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Help with California/Nevada road trip including Yosemite

Help with California/Nevada road trip including Yosemite

Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 05:37 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 37
Help with California/Nevada road trip including Yosemite

Hi all,

It's been a while since I was on here but I'm now planning a California roadtrip as part of my honeymoon in May. My husband and I are spending a week in New Orleans first, but then want to fly back to the west coast and do a roadtrip from there. We will have approximately 16-17 days and will hire a car. I thought I had it all planned out, but my schedule had us hitting Yosemite around the weekend of May 21st and I'm finding accommodation hard to come by. There appears to be more accommodation available during the week, but I'm finding it difficult to work our 'round trip' so that we hit Yosemite on week days (mainly because my husband also wants to visit San Diego zoo so we have to add a couple of days there into the mix at some stage!).

We're reasonably flexible with our itinerary but I would like to lock in some accommodation bookings before we go and I was wondering what the chances are of us being able to find accommodation near Yosemite (we're happy to stay outside the park) when we arrive there. The last thing I want is for us to turn up and not be able to find a place to sleep!

Also, I've never done any of these drives before so would appreciate any guidance on whether our draft itinerary's doable or not and whether we have long enough in each place. I had initially planned for us to fly from New Orleans to San Diego to start our roadtrip from there, but in light of the Yosemite weekend situation, I'm now thinking we should make San Diego the final stop on our trip instead (see below). Any and all suggestions and recommendations would be gratefully received.


Thurs May 12th: Fly New Orleans to Los Angeles, spend night in LA.
Fri May 13th: Drive up west coast, overnighting somewhere (suggestions welcomed)
Sat May 14th: Continue up coast to San Francisco
Sun May 15th: San Fran
Mon May 16th: San Fran
Tues May 17th: San Fran
Wed May 18th: Drive to Yosemite
Thurs May 19th: Yosemite
Fri May 20th: Sequoia National Park area
Sat May 21st: Drive to Las Vegas via Death Valley area
Sun May 22nd: Las Vegas
Mon May 23: Vegas
Tues May 24: Vegas
Wed May 25: Drive to San Diego
Thurs May 26: San Diego
Fri May 27: San Diego
Sat May 28: Return to Los Angeles

NB: We could probably fly back to the west coast a day earlier, giving us an extra day on the west coast, if that would make more sense. Also, I realise the inclusion of San Diego is what is causing me problems but my husband so seldom takes an interest in our trip planning that I figured I should really include the one thing he specifically mentioned he wanted to do on this trip!!!
Frostyev is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 07:04 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,655
Would it work to fly to Las Vegas and rent the car there?
Car rentals are cheaper in LV than in California.
Los Angeles and San Diego are both within a days drive.
Allegiant Airlines also has flights from LV to Fresno which is a good jumping off point to go to Sequoia or Yosemite.
I hope that Route 1 in the Big Sur area is open when you want to drive the coast. Tour the Hearst Mansion at San Simeon.
If you can't get lodging in Yosemite, I suggest Oakhurst or ElPortal depending on which entrance you use.
tomfuller is offline  
Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 08:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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SF-Yosemite: 4+ hours
Yosemite-Sequoia: 4+ hours
Sequoia-LV: 7+ hours
LV-San Diego: 6 hours

A few comments. I would spend more than one day in/near Yosemite, especially if you end up in lodging outside of the park. El Portal is about 30 minutes and Oakhurst is more than an hour (probably closer to 90 minutes) from the Yosemite Valley floor. If you were hoping to drive very far into Sequoia NP, you'll have to keep checking road conditions (including some roads that aren't usually open until late May) and the park's road improvements schedule which will impact driving times.

You will drive the Barstow-LasVegas-Barstow section of Highway 15 twice. It's boring the first time. If it were my trip, I'd skip Las Vegas. After Yosemite (and/or Sequoia), I'd head back to the coast.

Another option would be to fly New Orleans to Las Vegas, then LV to SF, and THEN start your driving trip.
Jean is online now  
Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 10:41 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,883
I agree w/ Jean's second suggestion -- If Las Vegas is a must -- then fly there at the front end. After LV and a day trip into Death Valley, fly on to SF and hit SF/Yosemite/the coast/San Diego.

The drive to Vegas around through Bakersfield and Barstow is NASTY and you don't want to wast honeymoon time doing that . . .
janisj is online now  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 12:11 AM
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Thanks for your replies. Tomfuller, I heard about the Big Sur road washout and did wonder whether that might affect our plans. Will have to keep an eye on the situation there.

We would like to see Vegas simply for the spectacle of it and perhaps the best idea would be to fly directly there from New Orleans. I will look into our options.

Part of the problem I've had trying to plan our trip is figuring out which, if any, roads through Yosemite will be open in May. I know the Tioga Pass will most likely be closed but I did read somewhere about Route 108, which I understand can also get you through to the eastern side of Yosemite. Is this correct? Sorry, I'm just trying to get my head around the geography so I can figure out what might be feasible.

Jean, I didn't realise our proposed route would see us driving the Barstow-LasVegas-Barstow section of Highway 15 twice so thanks for pointing that out; I'd definitely like to avoid that if possible!

Thanks so much for all the help so far.
Frostyev is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 12:58 AM
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thank you for your suggestion
sophia0 is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 05:28 AM
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Consider changing your schedule to travel south to north and fly into and out of Vegas (cheap flights on Southwest and others). The below, however, skips Death Valley. Also as suggested above you may need to modify for road conditions we have only gone to Yosemite in early June and Sequoia in late summer. For example....

Thurs May 12th: Fly New Orleans to Las Vegas
Fri May 13th: Las Vegas
Sat May 14th: Fly Las Vegas to San Diego
Sun May 15th: San Diego - go to SD Zoo
Mon May 16th: San Diego - Wild Animal Park or other SD activity
Tues May 17th: Drive SD to Fresno (long drive day but gives you more time in NP, you could stop for lunch some place interesting and break the drive)
Wed May 18th: Drive Fresno to Sequoia (Wuksatchi Lodge) - take an afternoon hike (the nature trail from the visitors center was nice, we saw a bear) or tram tour of the Big trees
Thurs May 19th: Sequoia (Wuksatchi Lodge)
Fri May 20th: Sequoia to Yosemite (in park is recommended though we really enjoyed our stay at Tenaya Lodge (southern entrance), close enough for a day in the Valley and dinner at Ahwahnee, the other day we explored Mariposa Grove and points closer to the Lodge
Sat May 21st: Yosemite
Sun May 22nd: Yosemite
Mon May 23: Yosemite to San Francisco
Tues May 24: San Francisco
Wed May 25: San Francisco
Thurs May 26: Coast drive home with first overnight in Monterey/Carmel
Fri May 27: second coast overnight - Cambria to see Hearst Castle? or splurge on a final night luxury stop in Big Sur or Santa Barbara
Sat May 28: Return to Los Angeles
POlson is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 05:34 AM
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I realize now that I have you picking up rental car in SD and returning to LA. If the drop off is too great, you could fly Vegas to LAX, pick up car, enjoy lunch at the beach (Manhattan Beach, Huntington, Newport, Balboa Island) and then head down, or spend a whole day at the beach, driving down to SD after a romantic sunset dinner.
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 06:51 AM
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Fly to Vegas from NO. Spend a full day in Vegas before renting a car. Start early in the morning and go north on US 95 to Beatty Nevada and head SW into Death Valley. See what you want to see in Death Valley and leave by the south entrance back to Baker. Drive back north on I-15 to Primm. Stay at Buffalo Bill's. Ride the roller coaster if you get the chance. Next morning, turn in the rental car in LV and fly to SD, LAX, Fresno (FAT) or SFO for your coastal and Yosemite trip.
It is possible to make it to any of these cities using an Amtrak bus from Las Vegas to Bakersfield but I like Allegiant to Fresno the best.
My DW and I rode the San Joaquin Bakersfield to Fresno, picked up a rental, and got to Oakhurst before dark. The next morning we saw the Mariposa Grove before heading into the Valley. Depending on where you are going at the end of your honeymoon, you can return the car to Fresno and fly out or take the train north or south.
tomfuller is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 09:01 AM
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I don't have any additional driving suggestions. But I wanted to say that 2 nights in Vegas is plenty, and one day in Yosemite is nowhere near enough. Three nights in Yosemite would barely do it. The wonderful thing about Yosemite is getting out and hiking, not just driving around and looking at the spectacular scenery ( which is truly stunning, not to be missed).
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 10:29 AM
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Re driving thru Death may not realize that the road does not cross the Sierra directly from Sequoia. Personally I would drop Sequoia, and add the day to Yosemite. The morning of the added day you can visit the Mariposa sequoia groves off of Hwy 41 exiting Yosemite to the South.

You should be able to reach Ridgecrest that night (turn off at Delano and go thru Lake Isabela if it is still daylight). Ridgecrest has lots of motels. The next morning up early and you can see Death Valley on the way to LV. If you exit via Shoshone and not Beatty, you'll see more of the park.

Spend as many nights in Las Vegas as you want despite what the Fodorites say, it's different strokes for different folks.

As for stopping along the way between LA/SF, hopefully the road is open by then, they are saying mid April for temporary repairs. You might be able to reserve along Big Sur at this point, given there are probably lots of cancellations.

If not, Carmel or Pacific Grove, that gives you time to visit Point Lobos or the Asilomar State Park in the morning. I like to stay at Asilomar if there is availability. My favorite restaurant in PG
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 04:03 PM
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The OP says they want to see LV simply for the spectacle of it. Two nights and a full day is plenty to see the spectacle.
charnees is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 04:11 PM
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I'll leave that up to them. Perhaps they can book just the one night and leave a night flexible.

For winter conditions on trans Sierra hwys you can check this website

EG, enter SR108. It's a lot out of your way. Better to head south to Delano on 99.
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 04:12 PM
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I've seen LV enough times. I rent a car and stay in Henderson or Primm depending on where I'm headed the next day.
I like Buffalo Bill's in Primm when I'm headed into California.
Try out the roller coaster there.
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Old Mar 24th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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Tom -- most visitors don't want to spend their limited holiday time in places like Henderson, or Baker (or Fresno or Modesto or Bakersfield or some of the other arm pits in the area). That works for you and you do like to recommend them -- but do you really want to advise folks coming from overseas to go to those sorts of places ??

Frostyev: Would you advise an American to spend their holiday in Slough, or Scunthorpe or Bradford?
janisj is online now  
Old Mar 24th, 2011, 11:49 PM
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Thank you all so much for all your advice. Mlgb, I think you're right, we're probably going to have to revise our plans and leave something out - possibly Sequoia, especially if we do decide to fly to San Fran and drive south again from there.

I understand all the comments about Vegas completely and the more I've looked at pictures of Yosemite, the more time I want to stay there! That said, this is likely to be our last big holiday before kids and we're both keen for a bit of excess in the desert on this trip - tacky as it may seem to you locals!

POlson, thanks for your suggestions, if we do decide to head north instead of south this could work very well for us. Death Valley was a more recent addition to our plans as we thought we'd be passing through that way anyway, so taking it out wouldn't be a biggie.

jansi, I can't comment as to Scunthorpe, Bradford or Slough as I live in New Zealand. If anyone wants tips on towns to avoid here though, I'd be happy to oblige That said, I do like the odd out-of-the-way place, as a traveller I find it gives one a different perspective on a country than what you get by just visiting big cities.

We'll probably have to make some big decisions this weekend as we need to lock in a few flights at least but thank you all so much for your help so far. Hugely appreciated.
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Old Mar 25th, 2011, 01:02 AM
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I hope you don't drop Death Valley. It's really beautiful scenery, even coming from New Zealand.

Invercargill? (I actually like it).
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Old Mar 25th, 2011, 07:00 AM
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"jansi, I can't comment as to Scunthorpe, Bradford or Slough as I live in New Zealand."

Oh - from an earlier post of yours, (a long thread about where Fodorites live) I thought you were a Kiwi living in London. That's why the UK references. Sorry -- but you get the idea.

Those places aren't just out of the way (I like to send folks to out of the way gems) they are really not very nice.
janisj is online now  
Old Mar 25th, 2011, 07:40 AM
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Let me try to explain about some of the armpits as you call them. In Henderson my DW and I had no problem with the upgrade to a nice suite at the Fiesta the night before we flew out.
There are bad hotels in LV that cost much more.
Henderson is a good head start on the way to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon.
Primm we stay at when we are headed to see the grandsons in Helendale, CA. Prim or Jean is a good choice when coming from CA to turn in a rental car in LV. It's better than Baker or Barstow where we have stayed. Never stayed in Bakersfield just pass through by train or car. Passed through Fresno to get to Oakhurst.
Best meals we've eaten in LV were Christmas dinner at the Hofbrauhaus and the buffet at the Golden Nugget.
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Old Mar 25th, 2011, 08:55 AM
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but Tom -- honestly -- would you actually send someone (who has traveled half way around the world at huge expense to see the glories of the west) to/through ANY of those places. Gawd -- I wouldn't . . . .
janisj is online now  

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