Las Vegas To Yosemite With Tioga Pass Open Or Closed
By Lynn Upthagrove
Many of our visitors to Yosemite and the Groveland area come to us via Las Vegas, whether on their way to riches, or coming in from Nevada with less full pocket books. This passage deserves some discussion for those looking for starting points, stopping and staying points in researching their Los Angeles-Las Vegas-Death Valley-Yosemite-Groveland-San Francisco-Los Angeles loop. For purposes of conciseness, I will work with directions from Las Vegas to Yosemite, but recognize that you can come and go from either direction.
Tioga Pass is the key element in determining which route you will take. If you are planning a trip after Mid-October, stay tuned into our weather, 209-372-0200. A single snow storm followed by warm weather can see Tioga Pass close and open several times in the fall. Once the "big one" falls or we have sustained cold, the pass will be closed for the season, typically closed by mid November, reopened late May or June. One is right in predicating the weather about as often as they are at winning in Las Vegas. Open and closure dates are all snow & weather dependent.
Driving Directions: Las Vegas to Yosemite, Tioga Pass Open
Leave Las Vegas on 95 heading Northwest to 373 south which turns into 127 at the Stateline, to 190 West into Death Valley. Follow 190 through and out of Death Valley where you will catch 136 North, follow to Lone Pine and 395. Highway 395 will take you to Lee Vining and 120 West into Yosemite and over Tioga Pass. If there are any "tricky" parts of this drive they are at the access to Death Valley. You can find an excellent PDF map online through the National Park Service
Highlights along the way (395 North)
Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes: lowest elevations 282 feet below sea level, hottest temperatures, summer temperatures average over 100 degrees daily and with only 1.96 inches a year, the least amount of rainfall. Despite the drama of this environment, more than 1,000 kinds of plants live within the park. Each spring Death Valley becomes an kalidascope of color as the spring rains spawn a variety of annual desert wildflowers. Last years incredible snow levels provided for a marvelous dessert wildflower season.
Bishop and Erik Schatt's Bakery
If you love great bakeries, this one will find you intrigued for a long time. Big, well scented and fairly priced! It is located right on Highway 395 as you go through town, can't miss it, on the West side of the street.
Mammoth Lakes & June Lake provide excellent overnight stops with plenty of places to stay and scenic wonders. Good food can be found in both of these areas. Mammoth is a bustling community with hospitals, golf courses and schools where as June lake is quieter and populated with folks in the region for the world class fishing.
Mono Lake is a phenomenon that should be explored. Very Lunar-esque in look. You can get out and walk along the shore, or view the beauty from the picnic benches of Whoa Nellie Deli at the Mobile gas station on Highway 120. Both of these and Bodie State Park are discussed in our Eastern Sierras itinerary. Review our Tahoe Itinerary if heading the optional route around the sierras, and as you come down highway 49, take a few hours or even an overnight in Murphys to explore the Calaveras Big Trees and Murphys wine country.
Driving Directions: Las Vegas to Yosemite, Tioga Pass Closed
If you are planning on a stop in Death Valley, follow the instructions above to get to DV. Once through the Park, stay on 190 all the way to 395 and then head south. Follow this to 178, a scenic route or 58, a little bigger highway. Both of these take you into Bakersfield, from which you will get onto Highway 99 and zip up to Highway 41 at Fresno which will take you into the southern entrance of Yosemite, through Oakhurst & Fishcamp. When you have finished your Yosemite stay, exit out Highway 120, the northern gateway and through Groveland. Spend the night with us or just stop in and say Hi on your way to San Francisco.
There really aren't very many must-sees, must-dos along this route. We generally just drive as far as we can, then find a place to sleep.
Optional longer, scenic route if Tioga Pass is closed
Follow all the instructions for if the Pass is open, at Lee Vining stay on 395, take a look at Mono Lake on your right, continue north on 395 through Bridgeport and into Carson, then Take 50 West into South Lake Tahoe. Spend a day in the snow, skiing, gambling, hiking...then head West again on 50 to Highway 49 South to Highway 120 East and into Groveland for a night of food, fun and relaxation. Other winter-closure roads that cross the Sierras are 108 and 4. If you are traveling in the late spring either may be open before 120 and you don't have to go as far as Lake Tahoe to cross.
Whatever route you choose, have a safe trip and we hope to see you in Groveland!
Lynn Upthagrove, along with her husband Victor, own the Hotel Charlotte, in Groveland, on the way to Yosemite. http://www.HotelCharlotte.com