Just because Las Vegas is out West but not entirely nearby Yosemite doesn't have to stop you from connecting the two destinations into one trip if they're both on your list of must-sees. Just get into a car and explore the space between Nevada and California and you'll be immersed in the expansive landscapes found on this side of North America.
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Depending on the route you take, the trip can be from 334 to 563 miles, 5.75 hours to 11 hours of driving. Google maps can also provide you with routes that give you a 9- to 11-hour trip (depending on what side of the park you enter and whether you search Yosemite National Park or Yosemite Valley). If you map it to Tioga Pass, it's 5.75 hours of driving and 334 miles from Las Vegas.
Yosemite National Park gets a lot of visitors, but it is still a joy to get on a bike in the middle of summer, amid the crowds at the visitors' center and bus stops, and ride through a meadow with only the sound of the bike and the wind. Yosemite Valley is so vast that you'll find a spot for yourself along the Merced River, in the shadow of El Capitan, or within view of a waterfall, and you’ll appreciate the pure beauty nature, whether you're from the city or not.
The hikes are numerous, rafting down the river is fun, and if you feel really energetic, you can either rock climb or try getting to the top of the Half Dome.
How Is the Drive?
You may think the drive is a little long, especially if you thought you would make it there and back in one day; depending on the route you take and the stops you make, this is probably better done at least as a two-day excursion. Stop at the Tioga Gas Mart; Whoa Nellie Deli is a very good surprise when looking for food on this route—much better than you'd likely expect from a Mobil station.
Another must is on highway 395 in Bishop, Mahogany Smoked Meats, where you can buy some exceptional beef jerky. Enter Yosemite National Park via the east entrance and Tioga Pass (the Tioga Pass route works only in late spring, summer, and early fall). In the winter it closes due to snow.
Things to See on the Way
This is a journey, not just a destination. On your way there, you can also visit Death Valley National Park, Manzanar National Historic Site, Alabama Hills rock formations, Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake, and Tuolumne Meadows.
Here are a few tips and must-see places in Yosemite National Park:
- The view of El Capitan from the meadow should be your new profile picture.
- The hike to Nevada Falls is just enough activity to make you feel like you are outdoorsy.
- Mirror Lake gets you to a spot where you can appreciate the size of the Half Dome.
- The large groves of sequoias will make you realize just how tiny we really are in the grand scheme of things.
- The Ahwahnee Hotel is a must see—majestic, beautiful, and all about luxury.