This summer I spent three weeks in the United States of America with my family. We made a roadtrip to discover the West-Coast. It was amazing and we kept being overwhelmed daily by the beauty of nature. This was week two.
(read here about week 2)
The best way to travel in America, is by car – or at the West-Coast, that is. In three weeks we drove about 4000 kilometres. We crossed different states and mostly visited the impressive national parks.
The states we went to: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana en California.
The (national) parks: Grand Canyon National Park (NP), Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Yellowstone NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, Death Valley NP, Sequoia NP en Yosemite NP.
Big Cities: Las Vegas, Salt Lake City en San Francisco.
We leave Salt Lake City in the early morning because it's a five hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is known for the many eroded rock formations. It's a naturally formed amphitheatre filled with strangely formed pillars and towers - the hoodoos. We drive through the park to stop at some viewpoints and then we park nearby Navajo Loop for a lovely hike.
The Navajo Loop is a really short hike of 2,2 km and you should really do it. It starts with a descent in the valley and then you walk in between the sky high, bright red rock formations. It's a shame the walk is so short because I could continue for a while and it really had magical qualities. But it started getting dark so we decided to leave it at that.
At Sunset Point - as the name suggests - we ended our day with the sunset. The view over the canyon is beautiful and it was nice to see the sunset but not that special. Once the sun is gone, we leave for our hotel, tired but satisfied with our day.
Zion National Park
We pack our bags again and leave for Zion National Park. Because by now we are used to the heat, we decide to do a hike a bit more serieus. We lunch in the park and then start walking the Angels Landing Trail, a spectacular hike - one you should do if you visit Zion. It's only 1,8km but because of the steady climb it is a bit harder and it takes you around four hours to finish the hike (return included - and depends per person). In the beginning of the trail there is a sign that tells you six people did on the trail sins 2014. Luckily that happened during bad weather, but still, nog very comforting!
The Angels Landing Trail is not for people with fear of heights, on the last part of the hike there are chains attached into the rocks and we were happy about that because the abyss is quite deep. On a certain moment it's more 'climbing' than walking but I love that. The view on top is really breathtaking. I felt as if I was on top of the world. We stayed up there for more than half an hour just to take everything in and take some pictures, but mostly to enjoy the moment. If I'd have to recommend one thing to do in the West-Coast, it would be this.
The rest of the day we took the park bus and visited some other viewpoints and we walked to the Weeping Rock. We see a lot of deer in the park. At the end of the day we drive a little further to St-George, where our hotel is.
We leave the state of Utah and drive to Beatty, Nevada from where we'll visit Death Valley. It's a long drive and when we arrive in the late afternoon, we decide to just enjoy the swimming pool at our hotel. The next couple of days we have to cross quite some distances - so there'll be a lot of driving - so time to relax. And in the desert heat, the swimming pool was the perfect way to relax.
The next day we drive to Bakersfield which takes us quite some time. We arrive there around lunch.
Bakersfield is a really ugly town and because there's still so much to see, we decide to visit Sequoia National Park already. When I look back on it, it was a big mistake because we had to drive for a long time and we were tired when we arrived in the park. We arrived in the afternoon so it got late way to quickly and we only were able to make a short hike. We did enjoy the park and it's gigantic trees which were truly impressive. We enjoyed the park and it gave us back our energy, but the drive back to our hotel in Bakersfield was too much. Bad decision, but hey, that's also part of travelling.
We are very tired from the many long drives from the previous days and decide to just do nothing today. We drive to our hotel The Pines Resort at Bass Lake in California and relax the whole day. We have our own wooden cabin with our very own terras and BBQ and the surroundings are beautiful. We swim in the lake, lie in the sun by the pool and read and rest. It was what we needed.
We decide to make use of the BBQ and it was the perfect ending to a lovely day. We bought a lot of vegetables - to make up for the lack of it on our trip - because we were just craving some healthy food.
Yosemite & Monterey
We eat breakfast in the sun on the terras of our cosy cabin and leave for Yosemite National Park. This park is once again stunning and overwhelming but we weren't able to go for a real hike because my brother his knee - he had an operation the year before - was bothering him. So we took it easy and still made a nice day out of it. We cooled down at Cook's Meadow and sat with our feet in the river. My father even went swimming even though the water was ice cold! We also visited the Yosemite Falls.
In the evening we arrive in Monterey, a small town at the Californian coast. We refreshed ourselves at our hotel and then left for the Old Fishermen's Wharf, on the lookout for a restaurant. Advice: look something up beforehand online because there are many tourist traps where the food isn't that good. The pier is very cosy though and it's fun to just stroll around.
Pebble Beach & San Francisco
We wanted to see some wales at Monterey, but that wasn't possible anymore because that's something you had to book in advance. A real pity because Monterey is a very good place to spot wales. So, you're warned!
17 mile drive, Pebble Beach
Someone had recommended us the 17 mile drive at Pebble Beach, a road next to the coastline with different beautiful viewpoints. It was a nice ride and we got the chance to see the typical Californian beaches. Very beautiful but not ideal for sunbathing because it's quite cold with the wind and the sea is way too cold to swim! But it's a surfers dream.
In the afternoon we left for the last stop on our roadtrip: San Francisco! We decided to drive next to the coastline and stopped a few times at some beautiful beaches. We got a good breath of fresh air. In the evening we arrived in the city - we checked in and walked to Chinatown for a delicious Asian dinner.
We took it calm on our first day in the city - we decided to walk (we brought the car back in the morning) and discovered a few neighbourhoods of the city. San Francisco (SF) is really beautiful. It's totally different from a European city, not only because it's bigger, but also because of the strange mix of modern and classical buildings. I loved the atmosphere and there were lots of beautiful houses. We also went to the Fishermen's Wharf of SF but that was a bit of a letdown because it was quite artificial and very touristy.
TIP: we took a 3 day passport for public transport and I can advise you to do the same because that was the best option!
The cable car of SF is very known and we just had to take it. We tried a couple of times but often the wait was too long and we decided to walk ar take a regular bus. In the end we did take the old cable car and that was really lovely. The old authentic driving system was fun to watch and it's just a nice way to get around! Also, there are many hills in the city and those are more fun in a cable car than on foot. TIP: there are two lines of the cable car and if you just want the experience, then I recommend you to take the one in California Street because there is no waiting line there!
As an avid reader I had to go to City Light Books, the best book shop in the world, according to Lonely Planet. I do not know at all if that's true but I had to visit. It was indeed a very nice bookshop and I hung around for an hour or so and came out with two new books.
The Cheesecake Factory is very known in the United States and we decided to give it a try. We ate our cake on top of a modern skyscraper at Union Square. The cake was delicious, but very, very sweet and huge! We weren't able to finish our cake at all (got halfway) but luckily we could take the leftovers with us for later on!
On our last day in the States we visited Alcatraz - this time we did book beforehand and we went to the famous prison by boat (the only option I think). You are guided around the island and prison with an audio tour and it was pretty interesting. However, to my surprise, the prison sounded less scary and though after the tour than before. The cells didn't have any luxury but it seemed as if the prisoners were otherwise well taken care of. When we saw the menu... it looked pretty good actually! I guess the prison is most notorious because of the impossibility to get out. And of course, prison is never a fun place to live.
Later that day we had the chance to go on a boat tour at a cheaper rate. We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and it was magnificent to sea. We enjoyed the sun and the water and the bridge is truly impressive. Back on land we decided to see the bridge from closeby and we even walked a on it for a bit. The bridge is gigantic and very long. The walk on the bridge itself isn't that lovely because of the strong winds and the cars that pass you by at a high speed. But it's a must-see!
We ended our day with a nice dinner and went to bed early because the next day, we would fly home again...
Exhausted, after a whole day of flying, we arrive home with beautiful photos and memories of our three week roadtrip. It truly was amazing and I'm really melancholic when I think back to it. The nature of the States has conquered my heart. The American culture? I'm not such a big fan - there were both negative as positive experiences. Oh and this trip made me feel really healthy - what I didn't tell you is that I made sure I woke up a bit earlier so I could swim some laps before I started the day. And that was great.
So this was it. The report of my three weeks at the West-Coast in the United States of America. I enjoyed it very much and I hope you did too throughout these posts. If you have any questions, please, just ask.