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  1. Default Vegas, San Francisco and Yosemite


    Me and my girlfriend are going to New York and Vegas in September and have added 7 days onto the trip to visit Yosemite and San Francisco. I'm really just looking for advice about drive times, things to see etc.
    We leave Vegas on 16th Sept and need to be back there by the morning of the 23rd and are undecided whether to fly from Vegas to San Francisco and then drive to Yosemite and back, then fly back to Vegas or whether to drive from Vegas through Death Valley to Yosemite (no long how long this takes) and then on to San Francisco and just fly back. We want 2 or 3 days in each ideally but if anybody has any suggestions of other areas worth seeing then....

    Any help would be much appreciated.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default most popular

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    This is far and away the most popular trip outline on this forum, so if you spend a little time looking around, you should find tons of information to help you figure things out.

    In regards to your specific plans, I think you would be best off just driving the whole thing, as you've got plenty of time, and quiet frankly, it would likely take you just as much time to fly to SF, and then drive to Yosemite and back.

    With 2-3 days to make the trip, one way, the most common way to do this trip would be to Leave Vegas, tour Death Valley, and spend the night in a town along US-395 (Lone Pine, Bishop, etc), spend day two driving over Tioga Pass through Yosemite Park and spend the night in the Yosemite Valley. The next day, explore the valley and finish the drive to San Francisco.

    If you're looking to make this a round trip, you could drive back directly to Vegas in 9-10 hours, or if you want to take a couple days, drive down the coast to about Paso Robles, then shoot back across to Vegas.

  3. Default thanks

    thanks for the response Michael.

    Your outline sounds like it ticks all our boxes. We're thinking of going from Vegas (although we may now be starting from the Grand Canyon depending on whether or not we decide to drive there and spend the whole day and night or go with a tour for the day) through Death Valley and like you suggest stopping once we are on the 395. Where will depend on time, although I would like to push on to Bishop. Ive been told I have to visit Bodie, which will take us out of our way but im not sure how much time that will cost us.
    The plan then is to drive on into Yosemite and stay for one or two nights but Im not sure how long it would take us from Bodie back onto the 395 and into the valley (could be dark by then and I dont want to miss out on the views as I drive through the park.
    When we leave we will drive straight through to San Francisco and spend 2 nights there and leave on the 22nd (probably by plane as its not very expensive)

    Im a bit concerned that we may have left ourselves a bit too much to do so any suggestions are welcome

    Thanks, Graeme

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Time enough.


    Bodie is by all accounts a fantastic experience but don't expect it to be a quick side trip as it will take up quite a bit of the day to experience it. Part of the road in is unpaved and slow going and could also break the conditions of your car rental.

    With 7 days you could head across Death valley to Bishop and through Yosemite and then journey South from San Fran through Bakersfield to the Grand canyon, [stopping overnight on route] before heading back to Vegas.

  5. Default Interesting

    I never considered doing it that way around. Roughly how long would it take to drive from San Francisco to The Grand Canyon? And where would you recommend we stop for the night?

    Never considered the rental agreement with regard to Bodie. The plan was to get there in the morning, spend the whole day and possibly stop for the night in Lee Vining before heading into Yosemite but we may have to re-think. It would be fantastic to see it though. Any suggestions for other stops along the way?

    We have 4 nights in Vegas before we leave but really don't need that much time so may leave a day early which will mean we can add a day onto the end for driving back to the Grand Canyon/Vegas.

    Again, any suggestions are very welcome.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default The Loop.

    It would be in the region of a 14-15 hour drive from SF to GC, hence the reason for the overnight stop, Barstow would be around half way splitting it into 2 days but you could take a longer first day in which you could take a short detour to Lake Havasu City for the night, or Kingman on route would be the furthest I would recommend and that would be a long day on the road.

    I think that extra day would be of good use on your road trip and could work like this, 1] LV through Death Valley to Bishop. 2] Bishop to Yosemite, explore. 3] Yosemite and stay out the West of the park [Groveland ?] 4 & 5] San Francisco 6] Barstow/Lake Havasu/Kingman area. 7 & 8 ] Grand canyon and back to Vegas. It really wouldn't matter which way around you travelled the route and of course you can juggle your time to suit your tastes but with a couple of days at each the clock is ticking for any side trips to Bodie or the coast Rd around Big Sur.

    I personally would make my own way to the Grand canyon, stay the night and witness a sunset on the South rim, it's a wonderful experience. Having said that, it will be busy and you still have the option of an organised tour to GC and a flight back, but only you can decide what is for you.

    Across Death valley it's worth a stop at Furnace creek for a wander around and maybe a snack, down the road is Badwater which is the lowest point in the USA. From Vegas head to Pahrump on 160 and then take Ash meadows/State line road to Death valley junction [Armagosa opera house] and continue on 190 through DV stopping at viewpoints such as Zabriskie point and the Sand dunes near Stovepipe wells on route.

    Yosemite to me is just out of this world wonderful and wouldn't want to spend less time here, you really have to drive up to Glacier point, the views are jaw droppingly beautiful !

    One other thing I would recommend is booking an Alcatraz tour in advance through the NPS, it books out a lot but is a great experience and not only the Island but the views of the City and Golden gate from the boat. [fog permitting !]
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 04-01-2010 at 01:10 AM. Reason: Clarity.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area


    In theory, fog in mid-September may not be a big issue. Fog is more a summertime thing, starting to tail off in August.

    Mid-September through mid-October has some of the best weather in San Francisco and surrounds... especially in The City. It actually is warmer in these months than June-August, due to the fog going away.

    It's a complex micro-climate kind of thingee; I think the basic mechanics involve the Central Valley heating up, warm air rising drawing cold marine air in over SF. By the end of summer, the valley doesn't heat up so much, so less cold marine air gets pulled into the bay and things warm up a bit.

  8. Default good advice

    Really glad I came on here. I must have moved my plans around 10 times in 2 days....but all for the better.

    It looks like Im going to follow Southwest Daves advice and leave Vegas a day early, drive through Death Valley (thanks for the route!) on to Bishop. Then we will drive through the park and spend the night in the Valley (from looking at the map it looks like we have to drive through the width of the park and enter the valley from the west?) We will then explore the valley and spend the next day visiting Glacier point then on to San Francisco (thanks for the weather advice, CalOldBlue) where we will be visiting Alcatraz (again thanks for advice on this)

    Then we are thinking of flying back to Vegas and renting another car to drive to the Grand Canyon, spend the night and drive back to Vegas the next day (havent looked into how much this will cost though) Flights are very cheap.

    Unfortunately we will have to leave out some of the side trips such as Bodie but as long as we get to enjoy the park without having to worry too much about time. Wish we had given ourselves another week!!

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


    (from looking at the map it looks like we have to drive through the width of the park and enter the valley from the west?)
    That is correct, there is no other way down the mountain you would want to take without a parachute ! The Tioga pass is a big part of the Yosemite experience with great views and stops for photo opportunity's so take your time.

    There is a gas station on the junction of 395 and 120 [Tioga] if you need to top up your tank before heading into the park. At the top of the hill from the gas station is a car park with nice views of Mono lake that can be seen in a few minutes. Inside the gas station is a diner called "Woah Noahs Deli," if you feel a little peckish they serve good food.

    Drop by when you are done and share your experience with us, we sure would appreciate it !

  10. Default more advice please

    Thanks for that Dave. I certainly will.

    We've had a slight change to our itinerary. It now looks like we will be leaving Las Vegas a day early therefore we will have 8 nights with the 9th night back in Vegas before going home the following morning. Therefore I'm after a wee bit more advice. Our trip so far looks like this

    14th - Leave Vegas, spend the day driving through Death Valley and stop somewhere along the 395. Not too worried about drive time here as we will be doing at our leisure and making lots of stops to sight see.
    15th - Drive into Yosemite (after a stop at the Woah Nelly Delli) and make our way through the park ending in the valley. Again not worried about time. Im expecting it to take us a good few hours to drive the Tahoga pass as we’ll be stopping quite a bit from what ive read about it.
    16th - Exploring the park and spending a second night in the valley. Planning to go to Glacier point as well. Is this quite a short drive from the valley?
    17th - leave for San Francisco in the morning and spend day in exploring/night trip to Alcatraz. Im thinking it would take us about 4 hours to drive this?
    18th - San Francisco
    19th -
    20th -
    21st - Drive to Flagstaff/Williams and get accommodation then drive to the Grand Canyon south rim and spend day exploring. Im hoping the south rim wont be as busy in September as the few months before. Thinking this is about 3/3.5 hours from Vegas and then another 1/1.5 to drive to the Grand Canyon south rim? Please correct me if I’m being a bit naïve here.
    22nd - Drive back from Flagstaff/Williams and spend the night in Vegas
    23rd - Fly Home

    Really not sure what to do with the 19th and 20th. Any suggestions for things to do along the way from Yosemite to San Fran or maybe from San Fran to somewhere else. We could push back getting to San Fran. The original plan was to drop the rental off at San Fran then fly back to Vegas and rent another one to go to the Grand Canyon and back.
    Another option was to drive to LA however I don’t really want to spend 2 days driving when we really wont get much time there. I know we can do it in 9 hours but I would rather take my time. Maybe we could fly to LA then rent a car and drive to Williams from there and drop the car in Vegas (again not sure about times)
    Again, any help you can give would be great. Im hoping to finalise my plans ASAP so that I can book accommodation in Yosemite etc.

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