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mrslinda Mar 6th, 2011 05:51 AM

Yosemite to Death Valley in mid May 2011
We are driving from San Fransisco to Yosemite on the 18th May this year. and staying for a couple of days in Ahwahnee then driving to Death Valley en route to Las Vagas. I understand that there has been a lot of snow this year and maybe the pass that we would go through may not be open at this time. Looking at my map (here in England) it seems that travelling dwn to Bakersfield and staying for one night and then driving on the next day to Furnace Creek could well be the best option. Is that the best thing to plan?
Is this route quite boring or should we wait to see if the pass is open.
Any advice please.

dbdurand Mar 6th, 2011 09:52 AM

The best option, IMO, is to drive to Death Valley/Las Vegas via Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park. This is a major national park set aside for the largest trees in the world and is a wondrous place in the Sierras. It's a 4 hour drive south of Yosemite and then another 6+ hours (via Bakersfield) to Furnace Creek in Death Valley. The portion of this route in the national park will not be boring, but rather awesome. Ideally, you should see if you can squeeze in an extra day for this.

spirobulldog Mar 6th, 2011 03:00 PM

The trees in Sequoia really are better than Yosemite. I have been to all three places. All of them are unique and fantastic. I do believe, even in May, you might get pretty warm in Death Valley. Make sure you have gas and water in your car. Pretty hard to find either for many miles sometimes.

janisj Mar 6th, 2011 03:32 PM

Bakersfield is NO place to stop over on holiday.

An option to consider - drive from SF to YNP and stay your 2 nights. Then drive back to SFO (or to Oakland or San Jose or even Sacramento) and drop the car. Fly to Las Vegas -- at that time of year, Death Valley is much <B>MUCH</B> easier from LV than it is from northern California.

There is an airport in Fresno and that would be even better -- but airfares are generally much higher.

tomfuller Mar 6th, 2011 05:14 PM

If you are using SFO only as a place to rent a car and not going into the city for sightseeing, consider flying to Las Vegas and renting your car there. Depending on the time you get out of the rental facility, you should be able to make it to Fresno. From Fresno you have the choice of Yosemite or Sequoia/Kings Canyon.
Coming back toward Las Vegas, go north from Baker California to Death Valley. When leaving Death Valley go through Pahrump Nevada to get back to Las Vegas.
Cars are cheaper to rent in Las Vegas. Don't even think of staying in Bakersfield.

dbdurand Mar 6th, 2011 05:21 PM

There are two posts saying don't stay in Bakersfield. It would help the OP and others of us who may have occasion to stay there to know why.

janisj Mar 6th, 2011 06:55 PM

tomfuller's post makes no sense (sorry - but it doesn't)

Las Vegas to Fresno is a 7+ hour drive. So that most definitely would NOT be a better way to get to Yosemite.

"<i>There are two posts saying don't stay in Bakersfield. It would help the OP and others of us who may have occasion to stay there to know why.</i>:

I'm sure there are many more than 2 posts saying that.

Bakersfield is HOT/dry in the summer, cold/damp/foggy in the winter, is not scenic, and is not worth a stop of any sort. Now, there are some interesting things out west of B'field like old towns that were centers of the CA oil industry in the late 19th/early 20th century. But they are not anywhere near the route to Las Vegas.

Towns in the San Joaquin Valley (Bakersfield, Fresno, Madera, Corcoran, etc) are centers of things like cotton farming, beef and dairy cattle, tomatoes, oil wells, a couple of State prisons, etc -- they are not tourist meccas :)

mrslinda Mar 7th, 2011 02:58 AM

Thank you for your responses. I do like the idea of flying from Fresno into Las Vegas and then hiring a car to drive into DV. I have checked flight times and they are OK with our schedule but a couple of questions. I take it that it is 55 miles from Ahwahnee to Fresno. Is this an easy road to travel on from example a flight leaving at around 11.30am or are there early mists and fogs which make travel difficult/dangerous. Books and the internet always show Yosemite with blue skys on brilliant days.

spirobulldog Mar 7th, 2011 03:21 AM

I think you would be just fine with that drive. Fresno isn't that big of an airport so arriving there 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of your flight should allow you plenty of time.

The map I looked at showed it at 95 miles. I would allow 2.5 hours(maybe even 3) to make sure. I think you would need to leave by 7:30 at the latest.

tomfuller Mar 7th, 2011 09:05 AM

Allegiant Air flies from to Fresno from Las Vegas. They fly from their hub (LV) on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday.
The Sunday & Monday flights have the lowest fares. Better a 1 hour flight than 7+ hours driving between LV and FNO.
The allegiant flights leave Fresno at 6:30PM so you may want to get lodging in the Las Vegas area and rent the car in the morning. Link:
I remember the drive from Oakhurst to the Fresno airport early in the morning to return a rental car. There was patchy fog that morning. We arrived and left Fresno on the Amtrak San Joaquin.

spirobulldog Mar 7th, 2011 10:57 AM

Tomfuller's post made sense to me(sorry, but it does).
He was suggesting Vegas instead of SF.

Do you already have airfare to SFO? That would eliminate the arguement of where to begin and end the trip. Either way, you are going to have a pretty good bit of driving.

spirobulldog Mar 7th, 2011 11:02 AM

by going back to San Fran and flying from there to LAS, you would save a lot of time on your return trip. This would also save you on car rental fees for a few days. But, if the timing is good(if you can depend on airlines to be on time), then Fresno might be your best option.

mrslinda Mar 7th, 2011 12:28 PM

Thanks for all your advice. We really appreciate it. It is quite a big trip for us and my husband has always wanted to go through Death Valley. It's kind of now or never for us, especially the rate the oil is going up every week over here and pushing up the air fares. We are flying from London to LA, making our way up to San Franciso over 8 days and staying wherever we take a fancy to. Then it is Yosemite, Death Valley and Las Vegas for a couple of nights. We are then flying from Vegas to New York for another couple of nights to break up the journey back to London. I can see that Continental fly from Fresno on Fridays with a flight at 11.04am which would suit us but my husband thinks that we should wait until 18th May to see if the Tioga Pass is open and if it is make the journey. There do seem to be quite a few flights to Las Vegas from Fresno and now I am wandering if they get filled with weekenders going to Vegas

Otis_B_Driftwood Mar 7th, 2011 12:45 PM


Check into baggage fees on Allegiant. If you are coming from England, you may have several bags per person and the fees will add up. Driving may make the most sense especially if you can avoid drop-off fees on your car hire by booking from the UK.

There's no reason not to consider Bakersfield as a stop-over to Vegas if it fits in with your plans. AAA lists 14 3 star hotels there. Some of these Northern California posters can get a little bit elitist at times. You aren't going to vacation there, you're just stopping for the night. Other lodging options on the way to Death Valley would be Kernville near Lake Isabella and Ridgecrest out in the desert.

Don't forget that Death Valley will be hot in late May. It's past my window for visiting but a lot of people (especially Europeans) go in there in the off-season now. Just know what you are getting into and take precautions if it's really hot. Here's a temperature chart for historical average highs and lows in May:

janisj Mar 7th, 2011 12:57 PM

Spirolbulldog: "<i>Tomfuller's post made sense to me(sorry, but it does). He was suggesting Vegas instead of SF. </i>"

Yes, he was suggesting LV instead of SF -- but not to get to Death Valley (which DOES make sense). The suggestion was to fly into LV to drive to Fresno to get to Yosemite.

>><i> <blue>. . . consider flying to Las Vegas and renting your car there. Depending on the time you get out of the rental facility, you should be able to make it to <u>Fresno</u>. From Fresno you have the choice of <u>Yosemite</u> or Sequoia/Kings Canyon.</i></blue><<

That makes no sense at all since it would be 7+ hours to Fresno and another 2+ hours to Yosemite Valley. Nearly 10 hours driving time from LV vs. 4 hours from SFO

spirobulldog Mar 7th, 2011 01:44 PM

Here are the opening dates for Tioga Road for the past 30 years. Average opening day is May 29th. I would say you about a 40% chance of it being open.

The way I read it, tom was suggesting of starting and ending the trip in LAS. True, it would be longer to Fresno, but shorter on the return from DV. The same would apply if you are doing it in reverse and using SFO as a starting and ending point. I'm not totally convinced flying out of Fresno is that great of an idea. Are you really going to save that much time(getting to the airport 2 hours early and risking a delay with airlines). You will then have two cars rented at the same time, or an expensive drop fee. I drove from Vegas to Death Valley and then on to Sequoia the last week of the year in 2007. I would say about half of that trip was very very scenic and the other half pretty boring. I haven't checked mileage maps and times to be for sure about any of this. just saying.

tomfuller Mar 7th, 2011 01:54 PM

I just recently found that allegiant flies 4 days a week between Las Vegas and Fresno. To avoid driving from San Francisco, fly to Las Vegas from wherever. The allegiant plane flies from Vegas to Fresno unloads passengers and is back on the way to Vegas with new passengers 50 minutes after landing in Fresno. Rent a car in Fresno, see Yosemite and/or Sequoia/Kings, return the car, fly back on allegiant, rent a car in Las Vegas to go see Death Valley.
I agree there is no sense driving through Baker, Barstow and Bakersfield if you don't have to.

spirobulldog Mar 7th, 2011 01:57 PM

According to mapsonus it is about 6.2 hours via Tioga Pass or 6.6 hrs via Fresno/Bakersfield. So, if you allow for getting to the airport two hours early, flying to LAS, waiting for luggage in las, renting another car in las, and then driving back to Death Valley(3-4 hours)- I think it would cost you more time than driving.

I wasn't figuring Sequoia into any of this.

mrslinda Mar 8th, 2011 03:23 AM

Thank you spirobulldog we will look this up. Are the roads well signposted in this area. The temperatures do seen extreem and we want to try to travel light as best we can. I have never driven on the 'other'side of the road anywhere altghough it never bothers my husband so maybe I will bring my licence and then we could share the driving.

spirobulldog Mar 8th, 2011 11:06 AM

In Death Valley, you want find any traffic jams. There are a few places with people, but you may go stretches where you see nobody at all. Depends on the route. I'm going to say the roads aren't that well signposted, IMOP.

I like Death Valley, don't get me wrong, it's an amazing place. It is a very different place, just wierd is the way i would describe it. I have been to 25 of our 58 National Parks. It would rank about #20 for me. I like places like Zion or Arches much better.

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