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Help with travel plans

Travelling to and visiting Yosemite National Park. How to get there, what to see or do, and other Yosemite trip advice.

Moderators: Wickett, dan

Help with travel plans

Postby jbowers06 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:53 am

My husband and I are planning a Road Trip in July and are looking for advice for the stop at Yosemite Park. Obviously, this being a road trip, we aren't planning on spending too much time at any one destination and being limited by work vacation, we have a lot to pack into the trip. But, being young (I'm 25 and he's 30), we can put our bodies through a lot of tiresome nights and make it through. Also, we're both fairly active and in shape - I run about a 35 minute 5k comfortably and fairly frequently and he plays soccer 3-4 nights a week and runs the same 5k much faster than I do.

So, here's our plan...

We're starting off the morning leaving LA (we'll probably stay near Oxnard) at about 7 AM and we'll drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (101) then going through San Luis Obispo, and we want to end up at Mariposa Grove. Google says this is a 6 hour drive, but my first question is about the accuracy of that timing? With us planning on going slow and stopping for photo opportunities or whatever, we'll plan to arrive at the Grove between 2 & 2:30. Will we have planty of time to see the grove before the last shuttle to Wawano or should we try to park at the Grove's parking lot? I'm thinking it may be best for us to take the tram out to the upper grove and walking back or is walking both ways really all that difficult?

We're looking to stay at the Wawano Hotel that night. Then we want to wake up at about 5 AM to get showered and be at the Four Mile Trailhead at 7 AM. We were planning on hiking up (the internet says it could take 3.5 hours????) and we want to make the first shuttle back down (10:30 AM). Then, I saw something about the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour which lets you see "Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, Tunnel View, Bridalveil Falls and more". Is this worth it? That tour meets at 11 AM at the Yosemite Lodge Falls, so we were hoping to catch that after taking the shuttle back down from the Four Mile Trailhead. Then we would probably get a quick lunch at the lodge or wherever we can and spend a little time in the afternoon walking to the base of the Falls (only a half mile walk...) and maybe going to Mirror Lake, but this is only time permitting considering the internet says it's not so great in late summer because the lake is so low.

We want to finish all this and then drive out to Mill Valley near San Francisco (Google says this is a 4 hour drive) and spend the night there. We are ok with getting there as late as 10 PM, which means if the 4 hours is accurate we would need to leave Yosemite by 6 PM. Our road trip ends in San Francisco.. the following day we will see the Golden Gate bridge and catch a flight around 1 or 2 out of San Francisco.

Does this sound Doable? Am I missing anything??? Yes I am aware this is PACKED full and we will be tired, but like I said... we're young :)

I appreciate any and all help that we can get. We're over here in the Southeast so we don't really know much about the area.
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Re: Help with travel plans

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:43 am

I'm surprised that Google gave you six hours for that route - that's an atrociously short time for that distance. You would have to drive like a bat out of heck to go from Oxnard to SLO to Mariposa Grove in six hours. Once you get off 101 and head for Fresno (assuming you will be going 41 through the south entrance to get to the grove) you are on two lane roads with 55 mph speed limits and lots of agricultural traffic to slow you down in the no passing segments. Once you are in the mountains, you can anticipate slow travel on winding two lane roads to further slow your progress. You also aren't specifying when - if it's in the next few weeks, you'll need chains in the car. Assuming it's a rental, you may be forbidden from having chains. A catch 22 - federal regulations require chains in winter, and it did snow just a couple weeks ago.

101 does not go up the coast giving you views of the ocean, by the way - it's inland, and pretty darn boring by comparison to the actual coast highway, Highway 1. But if you are not wanting to spend hours with a top speed of 45 mph and frequent slowdowns to 20 mph going around sharp turns, 101 is the better choice.

It is not unusual in the LA area to spend hours just sitting in traffic. Google can't tell you what the traffic will be like on the day you are driving. I went down on a Saturday morning from Bakersfield one time and spent a full four hours getting from Santa Clarita to just short of North Hollywood - 20 miles, usually less than half an hour's drive - before giving up and reversing course. It wasn't even during commuting hours, when it gets really bad. I would anticipate a full day's driving to get to Yosemite from Oxnard.

Another thing that will frequently happen - road work.

The trams in the grove are not the same as the shuttle from Wawona and it doesn't make sense to drive to Wawona then get on a shuttle back to the grove.

The Four Mile Trail may take longer than the three and a half hours. That depends on how much hiking you do and how much endurance you have with steep elevation gains. And I can tell you from direct observation, there is only one way to prep for hiking at elevation - hiking at elevation. Doesn't matter how fit you are at lower elevations, the elevation is a great equalizer if you aren't working out at 5000+ feet there is no way to predict how it will affect you. Therefore, you can't say you can do a trail like the Four Mile in three hours, or five.

There is no shuttle from Glacier Point - you'll need reserved one way tickets on the tour bus, to guarantee you spots. There are only a handful of departure times.

The drive time to SF may be accurate - depending on traffic. The traffic in SF can be nearly as bad as LA - one fender bender leaves you sitting in long three and four lane parking lots for a while. I've gotten stuck doing five miles an hour on the 120 as we creep past a destroyed pickup truck that had a bad run in with a sixteen wheeler before - two hours of creeping up a few miles of freeway. In summary - if you have a way of giving yourself more time for this, say an option of flying into airports other than LA, that would radically increase your chances of not getting stuck in traffic on congested freeways. Sacramento, Merced, Fresno, Stockton, even Monterey would get you away from six lane congestion.

I think that you are calling it too close on all your estimates. Give yourself more time for just about everything. I can't think of anything more miserable than being rushed by the pressure of your own schedule. Decide what you want to do - the coast or Yosemite - and do that thing. You'll be happier than trying to do both. The drive up highway 1 to SF is gorgeous and worth spending a few days doing, with side trips to Monterey Bay Aquarium, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and any of 1,000 other scenic places to spend time. Instead of taking five minutes to look at the GG bridge, take a day and also hike at Marin Headlands, or go up to Point Reyes. Or just drive to Yosemite and s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. It'll be fantastic in a different way.
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