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  1. Default Novice driver needs help! San Francisco to Las Vegas via Yosemite and Death Valley

    Hi all,

    I see that this is one of the most popular trips on this forum (which is unbelievably helpful, by the way!) and I've read all the other posts about it that I could find. However, I was hoping for a bit of specific advice on my trip to try and find the easiest routes for a trip with only one, recently-licensed driver who has never driven an automatic and will be driving on the "wrong" side of the road (we're from Ireland).

    We will be leaving from San Franciso mid-July and have three, or at most four days to get to Las Vegas. En route we really want to see Yosemite NP and also Death Valley. We'd like to spend at least a few hours in Yosemite but given the heat are happy to stay in the car most of the time in Death Valley, although it would be nice to get out and walk around for a little bit.

    So we're looking for suggestions on good, scenic routes to take, whether it makes more sense to go to Death Valley or Yosemite first, and where would be sensible places to break the trip and overnight, given that we only have one driver. We'd really appreciate some advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default How much driving experience do you have?

    Quote Originally Posted by RJLupin View Post
    I've read all the other posts about it that I could find.
    Just in case you missed a couple of threads -- take a look at this list and you can also find more ideas at the bottom of this page. There are about 1200 threads on this route. Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum. It is an easy drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas if you allow 2-3 days. Are you comfortable with (enjoy) mountain driving, or would you prefer to avoid curvy mountain roads?

    I would suggest that you use I-205 to CA-120 to CA-108 and spend the first night in the Sonora area. The follow CA-49 to CA-140 and go explore Yosemite Valley for as long as you wish. The follow CA-41 south to CA-99 and spend the second night around Bakersfield. The next day use CA-58 to CA-14 to CA-178 through the Saline Valley to CA-190 which you can use to drive through Death Valley and then on to Las Vegas. There are more direct routes, but these highways are the smoothest to drive.

    Mark

  3. Default cutting a day off

    Hi there,

    Many thanks for the advice!

    Due to time constraints now we will only have two days to do this trip - leaving San Francisco on Wednesday morning, we have to arrive in Las Vegas by Friday evening. Is it still feasible to go to both Yosemite and Death Valley? And if so, where would be the best place to overnight??

    Thanks again for any suggestions!

    RJ

  4. Default

    San Francisco to Yosemite is a good day of driving especially if you hit traffic trying to leave San Francisco. Also, there have been problems with the roads leading into Yosemite from the west so be sure you check out the road conditions. If you have to enter from the south you will be adding at least 3 hours to your trip.

    As someone who lives in SoCal I go to Yosemite as often as possible. I have been to Death Valley once in 40 years. There are so many desert valleys that look just like Death Valley on the way to Vegas you won't miss a thing. In my opinion, Yosemite is a must. I've been many places in the world and I still find Yosemite to be a jewel. If you are only going to do a few hours in the Yosemite Valley, be sure to take the Valley floor tour. You will get the most out of your time that way. Of course you could hike to Vernal Falls and up the mist trail to Nevada Falls too. It is a shame you will not have more time.

    And we have driven from Yosemite to Vegas in one day. Hope you have a comfortable car. My back was screaming at me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default An alternative view

    Quote Originally Posted by sweeper View Post
    As someone who lives in SoCal I go to Yosemite as often as possible.
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! I too, love Yosemite and with the incredibly early opening of Tioga Pass (last Friday) it looks like a long and beautiful summer season.
    I have been to Death Valley once in 40 years. There are so many desert valleys that look just like Death Valley on the way to Vegas you won't miss a thing.
    Here I might offer an alternative opinion. I have traveled a bit around the continent, visited all of the USA national parks, and a few of their counterparts in Canada and I can say without hesitation that Death Valley is my favorite park in the system. It can be a harsh place to visit -- but it is full of wonder and amazing scenic discoveries and little-visited gems. I was out there two days ago, in fact.

    But, one of the elements that makes this Forum so useful is the different points of view expressed herein -- so welcome and enjoy the trip!

    Mark

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default It Might Work OK

    Quote Originally Posted by RJLupin View Post
    Is it still feasible to go to both Yosemite and Death Valley?
    RJ, If you were a skilled mountain driver, I would say -- no problem, but it is really pushing it to try and see Yosemite and Death Valley on your timetable. But since Tioga Pass is now open, it might well work. Like "sweeper" mentioned, traffic to Yosemite can sometimes be challenging. I would suggest you try and leave San Francisco no later than 6:00 am -- drive to the Yosemite Valley and see as much as you can and then leave for Tioga Pass by 3:00 pm at the latest). Stay overnight at either Mammoth Lakes or Bishop and then drive through Death Valley on your way to Las Vegas (you won't have time to see everything, but you will get a sense of the place).

    Mark

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Central California
    Posts
    378

    Default Are you ready for 12 hours of driving?

    Hi, just did a Google Maps route check and found that SF to Mammoth Lakes, via Yosemite, is 5.5 hours and Mammoth Lakes to Las Vegas, via Death Valley is about 6.5 hours.

    Your visit to Yosemite should be at least 4 hours. It is just too spectacular to shorten. If you can get a reservation at Curry Village (tents on platforms.) You'll have had a true Yosemite experience. Night time there can be magical if you get a full moon.

    You can drive through Death Valley and get a feel for the place. You can even get out and climb a sand dune if it isn't 120F degrees. (It can be that hot.)

    Personally, though I love Death Valley, Yosemite Valley, and the drive over Tioga Pass, is a jewel unlike anywhere else.

    As for the challenging mountain driving. Rent a smallish car with an automatic (you don't want to be thinking about shifting if you are on the "wrong side of the road") and take it slow. No one will be driving fast on the hairpin turns anyway.

    Just enjoy, you are in for a real treat.

    Craig

  8. Default

    Guys,

    Thank you so much for those responses! They are really helpful and we are so looking forward to the trip (even if we do have a horrifically early start in San Francisco - 6 am, ugh).

    Thanks again!

    RJ

  9. #9

    Default 6am

    6am isn't early when you have Yosemite to look forward to. You'll positively leap out of bed at the very thought. If you've flown in the day before you definately will. I did a trip to the same area last September and, with the time difference, me and my mate both woke up at 3am. We couldn't sleep after that and hit the road at 4am. The guy on the front desk of the hotel just couldn't get his head round it!

    You'll not have any problems driving on the right - it's real easy - just take your time for the first hour or so and you'll soon feel at home. If you're feeling tired, which I find unlikely, then a drive down the windy bit of Lombard Street is certain to wake you right up. That is great fun, be sure to pop by!

    And I'll add another vote for Death Valley. Maybe it's because it's so far removed from what we're used to in northern Europe, but I thought it was fantastic.

  10. Default

    Ok, that sounds reassuring!! I am actually really looking forward to Death Valley. The landscape sounds surreal. Even if it is so hot we have to stay in the car the whole time...

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