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Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

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Hyggen, Buskerud...
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Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?


We're a Norwegian family planning our summer holiday. We are driving from La Jolla (close to San Diego) on July 22. and plan to stay in Yosemite until the morning of 26. I have read that the best view is through the south entrance. Question is: will we reach Yosemite before the sun goes down on the 22.? If not, maybe we should sleep over in Oakhurst and then drive into Yosemite on the 23rd?

What is the best place to stay inside Yosemite?

Advice is highly appreciated!

San Diego...
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8,859 posts
33 reviews
1. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

The sunrise in La Jolla on July 22 is 5:56 a.m. and the sunset time in Yosemite Valley that day is not until 8:16 p.m., so you will have 14 hours of daylight that day. San Diego to Yosemite Valley is a very long drive, 422 miles from La Jolla to Yosemite Village. Google gives an estimated drive time of 7 hours and 22 minutes; however you will be driving on a Monday morning and you could run into heavy traffic in Los Angeles during the morning rush hour.

Assuming that you left La Jolla at 7 a.m. and made one stop for lunch (1 hour) at some place like Bakersfield, and maybe one additional stop (30 minutes) for fuel and snacks, either in Fresno or Oakhurst, that would put you in Yosemite Valley around 4 p.m. or so, unless you hit heavy traffic in Los Angeles. Assuming maybe 1 extra hour in Los Angeles you would arrive in Yosemite Valley maybe about 5 p.m., still with 3 hours left before the sunset.

A way to avoid the Los Angeles traffic is to leave San Diego by going north on Interstate 15 instead of Interstate 5, and take Interstate 15 north to Interstate 210 west, drive 210 west through Pasadena and then merge onto Interstate 5 north after Burbank. That way you would bypass Los Angeles, and hopefully avoid any heavy traffic in Los Angeles. It would be a slightly longer route, though, 464 miles instead of 422, probably 30 minutes longer in driving time. But you would probably be able to avoid any traffic jams.

Whether you can do this whole drive in one day depends on your family and your driving habits. If you have small children it may be difficult to get them to sit in the car that long. If this is the case then you might consider going only as far as Oakhurst that first day. That would make your drive shorter by 46 miles and about 1 hour shorter.

You would not get to Yosemite Valley that day, but you could still visit the southern end of the park including the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Wawona area with the stagecoach ride at the Yosemite Pioneer History Center, picnicking or wading in the south fork of the Merced River, or visit the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, which is between Oakhurst and the park entrance. Any of those would be just a short drive from Oakhurst. Then the next morning you could go on to Yosemite Valley.

However you can drive from La Jolla to Yosemite Valley all in one day, it's just a very long drive in my opinion.

Edited: 3:34 pm, January 24, 2013
San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
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50,496 posts
63 reviews
2. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?


We are doing the same drive in May.

BTW La Jolla is a neighborhood of the city of San Diego and that is where we live.

We are planning to stay outside of Yosemite our first night.

It should take about 6hrs without stops to get near Yosemite.

We may stay at the Indian Casino that is about 1hr. from the south entrance.


It looks nice with a hotel/pool/restaurants etc.

IF we don't stay there we will stay in Oakhurst that night.

Inside Yellowstone we are staying at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.

I don't know if there is availability there as we made our reservation about 1 year ago.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
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45,734 posts
89 reviews
3. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

The lodging options both inside the National Park (inside the gates) and outside are all described in the Top Questions in the upper right. For your family and your travel style, spending the first night in Oakhurst or Fish Camp might work. Then enter the South Entrance first thing on the 23rd and go directly to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. After this, continue your Yosemite tourism and head to your reserved lodging.

It's also possible to visit Mariposa Grove at the end of the day on the 22nd and begin the 23rd with tourism elsewhere in the National Park.

Some families like to stay in the Valley with its easy access to Valley shuttles. Some families like private property options with full kitchens for easy meals. You might want a few nights in Yosemite West and a few nights elsewhere. Maybe you want to try a tent cabin and be in the midst of the beauty & busy atmosphere.

Also read the Trip Reports in the Top Questions and the Itineraries. If you have an idea about what you want to do you'll be better able to decide where you want to stay.

By the way, Hwy 41 / South Entrance is the best entrance to use for your visit, but it isn't the best entrance for all folks. In winter, Hwy 140 / Arch Rock Entrance is the easiest to use as its the All Weather Route. Hwy 120 / Big Oak Flat is the shortest for folks arriving from SF or Sacramento. Hwy 120 / Tioga Pass is the best for folks arriving from the east. Each of these routes has some fabulous views. The route you're choosing includes Tunnel View which may be the reason some folks think it's the route with best views. But anyone can drive up 2 miles from the Valley Floor to see that view.


www.SunriseSunset.com is a great tool to use for vacation planning.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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59,913 posts
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4. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

If you don''t mind an extra overnight stay maybe drive along eastern sierra (hw395) and spend the night in Bishop before entering Yosemite via Tioga Pass.

Redlands, California
Level Contributor
4,103 posts
39 reviews
5. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

If you decide to break up the journey then I like Tet's idea--although some people find the desert portion (after San Bernardino) dull, there are some scenic bits and once you reach the back of the Sierras, past Ridgecrest, its a fabulous drive. You could stay in Lone Pine or Bishop and still have a relatively leisurely drive through the Tioga Pass the next day, with time to stop and splash in the lakes, romp in the meadows, etc. The drive to the southern entrance is REALLY dull but it does bring you to the southern (Mariposa) grove of giant sequoias. .

San Diego...
Level Contributor
1,032 posts
29 reviews
6. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

We also live in San Diego and do the drive in one day. It is a long haul and we start very early in the morning. We usually have our RV with us, so we have to go super slow too. I have never gone up the 5. We always go up the 15 freeway and by leaving at 5am, have never had an issue with traffic anywhere along our route.

7. Re: Question: Drive from San Diego to Yosemite in 1 day?

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