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  • DorsetFlyer 26 posts

    Hi,
    Looking for any tips for a road trip from San Francisco to LA. Anything that we shouldn’t miss on the pacific highway? Any tips about cool hotels/restaurants welcome.
    Plus any good hikes in national parks?
    Thanks
    Tom

    • This topic was modified 54 years, 3 months ago by .
    AFKAE 140 posts

    You should definitely include Monterrey in your visit.

    Loads to see and do there. It will have you reminiscing about O Level English literature with Cannery Row!

    davefl 1,225 posts

    2000+ miles in CA was my last US roadtrip pre-this mess.

    If you’re going from SF, then Pinnacles NP east entrance is about 90 mins from the airport. You can do a day trip there on the way to Monterrey if you leave around 8am or preferably earlier. Park at Bear Gulch and do the Moses Spring hike to the reservoir through the cave (head torch useful and bat breeding time permitting). Condor Gulch trail if you are feeling energetic (you can cut it short and double back if it gets tough). Then it’s about 90 mins to Monterrey and 17 mile drive.

    Carmel

    Google the following, some may be closed because of landslips/weather/construction/state park ran out of money:
    Bixby Bridge pullout 14 miles S of Carmel
    Partington Cove
    McWay Falls
    Sand Dollar Beach pullout- Hike to overlook (park on road to avoid excessive car park charges)

    Hearst Castle – Choose and book your tour in advance
    Solvang – Danish style town with wineries

    Then Ventura/Oxnard area – Channel Islands NP. You need to choose which island and which ferry with Island Packers as they only go certain days, and book in advance. If you end up going to Santa Cruz there’s a couple of good trails you can do in plenty of time for getting the return ferry. Scorpion Bay to Cavern Point and Potato Harbour Loop. If you like to paddle there’s the other option to Kayak there.

    Then it’s a short hop to Santa Monica. Don’t miss La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Museum,

    masaccio 708 posts

    How about nip inland to Sequoia NP?

    davefl 1,225 posts

    How about nip inland to Sequoia NP?

    It’s more than a ‘nip’ 🙂 I’ve done 7 of the 8 NPs in CA and a few of the state parks. Will hit Joshua Tree in march all being well

    Would absolutely recommend a trip to any/all of them, Lassen was as breathtaking as any but the OP wanted SF to LA and there’s some serious road time and distance involved in getting to most of them.

    If staying in SF I’d recommend a trip to Muir Woods. it’s such a pain to get there with a car/shuttle bus nowadays that if you like a bike ride do one of the bike hire from downtown, across the golden gate to Sausalito, and then you drop the bike, sort your own lunch and are shuttled to MW for a quick 1hr loop and they shuttle you back afterwards. I used Dylans tours, was $85 in 2019 but looks like prices have rocketed to $105 now plus tax and your $15 MW fee. It’s an expensive day but worth it.

    • This reply was modified 54 years, 3 months ago by .
    DorsetFlyer 26 posts

    Thanks for the tips everyone. Much appreciated.

    Hoping to go in June – not sure if temperature means that Joshua Tree national part might be a bit hot at that time of year?

    Chas 143 posts

    We did this drive in 2019 at the end of an epic 3 week road trip. Would recommend Carmel (we only stopped for lunch – beautiful small town) and Monterey where we did some whale watching. Would also suggest calling in at San Simeon state park for an hour to break up the end of your journey for some wonderful photo opportunities with Elephant Seals.

    masaccio 708 posts

    Hoping to go in June – not sure if temperature means that Joshua Tree national part might be a bit hot at that time of year?

    https://www.climatestotravel.com/climate/united-states/joshua-tree

    34-36 maximum is hot for hiking but not impossible (have been hiking in Oz when it’s been hotter). However take lots of water. More than you think you can drink. And a hat, even if you otherwise never wear one. When it gets really hot, it’s astonishing how much you drink.

    Rhys
    HfP Staff
    187 posts

    How about nip inland to Sequoia NP?

    Having been to both, I think the Redwoods parks are much more interesting. Sequoia is very similar to Yosemite in terms of terrain/features (apart from massive trees of course).

    davefl 1,225 posts

    Thanks for the tips everyone. Much appreciated.

    Hoping to go in June – not sure if temperature means that Joshua Tree national part might be a bit hot at that time of year?

    They will all be scorching. I got burnt to a crisp in Pinnacles whilst waiting for the return ferry.
    They’ll also all be busy, follow the usual advice, double the amount of water you think you need, factor 50 all over and a hat etc. And take it easy.

    davefl 1,225 posts

    How about nip inland to Sequoia NP?

    Having been to both, I think the Redwoods parks are much more interesting. Sequoia is very similar to Yosemite in terms of terrain/features (apart from massive trees of course).

    I would disagree that Sequoia is very similar, Kings Canyon possibly but the easily accessible parts of KC are much smaller I did make it all the way to to road’s end in KC which was gorgeous. Saw a baby bear up close in the road (30 ft… way too close) in Sequoia. Wasn’t our fault we were so close, he was busy snacking on a sugar pine cone in the middle of the road as I and a few other cars came around the bend.

    Yosemite you have to work at to see the best, get away from the loop road, make time for Glacier point and hike the 13 knee wrecking miles of the panorama trail back down into the valley. Also do stuff away from the madness of the valley like Olmstead Point and the epic Tuolumne Meadows.

    Will in SJC 25 posts

    I moved to the South Bay Area from the UK four years ago and have spent most of my weekends exploring the Central Coast with my two young kids and wife. I thought I would provide my suggestions/tips. There is a lot here but hopefully it helps.

    1. It is worth keeping in mind that the Bay Area, currently, is not as open as the UK in this post pandemic world. Mask wearing on the street is normal, Vaccine proof is needed and majority of people are still WFH (we haven’t been back since late Feb ’20).

    2. I wouldn’t spend too long in San Francisco itself. I would say three nights maximum is more than enough to check out the touristy parts. Sadly San Francisco has been hit hard by the pandemic. A lot of restaurants and shops have not survived. The areas around Union Square and down Market/Mission to the Ferry Building are now pretty much ghost towns save for homeless people. We have also had a spate of lootings around Union Square meaning police presence is large and some stores are appointment only. Previously popular hotels are now boarded up. Restaurants that have survived are only open in the evenings and often not on Mon through Wed.

    3. From SF down to Santa Cruz I would recommend you consider stopping at some of the following. Half Moon Bay (Sam’s Chowder House or Half Moon Bay Brewery for lunch), Devils Slide for a stroll along the old route of the 1, Ana Nuevo State Park for an easy hike, Wilder Ranch State Park for an easy, Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz (multiple locations) for lunch or a coffee, Santa Cruz Broadwalk for a drive by (its basically a very basic version of BRigton Pier).

    If you have kids I would go in land to Roaring Camp Railroad for a train ride through the Redwoods.

    If you want to see Redwoods without tourists, I would suggest Henery Cowell Redwoods State Park- there is an easy hike through the redwoods. Much better than at Muir Woods and not heaving with tourists. I would also recommend Big Basin but sadly it is still shut after the wildfires in 2020.

    If you are into cars then a side trip to Caneppa at Scotts Valley is a must.

    If you are short on time you could always leave SF on the 280 and cross to Santa Cruz on the 17 and then pick up the 1. The 280 is a beautiful road for a six lane highway with some decent scenery all things considered. It is nestled in between the Santa Cruz Mountains/Big Basin and Silicon Valley. This route will be 1hr15 versus 2hours plus on the 1. The 17 can be a challenging road to drive as its two lanes with lots of hairpin bends as you go up into the redwood covered mountains.

    4. Monterey / Carmel. We haven’t spend much time in Monterey. To be honest I haven’t understood the attraction.

    Canary Row is walkable in 10 mins and is full of a lot of touristy stores. We have visited the aquarium which is pricey but interesting. I would suggest not visiting on the weekend as it will be very busy with locals from the Bay Area.

    I stayed many years ago (nearly 20!) at the Monterey Plaza- it was decent then. I popped in 2 years ago for a coffee and the common areas seemed very familiar. IC Monterey seems to be popular but is right in the heart of Canary Row.

    If you like beer I would highly recommend checking our Alvarado Street Brewery and Fieldwork (which has multiple locations across the Bay Area but none in SF).

    17 mile drive is worth the payment/drive.

    Carmel itself is nice. The beach (there are two, the Carmel River State Beach is a lot quieter and nicer) are excellent. Shops are all high end. Hotels are small, pricey and tend to be a bit dated. Time in Carmel will either be spent on the beach or wandering around the shops. Stationary or Rise + Roam for coffee. De Tierra is apparently good for wine.

    Hotel wise the Hyatt Regency in Monterey isn’t bad. It is often available on a good Hyatt deal. Carmel Valley Ranch- which is in Carmel Valley (so 20min drive in land) is a big resort. Rooms slightly dated. Very good if you have kids and want a bit of R+R. Is also part of Hyatt. Hyatt Carmel Highlands is VERY old- best to avoid.

    5. Point Lobos State Park

    Just two miles south of Carmel is Point Lobos State Park. Highly recommended. They have a number of great trails looking out over the Pacific and Carmel. It is popular. If you want to park in the park itself then you will need to arrive as it opens. If you don’t mind parking on the 1 and walking in then you should be able to get a space any time of the day but you are adding a mile or two onto your walk.

    6. From Point Lobos go south.

    You are now driving the parts of Hwy1 you see in all the tourist books. Cell phone reception is minimal as are hotels. I’d personally stop at Bixby Creek Bridge, Morela Beach, one of the Pfeiffer parks (these are a MUST). Partington Cove is a good stop. Restaurants and hotels are limited. Nepenthe has a decent reputation for food. I would be stocking up on a picnic in Monterey at Whole Foods before heading south.

    To be honest you could stop at any of the parks or beaches as you head south and have an amazing time.

    7. Hearst Castle and on

    From the Pfeiffer Parks heading south you will eventually hit Hearst Castle which is a must stop location. Heading on towards Cambria I would look at staying the night here. White Water or Cambria Beach Lodge are places to look into staying at.

    8. From Cambria leave the 1 and head over on the 46 to Paso Robles

    Paso is a great town and the area is home to some of the best California wine. The wineries are a lot less snooty than Napa, more reasonably priced and still taste fantastic. Booker, Daou, Austin Hope are all good. Stop by downtown Paso for a stroll. Ice cream from Negranti is a must. Hotels are limited here. Hotel Cheval looks ok. The Piccolo is the new kid and looks good. Paso Market Walk have apartments you can rent. Market Walk opened about 18 months ago and is worth a pit stop.

    9. From Paso head down to the college town of San Luis Obispo.

    Lots to do here. Its a small college town. Some fantastic restaurants. I would stay in SLO over Paso (or Avila Beach). I have stayed at ‘Inn at San Luis Obispo’ which was originally a budget motel but has been gentrified into a nice place for a night (it is very Instagram worthy apparently with trendy hand soaps and stuff!). Opposite the Inn at SLO are a number of chain hotels- IHG, Hilton etc. Hotels in SLO tend to be a mile or two out of town (but easily walkable). If you want to stay in downtown Hotel San Luis Obispo is probably the place to stay (and best hotel in town). Hotel Cerro is an alternative. For dinner check out Giuseppe’s which is a SLO institution. Scout is the place for coffee or an ‘on the go’ breakfast.

    10. SLO towards Avila Beach and Pismo Beach

    This is a 25 min drive max. Avila is nicer than Pismo. It is less built up and less busy. Worth a morning here. Pismo is a classic seaside town with a reasonable size outlet.

    11. Avila / Pismo to Santa Barbara

    I would head down the 101 to Santa Maria (the 1 route goes in land and runs close to Vandenberg Air Force base so there so not much to see) and then cut in land on the 154 at Los Olivos towards Santa Barbara. The 154 is a great road. Los Olivos is worth stopping in for a wander and wine tasting. This is the closest town to the Netherland Ranch. From there you head up and over the mountains and down into Santa Barbara.You could swing by a winery or two on the way.

    12. Santa Barbara

    In my view the best place in California. It is a great city with a Spanish feel. Lots to do and see. Some great wineries and restaurants. We have stayed at the Belmond El Encanto which was fantastic though prices have skyrocketed as Americans have started taking vacations again. Numerous decent hotels in Santa Barbara. The Old Mission is worth visiting. The next town along is Montecito which is now even more famous thanks to Harry and Megan. Again a number of nice hotels here (Rosewood, Four Seasons). Honor Bar is worth going to for dinenr- I’d recommend the Dings Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

    13. Santa Barbara to LA

    To be honest, we are normally in travel mode here and just wanting to get to LAX or SB. The beaches along this stretch are long, large and empty. Oxnard beach was worth a stop. We haven’t done the Channel Islands but I see others have commented.

    And then you are in LA. I hate to say that I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg here. The Central Coast is stunning, you will stumble across beautiful places every five minutes. I would encourage you to pull off to the side of the road and explore. Whilst most people, understandably focus on the beach, there are lots of great hikes on the left hand side (as you travel south) in the hills above the beach.

    There is a lot to do but fingers crossed some of the local insights are helpful.

    Have a great trip.

    • This reply was modified 54 years, 3 months ago by .
    DorsetFlyer 26 posts

    Hi Will,

    Thank you so much. That is amazing and must have taken ages to type.
    Really appreciated – loads of awesome tips for stuff off the beaten track.
    Tom

    The Savage Squirrel 565 posts

    Wow, thanks for a fantastic post Will. Favourites button deployed so I can rereference. I’ve travelled along the central coast highway a number of times and still learned lots from your post!

    Lyn 191 posts

    I have to agree with The Savage Squirrel, Will. Your post was very thoughtful and incredibly informative. A very good argument for an HfP forum. I’m sure it will make all the difference to DorsetFlyer’s trip, and to a lot of other future California travellers as well. Thank you.

    Will in SJC 25 posts

    Thanks all for the comments and apologies for the typos in my original post. Hopefully the post will be of use to others when planning a similar trip.

    I am happy to cover Sonoma and Napa as well as SF hotels and restaurants if there is interest in that.

    Will in SJC 25 posts

    One other point, Hwy 1 is now fully reopened following the land slide.

    I would also encourage any visitors to pay the $10 entry fee to any state parks. California really does have first class parks but they won’t be maintained if people continue to skip the entry fees by parking outside when the parking lots aren’t full! 🙂

    davefl 1,225 posts

    One other point, Hwy 1 is now fully reopened following the land slide.

    I would also encourage any visitors to pay the $10 entry fee to any state parks. California really does have first class parks but they won’t be maintained if people continue to skip the entry fees by parking outside when the parking lots aren’t full! 🙂

    Completely agree on the state park day use fee. The one I was referring to was a Forest Service Federal land car park which has been outsourced to a private company and the America the Beautiful annual pass is no longer valid there.

    The Savage Squirrel 565 posts

    Thanks all for the comments and apologies for the typos in my original post. Hopefully the post will be of use to others when planning a similar trip.

    I am happy to cover Sonoma and Napa as well as SF hotels and restaurants if there is interest in that.

    Hi Will,

    All the times I’ve stayed in SF it has been in the same brilliant small independent hotel … which very sadly closed over Covid and has not reopened. So I’d be interested in your thoughts on SF hotels for an upcoming stay. I have plenty of Hilton points but they seem a fairly uninspiring bunch? Not averse to paying cash. Travelling with school age children so family-friendly…

    Will in SJC 25 posts

    I will be honest, my knowledge on SF hotels in the popular tourist areas is not good. I know all the hotels around the financial district and SOMA due to work lunches/drinks etc.

    Personally I would avoid any of the hotels around Union Square. I’ve never understood why people would want to stay around Union Square, the shopping isn’t that good and, being brutally honest, it borders The Tenderloin which is best avoided for tourists on the whole.

    As you know a lot of hotels closed and haven’t reopened during the pandemic. Coupled with that a large part of Market/Mission is boarded up and, as office workers aren’t back, some of the Tenderloin scenes have made their way further down Mission/Market. Hotels around 4th – 2nd are therefore probably best avoided on the basis of the areas outside not being the nicest currently (The W, St Regis, Four Seasons, Marriott, Intercontinental)…I won’t mention what I saw happening outside the St Regis at 2pm last Wed for fear of being banned by Rob on the forums but you get the drift!

    The Hyatt Regency opposite The Ferry Building is open. The common areas have been renovated. If you like brutalist buildings the Hyatt Regency is for you! From there it is an easy walk along the Embarcdero to Fishermans Wharf. Cable Car also stops rights outside (I’d take that up to Powell and change onto the Hyde line just to avoid having to queue for the cable car in Union Square). The other option down here would be what was the Loews Regency but became a Four Seasons last year. The Loews had a lovely bar/restaurant on the ground floor. I understand Four Seasons haven’t changed the hotel. It is a clear step up from the Hyatt.

    Over at Fishermans Wharf Hotel Zoe is probably a good option. It is an older hotel that was remodeled extensively. The restaurant isn’t bad and the rooms were nice. We have had a couple of sets of family stay there and they have had no complaints. The Fairmont would be the expensive option here. There are also a lot of regular Holiday Inn, Hiltons over here.

    In SOMA the Hyatt Place is a good option but it is SOMA so will be a walk to anywhere of interest save for the Ball Park. The other options in SOMA would be Hotel Via (if it is still open) and The Clancy (which was a Courtyard that Marriott gutted and rebuilt over 2 years). SOMA is really home to tech co’s and apartments for techies. It will have a bit of an odd feel to it given everyone is still wFH.

    Up on Nob Hill the Fairmont, RC or InterContinental are probably the best options. The Fairmont and IC strike me as a bit dated in the common areas. Never been in the rooms.

    An alternative to check out for a different stay would be The Battery. This is SF’s answer to a Soho House / Ned type place.

    Where possibly I would think about your evening meals and try to make reservations. I am sure around Fishermans Wharf you will be fine but elsewhere in the city you will find places closed. I was in Seattle just before Christmas and we struggled to find restaurants that were open mid week.

    Does that help?

    • This reply was modified 54 years, 3 months ago by .
    Mel TS 68 posts

    We did a similar trip in 2017 but travelling north having gone in a circle from SFO to Yosemite, round to Kings Canyon and then across. Will In SJC has it 100% spot on. We don’t stay in bigger hotels so our stays might not be what you are looking for. Half Moon bay was very peaceful – the Inn at Mavericks looks over the bay and if you get an upstairs room, the balcony is a great sunset view point. Bixby Bridge is stunning and definitely do stop at the state parks, they are lovely. Carmel beach was lovely but we did find the town a bit odd in the evenings. I think we just didn’t fit in as early 40 somethings who weren’t dressing in Gucci. Made for excellent people watching though. Breakfast at ‘From Scratch’ in Carmel was memorable – we went twice! Monterey was good for a day to wander round but I wouldn’t stop there. We had a very random amazing meal at the Moss Landing Cafe – it was recommended by our B and B host – looks like nothing from the outside but great food – the chef came out to talk to us and we told him what we liked and what we didn’t and he made stuff for us!

    Morro Bay deserves a shout out too – good place to break a drive. We stayed in the Beach Bungalow Inn and Suites and the room was lovely and walkable to the sea front. Great place to just chill and watch the sun go down. I think we got fish and chips on the harbour front and watched our first sea otter fishing.

    San Fransisco was odd. I love cities, and I just didnt gel with SF. I don’t know why. Definitely second the don’t stay around Union Square – we did and I wonder if that didn’t help. Agree 2-3 days is more than enough.

    Another vote too for Point Lobos State Park – beautiful walks there. Santa Cruz boardwalk ( and the railway line) was a must stop for me having watched The Lost Boys obsessively when younger!

    This is making me want to go back and hit the spots we missed ( The landslide had cut off quite bit in 2017). You’ll have a fabulous time whereever you end up stopping.

    Will in SJC 25 posts

    @Mel TS: Agreed about Moss Landing Cafe. That and the fruit stall just to south are very popular and often cause traffic on the 1! As someone who lived in SF, I never gel’ed with the place. You definitely are not alone. The wider Bay Area is truly fantastic but when comparing SF to other US cities it doesn’t even come in my top ten.

    0 post

    Thanks so much for your posts Will, they are very useful.

    We have a 241 trip to SFO in September so will definitely take some of your advice. I’ve already looked a lot of the places up on Google Earth!

    Will in SJC 25 posts

    @Weeble- my pleasure. Happy to answer any questions you may have as you continue planning your trip.

    davefl 1,225 posts

    One other point, Hwy 1 is now fully reopened following the land slide.

    And it’s now been closed again for several days around Big Sur due to a forest fire.

    Always worth checking https://roads.dot.ca.gov/ for details before you head there.

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