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Old 07-11-2012, 01:38 PM   #1
holcomb-mania
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Anaheim to Yosemite routes.

I'm considering taking an alternative route from Anaheim to Yosemite. The conventional route uses I-5 and CA-99. However, the I-15 and CA-395 route looks interesting. It's about 100 miles (1.5hrs) longer, but the views seem grander and traffic less. Also, it would give us the chance to see another CA ecosystem (desert), and we'd get to see more of the High Sierra and Tuolomne Meadows.

Am I nuts?
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Old 07-11-2012, 03:43 PM   #2
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In reality it may be a LOT longer and I would not bet on it being "less traffic". I live in So Cal and the 15 can be crowded indeed. I like taking a prettier route now and then so if that is important then do it. The 5 is boring in many places. Have fun, and stop a lot!
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Old 07-11-2012, 06:37 PM   #3
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395 through the Owens Valley is terrific! I highly recommend it if you have the time. The Alabama Hills near Whitney Portal is the site of many, many early westerns. You'd probably recognize the background. Take Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine.

Manzanar is is a national historic site as the site of one of the WWII internment camps. It's famous from the book & movie "Farwell to Manzanar".

Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful place to stop. If you have more time, Devil's Postpile Nat'l Monument is a very interesting rock formation. Still, if you have limited time, I'd probably bypass that in favor of seeing the tufa formations at Mono Lake.

The June Lake loop is also a very scenic diversion. Oh, and don't forget Bodie, one of the best preserved ghost towns around. And as I said, just as you're about to leave 395, you definitely want to see Mono Lake near Lee Vining.

Once you get on 120 through the Yosemite high country, you're right, Tuolumne Meadows is a great place to stop and hike. And it's missed by 90% of Yosemite visitors. Then, as you continue toward the valley, you must, must stop at Olmsted Point, which has the most amazing views down Tenaya Canyon all the way to Yosemite Valley, including terrific views of Cloud's Rest and Half Dome.

Other than that, I can only recommend about another half-dozen things to do. Nothing much to see, really

No, really, make a day of it (or longer), and enjoy yourself! It's a great trip!

-Bob

ETA - BTW, I agree with the PP, that it will take way longer. It should take lots longer, or you haven't stopped to see enough of the natural beauty! But you're right, traffic will be much less. The I-15 portion is just a little bit of the trip, and the most boring part. The fun starts once you get to the Owens Valley, past China Lake.

Last edited by GrandBob; 07-11-2012 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 07-11-2012, 06:45 PM   #4
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395 is an awesome road to travel. My DD is always bugging me to take a trip to the Manzanar site. Also the view of Mt Whitney is definitely a site that you will always remember.
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Old 07-11-2012, 08:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrandBob View Post
395 through the Owens Valley is terrific! I highly recommend it if you have the time. The Alabama Hills near Whitney Portal is the site of many, many early westerns. You'd probably recognize the background. Take Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine.

Manzanar is is a national historic site as the site of one of the WWII internment camps. It's famous from the book & movie "Farwell to Manzanar".

Mammoth Lakes is a beautiful place to stop. If you have more time, Devil's Postpile Nat'l Monument is a very interesting rock formation. Still, if you have limited time, I'd probably bypass that in favor of seeing the tufa formations at Mono Lake.

The June Lake loop is also a very scenic diversion. Oh, and don't forget Bodie, one of the best preserved ghost towns around. And as I said, just as you're about to leave 395, you definitely want to see Mono Lake near Lee Vining.

Once you get on 120 through the Yosemite high country, you're right, Tuolumne Meadows is a great place to stop and hike. And it's missed by 90% of Yosemite visitors. Then, as you continue toward the valley, you must, must stop at Olmsted Point, which has the most amazing views down Tenaya Canyon all the way to Yosemite Valley, including terrific views of Cloud's Rest and Half Dome.

Other than that, I can only recommend about another half-dozen things to do. Nothing much to see, really

No, really, make a day of it (or longer), and enjoy yourself! It's a great trip!

-Bob

ETA - BTW, I agree with the PP, that it will take way longer. It should take lots longer, or you haven't stopped to see enough of the natural beauty! But you're right, traffic will be much less. The I-15 portion is just a little bit of the trip, and the most boring part. The fun starts once you get to the Owens Valley, past China Lake.
I think Bob nailed it. This is one of my favorite drives. There is a lot to see if you take the time to go do it.
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:55 AM   #6
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Awesome! We're gonna have to leave Anaheim early to do this drive justice!

Google Maps says the I-5 route is 337 miles and 6hrs 19min (53mph avg), with the 395 route at 425 miles and 7hrs 51min (54mph avg). Does that sound right? I'm hoping the drive itself isn't over 8hrs, to allow for some stopping along the way, while still getting us to the Ahwanhee before dark!
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Old 07-12-2012, 11:32 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by holcomb-mania View Post
Awesome! We're gonna have to leave Anaheim early to do this drive justice!

Google Maps says the I-5 route is 337 miles and 6hrs 19min (53mph avg), with the 395 route at 425 miles and 7hrs 51min (54mph avg). Does that sound right? I'm hoping the drive itself isn't over 8hrs, to allow for some stopping along the way, while still getting us to the Ahwanhee before dark!
Sounds about right. 395 is mostly two-lane, but it's pretty much wide open, and you should be able to maintain 65 for most of it. 120 through Yosemite is slower going through the mountains, but still not bad.

What time of year are you going? I want to make sure that you know that this route isn't available in the winter, where "winter" means roughly Nov 1 through the end of May (link). Also wondering if you'll have summer daylight hours so you have more time to do it justice.

-Bob

Last edited by GrandBob; 07-12-2012 at 11:36 AM. Reason: Added Tioga Rd Open/Close dates
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Old 07-19-2012, 09:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrandBob View Post
Sounds about right. 395 is mostly two-lane, but it's pretty much wide open, and you should be able to maintain 65 for most of it. 120 through Yosemite is slower going through the mountains, but still not bad.

What time of year are you going? I want to make sure that you know that this route isn't available in the winter, where "winter" means roughly Nov 1 through the end of May (link). Also wondering if you'll have summer daylight hours so you have more time to do it justice.

-Bob
We're going in late June, so unless there's a whole lot of snow we should be okay on 120.
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:11 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by holcomb-mania View Post
We're going in late June, so unless there's a whole lot of snow we should be okay on 120.
Yes, you should be fine. If you take a look at the link in my previous message, there's only one year in the last 32 years where it opened as late as July 1 (1998). The next three latest were June 30 1995, June 29 1983, and June 24 2005. But that's only 4 years of the last 32, so your odds are excellent.

Median opening day is May 24. I believe there's a number you can call to see if the road is open; or you can check the internet.

-Bob
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Old 07-21-2012, 10:53 AM   #10
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Awesome! Thanks for your advice. I'm 99.9% sure we'll take 395 and 120. Mostly cuz I'm driving, so I make the rules!
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Old 07-21-2012, 04:33 PM   #11
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Just a heads up, we spent much more time at Manzanar - http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm - than we planned. It was absolutely fascinating to someone who never learned about the Japanese prison camps in school.
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Old 08-07-2012, 04:21 PM   #12
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Red face the 395/Tioga in Oct ?

Just wondering if it is possible to do that route into Yosetime from San Diego
on Oct 28th after checking for road closures of course. My driving companion wants to see the Tufa stacks and I wanted to see the meadows and Tanaya Lake on our way to the Yosetime Falls Lodge. If we leave real early ?
Other option is to enter the park from the east and make a next day trip up the Tioga and back then see a little bit of the 395 ????????????
How about the chains for a rental ? they are illegal here in Ontario Canada so we don't know much except we are supposed to have them. Our rental company in San Fran does not supply them, should we buy at a walmart and return them on our way back to the airport on 31st??????????
Thanks for all the wonderful info on this thread, better than any guide books !
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:54 PM   #13
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Once the snow flies Tioga Pass is almost always closed for the rest of the year - that doesn't usually happen until November, though. You'd have to really watch the weather reports and road closures.

It would be a VERY long drive from San Diego to go that way in a day...even with minimal stops it will take you probably 8 hours to get to where highway 120 takes off 395 towards Tioga Pass, and it's another hour plus to Yosemite Valley from there. And if you want to see the tufa towers at Mono Lake, you need to allow an hour for that. Also remember there won't be as much daylight in October - there are some beautiful views from the road that you might miss if it's dark.

You might be better off getting a hotel room in Bishop or Mammoth Lakes and then doing the rest the next day.
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