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Yosemite to Death Valley

LGC England
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Yosemite to Death Valley
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We are planning a fly/drive vacation in June 2023 including a trip from Yosemite to Death Valley. We are happy to have a long drive so unless it’s a big mistake we would not expect to have an overnight stop.

It seems to me that route 120 through the Tioga pass and going South on 395 looks both sensible and scenic. I’d appreciate any suggestions or advice- especially if we are making a big mistake. Many thanks. Charles

8 replies to this topic
Munich, Germany
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for Oman, California, Yukon, Chile, Argentina, Road Trips
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1. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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Depending where you are staying in Yosemite, it could be done in one day. But I didn't want to do it. Even from Yosemite Valley to Furnace Creek it is about 7 hours drive. Through absolutely astonishing scenery. You'd want to stop at every viewpoint. So take your time. And have a night in between, maybe Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, or Lone Pine. Here you could visit the next morning the Alabama Hills, were over 400 movies havae been filmed.

https://www.blm.gov/visit/alabama-hills-national-scenic-area

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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2. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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Hi

Open the full TripAdvisor website and look at the Top Questions on the right side of the page. There is a topic about that Eastern Sierra drive.

Plan ample time for the places that appeal to you. Tioga Road in Yosemite offers a lot, but June may be early for hiking as the snow and slush (and mud?) may be too much.

Death Valley will be hot. Check that forum for more details

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3. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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If its early june just have a backup plan in case Tioga pass is still not open.

San Francisco...
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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4. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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When people say they are accustomed to & OK with driving long distances, we always have to ask how they define long distances. By the standards of most of our international visitors, California is immense. It is as big as Italy and Greece combined; Yosemite National Park is half the size of Luxembourg; Death Valley = Luxembourg + Lebanon; and the drive from Yosemite Valley to the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley is a bit shorter than London to Edinburgh. And there are scads and scads of things to see and do. A holiday should be an opportunity to see and enjoy new places and sights, and in the case of Yosemite to Death Valley, at least one overnight is strongly suggested if you have the time to include it. Bishop or Lone Pine would be good places to consider staying over.

If Tioga Pass is open, and you are starting from Yosemite Valley, here are things you could see along the way.

• Yosemite “high country” including Tuolumne Grove for giant sequoias if you didn’t get to Maripiosa Grove; Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake; Tioga Pass exit with stops for scenery and then views of Mono Lake.

• Optional detour to Bodie ghost town, a side trip to the north that will take maybe 3-4 hours total. It’s one of the best preserved historic mining towns in California.

• Mono Lake, one of California’s great natural wonders and a historic landmark in environmental activism and water policy. The tufa spires are not to miss. Two visitor centers for Mono Lake are in the town of Lee Vining, and for a good close-up look at the tufa, turn left on Hwy 120 for Benton, go about 5 miles, then turn onto Navy Beach Road.

Mammoth Lakes scenic drive. Devils Postpile may not be open to cars yet after winter closure.

• In Bishop, the Laws Museum (railroad and regional history in a re-created village of historic homes collected from around the Eastern Sierra; Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center; Convict Lake.

• In and around Independence, Eastern California Museum, Mt. Whitney Historic Fish Hatchery, and Manzanar National Historical Site.

• For the Lone Pine area, see the “Users’ Guide” below. There is enough in Lone Pine to keep you busy for a day or two.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g32646-i2357-k13630807-Users_Guide_to_Lone_Pine_2021_Edition-Lone_Pine_California.html

Grover Beach...
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5. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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Piggybacking on Frisco's point about driving long distances, we find a lot of travelers underestimate the terrain here. California's highway system through the mountains and along the coast typically involve twisty roads that require a slower rate of speed and a high rate of driver attention. Travelers miss a lot when they attempt to cover too much ground in a day. Can't see/do it all even when ample time is devoted to an itinerary, but a rush, rush each day to get somewhere hours away means mostly experiencing from behind a windshield.

Little Rock...
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6. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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1st... Listen to Frisco Roadrunner...

In June, you cannot plan on Tioga being open... It is more often open but not reliably and if open can close for a day or two when a storm blows in... If Hwy 120 (Tioga) is open take it, then south on Hwy 395...

The alternative is out the south entrance of Yosemite (Hwy 41) make your way to Hwy 99 then south to Bakersfield... From Bakersfield take either Hwy 58, or Hwy 160 though the Kern River canyon then over Walker Pass... from either then north on Hwy14/Hwy 395 to Olancha then into Death Valley...

I have done the Hwy 41/Hwy 99/Hwy 160 to Death Valley then to Las Vegas several times, but I was heading home and knew the roads and all was good... Frisco's comment about London to Edenbourgh is really approprate... the west is about big empty spaced and long drives...

The weather can play a role even on the southern route... I have been caught in snow on Tehachapi (Hwy 58) and was once snowed-in in spring in the Kern River Canyon... I have seen chain controls inside Death Valley NP on Townes Pass but rarely and generally much, much earlier in the season.

Much of the story about California in this area is elevation... Tioga is 11,000'... Tehachappi is 5,000' as is Townes pass... Death Valley is below sea level... In June snow threats are unlikely... but possible...

Randy

'

Fremont, California
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7. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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Here re the open/close dates for Tioga Pass

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/seasonal.htm

San Francisco...
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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8. Re: Yosemite to Death Valley
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Randy sez: “1st... Listen to Frisco Roadrunner... “

But only listen when FRR is right. Don’t pay any attention the rest of the time.

“In June, you cannot plan on Tioga being open... It is more often open but not reliably and if open can close for a day or two when a storm blows in... If Hwy 120 (Tioga) is open take it, then south on Hwy 395...The alternative is out the south entrance of Yosemite (Hwy 41) make your way to Hwy 98 then south to Bakersfield... From Bakersfield take either Hwy 58, or Hwy 160 though the Kern River canyon then over Walker Pass..."

I’ve experienced this, where a late spring storm once swooped in (around June 9, IIRC). I was headed to 395 and was already at Crane Flat where rangers were turning back eastbound traffic, and it had happened so abruptly that cars were still coming out westbound. Yosemite Valley was open, but the detour to Hwy 41 and Fresno, Bakersfield, and around the south end of the Sierra, added an extra day to my trip.

At Bakersfield, the alternative to 58 is 178, the Kern River and Walker Pass route. If there is snow in the high Sierra, there is a chance of snow on either of these routes. but early June would be *extremely* late to get any winter weather. The Tehachapi Pass summit on 58 is about 3800 feet, so snow is not a sure thing even in December or January. On 178, Walker Pass is almost exactly a mile above sea level, meaning a better chance of snow there – and 178 is not a big maintenance priority. Hwy 58 will be plowed first; it is a major route, THE highway between central California and Las Vegas, Flagstaff, and Phoenix. Ordinarily, I suggest 178 for those with plenty of time, because it is scenic and leisurely (Kern River Canyon, forests, Lake Isabella, and scads of Joshua trees as you descend the east side) – but if you know of a chance for snow and you don’t want to deal with it, take 58. Again, in these lower mountain areas, June is an unlikely time for this.

Towne Pass on 190 in Death Valley is just under 5000 feet in elevation. It does get snow now and then. The last time I saw it was two years ago, at Thanksgiving season, and there was quite a lot – a stunning sight on the dry desert hills. It didn’t require chain controls or 4wd, but it can. A few other high-elevation locations in Death Valley can get winter conditions, including Emigrant Pass on the west side of the Panamint mountains, Daylight Pass on the way to Beatty, and the beloved Dantes View, which is over a mile above sea level and can close if there is enough snow or ice to be hazardous. (Unlike Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Death Valley does not require visitors to carry chains at all, because it is not really a high-elevation park – if there is snow, specific roads or areas may be closed temporarily). But as Randy said, Death Valley would not get winter weather in June; by then it will already have been summer for two months and temps will be in 110-115° territory.

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