General Helpful links:
From the Airport take the BART to the town. Mostly Civic Centre which is really ugly but well. Take a Taxi from here to your Hotel.
The town is mostly covered in fog specially the bridge, so don’t be disappointed – it’s normal.
Three days were fine fort his nice town. Especially there is also a three day transportation pass for the Cable Cars and all busses. You definitely don’t need a car in the town and you won’t find a parking anyway. So don’t rent a car here. Also the Parking costs at the Hotel are about 40$ a night additional.
This three day pass is only 18$. (A single trip with the Cable car is already 5$). You get these tickets normally at your Hotel or in the Cable car directly. And driving with these old cars if really fun. The Cable Car Hours are until 12am.
There is also a nice bus connection to the Golden Gate Bridge itself and to the North beach (line 29 and 28).
Holiday Inn at Golden Gate (only a name not located there) was perfect. Direct access to the Cable Car. National car pickup 15m walking. And if you pay same more a fantastic view from the room to the city. (As for a free membership so you will be upgraded)
The City is full of good restaurants everywhere. Along the Columbus Street are the most. The whole street one good and nice looking one to each other.
Don’t take a tour or Hotel near the Civic Centre. This is the Homeless quarter, dirty and ugly!
What to do:
First day could be:
Financial District, China Town (boring as usual), Lombard Street, Columbus Street.
Alcatraz. (Don’t take the early tour it’s much too windy and cold. 10.30am is perfect. Online Tickets available – so no queuing up. Tour is about 2-3h) Then Fishermen’s Warf, Golden Gate
Coit Tower (not a must), Union Square (shopping) and some details.
On the way to L.A.
We took mostly the Highway down to LA. Nice tour. Stopover was in Moro Bay. On the way to LA make a stop at Santa Barbara. Park at the Beach side (get a map at the Visitor centre here) and take the little bus from the pier into the town. Former Spanish Fort. Nice town and nice main street.
Santa Monica, well not my favourite at all. We stayed in the Marina7 Motel in Venice (Union Street 100$, there is a cheaper one directly beside 75$)
Venice Beach is fun to watch during the day where all the muscle men and sport people can be watched. Also the Beach is really nice if you want to relax one day.
Well, 2 days for a stopover is fine. One day for the city another day for the Universal Studios.
Ok, first the city.
There are good motels directly at the Sunset Blv behind the Chinese Theatre. Like the Comfort Inn. This Hotel is around 90$ and is in walking distance to the Walk of Fame. We had the Hollywood Inn in Western Ave. Directly at the Metro (only 2 stations to go) It was a very good location because you can leave the city quickly and you’re close also. (free parking also)
What to do
If you want to visit the downtown of LA just go with your car and drive through the small downtown area. There is not much to see. El Pueblo, Union Square, Music Hall. The next stop would be the Sunset Boulevard with the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre.
From the Kodak Shopping Centre (right of the Chinese Theatre) you have a good view to the Hollywood sign. Just go to the back of the shopping centre.
What we can also recommend was the Starline Stars and Homes Tour. 2h driving through Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Rodeo Drive. The driver shows you the houses of the starts, drives you to Mullholland drive for an overview of LA and tells you all the latest stories.
Another great thing was the Griffith Park Observation which is open until 10pm. From here you have a perfect view over the city, especially during the night. You also have Telescope you can watch the moon for free.
The next day you need for the Universal Studios. The Park normally opens at 10pm. The Studio Tour which should be done first starts at 11pm. The Rollercoaster are quite nice. But you need really a day. Afterwards you can have a diner in front of the Studios, where a lot of bars and restaurants are located (Hard Rock…)
If you want to leave LA at this same day we would recommend driving to Bakersfield where a lot of Motels can be found.
Sequoia National Park
This is a quite small park, or better only a small part can be driven through. The speciality pf this park are the huge Sequoias, a kind of huge tree. Here in this park you find the widest tree worldwide (not the tallest one!) The biggest is the General Sherman tree. This tree is 2100 years old with a circumference of 102 feet.
What to do
This park is good for one day drive through. Depends where you enter the park the first would be the Moro Rock, where you have a cool overview of the whole area. The walk up there is just some minutes. The next must stop is the walk through the forest where the General Sherman tree is located. Follow the Congress Trail (2miles – 1,5h) which shows you the best and most famous trees.
Another thing to do would be the Crystal Cave, something also good for families and the tunnel tree.
For more detailed information about Trails go to http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/traildesc.htm
There is a main Lodge which seems to be relay nice but also expensive. We stayed at the
Montecito Sequoia Lodge which is located at a small lake in the forest. Little bit older but clean and nice staff. The diner and breakfast are included for 100$ and the food buffet was really good. With a fire place and a lot games you can easily spend the evening there.
Also check http://www.sequoiakingscanyon.npslodging.com/
Yosemite National Park
This park seems to be very famous for Americans. It is really beautiful to have a look at the amazing stone formation. But simply too many tourists for such a little space down there – and we were there in October. The Falls have no water and the lodges are incredible expensive and old. We didn’t stay there to long. Just made a little hike to the not be there Yosemite Falls.
What to do
The best place to be is the Glacier point, which is located up the hills of the Park. From here you have a great view into the valley, specially during the late afternoon. There are also some hood hikes around the area but nothing I would call special.
The other nice place of the Park is the upper Yosemite direction to Tioga Pass which is 3030m high. This means it can be closed in winter. There are some really nice areas around the pass, with perfect trails and a beautiful lake with beach in the summer. Also some lodges are located here but should be reserved in advanced.
We stayed over the night in a town called El Portal which is 20 minutes away from the park centre. The lodge was really good with Hot Tops and nice clean big rooms.
Check under Yosemite View Lodge
Also check www.Yosemite-motels.com
Mono Lake / Bodie
Between Yosemite and Death Valley you find the huge Mono Lake. This lake is somehow special because and all information can be found at the local Information centre. There are two accesses to the lakes with only some minutes walking.
Bodie is a really must to visit. The park closes at 4pm when you are not in the main season there. Bodie is one of the biggest ghost Towns. Nothing was changed here after the people left. Really cool to see. For more info check also http://www.bodie.com/
This place is a perfect stay over onto the way from or to Yosemite and Death Valley. Lot of Bars and Restaurants. And really nice little town with lot’s of small shops also.
Have a look at the Irish Pub and as a Rock Music fan visit the Clockhouse Cellar at the Aplenhof Lodge. Free Billiard and cool bar
For all information go to http://www.visitmammoth.com/
What to do
Nice Trail to the Rainbow Falls, obviously only in the Spring and Summer Times.
Seems to be god Skiing in the Wintertime’s, but must be very crowded, too.
Many Bars and Restaurants
A lot of Hotels and Lodges can be found here. All types and prices.
We had a really funny one (for us as Germans). Was somehow a little bit like home and then it also started snowing which made the impression being in the Alps somewhere
Death Valley is a special place in the USA. The hottest and deepest point in the western hemisphere. The Valley itself is quite small to drive through. The time you need depends what you want to do – there are a lot of Trails in the park. We did it in one day including driving there.
What to do
On the way through the Valley you automatically pass all important points. IN the beginning you have the sand dunes, which are, well sand dunes. You can walk around there but for European nothing new to see.
Further on you come to some old miner’s area.
The main attractions are coming after the little village Furnace Creek.
- Badwater Basin
deepest point in the western hemisphere – 282 feet under sea level
You can have a nice walk on this basin – really nice
Do this first because you have to drive back and check the other points
- Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail
2miles - 2h
fantastic Trail through the sand hills of the Death Valley
late afternoon best because of the sun in the back
- Artist Palette
Driveway through the sandy hills with colourful sand
Also something for the late afternoon
- Zabriski Point
THE place to be during the sunset. So plan your trips and stops before.
Directly at the exit (or entrance) of the park
There are three motel in the Park, from 100$ to 200$. The most expensive one is in Furnance Creek. There are some Motels on the east entrance of the park but not so many at the east side. We didn’t find any Motel after leaving the park on the East side.
Therefore we decided to drive towards Las Vegas. This took only 1,5h which was fine. In Las Vegas entrance there are many hotels - you will definitely find one – and for some really good price.
We stayed at the Best Western with an excellent Italian Restaurant and Bar inside and very nice rooms for 55$ only.
For more Hotels in and around the Death Valley check
Zion National Park
This Park is really beautiful. You cannot drive with you car through the park. Only Shuttle buses are driving there, but this every 10 minutes. This makes it really nice to explore the park. The busses are driving from early morning until 10pm.
A Shuttle plan you find here as PDF
What to do
This is a hiking park, with all kinds of trails. It is also very famous for climbing.
One day is ok for this park, if you have to head on for the next parks coming up.
At the park entrance you get all kind of information you will need
All Hiking Trails you can find here
There is one really nice lodge within the park you can reach also with you car.
But there are a lot of motels at the park entrance in the little village Springdale.
A lot of outdoor shops, restaurants and bars can be found here.
You should definitely book a room one day in advanced; it was also booked out in October when we were there.
A really good one is the. A family owned motel with really nice owners.
All Hotels/Motels you find here:
Bryce National Park
From Zion to Bryce you only need 2-3h driving which is perfect for the Bryce Canyon. This is not a Canyon but an impressive stone formation garden. The best time to be there is in the afternoon.
What to do
There is one main point to be, the Sunset Point, which you know from all the photographs – also called the Amphie Theatre. From here two famous trails will start. Each trail is a loop which makes it nice to hike. Both trails can easily be combined, too.
- Navajo Loop Trail
1,3 miles – 1,5h
550 feet down and up through the “canyon” – spectacular
- Peekaboo Loop Trail
5 miles – 3h
Lot’s of up and down
A link with all information about the Trails on the pars is
There is a lodge inside the park, but didn’t look so nice.
There is a big Best Western called Ruby’s Inn lodge with restaurant, shops, filling station at the entrance. Really very nice rooms and not too expensive. http://www.rubysinn.com/
All links for motels are here
Arches National Park
A really exciting park. Not big but great at views. Also a must in the afternoon during the sunset. http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm
What to do
This park is mostly a drive through park with some trails. Most Trails are easy to access with the car and are not really long to difficult to walk. During the day there is a fantastic 2 3h trail – the Devil’s Garden with lot of Arches on the way. This Trail is easy during the first 1mile but becoming more experienced after the big …..Arche. But it is a cool trail going up and down through the mountains and canyons.
After this in the afternoon you should drive to the “centre” of the park with the famous …. This is spectacular in the sunset.
- Devils Garden –
5,2 miles – 3-4h
The Devils Garden Primitive Loop is a 6.8-mile trail that circles around Landscape Arch and the Dark Angel spire in the northern end of Arches National Park. It is an extension of the Devils Garden Trail itself, though quite a bit rockier and rougher than the Devils Garden Trail. This trail will take visitors past Tunnel and Pine Tree arches and then on to Landscape Arch. Going clockwise, hikers pass Wall Arch, and then Partition and Navajo Arches, clumped together near Landscape, and then climb a massive fin to gain access to short spur trails going to Double O Arch and the Dark Angel pinnacle. At this point visitors can turn back, or can start the actual loop, heading wide to the north, towards the Private Arch spur trail before turning back for Landscape Arch and the parking lot.
- The Windows Trailhead
There is ample parking here for the many visitors that frequent the Windows section of the park.
Length: 1 mile round trip
- Balance rock
Length: 0.3-mile roundtrip
Located almost in the middle of the small park, the Balanced Rock Trail takes visitors on a short loop hike up to, and around, the Balanced Rock, an easily recognizable landmark of Arches National Park
All Trails with a really good description can be found here
There is no Hotel in the park itself. All accommodations are in the main village called Moab. Here you find all kind of Hotels / Motels. But you should also make a reservation in advanced because this is the only town in the area with motels.
A reasonable and good Motel is the IncaInn www.incainn.com
All lodging is here:
Mesa Verde National Park
This park is not really famous for its special nature but the remarkable Dwelling Houses. Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300
What to do
Want to visit a Mesa Verde cliff dwelling? To go to Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or Long House, you will first need to purchase a tour ticket. Ranger-guided tours are offered seasonally, and provide you with the opportunity to hike into and experience these Ancestral Puebloan sites. Tour tickets can ONLY be purchased in person at the Far View Visitor Center. (From Oct. 18 to Nov. 7, tickets are available at the Chapin Museum.)
Personally - when you saw the Cliff Palace it’ enough. Also do the self guided tour to the Spruce Tree House. The interesting thing to do here is to go into a remodelled Kiva – the kind of house the lived in. There is a ladder going into it!
There is lodge in the park which is already a little bit older. The expected great view they advertise is not so great when you see it. And as usual it’s not worth the price. The town where all Hotels are located is Cortez 30min away from the park. Here you find all categories - but also make a reservation in advanced according the season you’ll be there. We stayed in the best Western http://www.bestwesternmesaverde.com
All hotels – click here
The Monument Valley is a typical drive through park. For us it makes not sense to make a tour through because what you see from the main road are the same big Rocks like you would see from inside the park. And the National Park Entrance Card is not valid here, because this park is run by Indian and they make their own money. But as mentioned it is not worth paying the entrance fee here - personally.
The best time would be during the sunset coming from Kayenta direction Bluff with the sun in the back. This takes maybe 1,5h
What to do
Numbers indicate the main stops along the Valley Drive - the scenic road through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park:
Four corners is also just around the corner. Here the four states hit together
Also some hikes are here: http://www.utah.com/monumentvalley/hike.htm
Which brings me to the Hotel question? It is really not close worth to take an unacceptable expensive room in the Lodge inside the monument Valley. 200$ for a room looking onto some rocks. And then some expensive diner, too? We would recommend staying at a wonderful lodge called Desert Rose Inn in Bluff (http://www.bluffutah.org/ ). Complete wooden interior and this for a good price. There is a big wooden terrace towards the sunset with a view into the monument valley. http://www.desertroseinn.com/
There is also a nice restaurant in walking distance. http://www.cottonwoodsteakhouse.com/
Just the relaxing place to be in the Valley.
Lake Powell / Page
The Area around Lake Powell is really nice. There are so many things to do that we decided to stay another day. Here you can do all kinds of sports.
What to do
I can only mention some Highlight here.
- the famous Horseshoe Bend http://www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/upload/Horseshoe%20Bend2.pdf
best time to be here in the noon time. Then the whole River is lighted up for a good photo
located 3miles from Page driving the 89 towards. A sign will show the parking on the right side
- the Antelope Canyon is run by the Indians and therefore extremely expensive. 75$ per person.
only guided tours
one Park Ranger once said "...it's not worth the money going there" -> so we also didn't
- the lake is famous for Fishing, Houseboating, or ships any kinds of
we rented a powerboat near the Lake Powell Resort in Wahweap for 4 hours for 180$. That was real fun and worth the money
- a must is the easy Toadstool Trail http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=779
Length: 3.8-mile roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy - 2h
Paria Rimrocks - Toadstool Trail
Explore the Paria Rimrocks on this moderate 1.5 mile round trip hike leading to hoodoos and balanced rocks. Drive north on highway 89 from the Glen Canyon Dam. Turn into the dirt parking area on the right just past Utah mile marker 19. Slip through the hikers-gate, sign the register, and head up the wash. When you think you are at the end, guess again; scramble up the trail obstacle and find your way to the hoodoo garden. Maps are available at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Big Water.
Moderate: Driving time 30 minutes; dirt trail– some scrambling required over trail obstacles 1.5 miles round trip
- all trails in this area with PDF maps are here: http://www.nps.gov/glca/planyourvisit/regionalhikes.htm
We stayed at the lake directly in the Lake Powell Resort & Marinas. Also a little bit more expensive but a room with a balcony with lake view was awesome.
And this fro 120$. Check the Homepage: www.lakepowell.com
All accommodations in Page and around are here
This well known Canyon didn’t impress us like we expected. There are a lot Sightseeing point you can easily access with the car but the west part is closed for private cars and you have to take the free shuttle bus. http://www.grandcanyon.com/
A map of the Canyon you find here: http://www.grandcanyon.com/images/maps/pdf/grandcanyon-park-map.pdf
What to do
There are three free shuttle busses going along the grand canyon edge. So you can park everywhere if the parking spots in the Grand Canyon Village are already full. If you coming from the East entrance there is the Hopi Watchtower with a nice overview. http://www.scienceviews.com/parks/watchtower.html
Further on there are some more observation points where you can park.
The red bus line which goes to the west part of the canyon is running every 15 minutes. BUT you have to wait at least for one or two busses to get a spot in there. (This is really annoying)
We didn’t do the tour, because of the long waiting time (in October only!)
There are two trails going down the canyon but you need a good prepared backpack and a lot of time. We would recommend one day going down, one day being down and on day going up again. But if you go down you should stay some more days to explorer the Canyon.
Information can be found in the local Ranger Station or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trails_in_Grand_Canyon_National_Park
In summary, all the overview areas are nearly the same.
One day hiking is no practicable. You can run down some miles and up again. http://www.grandcanyonhiker.com/
Nothing else what we would image to do here unless spending money in Heli flights.
There is a nice IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon, which is quite good. The IMAX is located in the little village …. Near the south entrance. (12$ entrance fee)
In the small village Williams there are some motels located. http://www.theroadwanderer.net/RT66williams.htm
But there is a small town called Williams 1h away from there which is located directly at the Historic Route 66. Williams is a nice little cosy village with a lot of motels, restaurants and bars. The flair of the old Route 66 can be still found here.
All Hotels can be found here http://www.go-arizona.com/Williams/Hotels/
There is a train running also to the Grand Canyon Village which is recommendable during the high season time. The Train also departs from Williams so you can easily have a reasonable Motel here and a nice stay at the Grand Canyon with no hassle driving the car and finding a parking spot.
Las Vegas, what a town. No city is like this one, as you can image. There are lot of things to say about but I will do my best to keep it short.
The question is always how long to stay in Las Vegas. We’ve been there 1,5 days which was too less. I think three days would be fine, so that you also can relax a little bit at one of the great Hotel pools, or also make a trip outside the city.
To see all casinos, what we did, was a lot of walking. But we made it.
A virtual map - http://www.lasvegassun.com/history/map/ with the historic development of the strip
What to do around Las Vegas
Well, there are also some other thing as gamble in this city. It is also a good spot to make some trips around like:
- Grand Canyon
- Death Valley,
- Valley of fire ( a real must if you have the time ) http://www.parks.nv.gov/vf.htm
- Hover Dam
A lot of hiking or boating can be done on the nearby the huge Lake Mead
or the Colorado River Lake Mohave http://www.desertusa.com/colorado/lm_nra/lake_mohave/du_lkmojave.html
What to do in Las Vegas
Here you have to things to do gamble or watch people gamble.
Here our suggestions we collected in the 1,5 days
Casinos you should definitely visit
- TI (only outside)
- Belagio (only outside)
- New York
- the old Downtown with the Light Hall
Casinos it’s not worth going to:
- Planet Hollywood
- Hard Rock
- Imperial (except for the car show)
- MGM (only to visit the Lions at the entrance)
The old downtown is nice because of the famous light show. But that's it already. Here you also find the first Casinos
The light show starts normally at 7pm and then every hour.
Best thing would be to drive with your car - have diner.
Biggest Oldtimer exhibition at the Imperial Casino.
A real must for Oldtimer fans. 250 cars shown here at the 4th floor of the Casinos parking garage.
You can park for free at the third floor - so easy if you have a car.
Hotels are everywhere, but the question is which to take. From the expensive Wynn or Belagio to the cheaper Luxor or Imperial.
We only can tell you about the Treasure Island which we have choosen.
This Hotel is in the middle price range of 80$ the night. The rooms are really nice and also the Casino is a good one to gamble.
There are nice outside bars at the Treasure Island Lagoon and inside there are also good restaurants.
But the best about this Hotel is the perfect location directly in the middle of the Strip. Close to everything in walking distance.
All Hotels can be checked here http://www.i4vegas.com/?sessionid=d3bb770aa34a166d415dae52d5b35856&ct=0