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Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

London, United...
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Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

My fiance and i are driving around california for 2 weeks. We are staying 2 nights in napa valley then driving 5hrs from Napa through Yosemite National Park including stopping in the park to see things, before staying 1 night at Mammoth Lakes (we could not find reasonably affordable accommodation in the National Park). We need to be in Las Vegas 2 days later and dont know whether to stay another night in Mammoth Lakes and drive back into Yosemite for a full day exploring/hiking the park then do a full day drive through Death Valley NP to Las Vegas the next day or do Death Valley in 2 days staying at Furnace Creek for 1 night. Is one day of solid driving enough to see Death Valley sights??? Or do we do another itinery to get to vegas like sierra NP or Kings Canyon NP? It will be early August and im also worried Death Valley will be too hot for us to handle especially if staying there one night... hence the option to take 10 or 11 hours to drive the 6 hours btween Mammoth Lakes and Legas stopping many times along the way is currently our plan ..Any advice would be great.

Nevada
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1. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

David,

<I'm curious as to how you came up with 5 hours of drive time from Napa, CA to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Off the top of my head, I come up with 1.5 hours (to Manteca, CA on Hwy 99) + 1.5 hours (to YNP northwest entrance via Hwy 108/120) + 1.75 hours (through YNP via Hwy 120 to east entrance with maximum speed limit of 45 mph) + 45 minutes (down Hwy 120 to Hwy 395 & Lee Vining, CA when most of the driving is approximately 25 mph due to the very steep grade and curves) + one-half hour (to Mammoth Lakes via Hwy 395). How much is that? Six hours, at the very least>

Staying in Mammoth, and then back-tracking into YNP is alot of slow mountain driving. I did it once like that. It is do-able but I would never do that again, because it was not worth all the driving on the time-consuming steep and curvy mountain roads, specifically the Tioga Pass Road between Hwy 395 and YNP. Then, inside YNP you cannot drive over 45 mph for safety of humans AND for safety of wildlife crossing the roads.

This is just my opinion as a native of California ~~~ but I would suggest that you see everything in Yosemite Nat Park that you want to see in the day that you leave Napa (get a very early start), and then drive on to Mammoth and don't back-track into Yosemite from Mammoth. In August it gets really dark around 8:45 PM if that is of any help. Driving down the Tioga Pass Highway to Hwy 395 you still want daylight -- for the scenery and to see the road better!

At Mammoth there is scenery -- just beautiful. And you can visit Devil's Postpile National Monument, Twin Lakes, and the June Lake Loop just north of Mammoth. Plus Bodie Ghost town, etc. I love the Mammoth Lakes area in summer.

As for Death Valley, I would not stay there overnight. Not in August!

San Diego...
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2. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

If you do want to revisit Yosemite the second day, you might look into the possibility of staying in Lee Vining or at June Lake instead of Mammoth Lakes. Staying at Lee Vining instead of Mammoth Lakes would make your drive back into Yosemite about 45 minutes shorter, thus saving you 90 minutes of driving time that day. But as NotafanofTA says, it's a slow mountain drive to get back up into the park, so you'd be driving that same stretch of Tioga Road (120) three times, twice downhill and once uphill. I wouldn't do it, it's not a very fun drive even though the scenery is spectacular, you do have to pay careful attention to the road while you're on that stretch.

If you want more time in Yosemite, you might consider looking for lodging somewhere near the park, possibly America's Best Value Inn Westgate Lodge in the Groveland area could have a room available...? Who knows, if you are interested you'll have to call. Or maybe Yosemite View Lodge. If you were able to stay there, then you could spend the first day visiting Yosemite Valley and possibly going up to Glacier Point, then stay the night at one of those motels, then the second day drive Tioga Road through the park, seeing the sights along that road, then leave the park and you wouldn't need to return. Just another possibility.

Once you have seen all you wanted to see of Yosemite, then the next day you could explore sights on the eastern side of the Sierras. One trip report that included many of the common sights in that region is at travelswithbillandnancy.com/eastern_sierras.…

Death Valley will be extremely hot in the daytime, a high temperature of 120 F (48 C) is possible for the afternoon high. It will still be hot at night, but at least you won't have the sun beating down on you in addition to the heat. So if you are entering Death Valley in the evening, and leaving the next morning, you will miss the hottest part of the day. It would also mean little time for sightseeing in Death Valley, but on a blazing hot August day I don't know how much you could really enjoy sightseeing there anyway. I also probably wouldn't stay there overnight. I would be more likely to just make a crossing of Death Valley late in the day, when the sun would be behind you, make a stop or two but then get over to Las Vegas for that night.

Edited: 2:29 pm, May 24, 2012
London, United...
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3. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

I was faced with the same question (as your headline question) when planning the trip I take in two week's time.

In the end I decided that I could get a good overview of Death Valley sights sticking close to the main cross-park highway and, therefore, do it in one day.

To aid this I am staying the night before in Lone Pine, the nearest town to Death Valley's western entrance.

This allows me to leave very early morning, hit Death Valley while it's still relatively cool, and be done with the things I want to see by lunchtime. Then on to Vegas by mid-afternoon.

As the others have said, if you are looking to stay to visit Yosemite either side of a night in the Eastern Sierra I would be looking at Lee Vining or Bridgeport. But I wouldn't do it. I'd plan your schedule so you only have to drive Tioga Pass once.

San Francisco
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4. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

If you absolutely have a day or less for either Yosemite or Death Valley, you can see a few of the highlights. If you have this limited amount of time, do the best you can and plan another trip in the future, because when you see these places, you will wish you'd planned to stay longer.

It is almost impossible to do justice to either Yosemite or Death Valley in one day. There is just too much to see, and they are majestic places where you'll want to linger and enjoy the scenery and specific natural wonders. In addition, spending the night in a park gives you the kind of experience that just driving through never can.

I'll let other people tell you all about Yosemite. As for Death Valley, it is the size of Luxembourg and Lebanon combined. From Lone Pine to Panamint Springs, the first major settlement in the park, is 50 miles; it's another 30 to Stovepipe Wells Village and 25 more to Furnace Creek. Along the way, there are places to see like Father Crowley Vista Point, Mosaic Canyon, the Sand Dunes, Devil's Cornfield, and more.

Around Furnace Creek are the park visitor center and the park's largest resort complex. Badwater Road leads south from the FC area to some of the most renowned and unique natural marvels: Devil's Golf COurse, Badwater, Natural Bridge, Artist's Drive, and Golden Canyon. Since you are going to Las Vegas, the most direct way is to see the Badwater sights and return to Hwy 190 east, seeing Zabriskie Point and Dante's View Point along the way.

Starting from Lone Pine and ending in Las Vegas, and seeing these places in Death Valley, would be close to 300 miles. I don't know what time you are considering starting, but trying to "do" Death Valley before lunchtime would be very rushed. If you can stay over, at Stovepipe Wells or even Furnace Creek farther east, it would be more relaxing and a more authentic park experience. Both resorts have restaurants, pools, and other services.

London, United...
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5. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

I was reading with interest what I thought was a post to David but realise from the last paragraph it was aimed at me.

We're tied in to our schedule now, unfortunately. And I have a researched, detailed, well thought out plan in place.

And besides, we aren't looking for relaxing or a (necessarily) authentic park experience. We are looking for a whistle-stop taster and I know that is exactly what we will be getting. If we like the place enough we will be back. We've got a history of it.

Stoke on Trent...
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6. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

I would have to agree with the others that backtracking into Yosemite is probably not a good idea. As beautiful as the road is, it is time consuming to drive. Without a doubt, the drive from Napa to Mammoth in one day is quite an undertaking.

Have you considered shaving some time off Napa? I don't know what your itinerary is there, but you could cancel your last night in Napa and set off late afternoon to drive towards Yosemite. Get some of that driving done that evening. Stay the night as close to Yosemite as possible then you will be able to get an early start into the park the next morning. It will be tiring to do it that way, but you will have longer in Yosemite and I am sure you will be grateful of that when you see it. It would then give you half a day to drive the Tioga Pass down to Mammoth.

The drive from there to Vegas will be long but very scenic. If you do decide to stay a night in Death Valley, I wouldn't let it worry you too much as you will have an air conditioned room to retreat to. You would also be able to use the relatively cooler (but still hot) late afternoon and early morning to see some of the sights which look far superior when not in the glare of the midday sun. Our last night of our September trip was in DV and the drive from there was an easy one, but we didn't have as much spare time as we thought. Our flight was 5pm and we had to make ourselves keep on track to make that time.

Don't underestimate the travelling times involved and the distances. We found on both our trips that it took longer to get places than we had first thought. Good luck with your planning.

Uden, The...
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7. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

No way to get in 5 hours between Napa and Mammoth Lakes via Tioga pass. In real life this easily takes 7 hours.

Camp Sherman, Oregon
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8. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

I really think Frisco is giving good advice to the OP that you really need at least two days to see Death Valley properly. With one full day you would at least get to see quite a bit of the regular visitor sites. Spending the night would give you time to do that better as she stated to the OP.

London, United...
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9. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

Thankyou all for your responses. We have altered our travel plans to suit the comments and advice.

10. Re: Do we stay in Death Valley or just drive it in one day

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