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Priest Road

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

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Priest Road

Postby archive » Sun Jan 21, 2007 4:55 pm

Author: Erika
Date: 04-07-04 12:00

I've never driven up Priest Grade. Does anyone know how much time it will save? I'll be in a mid-size rental car. I'm to afraid to take it down, but I want the experience of driving up! Should I use 1st gear or 2nd?


Re: Priest Road
Author: Dan Anderson
Date: 04-07-04 13:36

Do you mean the New Priest Grade or Old Priest Grade?

The New Priest Grade is part of Highway 120, just east of the junction with Highway 49. It's OK for any car.

The Old Priest Grade is just south of the Priest Grade. It won't save you any time, but it's more scenice and has less traffic. The road is 1.5 lanes wide, no guard rails and is steeper. I wouldn't take it down, but it's OK for heading up. I would use 2nd gear most of the way--watch your engine temperature and take it slow. It's only a couple miles.


Re: Priest Road
Author: Erika
Date: 04-07-04 13:57

I was talking about Old Priest Grade. I've been on NEW...I heard that Old Priest Grade can save you 30 minutes or so. If it's only 1 1/2 lanes, how do cars get by each other when they are traveling in opposite directions?


Re: Priest Road
Author: Dan Anderson
Date: 04-08-04 09:18

I suppose if you know the road and barrel down it, you can save a few minutes. 30 minutes is a stretch, as the new grade is about 10 miles long and the old grade 2 miles long (this is from memory, so it's not exact).

During weekends and in summer, when there's lots of cars (especially slow RVs) going uphill, it could save a lot of time.

Car's can pass each other on the road, but only if they slow down. This is not a wide Caltrans-standard road. It's a dirt road with no guardrails.

If an area is too narrow for passing, the car heading downhill is supposed to back up to a wide spot on the road to allow passing. This shouldn't be a problem as few cars travel the road, especially downhill.


Re: Priest Road
Author: Dave
Date: 07-23-05 15:54

I just finished driving down Old Priest Road (Old Priest Grade as some of us call it). I do not know what the grade is (%). If someone knows please let me/us know.

For several decades I avoided this stretch do to the stories I have heard.
However while heading towards Yosemite I looked over from HWY 120 and saw that it looked to be in pretty good shape.

On the way back from Yosemite I decided to take the road down. Honda Accord 2004 in 2nd. I used second gear all the way down. Even in second gear the car wanted to jump down the hill. I tried 1st gear for just a moment but the RPMs would have exceeded the safe limit. Every car is different so know your ride.

Let me tell you...unless you are experienced with driving mountain roads do not try it. Inexperience drivers will burn up their brakes. Braking on these grades is an art. For those of you who have been behind the usual city driver (in the mountains) that seem to ride their brakes...if they took this road my guess they would make the evening news.

> Make sure no one has just started down the grade ahead of you otherwise you will be at their mercy.
> Saves about 10 minutes.
> It is a tight two lane road. Cars can pass each other.
> DO NOT CUT TURNS - you cannot see that far ahead.


Re: Priest Road
Author: Ben
Date: 01-30-06 17:13

I just drove down the Old Priest Grade today (Jan 30, 2006). I had a Hyundai Sonata rental car, automatic. I put it in 2nd gear, and I had no problems at all. You need to drive cautiously, but once you get over the idea of looking down the steep cliffs, it's no big deal.

As for saving time, it might save you 5-10 minutes, but nowhere close to 30. It's all of a couple miles.

Lanes are narrow, but certainly wide enough for an average car or SUV. Because you need to drive so slowly anyway, land width isn't really an issue.

I'd recommend taking it for the fun, not for time-savings.

Ben :).
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