I'm planning a trip from SoCal to the Grand Canyon and return via Las Vegas in early December. The purpose is to share the beauty of the America with my Japanese in laws. I haven't made this trip since I was probably about 8 years old, so I was wondering if anyone has any good recommendations about things to see or do along the way? Anything at all would be greatly appreciated.
I guess that there is always the McDonalds in Barstow.
If you wanted to make a big circle, you could take I-8 east to AZ, hit Picacho Peak State Park just south of where I-8 & I-10 meet and see some real desert...then north to the Phx area... There are several Maricopa County Parks that are nice and Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction... From there go north to the Verde Valley and hit Sedona, Cottonwood, Jerome, etc...then on up to Flagstaff...from there you could visit Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments, then head for the South Rim (or the North Rim) of the Grand Canyon... If you go to the South Rim, then you could go to Hoover Dam and on up to Las Vegas. If you did the North Rim you could go on to Zion and maybe Bryce, then over by Lake Mead and Hoover Dam before hitting Las Vegas...then back to the LA area maybe via Palm Springs? (We did the Hoover Dam /Zion/North Rim/Flagstaff trip in August.) You'd see a ton of beautiful and varied scenery and get a real sense of the Southwest. Much depends on how much time you have...and as December wears on, weather in the northern parts could be a consideration. Have a blast wherever/however you go!!
Last year we went to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and stayed inside the park. No reservations were needed. We had light snow, but all roads into the South Rim were clear, wide and to my surprise little grade. We were very disappointed that you could not see the canyon because the fog rolled in. The next morning we were up very early and the sky was clear. We went directly to they edge and what a beautiful site. Within thirty minutes the big hole was filled with fog. I was so great full we did not miss that thirty minutes. So get up early if it is foggy and take lots of pictures. You may think of going to the Painted Desert, it was very beautiful with all the colors. When it is wet during the winter the colors are out of this world.
I guess that there is always the McDonalds in Barstow.
I don't know about the McDonald's, but Barstow has an old Harvey House. The city bought it and has slowly restored it. It appears to have some city offices, 2 museums and some great old architecture by America's first woman architect, Mary Coulter. Barstow Harvey House Hits 100 | History | SoCal Focus | KCET
There are a lot of stretches of US 66 through the Mojave Desert and to Kingman, Ariz., and further east to Seligman. There's one of many Route 66 museums in Kingman, Traveling that route means you can show the in-laws what travel was like in the US years ago. In Winslow you can see another restored Harvey House, also designed by Colter. La Posada has a good restaurant too.
East of Oatman, a quirky tourist town, old 66 is narrow and winding, but authentic old highway. Take is slow. I doubt you are going to be towing anything since your info says you are looking.
We traveled through some of Southern California on our cross country trip in late December 2010, through mid January of this year. We stopped in Las Vegas for a few days first, staying at the Circus-Circus KOA. The description of it being a big asphalt parking lot is accurate. We did the research, and knew that before we booked. We've only stayed at a handful of KOA's, and this one seemed to be up to their normal standards. A lot of family and friends flew in and it was very convenient to the strip, and since we all love Airstreams, we rented the two at the KOA. Everyone's taste in campgrounds tend to differ, so I'm not recommending it. But for its intended purpose, a place to park the Airstream with family, it worked for us. Don't forget to check out the Fremont Street area. We liked it better than the strip.
Since you live in SoCal, you've probably heard of The Salton Sea (east side). We'd never seen anything like it, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. The side trip to nearby Bombay Beach, Slab City, and Salvation were very memorable too. Since I heard there was several closings, I'm not sure of the status of the Salton Sea Recreation Area. I understand they were still taking reservations near the HQ.
I second TBRich's recommendation for Pichaco Peak. It was one of the most profoundly beautiful areas we visited.
Here are some pictures of our experiences. Many more pictures can be found at this link:
We just got back from the trip and had a wonderful time. Nobuko and I would like to give everyone a big Thank You for all of the great suggestions.
The trip itself was a lot of fun, but at the last minute we decided against taking the Airstream along due to high winds in Southern California and Snow in Northern Arizona. In fact, we saw only two other Airstreams on the entire trip. About 9:30am (Monday - 12/7), westbound on I-40 about 50 miles west of Needles we saw an Interstate and about half way between Williams and the Grand Canyon we saw what appeared to be a Bambi parked next to a home on the east side of highway 64. Fortunately, the winds abated by Barstow, which was a good thing as the Tahoe was getting tossed all over the place, and the snow and ice weren't so bad and we managed to get by without putting the chains on and minimal slipping, but lots of slow driving.
The Grand Canyon covered in Snow as a beautiful sight to behold, especially at sunrise, but rather cold at a balmy -2! I'll try to post some pictures soon.