked street in the world. In the evening go and explore the party scene – go karaoking.
Day nineteen – San Francisco
Start the day with a stunning view of San Francisco from the Twin Peaks.
Then go to Alamo Square Park, where you will find beautiful pastel-colored Victorian houses and the famous Painted Ladies from the TV show full and fuller house. This is a beautiful park where you can have a picnic and enjoy some relaxing views.
Next stop is The Palace of Fine Arts monumental structure – outdoor rotunda, where you can explore this beautiful scenery.
Conclude your day with a drive or walk through the Golden Gate Bridge and get some amazing pictures of the sunset at Battery Spencer viewpoint.
Well, you don’t want to miss riding with the car cable cars, for just a few dollars you can ride the steep streets of San Francisco.
After that go to Golden Gate Park. Here you can visit the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and more.
This is your last night in this colorful city, so enjoy it to the fullest.
Day twenty-one – San Francisco
If you are up to it and have the time before your flight back home you can visit the San Francisco Zoo, it is quite nice.
Well for us this was an amazing trip, a roller coaster that offered extraordinary nature and vibrant cities, we’ll be back for sure!
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