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  1. #1

    Default Yosemite/Tioga Pass vs. Death Valley

    Hello, my husband and I are going on a 22-day road trip mostly concentrating on national parks along the Rockies all the way to the Pacific Northwest. We are heading down to Yosemite after visiting Crater Lake and the Redwoods but we're really not sure whether to:

    a) Take the Tioga Pass/120 out of Yosemite to Lake Tahoe
    b) Take I-5 down to Bakersfield and add Death Valley to our itinerary

    Our dilemma is that we've read articles that describe Tioga Pass as one hell of a drive and not for the faint of heart... that it might be closed, etc. And same with Death Valley, how the desert heat and the narrow roads can be so hard on your car, nothing nearby, super steep roads...

    We're heading out on September - will it already be snowing at that time? We've driven all over Colorado and Utah before but really don't know (and quite nervous) what to expect from the Sierra Nevada's.

    Bottom line, which will be the easier drive? Tioga Pass or through Death Valley? Thanks in advance for all suggestions :-) We are very excited about this road trip!

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

    Default After Crater Lake -- no problem!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by sydtow View Post
    Hello, my husband and I are going on a 22-day road trip mostly concentrating on national parks along the Rockies all the way to the Pacific Northwest.
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! By the time you have driven the approach roads to Crater Lake -- I just don't think you will find Tioga Pass that challenging.... Yes, it is a tall pass, but the road is in (mostly) excellent shape -- there are some very exciting Sierra Passes, but Tioga is pretty tame....
    a) Take the Tioga Pass/120 out of Yosemite to Lake Tahoe
    b) Take I-5 down to Bakersfield and add Death Valley to our itinerary
    I don't see why you can't do it all. Lake Tahoe is out of the way, but if you use CA-120 to US-395 you can follow that to CA-136 to CA-190 and visit Death Valley.
    Our dilemma is that we've read articles that describe Tioga Pass as one hell of a drive and not for the faint of heart... that it might be closed, etc.
    It won't be closed in September. Here is our best guess for when it closes this year.
    And same with Death Valley, how the desert heat and the narrow roads can be so hard on your car, nothing nearby, super steep roads...
    Um, someone is pulling your leg. I drive to Death Valley for lunch from my office in Las Vegas... you do have to be prepared -- but by the time you get down here, you will be pretty experienced I would think.

    Here are some other ideas and tips for your road trip.

    Mark

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks for the reply! We have now decided to take the Tioga Pass out of Yosemite, spend the night near Mono Lake, and then take US-395 to Death Valley. So, so, so excited!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default June Lake Loop

    Quote Originally Posted by sydtow View Post
    Thanks for the reply! We have now decided to take the Tioga Pass out of Yosemite, spend the night near Mono Lake,
    I would go south on US-395 and take CA-158 (it is a loop road) and stay at one of hte motels along June Lake. It will be GORGEOUS in early September and pretty close to heaven on earth.

    mark

  5. #5

    Default The Plan

    Mark - you are absolutely right, June Lake is gorgeous!

    Anyway guys, here's the general plan:

    Day 1/2 Colorado Springs
    Day 3 Pikes Peak
    Day 4 Rocky Mountain
    Day 5/6 Grand Teton
    Day 7/8 Yellowstone
    Day 9/10 Glacier
    Day 11-13 Seattle
    Day 14 Olympic
    Day 15 Portland
    Day 16 Crater Lake
    Day 17 Redwoods
    Day 18/19 Yosemite
    Day 20 Death Valley
    Day 21 Zion (it's our heaven on earth!)
    Day 22 Durango

    We've already reserved accommodations in all of the national parks (except Rocky Mt. because there's none inside) which all required a deposit so I don't really want to mess with the dates but any recommendations along the way is very welcome! Thanks!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Central California
    Posts
    378

    Default Should work

    Hi,

    As you probably know, you've got some serious driving in this plan, but you should have time to get the highlights of each park. Which means that you won't have a lot of time for lolly-gagging along the way. Just look for the scenic routes and you'll have a wonderful trip.

    The only addition I'd throw in is Mt. St. Helens. It is a truely amazing place. I've seen it from both sides, and don't have a favorite, but your route will most likely take you down I-5. Take the detour even if all you do is go to the visitor center, stand out on the viewing platform, and take a few pictures. But before you leave, stop and contemplate for a minute what the force must have been to have blown that big a hole in the side of a mountain. Also, keep in mind that the eruption was over 25 years ago. At that time there were no trees between where you'll be standing and the mountain - just pyroclastic mud flow. Awsome (in the full meaning of the word!) Pray for a good day with decent visibility.

    Craig Sheumaker
    co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years

  7. #7

    Default 4 weeks to go!

    Thanks, RedCorral!

    Yeah, we're very aware of the amount of driving this road trip will entail. And actually, thanks to this forum (I love this forum!), I read somewhere that it is recommended not to drive more than 500 miles per day. So, we've actually tweaked our plans a bit making sure that we're driving only about 300+ miles a day at the most.

    We've also made sure that we spend at least a full day and a half at each park (with the exception of Mt. Rainier and North Cascades) so that we can squeeze in some hiking. We are so excited about this trip that we've started our list of things to pack!

    While tweaking our itinerary, several things have come up:

    - Definitely taking Tioga Pass out of Yosemite. Where to stay, Mono Lake or June Lake? The latter was highly recommended but those tufas seem really interesting so we're very confused about this. Can someone help us make up our minds?
    - We've decided to take US-395 to see Death Valley, but then saw some posts in other threads about Kings/Sequoia so now we're even more confused. Sorry guys, it's really HARD not to want to see it all. Any inputs on which would probably be more worth our while? We've read that Yosemite has some giant sequoias as well, would those do?
    - Anyone been to Olympic National Park? If we had to choose only one rainforest area to explore, would you recommend Sol Duc, Hoh or Quinault?
    - Last but not least, to anyone who has visited Zion NP.... please let us know if you've hiked Angel's Landing and just how steep it really is. We skipped it the last time but we're willing to try again.

    We've added Mt. St. Helen's to our itinerary, as well as the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood while in Portland.

    Thanks for reading this far and thanks in advance for any help. Going to read some more threads and get some more ideas. We have four more weeks to do some tweaking :-)

  8. #8

    Default Sounds awesome!

    That sounds one hell of a trip that you have planned, I'm jealous! The Yosemite - Tioga Pass - Death Valley section was a real favourite of mine on my trip last summer. Try, if you can, to eek out a little more time for that area, it's well worth it! In Death Valley there is so much to see/do but be absolutely certain to visit Dantes View and Badwater Basn whatever you do. Ideally do Dantes View last, once you've explored the rest of the park, as it's wonderful to sit up there and reflect on what you've just seen as if it were laid out in front of you like a map.

    Forget Sequoia/Kings Canyon, it's miles out your way. I know you want to do everything, but leave something for next time. Cos I guarantee that you'll be back to the area again!!

    I agree about Zion, I loved it. But, Angels Landing? Anyone who hikes that is mad! :p It looks terrifying... The friend that I was travelling with on my visit had visited previously with Trek America. He is seriously fit and a bit of an adrenaline junkie but even he said 'never again' after hiking up there. Even if you were up for it, I believe that it would take quite a chunk out of your day, time which you don't really have, so my advice would be to take advantage of one of the other, less taxing, hikes in the park.

    Whatever route you take, be certain to take loads of photos, and come back here and share you stories (and photos!) once you return.

    Good luck!

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sydtow View Post
    Our dilemma is that we've read articles that describe Tioga Pass as one hell of a drive and not for the faint of heart... that it might be closed, etc.
    We took the Tioga Pass Road to Lake Tahoe last year. I believe it was October 6th. We were just lucky because the day before the road was closed due to icing conditions, and the day after we went through we heard it was closed again. We just lucked out. It is a beautiful drive. There is one part of it towards the end of the drive that was rather steep and hugged the edge, but is wasn't so terrible. If you are driving the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, then this shouldn't be so bad. There is a great place at the end of the drive to get something to eat. The name escapes me now, but it is essentially a gas station with a restaurant. The food was great. It think it is the Tioga Pass Gas Mart or something like that. Also, we did a side trip to the ghost town of Bodie. It's a long ride on a dirt road (13 miles) but well worth it. It was a whole town built around a mine (gold?) Many of the buildings are still there and are filled with artifacts from the time. The town is preserved in what they call "arrested decay." It is staffed year-round by park rangers. If you like that sort of thing, it is worth the side trip.

  10. #10

    Default Hwy 395

    I made a Google Map with some points of interest along Hwy 395.

    You have a great trip ahead of you. I'm envious.

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