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To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

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New York City, New...
Level Contributor
143 posts
16 reviews
To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Hi everyone :) I have never planned a road trip before, so I could really use some help and suggestions.

I have a couple of friends coming in from the UK and we're looking to plan an 8 day road trip beginning and ending in Las Vegas 3/23-3/30 (this was done due to airfare/budget restrictions). We are basically trying to decide if the drive to Yosemite is worth it considering weather conditions, Tioga Pass being closed, and that it will eat up almost a whole day of our available time. Also, thanks to Valiantsontour from the Road Trip forum, I am now aware of the chain controls in place and understand we may have to take the YARTS bus if the conditions are bad.

Would the following itinerary be possible (and/or worth it)?

3/23: Early AM drive to Death Valley; Leave DV late PM, drive to Yosemite, stopover (Bakersfield?)

3/24: Continue drive to Yosemite, arrive around 12pm

3/25: Yosemite

3/26: Morning in Yosemite, begin drive to GCNP, Stopover (Barstow?)

3/27: Continue towards GCNP, stops along Route 66

3/28: GCNP

3.29: GCNP to Page - Antelope Canyon

3/30: Page - Horseshoe bend, rafting drive, Return to LV

I welcome any and all feedback. Thanks in advance :)


I should mention that we are definitely interested in waterfalls and wildlife in addition to amazing scenery... so any feedback on how Yosemite would be at this time of year is also appreciated!

Edited: 4:10 pm, January 28, 2013
Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
50,856 posts
95 reviews
1. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Yosemite is fabulous, but that's an awful lot of driving.

I was going to suggest looking at the webcam views from Glacier Point on March 25th of last year, but maybe you don't want to look. I'd guess a few inches of snow fell in the high country that day. http://archives.halfdome.net/archive/showfile

The Ahwahnee Meadow view is what you'd see during the day. Not much snow down that low (4,000') and there was even a splash of sunshine at the end of the day, but it looked chilly.

Watch the March 23, 2012 'video' from the Ahwahnee Meadow. Maybe you'd get a great day like that!

Yosemite Falls will be building volume so it will be fun to look at or to walk near. Bridalveil Fall will definitely have water. If you're hikers, you could use the winter route to get up to Vernal Fall & Nevada Fall.

But for an extra 10-15 hours in the car, would I make the drive? Hmmmm. I think your group has a tough choice.

Visiting in Winter: nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/winter.htm

March newspaper: nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/upload/yg12-2.pdf

If you don't go to Yosemite, spend more time in Death Valley (fabulous in spring even without waterfalls) and add Zion NP & Valley of Fire State Park to your itinerary.

Redlands, California
Level Contributor
4,733 posts
42 reviews
2. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Much as I love Yosemite, at that time of year with your location I agree with the above and I'd choose Zion/Bryce instead. (Note, I'm not sure how accesible Bryce would be either as for snow!)

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
143 posts
16 reviews
3. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Thank you both for your input. If we choose not to go to Yosemite, then our alternative is to focus on the Utah/AZ loop. We would do a modified version of tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28965-i411-k43258… or tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28965-i411-k43305…

It would just be such a shame to miss out on Yosemite - I'm from NY and the other two travellers are from the UK, so this is the closest we will be for who knows how long. I know we're right on the cusp of Winter/Spring so I'm just not sure what to expect. If we were planning this trip in the middle of the summer there would be no doubt in my mind about Yosemite, but alas that is not the case :)

Rocklin, California
Level Contributor
647 posts
30 reviews
4. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

End of March, you can be pretty much still in winter at Yosemite, from what I know/remember. Did a cross country ski day one March and by time we came back across the meadow towards the Awahnee there was hardly enough snow to even cross country. I think we took skis off and carried them to the ski shop. Beautiful weather, though, but a very iffy time of year.

San Diego...
Level Contributor
9,325 posts
33 reviews
5. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

What I would do if you want to go to Yosemite, and it would cost you more but it would save you valuable time, is this:

Fly from Las Vegas to Merced, California (MCE) on Great Lakes Airlines. They have 3 flights a day and the flight is only 90 minutes. Then from the Merced airport take a YARTS bus up into Yosemite Valley. See http://yarts.com for the Highway 140 route. Spend 2 nights in Yosemite Valley, such as the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls or a heated cabin. It will be too cold to stay in an unheated tent cabin. That would give you 1 full day in Yosemite Valley.

Then take the YARTS bus back to Merced and fly from Merced to Las Vegas, again on Great Lakes Airlines. Doing this will take 3 days of your trip, but you would get a full day in Yosemite Valley, and you would not have to do any driving at all.

Then for the other 5 days of your trip, choose one or more from the following possibilities: Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Zion National Park, Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Mt. Charleston (snow skiing), Death Valley National Park, Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, Whitney Portal, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Havasu City (water skiing), Palm Springs Aerial Tramway or Glamis, California (dune buggy and ATV riding on sand dunes). Whichever of these appeal to you the most.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
143 posts
16 reviews
6. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Thank you for your suggestions. I did think about a flight making it easier to see Yosemite but that might be a bit out of our budget. Also, it does seem like it would be an injustice to have only a day in Yosemite.... I've read about people dedicating a week, they say there is that much to see and do (tho I'm sure the time of year affects that).

it looks like we have a tough decision to make. I'm starting to think we should have planned more time off! :)

London, United...
Level Contributor
233 posts
92 reviews
7. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Just to add my pennies worth - I'm from London UK too and last year in early April we did Zion, Bryce, Peak-a-boo & Spooky (our all time favourite slot Canyon!), Capitol Reef and Needles (Canyonland) in 10 days.

People find it strange when I say this, and of course has a lot to do with personal preference, but the Utah Canyons is easily my #1 favourite place in the world I've been to, beating Machu Picchu, Galapagos diving, Petra and Patagonia.

I am in the middle of planning my Yosemite trip this May, but I doubt that it'll beat our Utah canyon experience.

I guess what I'm saying is that for people who's never been or never considered the Utah canyon (most people in the UK would go like huh? Utah? Why would you want to go to Utah?) they would be very amazed and very surprised with it.

So I think don't feel like you're short-changing your friends if you decide to do the Utah loop instead of Yosemite.

Have fun planning!!

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
143 posts
16 reviews
8. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

Thanks for your input PD! I'd be curious to hear about your Yosemite trip in May and how you found it compared to the Utah Canyons :)

9. Re: To Yosemite or not to Yosemite - that is the question :)

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