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By Camp America on 22/11/2016
You’ll probably have been at camp a few weeks when the whispers of after camp travel will start. Who wants to go with who and where they want to go, it will become quite the topic, especially as camp comes to an end. There are so many options to choose from it can be over whelming on where to spend those precious days travelling before returning to the UK.
There are cities upon cities to explore, beaches to lie on and hikes to take, but my top pick would be an all American road trip around the west coast. Some of the most iconic spots can be found in this area and there is no better way to see the States that driving around it yourself. When those whispered conversations start, make sure you are there to persuade everyone they need to take this great road trip you know of. Ideally you want to get five of you together to fill the car and make the otherwise expensive car hire, that little bit cheaper. Grab some tents and essentials from Walmart on the first day and you’ll be set for this amazing trip.
Disclaimer: You must love driving for this road trip to be perfect for you, some the days of driving will be around 6-8 hours.
Start in LA; it is cheap to fly into and has a wealth of car rental companies to choose from. You will also finish here because car rental is so much cheaper if you drop the car back at the same location.
LA (1 Night) – There is Venice Beach, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Long Beach and of course, downtown LA to explore. However, you will have time to do some of this when you return the car so just plan for one night here.
Santa Barbara (1 Night) – Head north on the Pacific Coast Highway and spend the first night in Santa Barbara. It gives you a short-ish drive to get use to driving on the wrong side of the road and ensure you have all the supplies you need. I didn’t love Santa Barbara but we did visit on a sleepy Sunday morning and I know people who have loved it.
Big Sur (1 Night) – Next stop is the big highlight of the PCH, it is where you’ll find the famous waterfall that goes into the ocean. There are plenty of beautiful spots to camp around here and be sure to take a few walks to explore the beauty of this area. Don’t miss Bixby Bridge as you head further north.
Santa Cruz (1 Night) Surfing capital of the coast Santa Cruz typically, had no surf during our visit. The town is cute although quite a walk from the beach. Santa Cruz beach is gorgeous but it is covered with a huge amusement park, we had more fun watching people play volleyball. There is a good state park nearby to camp in.
San Francisco (2 - 3 Nights) – Park your car up for a few days and explore this amazing city by foot or bike. Be sure to take in the main attractions: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street and the cable car. If you are super organized and have booked ahead, you can explore the mighty Alcatraz. Don’t forget to enjoy the food and shopping while you’re here because the next week won’t feature any cities.
Yosemite (1 - 2 Nights) – This place is stunning, take time to enjoy the drive in and out of the valley. While you are here make sure you take a hike, swim in the waterfalls and enjoy the amazing buffet dinner at night. There are multiple camp grounds here just make sure you adhere to the bear box rules… Some of my favourite views of this place were on the drive out the following day.
Death Valley (1 Night) – Be prepared for hot and desolate land, this desert gets very hot during the summer. But don’t worry you won’t actually spend the night in the desert (unless you forget to top up on gas). Take your time as you drive through here and stop often to take in the crazy landscape that is Death Valley. Spend the night on one of the towns that skirt this area, we chose Indian Springs.
Grand Canyon (1 Night) – Head towards the south rim of the canyon and get ready. Those few moments before you actually see the canyon are magical. Be sure to stay for a sunset and get up for sunrise. The colour of the canyon at these times of day is just something else. There is plenty of space to camp here for the night.
Monument Valley and Lake Powell (1 Night) – Monument Valley is one of those famous views, it has often been used as a default screensaver/background on laptops but more famously in Forest Gump and Dr Who. If you think you’ve missed that iconic shot then keep driving, you probably just won’t have reached it yet. After crossing into the Utah state head to Lake Powell where you can spend the night camping before waking up and jumping in the lake. As you leave Lake Powell the next morning be sure to stop at Horseshoe Bend.
Las Vegas (2 – 3 Nights) – Make sure you start early, this is a big drive but then the car will be parked up as soon as you hit the city. Get ready for a treat, book a hotel for your stay here (they have mid-week deals if you can time it right) and prepare for lots of drinking, gambling, shopping and general sin. You might not love the city like you’ve love the natural places you’ve just been in but there is nothing else like Vegas either, so enjoy it.
Los Angeles (1 Night) – The last drive will take you through the Mojave Preserve and there is even chance to drive along some of the old route 66 at Barstow. Be sure to do any of the things you missed in LA before dropping the car back the following day.
Trust me, if you follow this itinerary you will see more of America than so many Americans ever will see in their life. This was a route we made up as we drove, but it was perfect for a two-week trip. Of course if you can afford the car for longer, use this as a basis for creating a bigger trip encompassing more states and cities than I have listed.
There is so much of America to see and so many road trip possibilities but this itinerary ticks off so many of those ‘big bucket list ticks’, that all of your new found camp friends will want to join in on. Still, this is a road trip as much about the journey as the destinations you will see.
Enjoy your travels in the States, even just writing about this makes me want to do it all over again.
Jodie is a travel blogger at The Little Backpacker and a current trainee teacher in London. Obsessed with seeing the world, whilst attempting to forge a career which will allow her to keep travelling. She spent one summer at camp in 2011 and has not stopped talking about it since. One day she will make it back to camp, but until then she's persuading everyone she knows, or even those she doesn't, to enjoy this amazing experience.
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