What is the best scenic way to drive to Yosemite from Pleasanton?
Well, I don't know about scenic, since no matter which way you go, you have to cross the central valley. From Pleasanton you'd either take 140 or 120; 120 is more mountainous but I think a little more scenic. At the moment, 140 is blocked by rockslides anyway, but they should be cleared soon.
For a detailed description of the 120 drive into Yosemite, click on the "Insider Page" icon on the right and read up on the background page.
Well, you have two choices of entrances that are about the same distance from you: the north entrance at Big Oak Flat using Hwy 120 or the west entrance on Hwy 140 at El Portal.
If you want the river view, use the Hwy 140 west entrance as you will follow the Merced River for about 15-18 miles between Mariposa and the park entrance and then you keep following it another 8 miles or so once you get in the park entrance. Hwy 120 puts you more on top with mountain views. It depends on what you like. I prefer the river view. It also depends on the time of year. Assuming you mean the summer, either road will be fine. In the winter, Hwy 140 is the best as it is often called the "all weather highway" as it doesn't have snow and ice often like Hwy 120 does.
Maybe I can go one way and return the other. If that is the case, which way should I go and which way should I return
Go 120 and come back via Merced - I think the former is prettier and the better part of the return route is nearest Yosemite - so if you are late and it gets dark you won't miss much.
There are viewpoints on Rte 120 to take pictures. If you want a detour where 120 turns off to Yosemite you could go into Jamestown for a coffee or food.
Another detour would be to visit Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the way.
Good idea about driving both. My choice would be drive in to Yosemite on 120 and out on 140. That way you can stop conveniently on some of the pull-outs in the park and see great views which you might miss if you were leaving on that road. Plus, the climb uphill might use more gas but save your brakes - and 120 has a noticable climb over 140. As for the advantages of coming out on 140, you would be closer to the river as it is on be on that side of the highway, driving west. Make sure you trade drivers often so you all can experience the beauty. The driver has to pay attention to all the curvy roads so can't enjoy the experience as much as the passengers. One more thing - drive slower in the park to save your life as well as the lives of wildlife. Many animals are killed by speeding vehicles. I believe it was 7 bears killed last year in Yosemite that way.
120 in and 140 out- that's how we often do it.
Did you mention when you'll be doing this trip?
I am there in two weeks, July 5th. So going to Yosemite, Pull over for scenery, and what is the last place I should do a fill-up at a sane price. Hetchy Hetch, what is there to do and how much time will that take. Thanks for all your help.
If you're taking 120, the last place for gas that is an easy pull-off that isn't in the mountains would be Oakdale. The last station before you enter the park is at the Yosemite Pines Campground turn-off, past Buck Meadows, but that place is no bargain- as I recall from last year, the prices in the park at the station at the Tioga Pass intersection were just about the same.
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