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Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass

ct
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Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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My son and I are making a quick trip to California to see some sites he is studying: Manzanar Internment Camp, Bodie Park, and Alcatraz. We land in LA Friday evening and plan to go to Manzanar and Bodie Saturday. Monday we will see Alcatraz before heading home from San Francisco Tuesday morning. That leaves Sunday to drive from Lee Vining to San Francisco. We plan to get up early, take Tioga Pass. Obviously we aren’t going to have enough time to see much of Yosemite, but what should/can we see in that brief amount of time. We will probably be on the road by 8am and would like to be in San Francisco around 8pm.

25 replies to this topic
Fremont, California
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1. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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hopefully you are not staying in Lee Viining - but staying in more scenic june lake loop - 10 minues away or Mammoth Lakes. its not very scenic in Lee Vining.

For the drive - drive up Tioga Pass - stop in Toulumne Meadows, then drive the valley loop drive and exit via 120 and drive to San Francisco. Stay about two hours in the valley floor area for best views of the iconic views like El Capitan, the visitor center, the river area, etc.

are you flying out that night or just arriving for some more fun in San Francisco?

see the national park web site for more info.

ct
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41 reviews
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2. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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Thank you. We haven’t booked accommodations for that night because nothing in lee vining looks good. Lol. I don’t need something fancy but prefer to pay less that $200ish a night for a motel. We are spending Monday in San Francisco and flying home Tuesday. I just though getting to San Francisco that evening would be better than a long drive in the morning.

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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3. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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If you're including the dirt/gravel road drive to Bodie State Historic Park, you won't have much time for Yosemite.

Definitely check to see if the Pass is open. On Tioga Road, stop at the viewpoint on the left and maybe in Tuolumne Meadows. Maybe stop briefly at Tenaya Lake; it's an easy access alpine lake. Stop at Olmsted Point and take the short walk, IF it is not storming.

Maybe detour down to Yosemite Valley. Take the short drive up to Tunnel View and then back down. Drive a loop around the Valley. Before you leave, stop at Valley View. Then drive 4 hours to San Francisco.

Many more ideas in the Top Questions on the right side of the page, full TripAdvisor website.

Accurate road and weather.... 209 372 0200

Elk Grove...
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for Hong Kong
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4. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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The OP said "Manzanar and Bodie Saturday" because of the son's study. Staying somewhere east of Tioga Entrance Saturday night. This will have no bearing on the time to visit Yosemite on Sunday. I do agree the time available is short. The driving time from Yosemite (Valley) to San Francisco is about 4 hours. You would only have time for drive-by, scenic stops but not for staying too long at any one spot. You will have time to visit Yosemite Valley along with the scenic spots along Tioga Road, as mentioned. I also recommend you to drive to Tunnel View to get a "money shot" of Yosemite Valley. It is on CA-41, about 2 miles from the junction of Yosemite's Southside Drive and CA-41. Do that first before you drive into Yosemite Valley. It will save you time back-tracking because of the one-way loop. You will not otherwise pass by this spot since you will be taking CA-120 or CA-140 towards San Francisco. Probably won't have enough time to visit Glacier Point or else your arrival at San Francisco will be quite late.

Indeed - do check weather conditions and road conditions the day that you land. You should have some good forecasts for 2 to 3 days. They closed Tioga Road yesterday (Saturday). A quick storm is always possible and not rare in October. Things can develop quickly.

Do mind the driving times on Saturday. From LA to Lee Vining takes about 6 hours (you will pass Manzanar Internment Camp on the way first). From Lee Vining to Bodie takes about 1 hour. Spending say 2 hours at Manzanar and 2 hours at Bodie, you don't have much time to spare. It gets dark at about 7 pm now.

Redlands, California
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5. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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Yes, it's tight. On your drive along the Tioga Pass Road Tenaya lake is a must-see, but if you have a spare hour, stop at Pothole Dome at the western edge of the Tuolomne Meadows. It's an hour or so to climb it for unbelievable views, then descend the north side and find your way to the river, then return to your right over a tiny rockpile and follow the dome along the meadow. Or vice versa, you can walk the path to the little rockpile and the cascade and return on the Dome. It's a well-behaved dome but offers a lot of view for the effort!

San Francisco...
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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6. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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If you’ve done your map research, you know that it is about 225 miles from LAX to Manzanar. Do you plan to do this drive (or part of it) in the nighttime after a cross-country flight, or in the morning?

You could spend several hours at Manzanar, if you include the Visitor Center, self tours of the central barracks and other buildings, and driving tour around the grounds to the cemetery, gardens, building ruins, etc. Take note of limited hours for various locations during the pandemic.

https://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

It is then about 150 miles to Bodie, the last few miles on a gravel road that is OK for any car driven carefully (IOW, not a fast freeway trip). Bodie is another place where you could spend several hours, especially if the stamp mill tour is being done and you want to take it. Park hours through Nov. 6 are until 6:00 p.m., and sunset that day is 5:47.

https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509

On the trip, you will have to bypass, for lack of time, Mt. Whitney and the Alabama Hills, the Laws Railroad (and regional history) Museum, Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center, and many other places of natural, scenic, or historic interest. All the more reason for plan another trip to California for the family sometime in the future.

From Lee Vining to San Francisco is about 260 miles. And it is fine to stay at Lee Vining. It is right next to Mono Lake, one of the natural wonders of California as well as a landmark in the long history of California water policy and environmental protection. Not to mention being unusual and scenic, and renowned for its tufa spires as well as migratory bird activity. On your rushed trip, you won’t be able to spend much time at Mono Lake, but it is a must-see of there is any daylight. At least try to get to one of the visitor centers in town and South Tufa or County Park.

I think everyone’s concern here is the extremely short time you have for all of these places, and the long travel distances. Is your son allowed to miss another day or two of school, considering that this whole trip is for educational purposes?

ct
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7. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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Thank you everyone for your input.

We are landing at LAX Friday evening. We are driving to our hotel in Lancaster that evening.

Saturday we are driving to Manzanar and Bodie. Planning to stay somewhere around Lee Vining for the evening.

Sunday we will drive through/visit Yosemite with the goal of reaching San Francisco by around 8PM.

I wish we had more time but just trying to figure what we can/should try to see given our time constraints. We could stay between Yosemite and San Francisco if necessary as well rather than drive all the way to San Francisco that evening. Alcatraz is the only definite thing we have planned for San Francisco.

Seattle
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for Grand Canyon National Park
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8. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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Driving back to June Lake for lodging after Bodie (as suggested in post 1) is far out of your way and unnecessary. Lee Vining is a classic little western town in a great location on the shore of Mono Lake. Apparently Mini does not find it “scenic” but many of us love Mono Lake. It will likely be dark by the time you get there, so scenery does not matter anyway.

We enjoy Lakeview Lodge, with the gardens out front. But it is close to $200 right now (this is still prime season in the eastern Sierra due to fall colors). You might take a look at Murphy’s—-my sister and her husband stay there when we are all meeting up at Yosemite. $145 plus tax for a room with 2 queen beds.

The biggest issue with Lee Vining for many is the shortage of good dining options. Fortunately, the Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga Gas Mart does a good job of filling the gap, with an interesting menu for “dine in” or take-out:

http://www.whoanelliedeli.com/menu-1

Long Beach...
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9. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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You could look at Bridgeport for Sat night. I would just head straight to SF on Sunday night, you don’t want to deal with morning commute traffic. There are some motels that don’t charge for parking, Cow Hollow and others.

For Sunday, Yosemite, what do you want to see and do? Go for a walk? See as many sites as possible? I wouldn’t add glacier point to your day, but if you want to do a lot of view points you could.. have lunch at historic Ahwahnee Hotel or bring a picnic lunch?

I would probably do—

Tuolumne Meadows (maybe walk out to Soda Springs or Pothole dome)

Tenaya Lake

Olmsted Point

Tunnel View

Yosemite Valley- lots to see here!! Go for a walk, check out the Indian village, chapel, Ahwahnee and other historic places. Picnic by the river.

Valley View on the way out.

Seattle
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10. Re: Driving Through Yosemite Tioga Pass
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When is this trip, by he way? This coming weekend? Or later in October? You may need a backup plan in case Tioga Pass closes again.

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