Road Trip Series: SF, LA, Vegas, and Death Valley

Lovers Lane, San Francisco, CA
Lovers Lane, San Francisco, CA

SF –> Los Angeles –> Vegas –> Death Valley –> Back to SF

Road tripping down the California coast to the valleys and back is not a trip for the faint of heart. It requires lots (i mean LOTS) of driving, good company and ambition. Also, hydration, snacks and an ample music collection is essential.

To give you some context:

SF –> LA = 6 hrs

LA –> Vegas = 4 hours

Vegas –> Death Valley = 2.3 hours

Death Valley –> back to Vegas = 2.3 hrs

Vegas –> SF = 8 hours

In February, my friends from Asia came to visit the US for the first time and wanted the West Coast experience in a 9 days. For the first 2 days to help them recover from jetlag, we did a ton of shopping. Hours upon hours of shopping…CRAZY. Basically all the stores. All the outlets.

There was also some sightseeing in San Francisco. Being a local, i still enjoy visiting the touristy spots. It reminds me of what makes this beautiful city special and unique. First stop was the Palace of Fine Arts. Look at the gorgeous Greek inspo architecture. Such a gem in SF.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge! *Cue theme song from Full House*

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The following day, we traveled down Highway 1 from SF all the way to LA. It was a long 8 hour drive but it was truly scenic and beautiful. We enjoyed fantastic sunny weather, and stopped by many small towns on Hwy 1.

First stop was Big Sur and the Bixby Canyon Bridge. The Bixby is one of my California bucket list must-see’s. Truly spectacular. Who doesn’t love bridges? I know i was pretty mesmerized by its magnificent architecture. It is definitely something to stop for if you’re visiting.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, California
Bixby Bridge, Big Sur, California

 

Big Sur, California
Big Sur, California
Beach on Highway 1, California
Beach on Highway 1, California

An 80 foot waterfall can be seen at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – 37 miles South of Carmel, CA.

McWay Falls, Big Sur, CA
McWay Falls, Big Sur, CA

Right in the central coast of California, we saw this! A bunch of elephant seals living on this beach. They were sunbathing and enjoying life as it should be.

 Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery
Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery
Zebras living in California's Central Coast. San Simeon.
Zebras living in California’s Central Coast. San Simeon.

We saw zebras living near San Simeon. Central California Coast. Turns out that these are the last surviving zebra descendants of the Hearst Castle.

Once we got to LA, we chilled for a few hours in our hotel before embarking onto Griffith Observatory at night – a must stop spot to see the gorgeous night views of LA.

Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory

I can never get used to the twinkling lights. In a city with more than 10 million people, seeing LA from this POV was amazing. So much quiet.

Love at Griffith
Love at Griffith

The following day, we went to my favorite beach in LA:  Manhattan Beach. It was perfectly sunny with just the right amount of chill.

Manhattan Beach Boardwalk
Manhattan Beach Boardwalk

Attempting a wheel pose!

Wheel Pose
Wheel Pose

 

Pellicola Pizzeria in Los Angeles –  so yummy. 

Pellicola Pizzeria in Los Angeles
Pellicola Pizzeria in Los Angeles

Death Valley

Death Valley was one of the most beautiful sites we visited during our trip. Who knew that the hottest place on earth was also so picturesque and unique? To be honest, the last park i would think of to go to is probably this one because not only is it just a desert, it’s also hot and remote and a stark contrast from the gorgeous and breathtaking Yosemite.

When we went, it was at a “cool” 82 degrees. During the summer, the valley gets over 108+ with a record of 135 one summer.

Reflecting.

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park

This national park is the biggest one in the US, where one end to another end would take more than 3 hours. We only visited one end of the park, which was enough for a day trip. It was about 2.5 hrs from Vegas where we came from and we spent the entire day exploring this mysterious land.

One of the most interesting things at Death Valley is the amount of salt that the land produces.

In the light, it looks like snow. Lots of snow. But it’s all salt. Crazy!

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA

Death Valley is said to have some of the darkest nights. Because of its remote location, it gets really dark. During moonless nights, you can visibly see different planets with your eyes.

We stayed until nighttime, and the stars were literally painted across the sky. It was as if the stars were falling into the backdrop and right into my hands because they looked close to the touch. They are generations of lightyears away, millions of years in the past. It was so incredible, all of it. The whole experience was eyeopening- i’ve never seen nightfall in a desert before, so i definitely had no expectations. I just wish I could have captured it on camera. Now I sort of understand why there are people who go all over the world to stargaze.

Flickr/Yahoo

Tip for visiting Death Valley:

1. Get an annual pass. It’s only $80, and is good for all national parks and national forests in the US. It’s a pretty good deal considering parks charge up to $25 per vehicle to enter or a per person entrance fee.

2. Make your home base in Vegas. It’s the closest big city with reliable mobile coverage and real food, grocery stores and comfortable lodging.

3. Amargosa Hotel is a must-see historical site at death valley junction. It was an old opera house turned hotel. Kind of creepy though.

Jen Signature