16 days, almost 1.500 miles by car and 4 different states – that’s our road trip in short. We saw deserts, beautiful forest, the clearest lakes and breathtaking canyons. This post is all about the route we took and our highlights from this trip.
A Roadtrip through the West of the US is a dream for many people which makes planning super easy as there is plenty of information online from people that have done similar trips.
When looking for flights, I found super cheap flights (€480 return) from Düsseldorf to San Francisco via Newark. The flight took us around 11 hours. With finding that flight, our route was kind of set already. My sister was keen on driving, so we decided to rent a car in San Francisco, drop it off in Las Vegas and then fly back to SF to spend a couple of days there before returning to Germany.
We hired our car from Dollar Rental Cars and were very happy with it. Like all American cars, it was decently sized and fairly comfortable to drive for long hours at a time.
I returned the car at Las Vegas Airport which was a bit more expensive than dropping it off in the city, but so worth it since public transport in Las Vegas can be difficult to say the least…
After exploring San Francisco for a day, we set off to Mariposa where we stayed for 2 nights to explore the Yosemite National Park. This park is one that probably everyone visits and after seeing it myself, there’s a good reason for that, the landscapes are stunning! There’ll be a whole blog post about Yosemite so watch out for that!
We were very lucky that the Tioga Pass that crosses through Yosemite National Park was open when we were there in October and the drive through there was unforgettable. We drove all the way to Bodie, a ghost town on the border to Nevada which my sister was desperate to visit.
From Bodie, we drove to the Death Valley National Park which was such a stark contrast to Yosemite. Remember to fuel your car up before you head into Death Valley though as there is only one gas station. And get loads of water as it can get super hot here, especially at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the US!
A short 2 hour drive then took us to Las Vegas where we enjoyed 2 days in the sun, relaxing by the pool after driving for 4 days.
After this short break, we set off for the second part of the road trip that took us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon via the famous Hoover Dam.
From there we drove to one of my personal highlights of the entire trip: the Lower Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend near Page. There are still lots of tourists here but I’d say it was less busy than the Grand Canyon.
We didn’t have much time left but we still managed to spent a day in one of the prettiest national parks: Zion National Park. Lots of my US friends recommended Zion and wow, it is incredible! Make sure to visit during the week though as it does get quite crowded on the weekends!
Our last stop before flying back to San Francisco was Las Vegas yet again and this time around we did some more exploring of the Strip and the Downtown area.
I returned the car at Las Vegas airport which marked the end of our road trip. I then spent 3 more days exploring San Francisco before returning to Germany.
We didn’t book much of our accomodation in advance, only the first 2 nights in San Francisco and the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas for the days before the flight back to San Francisco as my sister really wanted to stay there.
Since we wanted more freedom in our route, this meant that we didn’t stay in the national parks but often drove an hour outside because everything was either fully booked or ridiculously expensive. If you don’t need flexibility, I’d advise booking everything in advance, especially in high season. We often booked a day in advance for most motels and they turned out fine.
A few I’d recommend are:
Miners Inn (in Mariposa, close to Yosemite)
Cameron Trading Post (Close to the Grand Canyon and Page)
Driving in the US is fairly easy as the roads are never-ending and quite broad compared to Europe. Be mindful of the speed limit though as it is much lower than Germany for example and police do regularly patrol not only by car but also by helicopter.
Have you ever done a long roadtrip like this before? What were your highlights?
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