Logo

Travelling the USA and Canada


Frankfurt


Sydney


Brisbane

West

In the Deep West

Around the Sierra Nevada – hardly a round trip has been more diverse. Four impressive national parks, blistering heat and snow within just a few days, a completely crazy metropolis and even more crazy attractions “in the middle of nowhere” – just come along on our journey through the West of the USA.

Starting point of our trip is the gambling city of Las Vegas; hardly any place in the USA is more colorful, more glittering – somehow a huge amusement park. However, if you drive just an hour out of the city, the contrast couldn’t be greater – welcome to the desert. First stop is Red Rock Canyon with its 14-mile panorama road. Before you leave Nevada, be sure to check out Rhyolite, a ghost town decorated with colorful artwork. Then it’s down over Daylight Pass into Death Valley – even in May 40 degrees Celsius is not uncommon.

After two days in the park, we follow the Sierra Nevada on the east side into Owens Valley. The Alabama Hills are famous for their bizarre granite cliffs and are the backdrop for dozens of movies. The Manzanar War Relocation Center commemorates the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The winter resort of Mammoth Lakes is high up in the mountains; a beautiful trail leads around Horseshoe Lake. Back down in the valley is Mono Lake with its bizarre lime tuff formations and Bodie State Historic Park, another ghost town with 170 buildings.

If you want to circle Lake Tahoe on the western side, you have to go up again. On the way you pass South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City. Next destination on this zigzag course is Carson City, the capital of Nevada. A total work of art is Virginia City, a former mining town that is completely protected as a historic monument. Strolling through the little town is great fun. For Reno, on the other hand, according to its own statement “The biggest little city in the world”, you don’t have to plan too much time.

Now we head west across the Sierra Nevada, the longest and highest mountain range in the USA. Our destination is Sacramento, the capital of the state of California. There is a lot to see around the state capitol and especially in Old Sacramento. Near San Rafael, the next stop on our route, there is the Muir Woods National Monument with 800-year-old sequoia trees and the Point Reyes National Seashore, a bird paradise right on the Pacific.

On US 101 we roll over what is probably the most famous bridge in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge. However, this time we skip San Francisco; instead, we drive directly to Silicon Valley and visit the headquarters of Facebook, Google and Apple as well as the renowned Stanford University.

Beyond Santa Cruz begins the 17 Mile Drive. The toll road starts in Monterey and ends in Carmel-By-The-Sea. We follow US 1 along Big Sur, a coastal section of approximately 100 km. The Bixby Creek Bridge is impressive, framed by some state parks. The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is an absolute highlight. Depending on the season, up to 15.000 (!) elephant seals lie close together on the beach. It’s an incredible spectacle! What follows is Hearst Castle, the fairytale castle of former newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. As a touristic counterpoint to the hype about Hearst Castle follows Nit Wit Ridge, an enchanted house built from all kinds of waste materials.

At Arroyo Grande we leave the coast and head again for the Sierra Nevada. The destination are the three national parks Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia, where we will spend the next four days. In order to close the circle, we follow the southern part of the Sierra Nevada; anyone interested in raisins can visit the Sun-Maid raisin factory in Kingsburg. Bakersfield is the center of country music in the West; fans of this music style make sure to visit Buck Owens Crystal Palace.

The detour to Edwards Air Force Base is only worthwhile for aviation enthusiasts; in any case, the visitor center of the Rio Tinto Borax Mine in Boron is more exciting. Half of the world’s borax is extracted here. The last highlight on this tour is Hoover Dam, whose gigantic wall dams the Colorado River right on the border between Arizona and Nevada. The resulting Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. From here it’s only an hour’s drive back to Las Vegas.

Route Description

Tag/DayVon/FromNach/ToRoute
01Las Vegas Airport (LAS)Las Vegas005 m / 010 km
02Las VegasLas Vegas000 m / 000 km
03Las VegasDeath Valley NP190 m / 305 km
04Death ValleyDeath Valley NP100 m / 160 km
05Death ValleyBishop200 m / 320 km
06BishopSouth Lake Tahoe225 m / 360 km
07South Lake TahoeCarson City070 m / 115 km
08Carson CitySacramento185 m / 300 km
09SacramentoSan Rafael090 m / 145 km
10San RafaelPoint Reyes100 m / 160 km
11San RafaelSanta Cruz110 m / 180 km
12Santa CruzMonterey060 m / 095 km
13MontereyArroyo Grande160 m / 260 km
14Arroyo GrandeArroyo Grande000 m / 000 km
15Arroyo GrandeMerced210 m / 340 km
16MercedYosemite National Park100 m / 160 km
17Yosemite National ParkFresno120 m / 190 km
18FresnoKings Canyon100 m / 160 km
19Kings CanyonTulare130 m / 210 km
20TulareBarstow280 m / 450 km
21BarstowBoulder City185 m / 300 km
22Boulder CityLas Vegas Airport (LAS)025 m / 040 km
Total2.645 m / 4.260 km

The Journey in Pictures