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California Parks Grand Tour

New Jersey
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California Parks Grand Tour

We are planning a trip to California in the latter part of May. The plan is to go from LA to Kings canyon/Yosemite for a couple of days. From there head up north to lassen, then swing over to the North Coast for the redwoods. We end up traveling down the pacific Coast Highway to san Francisco. We hope to do this in two weeks. Would this be an impossible task? All comments and suggestions are welcome!

San Diego...
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1. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

Sounds fine. Be sure to get your National Park reservations ASAP. See www.yosemitepark.com for Yosemite reservations, I highly recommend staying in the Valley e.g. Yosemite Lodge at the Falls etc. You can get a taste of the Coastal Redwoods at Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco see www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm or continue to Humboldt Redwoods which is in the heart of redwood country, see www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=425

Washington State
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2. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

Kings Canyon NP and Sequoia NP are "connected" but Yosemite is a separate National Park. It's about 3 1/2 or 4 hours to drive from Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon to Yosemite Valley.

Google Maps is a good tool to use when laying out a trip like this, but be aware that Google Maps often does not consider lower speed limits in National Parks or severe traffic.

Tioga Pass and the Tuolumne Meadows high country will probably still be closed in May, so you'll need to drop back down to the foothills (Hwy 49 & Gold Rush country) or to the flat Central Valley (Hwy 99) to make your way north to Lassen.

Fremont, California
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3. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

Are you camping or staying in park lodging?

If staying in park lodging, you will actually want to firm that up now, especially for Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. Its also a popular time for vacations here as most schools now tend to be out by mid May (some later but many people are already on vacation here by end May.).

For the Sequoia/Kings Canyon, the minimal amount of time you want to stay is as follows: leave LA early, you can get by with one . If leave late, you will want two nights in this area. It takes time to drive through Kings Canyon and back; slow road; be sure to buy gas and fill up before entering the park. There is no gas in the park (sometimes in summer different) but we were just there and there were no gas stations open in the park.

Please plan on a full transit day between Sequoia and Kings Canyon to Yosemite. Yosemite deserves minimum a full day. So plan minimum 2 nights in Yosemite; and preferably 3 or 4 nights. Yosemite Park Reservations are very important and already hard to get for May - so firm those up as soon as possible. People sometimes cancel; and there are alternatives if you cannot find in park lodging.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

For the Lassen Portion, Tioga will probably be closed. I'd plan on a "slow day" exploring highway 49 after you leave Yosemite and plan one night on North Shore of Tahoe (if you are gamblers you might want to go for South Shore).

http://www.historichwy49.com/

From Tahoe then head up to Lassen National Park. Are you planning to climb Lassen National Park? Note that lodging is limited in this area. Are you camping or do you plan to stay close to the park such as in Chester or in Hat Creek area?

http://www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm

Snow melts slower in this area - so check road conditions, etc in advance. You will probably be quite ok.

San Francisco
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4. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

Lassen will be largely snowed in still. It has ne of the longest winter closure seasons of any park in California because of the high elevations; it can start in October and go all the way to June or even July. In fact, the main road (and the only road that crosses the park) is temporarily closed now because of snow. If it snows a lot soon, this may be curtains until summer.

Watch the park website as your trip gets closer, but chances are, in May the road may not be open yet. This is unfortuante timing for you, because Lassen is an intriguing place and it has some of the most exciting volcanic activity in the U,S, outside of Hawaii or the Yellowstone area.

http://www.nps.gov/LAVO/index.htm

There is one active volcanic area of Lassen that's usually open year-round, Sulphur Works. It's a long way from Yosemite if you're going specifically to see it, but if you're headed north anyway, you could make a side trip. Then you would have to take the Trinity Alps route on Hwy 299 from the inland to the coast for the redwoods.

If you're visiting several parks, or plan to visit more in the 12-month period, consider buying the annual Federal lands interagency pass. It's probably the best recreational bargain in the U.S. It's $80 for 12 months from the date of issue, and admits you and companions to national parks or other public lands.

http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html

New Jersey
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5. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

Wow, thanks for all the input. We planned to go in May because we heard that was the best time to go. We will not be camping but staying in hotels or lodges along the way. I'll have to get on the reservations right away!

Washington State
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6. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

Hi again travelcookies. It's possible that May is the best time for you, but it isn't necessarily the "best time to go." As you now see, there is a lot of snow in the high Sierra in May. If you travel in September, all of these areas will be open for travel including all of Kings Canyon/Sequoia, Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, and Lassen. But the waterfalls in Yosemite are much better in May than in September. There are more hours of daylight in May than in September. The weather in San Francisco is usually much better in September (or even October.) I don't know how the crowds might compare, if that's a concern for you.

Happy Planning!

LA
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7. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

May is a good time to go for the low-altitude parts of the parks, like the Yosemite Valley, but is still too early for the high-altitude park regions.

I'd skip Lassen. Lots of driving for not much accessibility unless you are climibing.

LA
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8. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

You might consider Death Valley as an alternative, although it will be getting hot there in May.

San Francisco
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9. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

* "I'd skip Lassen. Lots of driving for not much accessibility unless you are climibing" *

The main climbing destination for people from elsewhere is Lassen Peak, and it is snowed in all winter (which is a long season there). If the main park road is closed, they will not be able to get to the trailhead. The only real way to travel in Lassen in winter is x-c ski. It's a long trip from the nearest road, and then the climb will require alpine skills and equipment.

I agree that it is not worth a special trip just to see Sulphur Works, but it appears they will have to take 299 anyway because they want to go from the interior to the coast. In that case, a side trip off 299 to Sulphur Works is quite doable.

* "You might consider Death Valley as an alternative, although it will be getting hot there in May." *

Travelcookies, being from New Jersey, you are used to pretty warm and very humid weather in summer. Death Valley in May might be a refreshing and interesting trip for them. If you are going to Los Angeles and Sequoia, Death Valley is not out of reach.

Here is the weather section from Death Valley's official website, so you can decide if you'll enjoy the weather.

www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/weather.htm

New Jersey
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10. Re: California Parks Grand Tour

September may be the better time for us to go then. I've seen plenty of waterfalls but really wanted to travel the high road through the mountains. I thought that the fall was fire season and wanted to keep away from that.

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