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  1. Default Las Vegas -> Death Valley -> San Francisco

    Hi all,

    I have been reading the forum, and see this topic has been covered in various ways, but I would still like some advise if possible...

    I plan to travel (have hired an SUV) between Las Vegas and San Francisco mid July. I would like to do this in 2 days. I would like to drive through Death Valley.
    What else could I fit in?
    What would be the most exciting route?
    How long would I be on the road for?

    (I plan to see the Grand Canyon via a plane trip while I'm staying in Las Vegas)

    Thanks for reading this.

    Ian.
    UK

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default The Big Two

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    My basic recommendation would be that you drive through Death Valley from south to north, entering from Amargosa Valley, NV by way of NV-373 CA-127 and CA-190. Take the short detour to see Scotty's Castle and get some of the lore of the valley. Then continue on to join US-395 at Big Pine, CA and head north. Near Mono Lake (worth a look-see) head west on CA-120 through Yosemite National Park before joining I-580 into San Francisco. Between Death Valley and Yosemite, you will have seen the two major "must see"s between your two termini Your total mileage will be about 580, so easily done in two days. Your best bet for an overnight stop along the way is probably Bishop. July will be the height of tourist season, and you're probably not going to be able to make great time, particularly through Yosemite, but these places should be done at a slower pace to be appreciated anyway, and you will still have plenty of time to get out of your car for short to moderate hikes, ranger talks, picture taking, and the like.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Default Just a few ideas out there

    Quote Originally Posted by ianv
    I have been reading the forum, and see this topic has been covered in various ways
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! Yep, this route has been the #1 most discussed roadtrip on this Forum over the last 15 months. There are five threads listed on the bottom of this page addressing your question (and another ~200 elsewhere on the board). But there is always room for more!
    I would like to do this in 2 days. I would like to drive through Death Valley. What else could I fit in? What would be the most exciting route? How long would I be on the road for?
    Death Valley is just about my favorite place on the globe. I go there whenever I can, here are a few of the articles, (Furnace Creek, Skidoo & Titus Canyon, Chloride, and tall tales we have published recently). After you leave Death Valley, there are two routes full of excitement:

    If you go south on US-395 you can stop at Fossil Falls Recreation site -- very cool shapes of lava and then proceed to Nine Mile Canyon Road (J-41) and use this road to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains. J-41 is a very, very curvy road that eventually goes over Sherman Pass and into Giant Sequoia National Monument. It is a paved road and truly gorgeous --but should not be attempted if you are not comfortable with mountain driving. From there you can drive up to Sequoia National Park and then follow the Gold Trail (SR-49) to Sonora and the west to San Francisco. Depending on how long you stay and explore Death Valley and Sequoia -- this route will require 10 hours of travel on both days.

    If, on the otherhand, you turn north on US-395 after crossing Towne Pass (leaving Death Valley) you could drive up and see the ancient bristlecone forest near Lone Pine, stay over-night at Bishop, see Mammoth Lakes, check out Mono Lake and the drive the incomparable SR-120 over Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park and then on to San Francisco. Traveling time for this route is also about 10 hours depending how much you stop and see.

    Happy Planning!

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-01-2006 at 11:16 AM. Reason: fixed format typo

  4. Default

    Hi AZBuck (or anyone else who can give me some advise),
    Thanks for your help so far.
    I am at the point of starting this trip on Tuesday... I've just realised that some of this may be on unpaved road. Should I be concerned about the drive between Scotty’s Castle and Big Pine, which according to my may is called "Death Valley Road".
    (I will be hiring a Chevrolet S10 Blazer)
    Thanks,
    Ian.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-08-2006 at 07:07 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Don't Worry. Be Happy

    While I have not driven Death Valley Road, I have driven into Scotty's Castle from Nevada and then continued south into Death Valley, and that road is paved and an easy drive. I have also checked the USGS map (our equivalent of the Ordnance Survey) and they show Death Valley road as paved.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
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    Default Are you sure this what you want to do this?

    Quote Originally Posted by ianv
    I've just realised that some of this may be on unpaved road. Should I be concerned about the drive between Scotty’s Castle and Big Pine, which according to my may is called "Death Valley Road".
    Ian, how much off-highway experience do you have? I am not positive that the road is even open going over the Last Chance Mountain range. There is a far better route and it is quite beautiful if you proceed on past Scotty's Castle up to US-95 and then take SR-266 through the Lida highway and then SR-168 over Westgard Pass down to Big Pine. Here is my trip report from that route!

    Mark

  7. #7
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    Default I can guarantee it is not paved!

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    I have also checked the USGS map (our equivalent of the Ordnance Survey) and they show Death Valley road as paved.
    That is a very gnarly road, -- lots of wash-outs and I would be extremely careful driving it this time of year. I drove that area a few weeks ago... And that doesn't even address the route up over the pass up by Last Chance Mountain. (Am I looking at the wrong map here?) There is a section that is semi-paved as it winds through the Hainging Rock Canyon -- but I wouldn't do it without a back-up vehicle in radio contact....

    Mark

  8. #8
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    Default Book Smarts vs Street Smarts

    As I said, I have not driven that particular piece of road. Also, I went back and checed the topo map again, and I didn't quite go far enough. The road is only paved a little more than half way, to Devil's Gate. Ian, by all means listen to the voice of experience here. If Mark is uncomfortable with that road, take his advice on the alternative. My apologies for almost leading you astray, and thanks for the catch, Mark

    AZBuck

  9. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor
    Ian, how much off-highway experience do you have? I am not positive that the road is even open going over the Last Chance Mountain range. Mark
    Well I guess I've had virtually no off-highway experience... I've looked at your proposed route and that looks interesting to. So I think both yourself and AZBuck are in agreement that I should take your proposed amendment. So thats what I shall do unless you inform me otherwise.
    Thanks both for your help

  10. #10
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    Default Where is Devil's Gate?

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    As I said, I have not driven that particular piece of road. Also, I went back and checked the topo map again, and I didn't quite go far enough. The road is only paved a little more than half way, to Devil's Gate.
    I have three topo maps open on the desk, and I can't find Devil's Gate. Me thinks we must be looking at different roads. The worst section of Death Valley Road tends to be the first five miles after it leaves the pavement just north of the Grapevine Ranger Station. That is where the washouts are. At about the junction with the Tule Canyon Road, Death Valley Road turns into a "speed run" as it zips up the alluvial fans emanting out of the eastern drainage of the Last Chance Range before beginning its climb past the old sulphur mine and enters Hanging Rock Canyon (which is semi-paved) and the the wash-outs start again (so back to gravel). Once the road gets across Eureka Valley it is back to semi-pavement for most of the trip through Little Cowhorn Valley (which I have not seen yet, but looks like a fun trip) and from there it is a pretty good road all the way down to the Westgard Highway (SR-168).

    So, upon reflection -- Ian, if you are use to off-highway travel and don't mind beating the heck out of your car for the 5-7 miles of very rough road, it is a doable road -- and quite an adventure -- but still much slower than taking the state routes mentioned above. If you do this.... make sure you speak with the Rangers at Grapevine Ranger Station and ensure that the road is open and OK all the to Lime Hill in the Cowhorn Valley area. From there you will be fine. Take lots of photos -- you will be venturing into a section of the park that doesn't attract alot of visitors!

    Yikes! I just re-read your last post -- this is a rental car??? I bet your rental contract prohibits off-highway travel, so if you break down out there, you won't be able to obtain help from the rental car company.... Oh and there is zero cellular service up there! By the way, the park service refers to this road as the "Big Pine Road" and so you will make your life easier if you refer to this route with this name when discussing it with them.

    Mark

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