Tour of Western America [Travel Report]

Five-week route through Western America

We embarked on a five-week tour of Western America. This trip through Western America is the most amazing journey we have taken as a family. On this page, you’ll find a detailed travel report.

Western America is incredibly popular for a reason. You’ll find world-famous cities, numerous national parks, beautiful driving routes, and the ocean. It has everything to offer for a wonderful road trip.

On this page, you’ll read about the route we took. Our route through Western America might inspire your own tour across America.

We traveled with our children aged 2 and 4 years. Therefore, our pace was relatively slow, which was feasible since we had five weeks. Also, the driving distances were manageable, except for one day.

Road trip through Western America

Our route through Western America

Below, you’ll find a brief overview of our route. We highly recommend this itinerary.

We saw an incredible amount of nature; the forests of Yosemite, the canyons of the Grand Canyon, the mountains of Zion, dolphins at Pismo Beach, and whales at Monterey.

Additionally, we visited the cities of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and San Diego.

Arrival in San Francisco. We stayed here for 4 nights.
Drive to Yosemite National Park (219 miles / 353 km). We stayed here for 3 nights.
Drive to Sequoia National Park (144 miles / 232 km). We stayed here for 2 nights.
Drive to Las Vegas (374 miles / 602 km). We stayed here for 2 nights.
Drive to Zion National Park (165 miles / 265 km). We stayed here for 3 nights.
Drive to Bryce Canyon (122 miles / 197 km). We stayed here for 2 nights.
Drive to Page (188 miles / 302 km). We stayed here for 2 nights.
Drive to Grand Canyon National Park (138 miles / 222 km). We stayed here for 2 nights.
Drive to Kingman (163 miles / 262 km). We stayed here for 1 night.
Drive to Palm Springs (247 miles / 397 km). We stayed here for 2 nights.
Drive to San Diego (129 miles / 207 km). We stayed here for 3 nights.
Drive to Los Angeles (119 miles / 192 km). We stayed here for 4 nights.
Drive to Pismo Beach (184 miles / 296 km). We stayed here for 1 night.
Drive to Monterey (337 miles / 542 km). We stayed here for 3 nights.
Drive back to San Francisco (99 miles / 160 km). Upon arrival, we flew back to Amsterdam. ​​

Our route on Google Maps

Below you can see our route on Google Maps. As you can see, it’s an extensive loop around Western America. This route can be completed in about 3 to 4 weeks. We were traveling with two young children, so we took 5 weeks.

Climate and best travel time for Western America

Our children were not yet of school age at the time of the trip. Therefore, we deliberately planned the trip for May.

And it turned out to be a good choice. The temperature averaged around 20 degrees Celsius. We find that to be a pleasant temperature for engaging in activities.

Of course, at this time of year, you’re not guaranteed perfect weather. We also experienced cooler days with clouds. However, these were offset by very beautiful and sunny “pool days.”

All in all, we highly recommend May as a travel time. In the summer, it can get over 40 degrees Celsius in Western America. Most people (and especially small children) do not enjoy that.

Starting point of the tour: 4 nights in San Francisco

Our journey through Western America began in the beautiful San Francisco. Notable for this city is its relaxed atmosphere. The people are kind, interested, and helpful.

We booked an idyllic B&B in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of Presidio Park. The B&B was a large residential house where the owners, Kathleen and her husband, rent out several rooms.

Our stay at My Rosegarden Guest Rooms greatly contributed to our wonderful time in San Francisco. The location was fantastic: a quiet neighborhood and within cycling distance of the Golden Gate Bridge. It took about 10 minutes to get downtown by Uber taxi.

The owner prepared a delicious and varied breakfast each morning. Each day, she prepared something different. A very homey and cozy atmosphere!

San Francisco Bed and Breakfast

Our B&B in San Francisco

San Francisco B&B

Dining room where breakfast was served

What to do in San Francisco?

On the first day, we visited Baker Beach, a large beach with a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The beach is within walking distance from the bed and breakfast.

During our short walk from the B&B to Baker Beach, we were amazed. Along the way, you encounter beautiful typical American houses. It feels like being on an American movie set.

Our children at Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background:

On the second day, we took a guided tour through Chinatown (→ see Chinatown tour). We found this to be a fun way to get to know San Francisco better and to hear stories from a local.

During the Chinatown tour, there were small tasks for the children so they too could be involved in a fun way. Although it was a group activity, we were the only participants.

A highlight of our visit to San Francisco was the bike ride through Presidio Park, over the Golden Gate Bridge to the picturesque village of Sausalito. It’s truly spectacular to bike over this imposing and famous bridge.

Biking through Presidio Park and over the Golden Gate Bridge:

On the other side of the bridge lies the beautiful town of Sausalito. It’s truly a gorgeous village where you can enjoy lunch by the water with the San Francisco skyline as your backdrop. We had lunch at Barrel House, highly recommended!

View from Sausalito

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Presidio Park

By boat from Sausalito to San Francisco

Taking the boat from Sausalito back to San Francisco

3 nights in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Western America. It’s an absolute “must-see” if you’re touring Western America. You can go on beautiful hikes and the views over the valleys and waterfalls are breathtakingly beautiful.

Tip: Make sure to have good navigation. The signal in Yosemite National Park is very poor; we drove around the park for about an hour without a connection to Google Maps. Fortunately, we had also downloaded a map for offline use through the app, which helped us find our cabin in Yosemite.

To get in the mood: Watch the film “Free Solo” about free climber Alex Honnold, who climbs the rock wall ‘El Capitan’ without ropes. It’s a beautiful documentary that also shows a lot of Yosemite.

We stayed in a wooden cabin in the forests of Yosemite: The Redwoods In Yosemite. The cabin is nestled among the trees and features a large fireplace and a porch. From the cabin, you can walk right into nature. A beautiful cabin in Yosemite!

View over Yosemite National Park

View of the valley in Yosemite National Park

Cabin in Yosemite National Park, Western America

Our cabin in Yosemite

2 nights in Sequoia National Park

Have you ever seen a tree with a circumference of over 72 feet? You’ll find such trees in Sequoia National Park, a beautiful forest home to the largest trees in the world.

The park’s most notable attraction is the General Sherman Tree, the largest living tree on Earth. The tree is estimated to be between 2,200 and 2,700 years old, 275 feet tall, and has a circumference of 102 feet.

Tip: Bring warm clothing. It was around 68 degrees Fahrenheit near our cabin, but there was snow in the high mountains near the Sequoia trees. We weren’t prepared for that with our shorts.

Seqouia National Park

Our children by two enormous Sequoia trees

We stayed at the entrance of the National Park, at Buckeye Tree Lodge. What a fantastic place by a river and with a swimming pool. The hotel is simple, but its beautiful and convenient location makes it an experience.

Tip: In the evening, we dined at The Gateway Restaurant, just a few minutes’ walk from Buckeye Tree Lodge. The restaurant offers a beautiful view of the fast-flowing river.

Buckeye Tree Lodge Seqouia Nationale Park

Front of Buckeye Tree Lodge

Buckeye Tree Lodge

The garden of Buckeye Tree Lodge

2 nights in Las Vegas

We spent 1 day in Las Vegas. It is special to see the gambling capital of the world with your own eyes. In the evening, we took a limousine ride along the Las Vegas Strip.

Our children really enjoyed the limousine ride along the Las Vegas Strip. Riding in a limousine is already a fun experience, and there’s so much to see on the Strip. Tip: Bring a child seat when you undertake this activity with young children.

Here’s a short video of our limousine ride through Las Vegas:

Las Vegas is situated in the middle of the desert. Temperatures can soar above 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. It’s great to plan a pool day here. We were in Las Vegas in May, and the temperature was just over 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Just warm enough for a relaxing afternoon by the pool.

We stayed for two nights at the Tropicana Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, opposite the Excalibur Hotel and MGM Grand Hotel. In early 2024, the Tropicana Hotel will permanently close and will be replaced by a new baseball stadium.

Las Vegas is a fascinating and also raw city. You frequently come across homeless people who seem very confused. Therefore, we were fine with leaving the city after just one full day.

3 nights in Zion National Park

This is truly a place where everything is just right. Our visit to Zion National Park was one of the highlights of our tour through Western America.

We stayed in a gorgeous apartment at a small-scale resort: Cable Mountain Lodge, located in the idyllic village of Springdale at the entrance to Zion National Park. The apartment features a kitchenette, a large bedroom, a sofa bed, and a terrace.

The location of Cable Mountain Lodge is fantastic. The lodge is within walking distance of the park entrance. Nearby, you’ll also find a bike rental shop (→ Zion Outfitter), a supermarket, and a great restaurant with live performances (→ Zion Brewery).

Front of Cable Mountain Lodge Zion

Front of Cable Mountain Lodge

Pool Cable Mountain Lodge Zion

Swimming pool at Cable Mountain Lodge

2 nights with the Cowboys

One of the most enjoyable experiences during our trip across America was staying with the cowboys at Rockin’ R Ranch. The ranch has many horses, a petting zoo, dining facilities, and rooms for overnight stays. Real cowboys live on the ranch, taking care of the animals and engaging in fun activities with the guests.

At the ranch, we joined the cowboys in feeding animals, took a covered wagon ride, cared for horses, and went on a horseback ride through the mountains. In the evening, we made a campfire with other guests. Visiting the cowboys is a fantastic experience, especially with children!

Overnight with the Cowboys in Bryce Canyon

Caring for horses with the cowboys

2 nights in Page

We left the cowboys (from the town of Antimony) and headed to Page, a town near the world-famous Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.

During our stay in Page, we visited Antelope Canyon. You can only visit Antelope Canyon with a local guide. Antelope Canyon is very popular among tourists, who are shuttled to and from the canyon in Jeeps. It’s beautiful but be prepared for crowds.

We stayed at the 3-star Courtyard Page at Lake Powell. A comfortable hotel with a swimming pool and good parking facilities.

Road trip through Western America

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon Western America road trip

2 nights in the Grand Canyon

From Page, we drove to the town of Tusayan at the Grand Canyon South Rim, the most popular side of the Grand Canyon. Tusayan is just 1.8 miles away from the park entrance, making it a perfect base.

We stayed at Red Feather Lodge. The hotel is located in the center of Tusayan, within walking distance of various restaurants. It’s a 13-minute drive to Mather Point, one of the most popular viewpoints over the Grand Canyon, and a 5-minute drive to Grand Canyon National Park Airport.

We took a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. An amazing experience, even for our children aged 2 and 4. Our daughter wanted to go again right away.

Here’s a video of our helicopter flight:

1 night in Kingman

From the Grand Canyon, we drove for just over 2.5 hours to the town of Kingman. The town is marked by Route 66, which runs right through it. In the afternoon, we visited the Historic Route 66 Museum. For me, a real fan of America, it was fantastic to see!

We stayed for one night at Best Western Plus King’s Inn & Suites. A fine hotel for our short pitstop in Kingman.

2 nights in Palm Springs

From Kingman, we embarked on a beautiful drive to Palm Springs. We drove for hours through the desert and hardly saw any other cars. A unique experience.

After many hours, we arrived in Palm Springs, a tropical oasis in the middle of the desert. It’s a picturesque ‘film-like’ town with lots of greenery and countless palm trees. The temperature in Palm Springs was already above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (in May), perfect for a pool day!

Palm Springs is a vacation destination for many Americans and serves as a backdrop in various American films. We stayed at the Palm Mountain Resort & Spa. Highlights of this hotel are the delightful swimming pool and its central location near a shopping street.

3 nights in San Diego

From Palm Springs, we drove just over 2 hours to San Diego. Here we stayed at the delightful Paradise Point Resort & Spa. What a place! A wonderful resort on an island with sea views.

Besides visiting the San Diego Zoo, we greatly enjoyed the resort. You can dine deliciously at the restaurant by the water. Additionally, there’s boat rental, several swimming pools, and a large gym.

Boat rental at Paradise Point Resort & Spa:

American road trip, San Diego

Making a fire on the beach at the resort:

Fire pit at Paradise Point Resort en Spa

4 nights in Los Angeles

From San Diego, we drove to Los Angeles via the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. This route is known for its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, picturesque coastal towns, and natural landscapes.

In Los Angeles, we stayed at the Residence Inn Los Angeles LAX in the Manhattan Beach district. We were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful and spacious apartments. The accommodation is located close to the airport (5.3 miles) and Manhattan Beach (1.1 miles). Within walking distance, you can find a Target supermarket and CVS Pharmacy.

Residence Inn Los Angeles LAX Manhattan Beach

Apartments at Residence Inn Los Angeles LAX/Manhattan Beach

Santa Monica State Beach Los Angeles

Santa Monica State Beach

In Los Angeles, we visited Santa Monica Pier and Griffith Observatory. Both are definitely worth visiting!

Additionally, we took a guided bus tour through Beverly Hills (→ see Hollywood and Beverly Hills Celebrity Homes tour), where we saw homes of famous stars. Extremely touristy but very fun to do.

1 night in Pismo Beach

We left Los Angeles for a 3-hour journey to Pismo Beach. We can’t say much about the town as we only stayed one night.

The hotel in Pismo Beach was fantastic and we highly recommend it. We stayed at the Shore Cliff Hotel with an ocean view. Enjoying a glass of wine, we watched the sunset while a group of dolphins swam by the hotel. What a place!

Tip: They make great wine in California! Order a lovely chilled bottle at the hotel reception and enjoy the fantastic ocean view.

Shore Cliff Hotel Pismo Beach

Shore Cliff Hotel Pismo Beach

View hotel in Pismo Beach

View from the balcony of our hotel in Pismo Beach

3 nights in Monterey

From Pismo Beach, we drove to Monterey, where we stayed at the 4-star Hotel Abrego. The hotel is centrally located, the rooms are very neat, and the staff are friendly.

In Monterey, we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a beautifully large aquarium where you can feel that the staff treat the animals with respect and love.

On our last day, we went whale watching in Monterey (Monterey Bay Whale Watch). A long-cherished dream! We spotted multiple whales and baby whales. It was very special to see these imposing creatures (which are becoming more numerous, according to the captain) in the wild.

Whale watching in Monterey

Whale watching tour in Monterey

Tip: If you also want to go whale watching in Monterey and are prone to seasickness, keep in mind that the sea can be quite rough. A travel sickness pill is certainly no luxury in this case. They also sell ginger candies at the harbor to help with nausea.

My wife and son both get seasick easily but managed to get through the boat trip well. (Unlike some of the other passengers.)

Traveling with small children? We were curious about how a 3.5-hour boat trip on a wild sea would go with a toddler of 2 years and a preschooler of 4 years.

To our surprise, our youngest fell asleep in the first 5 minutes and slept for about two hours in our lap. Our little daughter was initially very curious about the sea and the whales. On the return trip, she too fell asleep.

It was great to see once again how flexible young children can be. Our children handled the wild sea better than many adults on the boat.

End of the journey

From Monterey, we drove directly to San Francisco airport and flew back to the Netherlands. Inspired after reading this travel report? We enjoyed our 5-week continuous tour of Western America immensely.

I find Western America incredibly special. The variety in the landscape is beautiful; desert, deep canyons, mountains, sea, forests, and lakes. To combine all that in one trip is very special.

Want to make a road trip through Western America yourself? Hopefully, you’ve drawn some inspiration from this travel report. Also, be sure to check out our other pages for more information and inspiration:

Renting a Car in America
Grand Canyon Attractions
Helicopter Flight over the Grand Canyon
Visiting Monument Valley
Visiting Horseshoe Bend
Las Vegas Attractions

We wish you a lot of fun!