I am taking a road trip around the beginning of Feb. with my g/f and would like to go to Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. When I tell people this they think I'm nuts because of the time of year but this is the only time I have available to go.
I have some winter driving experience from driving up Mt. Hood every year to ski and I lived in Eastern Washington for a couple years and delt with the snow there too.
The way I see it there will be fewer RVs on the road and reduced rates on hotel rooms. Am I as dumb as the looks people keep giving me or what?
PS - Any suggestions for stops along the way besides the 101 Redwoods? (Going to try and avoid the I-5 Siskyou pass)
I personally wouldn't challenge the mountain passes of Yosemite that time of year.
Check Gorp.com for contact info for a ranger station at Yosemite. They'll do their darndest to discourage you if the travel is indeed too unsafe.
Yosemite in winter
I'm afraid you will find that many of the mountain roads in and around Yosemite are closed from October until May, and your travel will be seriously curtailed. Even Grand Canyon roads may be closed or difficult to travel. And travel from Yosemite to Arizona will be difficult at best, until you just want to drive across the desert.
Heavy snowfall in Sierras
This would be the most challenging year in several for such a gambit, due to the above-normal snowfall thus far in the season. Tioga is closed as are most of the smaller passes thru the Sierras.
The North Rim of the Grand will probably be closed in February, but you should be able to make the south rim.
Are you planning on using US-199 thru the Smith River Recreation Area? If so, be prepared for mud flows as an aftermath of the forest fires last summer. The coast is fantastic in February -- if you like winter storms and giant waves. Should be a fun adventure!
A few more thoughts
I have been in Yosemite and Grand Canyon several times in February. It is a fun time to explore since the crowds are far less.
Mt. Hood does get a significant amount of snow, but the (potential) intensity of the western Sierra storms is what leads to the road closures. On two occasions I have been in the middle of snow accumulations in excess of five feet in 16 hours -- such conditions can easily overwhelm even the most experienced winter traveler. On the other hand, if you succeed in reaching the back country you will be treated to winter wonderland sights unseen by most travelers.
I don't know what your budget might include, but one of my favorite inns in the USA is located near Mendocino. A perfect place to soak away the rigors of winter driving. Check out http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/stanford.htm and consider renting a canoe to travel upstream on the Big River (yep -- upstream -- it is possible to catch the tidal surges and float upstream for a mile or so, pause for lunch and then float back down to the sea). The eddy line at takeout is sometimes tricky to catch when fighting the downstream current and the tidal reversal, but it is a real thrill not to be missed!
The only "dumb ones" are those who don't choose to hit the road whenever they have a chance to go.
Eastern Outback of Oregon
On your way back to Portland -- another hot spot to check out would be the Eastern Outback. Far less expensive than the Stanford Inn -- there is very special place to soak in hot water and watch the falling snow: Summer Lake Hot Springs (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/hot.htm) is another must see place.
And if you can handle the detour (back to Portland) proceed due north and take in the factory tour at the Woolen mill in Pendleton -- keep your hands at your side and prepare to be amazed at where they allow you to go on this tour!
Thanks for the great replys so far. I have checked with the Yosemite National Park website and they list up to date road closures around the Park. Everything on the East side is closed until May but the road from Merced is open and this is the one I would be taking.
Leaving the park I wouldn't pass over the Sierras (although it sure would be nice to do so), instead I would go back out the same road to Merced and then down through Bakersfield towards the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. North Rim is closed during the winter but hopefully the South Rim won't be so touristy in February.
The potential for heavy snowfall in the Sierras is a bit worrysome, and I know the area around Flagstaff can also get dumped on rather quickly.
As for the coastline, I am excited by the stormy ocean weather. My idea of the beach is wind and rain at Haystack Rock and my last trip there was awesome as the waves were almost crashing up onto the road.
The Stanford Inn has been suggested to me by another person too and I will definitly look into it but I think I am going to avoid Eastern Oregon. I used to live in Eastern Washington (Pullman) and I just find driving over there to be rather monotonous.
Thanks again for the suggestions and insight! More is always welcome. :)
Hells Canyon is not Pullman...
There is no (valid) comparison between SE Oregon (the Outback) and/or Hells Canyon (NE Oregon) with anything in or around Pullman. There are some very knarly off-highway roads in both places. The only place I was unable to effect a self-rescue happened in the Oregon Outback in near white-out conditions. (check out http://www.roadtripamerica.com/lat/981122.htm) But hot springs under a clear winter sky is tough to pass up.
Zion and Bryce NP are along a possible route heading back to Portland -- Fantastic in the winter. Hwy 50 through Ely is pretty cool too.
Should be a great road trip adventure.