From Las Vegas to San Francisco via Death Valley and Yosemite

Photos Reviews

Just want to dedicate this post to anyone who will ever choose this route for a gateway to Las Vegas and Northern California. Here is my story about trip taken from Las Vegas to San Francisco via Death Valley, Yosemite, SF Bay Area with maps, guidance and of course photos and links to more photos.

Day 1 was spent totally in Vegas. A bit jetlagged after our flight from New York we roamed around the city in preparation for the next day’s early wake and drive to the Death Valley. This trip was taken in June 2010 and if you decide to repeat it – i think it’s the best time of the year, when Death Valley is not that hot and the best scenic drive in Yosemite Park – Tioga Pass is just getting open. So let’s go to the day 2 of this trip and start with the map.

Early on the Day 2 we went to pickup a rental car to the local Fox Rent a Car office, since they quoted cheapest rate for the car to be dropped at the San Francisco airport as a final destination of our journey. Must tell you that an extra $169.00 for the car being dropped in some other location sucks in this economy. But it is worth the trip and convenience. Packed with water from the local Target store we hit the road with the destination Dante’s View in our GPS. The final destination for the Day 2 in our journey was set to Lee Vining – small town by the Mono Lake.

Route 190 is what takes you to the park and it’s also the best route to follow. For more photos of the Death Valley, click to read this post. These two markers almost right next to each other on the map below are Dante’s View and Badwater Basin. Amazingly the first one is the highest point and the second one is the lowest.

Here is what it looks like from the Dante’s View:

And here is Badwater Basin view:

The rest of the drive was filled with things like Sand Dunes:

And as you reach the end of the Valley landscapes like this one with the lake and mountains:

If you are driving fast enough you may get to Mono Lake by the end of the day – right in time for magnificent sunset like this one:

For more of the Mono Lake photos, please view this post.

On the Day 3, we drove to Yosemite Park via route 120, which had just opened at that time.

It was Sunday, so we met a lot of people and their annoying kids on the way and heavier than usual traffic getting in and out of the park. For more of the views look here.

As we initially planned to end this day somewhere around San Francisco – we drove to a small town of Half Moon Bay, where we stayed at Beach House. Very romantic place with fireplace and great views.

This is a view from our room in the morning:

Next morning we took the car to the airport and the driving part of the journey was over. We boarded BART train and were on the way to the city by the bay.


  • DK says:

    I took the same route less than a year ago and it was excellent. Loved the pics and I can’t wait to do the route again. I even drove up from LA and back down through Death Valley + Nevada to Las Vegas. Enjoy your blog, great information throughout.

  • Cathy K says:

    Planning to do this trip in September with my family. Thank you for this excellent information.

  • Sarah says:

    We did this same route in July 2011. It was unbelievably beautiful and we were amazed with the different temperatures we experienced during the day (100s in Vegas, 100+ in Death Valley and 60s in Yosemite). We went from Vegas, through Death Valley and into Yosemite in one day, staying overnight in the Yosemite Valley. We then went on the All Day Grand Tour of Yosemite, and left at about 5pm to drive to San Francisco. We were limited with time, so decided to do all of this in two days, however we never felt rushed and were able to enjoy everything on the way. I’d definitely recommend this route if you’re going to Yosemite in summer.

  • jackie Johnson UK. says:

    We are going to do the trip in August and your blog is most useful piece of advice I can find.
    Thanks JJ

  • sunil s says:

    Excellent Blog, very informative… I need a suggestion.. Planning for a road trip in fist week on June from SFO to Las Vegas via scenic route, Could you please suggest the best scenic route! Is it uphill drive from SFO to Las Vegas? Can I go drive through Tioga pass?

  • Pedro Franca says:

    This is exactly what I´m looking for information!
    I´m planning a trip to California.
    Starting in LA to Las Vegas.
    From Las Vegas to San Francisco through Death Valley, Yosemite and SF.
    I´m just worried about the roads next april. Is it possible this route?
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Pedro from Brazil!

  • Andrea B, Australia says:

    We’re planning to do this trip in July and this is exactly what we were looking for – easy to read and great with the map and photos. Can you tell me how many hours a day you were driving? Is it realistic to do this in two days; leaving first thing from Las Vegas on day one, getting into San Francisco in the late afternoon of the second day?

    • Absolutely, that’s what we did – day one left Vegas around 10, were by Mono Lake around sunset. Day two – left around 11, were in Half Moon Bay around 6-7 pm.

    • Satish G says:

      Andrea did you do the trip? We are planning a trip in June 2015 but from SF to Las Vegas. However, we have 4 days over which to make this journey and need help in planning the trip. So all comments greatly received.

  • Cesar says:

    Thank you very much! Very useful for my next trip.

  • venkatesh says:

    hey, thanks for this info. Really helpful. Small question..

    How badly will my car be impacted because of heat in DV and terrain in Yosemite? Is it safe to take my own car ? I am planing to drive my Merc C-class from LV to SJC

  • julie klee says:

    We are wanting to drive from Las Vegas to San Fran & then Seattle but only have 11 days to drive back to la to fly home to Australia?? Is this possible

  • Josh says:

    Hi, we are loving your route, but we are looking to do it in a big rv motorhome. were the roads ok for big vehicles?

  • judith a. juan says:

    Hi we are planning to take this same route november 2019 … what are the possible road conditions?

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