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  1. #1

    Default Vegas to SF (Big Sur): Death Valley/Yosemite vs Mojave?

    We're planning a 2 day road trip from Vegas to San Francisco (including driving the Big Sur on Highway 1) in late June and were wondering what people's opinions were about the pros and cons of different routes.

    The two options we have on the table at the moment are:

    Option 1 (~13 hours, 700 miles)
    Day 1 AM: Vegas to Barstow, via Mojave and Route 66 (short stretch through Amboy, Bagdad and Siberia).
    Day 1 PM: Barstow to Paso Robles (or nearby)
    Day 2: Paso Robles to San Francisco, via Highway 1 along the Big Sur coastline (through Monterey, Santa Cruz etc)

    Option 2 (~17 hours, 900 miles)
    Day 1: Vegas to Fresno, but via Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks
    Day 2: Fresno to San Francisco, via Highway 1 along the Big Sur coastline (through Cambria, Monterey, Santa Cruz etc)

    What do people think about these options? Would option 2 be too much driving to get done in 2 days and still have time for stops etc? Which route has the best scenery/landmarks/attractions to see and generally which would you recommend from your experience?

    We're likely to be on a relatively small budget (unless my prior 2 weeks in Vegas has gone very well!), so a cheap hotel for the one night between the two days of driving would be preferable - I'm travelling with a work colleague, but we're happy to share a twin room to keep costs down.

    Any general advice would also be welcome - I have some experience of road trips in the US over the last 10 years, but never before as one of the drivers.

    Looking forward to hearing your responses!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Just enough time to whet your appetite to return.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    By that time Tioga Pass will almost certainly be open. You would not need to go to Fresno You could drive through Death Valley on day one, and head to Memmoth Lake or Lee Vining for the night. Next day enter Yosemite via the spectacular Tioga Pass . You would have a little time to stop at the lake and other great spots along the way. A brief visit to Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point - magnificent views - would complete your quick visit to this great National Park. It will whet your appetite enough to plan another longer trip to those NPs.

    After Yosemite you would have just enough time to head to SF. You will not have the time to include the Pacific Coast Highway, as the section from around Paso Robles to SF takes a full day to drive, especially heading north. (Regardless of the time Mr Google says.)

    Lifey

  3. #3

    Default

    Hi Lifey, thanks for the quick reply!

    So do you not think it's feasible to do Vegas -> DV -> Yosemite -> Fresno on day 1, then Fresno -> Big Sur -> SF on Day 2? I did wonder if that might be a bit much for the first day (although we can leave early from Vegas that morning)...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Does not make sense.

    Not if you actually want to see something. You will be flat out covering the miles. Speed limits in NPs are slow.... people go to them to experience their unique features and do not rush at high speed through those places, even if they were allowed to.

    It all depends on whether you want to experience/see both those NPs, or if you just want to rush through them. Yosemite would take at least two days on its own to see all it has to offer, and that is without any major hikes.

    But you would have to get to Paso Robles, if you want to do the coast road as well. Why would you head south to Fresno leaving Yosemite, when you need to go to SF?

    Note also that entry to both those NP is around $25 - $30 each.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default Either/Or

    I think you have to make a choice - either see Death Valley/Yosemite OR the coast.

    The second option you laid out really isn't feasible. It would be a challenge just to cover those miles in two days, and you certainly wouldn't have time to stop and see anything.

    If you want to do the coast, then the first option you laid out really is your only option - keep in mind, it's a full day up the coast from Paso Robles/Cambria to San Francisco. You could certainly do Death Valley and Yosemite, but then the coast really isn't an option, unless you can add at least 1 more full day.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Your choice.

    It's a tough choice, [in a good way] but one you have to make. As Michael said, it is either/or to make it enjoyable. You can't go wrong with either choice, but the one thing I would say is that, here in the UK we do have some lovely coastline, but we don't see the likes of the landscape through Death valley, or mountains and Valleys quite on the scale of Yosemite NP.

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Not if you actually want to see something. You will be flat out covering the miles. Speed limits in NPs are slow.... people go to them to experience their unique features and do not rush at high speed through those places, even if they were allowed to.

    It all depends on whether you want to experience/see both those NPs, or if you just want to rush through them. Yosemite would take at least two days on its own to see all it has to offer, and that is without any major hikes.
    Yeah, I realise we wouldn't be able to make the most of the NPs if we did Option 2, but compared to Option 1, where we drive the Mojave and then a bit of Route 66 on the way to Paso Robles as an alternative, it still feels like doing DV and Yosemite would make for a better, more enjoyable drive, even if time to stop is at a minimum. We definitely weren't planning to do any hiking.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    But you would have to get to Paso Robles, if you want to do the coast road as well. Why would you head south to Fresno leaving Yosemite, when you need to go to SF?
    Just so that we could then drive the coast - I know it's a very indirect route, just trying to pack in as much different scenery as possible in the two days.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Note also that entry to both those NP is around $25 - $30 each.
    That is very useful information - while I've actually been to a few of the NPs in CA and AZ before, it was many years ago as a child and so I probably had no idea we were paying to get into these parks.

    Thanks for the comments and advice, much appreciated.

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I think you have to make a choice - either see Death Valley/Yosemite OR the coast.

    The second option you laid out really isn't feasible. It would be a challenge just to cover those miles in two days, and you certainly wouldn't have time to stop and see anything.

    If you want to do the coast, then the first option you laid out really is your only option - keep in mind, it's a full day up the coast from Paso Robles/Cambria to San Francisco. You could certainly do Death Valley and Yosemite, but then the coast really isn't an option, unless you can add at least 1 more full day.
    Thanks for the advice, seems like maybe I was being a bit optimistic about what we could cover in 2 days. Would your comments remain the same knowing that we're not planning on doing significant stopping in/around the NPs, but rather driving through them for the scenery? Or is that in itself not a very sensible idea?

    Clearly it could be somewhat a waste of money if the entry fees described by Lifemagician are accurate (as I'm sure they are).

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    It's a tough choice, [in a good way] but one you have to make. As Michael said, it is either/or to make it enjoyable. You can't go wrong with either choice, but the one thing I would say is that, here in the UK we do have some lovely coastline, but we don't see the likes of the landscape through Death valley, or mountains and Valleys quite on the scale of Yosemite NP.
    Thanks for you view Dave, good to hear from another Brit on this. Good point about the coastline vs parks point - the only issue here is that my travel partner (who originally suggested Option 1) is especially keen to drive that coastal route, so I don't think dropping that is an option.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    162

    Default

    If there's any possibility of stretching your time frame to three days? It would be well worth it. The days of our lives, in the general scheme of things, are cheap (especially in retrospect). Days spent driving through Yosemite National Park (especially if they include the magnificent view from Glacier Point), are priceless. (As are days spent driving through Big Sur). We don't know your situation, obviously, but if it was me? I would beg, borrow, wheedle, cajole, plead, stretch, extend, call in favors, or whatever else might be necessary to turn that two day trip into a three day trip. You'd still be a little rushed. But you'd also be delighted and amazed.

    My two cents

    Rick

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