Access to Mojave desert and Death Valley?
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Nov 4, 2012 9:38 AM Last Post By: geo_nerd
Nov 3, 2012 11:16 AM
Nov 3, 2012 11:34 AM
1What time of year?
The eastern exit from Yosemite, Highway 120E over Tioga Pass closes each year between about November to June because of snow.
You then need to either take the western route through Bakersfield which makes Bishop unreasonable, or over one of the other Sierra passes, which can add many more hours to the drive.
Nov 3, 2012 12:03 PM
2Your subject line confuses me. You want to know how to access the desert? Why? When?
Las Vegas and Stovepipe Wells will be blazing hot in the summer, though tourists do go to each, and, as noted, Tioga Pass is closed in the winter. assumed you are thinking of winter season, since you mention DV and Barstow (presumably to take Highway 58) 'but you also mention Bishop.
When you post again, please also include interests, something about your budget and how many days you'd take. I assume you know that accommodaitons, even most campsites, in Yosemite need to be reserved in advance. What do you mean by "a real experience"? All experiences are real (well,most are). You're going to Las Vegas, so you're hardly going off the beaten track to experience non-touristy life. There's nothing wrong with that, but at this point you need to give more info.
Nov 3, 2012 12:09 PM
3Yeah about the "real experience". The marathon 15 hour a day road trips with gasoline station pits stops and serial McDonalds visits are as much of a real experience as leisurely drives through verdant forests. I've had great experiences at Denny's restaurants celebrating Christmas with truckers and other travelers. I've also had a umb and sort butt from spending too much time sitting in the car and not getting out and about. Or days when coffee, Slim Jims, and Little Debbie Cakes became the major food groups. And beer had it's own food group, too.
Nov 3, 2012 3:16 PM
Nov 3, 2012 3:21 PM
5If you look at a map of California and the part of Nevada that includes Las Vegas, you will see that Las Vegas is on Interstate15, which passes roads into Mojave National Preserve en route to Barstow. However, Death Valley is north of Interstate-15 and Highway #160 from Las Vegas to Pahrump, then Highway #190 into Death Valley past Stovepipe Wells to Olancha, on Highway #395, will bypass the Mojave Desert, especially if you turn north on Highway #395 to Bishop and Yosemite's Tioga Pass Road.
March and April are the best months for Death Valley and the Mojave Desert to see the wildflowers -- check weather forecast for early rains. You would make a loop at Olanche, travel south on Highway #395 to Highway #58 eastward to Barstow, then onto Interstate-15 to Mojave National Preserve access roads, then continue to Las Vegas on Interstate-15.
Nov 3, 2012 4:56 PM
6We drove from Las Vegas to Death Valley (2 nights at Furnace Creek), via road past Bakersfield and Fesno to Yosemite (3 nights) and returned to Las Vegas for our flight home. In April this was a wonderful trip with excellent conditions for exploring the desert and only an hour or two of driving through some snowy mountains.
Nov 3, 2012 6:01 PM
Nov 3, 2012 9:01 PM
Nov 4, 2012 1:12 AM
9Good point! We are arriving in LA and travelling through to LV via Phoenix, via Grand Canyon and looping up to Monument Valley...only a couple of days in LV. Going through July/Aug...hire car, family of 5 in tow, looking to see a bit of 'everything'...on to Sacramento and SF and then down the coast road to LA..thanks for the info so far...
Nov 4, 2012 4:52 AM
10You need to be prepared for 100+F degrees temperatures in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Death Valley. Even Sacramento may be about 100F degrees in August. San Francisco may be in the 60sF degrees with fog in August. Yosemite Valley is 4 hours' drive from San Francisco and Monterey, for a detour; however, you must have a reservation far in advance (NOW) for accommodations in motel or campground.
Nov 4, 2012 9:33 AM
11Yosemite will be packed, so need to get reservations for hotel or campground early. Grand Canyon can also be crowded, and warm, though much higher in elevation. You might consider the North Rim of the GC (higher, cooler, greener, less crowded than the South Rim, though with far fewer options for accommodations).
Average July highs and lows, per Weather Channel Web site:
Las Vegas: 40C, 27C
Death Valley: 47C, 31C
Sacramento: 33C, 15C.
Again, what is the gist of your question on access to the desert. What do you want to see? You won't see "everything." And what doy ou mean by a real experience.
Most scenic route to Yosemite would be up Highway 395 and over Tioga Pass. The Barstow/Bakersfiled route is one to take in the winter when Tioga is closed. Things to do along Highway 395 etc. (eg. Bodie State Park, Bristlecone Pines, Alabama Hills, Mono lake) have been described numerous times here, so you can do a search. If you go to Sacramento, be sure to see the state railroad museum. It's impressive, and a good way to learn about the region's history.
Nov 4, 2012 9:38 AM
12Do yourself a favor and skip Phoenix altogether. Do you really appreciate what 45C feels like?
I'd suggest the same of DV, unless it's just as a quick drive-through. (DV may exceed 50C. You cannot hike, you cannot do much of anything except stare out the car window at the harshly lit mid-day scenery.)
Monument, Yosemite, Mojave Desert, Grand Canyon, etc. This sounds like a typical 'check the boxes' vacation. Suggest you visit Google Maps and do some planning. Schedule at least a full day at each of your destinations (if you plan on actually enjoying any of them) then add driving time. Divide this into the number of days, and you'll have an idea of what is realistic.
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