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Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?

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Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 03:57AM
A friend is planning to fly to Vegas and wants to go to Yosemite and was wondering what route to take and what to see along the way. Their trip will be the first week of Oct. I've looked at the map and some possibilities are Hoover dam, Death Valley, Sequoia ? and of course Yosemite. Tioga road may or may not be open then, but in any event everything in TM will be closed. My guess is the best way to go is to make their way to Fresno and then head to Yosemite, but I'm looking for suggestions. Oh, they have one week to do the trip.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/2012 03:57AM by The Other Tom.
Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 06:22AM
I've done this trip many times and as I expect Tioga Road to be open first of October I recommend this route:

Las Vegas - Death Valley - Lone Pine - Bishop - Lee Vining - Tioga Road - Yosemite Valley (or whereever you friend wants to go - plenty of options in Yosemite).

Leaving from Las Vegas he could stock up with water, food and supplies in Pahrump (there's a Walmart Superstore on the left side of the main road going through Pahrump) or if he wants there a several within 15-20 mins. driving from the airport.
Depending on when he's leaving from Las Vegas he could spend a nice day at Death Valley doing all the touristy stuff (Badwater, Dante's View, Zabriskie Point, Sand Dunes) and check the newly remodeled Visitor Center for more infos. The Race Track, Telescope Peak etc. require more time and are worthwhile checking out if he stays in the park overnight (expensive, maybe limited availibility). I would skip Scotty's Castle which in my opinion doesn't add anything to the great Death Valley experience.

If he doesn't stay in Death Valley his next best bet is Lone Pine. There's a variety of motels in Lone Pine and he shouldn't have trouble finding a room if he makes a reservation soon. I've stayed a couple of times at the Best Western Inn Frontier Motel which is ok. The next day I would hit the road one hour before sunrise and visit Mobius Arch at the Alabama Hills. It's magic during sunrise (expect lots of photographers to be there but usually they don't bite). Spend another half day or a full day at the Alabama Hills and enjoy the landscape and beautiful rock formations. Mt. Whitney, Lone Pine Peak and many other awesome Sierra Nevada peaks add a nice contrast for superb photos.

Continue the same day or the next morning towards Bishop. If interested in Rock Art make sure to visit the Volcanic Tablelands where you can find three very impressive rock art sites (there are at least 200+ sites around that I know of but those require a bit more hiking/route finding). Your friend can obtain an easy to read map of the Fish Slough area at the BLM office which is on the right side of the main road shortly before you leave Bishop (you can also go to the BLM Main Office in Bishop but that is a bit off center). Resupply in Bishop, enjoy a sandwich at Schaadt's Bakery or if you like really good BBQ check out Holy Smoke (not too far away from the BLM office) which has awesome brisket and pulled pork.

There are plenty of places to stay in Bishop. It's a touristy town so expect to pay some extra money. I stayed several times at the Creekside Inn Motel (formerly Best Western Creekside Inn) and have never been disappointed (clean, mostly quiet rooms, helpful staff). I do not recommend the Rodeway Inn which is very dirty (and I'm not the only one who made this experience).

Continue to Lee Vining and go to the new Visitor Center near Mono Lake. Poke around Mono Lake and prepare for the Yosemite adventure. Lodging opportunities in Lee Vining are limited. None of the motels are really good but you might have to bite the bullet depending on what time of the day you arrive. Grab a bite at the Whoa Nellie! which is located in the Tioga Gas mart. Gas is very expensive and your best opportunity to refuel might have been in Bishop (which usually has the "lowest" gas prices on the 395 between Lone Pine and Lee Vining).

If your friend has a lot of time he could consider visiting Devil's Postpile and one of my favourites in the Sierra Nevada -> Rock Creek Lake Resort which has the best pie in the world! No kiddin'....boysenberry pie....yummie....we love it!

Enjoy Tioga Pass including all the great hiking options left and right off it (you'll find plenty of info here on the board smiling smiley). If your friend hasn't been to Yosemite before I think he should continue to Yosemite Valley and visit some of the "touristy hotspots" like Glacier Point etc. too. A great hike for first times is Sentinel Dome which can be done by almost everyone and offers spectacular views. Probably not much water flowing down the falls during the first week of October but who knows.

Oh yeah...yes....you could take the route via Fresno but it is a very boring drive with very little to see and do while driving. I done it a couple of times because I had to (it's a looong day of driving) but I avoid it whenever I can.

Does the one week include the time to drive from and back to Las Vegas?!
avatar Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 06:57AM
Wow. What great advice. I almost want to fly to Vegas ...
smiling smiley



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 09:18AM
I wish I had a couple things on this list from my trip last year. I've missed Alabama Hills but will catch those on my trip NEXT WEEK to climb Mt. Whitney.

If the "week" is supposed to include time in Vegas then you might have to compress the time a bit. I would still highly recommend the drive from Vegas, Hoover Dame, to Death Valley, to Bishop, to Tiogo Pass, to Yosemite. My trip last year actually started by flying to Phoenix and adding Grand Canyon to the stops above. I also did NOT have rooms reserved in Las Vegas and Bishop but I was able to find rooms with no problems. I even sat in the parking lot of one motel and used their wifi to get a good deal on priceline.
Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 09:25AM
Great advice, thanks.
The one week is airport to airport, ie, fly in on Wed, out the next Wed.
For first time visitors I always recommend Mariposa grove, Glacier Point, Tunnel View and if in spring/early summer-the Valley. Not sure about the valley in Oct. So hence my thought of coming in from Fresno.
Also, will the tram in Mariposa grove be running in Oct ? My friend's husband just had foot surgery and hiking will be limited.
As far as accomodations in the park go, I stayed at Curry Village once in the summer...big mistake. How is it in the fall ?
avatar Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 10:03AM
Depends on how much privacy they like. Personally, I don't recommend anyone stay in the Curry Villages canvas tent cabins, though I know others do enjoy it. But if your friend can reserve a cabin WITH bath or a standard room at Curry, that should be fine. Note the standard rooms are all located close to a parking lot so there would be less walking for her husband.

Personally, I prefer the Yosemite Lodge over Curry Village even though the rooms cost more, so staying at the Lodge would be my first choice.
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Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 10:11AM
Do you know his flight schedule (e.g. at what time is he arriving/leaving)?! It would be easier to suggest a route/what to do with these infos.

LAS is a busy airport but usually (not always) things go pretty smooth. I'm using LAS a lot as my "main hub" for explorations to the Southwest.
All rental car agencies are now in one building and there's a shuttle bus going every few minutes. I always make all reservations in advance so I don't have to see the clerk at the counter but pickup my car directly (don't know if this is possible with all rental car agencies - I'm using Hertz). Usually it then takes me approx. 25 mins. after I've picked up my luggage before I sit in the driver's seat. smiling smiley

The schedule that I've outlined is still doable but you could skip Devil's Postpile and Mono Lake and save it for a later date. Sentinel Dome could be a bit difficult after foot surgery but Mobius Arch is a very easy hike and the Rock Art sites I've mentioned are approx. 20-50 ft. from the parking lot. smiling smiley Zabriskie Point is a very short, somewhat steep "hike". Dante's View and Badwater are easy going. The Sand Dunes are not. You could skip everything and go all in the way from LAS to Lee Vining or Fresno in one shot so you have more time in Yosemite but I can assure you that people appreciate if they see other interesting places on their way.

Curry Village usually is a bit quieter in the fall but don't expect quiet days (and evenings). It is what it is.

You've pointed out Glacier Point and Tunnel View that every first time visitor should see. Mariposa Grove...not sure...to explore the full beauty you need to hike imho but you could take the tram (which takes away a lot of the charm). Of course Olmsted Point is very easy to reach and to appreciate if you can't walk a lot. It really depends a bit on how much hiking/walking is possible.
avatar Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 09:57AM
Quote
The Other Tom

A friend is planning to fly to Vegas and wants to go to Yosemite and was wondering what route to take and what to see along the way. Their trip will be the first week of Oct. I've looked at the map and some possibilities are Hoover dam, Death Valley, Sequoia ? and of course Yosemite. Tioga road may or may not be open then, but in any event everything in TM will be closed. My guess is the best way to go is to make their way to Fresno and then head to Yosemite, but I'm looking for suggestions. Oh, they have one week to do the trip.


First, it's 99% certain that Tioga Pass WILL BE OPEN during the first week of October.

Since the Park Service modernized and paved Tioga Road over 50 years ago (in 1961), the earliest that Tioga Pass has been closed for the season was Oct. 17 which happened only ONCE in 2004. The next earliest closing was on Oct. 24 and that happened only ONCE in 1996.

Yes, there is still maybe a 1% chance that Tioga Road will be TEMPORARILY closed for a day or so if an early Sierra storm passes through in early October, but that would still be a very, very rare occurrence.

In other words, it safe to assume that Tioga Road will be open for your friend's trip.

Also note that Tuolumne Meadows will NOT BE CLOSED in October. It's always open 365 days a year. wink Yes, all the guest services will probably be closed including the service station (so fill up in Lee Vining) but Tuolumne Meadows itself will be as beautiful as ever but with far less crowds and almost no (if any) mosquitos! October is a great time to visit and explore Tuolumne Meadows and its environs.

About what to visit between Las Vegas and Yosemite, I recommend the general route recommended by Half Dome Hiker (Las Vegas - Pahrump - Death Valley - Lone Pine - Bishop - Lee Vining - Yosemite).

Note though that Death Valley will most likely still be scorching hot in early October so I would NOT recommend hiking out to the sand dunes unless the temps are in the low 90's or lower. But if your friend still wants to, be sure to bring plenty of water on the hike to the dunes. What's more pleasant to do in Death Valley National Park when the Death Valley itself is so hot is to explore its highlands like Wildrose Canyon and the nearby charcoal kilns, a fascinating place for a day hike.

Along US-395, I would also recommend making a detour by taking State Hwy 168 East to the White Mountains to visit the ancient Bristlecone Pine groves (at least the Schulman Grove and its brand spanking new Vistor Center).

Besides the Alabama Hills, there's great day hiking opportunities along US-395 in the Eastern Sierra including the trailheads at Sabrina Lake, North Lake and South Lake on CA-168 West or at the end of Rock Creek Road among many other trailheads. If you friend enjoys photography, I would also recommend your friend stopping by at the Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop which hosts the extensive collection of photographs of noted nature photographer Galen Rowell and his wife Barbara.

Besides the Creekside Inn in Bishop, I would also recommend the Holiday Inn Express across the street from the Creekside Inn. In Lee Vining, I've always had a good stay at Murphey's Motel.

But what is your friend planning to do about accommodation while visiting Yosemite itself? Do they already have room reservations, are they planning to camp in a campground? Especially for first time visitors, I always recommend staying inside Yosemite Valley itself. It's a drag to have to go back and forth from lodging accommodations located outside of Yosemite Valley even if they do cost a lot less.

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Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 10:18AM
Quote
plawrence

by taking State Hwy 168 East to the White Mountains to visit the ancient Bristlecone Pine groves (at least the Schulman Grove and its brand spanking new Vistor Center).

That's a very good recommendation. Good one.


Quote
plawrence

In Lee Vining, I've always had a good stay at Murphey's Motel.

It's probably the best in Lee Vining. I haven't stayed there in the last three years but back then the desk was only staffed till 6pm (don't remember exactly). So you had to let them know in advance for a possible late arrival and they would let you know where you could find your room keys.

Quote
plawrence

at the end of Rock Creek Road among many other trailheads

This is were we usually enjoy the boysenberry pie sitting down at the creek. smiling smiley
Mosquitoes can be annoying but that shouldn't be a problem in October. smiling smiley
avatar Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 12:13PM
Quote
Half Dome Hiker
Quote
plawrence
at the end of Rock Creek Road among many other trailheads

This is were we usually enjoy the boysenberry pie sitting down at the creek. smiling smiley
Mosquitoes can be annoying but that shouldn't be a problem in October. smiling smiley

It's called Mosquito Flat for good reason.
avatar Re: Vegas to Yosemite...what route ?
August 20, 2012 01:04PM
One thing I should have mentioned earlier – in a typical year – during the first week of October there should be some excellent fall color to view along the Eastern Sierra. Depending on the year, the aspens should be turning a bright yellow/gold in either the higher elevation or mid-elevations of the Eastern Sierra by the first week of October. If your friend drops by the Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop I'm sure the staff would know where the best fall color will be at that particular point in time.

Areas that have had reliable good fall color in early October have been up along Hwy 168 West by Lake Sabrina, North Lake and South Lake, by Convict Lake further north among other locations along US-395.

In Yosemite, especially in Yosemite Valley, the first week of October is a bit too early to see any great amount of fall color. But not so in the Eastern Sierra.
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