California National Parks

Old May 23rd, 2023, 01:31 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
California National Parks

We are visiting Los Angeles and San Francisco (and Napa) some time in July/August and can take 3-5 days in between to visit Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP (worth it?), and Yosemite NP and any cities or other sights in between along the way worth visiting (Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno?). We are able to start from either LA or SF, which ever is easier. Our number one priority in selecting where and the order of which we go is to avoid any scary mountain driving or roads with drop-offs. I have a terrible fear of heights! We can only do very short, easy hikes in the parks, but would like to see as many major attractions as we are able. What order and routes do you recommend? Which stops and sights are must-see? And which cities are worth visiting/staying along the way? Ideally Id like to keep daily drives under 3 hours if possible but not absolutely necessary. We have some flexibility in the number of days as well. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
mbh106 is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 05:25 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1,919
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm thinking that accommodations are going to drive your trip. Summer lodging in Yosemite sells out 11-3/4 months in advance. Are you willing to check the website 4 times a day for cancellations to build up a multiday stay one night at a time?

Where can you get a place to stay? Then build the trip from there.
tom_mn is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 06:27 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by tom_mn
I'm thinking that accommodations are going to drive your trip. Summer lodging in Yosemite sells out 11-3/4 months in advance. Are you willing to check the website 4 times a day for cancellations to build up a multiday stay one night at a time?

Where can you get a place to stay? Then build the trip from there.
Thats what I thought too. However, I checked the hotels inside Yosemite and was surprised to find availability on many nights. We would spend at most 1 night there, so it shouldnt be an issue. Our dates are very flexible, so once I know the order of where were going, I can lock down dates based on availability.
mbh106 is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 06:38 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 73,053
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Just very quick - about to board a flight. But no, Bakersfield, Visalia, and Fresno are not worth visiting. It is VERY late to be thinking of a Yosemite visit. If you are afraid of the worst mountain roads the only route to even consider into YNP would be 140 via Merced. Hwys 120 and 41 should definitely be avoided
janisj is online now  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 06:41 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 73,053
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
By inside Yosemite where exactly do you mean. Unless it is IN Yosemite Valley, inside the park could easily be a 90 minute drive over a VERY twisty/ turny mountain road
janisj is online now  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:11 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,803
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
For available lodging inside Yosemite in July August, use the official website and check each lodging choice availability separately using the month icon. I'm not sure what you are seeing, possibly it is Wawona which you don't necessarily want, or Curry Village tent camps which have some availability the last two weeks in August (but not weekends). They do come fully outfitted except that the restrooms are in blocks.

Or you may be using a website that includes private lodging outside the park.


In my opinion it is not be worth the hassle and traffic to go during that time for just one day.
mlgb is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:36 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 1,362
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The access roads to the parks do not have scary dropoffs.

I once visited Yosemite Valley for the day from Mammoth, and it was very much worthwhile, especially if you don't want to go for any long hikes.

My favorite area of the US is the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, where towering granite peaks, drop down dramatically to a high desert plateau. Many great things to see in this geothermal wonderland include the Alabama Hills. Convict Lake, Hot Springs, Hilltop Tub, Indian Petroglyphys, Devils Postpile, Rainbow Falls, the Bristlecone Pine Forest, Mono Lake. At Arrowhead Lake in Inyo National Forest you can take the water taxi and go on a short hike from there. You can also go from here to visit Yosemite Valley as I did. (I have also been there once for a longer vacation).
shelemm is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:45 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,803
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I do know that a lot of people are scared by the Tioga Pass Road (which is how you come in from Mammoth) The others I can't see how they are scary but maybe they are to some.
mlgb is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 08:25 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by mlgb
For available lodging inside Yosemite in July August, use the official website and check each lodging choice availability separately using the month icon. I'm not sure what you are seeing, possibly it is Wawona which you don't necessarily want, or Curry Village tent camps which have some availability the last two weeks in August (but not weekends). They do come fully outfitted except that the restrooms are in blocks.

Or you may be using a website that includes private lodging outside the park.


In my opinion it is not be worth the hassle and traffic to go during that time for just one day.

The three hotels I checked were the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and the Wawona on nationalparkreservations.com which might be a third party website. They have lots of availability. Is that not a reliable source for reservations?
mbh106 is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 08:28 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 73,053
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
120 and 41 dont have extreme drop offs (well -120 does have a few) but both are very winding and steep in places, which is why 140 would be best since it is the lowest elevation route. The OP would not be coming in from the east/Mammoth direction.
janisj is online now  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 08:52 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1,919
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This is the authorized vendor for in-park lodging: https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodgi...ng-experience/

I'm not sure who nationalparkreservations.com is, but they are showing availabity I can't find on the official site.

Note that the Hwy 120 approach is closed now till perhaps July. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/roadwork.htm

Last edited by tom_mn; May 23rd, 2023 at 09:25 AM.
tom_mn is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 09:22 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by janisj
Just very quick - about to board a flight. But no, Bakersfield, Visalia, and Fresno are not worth visiting. It is VERY late to be thinking of a Yosemite visit. If you are afraid of the worst mountain roads the only route to even consider into YNP would be 140 via Merced. Hwys 120 and 41 should definitely be avoided
What stretch if Hwy 120 is the part I should avoid? Is it just the area closer to the park? I would need to either be coming from San Francisco to Yosemite, or going from Yosemite to San Francisco. It looks like Hwy 120 is how I would be driving. Im ok if Im on the inside of the road where theres drop offs, just not the outside. Im not sure which direction that would be.
mbh106 is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 10:18 AM
  #13  
J62
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 12,050
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by mbh106
The three hotels I checked were the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and the Wawona on nationalparkreservations.com which might be a third party website. They have lots of availability. Is that not a reliable source for reservations?
No, they are not a reliable source of for reservations. You are only submitting a request for a reservation not actually making one on that site.

Fine print "All Reservation Requests will be personally handled by a National Park Reservations Specialist within 48 hours. We will book if your request is available or contact you if your request is not available."

get lodging first, then plan the rest of your trip.

J62 is online now  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 11:14 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,803
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
For road conditions within Yosemite, use the NPS page for Current Conditions.

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

"Big Oak Flat Road is closed west of Merced Grove; there is no access to Yosemite via Hwy 120 from the west (except to Hodgdon Meadow and Hetch Hetchy) until mid-June or July. Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park are accessible via Hwys 41 and 140."

"
Mariposa Grove Road and shuttle service are closed due to road repairs
Mariposa Grove Road is closed. Parking is available at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza (near South Entrance). Access to the grove entrance (with first views of sequoias) is a four-mile round-trip hike with 500 feet of elevation change.

"Expect traffic congestion in Yosemite.While we welcome you to Yosemite, expect traffic congestion. Be prepared for multi-hour delays at park entrances and traffic congestion, especially in Yosemite Valley. Avoid traffic by arriving by mid-morning."

mlgb is offline  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 02:14 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2022
Posts: 330
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
See if you can rent a cabin in Sequoia NP. It's magical wandering around in the evening under the majestic giant trees. The daytrippers are gone, so it's relatively peaceful.
PrairieHikerI is online now  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:08 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 73,053
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
I didnt realize 120 was still closed - should have looked it up. But for you that is a good (great) thing! There is no way yo avoid mountainous curves and switchbacks en route to Yosemite on 120

For accommodations check Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. It is a huge property so may have availability. Advantages (other than availability) are it is closest by far to the Valley, and since the shuttle bus stops right there you dont even have to fight the queue and parking in the valley. Nice hotel right on the river and short trip into the Valley
janisj is online now  
Old May 23rd, 2023, 07:36 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,803
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You do however have to fight the crowds to use the shuttle buses once inside the Park, and the crowds in general. Again I do not think it is worthwhile to go just for one night. I might only go as a day trip from the Mammoth side, or perhaps as a day trip from Wawona or Oakhurst up to Glacier Point. I would have zero to do with Yosemite Valley. It will just be too much of a zoo.

Because the highway from the east side (Tioga Pass Road) may be open in time for your visit, and waterfalls should still be flowing, I would exect mid-summer crowds to be even worse than usual. I foolishly went in July of 2017 after another very late opening. It was madness. People trying to get in from the Valley (west/San Francisco/Sacramento) side were being routed through the park and then back out! Here is my report from that trip.

Report on Yosemite/Traffic Conditions
mlgb is offline  
Old May 24th, 2023, 07:20 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you all for your advice and suggestions. I think were going to save Yosemite for a later trip when we can plan further in advance. Instead well spend a few days driving up the coast from LA to SF. If you have any must see/do suggestions that I might not be aware of, Id love to hear them!
Thanks again for your help!
mbh106 is offline  
Old May 24th, 2023, 08:18 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 25,069
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
This might not be the summer for driving the California coast between LA and SF. As of today, you can't drive Hwy. 1 the entire route. The section between approx. Ragged Point and a few miles south of Big Sur is closed with no re-opening date yet. Another section north of Santa Barbara is closed until June 29th.

For latest conditions, search Highway 1 status here:

https://roads.dot.ca.gov/

You'll need to book lodging in advance for places on the coast. Lots (most?) will have a 2-day minimum stay requirement between Friday (sometimes Thursday) and Sunday.

I'll second shelemm's comments (post #7) about the Eastern Sierra area. And add to the list: June Lake, Bodie Ghost Town, Manzanar Historical Site, Mt. Whitney Portal, Museum of Film in Lone Pine.
Jean is offline  
Old May 24th, 2023, 09:45 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: May 2022
Posts: 330
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Santa Barbara. Stop off en route and explore Spanish Colonial-style Santa Barbara located on the American Riviera; sunbathe at its East Beach. Much of the architecture is in the Spanish Colonial style with red-tiled roofs. Sights include the Santa Barbara Mission, Stearns Wharf, the Waterfront, El Presidio State Historical Park, Botanic Gardens, centuries-old oaks in Mission Canyon, great restaurants and some of the best beaches in America such as East Beach. On Sundays along the waterfront in Santa Barbara they always have an artist fair.

San Luis Obispo. SLO has been dubbed the ‘happiest place in America”, and has a lively downtown, old mission, and many outdoor recreation opportunities including biking, hiking and the nearby beaches. Great farmers market (esp. Thursday night when it becomes part farmers market, part music fest, part street fair). Nearby is Moro Bay and on up the coast is the famous Hearst Castle.

Monterey. Drive the scenic 17-mile Road in Carmel; check out Monterey’s world-famous aquarium; go on a Monterey Bay Whale Watch tour; view the 1855 Point Pinos Lighthouse and 1794 San Carlos Cathedral; and hike the Sea Lion Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve. Wander around under the majestic redwood trees in Garrapata State Park just 20 minutes south on Hwy 1.

Pacific Grove. Pacific Grove, California has a classic Main Street, USA feel and features one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses in the country. Asilomar State Beach and Lovers Point Beach are perfect spots for kayaking or surfing — and some of the fish you see on the Bay may turn up in your sustainable seafood dinner that night. Just over 50 minutes north is the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park with its outstanding 40-acre old-growth redwood grove. This area has a very unique ecosystem that is centered around a trail that is slightly under a 1-mile loop. This is where the largest tree in the park is located and it is just under 300-feet tall and just over 15 feet wide.
PrairieHikerI is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -