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Snow chains

Brisbane, Australia
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Snow chains

Hi, I read an earlier post re snow chains and now I am a little confused. We will in California for 6 weeks from mid November this year. From the 23rd to 29th we are hiring a car to drive from LA up the coast road to Monterey then to Yosemite for 4 days and then onto San Francisco, where we will be handing the car back as we are staying with friends for at least a week. I understand it will not be officially winter and not likely to be snowing, but is there a requirement to have snow chains in the car anyway? If so what do we need to be looking for in the hire car rental. Thanks.

Edited: 07 October 2012, 12:31
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Brisbane, Australia
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1. Re: Snow chains

Also need to add, we are staying at Tenaya Lodge so will be using the south entrance. Thanks.

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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2. Re: Snow chains

It doesn't really matter if the calendar says winter; if there is snow on the road, you'll need tire chains.

Sometimes there is snow in November. Sometimes the winter snow begins to fall in December. Last year was the wackiest year in recent history and the high elevation roads stayed open until January (sometimes Tioga Road closes in October.)

So, will a ranger ask you at the South Entrance if you're carrying chains in your vehicle? Perhaps. And he/she will probably ask if a storm is predicted during your visit.

You can purchase tire chains in Oakhurst, if you want to be safe. Info about winter driving is linked to the Top Questions in the upper right.

FYI ~ your entrance route will go up to about 6,100' at Chinquapin. The Tenaya Lodge is about 5,000', then you drive down to Wawona at 4,000', up to Chinquapin (turn off to Badger Pass ski area & Glacier Point) at 6,100', and then down to the Valley at 4,000'. All these elevation changes mean curves.

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3. Re: Snow chains

You can't put chains on a rental car, it's against policy. You'll want a FWD and will have to carry chains - to show when stopped at a chain control.

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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4. Re: Snow chains

Info from Avis:

Customers should be discouraged from installing their own chains on the rental vehicle.

Customers are responsible for any damage caused by the installation and/or use of snow chains.

LDW does not cover damage caused by the customer installing and/or using snow chains.

-----------

They don't say chains are prohibited. Most other companies specifically prohibit them.

Read that info about tire chains linked to the Top Questions. 4WD / AWD vehicles are okay without chains in R2 conditions. At the very least, be sure your rental vehicle has All Weather tires with plenty of tread.

Edited: 07 October 2012, 17:43
Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Snow chains

Many thanks for the tips. We are looking at hiring a Chevrolet Cruze from Avis. Are the Americam Models of this car all AWD or are there different options to choose? If so I assume we will be given the choice when booking, is this correct? Thanks.

Washington State
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6. Re: Snow chains

If a car can be made in a cheaper 2WD model, that's the one most rental companies will purchase. If you get a Chevy Cruze, I'd guess it will be Front Wheel Drive. Contact Avis in the town where you want to pick it up to ask them.

Folks who want 4WD or AWD pay extra for this. Sometimes folks get a car with this feature and don't pay extra for it, but the only way to guarantee it's AWD or 4WD is to pay.

Long Barn...
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7. Re: Snow chains

I don't believe the Chevy Cruze has the 4 WD option. All models are front wheel drive only.

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8. Re: Snow chains

The Tenaya Lodge offers Yosemite tours from the lodge so that might be an option if you do not want to drive.. Not sure if the tour is cancelled if there is heavy snow .. you can check with the lodge. The lodge is 1+ hours drive from Yosemite Valley even though it is only a few minutes from the South Entrance and Wawona and Mariposa Grove of tall trees. There are buses from Oakhurst in the south but they go to the ski area and only during the winterso that is not an option.

If you are uncomfortable with taking a risk, some people stay in El Portal or Mariposa and check weather conditions the day before. If there are chain conditions, they take the YARTS bus to Yosemite Valley and let someone else drive. If weather is good, they drive in.

Whichever way you travel, Yosemite in late Nov will be beautiful and memorable.

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Brisbane, Australia
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9. Re: Snow chains

Hi auntietippet. Thanks for the tips. Tenaya Lodge was attractive as a base because of the tours, facilities & cost compared to staying the park. And it looks good for a day or 2 relax as this side trip is part of a 6 week holiday in the USA. Hope we have made the right choice. Happy for the locals to show us around the park & surrounding area. Our only concern is actually getting to the lodge as there is no public or hotel transport available. Looking forward to seeing the natural wonder of the area.

Edited: 09 October 2012, 02:22
Atlanta, Georgia
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10. Re: Snow chains

I realize your trip has passed. But if they're like me, others are out there planning trips and wondering about snow chains.

Our family just returned from a week in Yosemite, arriving 1 day after a snow storm. Bear in mind: federal law requires that you have snow chains or cables with you in the park during seasons when snow is likely or possible; the park rangers can ask to see them; they can turn you away if you don't have them; and in fact the weather can change suddenly in Yosemite and you may need them.

The Catch-22 is that all of the rental car companies prohibit using chains on their vehicles. The solution we found is this: (1) You can't count on weather forecasts to tell you if you're going to need snow equipment because the weather there changes swiftly. (2) Familiarize yourself with the "snow conditions" signs that YNP uses on the roads; you'll find them on their web site. (3) Try to rent a 4-wheel vehicle; in some weather conditions 4-wheel drive vehicles aren't required to put on their chains while 2-wheel drive vehicles are. We rented a 4-WD Yukon and were glad we did, because while chains weren't required while we were there, the roads were still icy in places and the 4-WD really helped.

We drove to Yosemite by way of highway 140; the elevation is lower and you're less likely to have icy road conditions. In Mariposa -- the town, not the grove -- there's a NAPA Auto Parts store. I'd called them weeks ahead and they were the solution to the Catch-22. They stay open until 7 p.m. so we had plenty of time to get there from San Francisco. You can RENT rather than BUY snow cables there. They pick the right size for your tires. They even have a wheel inside on which they teach you how to attach the snow cables. (Cables are easier to deal with than chains, and they meet YNP's requirements.) You pay them $150 on your credit card, put the box of cables in your trunk, and on your way home, you bring the snow cables back to them and they'll credit $100 back to your card.

The rental car companies prohibit chains and cables because if you put the wrong size on your tires, it can tear up the inner wheel lining. And if you install them incorrectly, or use them on dry pavement too long or drive too fast on them, they can snap and wrap around the axel, causing all sorts of damage for which you are then responsible, since you will have violated their contract.

So the law to have snow chains or cables makes sense, and the reason the rental companies don't like them makes sense. But the solution above will work for you. Just bear in mind NAPA's hours and fee were current as of Feb 2013. Call them, or a similar reputable company, make sure they'll be open when you need them, learn what they teach you, and then enjoy Yosemite!

Edited: 07 March 2013, 14:58
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