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eganders Oct 15th, 2010 04:31 AM

California LA to Yosemite Road Trip
We are planning a 15 to 20 day road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway starting in LA and going North to around San Francisco and the wine country then diverting to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. Most likely it will be in May or early June. Being retired, I can and want to avoid the vacationing crowds.
I would like to collect a list all the interesting sites and places to stay up the Pacific Coast Highway and see if you have any suggestions that would make me want to divert further inland. Some questions to start:

1. Is my selection of May to early June a good time to do this trip? I want to make sure I have the best time chosen for Yosemite.

2. Is there any compelling reason to extend my trip further North than San Francisco within my time constraints?

happytrailstoyou Oct 15th, 2010 05:40 AM

May would be my choice for visiting Yosemite. We like to stay at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls--the location is great.

Places of interest not far north of San Franciso include the Sonoma Valley, the Napa Valley, Muir Woods, and Point Reyes National Seashore.


janisj Oct 15th, 2010 06:36 AM

One minor issue (I'll post more later but just wanted to mention this first)

In May, or even sometimes in early June, you can't get from Tahoe to Yosemite over Tioga Pass. Most years this road over the sierra closes from about late Oct/early Nov through May.

You <i>can</i> get to Yosemite but it requires backtracking to Sacramento, down the central valley and into YNP from the west. (or down hwy 88/hwy 49 which is a lovely but much slower drive)

So you can't do a simple circular drive - but it is worth the extra effort/mileage.

nevermind Oct 15th, 2010 07:55 AM

I agree with happytrailstoyou that May is beautiful in Yosemite, and that the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is a great (no frills, but conveniently located) place to stay. You'll want to make reservations early (like now) as it is a popular place to stay.

One of our favorite places along the Coast Highway is Cambria. It is a pleasant little town with a scenic stretch along Moonstone Beach with some nice accommodations and a great boardwalk for strolling and enjoying the scenery. The Hearst Castle is just a few miles up the road in San Simeon, as well as Piedras Blancas, an elephant seal rookery (although I'm not sure how "busy" it is in May). You can then drive up the PCH, through Big Sur, to the Carmel/Monterey area.

I'm not much of an expert on Carmel/Monterey, but we've enjoyed visiting the mission, golfing, and walking through the aquarium.

Lake Tahoe is a fairly easy drive from San Francisco via Highway 50. Stay in Tahoe a night or two and (since the Tioga Pass into the back of Yosemite will probably be closed) leave via Highway 89 to Highway 88, which is a beautiful drive - and not, to my way of thinking, slower than Tahoe to Sacramento to Yosemite. Take 88 to Highway 49 which will take you through the Sierra foothills to Yosemite.

Where are you visiting from?

Happy planning!

spirobulldog Oct 15th, 2010 12:47 PM

We went this past year the last week in May. Great time for Yosemite. The waterfalls are at full blast. However, Glacier Pt. Rd and Tioga Rd were both closed due to snow. Different months have their pros and cons. If seeing the Tuolomne Meadows is high on your list, then you should wait a month. If seeing the waterfalls really rocking is your priority, then the timeframe you indicate is best. July and August offer some swimming and rafting, but crowds.

Barbara Oct 16th, 2010 07:58 AM

As you want the best time to visit Yosemite, I'm assuming (always dangerous!) that you'd want to see as much of the Park as you can. I'd wait until June and hope that Glacier Point Road and the Tioga Pass are open otherwise you'll miss some of the best things.

Here are the historical dates for opening and closing of roads. Scroll down from the campground info.

sf7307 Oct 16th, 2010 04:55 PM

<<<Lake Tahoe is a fairly easy drive from San Francisco via Highway 50. >>>

Highway 50 only if you're going to South Lake Tahoe. Take 80 if you're going to North Lake Tahoe (from which I am writing this post).

eganders Oct 17th, 2010 01:56 AM


Thanks for all your replys. They are truely valuable. I want to go over them in detail and I probably will have additional questions. I completely understand your discussion about closed roads in Yosemite. We went on a road trip that included Rocky Mountain National Park last May and there were roads closed. We still saw some great scenery. We are from Ann Arbor, MI, but our oldest son lives in LA.

eganders Nov 20th, 2010 04:57 AM

I have looked over the hotel accomodations in May for Yosemite for May and it is nearly all booked at Yosemite at the Falls. If I want to break the bank, I could stay at the Ahwahnee, but I better steal Oprah's wallet if I do.

If I stay at the Wawona, it is just inside the Park. I don't think it is very near the action.

Boy, all these accomodations are quite pricy. It is starting to make our Yellowstone/Grand Canyon trip look cheap.

janisj Nov 20th, 2010 01:29 PM

Book anything at all that is available at Yosemite Lodge (even if it means shuffling the dates a bit). If nothing is available -- check out Yosemite West. These are privately owned accommodations just inside the park boundaries and much closer to the Valley than Wawona is.

Wawona wouldn't be terrible at all, but it would be my 3rd choice just because it takes a long time to drive into the Valley

Jean Nov 21st, 2010 06:50 PM

I'd also book anything that's available and keeping calling to see if something opens up at the Lodge.

Even if you win the lottery, you might not want to stay at the Ahwahnee. It's undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation, and I think they're trying to keep some rooms/parts of the hotel open at all times. I'd be worried the work would impact the enjoyment of staying there.

Where were you planning to be over Memorial Day weekend? I wouldn't go to Yosemite at that time.

spirobulldog Nov 23rd, 2010 06:10 PM

There is always a tent cabin.

eganders Dec 9th, 2010 08:42 PM

I took your suggestions and kept trying to get some nights at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Would you believe it, I got June 6, 7 and 8 of 2011. That means I will be building the trip around these dates at Yosemite. I would be interested in additional feedback as to places to visit and stay on this trip loop from LA to San Francisco to Redwood National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Sequoia National Park and back to LA.

Here is the overall trip plan at this time.

emalloy Dec 10th, 2010 07:49 AM

Just north of San Francisco, are Muir Woods NP and Point Reyes NS, both are worth visiting.

ggreen Dec 10th, 2010 09:28 AM

In Big Sur, I really enjoyed staying in Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. We had brought a tent and sleeping bags in our luggage for a trip similar to yours (though the north/south aspect was only as far up as Santa Rosa and down to LA). In Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, although we camped in the tent, we ate both our meals (dinner then breakfast) at the lodge there: the food was nicely done and we gladly would have slept there as well had we known about it in advance. (On that trip, we didn't make a concrete plan nor many hotel reservations; the tent came in handy and we enjoy mixing camping with staying in hotels.)

janisj Dec 10th, 2010 09:36 AM

eganders: That is terrific. You'll be very glad you got into the Lodge.

If you are going up to Redwoods Nat'l Park there is no reason to stop in Muir Woods. It is a lovely place but not even a tiny fraction of what you'll see up north. It is convenient to SF for those who can't get up the coast - but because of that and because it is relatively small, the park gets very crowded and parking can be a real hassle.

I'll try to take a look at your full itinerary later -- that map is great

tomfuller Dec 10th, 2010 02:32 PM

I like the map! I agree that you can skip Muir Woods if you are going all the way to Redwood NP. I see that you had Oregon in your tag. You could add Crater Lake NP when you leave Redwood. In late May you have to enter and leave Crater Lake NP through the south entrance. The north entrance sometimes does not open until July 4.
I would also go to see Las Vegas and Hoover Dam rather than seeing Joshua Tree. The new bridge over Hoover Dam (US93) is now open.

basingstoke2 Dec 10th, 2010 08:50 PM

I see that your stop 16 is at the South Entrance. On a similar thread this evening I noted that we stayed near there at the Shilo Inn in Oakhurst. The town is not much, but the Inn was surprisingly nice and surprisingly inexpensive, two swell surprises. In the Big Sur area, Point Lobos State Park was a highlight.

Emily_Stockman Dec 14th, 2010 05:17 PM

Hi Eganders,

Your trip sounds like a lot of fun. I would definitely reccommend stopping in Big Sur for a night and then possibly stopping again in Monterey. Monterey is full of Californian history, as well as, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. It is a small town with a variety of activities such as kayaking, whale watching, and hiking. Carmel would also be a nice side-trip. It is a small little romantic village that is known for its art galleries and boutique shopping. It also boasts a beautiful white sand beach.

I would also advise you to make as many reservations as you can ahead of time. May begins the busy season for tourism and you might run into trouble getting an accomodation on the weekends. I hope you enjoy your trip!

spirobulldog Dec 16th, 2010 07:03 PM

Just looking back at this post. For the Redwoods-James Irvine Trail all the way to Fern Canyon is a great hike in Praire Creek Section. Stout Grove is nice in Jeddiah Smith section and it is easy. Irvine Trail is longer. You can hike just Fern Canyon, which IMO is a DO NOT MISS place. Consider going Tidepooling in Pt. Reyes at Mcclures Beach or at Palmers Point in Patricks Point State Park. I love the trees at Maripossa in Yosemite, but I like the hikes in the Redwoods mentioned above better. But still the best, IMO, is Sequoia National Park and since your first post mentioned avoiding crowds, it is much less in Sequoia and Redwoods, than Yosemite. Waterfalls in Yosemite should be great for the first week in June.

To work all of that in, you better plan on a full 20 days. How long and how strenuous do you like your hikes to be?

You might even consider a day or two in Lassen Volcano park.
If you cut across from Redwoods to Lassen, be sure and see Burney Falls(almost as good as the biggies in Yosemite).

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