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Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Surrey, UK
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Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Hi everyone,

Myself and my wife are planning a trip to California in early June. We're from the UK and it'll be my wife's first visit to the US.

We have just about finished planning the first leg of our trip and have booked to stay for 2 nights camping in Yosemite where we're looking forward to doing some hiking.

We were then planning on leaving via Tioga pass before moving onto Sequoia to see the trees and do some more walking. However, looking at my maps and reading online I see that we cannot access the park from the east meaning that we'll have to leave the park and travel south past Modesto to enter the park?

I was wondering if anyone who's knows the area can help with a few questions -

1. Are we missing much not traveling east out of Yosemite?

2. How long will it take to drive from the middle of Yosemite to Sequoia and what's the traffic like early on a weekday morning in early June in and around the park?

3. Can anyone recommend anywhere nice to stay around Sequoia that will be convenient for our next day's drive to Death Valley where we'll be staying the following night. How long will it take to reach death valley?

4. Are we biting off more than we chew here? I guess the answer to question 1. might help us here!! We'd like to have at least a full afternoon / evening walking in Sequoia.

Thanks for looking!

Dave.

Charlotte, North...
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1. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Hey Dave! First trip to the US...sounds like you picked a great place to begin! I'll be going to this part of the US for the first time this summer as well. You are correct that you cannot access the main section of Sequoia/Kings Canyon via the east side of the Sierra Nevadas. I read somewhere that part of the Sierras is the largest contiguous area of land in the United States without a road that bisects it. If you do not take the Tioga Pass Road from the western side of Yosemite to the east, you will have to travel south of Kings Canyon/Sequoia before you even have another opportunity to cross to Death Valley. Having said that, here are some answers to your quetions.

1. <Are we missing much not traveling east out of Yosemite?>

The simple answer is YES, you would be missing some of the most spectacular scenery in America. However, I would not choose to take the Tioga Pass Road to the east since you cannot access Sequoia. Rather, since you have two days in Yosemite, I would spend one day in Yosemite Valley and one day on the Tioga Pass Road. I think there are many people here and on the Yosemite NP forum that would vouch for me. There are some amazing hiking opportunities both in the valley and in the high country, and the views in both areas are amazing as well. If you want some information on hiking in Yosemite or Sequoia/Kings Canyon, feel free to ask!

2. <How long will it take to drive from the middle of Yosemite to Sequoia and what's the traffic like early on a weekday morning in early June in and around the park?>

By the middle of Yosemite, I am assuming you mean Yosemite Valley? The drive from Yosemite Valley to the North entrance of Sequoia/Kings Canyon takes about 3 hours. I have no idea about the traffic situation, but it should be better on a weekday than on a weekend. BTW, by staying away from Highway 99, you should miss most of the early morning traffic.

3. <Can anyone recommend anywhere nice to stay around Sequoia that will be convenient for our next day's drive to Death Valley where we'll be staying the following night. How long will it take to reach death valley?>

I am staying two nights in Tulare, California which is about 1 hour outside of the park. This is a rather large city, so you probably won't want to stay here. If there are accomodations in Three Rivers, it is probably the closest you can stay outside of Sequoia. It takes about 5 1/2 hours to drive from the South entrance of Sequoia to the West entrance of Death Valley. To get to the center of the park takes another 30 minutes.

4. <Are we biting off more than we chew here? I guess the answer to question 1. might help us here!! We'd like to have at least a full afternoon / evening walking in Sequoia.>

I don't think so. Definitely don't choose to drive over Tioga Pass Road and drive to Sequoia for the night. However, you should definitely drive the Tioga Pass Road one of your days in Yosemite if it is open. It typically opens in late May, but it is not unheard of it to be closed the time of year you will be there. If you need any more help regarding Yosemite and Sequoia, especially hikes, I would be more than happy to help you out. Most of what I can help you with I have gathered from others on this site. BTW, are you going anywhere else other than Yosemite, Sequoia, and Death Valley?

Surrey, UK
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2. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Thanks TNsoccer07 for taking the time to reply! As mentioned it's my wife's first visit to the US. I've been to east coast and Florida before but not the west coast, we're really looking forwards to it!

I thought I'd mention the rest of our itinerary since you asked :) We're flying into L.A and staying in Santa Monica for two nights before driving up the coast to San Fransisco. We'll be staying two nights on the coast somewhere (haven't looked into where yet) and then staying in San Fran where we'll be staying for 3 nights. We've bought tickets to see the Giants baseball team play which should be cool!!

We're then off to the wine country for two nights - my wife likes her wine...!!! We're staying in Calistoga for one night and then probably moving south/east to stay someplace one night on our way towards Yosemite. Really do not know what is "nice" betweem NAPA and Yosemite so any suggestions would be appreciated.

We're then staying in Curry Village, Yosemite for 2 nights. Any recommendations on Hikes would be appreciated. We're both fit and often walk 5-8 mile walks here in the UK. We'll have a car so driving up into the Alpine region as you suggest is possibile. Depending on where we stay between Calistoga and Yosemite I imagine we'll be arriving in Yosemite eary to mid morning and then staying the two nights before lesaving early to visit Sequoia.

I had considered staying in Three Rivers, it sounds nice but wondered if we should try getting an hour south in the evening before just resting our heads somewhere/anywhere in order to cut an hour or so outof our drive to Death Valley? We would prefer something more rural than built-up concrete large towns or cities.

After Death Valley (whereI think we might camp??) we're driving to Las Vegas for 3 nights before flying back to the UK. We were planning on getting up very early one day and before heading east to try to take in some of the western edge of the grand canyon?

Thanks for reading!!

Dave

Charlotte, North...
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3. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Dave: It sounds like you are really going to have a wonderful time. Sorry, I cannot help you with any information about the area between Napa Valley and Yosemite. I’m sure that Napa has some of the best wine tasting in the world! I also cannot help you with the western part of the Grand Canyon. Three Rivers, I have heard, is a wonderful place to stay, but it may be a good idea to get a little further to lessen the drive to Death Valley. I wouldn’t recommend staying in a large city like Tulare, like I am staying at. I am not the one who did the reservations, and frankly, I tried to convince him to choose somewhere closer to Sequoia/Kings Canyon but he had already booked the rooms. I can definitely help you out with hiking trails throughout Yosemite National Park. I made a huge, detailed table that lists all the trails I might consider doing in Yosemite. I listed trailheads, total distances, elevation gains, and total amount of time to take. If you want me to I can email you the entire list, but I will give you an overview here. Like I said, it is VERY large, totaling about 30 hikes. However, for time purposes, I will abbreviate this list.

Yosemite Valley:

Short hikes (between ½ and 3 miles roundtrip):

Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall (base), Vernal Fall (top), Mirror Lake, Cook’s Meadow, Lower Yosemite Fall, Columbia Rock

Moderate hikes (between 3 and 8 miles roundtrip):

Mirror Meadow, Valley floor half loop, Nevada Fall (top), Upper Yosemite Fall (top)

Lengthy hikes (over 8 miles roundtrip):

Glacier Point, Valley floor loop, Half Dome, Little Yosemite Valley, North Dome

Glacier Point Road:

Sentinel Dome (2.2 miles total)

Taft Point (2.2 miles total)

Illilouette Falls (4 miles total)

Yosemite Valley (4.8 or 8.5 miles total)

Tuolumne Meadows:

Gaylor Lakes (2 miles total)

Lembert Dome (3 miles total)

Elizabeth Lake (5 miles total)

Cathedral Lakes (7 miles total)

This is by no means complete. I didn’t even include hikes in Hetch Hetchy or Wawona/Mariposa Grove. If you are looking for good 5-8 mile hikes, as you said, I would highly recommend doing the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall and descend via the John Muir Trail (or vice versa), which is a 7 mile roundtrip hike with elevation gain of 1,900 feet. Also, the hike to Upper Yosemite Falls is 7 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,700 feet. This hike will give you great views of Half Dome and the valley and a great perspective of how tall Yosemite Falls actually is. Sentinel Dome sounds like a great hike on the Glacier Point Road at only 2.2 miles with an elevation gain of 500 feet. If you are feeling adventurous, you can take the Panorama-Mist Trail From Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley (8.5 miles with elevation loss of 3,200 feet) and get a ride back up to your car. This way, you would be seeing Nevada, Vernal, and Illilouette Falls as well as incredible views. If you feel that you are up to doing longer hikes, the hike up Half Dome is a life-altering experience for some. Also, don’t forget to go up Tioga Pass Road, as many believe the scenery up there is as good as in the valley, if not more so. There are so many choices for hiking in Yosemite it is unreal.

I can also give you my list (much shorter) for hikes in Sequoia/Kings Canyon:

Kings Canyon:

Zumwalt Meadows (1.5 miles total)

Cedar Grove Overlook (5 miles total)

Mist Falls (8 miles total)

Paradise Valley (13 miles total)

General Grant Tree (½ mile total)

Buena Vista Peak (2 miles total)

Boole Tree (2.5 miles total)

Sequoia

Moro Rock (½ mile total)

Little Baldy (3.5 miles total)

Tokopah Falls (3.5 miles total)

Congress Trail (2+ miles total)

Crescent Meadow (2 miles total)

Eagle View via Crescent Meadow (3.7 miles total)

Definitely don’t miss Zumwalt Meadows, General Grant Tree, Moro Rock and the Congress Trail. If you need more suggestions I can give them. Hope this helps! Maybe I should write a book or something. I just begin typing and it ends up taking 30 minutes! I guess I just feel like I should be thorough in my explanations, and actually I don't think I was very thorough here. If you have more questions, please ask.

Surrey, UK
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4. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Thank you very much again for your reply!

I think we will try to stay in or around 3 rivers and then accept that we'll have a long drive the following day to Death Valley. The way I see it, the closer we stay to Sequia the more time we'll have there in the park! If we arrive in Death Valley in the afternoon we can easily spend a good portion of the following day there before we head off to Las Vegas.

Thanks for the hiking suggestions. I haven't had time to reallyabsorb them but I will come back to them shortly and make some proper notes once I know what time we'll be arriving in the park. As mentioned I think we'll have 1.5 full days in Yosemite so the trick now will be to decide exactly how we best spend that time walking and getting around to see the most impressive things!!

Thanks again for helping us with our trip!

California
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5. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

You really are going to want most of your activity in DV to occur in the late afternoon/evening or morning anyways.

Fresno, CA
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6. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

I wouldn't stop between Napa and Yosemite. Its about a 4.5 hour drive and there's nothing in between to see. If you do want to stop, you could detour to the Gold Country and see Columbia which is a state park that is an old western town and has a lot of history about the gold rush.

As far as Three Rivers vs. Tulare, I would stay in Three Rivers. Tulare is a farm town that doesn't have much to offer tourists. Its about an hour from Three Rivers. Like you said, you could stay and do more is Sequioa. It will be cooler in Three Rivers as well.

New York City, New...
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7. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

If, as it seems, you are only going to have one afternoon/evening in Sequoia, you really would not have time for both Kings Canyon and Sequoia. It's an hour and a half drive from the park entrance to the floor of Kings Canyon (Cedar Grove area, Zumwalt Meadow). If you want to see the trees, I would concentrate on the Giant Forest, you can hike all through this grove from Crescent Meadow to the Congress Trail and get away from the crowds this way. Moro Rock is on the way back to Crescent Meadow. And the General Sherman Tree is at the beginning of the Congress Trail.

Topanga, California
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8. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Camping in DV in June? Yikes, it's gonna be a scorcher!

Let me give you the best drive from Sequoia NP to DVNP, that is both scenic and reasonably fast.

CA SR 198 south.

CA SR 65 south. (near Exeter)

CA SR 155 east.

CA SR 178 east. (pick it up past Wofford Heights/Lake Isabella)

CA SR 190 east into DVNP (pick it up after 178 takes you through Inyokern, Ridgecrest and Trona)

Truly, this is a great route.

Surrey, UK
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9. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

Thanks everyone for their help and advice, it's really appreciated! The next thing we need to work out is where to stay in DV although I understand our options are going to be very limited because of the time of year (early June) we'll be visiting. It's very difficult to appreciate just how warm it might be sitting here in a chilly UK!

Topanga, California
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10. Re: Yosemite, Sequoia and onto Death Valley

To get an idea of how warm it will be, fire up your oven and climb in!