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Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Rockville, MD
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Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Hello. I have read or closely scanned most of the top questions on the right and articles here, read some of the postings and trip reports, etc. So, here is a more of "does this make sense - am I missing anything - is it still worth it" kind of question: we are 2 adults with one 8 year old child; we definitely don't want to drive; we don't ski, skate, or hike much - some health, habit, and comfort limitations although love to travel and sight see. Also, I managed to instantly get a 2 night reservation at the Lodge on the Falls on March 28th. We are flying in to SF on 3/24 and flying out on 3/31. So, want to travel from SF to YNP without driving, will stay at the lodge, use the shuttles, tram tours and anything else that is available without driving for sight seeing, for 2 nights - is it worthwhile? Can the helpful experienced people here provide tips to make this trip fruitful and fun and get the most out of it please. It's okay If the advice is to say - this may not be a good time to take this trip and just spend all your time in and around SF. It is also our first time as a family to SF from the East coast. Would be nice to see YNP - 1 item off the bucket list:-)

Washington State
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1. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Hmmm.

Yes, it's worth the time. But .... for visitors who prefer short walks & drive-by tourism, there are not as many roads open for driving. For visitors who don't want to drive at all, March is pretty good for a visit.

I think driving would be the easiest & cheapest way to get to Yosemite Valley. If there is any part of you that is interested in driving, we can help with that.

The two other options are to take a tour without lodging (options from San Francisco include Extranomical & Incredible Adventures as well as others) or to take Amtrak (bus + train) and YARTS (bus.) Detailed article: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c151758

When you're in Yosemite Valley, you can walk, wander, enjoy hot chocolate in a historic hotel, go to ranger talks, gaze, relax by the fire, take a $ tour, .... and easily fill your one full day in the Valley. If your 8 year old is interested, check into the Junior Ranger program.

The end of March can be winter-like or spring-like. Be prepared for anything. Winter: nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/winter.htm Spring: nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/spring.htm

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My one concern about visiting in March and ticking this National Park off your bucket list is that you'll only be able to visit Yosemite Valley. The roads to Tuolumne Meadows, to Glacier Point, and probably to Mariposa Grove will be closed. So you won't really be seeing much of the Park, but you'll get a great visit to Yosemite Valley.

Rockville, MD
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2. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Thank you for such a prompt response. I just checked the tour prices without accommodation on Extranomical and they are astronomical:-) - over $600 for 3 of us just for the transportation essentially and some guided tour in the park/valley. The postings/articles about one shorter route (Tioga pass) being closed, longer routes, need for chains on cars, winding mountain roads, etc. sounded all too intimidating for us to even consider driving. So, if we had to consider driving from SF to the Valley in March - how much of that is on the "normal" highway/roads and how much is on winding, hilly, and at that time maybe icy or snowy roads? Once in or near the valley I know we can park the car and use public transportation.

About not being able to see much of the park - hmmm - that is the dilemma: if we see some of it now, we may be tempted to go back to see more of it later but with so many places to visit in the world we usually don't loop back to the same place. On the other hand, not sure if we will go back to CA again just for YNP so whatever little we can see now would be good - tough decisions!

Washington State
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3. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

No one knows what the weather will be like in late March. It could be 70 degrees and sunny, 50 degrees and rainy, or 30 degrees and snowing. I think cloudy or rainy is most likely.

Getting to Yosemite in Winter: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c172842 This article has detailed instructions about using Hwy 140 / the All Weather Route. Note that you can park your rental car on this route and take a bus from El Portal if the roads are snowy.

This article has information about which highways you'd use and includes some pictures: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c41113 In late March, the poppies may be blooming and the redbud trees might be popping out with blooms. The Merced River will be rushing along and is fabulous to see & hear. This route is pretty basic.

>> So, if we had to consider driving from SF to the Valley in March - how much of that is on the "normal" highway/roads and how much is on winding, hilly, and at that time maybe icy or snowy roads? <<

The first two hours to Merced is on a variety of multi-lane interstate freeways and highways. Then it's 45 minutes on a two lane highway up the foothills to Mariposa. The next 1 1/4 hours is mostly on the same two lane highway alongside the Merced River. Of course the road is winding a bit since you're gaining elevation, but the speed limit is 55 mph much of the way, so it's not the kind of winding road you'll find inside Yosemite National Park where the speed limit is 35 mph.

Here is one of the 'winding' sections. You can see that the road just follows the river. http://goo.gl/maps/iyJo1

The chance of the road being icy or snowy is lower than the other roads to this National Park as Hwy 140 stays low.

San Antonio, Texas
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4. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Driving 140 isn't bad at all; no big dropoffs or anything like you'd see with higher mountain roads. I'd consider having a car critical just so you could see Tunnel View:

frankmercadophotography.com/wp-content/uploa…

It's a very short drive from the developed part of the valley, but I don't think there are any shuttles to it.

Rockville, MD
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5. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Just to confirm/clarify, considering that many of the roads will be closed at that time we won't be able to or need to use the car much or use at all once we are in the park, correct? So, we can still drive up to the valley and then just leave the car in one place until it is time to go back to SF? Is the Tunnel View in the park or on the way to the park? We have never dealt with the issue of chains on tires so that is a little disconcerting if we have to deal with it.

San Antonio, Texas
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6. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Tunnel View is in the park and pretty close to Yosemite Valley: it's something like a 6-7 mile drive from Yosemite Lodge. Here it is on google maps:

maps.google.com/maps…

El Portal Road (aka, HWY 140) in the map above is what you would want to come into the park on. Right upon entering Yosemite Valley you'd take a right on 41 (Wawona Road) to hit Tunnel View on the way in.

Tunnel View and Bridalveil Falls are really the only thing you'd need a car for there, and the drive is pretty simple (no big up and down). Also, Bridalveil Falls is right on the way to Tunnel View.

Edited: 5:25 pm, December 27, 2012
Washington State
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7. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

The article 'What to see as you drive into the Valley' has details about going to Tunnel View & Bridalveil Fall. It's linked to several of the Itineraries in the upper right, but I'll share it here for you: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c2636

Here is a map of the Valley: nps.gov/yose/…yosevalley2008.pdf Since a map is flat you can't tell that Tunnel View is higher than Yosemite Valley and offers a good view.

Rockville, MD
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8. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

Thanks for all your feedback - may come back to this as it gets closer and any more questions arise. We are slowly gathering courage and the mindset to drive to YNP from SF. Amtrak is also quite reasonably priced - $74 round-trip per person (less for child) but seems painful to take bus-train-bus and spend 7 hours doing so. It is always an option if we chicken out of driving. As we get closer, the weather may help decide.

Thank you!

Rockville, MD
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9. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

We decided to cancel our plans for YNP - didn't feel like it is the best time of the year to go. Will have to plan a special trip for YNP in better weather when all of the park is open at some point. Decided to go to Monterey instead for the 2 nights we had set aside for YNP.

Thank you for all the advice though.

Washington State
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10. Re: Plans for YNP in March - advice please!

The Monterey Peninsula is fabulous! I don't know if you'll be driving this route or if the sea lions will be there, but we've seen oodles of them lounging on this dock at Moss Landing: Google Maps Street View http://goo.gl/maps/RexNY

And here is an article with ideas about when to visit Yosemite: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g61000-c167892