Rapid 2 week roadtrip around the US West Coast States

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
6
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
10
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
85 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
USA
Length of time
2-4 weeks
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 1,800
Time of year visited
May
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
15th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 5% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

My favourite road trip – the contrasts of natural landscape along the way with snowy mountains, red / yellow deserts, and temperate rainforests; the tasters of the different culture snapshots of the US with conservative cowboys through to uber-liberal SoCal and Pacific North West; the sheer world-fame of some spots like Las Vegas, LA, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon; but more than anything – its a trip that is simply perfect for driving.  The distances involved, the way the US in particular is set up for the drivers and the scenery to take in in between the obvious highlights is just world-beating

It’s also a super high octane trip – 4200 miles / 6760km of driving – the sort of thing you rattle off in your 20s, when you have the energy, 2 weeks of vacation and are keen to see and do everything.  There’s something just so incredibly fun and fantastic about seeing one world-famous site one after the other in rapid succession – one day being in the likes of Yellowstone National Park, the next in Arches National Park, the next the Grand Canyon, the next Las Vegas, the next LA etc etc.  An exciting whirlwind that creates a feeling most will never forget . . . and in a way equally spoils / sets the bar incredibly high for any other trip

A bit rushed? – on the trip itself, we didn’t feel overly rushed.  Again, we had 2 weeks vacation and wanted to see as much of this part of the world as possible.  For example, I actually found a day / half day in each of the national parks perfect to do a basic walk, see the main attractions and get the feel for them.  But of course, it would have been nice to spend longer in each – perhaps take a 3 day hiking trip across one of them.  Or perhaps see some of the other pieces we of course missed along the way.  Ultimately, I always suggest avoiding the mass tourism standard experience on offer, and I shudder just thinking of trying to do this again, but in a part of the world that has world class sites one after the other, the gorging on them was great fun

highlights

#1 The roadtrip itself - stunning views of some of the most impressive natural scenery in North America from the seat of the car. This part of America is just perfect for this sort of trip

#2 Hiking through Yosemite National Park - one of the most intensely beautiful spots in the world, with scenery as jaw-dropping as it is compact

#3 Getting on the lash / partying in the giant theme park that is Las Vegas

#4 Seeing some of wildlife and vast landscapes of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

#5 Going to see any of the live sport on offer. Something will be on just about anytime of the year and its showcases something that is about as close to the heart of what is American as it gets

#6 Having the high expectations met as you gawp at the immensity of the Grand Canyon

#7 Passing through some of the former frontier towns and seeing a different conservative side to this vast country

#8 Driving through the Navajo Nation to see the mesmerising reds of the desert and the looming giant buttes of Monument Valley in Arizona

#9 Driving over the world famous Golden Gate Bridge on your way to San Francisco

#10 Driving past the spectacular Grand Teton Range in Wyoming

#11 Giggling at the customary odd road signs

#12 Walking along the various trails and seeing the impossibly narrow rock arches of Arches National Park in Utah

#13 Driving down some of the world famous Route 66, and watching its 2,448 mile sunset from Santa Monica pier

#14 Walking alongside some of the tallest trees in the world in Redwood National Park

#15 Seeing the famous geysers in Yellowstone National Park, especially the giant Old Faithful

#16 Learning the history (did you know the city was rebuilt on stilts?) and checking out the open markets of Seattle

#17 Looking across the vast . . . and cold . . . vistas of Yellowstone National Park

The Route

Rough itinerary

The following itinerary has links to the individual travel entries that will give you more tips on how to have the best experience there:

 

Obviously, you can start this trip from any of the points eg LA, San Francisco, Salt Lake City etc.  We started in Seattle just because we were living in Vancouver at the time

Travel Tips

  • Driving – there’s a lot of driving – around 4200 miles / 6760km, so be prepared for it.  Again, while there are world famous stops and time to enjoy the national parks or big cities, this is a road trip and you’ll most likely be driving for 70 hours in total.  So share the burden and take the time to just watch the scenery go by.  Best do so in a campervan as you’ll have more space on the long drives to properly sleep and can, when needed, just rock up and park / sleep by the road
  • Amazing drives – this trip is packed with them.  Highlights were driving through Grand Teton National Park; the Big Sur; Route 66; Pacific Coast Highway; over the Hoover Dam; the Las Vegas strip; up to Yosemite National Park; and through the deserts near Monument valley
  • Live Sport – see if can fit in a sports game – classic America right there.  We, for example, were able to go to see a Seattle Mariners baseball game.  Hotdogs, staring around the stadium when nothing was happening (majority of the time), seventh innings stretch and all that, great stuff
  • Places it would have been nice to also see – Zion National Park, Rafting down the Grand Canyon, San Diego, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley, Napa Valley for the wines, Glacier National Park, and Mesa Verde over in Colorado.  All look to be wonderful experiences and something I’d have added to a longer itinerary
  • Places it would have been nicer to spend longer in – San Francisco (this itinerary only gives a short stop to pop into China Town and drive across the Golden Gate Bridge); time to properly hike any of the national parks; more partying in Las Vegas.  The downside of doing this trip so rapidly, but if you had more time, these are the places I’d like to have stayed longer
  • For the route shown above – see the link here (google map west coast US) for how to see this in google maps

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone