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  1. Default California Driving in December

    My wife and i are coming from Texas to San Diego in early december to attend her brothers graduation from boot camp at Camp Pendleton.

    We would like to rent a car and drive up to Yosemite and back during our stay in CA.

    My wife will be 7 months pregnant at the time, so this is a concern somewhat for us, more so for her being comfortable, but also safety is a big concern for me.

    Our itenerary will be something like this.

    Day 1 -- drive from San Diego into LA / Beverly Hills / Hollywood, up the pacific coast highway into Oxnard for the night.

    Day 2 -- Oxnard to Yosemite

    Day 3 -- Drive through Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes

    Day 4 -- Mammoth Lakes back into San Diego

    Any suggestions along the way would be appreciated, we dont have a whole lot of time, but i am open to suggestions.

    My concerns are snow and closed roads in the mountains. This will be all in the first week of December. Does anyone have any information on how the roads are coming into and out of Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes?

    I am from South Texas, we have seen snow here in 20 my snow driving skills are zilch...If there is a small bit of snow, how treacherous are the roads in that area for a novice to be driving?

    Thanks in advance for any information provided.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Tioga Pass will be CLOSED!

    Quote Originally Posted by TXTripper View Post
    We would like to rent a car and drive up to Yosemite and back during our stay in CA
    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! December can be a nice time of year to travel in California, but you will be affected by rain and snow storms this time of year.
    Day 1 -- drive from San Diego into LA / Beverly Hills / Hollywood, up the pacific coast highway into Oxnard for the night.
    This will be kind of a long day -- distance is not the problem -- but this route will be very congested and you need to allow 8-10 hours if you are going to be doing sightseeing on the way. Here is a great thread that shares some of the mystery about visiting LA.
    Day 3 -- Drive through Yosemite to Mammoth Lakes
    This won't work. Tioga Pass (click here for our closing date poll) will be closed in December and while you can reach Mammoth Lakes from the west side, it will not be through Yosemite....
    I am from South Texas, we have seen snow here in 20 my snow driving skills are zilch...If there is a small bit of snow, how treacherous are the roads in that area for a novice to be driving?
    Here are some tips for driving in winter weather.


  3. Default

    A couple of comments --

    What are you looking to see in Beverly Hills/ Hollywood?

    The reason I'm asking is that going through downtown LA is going into the middle of downtown LA (such as the city has a downtown). There are some really cool places to visit -- but not much you can easily get to, since many of them are some distance off the major freeways, and you may be working through the middle of rush hour or city street traffic. Places you might visit would include --
    Griffen Park Planetarium (but you take a bus up here from near the LA Zoo)
    Universal Studios (now mostly a theme park, but with the working studio behind it -- and probably requires several hours to see)
    Page Musuem/ La Brea Tar Pits (about 30- minutes off the freeway, and figure an hour or two to see the musuem and tar pits nearby)
    Hollywood (Hollywood and Vine, Grumman's Chinese Theater, etc.). I have to confess, even as a native to the area, I've never been thrilled about visiting this. Busy crowded streets, no quick paths in and out, and other than some funky old buildings and some footprints to see in the concrete, its not much of a thrill (at least to me... I've see other people go absolutely ape-crazy about it..)

    If you drive up Coast Highway through Malibu, its OK.. there are better sections of coast highway farther north. A nice drive on a nice day, but at rush hour you've got people trying to get home and PCH gets really clogged from Santa Monica.

    Oxnard and Ventura are nice -- some good hotels.

    Depending upon your time and inclination -- I would also push to avoid PCH through Malibu, and just enjoy the section north of Oxnard between there and Santa Barbara or Solvang/ San Ynez. Santa Barbara is a very nice town, and Solvang is a Danish themed town, known for its shops, pastries, food, and local wineries. (the movie "Sideways" was set there)

    I'm guessing you had planned on taking the 126 back to I-5 through Santa Paula. You have another option, if you're heading for Yosemite area, to continue north on the 101 through Santa Barbara to Paso Robles, and then catch the 41 east, and then north to I-5, and beyond. 41 is a very good quality road, and you can make time on it through the coastal mountains. This also gives you the option of seeing a bit more of the coast perhaps, and visiting pismo beach. The internet mapping engine I use put the difference in time going this route as less then 30 minutes, versus stopping at Oxnard and going back on the 126.

    As noted before, you can't bet on Tioga Pass as being available over the Sierras at this time -- it will probably be closed . So there will be no easy access to Mammoth Lakes. You can get to Mammoth Lakes going around the south end of the Sierras via Bakersfield and the 58, but it would be a long day to Mammoth. You might want to consider an alternative routing..

    Other options might include
    -- an extra day in Yosemite, then the drive directly back to San Diego.
    -- Continue up the Pacific Coast Highway to Carmel/ Monterey, and then head directly back to San Diego, or swing wide to Yosemite, then back to San Diego.
    -- An eastern desert route, potentially south from Barstow through Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs, and Anza Borrego State Park before returning to San Diego from the North East..

    From a comfort and safety standpoint for your wife -- almost all of these roads are very good quality, and usually 4 lanes or more. All the ones listed were state highways, and unless you're in a more remote desert route, well traveled. Taking the 41 avoids some distance of twisty mountain roads through the coast range, although the roads into Yosemite National Park are typical mountain roads (2+ lanes, paved, good quality, plowed quickly, etc. -- but not flat, straight and always dry). There are hospitals and emergency clinics in all the moderate and large towns along the way, and cell coverage on 99% of these routes. In December, unless you're in the higher elevations (typically 3000' or above) in the mountains you won't see snow on the ground, unless you're in a winter storm. I'd say 99% of these routes almost never see snow. The biggest worry I'd have for safety is the usual "idiot driver in the rain" issue -- which is common everywhere.

    Weather in December on this route can vary from 60's F during the day with bright blue skies in the afternoons but cloudy mornings (San Diego and the coastal regions), to snow on the ground and chilly conditions, with freezing temperature after dark (Yosemite, and elsewhere at elevation in the Sierras), to a sunny 80's in the desert, to the possibility of rain. Check the weather before you set out, and keep an eye out -- and dress for what you think is appropriate.

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