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  1. #1

    Default San Francisco to Yosemite by camper - how far can we get the first day


    We are planning our trip of a life time this coming summer. We have the camper booked and know our route. I am just not sure about the first part of the trip. We will pick up our camper from Road Bear San Francisco on a Wednesday. I have requested an early pick up but not sure if that will happen. It is July and it will be very busy. I hope we might have a chance as it is a Wednesday. So normal pick up time is 1 pm. We have never travelled in a camper so everything is new to us. We want to travel to Yosemite. We have the shuttle to Glacier Point ( for the Panorama trail) booked at 10.00 on the Thursday. Will we have enough time to get to Yosemite on the Wednesday? If (if...) we can get 2 nights on one of the 3 campgrounds (Lower/Upper/North Pines) will we be able to get there on time or will it be a hectic rush? We need to get some groceries in as well. Are we better off booking a campground just outside Yosemite for the first night, for example Yosemite Pines near Groveland? If we stay at Yosemite Pines Groveland, we need to get to Yosemite village for the shuttle at around 09.15. Will we be able to park there?

    Finally, we only have one day in Yosemite. Is it worth spending that one day on the Panorama Trail or should we forget about the trail and just enjoy a shorter trail and some other sights? I would love to hike the trail though....

    Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Tight, Very Tight

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Under the best of circumstances, it is a three and a half hour drive from San Francisco to Yosemite. Add in the extra time it will take you with your big, slower, rig and the time it will take you to get to your campground on the slow park roads once you get to Yosemite and you're probably looking at needing closer to five hours from the time you leave the dealer's lot until you roll into your campground. Also remember that darkness comes early to the high, deep Yosemite Valley and you would absolutely need to be on the road by 2:00PM to avoid rush hour and have any hope of getting to your campground before darkness settles in.

    Do I think you can do that? Not really. The big problem is that you are unfamiliar with the RV you're going to be renting and will need to take the time to be thoroughly briefed on its operation before setting out. That alone can take the better part of an hour. And unless you're the first customer being serviced as soon as the rental place opens up, you're probably going to have to wait while others are being briefed.

    So what to do? Take a deep breath and make the best of it. Make the most of your instructional time. Skimping here might help you stay on some schedule for the first day but will cost you heavily in enjoyment if not safety throughout the rest of your trip. Resign yourself to the fact that you are going to get to Yosemite late in the evening, most likely after dark. Plan on doing nothing else that first evening besides driving to Yosemite, getting your food en route (The stores around the park are relatively expensive and the store in the park is bloody expensive!), and arriving at your campsite/parking space and sleeping. You can take the time to fully set up the RV the next day. If you can get a campsite in the park for the duration of your visit, I see no real reason to pull up short the first day and then just have to move the rig again the next day. Note that it takes about an hour and a half to get from Groveland to Yosemite Village under the best of circumstances.

    As for what to do, that is entirely up to you. My wife and I just spent a few days in Yosemite this fall, but it was in the off-season and we had a fairly nimble car. What we found was that wherever we went in the park there were gorgeous vistas, quiet trails, and interesting people. I think you'll find the same, only more people in the summer crush. Check in early, either upon arrival or early on your first day in the park, with the park rangers at any one of the several visitors centers. They know the park intimately and can give you suggestions tailored to your exact desires, the current state of the weather/fires/road closures, and your time constraints. That could be the best ten to fifteen minutes you spend on the entire trip.


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


    Personally I would not spend my day in Yosemite tied to time or tour, I would much rather enjoy the park as I want to under my own steam. You can get around the valley using the free shuttle bus service by hopping on and off at points of interest. You could also drive up to Glacier point in your RV, we had no problem in a 30ft class C. You don't say where you are headed next but I hope it isn't to far so that you can enjoy a bit more of the park in the morning. An earlier pick up would help if you want to make it into the park that night, but Yosemite Pines is not a bad stopover spot and Groveland has a small supermarket for supplies and a fuel station, top up before heading into the park. If you haven't already, contact the local office from where you are collecting your RV directly, I have not had a problem each time I have done so, although not with Roadbear. You will need to decide and book your RV site as soon as the booking window opens, the NP campgrounds are very popular with limited RV spaces available.

  4. #4



    First of all, thank you for your input. Amazing that total strangers will take time to answer my questions in such detail!

    Problem here is my husband :-) he wants to do and see as much as we can in the time we have and he wants to do the Panorama Trail. I want to take it a bit easy, isn't that the idea of a holiday? A bit more info, we are travelling in July in a C class 23-26 ft with our two kids, (11 and 14) We will fly into Boston, drive to NY in 2 days, stay in NY a few days, take the train to Washington, stay there a few days and then fly into SF. I will start my itinerary from SF

    day 1: Washington - SF
    day 2: SF
    day 3: Sf - Yosemite Pines RV park (Pick up camper)
    day 4: Yosemite (Upper/Lower/North Pines campground)
    day 5: Yosemite - Mono Lake (Tioga Pass, time for a hike en route, MonoVista RV Park)
    day 6: Mono Lake - Las Vegas (Oasis Las Vegas Resort campground)
    day 7: Las Vegas - Zion (
    day 8: Zion ( the Narrows)
    day 9: Zion - Bryce (Ruby's Inn campground)
    day 10: Bryce - Moab (Devils garden campground)
    day 11: Moab (Dead Horse Point State Park campground - Fiery Furnace)
    day 12: Moab - Monument Valley (rafting am, Gouldings campground)
    day 13: Monument Valley - Page (am jeep tour booked, Wahweap Campground))
    day 14: Page (11.30 Antelope Canyon booked)
    day 15: Page - Grand Canyon
    day 16: Grand Canyon - Needles (am early helicopter flight, via route 66 to Needles, The Palms River resort)
    day 17: Needles - Malibu (Malibu RV Park)
    day 18: Malibu - LA (return camper, check in hotel, pick up rental car, late pm dolphin watching)
    day 19: LA (sightseeing)
    day 20: LA - AMS

    I have stated the campgrounds that I have already booked, the rest I cannot book yet, I have to wait until the end of the month or March.
    My husband and I know the east coast very well and have been to SF and LA, never to the national Parks. The kids have never been to the US ( and are extremely excited)

    I think we should skip the Panorama trail, you back me up on this one. Now I have to convince husband. I think it will be so much more relaxing to spend the first night in Groveland (it is an hour and a half less driving on the first day and we will be able to drive into Yosemite in light), get settled in a bit and move again the following morning. Hopefully get a place in one of the three campgrounds near the village and just wander around, hike a shorter 2 hour trail perhaps. The following day we can take our time as we only need to get to Mono Lake. We can spend the morning in Yosemite and take our time doing the Tioga pass (so looking forward to that!) Also, any tips on a good alternative campground should we not get a place in one of the three NP campgrounds?

    The rest of the itinerary is full but okay I think. A couple of long drives but not too bad. The only late arrival I think will be in Monument Valley. We can leave Moab around 4 pm so we'll arrive in the dark. But we will see the sunrise in the morning and have our jeep tour booked. We can start our journey to Page at 1 pm.

    Anything I have missed? So you think I have a chance for an early pick up on the Wednesday? Even just 1 hour earlier would be great. I'll give them a call next week, or should I wait till nearer the time?

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    I am not getting in the middle of a domestic (lol) but I am with you on not being tied to a particular hike/tour for the reasons stated earlier. You have certainly done your homework and you have a good itinerary. I am presuming your am heli flight is from GC airport in Tusayan before departing for Needles? Just check Yosemite webpage for the booking date window opening and get on it asap. You can't beat being in one of the pines campgrounds and you can shuttle bus from there around the valley which saves any parking issues.

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