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    Coast to Coast in 21 Days: Miami to San Francisco

    Who I am
    Martí Micolau

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    And we leave for the United States with three goals... Last year there was a bitter taste in our mouths when, by chance - wandering around the UT12 - we "tasted" the magical slot canyons of the Hole in the Rock Road a Escalante without having seen the most beautiful. Then having spent holidays either in the West or in the East we liked the idea of ​​seeing something of the central states and from here came the idea of ​​trying the Coast to Coast. And finally, retry the on-site lottery for The Wave after losing the online lottery in April.

    The preparation of the trip, scheduled for July-August, begins at the end of November 2018 with the choice of the plane and the car to rent. After much research on many portals we find a car rental in Miami with delivery in San Francisco that allows us to pay an additional "one way" cost of only $ 50 while from New York we couldn't find anything for less than $ 500 in additional cost. And then we buy a very cheap Turin - Rome - Miami, San Francisco - Salt Lake - Paris - Turin for only 520 euros each.

    • Read our low cost guide on how to rent a car in the USA
    • Read our low cost guide on how to book a flight to the USA


    • Travel itinerary
    • East: From Miami to Nashville
    • The central states: Missouri and Nebraska
    • The entrance to the mythical West and Yellowstone National Park
    • Finally in our favorite state… Utah
    • From Utah to the California coast

    Travel itinerary

    A bear in Yellowstone
    • July 24: Miami Coral Gables
    • July 25 Miami Coral Gables - 3h25 'Orlando
    • July 26: Universal Studios Orlando
    • 27 luglio: 5h20’ – Providence Canyon – 50’ – Columbus
    • 28 luglio: 3h20’ – Chattanooga – 1h35’ – Burgess Falls – 1h20’ – Nashville
    • July 29: 4h30 '- Saint Louis
    • July 30: Saint Louis - 3h45 '- Kansas City
    • 31 luglio: Kansas City – 3h – Gretna Outlet – 30’ – Lincoln
    • 1 agosto: Lincoln – 6h – Carhenge – 1h – Chadron
    • 2 agosto: 2h30’ – Badlands NP – 1h30’ – Custer State Park e Deadwood – 1h40’ – Gillette
    • 3 agosto: 1h – Devils Tower – 4h30’ Devil’s Canyon Overlook – 1h30’ – Belfry
    • 4 agosto: 1h30’ – Yellowstone NP via Beartooth Pass
    • 5 agosto: Yellowstone NP – 1h30’ – Mesa Falls – 5h30’ – Wendover
    • 6 agosto: Bonneville Salt Flats – 5h10’ – Cedar Breaks National Monument – 45’ – Glendale
    • 7 agosto: 20’ – Kanab – 1h40’ – Escalante – 50’ – Kodachrome Basin SP – 35’ – Bryce NP – 1h – Glendale
    • 8 agosto: 20’ – Kanab – Little Hollywood Museum – 20’ UT-9 e Zion NP – 20’ – Mount Carmel Jct
    • 9 agosto: The Wave – 2h45’ – Snow Canyon – 15’ – Saint George
    • 10 agosto: 1h45’ – Valley of Fire – 1h30’ – Las Vegas
    • 11 agosto: 4h – Alabama Hills – Lone Pine
    • 12 agosto: Alabama Hills – 1h30’ – Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – 2h50’ Bodie – 2h45’ – Sonora
    • August 13: 2h25' – San Francisco
    • 14 agosto: San Francisco – San Francisco International Airport

    East: From Miami to Nashville

    Providence Canyon

    Finally July 24th arrives and off we go! And Miami welcomes us with a humid heat alternating with a very strong tropical downpour. We were already years ago in Miami Beach and it didn't leave us a great memory so we decide to spend the morning following our arrival at the Coral Gables residential town hall. We wander among rich villas with thick vegetation and a disturbing number of barbecues in the gardens. But the most beautiful thing is certainly the group of banyans on either side of Coral Way that create a tree-lined tunnel so thick in some places that it obscures the sky.


    After an afternoon of transfer and the next day spent at Universal Studios Orlando, the next stop is at Providence Canyon near Columbus, Georgia. It is a canyon created due to reckless agricultural practices that have generated strong landslides in the ground. The result is sensational from a tourist point of view as the panorama, in small size and with different colors (mainly white and orange), is reminiscent of that of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and can be visited both from above and from below.

    Providence will be the east pearl of our trip. The next day is the day of the falls but we can not see the Ruby Falls as we lost the guided tour by a few minutes and the next one is after three hours. We continue straight towards Burgess Falls, a rushing waterfall with a couple of interesting trails around the falls. In the evening, Nashville awaits us, the Music City that fully respects expectations. Here the beauty is to walk among the clubs of the main street which, one next to the other, serve food and drinks rigorously equipped with live rock bands and then, of course, being able to choose where to dine according to the music.

    The central states: Missouri and Nebraska

    Carhenge in Nebraska

    On the afternoon of Monday 29th and the morning of the 30th we spend them in Saint Louis, what was the gateway to the conquest of the West. The pearl of the city is definitely the Gateway Arch, a white arch that, depending on the time of day, looks different, almost blending into the blue sky by day and shining in the starry sky at night.

    On the arch you can also go up with a train with wagons that travels inside it and which allows you to enjoy a splendid view of the city and in particular of the nearby stadium. Cardinals and on the cathedral below. Another recommended tour is al Budweiser brewery which allows you to visit the factory with a visit to the historic stables and with generous tastings of many types of beer produced by the American giant. The tour to Forest Park is less interesting.

    St. Louis

    We spend the evening of the 30th and the morning of the 31st anonymously Kansas City in Missouri, the city of fountains which is honestly decidedly anonymous: the only exception was dinner but this could be expected as KC is described as the barbecue town par excellence in the USA. The restaurant served us excellent cuts of meat at a very low price.

    The tour continues the next day with the visit of Lincoln in Nebraska, probably the lowest point of the holiday with the only point of merit being the presence of a temporary exhibition that exhibited pairs of hands painted with different themes and subjects in various parts of the city. Thursday 1 we cross Nebraska from East to West with only one stop in Carhenge, the Stonehenge made with painted car carcasses ... very kitsch but in the end a stop of about an hour deserves it.

    The entrance to the mythical West and Yellowstone National Park

    Grand Prismatic Spring a Yellowstone

    As a first stop the next day we return to Badlands National Park in South Dakota, already seen in 2011, from the rocky walls that seem painted by a painter gathered between the intense green of the grass and the intense blue of the sky. Coming from the south we struggle to get to the park entrance to the east but from then on the car ride that leads to the various rocky conformations is wonderful and totally satisfying.

    The afternoon is dedicated to a hit and run at Custer State Park, the home of bison to take a car ride practically in contact with these splendid animals and to travel there Iron Mountain Road, a true architectural treasure with its spiral bridges that allow you to quickly ascend and descend between the gradients it faces with views of Mount Rushmore.

    Saturday 3 is Devil's Day… In the morning visit Devils Tower in Wyoming, a mega monolith of volcanic origin full of picturesque streaks. We observed its majestic and even somewhat creepy appearance up close from all angles thanks to the Tower Trail and then, further away, with the Sunny Trail where, however, the main attraction was the observation of dozens of prairie dogs scattered in the center of the lawn where the trail passes.

    Devils Tower

    Before sunset, then, we visit Montana as soon as we cross the border, Devil’s Canyon Overlook a canyon very similar to Horseshoe Bend but above all to Dead Horse Canyon in Utah. We spend the night in a remote ranch that we feel we can recommend, "Beartooth Basin Bunkhouse" in Belfry for the fantastic and authentic atmosphere, especially if the next day the intention is to enter Yellowstone from the North East Entrance ... exactly our program with the aim of immediately visiting the Lamar Valley, which in the two previous experiences at the park we have not seen, and maybe being able to see a bear live.

    So the next morning we leave early but the emotions start sooner than we expected with the high altitude climb on the Beartooth Highway which leads us to the park access. In the Lamar Valley unfortunately we do not see bears but only deer and then the spectacle of bison that cut our way, interrupting the traffic to go to the river. Then review of areas already seen, Mammoth Hot Springs (hot springs and fumaroles), Norris (springs, fumaroles and geysers), Upper and Lower Falls (waterfalls) and then Hayden Valley (area of ​​bison and springs): all different and fantastic each in its own way for the park in my opinion by far the most beautiful in the States.

    Then, all of a sudden going towards the lake we find many cars parked on the road: on the other side of the river there was a big grizzly bear walking along the shore, a fantastic emotion ... After a night at the edge of the park, the following morning is dedicated to the southwestern part of the park with the classic tour of the springs area around the Old Faithful Geyser and above all to contemplation from the top and bottom of the park's most beautiful treasure, the Grand Prismatic Spring at the Midway Geyser Basin with its blue color surrounded by a gold border.

    Finally in our favorite state… Utah

    The Wave

    In the early afternoon we visit the Mesa Falls, also here divided between Upper and Lower and surrounded by the splendid setting of a pine forest on the surrounding mountains. Then a long crossing of Idaho to arrive in the evening in Wendover in Utah to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats the next morning and the car circuit which is located on a boundless expanse of salt and of which no end can be seen.

    We try to take our Kia Soul on the path but we are afraid of drilling into some crystal that is too sharp and therefore we limit ourselves to a few hundred meters and then to a suggestive walk on the salt. The next stop before sunset is at Cedar Breaks National Monument, a park dotted with red rock pinnacles similar to Bryce NP. However, if you have already seen the latter, Cedar Breaks might be a bit disappointing.

    In the evening we arrive in Glendale which is exactly in the center between Zion, Bryce, Escalante and Kanab where we intend to try the lottery for The Wave in the following mornings. In Glendale you cannot miss The Wandering Inn which offers for $ 100 a one hundred square meter apartment with bedroom, living room, two bathrooms and garden, as well as an outdoor barbecue and a professional kitchen shared with the other guests.

    On Wednesday morning we go to Kanab where we lose the lottery as expected and we decide to console ourselves with a ride to Escalante to visit the slot canyon di Spooky e Peekaboo. We then take the UT89 and then the UT12 and then deviate onto the dirt Hole in the Rock Road but after a few minutes, all at once and against the forecast, the sky is filled with black clouds and therefore we decide to give up and go back because we fear that the road may become impassable.

    The rain comes but runs out before we enter the Kodachrome Basin State Park where we walk theAngel’s Palace Trail to see the most beautiful pinnacles of the park up close and the Sentinel Trail to see it Shakespeare Arch which, unfortunately, has recently collapsed. The ride is still satisfactory. In the evening, having the parks card and not having to extend it, we return to the Bryce already visited in 2011 and go down to the amphitheater from Wall Street and then go up to Sunset Point.

    It is Thursday morning and at 8.45 am we fill out the form of the lotteria a Kanab and this time, after 9 out of 10 places have already been drawn, the ball with our number comes out of the urn ... the ranger explains that if the group is 2, an exemption is granted for 11 visitors instead of 10 and this fills us the heart of joy… the next day we will be at The Wave !!! After an initial daze of disbelief we decide to take it slow and see the western film sets of Little Hollywood in Kanab and then finish the day going back and forth on the picturesque UT9 without depriving ourselves of a trail never done in Zion NP, the Watchman Trail from which you can see the nearby town of Springdale.

    And then there we are, wake up at 5 to be in the parking lot Wirepass Trailhead after half an hour of dirt road on the House Rock Valley Road. The dream of recent years is about to come true, armed only with the leaflet in Spanish delivered to us by the rangers the day before and depicting the 5 photos with the orientation points to get to THE WAVE! Yes, because everything is minimal impact and there is no marked trail and you have to orient yourself in the desert with photos for a journey in the desert of about 90-120 minutes. With the aggravating circumstance that the rangers have kept us to give us instructions in case we have encountered snakes, mountain lions rather than coyotes ...

    At the parking lot there are already a few cars and some lucky ones who are finishing preparing their rucksacks to leave and it is about 7.30. We do quite well with a single point of loss about three-quarters of the way and the only animal we come across is a large white rabbit. After the last steep dune we enter this wonderful theater of nature without equal, perfectly smoothed by atmospheric agents with soft and sinuous curves and colors ranging from light yellow to fiery red, touching all but all the intermediate shades.

    The photos taken speak for themselves, never seen anything like it. And wandering around this magical living room we understand the limitations to accesses: the sandstone rock from which it is formed is very fragile and tends to crumble and turn into sand. After a couple of hours and a visit to the surrounding area which is also beautiful even if less defined, we decide to go back also because a storm is about to break out which in fact catches us and washes us totally on the way back.

    From Utah to the California coast

    Valley of Fire

    Before sunset and after a long stretch of highway we have time to take a tour of it Snow Canyon near St George but after a day and with the waves still in our eyes we probably can't fully grasp the beauty of the park, including the slot, the Jenny’s Canyon Trail, very short and not particularly colorful. We most enjoyed the next morning Valley of Fire in which we absolutely recommend the White Dome Trail and Fire Wave where you can admire something similar to The Wave even if in a very minor tone. Elephant Rock and Beehives are also worth seeing.

    From here a detour to Las Vegas where we have already been several times but half a day is always worth it with mega margaritas in order to stroll around the shops and inside the hotels on the Strip.

    We spend the last few days in California as we enter from Beatty and quickly crossing the already seen Death Valley to arrive at Alabama Hills. It is a hilly massif with the real mountains in the background dominated by mount whitney on background. The most interesting trail leads to see a couple of white rock arches that we decide to see both at sunset and in the early hours of the next day, also given the proximity of the oldest. hotel Lone Pine who hosted John Wayne and James Stewart where we are staying.

    Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

    In the afternoon we visit the underrated Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest which is located at high altitude and which requires a very troubled journey to reach it after having deviated from the Highway. We can see little because we have miscalculated the times and we are sorry because only the little one Discovery Trail shows us fantastic specimens of pines over 3.000 years old.

    ll Metuselah Trail it looks even more beautiful but we don't have time and otherwise we would have had to give up on seeing Bodie, a real ghost town abandoned in the 50s and since then kept alive by the government thanks also to the $ 8 ticket. It is possible to wander among abandoned houses and shops and, by booking a guided tour, even the old mine where gold was extracted. Definitely worth a couple of hours stop.

    After the night a Sonora and the transfer to San Francisco we have about 24 hours left before the departure for spain that we pass between the Golden Gate on which we pass first by car and then on foot after having conveniently parked for free on the overlook (Langdon Court) which also allows a splendid view from above. Tired but happy for the splendid journey we decide to spend the rest of the day in the very commercial Fisherman's Wharf rewarding ourselves with crab and clam chowder accompanied by unlimited wine, in full relaxation, on the other coast from which we left 21 days ago!

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