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  1. Default San Fran to Las Vegas in December

    Hi guys

    Me and my partner are planning a multi centre trip to the US from 13th - 29th December this year.

    The first stop is LA, after 3 nights we will drive the coastal road to SF. After 3 nights we want to drive to LV. I have 2 nights for this trip, and really want to see as much of Yosemite / Death Valley / other wow spots that are open this time of year.

    It is our first time driving in the states and we want to have a real roadtrip experience, seeing some famous sites and experiencing the feeling of the route on the way.

    I would appreciate any advice on the routes / accomodation etc.

    This leg will be 18th - 21st.

    Thanks :-)

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


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Tioga Pass will be closed during the time of your trip, so with 3 days to make the trip, you won't have a lot of extra time. You'll have to go around the south end of the Sierras so if you spend the first day driving to Yosemite and looking around, you're looking at nearly a full day of driving to Death Valley for day two, then day three could be spend looking around Death Valley and finishing the trip to Vegas.

    This is the most popular trip on the forum, and there are tons of other threads with more details. Here's a few of our favorites to help get you started.

  3. Default

    Thanks for your reply. I have read through some other threads and as a non-us resident am
    having trouble clearly understanding my options. We
    would have already driven from LA to SF so the northern route is appealing
    to me. We are really interested in Americana, so tiny towns and diners are a real plus. We spend enough time on motorways over here so deserted roads through valleys and deserts are the most appealing. We can spen 3 nights on this part of the trip so any stops that offer a sense of Americana / history are appreciated. Also we are really keen to find a traditional motel on route.

    We will be renting a car in LA and keeping the same one until we drop off in LV, although can switch it in SF if recommended.

    Can anyone give a breakdown of the roads? Also with approximate miles / times. Any other advice is really appreciated.



  4. Default

    Also can anyone link to a map of the northern route?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    You may be missing an important concept - December is winter here. California has a huge mountain range (Sierra Nevada) that will be snowbound. Most of the passes across it will be closed for the winter already. To get across, you will have to go north to the Lake Tahoe area or south to Bakersfield. The odds of you even being able to get into Yosemite without tire chains are not that great - and you are required to carry them during the winter even if they are not required to be installed. If it's snowing when you are traveling, you will probably need chains to go via Lake Tahoe. California is very strict about enforcing chain laws when they feel they are needed, when they are in effect there are checkpoints and you will be turned away without them. Are you experienced in driving in the snow? You will have to be totally flexible - you may or may not be able to go to Yosemite and you may or may not be able to take the northern route. The only guarantee you will have is being able to get from SF to Death Valley via Bakersfield. Anything else farther north is a "maybe".

  6. Default

    Thank you for your reply. Can you advise of the route to Vegas if I were to go
    north...the roads etc, and also for
    the south.

    I have driven only in light snow however do not want to
    compromise our sense of adventure for some delay / discomfort.

    Is it perhaps more sensible to fly into SF the drive
    south to LA then across to Vegas?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Homework.

    Flying into SF would be a good option and as you drive South the Ocean will be on your side of the road, offering the best views and putting the pull outs on your side f the road to so that you won't have to pull across traffic. You can still head to Yosemite valley, spend a night or two and then head back to the Monterey area. Either way, to drive the coastal route you will need more than a day between LA and SF.

    To familiarise yourself with the area, I would use Google maps [or the like] and play around with route choices, but keep in mind these 2 things, 1] The drive times are over optimistic and you need to add at least 20% for real drive times, and 2] As has been explained, the Sierra passes will be closed so you will have to go around the mountains and are more likely to see disruption heading North.

    Do some "homework" and when you have set yourself a route that appeals to you drop by and we can help "fine tune" it, enjoy the planning !

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Your safest plan would be to fly into SF and rent the car there. Take CA-1 down the coast to Cambria, then take CA-46 to CA-99. Take that to Bakersfield, then you have 2 options to get to Death Valley. The slow but scenic route (weather permitting) would be CA-178 through Lake Isabella to US-395. The fast route would be CA-58 to CA-14 to US-395. Enter Death Valley via CA-190. Exit Death valley on CA-190 to Death Valley Junction, then take State Line Road into Pahrump. Take NV-160 to LV.

    When you arrive in SF, check weather and conditions. If feasible, you could go to Bakersfield via Yosemite instead of along the coast. This would involve taking I-580 east out of the SF area to I-205 to I-5 to CA-120. Leave Yosemite on CA-41 to CA-99 to Bakersfield.

  9. Default

    Thanks guys! I am booking flight tomorrow from LDN to SF staying there 3 nts before driving to LA with two nights for stop offs. One hopefully at yosemite and one en route at a motel around St Luis / Monterey. We will then go on to Vegas.

    Just need to figure the best routes then I'm a trippin!

    Can anyone reccomend a car? Will be hiring and would prefer a stick :-)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Sorry, not going to happen. Our rental fleets are all 100% automatics unless you go to a specialty company, and those will be "exotic" cars with daily rental fees in the hundreds of USD - and they will have to be returned to the point of rental. If you plan on possibly going through snow, you may want to rent a small 4wd SUV.

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