Driving tips SF to Yosemite

Jul 31st, 2003, 08:01 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 93
Driving tips SF to Yosemite

we are from UK but have drove in some US states before (not Calafornia). In October we will pick up car at SF Airport and drive to Yosemite. We have checked out directions with Rand MacNally and it looks like there are an awful lot of changing roads and merges.
1) Is there any useful tips from airport to make our journey safer? Any strange quirky roads we should be aware of?
2) would be better making a really early start that morning, i.e. getting ahead of morning traffic?
3)It's quite a journey and we will need a break after a couple of hours, where is the good places to stop for rest rooms etc.?
4) Is it Interstae all the way or is some highway roads?
And finally, is there any rules of the road in Calafornia I should be aware of, for instance do I put full headlights on if it rains? Can I overtake traffic on both sides on the interstate or is there a rule? Cherrs in advance, any answers to the above or any other driving tips would be most welcome.
lynn is offline  
Jul 31st, 2003, 08:16 AM
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The best route is 92/880/580/205/120.

I would advise leaving the mornign you arrive for Yosemite. Unfortuantely there are not a lot of places along the way to stop. I would recommend stopping in Tracy for a bite to eat. After that there aren't too many other places to stop at.
Jacksen is offline  
Jul 31st, 2003, 08:30 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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We are also from the UK and did the drive from SF to Yosemite in 2001, although starting from Fisherman's Wharf. Can't help you with any traffic predictions but I would advise leaving early if only because you will get to Yosemite sooner. We went on to a map website and printed out the driving directions and, as a safety net, had requested satellite navigation from the hire car company at a small extra charge. Yosemite can be approached from the north or the south, so this will be dictated by your end destination. We took the northern route and there were plenty of opportunities to stop, some more picturesque than others. Make sure you fill up as there are no petrol stations in the valley itself. Apart from driving on the wrong side of the road, they drive pretty much like us. Just remember that, in theory, if you get to a junction with stop signs first, then you have priority. Roads in and around Yosemite are pretty winding but the views are outstanding. We stayed at the Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal for 3 nights and did not want to leave.
ardbroilach is offline  
Jul 31st, 2003, 09:09 AM
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It does look like a lot of changing roads, but it's not bad. The route is well marked the entire way. As long as you have a map, you will be fine.

If you take the hwy 120 route, you will be on freeway until you pass hwy 99, then it becomes 2 lane highway. 120 is pretty twisty in parts and there are some sections that are very steep. It's not a bad road though, just something to be prepared for.

My favorite route into Yosemite is by way of hwy 41 coming in the southern entrance. The drive is longer, but worth it in my opinion. Before you enter the valley you go through a tunnel and directly after the tunnel is an incredible view. You can see almost the entire valley at once - El Capitan, Bridal Veil Fall, Half Dome, Clouds Rest... This is the route we took the 1st time we went to Yosemite and it was absolutely amazing. There is a parking lot where you can pull off there and take in the view.

As far as general driving tips, on the freeways, people pass on the left or the right, but technically we are only supposed to pass on the left. You can turn right on red after you stop first and if it's clear, unless there is a sign saying you can't. Left turns - if there is a traffic signal specifically for left turns (a left arrow) you must wait until it's green to turn left. Running red lights is a huge problem in CA, so be sure to check for oncoming traffic when your light turns green - I had a near miss only a couple days ago. That's all I can think of for now.
J_Correa is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 12:07 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 747
One point of difference compared to UK; Directions at turns and junctions are usually identified by road number more than destination town. If you have a map and know when you change highway numbers, it is pretty easy to stay on track. Having one person navigate and watch for signs while the other drives will help.

Be carefull of the internet computer-generated routes. Sometimes they are OK, but they don't always differentiate between a state highway and some backwoods dirt road, which can be a problem in the mountains. I asked Yahoo maps for directions from SFO to Yosemite National Park (truly ugly, 50 steps, so just ignore the computer and get a paper highway map when you get here. It might be worth spending the couple of dollars buying a map rather than relying on the freebies from the rental co. Once you hit highway 120, you can just follow the signs for Yosemite.

There are stopping points (gas stations, Mcdonalds or equiv etc) every few miles along the way until you hit the mountains. If you are going in the northern entrance (hwy 120), probably stop in Oakdale.

Rules of the road say that if you are going slowly in the mountains and have more than 5 cars queued behind you, you should pull out in one of the turnouts to let the others pass.

curmudgeon is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 08:03 AM
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some really useful information there, thansk to all who answered. we will probably go in through the West (El Portal way) or the South entrance. We are staying at Four Seasons Rentals and I believe they are a little further south of the valley - so probably south entrance may be good option.
lynn is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 08:25 AM
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P.S. What about driving in the rain - do I use full headlights? Thanks
lynn is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 10:56 AM
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I don't know if headlights in the rain are required, but it's definitely a good idea.

The Arch Rock entrance (El Portal) is a great route too. Basically, the area is so incredible that you will be blown away no matter which way you go.
J_Correa is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2003, 12:08 AM
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It doesn't usually rain much in October. Headlights in the rain are a good idea, though not mandatory. I often use headlights in daytime on the 2-lane highways on the way to Yosemite rain or shine; drivers coming the other way are more likely to see you (and not pull into your lane as they pass a slow truck).
curmudgeon is offline  
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