I spent 2 weeks with my family on the USA west coast. With a country as large as USA is, you have to really pick and choose what appeals to you – there is enough and more on the west coast to easily fill a month, if not more! Our 2 weeks USA west coast itinerary was spent between city life in San Francisco and spending time outdoors at 2 fabulous national parks: Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.
This US west coast itinerary is suitable for family travel, also for travelers who want to balance city life in charming San Francisco and a weekend spent in Napa valley, with time spent close to nature and some outdoor activities. What we did leave out due to paucity of time was a road trip to the Big Sur, perhaps next time! The itinerary was also adjusted to meet friends in SFO and to go with a group to Yosemite.
USA 2-weeks West Coast Itinerary Overview
San Francisco (2 nights) – Sedona (1 night) – Grand Canyon (2 nights) – San Francisco (1 night) – Yosemite National Park (3 nights) – Napa Valley (1 night) – San Francisco (2 nights)
We used a combination of flight and car rentals to cover the above. Besides the international flight to reach San Francisco, the only internal flight used was from San Francisco to Phoenix. We rented a car at Phoenix airport to drive to Sedona and further to the Grand Canyon. We again rented a large van to drive with a group of friends to Yosemite national park from San Francisco. And finally, a car to drive to Napa valley.
San Francisco: Gateway to the west coast
San Francisco is a great introduction to the US west coast. No one misses the iconic Golden Gate bridge. But this city offers so much more! You can play tourist at Fisherman’s Wharf but there are other beach spots where locals go and enjoy their day. Kids would enjoy the California Science Center and the Exploratorium. And the Golden Gate park is fun for everyone.
Take a peep into the different districts and areas of the city: Mission district for its street art, Haight district for some cool cafes and boutique stores, stroll around Embarcadero area..
You cannot miss out on fantastic views in San Francisco, be it from Fort Baker or the Twin Peaks.
We spread our days in San Francisco in 3 different parts: both at the beginning and at the end of the trip, and also a night in between. But you can follow this 4-day San Francisco itinerary and do it at one go.
Sedona in a day
The consensus is to fly down to Las Vegas and then drive to Grand Canyon. However, based on a local friend’s advice, we chose to fly down to Phoenix and first drive down to Sedona. The one day spent amidst this stunning red rock town simply did not do justice to the many adventures it offers!
It is heaven for an outdoor enthusiast, it offers trails and hikes with stunning views across all levels.
We did the Pink Jeep Tours to make the most of our Sedona day trip. My 7-year old daughter loved the ride in the pink jeep. And no adult could be immune to the thrill and adrenaline offered by the jeep ride over gigantic boulders and the panoramic landscape at display.
Grand Canyon South Rim
We took the drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon via Flagstaff; considered one of the 10 most scenic drives in the USA.
The first sight of this majestic 200-miles long canyon leaves you in no doubt that it is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. We chose the South Rim to enter Grand Canyon and made our way to the village. Apart from hiking of course, biking is a good and compact way for a couple / family to take in the highlights of the Canyon. You can read more about our Grand Canyon bike tour and best viewpoints at South Rim here.
I would urge you to not do just a day trip the Grand Canyon. Stay the night and enjoy not just the sunset and starry night but also the stunning dawn breaking over the canyon. The lodging and eating options inside the Grand Canyon are highly in demand so you would need to book months in advance for the season.
On the second full day at the Grand Canyon, we chose to drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend. Everyone needs to take a guided tour inside the Lower Antelope Canyon and I can assure you it was well worth the drive.
Yosemite national park for families
Yosemite national park must be a part of any USA west coast itinerary. If you are not up for hiking many of the easy to moderate to challenging trails that this vast park offers, don’t sweat. There are many places like the Glacier point where the car goes right to the end. Whether you rent one of the mountain lodges from a rental platform or check into a hotel room, the park offers something for everyone in the family.
Viewing the stunning panorama at the Glacier Point, doing the Sentinel Dome hike, enjoying the Yosemite Falls, and Sunday brunch at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel were our top things to do in Yosemite with kids.
Minus the kids, some of us also enjoyed the trek to Vernal Falls or what is popularly named as The Mist Trail.
A fun weekend at the Napa valley
A weekend with friends fit right after the active trip to Yosemite national park and just before our last leg at San Francisco. There are about 400 wineries across Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga, so you better research into which ones you want to visit. Here is a blogpost on some of the best wineries & vineyards to visit in Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga to get you started!
We went with friends who reside in the Bay area and are interested in wine and the local produce at Napa valley. With them, we explored the large and popular estate of Domaine Carneros and the small off-beat Venge winery.
The last 2 days playing tourist in San Francisco rounded up our 2-weeks USA west coast itinerary.
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Been to the US west coast? Which area or town has been memorable for you?
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