3 days Yosemite or Lake tahoe
Replies: 35 - Last Post: Nov 15, 2012 11:38 PM Last Post By: ianw6705
Nov 9, 2012 9:54 PM
my family and I would be travelling from Las Vegas in mid-december this year to either Yosemite, Lake Tahoe or BOTH in about 3 days. We have never driven in snow before but will be renting a 4WD.(GMC Yukon preferably from Enterprise)
Personally I would prefer to visit both but is held back by the amount of driving we have to do. An approximate amount of 6 hours driving would be my target;) We would most likely have only one person driving throughout so I hope to keep things really simple and relaxed.
We hope to get to San Francisco after these 3 days.
Is there any suggested doable road itineraries? It is my family's first time in the States so we are trying to keep things relaxed and easy.
Our initial concern was actually if driving would be difficult (confused by diverging roads and stuff) in the States and that we would be better off taking a tour.
Last question: is there a possibility of snow this winter in yosemite or lake tahoe?
Nov 9, 2012 10:09 PM
1Snow has already arrived here in the Sierra Nevada- and there will be even more by the time of your trip.
Getting from Las Vegas to Yosemite in your 3-day timeframe is problematic as the eastern Tioga Pass
entrance will be closed. That means you would have to drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite via Bakersfield.
You could, however, likely go to Lake Tahoe in that timeframe. You could go up Highway 395 and then
take the 80 or the 50 west from Nevada. Snowfalls, when they occur, are quickly plowed from these key
highways rather quickly- usually within 12 hours.
With only 3 days to get from Las Vegas to San Francisco, your best option is Lake Tahoe.
Nov 9, 2012 10:26 PM
Nov 9, 2012 11:20 PM
3I would go to Yosemite Valley. All the hype is true. It is a magnificent place and one you will never forget. I lived in the valley on two occasions for nearly a year each time back in the 70s and fell hopelessly head over heels in love with the place. If there is a god, he took particular delight in creating that place.
Nov 10, 2012 1:58 AM
4If this is likely to be your only shot at this, then I would try for both - but you are looking at more than six hours driving each day. But there again - the drive is spectacular in most parts, so I recommend you do it.
Day 1: Las Vegas > Pahrump > Death Valley NP > Bishop > South Lake Tahoe
Day 2: South Lake Tahoe > Hwy 88 or Hwy 50 across the Sierra Nevada > Sonora > Yosemite NP
Day 3: Yosemite NP > San Francisco
Here is a map of it.
Nov 10, 2012 3:52 AM
5Despite 4WD, you should also carry tire chains for icy conditions -- there are road blocks where inspectors require cars to put chains on rear tires before proceeding further. The climb uphill from Highway #395 to Highway #50 in South Lake Tahoe is steep and if there is lots of snow, it may not be completely plowed. Interstate-80, from Reno, Nevada, through North Lake Tahoe is the best plan. Interstate-80 will be straight sailing to San Francisco. Or, take Highway #49 or Interstate-5 south to Merced turnoff to Yosemite Valley.
If you have time for only one of these, I would choose Yosemite Valley. Be sure to see the Ansel Adams photo gallery near the grocery store and ranger station in the Valley. You will need to make advance reservations (Now) for accommodations in the Valley.
Nov 10, 2012 4:39 AM
6Thanks for the reply guys.
It was also suggested to me to consider mammoth lakes instead of lake tahoe, then make the trip down to Yosemite. Will this arrangement make driving less tiring? and if so, is there any accommodations to recommend in Mammoth Lakes?
In fact, from Google Maps, we would have to drive about 6-7 hours from las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes via Death Valley since the tioga pass would be closed in December. Honestly, at this point, I am not so sure about the definition of tiring:/
Nov 10, 2012 5:01 AM
7Mammoth Lakes is a very popular ski resort for those from Southern California -- Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, so it would be crowded.
Skip Death Valley and drive straight from Las Vegas through Bakersfield to either the Fresno or Merced entrance to Yosemite Valley. Do not tell the auto rental people that you plan to use tire chains or that you plan to drive through snow. Buy chains at Wal-Mart, keep the receipt, then return them for a refund if you do not use them. There are motels along either route into Yosemite Valley. Go to Yosemite in the middle of the week, not a weekend or during the Christmas holidays. It might be too late to find accommodations inside the Valley, but there is lodging just outside in Wawona and other sites.
Exit Yosemite on the Merced road, then turn north on Interstate-5 toward Sacramento. At the freeway interchange, turn east on Interstate-80 to North Lake Tahoe. There is lodging from Donner Pass eastward -- Truckee and North Tahoe. There are several ski resorts along the route.
After Tahoe, take Interstate-80 west through Berkeley to the Oakland Bay Bridge, then over the bridge to San Francisco. Expensive parking in San Francisco. No need for the car. You could return it to Enterprise in Berkeley or Oakland, then take the BART commuter train into San Francisco, then a taxi to you hotel. BART will also take you to the international airport.
Nov 10, 2012 7:15 AM
8Be sure you have your lodging in Yosemite booked well in advance--NOW, for instance. There is a series of holiday dinners in the park in December, so lodging can get tight.
Nov 10, 2012 7:59 AM
9I have a prior reservation at Cedar Lodge for 3 days, so no worries there:)
By the way, thanks for the tip on tire chains trekker!!
My main concern is however, the distance and amount of time spent driving. I would very much like to stop over somewhere for a night. But for places like Bakersfield, will there be anything interesting for my family to experience? Or is there anywhere else that might be more suitable?
Nov 10, 2012 11:04 AM
10Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by driving a 4X4, it won't help on ice.
Since this is your first time driving on ice/snow take some simple precautions. Buy some kitty litter, keep it in the car for use if you get too slippy and slide off the road. It will help with traction in a pinch, as will a shovel.
Speed kills and it kills faster on ice/snow.
Snow chains was a good suggestion. I do not know if studded snow tires are legal there, but if they are be sure to get them on your viehicle, (small metal studs screwed into the tires) they help alot.
For me, going down hill on ice or snow is more spooky than going up hill. I saw a woman skid down a Colorado mountain road, and she would have skidded off the road to a 500 foot drop, but she was stopped by crashing into a stone retaining wall, and she was not going fast, maybe 20 mph. Gravity without friction is a bitch.
This is worst case of course, but you need to be aware, I'm sure the roads will be either dry or plowed and sanded.
Nov 10, 2012 12:02 PM
11The days before Christmas on California highways will be packed with traffic as everyone will be in
transit to get to family. Give yourself lots of extra time- the 9 or 10 hour driving times are just average
estimates- and I can assure you it will take above average driving times to drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite.
even if the weather is clear. It would really be nice if you could nab a booking in Yosemite Valley rather
than El Portal where the Cedar Lodge is located. outside of the park boundaries. Happy Travels!
Nov 10, 2012 12:19 PM
12Please pay attention to posts 6 and 12. 4wd doesn't do anything to help you when you hit ice on a hilly road. I have watched people do 180 degree spins in SUVs driving only 15 miles an hour. Traction control can only do so much if the road is solid ice--that's where you need chains (assuming they are legal in CA).
If you hit icy or snowy driving conditions, you will only be able to drive a fraction of the normal speed, and it could easily take you 2x as long as the Google driving estimate. Drive as though there is a plate of hot spaghetti on your lap--accelerate and break as gradually as possible and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. Keep in mind that in heavy snow, headlights will reflect right back at you and won't actually illuminate anything.
Nov 10, 2012 1:31 PM
13Studded tires are not legal in California. Chains are legal. Cat litter/gravel (not clay) is an excellent tip -- if you stop at an intersection and your tires spin on ice so that your car will not proceed forward, pour the gravel under the tires and in front to create friction -- that would be before you realize that you need to put chains on your tires. I did have a number of frightening incidents with driving on icy roads in Alaska before I purchased the studded tires when I lived there. On one, my Nissan pickup slid on the Eagle River Bridge and my truck landed half-way up/over the bridge railing -- fortunately my truck was cushioned by the snow on the railing and its tires slid backwards into the road again -- it was actually a freeway and no traffic at 5:30 a.m.!
There are small, farm towns along Highway #99 before you arrive in Bakersfield. If you are too exhausted to continue driving, you may find a suitable motel sooner than Bakersfield. The Central Valley, which you will be traveling through to Bakersfield, is mostly farm laborers and farm owners or farm corporation managers. It is not gussied up and does not see that many tourists, who usually opt for Interstate-5 or Highway #1 along the Pacific Coast.
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