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Driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas in May over 4 nights

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1. Posted by Hilary Gandy (Budding Member 7 posts) 5y

Spending 5 nights in San Francisco and 5 nights in Vegas with 4 nights driving between the two. As this is our first trip to this area I would be very grateful of any advice you can offer on routes, places to visit etc. Thank you in anticipation. Hilary:)

2. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator 1992 posts) 5y

Two choices:

Choice 1:
Day 1--South to Monterey, visit Cannery Row and the Monterey Aquarium, then take the 17 mile drive past Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, Spend the night in Carmel.
Day 2--drive south to Paso Robles and west to Cambria. Enjoy the wine country here and visit Hearst Castle on the coast if so desired. Spend the night in Cambria, Paso Robles or Atascadero.
Day 3--drive east through Bakersfield to Barstow. Stop and buy some nuts or date candies on the way.
Day 4--Spend the morning touring the Calico Ghost Town just outside of Barstow, then drive on to Las Vegas. You can also take a detour and see Death Valley on the way.

Choice 2:
Day 1--Drive north to the city of Sonoma and then to the Napa Valley and its wine region. Go east to Fairfield and visit the jelly belly (and maybe the Budweiser beer plant). Head on north to the college town of Davis and spend the night there.
Day 2--Drive east through the gold country to the cities of Angels Camp (famous for its jumping frog contest) and the old mining town of Murphys (gorgeous old town). Visit the small shops and restaurants and wineries here also.
Day 3--Drive east through Yosemite National Park and spend the night in either the Mammoth Lakes area or farther south in Bishop.
Day 4--Drive south and then east through Death Valley. Connect over to Pahrump, Nevada and then on to Las Vegas.


3. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator 1992 posts) 5y

Forgot to mention that if it is real hot, and you still take choice 2, then spend nght #3 in Mammoth Lakes, because Bishop will be much hotter.

4. Posted by Hilary Gandy (Budding Member 7 posts) 5y

Hi Calcruzer,
Thank you so much for that. The only problem now is which one. We have been told that 17 mile drive is the most beautiful stretch of coastline in the world and we would also like to visit Hearst Castle but Yosemite and Death Valley are also on our Wish List. The other places which you mention which we have not considered also sound very tempting. Because the British Isles are so small our sense of distance is very limited, do you think we are attempting too much in 4 days?
Hilary :)

5. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5597 posts) 5y

Maybe just one thing to add in relation to what might be important to your choice: in May there is a very good chance that the road from Yosemite NP across the mountains to Mammoth Lakes (Highway 120, or Tioga Road/Pass) is still closed.
I drove that road last year around the 10th of June and it was just open since that day or the day before. There is a road more to the north though, highway 108, but it's a bit of a detour after visiting Yosemite.
Not sure about that 17-mile drive, but I know you have to pay for that road Good enough for me to skip it (like I did last year) and spend more time along the Big Sure south of Monterrey/Carmel. Skipped Hearst as well, but visited the Elephant Seal reserve near that and also the town of Cambria which was pretty decent.

All in all, I would choose two days along the coast, drive inland from Cambria along the southern side of the mountains and through Death Valley.

Have fun, whatever you choose!

6. Posted by Hilary Gandy (Budding Member 7 posts) 5y

Fancy the drive south of choice1, would it be possible to incorporate Yosemite NP as well?

7. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator 1992 posts) 5y

You would have time to drive to Carmel, and also Yosemite, but not Carmel, Hearst Castle and also Yosemite. (and Ultrecht is correct that the pass is probably going to be closed this May, since there is over 90 inches of snow still on the ground in Yosemite--which is more snow that they've gotten in 9 out of the past 10 years).

To take this combined route (Carmel and Yosemite) that you requested, do the following:

Day 1--South to Monterey, visit Cannery Row and the Monterey Aquarium, then take the 17 mile drive past Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, Spend the night in Carmel. I personally think the 17 mile drive (at least the 8 miles along the coast) is much more beautiful than even the Big Sur area and is worth the $8.50 price tag to drive, but its probably a personal preference). However, you need to know that the road (Hwy 1) south past Big Sur is now closed due to landslides and will be shut down for about the next 1 month at least--so going that way is not an option anyway.

Day 2--Head out on Hwy 1 back north towards San Francisco, then get off on Hwy 156 through Hollister and connect to Hwy 152. Just east of where these two roads meet is a place called "Casa de Fruta" that is worth a stop. If you go through here on a weekend, they might have already started the "Renaissance Faire" that is held in the springtime here. You can stop and visit it if you arrive during a weekend. Then head east on 156 until you pass the reservoir (lake), then get on 33 going north to 140 going east. Take this to the city of Mariposa, where you will spend the night. Be sure to book hotels in Mariposa before leaving your home, because these fill up quickly in the spring and summer months (lots of tourists want to see Yosemite).

Day 3--Take 140 into Yosemite and visit the valley. If the mountain pass is open (unlikely as Ultrecht has correctly pointed out already), then go over the pass (get on highway 120) and stay at Mammoth Lakes off off highway 395), then on Day 4 go through Death Valley to Las Vegas via California Hwy 190 and Nevada Hwy 160) . If the pass is not open (more likely), then take 41 south to Fresno, get on 99 to Bakersfield and spend the night there or else drive an additional 1/2 hour into the mountains of Tehachapi and spend the night there (it will be cooler).

Day 4--Stay on 58 east and drive to Barstow, then get on the Interstate (15) and drive the remaining 3 hours through the desert to Las Vegas. Try to get there before 7 PM if you want to go to a 8 PM show (although you may just want to walk the sites at night, like the volcano at the Mirage or the fountains at Bellagio, or the gondolas inside the Venetian).


[ Edit: Edited on 28-Mar-2011, at 22:42 by Calcruzer ]

8. Posted by Hilary Gandy (Budding Member 7 posts) 5y

This sounds just perfect, thank you.We have actually got 4 nights/5 days so this should make things a little more relaxed. We have been recommended a hotel in Groveland (Hotel Charlotte) for our stay near Yosemite, is this on our route? 7 weeks today we will be setting off on our driving adventure. We have done NYCx2 and Floridax2 but this is something totally new so we are really looking forward to it and with the advice you have both given us feel more confident. During our stay in Vegas our daughter is getting married so we are all getting excited.

Many thanks, Hilary

9. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1997 posts) 5y

May is the prime month for waterfall flow at Yosemite's many fantastic falls - I was there a few years ago in May and still a little snow around, but fantastic because it was not crowded and the falls were at their peak. Tioga Pass road will still be closed due to snow at the higher elevation.

10. Posted by Hilary Gandy (Budding Member 7 posts) 5y

Thank you very much Daawgon. So looking forward to this trip and I appreciate any advice and suggestions which you kind people have to offer. If ever you come to the UK I hope I can return your thoughtfulness.