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Quick suggestions please- San Jose, to Fresno, to Yosemite to San Jose

Quick suggestions please- San Jose, to Fresno, to Yosemite to San Jose

Old May 8th, 2022, 06:20 PM
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Quick suggestions please- San Jose, to Fresno, to Yosemite to San Jose

San Jose along PCH to San Luis Obispo - staying Fresno that night. Next day head to Yosemite (2.5 days) staying in Merced for two nights then on to San Jose. Last minute trip! Please help with any suggestions of eateries, “must do” excursions, time saving tips. I am currently battling stage IV terminal cancer so I cannot manage difficult hikes but can navigate easier terrain with about a 4 mile distance. Given that I have never been to this area and may not make it back, I will be happy for anything I am able to experience. Thank you in advance. We have to stay in Merced several nights due to lodging requirements. Thank you and God bless. I remind you to enjoy every minute you can while you are able!

Last edited by MerryK; May 8th, 2022 at 06:24 PM. Reason: Chemo brain
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Old May 8th, 2022, 08:20 PM
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I'm very sorry for your diagnosis.

I'm afraid I don't understand your plan. San Jose to SLO along the coast and then to Fresno will take at least 7 hours, not counting comfort stops, lunch, gas fill-up, etc. Do you have lodging reservations inside Yosemite N.P.? If not, the drive from Fresno to Yosemite Valley and then to Merced will take close to 5 hours, not counting stops to see anything in Yosemite, lunch, etc. And if you're returning to the Park another day or two, the drive between Merced and Yosemite Valley will take at least 2 hours each way.
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Old May 8th, 2022, 08:59 PM
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Our plan was to drive along the PCH to see the beautiful scenery along the way. We were going to end that day of driving in Fresno for the night. From there we were going to drive to Yosemite and see whatever we could that day. We have to stay in Merced due to lodging requirements. Yes our plan was to drive back and forth to Yosemite each of the next two days. The final day we will drive to San Jose and spend the last day there before flying home. We know it isn’t ideal but we are willing to drive the distance to visit Yosemite. We really don’t have a choice on that.
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Old May 8th, 2022, 09:52 PM
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OK -- So sorry about your illness - this could be a great trip, but not the way you have planned it so far. You itinerary is much more than 'not ideal' - it is close to impossible.

1) Merced is a horrible base for visiting Yosemite. From central Merced to Yosemite Valley is a minimum two hour drive each way, and it could take longer than that. Do NOT stay in Merced. Look in El Portal -- Yosemite View Lodge is the best property, but Cedar Lodge is acceptable. You want to be as close to the Valley as you can.

2) SJ down the coast through Santa Cruz, Monterey Big Sur to SLO and over to Fresno is a really really bad idea. It is a 7.5 to 8 hour drive without a single stop --- and you will want to stop . . . a LOT.

The only practical option in your short time is to:

Day 1) drive SJ to Monterey, visit Point Lobos and then drive straight to Merced. This will take about 4 hours straight drive time and at least would give you a little time to see Carmel and Pt Lobos. (If you have the energy and are making good time you could drive part way down into Big Sur and maybe have lunch at Nepenthe before heading back north and across to Merced. This would add about 1.5 hrs drive time for that day). Stay that night in Merced.

Day 2 - 3) The next morning drive approx 1.5 hours up to El Portal and stay there 2 nights. El Portal is less then 10 minutes to the Park entrance gate.

Day 4) Drive back to SJ. El Portal to San Jose takes about 3.5 to 4 hours depending on traffic

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Old May 9th, 2022, 01:10 AM
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Thank you so much!
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Old May 9th, 2022, 04:15 AM
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I agree with janis. Driving 2hrs + each way, each day to Merced is a bad way to visit Yosemite. If that is your only option then you might be better off just taking a few days to enjoy the central coast.

So also check for lodging INSIDE Yosemite park. We find that the Yosemite Valley Lodge, or Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, or whatever they call it now is the ideal location. I've stayed there about a dozen times and it never disappoints. From your room you can take a short walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, or walk along the flat, valley trails towards El Capitan, or along the river, or various other easy trails. You can also shuttle bus to various points around the valley and do flat walks. Bridalveil falls; near the base of El Capitan; Chapel; Mirror Lake, etc.

This is the official website for booking in-park reservations. https://www.travelyosemite.com/

Rooms are booked a year ahead of time, but can be cancelled up until just a few days before arrival. What happens is bus tour operators (& others) gobble up blocks of rooms and relinquish the ones they don't need at the last minute.
There are rooms available today and the next several days, and some other days in May. Additional rooms open up daily so be sure to check back. Some people say call, but personally I find it's faster and easier to search on the website at my convenience, as often as I want.


There are also rooms at Wawona Lodge, inside the park near the south entrance. It is near the giant sequoia groves. I don't know if that area of the park (the giant trees) is open for visitors. The small town of El Tovar mentioned above is actually a more convenient location if you can't get lodging at Yosemite Valley / Falls Lodge.

Here's what I see for YL for the month of May. I could literally walk up today and get a room for a few nights.. But those will go quickly so if you see something you like, grab it.



Last edited by J62; May 9th, 2022 at 04:33 AM.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 07:31 AM
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I personally would not stay at Wawona on this sort of trip -- especially with the recent snow they've had in the Sierra. Even though it is in the park it is still nearly and hour from Yosemite Village over a very twisty/turny road. With your physical limitations I think being close to the Valley and sticking to the Valley floor is your best use of time. Plus Wawona is accessed from the south entrance which would have you going via Fresno/Hwy 41. Hwy 140 up the Merced River to El Portal is a much shorter, lower elevation, easier drive. (And yes, do keep checking for cancellations in Yosemite Valley but if unsuccessful, El Portal is the next best location)
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Old May 9th, 2022, 07:36 AM
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A few hours later and now a bunch of dates in May show some availability...


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Old May 9th, 2022, 09:33 AM
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You will receive information at the Yosemite entrance gate about scheduled ranger talks and hikes which can be fun. The ranger hikes typically go slowly and stop frequently allowing for a variety of endurance levels. You can also leave the hike early, if you like. I agree with trying to stay in the valley, if possible. Sometimes calling to check on last minute cancellations can work. I love having a meal at the Ahwahnee hotel and enjoying the beautiful view from the restaurant's windows. It's a little pricier than the dining locations but I think it's worth it. Breakfast and lunch typically don't require reservations.

Do you have a Disabled Person Parking Placard? That would enable you to park in some restricted areas in Yosemite Valley giving you easier access to some trails. A reservation is now required to enter Yosemite - be sure to get that in advance: https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm.

Have a great trip!
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Old May 11th, 2022, 01:16 PM
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We're going to Yosemite next month. Had to get online and purchase a "Peak Hour Reservation" ticket in advance and they sell only a limited amount. It's only $2 and you can reserve "entrance up to 3 consecutive days. This is on top of the $35 daily entrance fee. I believe they are limiting daily entrance due to some sort of construction. Peak hours are from 6:00a.m. to 4 p.m. Only a few tickets are released each week or month, I forget which.

Unless you have reservations inside the park you will need this special ticket. I tried to get into Yosemite Lodge, and it was about $700/night. No thanks! Got reservations at Big Creek Inn at Fish Camp just a couple of miles from the South entrance. They only have 3 rooms but check. You can also stay at Oakhurst or Bass Lake and add an additional 1/2 hour to your drive into the valley. Mariposa is an alternate at the north entrance. NO on Merced!

Navigate this site to get your special entrance ticket:

Yosemite National Park Ticketed Entry, Yosemite National Park - Recreation.gov

It's ridiculous, I know, but it's just the way it is this year.
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Old May 11th, 2022, 01:20 PM
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From their website:Additionally beginning May 13th an additional batch of reservations will be available everyday 7 days at 8 am PT in advance of arrival

May 14th for arrival May 21st

May 15th for arrival May 22nd

May 16th for arrival May 23rd and so on.
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Old May 12th, 2022, 03:57 PM
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Instead of driving your rental car into Yosemite, you can (maybe should) take the YARTS bus into Yosemite from Fresno (or Oakhurst.) The YARTS bus has a stop near the Best Western in Oakhurst. The fare for the YARTS bus includes your daily admission to the park. There is also a YARTS route that goes from Merced (airport and Amtrak station) into the park. The Park Service operates buses within the park. Google YARTS bus to get schedule and fare information.
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Old May 12th, 2022, 04:59 PM
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If they take YARTS - how would they be able to see and do anything IN Yosemite? The trip from Fresno Airport to Yosemite Valley takes a few minutes short of 4 hours - and the same on return. Merced AMTRAK to Yosemite Valley take 3 hours and 5 minutes - so either 8 or 6+ full hours R-T sitting on the bus. Unless they already have accommodations in El Portal or in Yosemite Valley YARTS simply doesn't work. And if they do have accommodations, then they'd want to have their own car and not be tied to YARTS (slow) schedule.
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Old May 13th, 2022, 07:36 AM
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We need to keep in mind that the OP is dealing with Stage IV terminal cancer. What is technically possible is not necessarily realistic advice to this person. And, on the flip side of possible, MerryK wants to see and do everything they can within time and energy limits... which usually means having a car at all times.

MerryK, I hope you're able to have the sort of trip you dream of.
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