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    Roundtrip on Los Angeles: 21 days on the West Coast - Roberto's diary

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    A perfect synthesis between traditional destinations and hidden pearls, this is the essence of Roberto's journey, who tells us about his fascinating adventure between California, Oregon, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. A useful starting point for those returning to the parks area for the second time, but also for those seeking to integrate a “standard” route with little-known and less-traveled destinations.       

    It was not the first summer road trip to the USA but actually the sixth between East and West coasts and therefore the choice of the route costs, for the first time, it was not addressed by traditional guides but rather by this site and other stories on the web looking for non-classic destinations and hidden gems. So now I am making this text available for use by other readers. You will find the route and the stages at the bottom while I will try to describe the main ideas and memories while maintaining a chronological order.


    • Give Los Angeles to Vegas 
    • Grand Canyon North Rim and Grand Staircase Escalante area 
    • Canyonlands area and UT12
    • Zion National Park
    • Zona di Mammoth Lakes
    • Parks of Oregon / Alta California
    • Return to Los Angeles
    • Itinerario day by day

    Give Los Angeles to Vegas 

    Once we get off at LAX (Los Angeles Airport), let's not waste time and immediately collect the rented car online and head north for the first destination. After the night spent in Ridgecrest after a few kilometers we are at the first goal, i Trona Pinnacles: A series of rock pinnacles in the desert easy to find along a dirt road that deviates from Highway 178. The spectacle of these pinnacles under a cloudless cobalt sky in an almost lunar context was made even more fascinating by the fact that they were completely alone!

    A great way to start the journey then continued in the nearby Death Valley, already seen in detail in a previous trip but which, being on the road to Las Vegas, represented an excellent opportunity to inaugurate the parks card and review its pearls: the Golden Canyon (both through the trail inside it and from above from Zabriskie Point) as well as Artist's Drive and Palette, a fantastic little circuit to do by car among its typical multicolored rocks. And much more, Dante's Peak, Badwater Basin. In the evening I turn to Las Vegas among its bizarre casinos and shops: for dinner I recommend one of the 2 Outbacks on the Strip, the Australian steak house that represents an excellent choice for value for money

    Grand Canyon North Rim and Grand Staircase Escalante area 

    Il North Rim of Grand Canyon it is the lesser known side than the more famous South Rim. Here you can go by car and not by shuttles but the views have nothing to envy to those of the South Rim. Furthermore, to get to some overlooks, we put our dizziness to the test. To make the experience even more beautiful was the meeting on the return road (state 67) of a large herd of bison that grazed along the road occupying its headquarters. We were the first car to stop and then slowly we managed to pass along the herd very closely and taking beautiful photos. From the Grand Canyon we then moved to Kanab to participate in the Coyote Buttes lottery (The Wave) and after having regularly lost it we fell back on the slot canyon of Buckskin Gulch.

    We got there by first passing the rangers' headquarters on 89, just before the detour on the dirt House Rock Valley Road to inform us about the state of the canyon and the road itself. It had rained the day before so there would be mud and water but no risk of flash flood for that day as we were warned that it would be necessary to ford a small stream that had formed on House Rock. The ranger however reassured us that our 4 × 4 would have no problems while a simple sedan would not have passed.

    From the Wirepass Trailhead car park it is a matter of walking half an hour before entering the first part of the absolutely fantastic and indescribable slot canyon, walking in spaces that are sometimes so narrow that you have to pass on the side. The route is still easy to a point after another half hour of walking where the water was too high that day to continue without getting too wet. The rest of the day we skirted the Lake Powell (of a beautiful blue) and revised theHorseshoe Bend close to Page, another spectacle of nature, free and that does not take much time, 60-90 minutes between visit and return from the parking lot.

    Canyonlands area and UT12

    Walking along the road that runs along the very visible Monument Valley and remembering the visit of 7 years earlier, we see in the space of a couple of days the Gooseneck State Park, a slightly less beautiful Horseshoe Bend but in the peace of very few other tourists; there Valley of the Gods a copy of Monument Valley very faded and with only one area at the height; Dead Horse Point State Park another splendid monument of nature similar to Horseshoe Bend with the cliff of Thelma and Louise (a few kilometers away, in Moab, we recommend the Moab Brewery which in Utah); Goblin Valley crammed with thousands of more or less high red pinnacles in the desert including wandering and a nice trail that leads to the rock massif of Molly's Castle. We arrive late at Capitol Reef, another spectacular national park among multicolored rocks but unfortunately both the famous cake shop of Fruita and the Visitor Center were already closed.

    In the last lights of the evening, however, we manage to enjoy a drive on the Scenic Drive and the Trail of Hickman Bridge and then we enjoy the dishes of the excellent Broken Spur steakhouse in Torrey. The next day we take the UT12 up to Toquerville visiting all the "attractions" described in the route indicated on the site with the sole exception of the Kodachrome and reviewing the already visited one very quickly from above. Bryce National Park, in our opinion one of the 5 most beautiful parks in the USA. Compared to the route we have added near Escalante, the Hole in the Rock Road, a dirt road that leads first to Devils Garden, a reduced Goblin Valley but with some really beautiful conformations, and then to 3 spectacular slot canyons.

    To get to the canyons it takes about 70 minutes with the last stretch on a very bumpy detour and not passable by sedans for which parking is available about a mile before the 4 × 4 parking lot. Among the canyons we have seen only the simplest, Dry Fork Narrows, which offers views similar to the famous Antelope Canyon and Buckskin Gulch but next year we will return to see Peekaboo and Spooky, always accessible even to "untrained" physicists, but even more beautiful than what you read on the sites.

    Zion National Park

    Organized with shuttles that take us to the various points of interest / trails, the Zion National Park did not impress us as the views and overlooks are more obvious than those of other parks (but we did not go down to the Narrows) and it reminded us of Yosemite , another park that in summer with a lack of water is not one of the most fantastic memories we carry around. More beautiful is the car ride on the Scenic Drive with its truly impressive and particular rocky conformations. For the night we suggest the Toquerville BnB which with a reasonable price offers a room with independent entrance and an impressive breakfast of the owner.

    Zona di Mammoth Lakes

    After a day and a half of relaxing in Las Vegas with mega margaritas always on hand, we headed northwest in search of wonders in this area. We had seen the beautiful basalt columns of the Devils Postpile National Monument in the past and were hoping to see equally beautiful places. Unfortunately, the visit was quite disappointing both in terms ofHot Creek Geoligical Site that for the June Lake while we couldn't find our way to Crawley Lake which was supposed to be the focal point of the day. Nice stop at Hilltop Hot Springs, a very small thermal pool where we were able to immerse ourselves in complete solitude for 30 minutes of relaxation before the arrival of another couple of tourists.

    Consiglio: to learn more about the beauties of this area we recommend reading our guide on what to see in Mammoth Lakes and the Eastern Sierra


    Parks of Oregon / Alta California

    While the Redwood National Forest it was nothing more than a nice walk among huge redwoods, however, already seen in other parks, the Lassen National Park it was a nice discovery among areas of boiling pools and fumaroles, a volcano, splendid lakes and walks in the green. Another fantastic park is the Crater Lake, cobalt blue lake created in the caldera of an extinct volcano. The circular road allows you to see the lake from every angle even if the one from the Visitor Center is one of the most beautiful in addition to the one that can be admired after a trail of about an hour that allows you to see the lake from the highest possible point. the Watchmen Peak.

    The view was unfortunately "clouded" by the fires in the area. One detour by car that we regret not having made, based on chats with other tourists, was the one that led to the Pinnacles. To go to the visits of the natural wonders on the costa dell’Oregon, while we do not recommend visiting the Oregon Dunes that do not reserve big surprises compared to a minimum wait, we strongly suggest you go and see Thor’s Well, a series of small but spectacular natural geysers that form on the ocean shore due to the particular shape of the shore.

    Return to Los Angeles

    On the way back from Oregon we visited Sacramento which represented one of the lowest points of the holiday: dirty and smelly with the exception of the center where an old West setting is recreated. On the coast we have reviewed the exceptional stretch of Big Sur and, further south, towards San Simeon the area where a large colony of very relaxed and beautiful sea lions lives. Always beautiful are the very rich and very expensive towns of Carmel e Monterey where not even this year, as in August 2014, we have seen the sun: the fact that in all the hotels stand out the stoves useful to warm up even in a few days of summer. Carmel, absurdly, always reminds us of a mountain town.

    Just outside the city is a must see the nature reserve of Point lobos in which to spend half a day to admire bays, beaches and sea lions. We then spent the last two days in Los Angeles between Venice, Hollywood with a ride also on the panoramic Mulholland Drive and the Universal Studios, a destination not to be missed for fans of roller coasters and / or special effects and 4D technology.

    Itinerario day by day

    • July 24: Los Angeles (LAX) - 2h30 '- Ridgecrest
    • 25 luglio: Ridgecrest – 40’ – Trona Pinnacles – 2h – Death Valley – 2h15’ – Las Vegas
    • 26 luglio: Las Vegas – 4h15’ – Grand Canyon North Rim – 1h15’ – Kanab
    • 27 luglio: Kanab – 45’ – House Valley Rd – Buckskin Gulch – 45’ – Lake Powell – Horseshoe Bend – Page
    • 28 luglio: Page – 2h30’ – Goosenecks State Park – 30’ – Valley of the Gods – 2h15’ – Moab
    • 29 luglio: Moab – 40’ – Dead Horse Point – 1h50’ – Goblin Valley – 1h15’ – Capitol Reef NP – Torrey
    • 30 luglio: Torrey – 1h25’ – Hole in the Rock Road – 1h10’ Dry Fork Narrows – 2h45’ – Bryce NP – Toquerville
    • July 31: Toquerville - 30 '- Zion NP - 2h40' - Las Vegas
    • August 1: Las Vegas
    • August 2: Las Vegas – 4h15' – Bishop
    • 3 agosto: Bishop – 45’ – Hot Creek Geological Site – 29’ – June Look – 2h45’ – Reno
    • 4 days ago: Reno – 2h30' – Lassen NP – 3h30' – Klamath Falls
    • 5 agosto: Klamath Falls – 1h30’ – Crater Lake NP – 4h – Florence
    • 6 agosto: Florence – 30’ – Thor’s Well – 1h – Oregon Dunes – 3h15’ – Crescent City
    • 7 agosto: Crescent City – 15’ – Redwood National Forest – 4h30’ – Fort Bragg
    • 8 agosto: Fort Bragg – 1h45’ – Sonoma Valley – 2h – Sacramento
    • 9 agosto: Sacramento – 1h25’ Livermore Outlet – 1h45’ – Carmel by the Sea
    • 10 agosto: Carmel by the Sea – 10’ – Point Lobos – 50’ – Big Sur – 2h30’ – San Simeon – 3h45’ – Los Angeles
    • August 11: Universal Studios Los Angeles
    • 12 agosto: Hollywood – Mulholland Drive – Griffith Observatory
    • August 13: Venice - LAX
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