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Snow Chains for Yosemite - Never put them on before!

Snow Chains for Yosemite - Never put them on before!

Apr 3rd, 2006, 09:42 AM
  #1  
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Snow Chains for Yosemite - Never put them on before!

Hi all,

Been reading about snow in Yosemite and would like to check (we're from climates where we've never seen snow in our lives)br />
1. Has anyone been to Yosemite Valley recently? How's the snow conditions on the valley floor? I don't anticipate going anywhere beyond the valley area (besides, most places are closed due to snow).
2. Snow chains are completely foreign to us. I checked with Avis (our car hire) and they said they don't have issues with snow chains but the loss damage waiver is void if the chains damage the car. Is this normal for care rentals, or should we try other companies?
3. If Yosemite requires us to carry chains, are there places within Yosemite where we can put on these chains (given that, from what I've read, u need level ground of sorts to roll the wheels onto the chains)? Or better, are there places in Yosemite where they can put the chains up for us or show us how we can do it?
3. If it isn't snowing in the Yosemite Valley, will they let us through without chains or will we be turned back?
4. Where can we buy these chains near Yosemite? Preferably somewhere where we can return it for a refund if it's not used etc (I understand this is possible).

Any help is appreciated.
saidean is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 10:03 AM
  #2  
 
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1. I have not been in Yosemite lately, but we have a vacation house in my family at the same elevation. Got snow last week and this week is forecast a mix of rain and snow. If the roads are plowed, which they should be soon after any new falling snow, then you don't need to put chains on the car. Chains are only required if you are driving on snow.

2. Avis's policy seems pretty good. Many companies forbid the use of chains on their cars.

3. Yosemite Valley is almost completely level. Coming into the valley, if you take Hwy 140, there are also plenty of places where you could put chains on if you need them. On the way to Lake Tahoe and Reno, there are always people who will put chains on for you - they charge you quite a bit, but they are there. I don't know of any specific service in Yosemite for this though, but like on Hwy 50 and 80, if there is a need, I am sure there will be people to fill that need.

4. You should be able to buy chains at any autoparts store.

J_Correa is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 10:14 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Here is a live web cam of Yosemite Valley. You can see exactly how much snow is on the ground. The cam has to be viewed during the daylight hours on Pacific Standard Time: http://www.yosemite.org/vryos/AhwahneeMeadowCam.htm

To get to Yosemite Valley you have a few choices of entering. Hwy 120 is the higher elevation entrance and would be more likely to have snow on the road. Hwy 140 is a lower elevation road and so if it has snowed recently, that is probably the route you will want to take.

It would be best to call or check either the Yosemite Web site: http://www.nps.gov/yose/now/conditions.htm#roads or Cal Trans http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/ website just before driving in.

According to the offical Yosemite website http://www.nps.gov/yose/ you need to carry chains.

Walmart would be a cheap place to pick up chains. It's been my understanding that most places will not let you return chains even if they weren't open, so ask before you buy.

Utahtea

utahtea is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 11:08 AM
  #4  
 
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I have a cabin sort of near Yosemite and have had to use chains. Be aware that if there is snow on the ground a FWD car will allow you to go but not stop, a very dangerous situation. Chains should be used on all cars, even FWD, if there is snow on the ground. They don't tend to plow the roads around our cabin (108) as much as 50 or 80.

Most chains from stores are returnable if not opened, in my experience. Maybe if you got them from a convenience store along they way they wouldn't be.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 11:52 AM
  #5  
 
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YOu might be able to "get away" with the strap chains if the snow isn't too bad. Putting on chains is not an intuitive thing. PLUS, most cars now are front wheel drive and they may not be recommended. Don't drive very far with chains if the road has been cleared--a broken chain will flail your fender.
The advice about 4WD is excellent--doesn't help you stop. But if you have a 4WD vehicle you should not need chains. We have gone straight up a 35* driveway in snow in low.
Gretchen is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 11:59 AM
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Many thanks for the quick replies. We're booked in at Yosemite Rose situated in Groveland so that's Hwy 120. But it isn't that far from the junction west that allows us to take Hwy 140 to get into Yosemite via the lower elevation route.

We're planning to stay in Groveland for 3 nights which should give us plenty of time to do a leisurely visit of the Yosemite NP. Places that we've shortlisted within Yosemite arebr />
1. Yosemite Valley is the minimum. Mirror Lake and Mist Trail short hikes depending on weather (with 3-4 days we're hoping one of them will give us a nice day to do the walks)
2. Drive down Wawona Road, stopping at Badger Pass if possible.
3. Hetch Hetchy area.

Outside of Yosemite, given our 4 days around the area, we'd like to visit these areas, but it seems that they are closedbr />
1. Sierra National Forest - Sierra Vista National Scenie Byway (road is closed according to NF website), Bass Lake (is this worth a visit?)
2. I think Hwy 108 and Stansilaus National Forest is out given that it's closed east of Strawberry. ANything to see west of Strawberry?


saidean is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 12:04 PM
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Hi Gretchen,

Unfortunately we're hiring a Chevy Cobalt, a car which I used when I was in New England last fall and liked it for its compact size (just me and my wife) and its nippiness So no 4WD for us I'm afraid. From what I can find, the cobalt's a front wheel drive.

Any idea if the park rangers/staff can assist us in setting up snow chains if the need arises?
saidean is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 12:54 PM
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Groveland to Yosemite Valley is 48 miles will take 1 1/2 hours to drive (one way). From Groveland to Wawona on Hwy 120 will take 2 hours to drive. (one way)

These back roads are slow driving. If the roads are clear, this will be the route to take. If it's cold and snow is melting during the day, then be careful driving after dark. Black ice is slippery.

Yes, Groveland is very close to Hwy 49 BUT and this is a big BUT, you have to drive either Priest Grade or Old Priest Grade to get from Groveland to Hwy 49. Curvey and slow. Old Priest Grade is faster but a lot steeper grade. This route is 85 miles and plan on it taking a little over 2 hours..one way.

If you are looking for other places to travel then you might consider driving north on Hwy 49 through Jamestown, Sonora, Columbia to Angeles Camp and then take Hwy 4 up to Arnold, CA. Just a couple miles north is Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Hwy 49 is rich with California Gold Rush History. Hwy 4 will still be closed through the pass but you can drive up to Mt. Reba and almost to Lake Alpine. They usually start clearning Ebbetts pass in early April, but they have been getting a lot of snow up there this winter.

Utahtea

utahtea is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 01:09 PM
  #9  
 
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If you do need chains - don't worry. When chains are required there are "chain monkees" who will put them on for you. Sure you'll have to pay - but much easier and a LOT warmer than struggling w/ them yourselves.

as utahtea says - Groveland is not a quick or easy drive into YNP. Especially if the road is icy. Take LOTS of care.
janisj is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 02:06 PM
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In hindsight, maybe the choice to stay in groveland wasn't that good an idea. As we are heading in from SF, we thought Hwy 120 would be the easiest route to locate a B&B to stay for the daily YNP incursions. Given that it's the highway more likely to have snow, and it's not that easy to access YNP, maybe Hwy 140 would've been a better choice. But cest la vie What's done is done; we're booked in at Yosemite Rose, they seem like nice people, and we'll just have to bear the additional driving time/inconvenience when we drive to/fro YNP.

Black ice - good advice. We plan to get out of Yosemite before dark in any case, and remain in Groveland for dinner/the night so hopefully the icy roads won't be too much of an issue.

utahtea: Rather than heading west out of groveland and going through priest/old priest on Hwy 120, how about heading east from groveland and taking a road called Smith Station Road that heads south to Coulterville and connecting to Hwy 49?
saidean is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 03:05 PM
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Keep in mind that ice forms when the temperature drops below 32 F. Right now it's 56 degrees in Groveland and Big Oak Flat and it's 51 degrees at El Portal which is just outside the park on 140. Snow level is really high right now something like 8000 feet maybe dropping some tonight. As we progress through April the storms will have to be increasingly cold to produce snow at the lower elevations. Naturally people want you to be prepared so carry chains but if you operate in probability then you have a low probability of needing the chains in mid April.

Keep your eye on the road by checking:
http://www.caltrans.ca.gov/

Put 120 in the HIghway number box unless you decide to take 140.
Suzie is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 03:22 PM
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I would not count on "chain monkeys" to put on your chains. They are usually present on major highways (and well worth the fee they charge IMHO) but there is no guarantee. Hopefully you won't need chains, but you should bring them with you just in case there has been lots of snow this year.

Be sure to buy the proper sized chains for your tires and read the directions. Ask if your car has front wheel drive when you rent it (most likely.) If a car has front wheel drive, the chains go on the front tires. If it is not front wheel drive, the chains go on the back. I would also bring a pair of old gloves and a couple of garbage bags (one to put the chains in after use and one to line the roadway with when you're on hands and knees in the snow.)

If you do end up driving with the chains on don't drive any faster than 30-35 mph.

On a positive note: the valley is gorgeous during a snowfall and chains are a pain but really not that difficult to deal with once you get the hang of them. Have a great trip!
KathrynT is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 03:24 PM
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Argh, another reply I should have proofread. Excuse the grammar mistakes!
KathrynT is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 03:31 PM
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As for temps, Groveland is around 3,000 ft elevation but you will have to climb up to over 6,000 feet on Hwy 120 and the temps up there will drop below freezing after dark even in April.

Also keep in mind that Yosemite Valley is just that, a valley with high canyon walls and the sun will set earlier. We were there in early April last year and I remember the sun setting around 5ish. When the sun starts to set in the valley, that will be your clue to head to Groveland. You should still have plenty of daylight as you go up and out of the park.

We drove Greeley Hill Road (there is a hill!) from Coulterville to Smith Station Road and on to Hwy 120 many years ago. All the roads back in the foot hills are going to be slow and curvey in spots. I really think you would be better off staying with the Priest Road and Hwy 49 if you need to go in on Hwy 140.

You might be worring about nothing. Like Suzie mentioned, your chances of having snow is slim. April has been my favorite month to visit. We've had warm enought weather on our April visits that I've worn shorts on the Mist trail up to Vernal Falls!

Utahtea
utahtea is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 04:38 PM
  #15  
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Murphy's law (which operates quite effectively during our holidays, much to my annoyance) dictates that when you drive without chains, you're going to regret it lol. So I'm doing the playing-safe thing and getting a pair (presumably we only need 1 pair?). The car's front wheel but i'll check with Avis.

1. So do we need more than 1 pair of snow chains? How do we know what type of chains are suitable for the tyres we have? (eg tell the retailer the make/model of our wheels so that they know)?
2. Dumb question here but i guess it had to be asked. How do we know when to stop and start putting on the chains? I know there are signs which indicates areas may require chains, but aside from that, how do we know? When the road becomes too iced up (is that too late to stop and put the chains)?

Thanks for the gloves/rubbish bag tip. I need to bring an extra pair of gloves for this!
saidean is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 05:14 PM
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You will be stopped. Cal trans will be on site to ensure travelers are chained up.

The location of the chains will depend on the type of car you are driving. Determine whether the car is front or rear wheel drive. (Do the front wheels propel the car, or do the rear ones?)
Chains go only on the front or rear. Not on all 4. The wheel size that the chains fit is indicated on the chain's box.
Suzie is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2006, 06:07 PM
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I'm going to keep an eye on the weather for mid April and I'll be thinking of you! You will have to come back and give us a trip report!

Utahtea
utahtea is offline  
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