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SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

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cambridge, uk
posts: 2
reviews: 1
SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

We are coming over from England (UK) into San Francisco 23rd March 2013. After a few days in SF we hire car and drive to stay at Yosemite Valley Lodge. From there we want to go to Grand Canyon. Because the drive to Grand Canyon looks long and slow via Bakersfield we are thinking, drop the hire car at Fresno, fly Fresno to Phoenoix or Las Vegas, and hire another car & drive on to GC. I know it might cost a bit more but driving with two kids age 12 and 14 might be worse! We fly back home from Las Vagas 5th or 6th April.

Any suggestions or comments would be most welcome.

San Diego...
posts: 7,453
reviews: 29
1. Re: SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

For your overall trip, it would be best to start a new thread in the general California forum: tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g28926-i29-Califor…

And since Phoenix, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon are outside of Calfiornia, you could also start a thread in the Road Trips forum: tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12567-Road_Tri…

However so many general California trips include Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, we are used to discussions of them included with trips planned in the general California forum.

This thread would be useful if you are going through Fresno and/or staying overnight in Fresno, but I would use the general California forum for your overall route and itinerary planning.

I'll just say that I think your idea of flying is a good one as the drive from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon is a long one. The flight could start at either San Francisco, Sacrmento, Fresno or even Merced. And it could end at either Las Vegas or Phoenix.

Great Lakes Airlines has flights from Merced to Las Vegas, I think 2 flights each day at that time of year. The flight time from Merced to Las Vegas is about 90 minutes. If you were to use Fresno, United Airlines does offer non-stop flights from Fresno to Las Vegas, and US Airways offers a non-stop flight from Fresno to Phoenix, though it's a longer and more expensive flight.

Yosemite Valley to Merced is about a 2-hour drive. Yosemite Valley to Fresno is about a 2 hour and 15-minute drive. Las Vegas to the south rim of the Grand Canyon is about a 5-hour drive. Phoenix to the south rim of the Grand Canyon is about a 4-hour drive.

It's possible to fly to Flagstaff, which is only a 90-minute drive from the south rim of the canyon, but it would cost more, and I don't believe there are any non-stop flights from Fresno or Merced so it would also take more time.

In late March or early April, there is still the possibility of a winter-type storm in the Yosemite are, which could leave snow or ice on the roads, and could require the use of chains on the tires of the car. Some car rental companies don't allow the use of chains. Others may allow the use of chains, but charge you if there is any damage to the car. Chains are very unlikely to cause any damage.

Some roads in Yosemite may still be closed due to snow, such as Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road. They don't normally open until May or June.

I don't know if the Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite will still be open at the time of your trip; it depends on how much snow falls this winter and what the spring weather is like. There will probably be ski ares still open at Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain, if you are interested in skiing or snowboarding.

Also in March or April there is still the possibility of Tule Fog in the mornings in the central valley of California, including areas such as Merced or Fresno. If you restrict your driving in those areas to the afternoon hours only, you might be able to avoid the fog.

Late March or early April is still a fairly cold time at the Grand Canyon; the average temperature at the south rim on April 1 is an afternoon high of 48 F (8.8 C) with a nightly low of 23 F (-5 C). And if there is any wind, it will feel colder. There is some possibility of some snow or ice on the ground at the Grand Canyon at that time. So be prepared for cold weather with warm jackets, hats and gloves.

Depending on how much rain falls in the winter, the desert parks in California, such as Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, may be in full bloom with wildflowers at the time of your trip. Even the rather barren Mojave Desert may have some flowers. So if you are interested in wildflowers you might want to swing by one of those parks. Even on hillsides in many areas of California you may be near, such as San Juan River Gorge, Carrizo Plain, Red Hills Area, Pine Hills Preserve, there will be wildflowers in bloom at the time of your trip.

Edited: 8:34 am, October 06, 2012
Cambridge, United...
posts: 2
2. Re: SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

Thank you for your useful information and advice. I will check out the flights from Mercad and Fresno to Las Vegas and I am glad for the reassurance that flying is probably better than driving the leg from Yosemite to Nevada area for Grand Canyon. Also, thinking about it, it is probably better to fly from Yosemite area to Las Vegas and not Phoenix because LV is where we will drop our hire car when we fly back to the UK after the Grand Canyon.

I was surprised to hear how cold it might be at the GC- so we will take hats and gloves! I am praying for a mild winter over there because if it's bad we will have to rethink some of our plans! Your advice will help to keep us happy and safe.

San Diego...
posts: 7,453
reviews: 29
3. Re: SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

You can drive from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon, but it's a long drive. If all the mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada are still closed, you would have to drive south from Yosemite to Fresno, then Bakersfield, then Barstow, then Kingman, then Williams, then to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. That would be a drive of 711 miles (1138 km) with a nominal driving time of 13 hours plus time spent at stops.

Even if you split that into 2 days, it's still going to be over 6 hours of driving on each of the days. And it's a pretty dull drive, if you have to use that route - first through flat farmlands and then through the (pretty boring, in my mind) Mojave Desert. A pretty long ordeal with not much of interest along the way. But with 4 people it would probably be cheaper than flying, even with the high price of gasoline (petrol) in California. Even with the flight it's still going to be a long trip, you would have to drive to either Merced or Fresno, which are both 2 hours or more from Yosemite Valley, make the flight to Las Vegas, then drive 5 hours to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. So if you did all of that in one day it's still going to be a long, tiring day.

It looks like you have 2 weeks for this trip, so you might want to just fly to Las Vegas and stay overnight there before making the drive over to the Grand Canyon. You could get lucky and the weather could be warm and spring-like at any of these locations. Our winter season is pretty much over with by the end of March, but it's still possible for a very late storm to come through. If it is clear and sunny, it will be very nice. But at that time of year, it's still possible to see snow or ice at both Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, and still possible to have chain requirements for the tires. That is still something you will have to have a plan for, in case a storm is in the region.

Hopefully you won't have to worry about it. If you don't want to drive into Yosemite with your rental car, you could leave it at Merced or Mariposa and take a YARTS bus up into the park. See http://yarts.com for the Highway 140 route. That would eliminate the need for mountain driving or the possiblity of having to use chains on the tires at Yosemite. I guess that's a decision you can make when you are actually there.

The reason the Grand Canyon is still cold at that time is that the south rim has an elevation of about 7000 feet (2133 m) above sea level, so it's colder than Las Vegas which is only at 2000 feet (609 m) above sea level. If you are going to hike down into the Grand Canyon or take a mule ride down into it, it will get slightly warmer as you go lower, but only a little. I think it will likely be pretty cold at the canyon at that time.

Fresno, California
posts: 921
4. Re: SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

Two airlines fly Fresno to Las Vegas. Besides United Airlines, flights to Las Vegas are operated by Allegiant Air. United's flights operate 4 times a day on 30 seat prop aircraft. Allegiant flies 150 seat jets once a day on Sundays/Mondays/Thursdays/Fridays.

Allegiant Air can only be booked at their website http://www.allegiantair.com. One way fares on Allegiant range from US$36 and up including tax and fees depending upon the day and time of year.

If you are thinking about dropping a car you rented in SF then be sure to also check the locations of the companies to ensure there is a location to return it in Merced or Fresno. Merced is a smaller city and does not have as many choices. At the Merced Airport there is only Avis and Enterprise with Budget and Hertz about one mile away. At the Fresno Airport there are locations for 6 different rental companies in the terminal with others surrounding.

5. Re: SF to yosemite then on to Grand Canyon, March 2013

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