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  1. #1

    Default Planning a first road trip with Yosemite at its centre

    Hi there,
    We are a family of four, two teenagers, just planning a visit to California for July/August 2013. We'll do San Francisco for 4-5 days, San Diego or somewhere between the two for 4-5 days and then, we want to have a 5-6 day mini trip in the middle to explore Yosemite. We fancy an RV (having never used one before - gulp) to make it special and fun.

    Having read this site a bit i reckon we need to book ourselves in to an RV site in Yosemite for 3-4 days and use that as a base, then perhaps head off somewhere else for a day or two. We won't be hard core outdoors types, just after some gentle walks, a swim and some red wine infused evenings over a camp fire/RV awning!

    So i guess my questions are:
    Does our plan make sense?
    Is it pretty easy to get ourselves around? I am guessing we only really need the RV for Yosemite section, but what about cruising down the west coast?
    If we head off from Yosemite for a day/two, where else should we go - i read a bit about the desert but have no idea if it is close and what to see (apologies, we don't have deserts in England ... way too much rain!)?
    Any suggestions for a novice friendly RV site in Yosemite?

    Thanks for any suggestions, advice. Cheerio

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Middle Doesn't Work So Well

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The problem with visiting Yosemite by RV as a "mini trip in the middle" is that you would then need to hire three separate vehicles. A car for San Francisco (unless you'd be comfortable seeing the city without one), then the RV, then a car for the San Diego part. Now it's true that the rental rates are by the day/week/whatever and you might think that it wouldn't matter much when you rent what and for how long, but the truth is a bit different. The weekly rate is less than the daily rate and two 4 day hires are going to be more than a single weekly rental. Then there's the fact that cities and other jurisdictions put tariffs on each hire meaning you'd be paying more of such fees and taxes. And of course, there's simply the hassle of exchanging all those vehicles.

    So, what to do? One suggestion would be to fly into San Francisco and explore that city for just few days by bus/cab/trolley/foot before picking up an RV. Hopefully, you can find something in a size that is large enough to accommodate you all without being too unwieldy for you to drive on unfamiliar (and 'backwards') roads. After Yosemite, return the RV to San Francisco and rent a car for the remainder of your trip. Take two days for the drive down the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles and the continuance on I-5 to San Diego. Enjoy your time there and then come back up through the mountains of southern California visiting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park before heading up the Central Valley back to San Francisco to return the car (no drop-off fee) and catch your return flight home (no expensive open jaw ticket).

    The beauty of the US National Parks, and most state parks, is that they are very conscious of providing access for all levels of outdoor 'enthusiasts' from the seriously fit to the almost immobile. Just check with the Rangers at the visitors center when you arrive and ask them for hikes, sights, and activities that meet your interests and level of activity. They will have something to suit you.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Pros and cons.

    Any suggestions for a novice friendly RV site in Yosemite?
    On of the three 'Pines' campgrounds in the valley is what I would recommend. Set among trees in the heart of Yosemite with easy access to the free shuttle bus system makes it hard to beat. Sitting around the camp fire at nght with a couple of cold ones is most memorable ! You are right in thinking that the sites book out quickly in high season, so check out when the booking window opens on the nps site and book asap after.

    An RV can be a wonderful experience, but make sure it's right for you and your family. By the time you have added all the extra costs to the price of the rental it'll almost certianly turn out more expensive than a car and Motels. You will need to pay for bedroom and kitchen kits, possible extra mileage charges, campground fees and expect it to return about 10mpg. [Although that's still less than running a family size car in the UK when taking fuel costs and exchange rate into consideration !]

    As mentioned you won't need an RV [or any vehicle] for your time in SF, it's a compact city with good transport links and parking limited and expensive. I actually wouldn't use Yosemite as a base to explore other areas nearby, it will be time consuming getting in and out of the park. You are better off enjoying your time in Yosemite and stopping on the way there someplace, or when you leave, or both. On the way you could visit Sequoia NP or go up the east side of the Sierras through Lone Pine and Bishop on 395 and enter Yosemite on the spectacular Tioga Pass.

    The National parks and other scenic areas are where the RV really belongs and is not an ideal choice for the City life and urban areas. They are big and not ideal for city streets, city campgrounds can be basic and cost as much as a cheap motel room. If your travel style is to spend a lot of time in a few places that involve more time in the city than not, you will have to weigh up the pros and cons. Maybe the RV wouldn't be the best choice. However with 15 days and an RV, you can achieve quite a bit that you may not have thought about just yet.

  4. #4


    Massive thanks to Southwest Dave and AZBuck, there's some really great advice there. Looks like the "no car" option for SF makes a lot of sense. and some great ideas for locations etc.

    i reckon i may have plenty of other questions so hopefully can get some more advice in the future

    and keep the suggestions coming!! :-)


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