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  1. Default San francisco to las vegas via yosemite

    Hi We are going to San francisco in September and we are planning to drive across to Las Vegas via Yosemite and Death Valley, but we are having trouble deciding which way to go.

    We have 6 nights/7 days to get there leaving San francisco on September 29th and ending in Vegas on 5th October.

    We want to see all the main sites in Yosemite, including the sequioas at mariposa and the sites on the eastern side of yosemite too, especially the ghost town of Brodie. We're from Ireland and not really used to driving on the 'other' side of the road so can anyone suggest a route thats fairly easy to drive (wide, flat roads if possible!). Any suggestions of where to stay and good websites for car hire would be a brilliant help.

    We have been looking at the information on this site but there is so much information we're not sure where to start! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Lots of time to see lots of sights.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    Preferring to stick to 'flat roads' when crossing a mountain range is rather difficult. However, be assured that all the roads you will travel on this trip are much travelled with easy grades and curves.

    Brodie could be difficult as the last few miles of road are not paved which could mean you will not be able to take a rental car over them. On the eastern side there is also Mono Lake.

    How many nights do you have in Yosemite, and do you have this accommodation secured? Staying outside the park is an option, but it is a good drive each day to get into and out of the park. It is a large park. When you enter the park you will be given maps and other information on the park (most of which is also available on the national parks' website) showing all the roads and attractions. You will of course want to take your time driving over Tioga Pass (route 120), see the spectacular view from Glacier Point and the sights in the valley. By September the waterfalls will have passed their best. If you are into hiking, there are other attractions off the main road to see.

    There are really only a couple of main roads through Death Valley, It will be hot so be sure you have sunscreen, a hat and lots of water with you, for those occasional trips out of the air conditioned car. Here too you could spend a night and see the wonders of the night sky away from artificial light.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Not as Hard as You Imagine

    Céad Míle Fáilte! Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The most efficient route for your travels is relatively straightforward, but does require driving one stretch of road that is neither flat nor straight - the wonderfully scenic Tioga Pass Road. From San Francisco you would simply leave town on I-80 across the Oakland Bay Bridge and switch over to I-580 immediately upon reaching the other side in Oakland. Follow I-580 (all 'I' roads are motorways), to I-205 and then I-5 briefly before exiting onto CA-120 east which will take you to Yosemite. When done with your visit to Yosemite continue on CA-120 across Tioga Pass to Lee Vining and US-395 south through Bishop to Lone Pine. At that point you'll take CA-138 southeast to CA-190 into and through Death Valley National Park. When you emerge from the park and reach the town of Death Valley on CA-127, take a short jog right (a 'jog is a short segment on a crossing road, then a return to your original direction) onto State Line Road. Follow that as it turns into Ash Meadow Road as you enter Nevada and then Bell Vista Road until you reach NV-160 near the town of Parhump NV. NV-160 will then take you the rest of the way to Las Vegas.

    Now, a bit about American roads. Almost without exception, American roads are at least a full two lanes wide so that you will never face the possibility of coming round a curve to find a large lorry coming at you (as you might do on some of the 'B' roads I've encountered in the British Isles.) Indeed, most of the roads I've suggested for you carry speed limits of 60 mph more or less. The exceptions are mostly in the national parks, Yosemite and Death Valley, where lower speed limits are for the benefit of drivers seeking to see something of the scenery and not because of poor road conditions. The one road where you might want to exercise a bit more caution is Tioga Pass Road leaving Yosemite and crossing the Sierra Nevada to Lee Vining. That is a mountain road, with grades and curves, but again with wide lanes and it is easily drivable with proper care. As for getting used to being on the 'wrong' side of the road, my experience has always been that it takes about five minutes to get used to. It helps greatly that your rental car will have the driver's controls on the 'wrong' side as well which will reinforce the mirror-image aspect of driving. The one spot I would warn you about is making a left turn on smaller roads. You will have a tendency to look only right and make a sharp turn into the left lane, because that's what you're used to doing. Be sure to look both ways and turn into the far (right) lane in such instances.


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

    Default Add a park ?

    Any suggestions of where to stay and good websites for car hire would be a brilliant help.
    It is a case of shopping around for the best deal for the time you travel as most rental companies offer a very similar service and are all competing to get their hands on your money. It's certainly better value to book in advance from home. On our last trip we found to offer the best deal.

    As mentioned, Bodie [not Brodie] is technically off limits to rental cars due to the unmade road into town and your contract will not let you leave paved roads. If your budget can manage it then there is nothing quite like staying inside the NP. Yosemite lodge at the Falls is a good location from which to explore the park although you can find alternatives outside in surrounding towns. You could easily spend 3 or 4 nights in Yosemite to explore the different areas and perhaps a night around Mammoth or Bishop to explore the lakes, Mono, June lake loop road etc and then a night in Death valley at Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek. Another option would be to include a visit to Zion NP north of Vegas in Utah, or the Grand canyon NP. [Be aware that most tours from Vegas to the canyon do not go to the National park area but instead, head for the west rim on Indian lands which is not the same type of experience.

    Driving in the US is a pleasure to drive in compared to the UK and you should have no need for concern.

  5. Default

    Thank you so much for your detailed replies you are all so very helpful, especially for the detailed driving route and driving tips I feel a lot better about hiring a car now - I cant wait!

    I have a couple more questions. We were hoping to go and see the giant sequioas, would Oakhurst be a good place to see them (I think I read somewhere that there were sequioas close by) or would we be better off heading down to kings canyon before going to yosemite? We have a week so we may be able to fit this in. Or is it possible to see them from the eastern side - maybe near lone pine??

    That's a real pity that we cant drive into Bodie - does anyone know if there are any tours to it from any of the towns? Is it worth a visit?

    We are just planning our stay on the eastern side - is it worth spending a night in Lee vining then moving down to mammoth lake or are they very close and better off just staying in one of them?

    We've been looking at places to stay in yosemite and curry village is one option. Would it be cold for camping at the start of October? Are there many problems with bears?

    One last one! We have planned to spend a week in las vegas (I know its a long time but we had planned to meet friends there but they are not coming now however we already have the accomodation booked!). Which are the best places to visit from vegas - we were already planning on the grand canyon where would you recommend we should go in the canyon?

    Thanks again for all you help!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    We were hoping to go and see the giant sequioas, would Oakhurst be a good place to see them (I think I read somewhere that there were sequioas close by)
    Very good choice, you can see the giant trees on the southern end of Yosemite, near Oakhurst.

    Which are the best places to visit from vegas - we were already planning on the grand canyon where would you recommend we should go in the canyon?
    There are a few things you can do as day trips from Vegas, including Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam. However, the Grand Canyon isn't really a "day trip". It is about 4-5 hours drive to the South Rim, and then a return, so it's more of a 2-3 day trip. Bear in mind that any place that offers helicopter tours of "the Grand Canyon" is not going to take you over the best part of the Canyon, which is the national Park -- they're not allowed to do so. Instead they take you over the Native-American-owned western portion of the Canyon, which isn't nearly so spectacular. Driving to that particular end also means a very long trip over dirt roads and then an expensive walk onto the SkyWalk. Save some time in your schedule and drive to the National Park.


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

    Default Answers.

    1] Oakhurst probably has the best range of lodging in the area, although there are other options around Mariposa, El Portal and so on. If you don't mind 'rustic' lodgings then check out the 'Yosemite Bug', good reports from visitors. You can not get near Kings canyon from the east side of the Sierra's easily. You could visit Sequoia/Kings canyon before SF if you wanted to although Mariposa Grove will give you a good helping of giant trees. If you went to Sequouia, you could in facr drive down the coast around Big Sur and spend a night before heading inland. Again, it depends on how you wish to spend your time.

    2] Bodie is a wonderful place but going it alone means you run the risk of having to face any costs that might be incurred if the car needed towing or it got damaged. I don't know of any tours, but I'm sure if there are any you will find them with a search.

    3] You could spend 2 nights as planned or one night in either place and one in or closer to Death valley, Lone Pine or Pannamint Springs perhaps. As you leave the west of the park you should allow plenty of time for Tioga Pass to enjoy the views and take a walk, or two.

    4] Nights can get chilly in October but it shouldn't be a problem with staying at Curry Village. It's extremely rare to have a bear problem [rarer than a lightning strike possibly] as long as you follow the park rules you will be fine.

    5] I doubt you would have any problems altering your bookings in Vegas and a night in the GC NP is something quite incredible.

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