Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Pacific Coast Highway --- in March 2011

Hi Jamie,

Congratulations on the new edition and thanks for this opportunity to pose questions about our trip. We recently bought the Road Trip USA PCH book from a local bookstore as we have booked our Road trip for March 2011. It is our intention to fly from the UK to Las Vegas and make San Francisco our starting point for the pacific journey, we wanted to know the best route from Las Vegas to SF and also we wanted to know as our climate is so much more humid and cold than most of the continental US would we be OK in spring/summer clothes?

Kind Regards

Mr & Mrs Milligan.


Hello Mr & Mrs Milligan --

Thank you for writing in to Road Trip USA, and for buying my PCH book. I hope you like it!

There are a couple of ways to drive from Las Vegas to San Francisco to start your coastal tour. You could take freeways (Interstate 15 and I-5) across the desert and then up the Central Valley; this is fast but not very scenic.

If you have some time, a better alternate would be to head west from Las Vegas and enter California via Death Valley, which in March could be lovely -- sunshine and wildflowers, if the weather cooperates. From Death Valley (the lowest point in the lower 48 states), you have to get around the 14,000-foot Sierra Nevada mountains, either swinging around to the south and following the I-5 freeway up toward SF, or you could take a very scenic two-lane road, US-395, which runs north along the foot of the mountains, past some interesting small towns like Independence and Lone Pine (great names, aren't they?)

To cross the Sierra Nevada mountains in March, when they are still likely to be covered in snow, you'll have to go as far north as Carson City and beautiful Lake Tahoe, and cross westwards to San Francisco on either US-50 (scenic) or I-80 (faster and still very pretty, but it bypasses Lake Tahoe...)

There is another road over the mountains, Hwy-120 into Yosemite National Park, but this route is closed by snow until May or June.

Now, about clothing -- California in March can be cold and wet, and it can also be dry and warm and sunny, changing from week to week (even day to day). I would recommend you bring rain jackets and at least one warm (wool) sweater, along with your shorts and sandals. Southern California is likely to be much warmer than the UK, but in March SF could well be about the same as London. And the difference in weather between Death Valley and Lake Tahoe would be even greater.

Basically, March weather is very variable -- which probably doesn't make it easier for you to plan your packing. But when the sun shines, there's no prettier place than the CA coast.

Hope this helps -- and sorry it took me a while to write back.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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