I've spent a long time combing the related threads on here so far; they're very helpful! Wanted to start my own, though, to see if I could get specific advice.
I'm traveling from SF to Death Valley to Phoenix next week. Taking off from SF on the 9th, need to be in Phoenix by the 14th. My ideal route is this: SF to Route 395 via the Tioga Pass, camp one night along 395; enter Death Valley from the west, camp there for two nights; drive through Vegas (just a pit stop) and find a good Arizona destination for one night (campsite, if possible); and then do the final leg to Phoenix.
I'm aware that Tioga may be closed, so I'm wondering if anybody knows if Route 50 is a viable way to get onto Route 395. I very specifically want to do this kind of trip rather than a coastal one, so I'm hoping that this would be an okay back-up (with possibility of spending a little time in Tahoe!).
Here are my other queries:
—Any recommendations for a place to camp that first night, somewhere along 395? We're ready to take on a very ambitious Day #1, and don't plan on really stopping through Yosemite save for a few quick photo opps.
—Is this a high volume time of year for campsite reservations? Ideally we'd camp one night at Stovepipe Wells and one night at Furnace Creek. I'm a little worried about the first-come, first-served reservation situation.
—Any ideas for a place to go, post-Vegas, en route to Phoenix? Obviously it'd be great to see the Grand Canyon, but we only have a day and Death Valley is really our main attraction. Plus, I've heard that GC has a lot of add-on costs compared to other national parks.
Any advice on these matters would be greatly appreciated.