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Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter

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Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 11, 2010 10:52PM
I'm planning to take a Yosemite trip this weekend Jan 16 & 17 to Yosemite from the bay area. I usually take Highway 120. Any advice on the road conditions to the park or alternate routes suggested?
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 10:18AM
I don't know whether you've been to Yosemite in winter before, so excuse me if I'm stating the obvious.

Be sure to bring chains and know how to put them on.

The crews do a very good job of keeping the roads as clear as possible, but you will likely run across areas that have a inch or so of ice/snow. Just drive slow and you should be OK.

You'll have a GREAT time smiling smiley.
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 06:55PM
I was in Bridgeport on the Eastern side today and the roads were dry everywhere except where it snowed a little but nothing stuck. Monitor Pass appeared to be driveable down by Topaz Lake (no snow but the gate is shut). For what it's worth on this side of the hills.
Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 09:27PM
Thanks for the advice. This is my first time to Yosemite in the Winter. I don't understand what Caltrans is saying in the traffic conditions...I plan on driving to Yosemite from San Francisco on 120.

Caltrans says the following:

SR 120
[IN THE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA AREA & SIERRA NEVADA]
IS CLOSED FROM CRANE FLAT TO 5 MI WEST OF THE JCT OF US 395 /TIOGA PASS/
(TUOLUMNE, MONO CO) - FOR THE WINTER - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN
ALTERNATE ROUTE

IS CLOSED FROM THE NORTH JCT OF US 395 TO THE JCT OF US 6 (MONO CO) - FOR
THE WINTER - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE

[YOSEMITE NAT'L PARK]
FOR YOSEMITE NAT'L PARK ROAD INFORMATION CALL 209-372-0200
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 09:42PM
Quote
slowforthecones
Thanks for the advice. This is my first time to Yosemite in the Winter. I don't understand what Caltrans is saying in the traffic conditions...I plan on driving to Yosemite from San Francisco on 120.

Caltrans says the following:

SR 120
[IN THE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA AREA & SIERRA NEVADA]
IS CLOSED FROM CRANE FLAT TO 5 MI WEST OF THE JCT OF US 395 /TIOGA PASS/
(TUOLUMNE, MONO CO) - FOR THE WINTER - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN
ALTERNATE ROUTE

Translation: The Tioga Road is closed. (Trans-Sierra highway intersecting with SR 395 on the east side of Yosemite near Mono Lake and the town of Lee Vining.) You're not going there so don't worry about it.


Quote
slowforthecones
SR 120
IS CLOSED FROM THE NORTH JCT OF US 395 TO THE JCT OF US 6 (MONO CO) - FOR
THE WINTER - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE

Again, on the east side of the Sierra.
Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 09:51PM
Thanks for the translation. That is what I thought too.
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 09:52PM
Quote
slowforthecones
Thanks for the translation. That is what I thought too.

One way many people get confused is the road from Crane Flat down to the Valley is not highway 120. Highway 120 turns east and becomes Tioga Road. The road to the Valley is Big Oak Flat Road.
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 12, 2010 09:53PM
Quote
slowforthecones
I usually take Highway 120.

If a storm is likely, you might want to take 140 instead. There's much less chance you'll have to deal with chains.
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 13, 2010 09:11AM
Quote
eeek
Quote
slowforthecones
I usually take Highway 120.

If a storm is likely, you might want to take 140 instead. There's much less chance you'll have to deal with chains.

I suppose 120 is faster, although when I've come to Yosemite in the winter, I stayed in Mariposa which meant using 140. I've gone home in the winter using 120 though.

120 isn't for some people. It's twisty and has some exposure to drop-offs.

The vehicle used can be important. An all-wheel drive or 4WD vehicle with at least all-season tires and enough tread (6/32"winking smiley will bypass most chain requirements. If there are chain controls, you're supposed to have chains just in case. They'll usually close the road completely rather than go to R3 chain controls, from what I've been told.
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 13, 2010 09:48AM
They're at R1 right now:

CHAINS OR SNOW TIRES ARE REQUIRED FROM 3 MI WEST OF YOSEMITE NAT'L PARK
BOUNDARY TO YOSEMITE NAT'L PARK BOUNDARY (TUOLUMNE CO)
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 13, 2010 10:05AM
I am also heading up this weekend from the Bay Area. Like you, I usually take 120, but if there is any significant winter weather I will usually take the "river road", i.e. Highway 140 from Merced/Mariposa. It generally stays a lot lower in elevation (less than 3000 ft elevation vs more than 6000 ft on Highway 120), avoiding much if not all of the snow. I still carry chains, even with 4WD, as I have found more recently the chain control people are asking about it and I have heard stories of them turning away 4WD vehicles if they aren't also carying chains just in case. In clear weather it's on the order of about a half hour longer drive, not too bad, and a nice change of scenery.

Given the current weather report I am 50/50 about taking 120 in; it will depend on the weather report on Friday. It looks like it will be getting messy through the weekend, so I would guess that I will be taking 140 on the way out.

Leaving the Bay Area, stay on 580 towards I-5 south, head east on 132 to Modesto, then south on 99 to Merced, then take 140 to Yosemite.
Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 14, 2010 01:03AM
Sounds like great advice, thanks. Since this is my first winter there, any other advice or activities or gear you'd recommend I pick up?
avatar Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 15, 2010 04:59PM
Yes. I forget the name for them, but those rubber things that slip over your boots and have cleats (snow tires for the feetsmiling smiley) are worth their weight in gold. If you don't already have a pair, you can get some at the mountaineer store in Curry Village. They have them at Yosemite Village store too but I prefer the mountaineer store because in case you have any questions they can answer them for you.

I don't know what kind of activities you enjoy doing, but if you like to hike and like a little bit of adventure take the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls. Gaiters and hiking poles would be handy. Also, the trail up Snow Creek is nice. Or a leisurely snow shoe walk around the Valley Loop west of Camp 4. Sometimes roadwork in that area can put a damper on hiking there.

In winter you can have as easy or strenuous a hike as you want, have almost total solitude and return at the end of the day tired out. This is when I like to treat myself to supper at Yosemite Lodge, then head back to my tent to get cozy in my sleeping bag. Ahhh, life is good.
Re: Going to Yosemite from SF in winter
January 19, 2010 07:22AM
I went out to Yosemite this past saturday, the drive was rather nice for a winter and I got up there quicker than normal. Almost zero traffic on route 120 and came back on a more crowded route 140.
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