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December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Sydney
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December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Hi All,

We are planning a trip from Australia over Christmas / NY 2013 / 2014 and our start point is SanFran. We will be landing in SF just before Christmas and were keen to have a white Christmas with some snow fun thrown in for our 10 & 12 year old girls. We skied (very much novice) and did tubing in Colorado a couple of years ago and really loved it.

We have around 8 days (over Christmas) before we want to be back in SF for a few days over NY then onto Orlando etc. I have looked extensively at North Lake Tahoe (Northstar resort) and know that it offers good skiing (all levels), tubing, ice-skating etc etc which certainly fits for our family BUT then I started thinking about Yosemite and I know it is just beautiful in the winter! It is such an iconic NP and it seems silly to be so close and not visit!

My question really centres around whether in 8 days we need to make a decision and visit only one area or whether visiting both is realistic? We don't mind driving but also don't want to spend the whole Christmas week in a car going (slowly) from Point A to Point B!

My preference is probably Yosemite for the scenery, the kids preference will be fun in the snow - is there enough to keep them amused in Yosemite? Badger looks fine for skiing but not so great for tubing (it's a kiddie hill) and they quite like the big hills!

Any advice would be great - I really am at that point where I know the options, have researched both areas and I'm really torn between the two!

Cheers,

Jenn

London, United...
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1. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Firstly, Jenn I think you need to keep your kids happy over Christmas.

I would definitely use Tahoe as your family Christmas destination with all it has to offer.

Depending on where Christmas Day itself falls along your eight days I don't see any reason not to jump down to Yosemite for two days at the end - obviously you don't want to be driving on Crimbo - and get the best of both worlds.

But if it's one, for eight days, I think it's got to be Tahoe. I think activities trump scenery at this time of year.

California
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2. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

With eight days you could visit both. A couple days at Yosemite will probably be enough at that time of year since the roads to the high country will almost for sure be closed. If I were traveling all that distance and was so close I would definitely include Yosemite.

If you take highway 49, you could also stop at some of the Gold Rush towns and/or Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Napa, CA
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3. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

It would be a shame to book 8 days at a Tahoe area resort and not have any snow. This happened in December of 2011 and could happen again. Even this year, there was not much snow until 10 days before Christmas.

If it's a trip of a lifetime and snow is required for it to be successful, consider going to Idaho, Alberta, or BC instead. Whistler is pretty famous and is easy to get to from Vancouver.

Sydney
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4. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Thanks for your replies and help so far, they have definitely helped! On further thought and with very careful planning I think we will aim to see both areas. We'll head to Lake Tahoe directly from SF and spend Christmas there (22-27 Dec, 5 nts) - this should be enough time to combine both relaxing and some snow activities. We'll spend all day on the 27th getting down via the 49 to Yosemite - I love the sound of the gold rush towns, thanks for that tip JamieExplorer. We then get two FULL days in Yosemite on the 28/29 Jan before heading back for NY in SF on the 30th of Jan! Tight, but do-able I think!

I know what you mean about the snow factor and heading to areas where it is more "guaranteed", but SF is a must-do for us so we need to stick with Tahoe as our "ski" area and keep our fingers crossed! We were actually in Colorado in Dec 2011 with "little" snow (for the locals) but for us Aussies it was great - plenty for skiing, snowmobiling, tubing etc but with beautiful blue skies and perfect weather - we were happy!

Couple of last questions on accommodation in Tahoe and Yosemite. In Tahoe I'm looking at a private vacation rental in Truckee (cute town) but skiing and other activities at NorthStar. NorthStar accom. over Christmas is way too expensive for our budget :-(. I like the small-town feel of Truckee and being within easy driving distance of any number of major ski resorts. Do you think this is a good decision?

With Yosemite, there is a great motel in Yosemite West (excellent reviews on TA and fantastic rates) but it's 1.15hrs from there to the valley floor (although the drive is meant to be beautiful so not a deal-breaker) OR do we suck it up and pay the cost of staying at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls (can't stretch to the Awhanee) for a hotel that has pretty average ratings? We will have two full days so want to make the most of our time. I'm leaning towards the valley but it costs three times as much!

Look forward to some more tips.

Cheers,

Jenn

Burlingame, CA
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5. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Jenn -- Recommend not being too agressive in drive times. We live right next to Yosemite and have family 5 mins from Northstar. WITHOUT snow to hamper driving, Tahoe north shore to Yosemite is a 6 hour drive. If there is snow on the roads, it is much longer. Suggest from Truckee to H-80 to H-49 to H-120. Consider staying in Groveland as that is the closest to your travels. From there, 60 minutes to Yosemite Valley. Hotel Charlotte for Gold Country authentic stay, Blackberry Inn for quaint B&B + others.

One day Tahoe to Groveland. One full day for Yosemite Valley and must have lunch at the Ahwahnee. Another full day for skiiing at Badger. Groveland is then closest to SFO for your departure -- 3 hours drive time on good roads. PS--The H-49 is beautiful, winding, and slow compared to H-99. Just plan for it to take the day with stops in Old Sutter Creek, Placeville, Murphys.

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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6. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Hi Jenn

The best place for feedback on Lake Tahoe is the Lake Tahoe forum. Repost over there.

Yosemite West is a private property pocket accessed from within the Park gates. It's about 25 minutes to Yosemite Valley with great access to Badger Pass (when it's open.) But it doesn't have any motels, nor is it 1.5 hours from the Valley Floor. I wonder where this motel is actually located. Can you provide more details?

All the lodging options are described in the Top Questions in the upper right. Also read the winter Trip Reports for ideas.

Last comment, I think you meant ...

We then get two FULL days in Yosemite on the 28/29 DECEMBER before heading back for NYE in SF on the 30th of DECEMBER!

Sydney
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7. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Thanks again for the feedback - I think the motel I was looking at may be in Oakhurst!? Given the recommendation from PMLBOB (thx) about the drive from north shore Tahoe to Yosemite do you think Groveland or Oakhurst is better for accommodation IF we decide not to stay in the valley? Is one town nicer than the other or are they just "commuter" towns for people going into Yosemite without much character?

Really like your advice PMLBOB about taking the whole day to drive to Yosemite with stops in those little towns, they look great!

You're right too PacNwFam about my dates - we'll be back in Australia by the end of January NOT in Yosemite and SF (I wish)! - it was just a typo.

Is lunch the best at the Awhanee - I read somewhere that breakfast is amazing? Any tips would be very welcome. Thanks again for all the help.

Washington State
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8. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Did you have a chance to read the suggestions of places inside Yosemite NP's gates? Both Groveland and Oakhurst are about 1.5 hrs from the Valley, tho' Oakhurst is a bit closer to Badger Pass and is larger than Groveland. For a winter visit, I'd really try to stay inside the Park gates. Look at Yosemite West first, or even El Portal if you really want to be outside the Park. Yosemite West has condos as well as cabins that suit some families quite well.

I'm guessing that Yosemite Lodge at the Falls either doesn't fit your budget or is full on your dates, but that's the best location, most family friendly, easiest lodging for late December.

You'll have tire chains with you, right? Info in the upper right, Top Questions.

Oakland, California
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for Yosemite National Park
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9. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

If you can afford to stay at the Lodge at the Falls, that's what I would recommend, especially in the winter. Drive times can get much longer, and being right where you want to be makes such a difference. Of course, your ultimate destination might be Badger Pass, and there are condos and rentals through Scenic Wonders and Yosemite West that are located closer to Badger pass. But there's also a skier's shuttle that can take you up to Badger from Curry Village in the valley, and that's what I would opt for- leave the snow driving to someone else!

Staying in the valley at the Lodge means you can park once, take the free shuttles within the valley, head over to the skating rink, and even over to a small sledding hill. There are lovely walks nearby that are so beautiful in winter, and the park is so uncrowded! So for your few days in the park, that would be my recommendation.

Sydney
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10. Re: December 2013 - Yosemite OR Lake Tahoe OR both?

Sounds like for the limited time we have Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is the winner! It does "fit" in our budget (the Awahanee doesn't) but the difference between that and lodging outside the park will be a few hundred dollars so I suppose I was wondering if it was worth it, but it sounds like it is!

With regard to vacation rentals in Yosemite West I can still check those out but they tend to want longer rentals than 3 nights, particularly over that busy Christmas/NY period. Private rentals are normally our preference and we've stayed in some great ones all over the US but this time I think it'll have to be a hotel!

Everyones help has made adding Yosemite an easy decision and that is what I was hoping for, so thanks guys!

PS. My Dad who is coming with us is a very keen amateur photographer with some very good kit - any suggestions as to a good half to full day photography course in Yosemite? Is the one offered through the Ansel Adams gallery good? Is sounds very reasonable but wondered if anyone has experience in that area?