3 days Yosemite or Lake tahoe
Replies: 35 - Last Post: Nov 15, 2012 11:38 PM Last Post By: ianw6705
Nov 10, 2012 3:58 PM
15So it's cat litter and some chains, unless Trekker wants to lend ! his truck with the ( Ahem) studded
One snowy trip into Yosemite, the Ranger at the entrance gate was turning away vehicles without
chains or snow tires. I was let in with my Subaru with AWD and had fun sliding around the roads until
arriving in the valley. (It was a heavy snowfall and the roads were slippery even at 10mph.
If the weather is forecast to be snowy on your drive days, you can telephone the Highway Patrol
for updated specific road conditions at (800) 427-7623.
Nov 11, 2012 3:05 AM
17As usual - I defer to the locals who have done much more winter driving in the US than I have ... however I still think it's worth differentiating between probable (likely/average) conditions, and worse-case scenarios. I think some posters don't do this quite enough, and can scare the horses.
Most (if not all) of the roads you would need to use Las Vegas > Lake Tahoe > Yosemite Valley > San Francisco are all-weather roads, and therefore open during the winter, except during and immediately after heavy snow storms. The chances of those do exist in December, however these are risks that are readily managed ... if the local weather forecast on your day of departure is not good (bearing in mind that most local TV News channels beat up this stuff to the extreme - calling it "Wicked Weather" in a very over-excited manner), then you can alter your plan and go to Yosemite NP via Bakersfield.
In terms of the vehicle, (a) as noted above, a 4WD vehicle doesn't help on ice, and (b) our winter rental cars have always had "winter tyres" - and if a route requires chains, definitely take another route - chains are not designed for long-haul road-trips, but just to get people through the last ten miles or so of their journey on snow-ice roads.
Nov 11, 2012 7:46 AM
Nov 11, 2012 8:33 AM
19In winter, the days are short and the roads will freeze as the temperature drops.
Best advice is to avoid driving when the temperature and sun drop (avoid night-time driving) and to watch out for areas where ice can form on the roads. Bridges get icy, areas in the shade all day get icy, places where water melts during the day and then freezes at night get icy. More injuries are caused by excessive speed on icy conditions than being stuck in huge snowbanks.
Read and listen to the weather reports and the road conditions. Have PAPER maps and be familiar with the road numbers you will be traveling on. GPS should not be your only navigation aid. So many stories of people stuck in the winter in snow when they blindly followed a GPS.
Have warm clothing, proper warm footwear, hats, gloves and spare blankets. Take water and food to tide you over if a road closes. Know where you can find a motel to stay in if the road conditions change and you need to backtrack. Don't let the tank drop below half full.
Personally, I think of the Yukon model as a big whale of a car, not particularly well-suited to wintertime travel despite being a 4wd. They spin out at excessive speed too. 4WD is not 4W-Stop. That is the problem. All those above cautions about driving 4WD apply.
In the mountainous west, the road can close far ahead of where you are from accidents, avalanches, etc even though you might not be experiencing cold or stormy conditions.
Nov 11, 2012 9:27 AM
Nov 11, 2012 11:30 AM
21I live in a snow area in California. Studded tires are legal during the snow season and are excellent for snow and ice. 4 WD is excellent for snowy conditions and helpful for icy conditions. Carrying chains is required, by law, on California Highways during snow season. If you have a 4WD vehicle with Mud/Snow tires you will NOT be required to use chains but you are still required to carry them. 90% of winter driving is on dry, clear roads. California Dept. of Transportation does a very good job of plowing snow, sanding icy places, de-icing curves and bridges etc. Snow and Ice can be inconvenient and will slow you down but it does not have to be scary or dangerous if you are sensible.
Nov 11, 2012 11:57 AM
22It's worth mentioning again that rental cars don't come with studded tires. So OP's only option is to carry chains and hope that someone will know how to put them on in the event that they are needed.
4WD will not help if the driver hits ice patches, particularly at moderate to high speeds.
In Chicago, we used to laugh at all the SUVs stranded on Lakeshore Drive during winter storms. No doubt they thought the "stay off the road" warnings didn't apply to them, then had to abandon their vehicles.
Nov 11, 2012 12:08 PM
Nov 11, 2012 10:36 PM
24So OP's only option is to carry chains and hope that someone will know how to put them on in the event that they are needed.
I respectfully disagree ... the OP's other options include (a) just renting a car with winter tyres (as we have done on a couple of occasions), and (b) not venturing onto routes that require chains. Anyway - I think the chances of any snow-ice dramas on Las Vegas > South Lake Tahoe > Yosemite Valley > San Francisco are pretty small indeed. Just bite the bullet and enjoy some winter driving OP - all the areas you're looking at are wonderful.
Nov 12, 2012 5:18 AM
25Thanks for all the comments guys!
I have to admit that I am getting a little frightened from all the possible dramas winter-driving can give me now! My family have decided to stop at Bakersfield for the night and off to Yosemite (too little time yet so much to explore!). If I am not wrong I should be traveling on Highway 140 right?
And I am in fact looking for another place to stay in Yosemite (inside the park, hopefully). My reservation with Cedar Lodge still holds, but I would very much like to stay in the park to have the 'full experience', as some may say. I know it is very late to even look for any, but just probably I might get lucky?
Anyways I am really grateful for all of the above comments,especially information about winter-driving. I really hope the weather would be just fine!
So general rule,
-get tire chains, cat litter, keep the receipt for refund if I didn't use them
-drive SLOW like at 15mph
Nov 12, 2012 6:03 AM
26I would watch the traffic speed. No need to go 15 mph unless it is snowing heavily and cars are slipping. Otherwise you become a traffic hazard.
It's a good idea to travel with your lights on, even during the day. Gives oncoming traffic a reminder you are on the road. You can encounter fog when driving through that valley on the west side of the Sierras.
You're not likely to encounter snow until Bishop on the east side of the Sierras, and until you reach Yosemite park.
Nov 12, 2012 7:50 AM
Chain installers work on designated routes. On a smaller road, you might indeed find an enterprising youth.
Nov 13, 2012 6:55 AM
28ianw6705, having lived in the midwest for 7 years, I have witnessed to many car accidents with people who didn't know how to drive on ice or snow. Indeed, I nearly caused many of them at first, because there was no snow where I grew up. OP's first post ("We have never driven in snow before but will be renting a 4WD") showed that he/she knew nothing about winter driving. I will not feel guilty about what could prevent an accident.
Nov 13, 2012 12:12 PM
29You (and others) are still scaring off a traveller for reasons that are not good enough.
For a start, they will mostly only be on major ploughed highways, and not local Midwest roads, and secondly a lot of the drive is through desert or areas of quite low rainfall, until they cross the Sierras. It has low precipitation compared to the Midwest, and bright blue days that melt snow and ice.
So I still think you have done the OP a major disservice ... with common sense and a normal level of care, they could have had a great trip - with the likelihood of actually having to drive on snow and/or ice very slight indeed ... and it's not that hard anyway even if it did occur.
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