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Thread: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

  1. #1

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    Red face Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    We are an Australian couple and have five days self drive from October 4 to visit Yosemite and big sur area after a 6-day cycle of Bryce and Zion canyons. Depart San Francisco Oct 4. Need to arrive LA to depart US late evening oct 9. Planning two nights in Yosemite. Not sure how to distribute the time across Monterey, the inland and coastal routes and which inland route to take to Yosemite and then onwards to big sur and coastal drives. Which towns would make scenic and convenient stopovers? Should we stay a night in Monterey? Open to suggestions for taking best advantage of the beauty of this area.
    Last edited by Sully; 31-Jul-2014 at 06:12. Reason: Errors in dates

  2. #2
    Lost mike rosenlof's Avatar
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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Use google map directions for the inland routes to and from Yosemite. They will be reasonable. It's about a four hour drive Yosemite to Monterey with no stopping.

    My wife and I did part of your tour just a week ago. We stayed in Morro Bay at the south end, and Pacific Grove (next to Monterey) at the north end. You can do that distance in less than a day, but with plenty of stops, it can easily take all day. We were driving south to north. Arrived at Point Lobos around 3:00 PM after about a 10:00 AM start from Morro Bay.

    Between the town of Big Sur and Point Lobos there are several state parks. The Pfeiffer Beach if I'm getting the name correct is a great (but popular) place to stop. You should find it more quiet in Octoer than we did in late July. Stop at the Elephant Seal viewing spot (well marked parking area).

    Lodging is scarce and expensive along this stretch of coast. You'll want to book ahead.

  3. #3

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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    October is a great time for both Yosemite and the central coast. If you haven't been there on the way into Yosemite, Mariposa on the way out will give you a taste of the Gold Rush country. The Boardwalk in Santa Cruz will probably be closed so begin your final leg in Moss Landing and lunch at Phil's Fish Shack. Check out the beach out back after lunch. Going through Monterey---check ahead for special events like golf tournaments, which tend toward gridlock and over-booked rooms. A spin through 17 mile drive is in order, The Fishwife in Pacific Grove is an excellent restaurant (there are lots of good eats in Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel) The Centralia is a B&B in Pacific Grove I can recommend. There is a Holiday Inn Express in Cannery Row if you're a Steinbeck fan and don't mid sorting through the tourist traps to see the locations he wrote about. The State Park by the pier is interesting and educational and the foot path along the shoreline is a good place to chill after the long drive from Yosemite---if there isn't a golf tournament going on.
    In Carmel there are a few photo galleries worth checking out. You can easily spend most of the morning at Point Lobos. Big Sur is a good afternoon drive. The old lighthouses are now hostels and they have reasonably priced rooms if you feel adventurous (and don't mind occasionally brushing elbows with children on school field trips.) At the southern end is Ragged Point---an excellent place to stretch and enjoy a cappuccino. If you want to see Hear$t Ca$tle it is shown by guided tour only, and organized at the visitor center on HWY 1.
    Starting around Cambria there is a great deal to see and do and lots of options for rooms and dining. It will be harvest season so I recommend packing picnics (the Apple barn in San Luis is a fun farm market) and enjoying the weather and scenery as much as possible. Cayucos is probably the last of the classic beach villages, Morro Bay has a great wine tasting room (Stax) and boat tours around "The Gibraltar of the Pacific" if you are so inclined and there is the Skate Board museum(free!) Pismo Beach is famous for cinnamon rolls, clam chowder and Italian food.
    For lodging on that part of the coast I recommend the Kon Tiki in Pismo or The Shoreline in Cayucos(in the old section that's right on the beach where you can hear the surf at night, not the new section with a view of the parking lot) make reservations as these fill up fast.
    There are plenty of wineries and Spanish missions to explore along the way. Santa Barbara & Ventura are closer and more like LA than not. The Getty Villa in Malibu is worthy of a stop if you have the time and are into museums---a real treasure. More than enough of stuff to fill up the last leg of your trip so take your pick.
    Good voyage!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    That's quite a cramped schedule. But a scenic route that is still fairly quick (too quick): Once you leave Zion, head straight thru ugly Las Vegas, then right across
    Death Valley (which will still be hot, but not terrible), then right over to Hwy 395 at Lone Pine. Then follow 395 north to Lee Vining, possibly making brief detours up side roads to see the aspen, which will be turning at the higher elevations. At Lee Vining, you head up Hwy 120 over Tioga Pass then clear down into Yosemite Valley. From there you can cut straight over to the coast, if you have any time left at all. October is my least favorite month on the coast, but one of my favorite
    in the mtns. But a day or two spent around Pacific Grove or Pt Lobos is always rewarding. Just sounds like an awfully rushed schedule for that much driving, but
    it's doable. At least you'll be in Zion and Bryce a wonderful time of year, though a bit of snow up high is always a possibility anywhere in the West in Oct. Always
    carry extra food, water, and warm sleeping bags when traveling. You never know when you might be seriously delayed by weather or road conditions.

  5. #5
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    I stayed in San Jose (where I flew into) when I visited CA. It's not a long drive to Point Lobos and you get to see a variety of farmland on (101 and 1) and coast/dunes (1) driving there. SF would not be much further.

    I'd suggest a full day at Lobos. I could easily spend many days in that area with my interest in photohistory and motorsports (mazda laguna seca nearby) Point lobos looks small, but I spend half a day there and only got around to about 1/3 of it.

    I didn't make it much past Bixby bridge on my day of adventuring before having to head back to catch my evening flight.

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Traffic between San Jose and the Monterey Peninsula can be abominable at times, and even in Carmel there can be a big mess on Hwy 1 by mid-morning. If you don't
    mind distinctly less than luxurious accommodations, you can always find a spot in a cheap motel in Seaside, which is the blue collar neighborhood of Monterey. An
    interesting place to stay which often has available rooms is right down the street from the famous mission in San Juan Bautista, just off the Hwy 101 turnoff to
    Monterey. Again, basic affordable accommodations, but plenty to see and photograph in the immediate vicinity, and safer than Seaside. But a lot of weddings are
    held there, so call in advance concerning vacancy, esp for weekends.

  7. #7
    Robert Hall's Avatar
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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Please remember to drive on the right.

  8. #8

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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    We did a similar trip on our honeymoon a few years back, though we took three weeks over it. We got round the accommodation problem by hiring a campervan, there are firms where you can pick up in SF and drop off in LA. In early October you should be able to get a spot in a Yosemite campsite pretty easily. There is a beautiful campsite on Big Sur too, in a grove of coast redwoods. Not sure when these sights close for winter, a local might be able to tell you.

    As others have said, it's a tight schedule, but one day in Yosemite is better than no days in Yosemite. I'd head straight there from SF and spend a couple of nights in the valley. Check out the Mariposa grove of giant redwoods on your way out of the park, then follow your sat nav to Monterey. There is a campsite right in the middle of town, check out the aquarium and quay, then head south down the coast. The scenery is wonderful, we had a delay due to roadworks which was enlivened by a pod of dolphins.

  9. #9

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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Long View Post
    We did a similar trip on our honeymoon a few years back, though we took three weeks over it. We got round the accommodation problem by hiring a campervan, there are firms where you can pick up in SF and drop off in LA. In early October you should be able to get a spot in a Yosemite campsite pretty easily. There is a beautiful campsite on Big Sur too, in a grove of coast redwoods. Not sure when these sights close for winter, a local might be able to tell you.

    As others have said, it's a tight schedule, but one day in Yosemite is better than no days in Yosemite. I'd head straight there from SF and spend a couple of nights in the valley. Check out the Mariposa grove of giant redwoods on your way out of the park, then follow your sat nav to Monterey. There is a campsite right in the middle of town, check out the aquarium and quay, then head south down the coast. The scenery is wonderful, we had a delay due to roadworks which was enlivened by a pod of dolphins.

  10. #10

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    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Thanks to everyone for these suggestions. Just clarifying we will fly out of our cycling trip in Utah to SF where we hire a car at the airport and head off on the road trip to Yosemite late morning Saturday October 4 to end up in LA departing for Sydney 10:00pm October 9. Sounds like we should head straight to Yosemite from San Fran and expect to arrive late afternoon. Then after two nights there head to Monterey for one night do some sightseeing in Monterey precinct and then choose two places for a one night stay each between Monterey and LA touring local sights. How though do we take in both the coastal and inland scenic routes without too much backtracking? We hadn't thought about hiring a Winnebago or similar but I guess it would be cheaper and allow more flexibility though it may require too much preparation and stocking up which we won't be able to do coming from Australia. Any other suggestions for this general plan would be welcome.

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