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Can we do all three parks?

Can we do all three parks?

Old Mar 26, 16, 10:15 am
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Can we do all three parks?

We're looking at visiting Yosemite, plus Sequoia/Kings Canyon later this year. Can we do all three of these in 4-5 days? Maybe tack on Death Valley, or is that too ambitious? We have a toddler, so we can't do a lot of activities at either park, and are used to only spending a day per park. I'm just not sure about the driving and/or weather - we'd be in a rental car, so would need to avoid chains.

We'd likely fly into SMF or perhaps FAT, if the airfares come down a bit.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 11:31 am
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Originally Posted by Kate2015 View Post
... We'd likely fly into SMF or perhaps FAT, if the airfares come down a bit.
You don't say WHEN you will visit. Later this year might be August or December. If you visit before December, chains will not be an issue. I can give a better idea of weather if you narrow down your time frame.

From FAT, all three parks are very close and you could easily see them in 4 days.

If you decide you can't do FAT, then I'd say SFO is actually more convenient than SMF. From either, I'd say drive to Yosemite or the nearby area for the first night and visit the park the next day. Then move to either Fresno or Visalia to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Those two are actually connected and can be visited as one big park.

Death Valley is a bit of a haul from any of the NorCal airports and it really needs more than a day to see. You could do it but I think you would feel like you were just spending your vacation driving the whole time. DV is actually more convenient from LAS or ONT or if you really want an adventure, try BFL.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 11:48 am
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Sorry - probably October.

I actually thought of flying into ONT and winding our way up and leaving from a northern airport but I'm cheap so it would depend on airfare and upgrades.

Basically I'd love DV but my spouse is tired of the desert so I'm trying to get him a park he'd rather see. I could drop Yosemite for the other two if DV/SQ/KC is more reasonable.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 1:01 pm
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I've been to Death Valley and Yosemite within the last 12 months. In my opinion, Yosemite is far more beautiful. Death Valley is once in a lifetime, at least for me. I've now ticked it off. Yosemite is so beautiful with so much to see and do, I hope to return in the next two years or so.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 1:58 pm
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Originally Posted by Kate2015 View Post
... Basically I'd love DV but my spouse is tired of the desert so I'm trying to get him a park he'd rather see. I could drop Yosemite for the other two if DV/SQ/KC is more reasonable.
If you really want something different that is far from desert, consider flying into SMF and then driving north. Lassen Volcanic National Park is a gem that is often overlooked by out-of-staters. It is more low key than the big 3 parks but very interesting and, combined with a visit to Mount Shasta, it could make for a nice visit that is different.

Not trying to talk you out of Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon, which I consider MY backyard parks. Just giving options.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 4:15 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
If you really want something different that is far from desert, consider flying into SMF and then driving north. Lassen Volcanic National Park is a gem that is often overlooked by out-of-staters. It is more low key than the big 3 parks but very interesting and, combined with a visit to Mount Shasta, it could make for a nice visit that is different.

Not trying to talk you out of Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon, which I consider MY backyard parks. Just giving options.
Lassen would be rather high for a rental car with no chains in October?

The other issue is, I got altitude sickness at an embarrassingly low attitude last year in Utah. I'd not like a repeat of that, although I suspect it was brought on by strenuous exercise. Is the hiking fairly easy at Lassen?
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Old Mar 26, 16, 5:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Kate2015 View Post
Lassen would be rather high for a rental car with no chains in October?

The other issue is, I got altitude sickness at an embarrassingly low attitude last year in Utah. I'd not like a repeat of that, although I suspect it was brought on by strenuous exercise. Is the hiking fairly easy at Lassen?
No and no. I doubt snow will be a problem in October but the hiking is rather steep and the elevation is pretty high. It is a semi-active volcano. If you have had problems with altitude you might be better off with Yosemite.

Yosemite Valley is actually pretty low, only about 4,000 feet. The surrounding area is higher but still not that bad - Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows and Upper Yosemite Fall are all in the 8,000 foot range. Hiking in Sequoia NP is even easier unless you go into the back country.

If you try to fit in all 3 Central California parks you should probably just do the easier day hikes in Kings Canyon - General Grant Tree, maybe the nature trail in Cedar Grove, there are plenty of short hikes to good locations at moderate elevations. If you feel adventurous, the Boyden Cave tour is nice but I don't think that is a place to take an infant. The more strenuous hikes in KCNP go up rather steeply.

In Sequoia the trail (almost a stairway) to the top of Moro Rock gives some good views and a sense of accomplishment and the Crescent Meadow trail is a nice, quite pretty introduction to the Sierra. Of course, both Sequoia and Kings Canyon have places to enjoy the big trees.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 6:20 pm
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Good to know, thanks. I think we'll definitely focus on the easier hikes in Yosemite, etc. I think at this point it's definitely strenuous hikes at sea level or easier hikes above 5000 feet or so until I can find a solution to the altitude sickness. Also, our almost two year old got a little itchy in a backpack carrier doing Delicate Arch, so I'm not sure he'll handle another 3+ hour hike on a back at almost three. It looks like Yosemite has some easy strolls that he can wander.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 7:19 pm
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In Yosemite valley you should not get altitude sickness. It's around 4,000 feet.


Altitude sickness doesn't usually hit people till you are around 7500 feet. They key is hydrate.

As for what is reasonable..if you have 5 full days in California ( not travel days) thorn it can be done....

Day 1 fly into whichever airport snd then to Yosemite valley
Day 2 Yosemite valley
Day 3 Yosemite valley am, Tioga pass PM, night bishop or lone pine
Day 4 Death Valley ..night at lodge inside the park
Day 5 am Death Valley, PM to Visalia
Day 6 Sequoia/kings canyon NP fir the day, evening drive back to the airport you flew into.
Day 7 fly home


With Tioga pass you do run the risk of early season snow fall which could cause the road to be temporarily closed.

With Death Valley the period of roughly Mid May-Mid October is considered winter season there where not everything I'd open or it's on very restrictive hours.

Another option yo consider...if you wait till mid October......you can find some one way car rental deals out of SMf/SJC/OAK/SFO to Vegas ...in that case you would either could do SEKzi then Yosemite then Tioga pass to Death Valley yo Vegas or ignore Tioga pass snd do Yosemite then SEKI then Death Valley to Vegas
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Old Mar 26, 16, 9:19 pm
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For 4-5 days I would leave out Death Valley and do Yosemite and SEKI. I drove Death Valley to Yosemite last summer as part of a Phoenix-Bay Area day trip and it was a longer segment than I anticipated. I think you'd be spending much more of your trip in the car with a toddler than you want.

I agree with SanDiego1K, Death Valley is a one-and-done place for me. The only reason I would want to return would be to see the spring wildflowers and get a selfie at Badwater. DV would be better to add on to a Las Vegas trip than your trip.

BTW: Here's the historical opening and closing dates for Tioga Pass (Tioga Road; unofficially CA120) over Yosemite. So it should be open, but major snowstorms can occur any month from September-May.
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Old Mar 26, 16, 9:56 pm
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Also, make sure you see Yosemite on a weekday, not a weekend. Kings Canyon/Sequoia is really one park, and is much less crowded than Yosemite.

Barring bad weather and road closures, you could certainly do all of them in 5 days. I'd pass on Death Valley at that time of year, and it would require 1.5 - 2 more days including round trip travel.
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Old May 11, 16, 5:14 pm
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To put it bluntly, doing Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and Death Valley in five days is not a choice I would make unless all you want to do is drive. I suggest that you subtract Death Valley from the trip. Sequoia/Kings Canyon are adjacent to each other so that is no problem. The gate is about 1.15 hours from Fresno. Yosemite Valley is about 2 hours from Fresno, but in a different direction.

I live in Fresno and have visited all of these parks, including Lassen mentioned by another poster. All are great, but your choice Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon is excellent. A vacation should be leisurely, so making some tough decisions is a necessary part of the process.
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Old May 11, 16, 6:45 pm
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Fresno native here - I concur with the 3 park scenario.

Enter Yosemite Valley via the west gate, and then exit the park through the south gate at Fish Camp. Spend one night in Fresno, have dinner at one of the Basque restaurants that serve big family-style dinners (I like Shepherds Inn in the Downtown area).

Next day, head over to Kings Canyon and Sequoia.

You'll have a more relaxed pace to enjoy your vacation, and the toddler won't be burnt out.

Also if FAT airfare is too high consider SJC - closer than SFO.
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Old May 11, 16, 11:50 pm
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National parks lover living in California for the past nearly 20 years, here.

I agree with others in this thread that you've got a "Pick 2" choice to make. Visiting all 3 parks is certainly feasible in 4-5 days but the downside is you'd be spending a tremendous amount of time driving instead of enjoying the beautiful sights more intimately. I will go slightly against the grain, though, and suggest Yosemite and Death Valley as your combo.

My reasoning: Yosemite is clearly the most beautiful and iconic of the three, so you can't leave it out. Sequoia/Kings Canyon is beautiful, too, but in many of the same ways that Yosemite is. Death Valley is different. And October is one of the ideal times of the year to visit. It's warm enough to feel the heat (no pun intended) and cool enough to avoid most of the dangers of excessive heat.

The route: Enter Yosemite from the West. Visit Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. Exit via the Tioga Pass (East side). Drive down US-395 along the Eastern Sierra, itself an astonishingly beautiful area. Make side trips to areas such as Mono Lake, Bristlecone Pines, and Whitney Portal as time allows. Visit Death Valley. Loop around the Southern Sierra Nevada to Bakersfield then back north. Note, the loop can be done just as well in reverse order.
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Old May 13, 16, 1:03 pm
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Sierra passes don't usually close in October due to snow, but it has happened.

Death Valley in October can be problematic for the opposite reason: if can be too hot, particularly in the first half of the month.

If I had to skip anything, I'd start by skipping the Kings Canyon part of Sequoia/Kings Canyon. It's much more of a park for backpackers and hikers than for automotive tourists.

If it were a first time and maybe only time trip, I'd focus on Yosemite and maybe throw in Sequoia for a day or two max.

And I say that despite (unlike SanDeigo1K) Death Valley probably being my favorite national park.
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