16-day Road Trip Itinerary for West USA

The United States is probably the best place in the world for road tripping. I mean, the country is basically built for cars. As a planning and organizing geek, I love to plan out road trips and research the web to make sure we absolutely don’t miss anything while we’re on the road.

Are you looking for west USA road trip itinerary inspiration, this is the place to start. In this post, I share our itinerary for the 16-day road trip through the west of the USA, that we made in May 2016. We mixed comfortable hotels with adventurous outdoor campsites. This 4200-kilometer route starts and ends in Los Angeles, covering three major cities, four states, and five National Parks!

Day 1 | Arrival in Los Angeles

Hotel: Value Inn Worldwide LAX, Los Angeles, CA
Description: Our plane landed pretty late in the evening in LA, so we chose a hotel close to the airport. Not the fanciest location, but it’s convenient, cheap, and only for one night of sleep anyway.
Tips: Rent an All-American Muscle car. Compared to European prices, it is very affordable in the US. We rented a Ford Mustang convertible and fell in love with it right away.

Day 2 | Los Angeles – San Simeon

Hotel: San Simeon Lodge, San Simeon, CA
Distance: 400 km
Description: Today the road trip really starts. Take the famous Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu and make several stops on the coastline to enjoy the sun and the sea. There are plenty of beautiful white beaches with iconic blue lifeguard towers along the way.
Tips: Stop for a lunch in the beautiful town of Santa Barbara | Watch the sunset over the ocean

Day 3 | San Simeon – San Francisco

Hotel: La Luna Inn, San Francisco, CA
Distance: 350 km
Description: One of the most spectacular drives in the world, the Big Sur, is scheduled for today. Take your time and make sure to stop multiple times to enjoy the stunning scenery.
Tips: See the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas | Have a short break at McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach | Drive the 17-mile drive in Monterey | Visit the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Day 4 | San Francisco

Hotel: La Luna Inn, San Francisco, CA
Description: A full day to explore The City by the Bay, San Francisco
Tips: Forget the car: purchase a 1-day pass for the public transport and take the trolleybus, this pass also includes a ride with the historic Cable Cars | Enjoy the views at Pier 39 | Make a trip to Alcatraz | Visit the Painted Ladies, the iconic colored houses

Day 5 | San Francisco – Yosemite National Park

Campsite: Lower Pines Campground, Yosemite Valley, CA
Distance: 350 km
Description: First, make sure to head North to drive over the Golden Gate bridge (this is the toll-free direction), and make a quick stop to take a picture of the bridge with the city in the background. Then head to the east towards Yosemite National Park. At the entrance, you can buy the Annual National Park pass, that provides access to all National Parks during this trip.
Note: The campsites in Yosemite are very popular so make a reservation in advance. The reservation system opens 5 months in advance, see the official website for more information. When we booked, the campsites were sold-out within a day.

Day 6 | Yosemite National Park

Campsite: Lower Pines Campground, Yosemite Valley, CA
Description: A full day to explore Yosemite. Go hiking, the wide array of trails in the park vary in difficulty levels as well as scenic views. Our favorite is the Mist Trail, one of Yosemite’s signature hikes.

Read more: Hiking the Mist Trail in Yosemite

Day 7 | Yosemite National Park – Las Vegas

Hotel: Flamingo, Las Vegas, NV
Distance: 780 km
Description: Prepare for a long day in the car. Because Highway 120 was closed when we were there, so we chose to go via Fresno and Bakersfield. We left Yosemite around 7.30am, had lunch along the way, and arrived in Las Vegas around 4.00pm. Alternatively, you can take Highway 120 and go through Death Valley National Park, which is a bit longer.

Day 8 | Las Vegas

Hotel: Flamingo, Las Vegas, NV
Description: Sin City is yours to explore today.
Tips: Gamble in the casinos. Spend your time people-watching on the Strip. Go to one of the shows. Explore the over-the-top hotels such as The Bellagio, Caesars Palace, The Venetian or Paris.

Day 9 | Las Vegas – Zion National Park

Campsite: Watchman Campground, Springdale, UT
Distance: 250 km
Description: The camping journey continues. Again, you’ll spend the night in a tent underneath the stars, right in the middle of a National Park.
Tips: Leave Las Vegas early in the morning, this way you’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to walk one of the many amazing hikes in Zion. The Angels Landing Trail is our favorite.

Read more: Hiking the Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park

Day 10 | Zion National Park – Bryce Canyon National Park

Campsite: Sunset Campground, Bryce Canyon NP, UT
Distance: 130 km
Description: Explore the iconic hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Tips: Bryce Canyon can be very cold at night, even in the early summer. Take this into account if you choose a campground or a hotel.

Day 11 | Bryce Canyon National Park – Monument Valley

Campsite: Goulding’s Campground, Oljato-Monument Valley, UT
Distance: 450 km
Description: Leave Bryce Canyon in the morning and prepare for some stops along the way.
Tips: Make sure to stop at the Horseshoe Bend just outside of Page | Join a tour to the photogenic Antelope Canyon | Drive a little further then the campground to visit the iconic Forest Gump photo spot in Monument Valley (You know, the one where he stops running) | Drive the 17-mile off-road drive through the park.  

Day 12 | Monument Valley – Grand Canyon National Park

Campsite: Mather Campground, Grand Canyon Village, AZ
Distance: 290 km
Description: Today you’ll drive to another highlight of this trip, the world-famous and breathtaking Grand Canyon
Tips: Visit the Visitor Center and watch a short movie about the origin of the Grand Canyon | Go to one of the many viewpoints around the National Park and enjoy the nature | Take a hike | Grand Canyon NP is at a high altitude and it can get could in the evening

Day 13 | Grand Canyon National Park – Lake Havasu City

Hotel:  Travelodge Lake Havasu, Lake Havasu City, AZ
Distance: 370 km
Description: From the cold to the hot. Lake Havasu City is located in the middle of the desert on Lake Havasu (what’s in the name)
Tips: Make sure to visit Seligman along the way and explore the historic route 66 vibes Enjoy the nice warm sunny weather | Dive into the beautiful blue lake

Day 14 | Lake Havasu City – Palm Springs

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express, Palm Desert, CA
Distance: 300 km
Tips: Visit Joshua Tree National Park along the way | Go shopping in Palm Desert

Day 15 | Palm Springs – Los Angeles

Hotel: Hollywood Historic Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
Distance: 225 km
Description: Things have come full circle. Today you are back in LA again.

Day 16 | Los Angeles

Hotel: Hollywood Historic Hotel, Los Angeles, CA
Tips: Visit the ever vibrant Venice Beach | Stroll on the Santa Monica pier | Go see the stars on Hollywood Boulevard | See where the celebrities live and shop in the Hills and Rodeo Drive | Visit a baseball match

Facts & Figures

Number of days: 16
Major Cities: 3
States: 4
National Parks: 5
Distance: 4000 km
Gas expenses: € 210
Average price per night: € 70

Click here for an overview of the road trip including hotels and campsites on Roadtrippers.com (tip! very handy website to plan you’re road trip. It will show you all the interesting places along your route)

Are you going to do a road trip in the US? Or did you go already and do you have new tips? I would love to hear from you in a comment below.

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