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Re: which way is safe

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which way is safe
March 23, 2008 10:23PM
I am a female, not a good driver, I will go with my son and my mom to Yosemite from Apr. 4 to 6. I will fly from Las Vegas to Stockton. I was wandering which way to enter the park is more safe. Some one said the road out side of the park even more danger.
Thank
avatar Re: which way is safe
March 24, 2008 01:42AM
From Stockton you go south on highway 99 and head east on highway 120 at Manteca. Highway 120 will take you to the Yosemite Big Oak Flat entrance. The valley floor is about 30-40 minutes after the entrance. There are several places along the road after entering the park you might want to stop and take in the view. There may very well be a delay as you approach the valley floor due to road construction.

Highway 120 is not any more dangerous than any other road.





Old Dude
avatar Re: which way is safe
March 24, 2008 08:59AM
California 140 does have a few sharp dropoffs into the Merced River if you're traveling westbound. Wawona Road also has a few places you could end up in a ditch. 120 has areas which might be scary; I'm thinking of the twisties after Lake Don Pedro (I looked it up - it's called the Priest Grade between Lake Don Pedro and Groveland). Even Big Oak Flat Road (120 from the entrance to Yosemite Valley) has a few sharp dropoffs.

Just be a careful driver and take a break if you're tired. You're in a mountain area traveling through mountain roads. There are inherent dangers (cliffs, trees, cars) if you don't stay on the road and in your lane. All major roads (41, 120, 140, Tioga Road, Wawona Road) into Yosemite Valley will have some sort of danger if you're not careful. I know there's a temptation to look at the scenery while you're driving, so just let your mother and son do that. There are cases where people have driven off the road.

http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=3491397

I'm not trying to alarm you, but it's a matter of managing the risks. I'd be far more worried about bears. Don't even think about storing any food in your car when it's dark. Yosemite bears are noted for breaking into cars if they smell food.





Post Edited (03-24-08 10:50)
avatar Re: which way is safe
March 24, 2008 07:18PM
just make sure you DON'T go up Priest Grade Road if yer not a good driver!
take the normal route.
Re: which way is safe
March 24, 2008 11:36PM
Hi, Priest Grade Road is the road around Priest, Groveland on I-120?
Thanks
avatar Re: which way is safe
March 25, 2008 12:41AM
Close. It's from Moccasin to Priest Station. I got this from Yahoo Maps:

http://maps.yahoo.com/;_ylc=X3oDMTExNmIycG51BF9TAzI3MTYxNDkEc2VjA2ZwLWJ1dHRvbgRzbGsDbGluaw--#mvt=h&lat=37.81829&lon=-120.289686&mag=4

The following has a description of the Priest Grade:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moccasin,_California

Quote

Immediately east of town, State Route 120 climbs from about 910 feet AMSL elevation to about 2,450 feet at Priest Station, California, over a distance of six miles. Old Priest Grade, a narrower road and predecessor to the current route of SR120, covers the same change in elevation over about 2.7 miles. It is common to see vehicles with smoking brakes descending the old grade. During summer, ambient temperatures can be in the 90~100°F range. In these temperatures, many vehicles overheat climbing the old grade. Locals tell stories of car accidents in history where the vehicles left the path of Old Priest Grade and tumbled into Grizzly Gulch. The hillsides are sturdy chapparal with thick vegetation. The terrain was so difficult that, in a few cases, the cars and bodies were not retrieved, some locals claim.

The current path is longer, but less steep. However - there are several extreme turns including at least one hairpin. I've seen people towing trailers or driving RVs. This portion of 120 requires a lot of concentration, because of the combination of the extreme turns and the sharp dropoffs on roads that were carved into the hillside. It also happens to be the fastest way to the park from Stockton. Here's a picture:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffconlin/1101924260/

If this is uncomfortable, I'd recommend going on California 99 to Modesto and California 140 to the park. Have a safe trip.
Re: which way is safe
July 30, 2011 12:24AM
Quote
forrestranger
just make sure you DON'T go up Priest Grade Road if yer not a good driver!
take the normal route.

I like to take the Old Priest road up because it's much shorter. Have gone down that way only once. The normal route, in either direction, seems to take forever.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/30/2011 12:31AM by Ohnivy-Drak.
avatar Re: which way is safe
March 25, 2008 05:59AM
There is Priest Grade (Hwy 120) which is the road cars, tour buses, RVs, and large trucks use and then there is the Old Priest Grade which is the route to avoid. To get onto Old Priest Grade you actually have to leave the obvious roadbed of Hwy 120. Just stay on 120 and it is an easy drive.

Old Priest Grade road was the only automobile route until the 1960s I believe. The longer "New" Priest Grade road was a road with an incline that was suitable for horse drawn wagons and was not wide enough for auto traffic until it was upgraded for auto traffic in the 1960s.





Old Dude
avatar Re: which way is safe
March 25, 2008 09:01AM
mrcondron wrote:

> There is Priest Grade (Hwy 120) which is the road cars, tour
> buses, RVs, and large trucks use and then there is the Old
> Priest Grade which is the route to avoid. To get onto Old
> Priest Grade you actually have to leave the obvious roadbed of
> Hwy 120. Just stay on 120 and it is an easy drive.

I think the original poster is a bit hypersensitive about her driving skills; she's self identifying as "not a good driver". I don't think 120 (New Priest Grade) is all that bad, but it's still winding with a few exposed dropoffs (most with guardrails of course). A lot of drivers exceed the 25 MPH speed limit, which doesn't seem that wise. I was under the impression that this was the kind of road she was attempting to avoid. I think she'll be alright taking any road in, but for some drivers, you never know what might seem easy and what might look terrifying.

However - it's not Going to the Sun Road. I've driven on similar exposed roads in the Bay Area without guardrails. The main road in Lassen Volcanic NP has a few sections like this.



Of course nobody should ever take driving safety lightly. Even exiting the driveway has its risks.
Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 04:47PM
So YPW writes that 120 is "no Going to the Sun Road" ... do you mean it's not as good as that road in Glacier NP or it's worse than that road? My friend wouldn't drive a car northeast on the Sun Road. But she was ok on the way back. We want to go to Yosemite in a 24 foot RV. Really, how bad is it?
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 05:15PM
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luwoman
Really, how bad is it?

Don't drive off the side of the road and you'll be fine.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 05:31PM
Quote
luwoman
So YPW writes that 120 is "no Going to the Sun Road" ... do you mean it's not as good as that road in Glacier NP or it's worse than that road? My friend wouldn't drive a car northeast on the Sun Road. But she was ok on the way back. We want to go to Yosemite in a 24 foot RV. Really, how bad is it?

What I meant was that the exposed sections were pretty short, and mostly have guardrails. What I understand about Going to the Sun Road is that it's very long and has a lot of exposed sections, including many without guardrails. From what I've been told, many of these areas can't have guardrails because winter avalanches and/or snow clearing equipment might damage them.

As was mentioned earlier, buses and trucks use New Priest Grade Road. I think the twisties are only about 4 miles, and only a few spots are actually exposed (and only eastbound).



Here's a larger version where you might be able to see the guardrails:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mer-made/3731616794/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 06:09PM
Quote
y_p_w
As was mentioned earlier, buses and trucks use New Priest Grade Road. I think the twisties are only about 4 miles, and only a few spots are actually exposed (and only eastbound).

New PG is actually six miles up. Old PG is 2.7 miles. I actually feel safer (partly because the twisty bits are so densely concentrated on the old road that you never have the temptation to go very fast and partly because there are no RV's on it!) on the old road (plus I love that it's a part of history). Do NOT attempt this road with an RV. I've seen at least a couple of cars pulling relatively small trailers make the mistake of getting on this road and ending up on one of the very few pull-outs. I don't know how they finally made it down. This is definitely a road for cars and small trucks. If you are going down it, don't even think about riding your brake...put the car in your lowest gear and let the engine do the braking...this road is very steep.

New PG is more than twice the distance but, in spite of the hairpins, you can do it in an RV as long as you have some experience with tight turns.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 06:34PM
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DavidK42
Quote
y_p_w
As was mentioned earlier, buses and trucks use New Priest Grade Road. I think the twisties are only about 4 miles, and only a few spots are actually exposed (and only eastbound).

New PG is actually six miles up. Old PG is 2.7 miles. I actually feel safer (partly because the twisty bits are so densely concentrated on the old road that you never have the temptation to go very fast and partly because there are no RV's on it!) on the old road (plus I love that it's a part of history). Do NOT attempt this road with an RV. I've seen at least a couple of cars pulling relatively small trailers make the mistake of getting on this road and ending up on one of the very few pull-outs. I don't know how they finally made it down. This is definitely a road for cars and small trucks. If you are going down it, don't even think about riding your brake...put the car in your lowest gear and let the engine do the braking...this road is very steep.

New PG is more than twice the distance but, in spite of the hairpins, you can do it in an RV as long as you have some experience with tight turns.

The Old Priest Grade is closed to virtually any vehicles except cars and pickups. There is a big sign at either end of it graphically showing which vehicle types are forbidden. Absolutely no trailers though.



Old Dude
Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 06:54PM
Quote
mrcondron
The Old Priest Grade is closed to virtually any vehicles except cars and pickups. There is a big sign at either end of it graphically showing which vehicle types are forbidden. Absolutely no trailers though.

Well I know that and you know that but just like the signs in Yosemite that warn against wading in the Merced just above a waterfall, the signs don't always work. The same two times I saw inappropriate vehicles, I saw a nice policeman taking the time to use that booklet he had in his back pocket to write a little note to the tow-er of said trailer just to remind him not to try it again! winking smiley

Seriously, you gotta wonder about people who would try that road in anything big!
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 06:59PM
Quote
DavidK42
Quote
mrcondron
The Old Priest Grade is closed to virtually any vehicles except cars and pickups. There is a big sign at either end of it graphically showing which vehicle types are forbidden. Absolutely no trailers though.

Well I know that and you know that but just like the signs in Yosemite that warn against wading in the Merced just above a waterfall, the signs don't always work. The same two times I saw inappropriate vehicles, I saw a nice policeman taking the time to use that booklet he had in his back pocket to write a little note to the tow-er of said trailer just to remind him not to try it again! winking smiley

Seriously, you gotta wonder about people who would try that road in anything big!

I've seen OPG shut down at least twice in the last couple of years due to stuck motor homes. I saw a 53' semi stuck on one of the hairpin turns on 108 also. Fortunately there was enough room to get by.



Old Dude



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/19/2011 07:09PM by mrcondron.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 07:00PM
Quote
DavidK42
Seriously, you gotta wonder about people who would try that road in anything big!

I've seen very large RVs at Yosemite Creek campground. Just glad I wasn't behind one on that road.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 07:32PM
Here's the problem: GPS's will route using OPG (my Garmin is weird - in one direction it will send me on the NPG, in the other it selects OPG. Can't remember which direction it is, I usually don't use GPS on my way to Yosemite, I know the way winking smiley). So use common sense and the advice here instead of relying 100% on GPS directions.

I've seen so. many. clueless. people. on OPG. I ranted about it on my blog a few years ago. I've been rear ended at the bottom from someone who had their brakes burn out. (luckily I was in the truck, my trailer hitch was only scratched, but their Honda Civic hood got nice and damaged from sliding under it).
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 06:57PM
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DavidK42
partly because there are no RV's on it!

Not always. <sigh>
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 08:07PM
I'm wondering if 140 might be a better choice.

How much farther is Yosemite via 140 when you're coming from Stockton?
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 08:58PM
Quote
qumqats
I'm wondering if 140 might be a better choice.

How much farther is Yosemite via 140 when you're coming from Stockton?

Approximately 25 miles longer via 140. If you are headed to Tuolumne Meadow or other place on 120 in the park then 140 would be even longer.



Old Dude
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 10:57PM
OK,sounds like 120 is your best bet.

Suggestions:

  • Drive with a relaxed frame of mind. Don't phyc yourself out about it. Take deep breaths, relax
  • Pull into the turnouts and slow down when you have cars behind you. Be considerate of the people behind you.
  • Don't worrk about the new vs old Priest Grade stuff. Just drive the road and you won't realize it, but you'll end up going up and down New Priest Grade, which is your best route anyway.
  • Schedule yourself plenty of time for the trip. Don't worry about how long it's taking you to get there.


Is there anything in particular you're worried about? curvy roads, steep roads, narrow roads, cliff drop offs, lack of guard rails, etc?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/19/2011 10:58PM by qumqats.
Re: which way is safe
July 30, 2011 12:27AM
I can't believe how fast people drive down the normal route. The turnouts are my friend, so I can go at my own pace.
Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 06:49PM
It does not matter what road you take. If you can stay between the lines and drive the speed limit you will be safe. Go the route you want to take - if taking Priest Grade, take the route to the left, and have fun out there.
Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 11:37PM
When I was fortunate enough to pull my RV to Yosemite, I would drive to the park through the South Entrance, through Wawona and to the Valley. When I left, I would leave about 8-9 AM and slowly and carefully drive down the Arch Rock Road, looking ahead so as to not meet a tour bus on a curve. One one occasion, I drove from Coulterville through Greeley Hill and bypassed the Priest Grade. Drive slow and careful, stay on your side of the road, use pullouts to allow following vehicles to pass you and take a break or two.

The one route I won't take again is to pull an RV up the Arch Rock Road. That rock wall is a little disconcerting at times, and I never did like to take my half out of the middle.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 11:45PM
Arch Rock Road = highway 140?
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 01:20AM
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qumqats
Arch Rock Road = highway 140?

Yes.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 19, 2011 11:50PM
By the way, this thread was started in 2008.



Old Dude
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 01:21AM
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mrcondron
By the way, this thread was started in 2008.

Do we care?
Rolling on floor laugh
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 01:20AM
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Dearborn
One one occasion, I drove from Coulterville through Greeley Hill and bypassed the Priest Grade.

I've done that route a few times. I like it.
Re: which way is safe
July 30, 2011 12:29AM
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eeek
Quote
Dearborn
One one occasion, I drove from Coulterville through Greeley Hill and bypassed the Priest Grade.

I've done that route a few times. I like it.

Old Coulterville road? The one that poor doctor lost all of his life savings on?
Re: which way is safe
July 31, 2011 08:34PM
If you are referring to Dr. McLean (sic), I believe he invested in the original Coulterville stage road in 1874. I was referring to the current 2-lane paved road that runs from Coulterville to Greeley Hill, and then to Highway 120. My last trip over that road was in 1993, but it was a good road if you proceeded slow and cautious.

In the event anyone is interested there was allegedly a makeshift blacksmith shop at the base of the old Coulterville Road where it met the road from El Portal (Highway 140). In 1969-1970, I observed some residual ashes and metal scraps in the lower crevices of the rock overhang.
avatar Re: which way is safe
August 01, 2011 09:13PM
Quote
Dearborn
If you are referring to Dr. McLean (sic), I believe he invested in the original Coulterville stage road in 1874. I was referring to the current 2-lane paved road that runs from Coulterville to Greeley Hill, and then to Highway 120. My last trip over that road was in 1993, but it was a good road if you proceeded slow and cautious.

I drove it last year and it isn't even all that slow.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 12:40AM
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 05:51AM
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qumqats
opps Pounding head on desk

Another several minutes you will never get back.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 12:56PM
Just for future reference, if anyone wants to avoid driving by the side of the steep cliffs on new or old Priest Grade, the thing to do would be to drive EASTBOUND (uphill) on Old Priest Grade, and drive WESTBOUND (downhill) on Hwy 120 (New Priest Grade). That way, one would be driving on the side of the road closest to the upslope of the mountains, and not by the side of the cliffs.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 01:11PM
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plawrence
Just for future reference, if anyone wants to avoid driving by the side of the steep cliffs on new or old Priest Grade, the thing to do would be to drive EASTBOUND (uphill) on Old Priest Grade, and drive WESTBOUND (downhill) on Hwy 120 (New Priest Grade). That way, one would be driving on the side of the road closest to the upslope of the mountains, and not by the side of the cliffs.

I'd +1 this suggestion, but not for the stated reason.

Up OPG is FUN!! ( long as you stay on your side of the road on the hairpin turns! ) but down is where all the danger is. Don't go down it, use NPG instead
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 03:19PM
Quote
plawrence
Just for future reference, if anyone wants to avoid driving by the side of the steep cliffs on new or old Priest Grade, the thing to do would be to drive EASTBOUND (uphill) on Old Priest Grade, and drive WESTBOUND (downhill) on Hwy 120 (New Priest Grade). That way, one would be driving on the side of the road closest to the upslope of the mountains, and not by the side of the cliffs.


You'll still have to drive on the left-hand side of Big Oak Flat Road if you want to use that rationale to go down to the valley. (Doing it around 2 AM should be your best option timewise.)
(Helpfully Yours)
The Marmots

P.S. Everyone to the SOUTH ENTRANCE!!!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/20/2011 03:34PM by szalkowski.
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 04:33PM
Quote
szalkowski
. . . snip . . .
(Helpfully Yours)
The Marmots

P.S. Everyone to the SOUTH ENTRANCE!!!

>shudder< It's much to far for me since I'm coming from Sacramento. I've come in on 41 twice when the weekend to Yosemite was the tail end of a week in Fresno.

The >shudder< is from the last trip in, driving in in the middle of the night and all those curves just before the park entrance and then all the way to the valley.

<<<<left>>>>>right<<<<<left>>>>right<<<<left>>>>right<<<<left>>>>right . . . . . it seemed to go on forever
avatar Re: which way is safe
July 20, 2011 04:36PM
Quote
qumqats
Quote
szalkowski
. . . snip . . .
(Helpfully Yours)
The Marmots

P.S. Everyone to the SOUTH ENTRANCE!!!

>shudder< It's much to far for me since I'm coming from Sacramento. I've come in on 41 twice when the weekend to Yosemite was the tail end of a week in Fresno.

The >shudder< is from the last trip in, driving in in the middle of the night and all those curves just before the park entrance and then all the way to the valley.

<<<<left>>>>>right<<<<<left>>>>right<<<<left>>>>right<<<<left>>>>right . . . . . it seemed to go on forever

Perhaps you'd prefer Chowchilla Mountain Road?
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