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Most scenic way from South Lake Tahoe to Monterey Bay

Most scenic way from South Lake Tahoe to Monterey Bay

Old Feb 17th, 2024, 05:28 PM
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Most scenic way from South Lake Tahoe to Monterey Bay

Hi,

We're a family of 8 travellers from Singapore on our first road trip to California. We will be there for 10 days in first half of June.

Our rough itinerary would be

San Fransisco (pick up rental car) -> Napa -> South Lake Tahoe -> Monterey - > Carmel by the sea -> LA (where we will fly off from)

We thought of going Yosemite between Lake Tahoe and Monterey but will drop it because of shortage of time. We've been to San Fransisco before so we won't be spending any nights there other than pick up the rental car.

We have 2 questions:
1. What's the most scenix route from Lake Tahoe to Monterey ? At which point can we enter the famous Highway 1
2. Is Napa Valley worth spending 1-2 nights in on our way to Lake Tahoe ? Our kids are between 17 to 27, if that makes any difference.

Thanks in advance for any input you might have for us.
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Old Feb 17th, 2024, 11:57 PM
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Just about any route from SLT to Monterey wil be very similar. Scenic through the mountains and foothills. Then across the Central Valley which is has a few cities, LOTS of suburbs and flat farmland. The most direct route is Hwy 50 to I-80 and through the SF Bay Area. But I'd avoid that at any cost. Traffic on I-80 through Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield, etc and the Bay Area cities is anything from bad to horrible.

But . . . How many nights are you staying in San Francisco? With 10 days you would have time to fit in Yosemite without rushing too much. And if you must pick one or the other IMO it would be much better to spend time in Yosemite than in Napa/Sonoma. How many of the kids are under 21 years old? Under 21's cannot do wine tasting and some wineries don't let them inside.

Without Napa you could easily do 3 nights in San Francisco, 2 nights at Tahoe, 2 nights in Yosemite and 2 or 3 nights in Monterey/Carmel. For Yosemite - try to get accommodations in Yosemite Valley - preferably at Yosemite Valley Lodge. It books up months in advance especially in June because the waterfalls are at their very best. If there is no availability in the Valley, then book at Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal which is a few minutes drive from the west gate and less than half an hour from Yosemite Village. https://www.stayyosemiteviewlodge.com Everyplace else that says they are 'inside the park' or just outside the park will be a 1 to 2 hour drive from Yosemite Valley.

How many cars are you renting??
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 07:52 AM
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You will need to keep checking the status of Highway 1. Although your trip is a few months away, some sections of the highway are very susceptible to winter storm damage. As of TODAY, you would not be able to drive from Monterey to Los Angeles entirely on Highway 1 due to rockslides near Big Sur and a washed out area north of Santa Barbara. These issues will be cleared soon, but more rain is in the forecast for the coming weeks and more significant damage could occur. In recent years, some damage repairs have taken months.

With all that you want to do in just 10 days, I think you should consider not driving all the way to Los Angeles to fly home. Drive Highway 1 to Morro Bay, if possible, and then return to San Francisco to fly home. This will also eliminate the additional charge for a one-way car rental.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Welcome to Fodors
Just about any route from SLT to Monterey wil be very similar. Scenic through the mountains and foothills. Then across the Central Valley which is has a few cities, LOTS of suburbs and flat farmland. The most direct route is Hwy 50 to I-80 and through the SF Bay Area. But I'd avoid that at any cost. Traffic on I-80 through Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield, etc and the Bay Area cities is anything from bad to horrible.

But . . . How many nights are you staying in San Francisco? With 10 days you would have time to fit in Yosemite without rushing too much. And if you must pick one or the other IMO it would be much better to spend time in Yosemite than in Napa/Sonoma. How many of the kids are under 21 years old? Under 21's cannot do wine tasting and some wineries don't let them inside.

Without Napa you could easily do 3 nights in San Francisco, 2 nights at Tahoe, 2 nights in Yosemite and 2 or 3 nights in Monterey/Carmel. For Yosemite - try to get accommodations in Yosemite Valley - preferably at Yosemite Valley Lodge. It books up months in advance especially in June because the waterfalls are at their very best. If there is no availability in the Valley, then book at Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal which is a few minutes drive from the west gate and less than half an hour from Yosemite Village. https://www.stayyosemiteviewlodge.com Everyplace else that says they are 'inside the park' or just outside the park will be a 1 to 2 hour drive from Yosemite Valley.

How many cars are you renting??
Agree entirely! I would much rather visit Yosemite than Napa in any 10 day period in the year. Is SFO your only choice to fly to? Sacramento (SMF) is closer to South Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. Unless there is something you really want to see in Los Angeles, just take your rental vehicle(s) back to where you rented them/it.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 10:39 AM
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OMG. - I totally 100% missed the 'fly out of LA' bit 😟 Sorry. No, what you have planned is not realistic. Stick to either northern CA flying in / out of SFO or stick to SoCal flying in/out of LAX.

The drive from Monterey down hwy101 / hwy1 or I-5 will take a long time and you would want to be in LA the night before your flight out. So realistically you'd only have 8 days free for touring and 7.5 days if you are counting your arrival day.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 10:50 AM
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Here's one itinerary that is presumably scenic, to the degree that the Central Valley can be scenic, and avoids the Bay Area:

https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Rout...on=6.8:5.6:5.6
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael
Here's one itinerary that is presumably scenic, to the degree that the Central Valley can be scenic, and avoids the Bay Area:

https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Rout...on=6.8:5.6:5.6

I don't see that your link shows a route. Most any route will have about the same scenery -- just as long as one avoids the I-80 corridor.

edit: at least not on my browser . . .
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
I don't see that your link shows a route. Most any route will have about the same scenery -- just as long as one avoids the I-80 corridor.

edit: at least not on my browser . . .
The route shown takes 88 out of Tahoe, then49, 26, and J-14 thru the foothills, Oakdale, Keyes then heading west thru Crows Landing, to 33, Newman Gustine to 152. 152/156 gets one to Monterey. These are my old stomping grounds. Scenic for maybe half, but very rural and a long trip. All 2 lane roads. Idk. I think these folks should stick to major highways.

They are spending no time in SF, skip Napa, , go to Tahoe via 80, then Yosemite.. by Tioga Pass if open otherwise 49 to 120 into Yosemite Valley. Then leave Yosemite on 140 to 59 to 152/156 west to Monterey. Stop in Los Banos at Fosterís Freeze for a snack on the way. Or Casa de Fruta on the Pacheco Pass. West of Los Banos, the Pacheco Pass is very scenic.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 05:49 PM
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Wow thank you for the inputs.

Only 2 things are fixed: Fly into SFO and Fly out of LAX.

We are thinking of hiring a 12 seater van/minibus for the 8 of us and our luggages.

We are flying into SFO on 3rd June and flying out of LAX on 15th June

So, now after hearing the inputs about Napa, we may amend our itinerary to:

Fly into SFO (without spending any nights there) ➡️ South Lake Tahoe (2 nights) ➡️ Yosemite (2 nights?) ➡️ Monterey ➡️ Carmel by the sea and eventually make our way to LA as the kids are keen on Disneyland and/or Universal Studio.

Whatís the best or most scenic way of getting from Yosemite to Monterey (any chance of using Highway 1) ?

Apologies for the newbie questions. Kids are very excited but my husband has been very busy so left the planning to me 😅
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by californiaroadtrip
Wow thank you for the inputs.

Only 2 things are fixed: Fly into SFO and Fly out of LAX.

We are thinking of hiring a 12 seater van/minibus for the 8 of us and our luggages.

We are flying into SFO on 3rd June and flying out of LAX on 15th June

So, now after hearing the inputs about Napa, we may amend our itinerary to:

Fly into SFO (without spending any nights there) ➡️ South Lake Tahoe (2 nights) ➡️ Yosemite (2 nights?) ➡️ Monterey ➡️ Carmel by the sea and eventually make our way to LA as the kids are keen on Disneyland and/or Universal Studio.

What’s the best or most scenic way of getting from Yosemite to Monterey (any chance of using Highway 1) ?

Apologies for the newbie questions. Kids are very excited but my husband has been very busy so left the planning to me 😅

Are you arriving at SFO long haul from Singapore? IMO/IME it is a very bad idea to drive the first day after such an arduous journey. And especially since you will be driving on the opposite of the road. AND in multiple vehicles. Unless you have a commercial license you won't be able to rent/drive a 12 passenger van so you will need two large SUV-type cars. The drive from SFO to South Lake Tahoe can take anywhere from 4 hours (and that would be extremely lucky) to 7+ hours depending on day of week and time of day. Just don't do it. I'd plan on staying a least 1 night in San Francisco and two would be better.

There is really only one realistic route from Yosemite to Monterey - via Mariposa > Merced or Chowchilla > Gilroy > Monterey. Don't worry about Hwy 1 -- Monterey, Carmel, and the northern part of Big Sur (the only part currently accessible) are all on Highway 1.

So nights of:
June 3-4 in SF
June 5-6 Lake Tahoe
June 7-8 Yosemite
June 9-11 Carmel or Monterey or Pacific Grove
Long drive to LA/Orange County
June 12-14 LA area
June 15 fly home.

Last edited by Moderator1; Feb 19th, 2024 at 07:15 AM. Reason: Removed incorrect information at member's request
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 12:39 AM
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Thank you for pointing out the jet lag bit, Janis.

We were looking at Ford Transit 12-Passenger Van. Does it need a commercial licence ?

Your suggested itinerary looks good:

June 3-4 in SF
June 5-6 Lake Tahoe
June 7-8 Yosemite
June 9-11 Carmel or Monterey or Pacific Grove
Long drive to LA/Orange County
June 12-14 LA area
June 15 fly home.

Thanks again !
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 06:12 AM
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Originally Posted by californiaroadtrip
Thank you for pointing out the jet lag bit, Janis.

We were looking at Ford Transit 12-Passenger Van. Does it need a commercial licence ?

Your suggested itinerary looks good:

June 3-4 in SF
June 5-6 Lake Tahoe
June 7-8 Yosemite
June 9-11 Carmel or Monterey or Pacific Grove
Long drive to LA/Orange County
June 12-14 LA area
June 15 fly home.

Thanks again !
You'll need to contact the rental car company to see what DL they need to rent that type of van.

I would NOT rent a vehicle upon arrival in SFO, but rather when you are ready to depart SF and head to Napa, or Yosemite, or wherever.

Having a rental car in the city of SF is more of a pain than it's worth, and a vehicle that size would likely limit where you can park. Uber or waymo or taxi are plentiful and relatively cheap to get around SF. I use uber routinely to go a few km, and most ubers can take 4 passengers. From SFO to your hotel you should go to the official taxi stand and they can put your group into the right number of apprpropriately sized taxis.


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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 07:00 AM
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Oh -- please ignore my scary post above!!!! -- I misread some of the CA Motor Vehicle code. You will be OK.. I'll ask the Moderators to edit it to clarify.

But that is a very large vehicle so definitely wait a day or two before driving.
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 08:51 AM
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Have you found lodging for 8 people for those nights in/near Yosemite???
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean
Have you found lodging for 8 people for those nights in/near Yosemite???
Shouldn't be a problem at Yosemite View Lodge I mentioned up thread -- it is a very large property. But even it does fill up sometimes so best to book sooner rather than later. I just disd a dummy booking for 3 rooms/8 people for the nights of June 7-8 and there are lots rooms but in some categories there are only 1 or 2 rooms available
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 12:39 PM
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You have a very rushed schedule. Especially with a gang of 8 in a foreign country. You need at least another half-day at each destination, IMO. I also think you are underestimating the travel time between Carmel and Disneyland (Orange Co). I was raised in LA, and got married & lived in Orange county (Laguna Beach) for several years. We've been in the SF Bay Area since 1975.

On the 12th, you wake up in Carmel and drive to Disneyland on either Hwy 101 or 5 (no time to spend in LA). This will consume 7 to 8 hours during a work day, and it is not a scenic drive at all. The LA basin is horrible. Add 2-3 hours if Hwy 1 is open, and you choose to drive along our breathtaking Big Sur coast. You might be able to visit Disneyland that day - but at night. Then the 13th is all day at Disneyland. The 14th is Friday "get-away" day - and travel back to the LA airport will consume more hours than you might like. You could spend more time at Disneyland and depart in the early afternoon, and get to LAX around 6PM. I am assuming your departure for Singapore is in the morning/early afternoon on the 15th.

You could visit some LA sites on the way from Carmel to Disneyland, and then back to LAX - but that means luggage for 8 will be in the van & open to thieves (we have more of that in Calif/LA than you have at home, I believe).

Can you cut out anything?? Perhaps overnight on the 3rd near SFO airport & depart for Tahoe early on the morning of the 4th? You could pick up a van at SFO on the 3rd so you are "ready to go" on the 4th. If you decide to do this - let me know. I live 10 mins from SFO & can suggest some activities for you on the 3rd.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj

There is really only one realistic route from Yosemite to Monterey - via Mariposa > Merced or Chowchilla > Gilroy > Monterey. Don't worry about Hwy 1 -- Monterey, Carmel, and the northern part of Big Sur (the only part currently accessible) are all on Highway 1.

.
Agree with route except you will head Merced/Chowchilla to Los BanosHwy 152, then 156 thru Hollister and San Juan Bautista. NOT GILROY. Then 101/156 to Monterey. San Juan Bautista is a historic mission town. Worth a short stop.
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 05:18 PM
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I would drop any time in San Francisco City since you have been there. The traffic and homeless situation aren't very good these days. You can stay in Burlingame/San Mateo area south of the airport if you just want to get a good night's sleep after a long flight. Just one night. N1 (not sure if you have 9 or 10 nights). There are things to see down there too.

Depending on state of the Big Sur Hwy1 and Tioga Pass. I'll give another route that no one else has explored.This would work out well if Big Sur has closures and Tioga Pass is open.

Down to Monterey Bay Area going via Half Moon Bay (but some people get carsick on that road). The coast is very scenic north of Santa Cruz (lots of State Beaches, elephant seals, etc..). If you have people who get carsick you may want to take Hwy 101 the whole way. N2-4 If you want to drive down part way on Big Sur you can do that too during those nights.

After Monterey Bay, take the Los Banos Road (152) to Yosemite, about 4 hours. N4-6

After Yosemite, and if Tioga Pass is open, then take the back road via Hwy 395 (very scenic) via Bishop, Mojave and Santa Clarita. It would take a full day to get to either Universal Studios or Anaheim for one of those two theme parks.N7-N8.
If Tioga Pass isn't open then you have to go down the west side (out via Oakhurst) Fresno etc on Hwy 5. Not pretty but fast (5 hours from Oakhurst to Anaheim).

Anaheim to LAX (Allow two hours to include dropping off a car), plus three hours for checkin ahead of an international flight. If you want to spend final night closer to the airport, try Manhattan Beach area. There is a very nice hotel inland (Ayers technically in Hawthorne). N9

If you want another night for theme parks or Yosemite, then you can drop a night from Monterey or don't even spend the first night in SFO. If your LAX flight is later in the day, you can also stay another night in Anaheim or Universal City.

Last edited by mlgb; Feb 19th, 2024 at 05:22 PM.
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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 05:41 PM
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Tioga Pass might or might no be open. About half the time it is open by late May -- if it is open, you will have to decide if you are comfortable driving a 12 passenger van over a 3050 meter high mountain road. Driving over hwy 50 and down to the foothills to enter Yosemite from the west uses Echo Summit which is just under 2250 meters.
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Old Feb 20th, 2024, 07:25 AM
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The Tioga Pass road will be plowed if it is open. But that brings to mind, are you comfortable driiving winding roads with dropoffs? Same will apply to Big Sur.

With Tioga Pass, heading downhill, the dropoff will mostly be on the opposite side of the road . With Big Sur, heading south has most of the dropoff on your side, but that is actuallly better for pullouts.

Also as school get out in California in June, make sure you can source a van rental for that many people. Most regular car rental companies won't guarantee your class of car.
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