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  1. Default Help! I'm South African

    Hi Guys,

    I'm planning a road trip through California and on to Las Vegas. But there are so many options, I have no idea what to do.

    First of all, I've never been the the USA, so I want to see the cities, and spend quite a bit of time in them. This may mean doing a few long trips in the car, and skipping things like Yosemite and Grand Canyon.

    Second, I only have 11 days (10 nights). (I've booked a 2 week trip, the rest of the time I will be staying in NYC)

    My thoughts are as follows:

    Fly to San Fransisco, spend 3 nights there.
    Drive to Lake Tahoe (?) spend one night there (I believe it is beautiful, but maybe I should try find somewhere in between San Fran & Vegas rather, like death valley)
    Drive to Las Vegas, spend 2 nights there.
    Drive to Los Angeles, spend 4 nights there. I could split up the time is LA, and drive up the coast to Santa Barbra? Or down the coast and spend one night in San Diego?

    I chose to start in San Fran & end in LA to avoid the high cost of a One-Way return (The South African Rand is R10 to the $1, so I'm trying to save wherever possible).

    But maybe this is just adding too much driving time onto an already short holiday?

    Am I spending too much, or too little time in certain places? Is LA worth 4 days?

    I must also add that we don't really mind long drives - an 8 hour drive in a day is fine, as long as we have a day after that to rest and enjoy.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default When do you travel.

    Hello and welcome to the R.T.A. forums.

    A lot of your questions are really a matter of opinion, and it's yours that matters.
    You have enough time in the area to see the places you have mentioned and these links may help you decide. You can find much more info by searching the forums and road trip planning pages and when you have decided what works for you we can help you piece it together.

    At this point I would ask what time of year you are travelling? I ask as you have mentioned going to Lake Tahoe but at the same time dismissed Yosemite because of a time factor, Whereas going through Yosemite is a natural progression towards Death valley and Las Vegas. The problem is the road [hwy120] that takes you across the Sierra's called the Tioga pass can be closed anytime between the middle of October and the beginning of June due to snow. If you are travelling when it is likely to be open I would highly recommend going this way and not missing out on Yosemite.

  3. Default Thanks

    Thanks for the links - I have been reading quite a bit on this site and learning a lot.

    I am traveling in May this year. My trip starts on 2 May.

    I actually read quite a bit about that Tioga pass road on this forum, and that's one of the main reasons I think I will bypass Yosemite - I was actually hoping to stay over at Mammoth Hills for one night - but that really requires going through Yosemite.

    Remember, I'm also a South African who has only seen snow once in her life (when I was 4) so I'm a little nervous to drive long distance over very snowy passes.

    Google maps seems to direct me down Route 95 if traveling from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas, I'm not sure if this road will be totally boring.

    I just read the first post of the advice link you posted - I actually really like the idea of traveling down the Big Sur coast - I hadn't considered doing that. So thanks for the idea. The only disadvantage will be traveling the same road to Vegas and back to LA. (originally we were doing a bit more of a triangle, and seeing more)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default You need to grab an atlas!

    Quote Originally Posted by stateofflux View Post
    Thanks for the links - I have been reading quite a bit on this site and learning a lot.
    An excellent beginning!
    I was actually hoping to stay over at Mammoth Hills for one night - but that really requires going through Yosemite.
    Um? Mammoth Lakes maybe? If you are traveling south from Lake Tahoe (you would be using US-395) and would pass right through Mammoth Lakes. You could use US-95 (it's one of my favorite roads in Nevada) but US-395 is much more scenic.
    Remember, I'm also a South African who has only seen snow once in her life (when I was 4) so I'm a little nervous to drive long distance over very snowy passes.
    You may see some snow on the ground in May -- but I doubt you will see any snowy passes on your route.

    From US-395 you could follow California State Route 190 into Death Valley National Park and then over to Las Vegas. Here is the local's route for that.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I did something very similar in May of 07. This is the route I took:

    I took 580 east out of the SF area to 205. I took that to 5 north, went just a couple miles to 120. At 99, I went north a mile and continued on 120 to Oakdale and picked up 108. I then followed 49 through Sonora and took 88 at Jackson up through the Sierras. This pass through the mountains is open almost all year and is beautiful. I then took 89 to 50 into Tahoe and spent the night at the Super 8 in South Lake Tahoe.

    Next day, I went all the way around the lake to see the sights (I had stopped around Modesto to have lunch with a friend the day before so I didn't have time to do this in the afternoon, you might want to do this the day before or not at all, otherwise you will have a very long day of driving), then took 50 across the state line to 207. I took that down to 88, went north a couple miles, and picked up 395 south. At Lone Pine I took 136 to 190 and went through Death Valley. Coming out the other side, I took the "locals route" mentioned by Mark to Las Vegas.

    I actually wanted to go through Yosemite and over Tioga Pass (120), but it, the Sonora Pass (108) and 4 were all still closed by snow.

  6. Default Oops...

    I did mean Mammoth Lakes - not Mammoth Hills. Oops. That's what you get for not consulting the map.

    I was obviously a little confused when writing my last post - or at least, I didn't explain myself very well. What I meant to say was that my original plan was to travel from San Fransisco to Mammoth Lakes, through Yosemite, but then learned about Tioga Pass. I then decided that it might make sense to travel to Lake Tahoe and then down to Vegas, skipping Yosemite.

    I am very glad to hear that there won't be too much snow on the roads. That was a bit of a worry for me.

    I am also very glad to hear that GLC made this same trip and managed to do it quite comfortably in two days - I will definitely look in to taking the Locals Route.

    I like the route you took, GLC - I might take a slightly more direct route to get to Jackson, but from there follow the 88 through the Sierras. I take it this route is much more scenic than US Route 50?

    I'm sure South Lake Tahoe is quite built up, but I have heard it's beautiful - would you recommend I stay there for the first night, or should I drive a bit further and stay somewhere else like Mammoth Lakes? Open to all suggestions.

    Thanks for the help. Will keep researching.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    88 is a lot less traveled than 50. There is something to be said for taking 49 - this is gold rush country.

    Note that it takes more than 3 hours to get from Tahoe to Mammoth Lakes.

  8. Default Mammoth Lakes or Lake Tahoe?

    What's your opinion:

    I have one night to spend between San Francisco and Las Vegas. Lake Tahoe might be a bit 'casino-y', Mammoth Lakes might be a bit far.

    Does anyone know how long it takes to get to Mammoth Lakes once you turn off the highway (The 359) - will it take me two hours off my route to Vegas, or is it a quick detour?

    Any other options you would recommend? Somewhere interesting or quirky or beautiful?


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Neither in my opinion.

    Honestly, with one night only I would go around the Southern end of the Sierra's through Bakersfield. You could either visit Yosemite valley where the waterfalls will be in full flow and look magnificent or Death valley. With 2 long days you could do both and they are spectacular. If you were to leave SF early and get to Yosemite lunchtime and spend a few hours there before heading towards Fresno [41]somewhere for the night and then continue to Bakersfield on 99 then taking the 58 and 395 to Olancha and across Death valley on 190 to DV junction and then the State line/Ash meadows road to Pahrump and 160 to Vegas.

  10. Default Thanks Southwest Dave


    I've been looking into this option over the past few days. I think you are right. I've has a look at accomodation near Bakersfield.

    Has anyone been to Sequoia National Park? Is it worth a stop? If so, I could stay near there for a night, and do that instead of Yosemite.

    Alternativly, looking at maybe staying near Lake Isebella/Kernville. Looks like it could be quite a sweet place to stay. Not sure if it's too far. The plan would be to leave San Francisco as early as possible, so we can do a lot of driving on day 1.

    Can someone please tell me the speed limits I can expect on the smaller roads (like the 155 that runs from Bakersfield out to Wofford heights/ Lake Isebella.

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