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[Yosemite]

Planning a trip in May

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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Planning a trip in May

Postby jereece » Sun Oct 14, 2012 3:53 pm

I am planning a week trip to Yosemite from the east coast for mid to late May 2013 so I will have 5 full days in the area. In addition to Yosemite, I would like to drive some scenic routes in the Sierra Nevada mountains and see the giant sequoias. My wife and I are 55 years old so we are mostly looking for scenic drives and views with a short walk (up to half mile). I am looking to fly into a city, drive, see, stay, drive more see, stay, drive, and so on. So I am looking to fly into one city and maybe depart from another. I am considering flying into Fresno, CA. That seems closest but I am unsure. So, I am looking for ideas of where to fly into, what drive path to take, what are the "must see" areas, about how long to plan at each location, motels to say along the route and where to fly out of to return. Any suggestions or recommendations is appreciated.

Thanks,
Jim
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby Grzldvt » Mon Oct 15, 2012 2:17 am

I do nothing but drive the mountain back roads, but coming in May is pretty risky. Based on the amount of snow we get over the winter, mountain roads may still be closed. Your two main roads, Hwy's 120 and 108, can be open mid/late May. It happens, but as I said if we get a normal snow fall, they will most likely open in very late May, early June. This is a good site to follow in the spring, after April 15th. Yosemite does not start plowing until April 15th - http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tioga.htm.
This year we had a very, very low snow fall amount so Tioga road opened in early May, which is the earliest I can ever remember. If it is extremely heavy, it may not open until the end of June.
having said that, you can get into the Tahoe area in mid May, and head down Hwy 395. Bodie is very interesting, but again it depends on the road being open. This is a good site to monitor for that - http://www.bodie.com/Plan/
Next up would be Old Highway 120. About 5 miles past the turn off for Tioga Road on the left is the turn off for old Hwy 120, which is a very cool high desert road that travels along some dead volcanoes and some incredible territory. You can opt to follow Benton's Crossing Road, which is a very twisty, windy road back to 395, or follow it to NV 6, which takes you past huge desert farms, into Bishop.
You can stay in Bishop, or continue down to Lone Pine(recommended) and stay at the Budget Inn, one of the better places, as it is clean and off the main drag, which can get quite noisy.

Out of Lone Pine, you can take Hwy 190 out to Death Valley. Spend some time in Death Valley and exit via Hwy 190, turn left at Panamint Valley road and take it past Trona into Ridgecrest. Out of Ridgecrest, go on 395 south to Hwy 158/Lake Isabella and 158 across to Bakersfield.onto Hwy I-5. Take I-5 to Buttonwillow and exit Hwy 58. Hwy 58 is one of the coolest roads I have traveled. Incredible scenery and just a neat road to drive. Take 58 through McKittrick and follow, stopping off to visit the Carrizzo Plain, and continue on to Hwy 101 into Paso Robles. I have seen spectacular wildflower displays along 58 as late as may, so if we have a heavy winter that goes late, may could be spectacular.

This gives you an incredible view of California country. If you decide to delay the trip until mid - late June based on road openings, life changes a bit
Another option, if you are interested in California history is to take Hwy 49 from top to bottom.
Steve
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby Ljrack » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:56 pm

Jim,

Steve is correct about the passes are likely to still be closed through May - which honestly makes the recommendations about any locations on the east side of the Sierra kinda pointless since Tahoe would be the only practical route (hw 88/89) to get there and you don't really have the time. It's a complete crapshoot at that time of year about road openings and so it's probably not a good idea to make plans for that side.

Besides, there is MORE than enough to take in on the west side. In fact I believe you could satisfy all you want to do just within YOsemite NP itself. You have the Sequoias, (Mariposa, Merced(open for sure), and Tuolumne groves) which have a good chance of being opening before the mountain passes.

Personally, I think you can really maximize your visit with the 5 days you have. From your description, there are many, many short, reasonable walks to get your fill, again, all within the confines of the park.

Arriving and departure cities. Fresno is a typical launching point to the southern entrance to Yosemite. Alternatively, Oakland or San Jose are the next best options and I suspect cheaper and more flights to those airports. Some notes about these routes. From Fresno to the park you would be coming in via hw 41 through Oakhurst and the south entrance. It's not a bad drive, infact it might be what you want in terms of a Sierra mountain drive; but it's long and windy. Considering your time and agenda, I would probably recommend making that drive on either your arriving or departing end of the trip. That gives you access to Wawona (the hotel - check in to reservations there too!) and the Mariposa Grove is there. AND, if open, the Glacier point road, and Glacier point. It often opens up well before Tioga or other high Sierra passes. You could easily spend a day in the southern/Glacier Pt/Wawona area as one of your days. Yosemite Lodging.

The other entrance I would recommend is the Arch Rock entrance on Highway 140. This is out of Merced/Mariposa. A few miles after Mariposa, 140 drops down in to the Merced River Canyon and you follow the Merced all the way in to the park. This drive by itself IS a scenic drive. Along this drive are two great hotel/motels I would highly recommend if you don't have lodging inside the park. The Yosemite View and Cedar Lodges are literally 15/25min respectively from Yosemite Valley. Yosemite lodging just outside the part on 140.. Yosemite View lodge is RIGHT ON the Merced river - Get a "river room."

The other entrance is highway 120 going through Groveland and eventually connecting with highway 140 just a few miles before Yosemite Valley. Great scenic drive on 120 where you have access to the Tuolumne and Merced Sequoia groves, both of which should be open. It also would be where you would catch 120 East, Tioga Pass Road giving you access to the east side, Lee Vining, Mono Lake, Bodie, etc. as Steve described. If this road is open, MOST DEFINITELY spend one of your days in the high country.

Ok, that's the layout and so here's what I would do. First 3 days/nights - get a reservation at the Yosemite View Lodge IF you can't get reservations at YOsemite Lodge in Yosemite Valley. For now, avoid Curry village as they've had problems with the hantavirus(although it's limited to tent cabins.) Anyway.... Yosemite View Lodge is the closest lodging that is not within the boundary of the park. It is literally .2 mile from the park boundary.

I'm assuming you've never been to Yosemite? Since it's your first, and perhaps only visit, I would highly recommend the first thing you do is make reservations for the Valley shuttle tour. Now this is completely a touristy thing and I personally have never done this and it may not be your thing, but consider the following. Get the very first tour for your first morning. You will get an entire run down - and view of the entire valley during a reasonably short period of time. You'll learn lots about the park, it's history, yada, yada, yada, but also you can use this as a scouting trip to decide which parts of the valley you want to explore most. AFter that, I recommend that be your LAST visit to Yosemite Village. Mid-late May that place is already a ZOO.

So, speaking of the zoo. I recommend any of your hikes or things you want to do in or near Yosemite Village - you do so as your first thing in the morning and exit the area before lunch. From the east end of the Valley, you have places to visit like Yosemite Falls. This is HIGHLY recommended - no required, and fits your short, <.5 mil hike requirement. There's also the Awahnee, Mirror Lake - short, easy hike, and there is also the Happy Isle Nature Center/walk starting out of Curry Village. Do those in the AM, to avoid crowds.

For the afternoons, this is where scouting on the shuttle tour will pay off. Plan a picnic lunch in El Capitan Meadow and watch the rock climbers on El Cap. It's an amazing "human" feature of the park. There are numerous pullouts in the west end of the park where you can literally park your car, walk 5 min and get away from people and enjoy the beauty of the Merced river.

The Valley proper is only like 7 miles long and for the most part it's a one-way loop - the Southside drive heading in to the valley, turns to the Northside drive heading west out of the valley.

On the west end of the valley you have stops at: The Pohono Bridge and Fern Springs. Take a drink from the spring (it's very good, and safe.) From Fern Spring you can walk across the road and catch a trail that follows the river. YOu can walk this as far as you want and it's a nice walk along the river. A couple more pullouts with views of Bridal Veil Falls and then the turnoff for the Bridal Veil parking lot. It will get crowded there, a morning visit will be less crowded, but an afternoon visit will be warmer and perhaps prettier as you can catch rainbows on the falls. From this parking lot you can travel west up highway 40 which takes you to Tunnel View (must see) and beyond goes to Wawona and on to Oakhurst/Fresno (Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove along the way.)

Oh, before I forget. Make sure for your visit to Tunnel View, your timing is late in the afternoon, after 4 pm or so. The late afternoon sun and angle will produce rainbows at the base of Bridal Veil falls that can be seen from Tunnel View (as well as the Bridal Veil parking lot around 5pm-6pm.)

But turning right/west from Bridal Veil brings you immediately to a long, long pullout for cars and buses with a grand view of El Capitan ahead ofyou and Bridal Veil to your right. Once you pass this popular (and crowded) location, there are numerous pullouts between there and Yosemite Village. Approx .4 mi from the end of this long pullout, there will be a much smaller pullout on your left - enough for 5 or 6 vehicles. Park there and take the short walk to the river. Another, short getaway that takes you along the Merced with a grand view of El Capitan and the large meadow of black oaks. Beautiful view.

Further along, stops at Cathedral Beach and then Swinging Bridge. Park there if you can, if not there is a long pullout a very short distance past. You are now nearing the very crowded end of the valley. But from here, there are many paved walkways through the meadows where you can walk for a while, bring a sack lunch and just enjoy the views. Watch for deer and coyote.

So I can see 2-3 days just exploring the main part of Yosemite, and including the northwest part ofthe park which is on 120 and includes the Tuolumne Grove (short hiking.) And if Tiogo Pass is open, there's another day for you. You could spend at least a day, or perhaps two, exploring the points along highway 41 as you travel west out of the park. If Glacier Point is open, definitely hit that and preferrably around sunset. Can't beat the view and experience there. In fact, they usually have a ranger talk at sunset on Glacier point. recommend that for sure.

Timing. Mother's Day weekend starts the madness and really kicks off summer traffic by Memorial weekend. The earlier in May, the fewer (relative) crowds. The earlier in May, the better chance of catching the end of the dogwood bloom, which would be a nice treat. But May in Yosemite is just beautiful - everything turning spring green and the falls roaring.

Ok, I'm tired now. Didn't mean to ramble and I know I kind of jumped all over the place. I'm sure you're doing your research - and it's never too early. Have a great time.


jereece wrote:I am planning a week trip to Yosemite from the east coast for mid to late May 2013 so I will have 5 full days in the area. In addition to Yosemite, I would like to drive some scenic routes in the Sierra Nevada mountains and see the giant sequoias. My wife and I are 55 years old so we are mostly looking for scenic drives and views with a short walk (up to half mile). I am looking to fly into a city, drive, see, stay, drive more see, stay, drive, and so on. So I am looking to fly into one city and maybe depart from another. I am considering flying into Fresno, CA. That seems closest but I am unsure. So, I am looking for ideas of where to fly into, what drive path to take, what are the "must see" areas, about how long to plan at each location, motels to say along the route and where to fly out of to return. Any suggestions or recommendations is appreciated.

Thanks,
Jim
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby jereece » Sat Oct 27, 2012 1:41 pm

I really appreciate all the useful information. So, should I wait until June? What is the best time to have roads open and massive water flowing?

In looking at airfares, I can fly from Charlotte to San Francisco for half of any other airport but that's a long drive. So best I can tell Fresno is the closes major airport I can fly into. It may be higher cost but this is a once in a lifetime trip so I want to maximize my time in the park.

Again I really appreciate the info. I hope to begin planning my trip soon. I am having foot surgery in a couple weeks so I will have plenty of time.

Thanks again,
Jim
Last edited by jereece on Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby Ljrack » Sat Oct 27, 2012 4:42 pm

Jim,

You're welcome. Personally, I wouldn't wait til June. By then you have school out and the crowds grow larger. There will be plenty of water in the falls in mid May. The ONLY downside, IMHO, for going in June would be the opening of Tioga Pass(hw 120) with access to the east side, Mono Lake, Bodie, etc. But given the crap shoot of the winter snows and opening dates, even June is iffy as far as Tioga Pass goes. Here is alink showing the closing and opening dates for Tioga as well as Glacier Pt. Road AND Mariposa grove.

My comment about not having enough time was really assuming if you did Lake Tahoe, Yosemite AND the eastern side of the Sierra. Not enough time for that, especially given the time of year. However, I think it is doable for you to do Tahoe and Yosemite in a week. In fact, that sounds pretty good. Going in and out of SF is fine, just adds about an hour of driving both ways relative to Oakland or San Jose. If you're definitely doing Lake Tahoe, Sacramento airport is a possibility, as is Reno, but as you mentioned you'll get your best fare out of SF.

Here's my suggestion, which should give you max driving experience, scenic, etc.

- Fly in SF, drive to Yosemite, via HW 140 through Merced>Mariposa. Make reservations at the Yosemite View Lodge (river room.) The drive through the Merced River Canyon is very scenic.
- depending on arrival time, you may be able to scout Yosemite Valley the first day. Otherwise, make that reservation for the valley shuttle tour first thing in the morning. Get great info, and be able to scout locations you want to spend more time - and away from the crowds.
- Days 1,2,3 - In and around Yosemite Valley. Hit Mariposa grove one day. About a 1hr drive from El Portal, where Yosemite View Lodge is. During those visits to Yosemite Valley, re-check my first post about valley destinations; Yosemite Falls, Happy Isles, Mirror Lake and Bridal Veil Falls. Swinging Bridge, Cathedral beach and El Capitan meadow (sack lunch, relax and watch the climbers. Bring binoculars!)
- IF Tioga Pass open, recommend the drive to the high country.
- money no object, a must - have dinner at the Mountain Room, Yosemite Lodge. Dinner entre's average $25 OR MORE, but there are many huge photo prints hanging throughout the restaurant and worth the visit.
- Day 3/4. Leave Yosemite via HWW 120, which lets you leave the park a different route, which takes you through forested areas, some burn areas from old forest fires, AND some great views looking back towards the valley (make sure you stop at all the pull outs to look behind you.)
- If you're really in to the mountain driving and don't mind the LONG and windy roads, you could take HW 49 through the CA gold country from Sonora to Jackson. There you can catch HW 88 which WILL be open which takes you towards Lake Tahoe. You will connect with HW 89 in to Tahoe. 88 is very scenic. Again, this is a LONG drive in the mountains, but will be quite pretty this time of year.
- If you're more interested in making time, exit the same from Yosemite on HW 120, but head directly out to HW 99 and head north towards Sacramento. You can also catch HW 88 near Stockton. I still recommend this drive, you're just avoiding the HW 49 drive which is the much slower route.
- You will end up in South Lake Tahoe - gobs of lodging options, I have no recommendations. Spend a day driving around the entire lake.
- Departure, you can take either HW 50 out of S.Lake Tahoe or HW 80 from the north side of the lake and head directly back to SF. Depending on which end of the lake and where you're staying, plan for at least 4 hours of driving, and of course more for airport logistics and all that.

Hope this helps a little more. Google is your friend when it comes to researching things along HW 49 (Gold country,) Lake Tahoe, etc. etc.

Have fun planning!
Lon
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby jereece » Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:49 pm

Thanks Lon. I actually updated my post after talking with my wife. Driving from San Francisco is a long drive and since this is a once in a lifetime trip we want to maximize our time in the park. So, best I can tell Fresno is the closest airport and we will likely stick to that. I doubt now that we will attempt Lake Tahoe because that is a long drive too. I would like to drive some of the scenic roads on the east side however. So maybe I will take a chance on the last week of May or first week of June hoping the roads will be open.

One thing I am a little confused over is where the Sequoia's are located. I assume this is the Mariposa Grove? I looked on Google Maps and found several locations that look possible. Can you give me the GPS coordinates to make sure I have the correct location?

Once again I really appreciate the information and recommendations.

Jim
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby Ljrack » Sat Oct 27, 2012 8:12 pm

Hey Jim,

I think you could find the GPS coordinates just as easy.... How about Googling Yosemite? Here's the NPS park website. Click on "View Park Map."

Flying in to Fresno means you'll be entering the park on HW 41, which takes you through Oakhurst/Wawona, Mariposa Grove and road to Glacier point. You should enjoy that drive. I would still HIGHLY recommend then exiting the park via HW 120 and still recommend several nights at the Yosemite View lodge.

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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby jereece » Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:39 pm

Please let me know if this sounds like a decent plan.

Day 1 will fly into Fresno and drive up Hwy 41 towards the Mariposa Grove. That's about 1.5 hours. Where would you recommend we staying near the Mariposa Grove.

Day 2 spend all day at the Mariposa Grove.

Day 3 drive to Yosemite Valley and spend the day. Stay at ______ (recommendation?)

Day 4 spend day in Yosemite valley.

Day 5 drive out Hwy 140 and stay at Yosemite View Lodge.

Day 6 drive out Hwy 120 and return to stay at Yosemite View Lodge.

I continue to appreciate you helping me make a travel plan.
Jim
Day 7 drive back to Fresno and return home.
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby dan » Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:31 pm

jereece wrote:Day 3 drive to Yosemite Valley and spend the day. Stay at ______ (recommendation?)

Stay in Yosemite Valley at least one night. Camp Curry is cheaper, campgrounds are cheapest, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls costs more, but there's nothing like waking up in the morning in Yosemite Valley.

If you are coming from Mariposa, I recommend stopping by Glacier Point--great view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Little Yosemite Valley, Clouds Rest, and a little bit of the High Sierra.
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Re: Planning a trip in May

Postby Ljrack » Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:29 pm

see inline

Day 1 will fly into Fresno and drive up Hwy 41 towards the Mariposa Grove. That's about 1.5 hours. Where would you recommend we staying near the Mariposa Grove.
Sorry, don't have any lodging recommendations, I've never stayed in that area. Google, or
http://www.yosemitepark.com/
http://www.yosemite.com/where-to-stay

Town of Oakhurst, or might recommend the Wawona Hotal - Rustic, historic, but on the pricey end.

Day 2 spend all day at the Mariposa Grove.
Don't think you need all day - just a few hours is enough. HOpefully Glacier Point is open, that's a must see! Review all my other comments - Ranger talk at Glacier point? There are also relatively easy/short hikes to Sentinel Dome and/or Taft Point from Glacier Point road.

Day 3 drive to Yosemite Valley and spend the day. Stay at ______ (recommendation?)
Use links above for Yosemite Lodging. Yosemite Lodge in the Valley, IF you can get a reservation. They book fast. Next, Curry Village Motel, heated cabins. DO NOT reserve a tent - they are still fighting the huntavirus there.

Day 4 spend day in Yosemite valley.
Don't forget the shuttle tour

Day 5 drive out Hwy 140 and stay at Yosemite View Lodge.
Personally, if you can't get reservations inside the valley proper, this is the closest and BEST accomodations. The Cedar Lodge is also very good, only 5 miles further away. Just a short, scenic drive of 20 min from Yosemite View to the valley.

Day 6 drive out Hwy 120 and return to stay at Yosemite View Lodge.
I would only go up on 120 as a part day trip, Tuolomne Grove or Tioga Pass road, if open. Not recommend exiting the park if you're heading back to Fresno - it's out of your way, too far north. Return either Via hw 120 to 99 OR go back the way you came over 41. But if you hadn't explored the Merced Canyon yet, then head back to Fresno via 140>99south.

Otherwise, plan looks good. Have fun


I continue to appreciate you helping me make a travel plan.
Jim
Day 7 drive back to Fresno and return home.[/quote]
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