Road Trip

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Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip

Explore the ultimate Yosemite to Death Valley road trip guide! Covering scenic routes, must-see landmarks, and tips for the best travel experience. Ideal for eager travelers!

Tobi Miles
July 1, 2022
Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip

Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip - Yosemite National Park is one of americas greatest National Parks. Yosemite is famous for its gigantic ancient sequoia trees and the majestic granite cliffs of El Captain and Half Dom.

Whereas Death valley is a desolate land, which looks like something from Mars! Located in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert, Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world!

A road trip between the two will take you from California Sierra Nevada mountains, through forests, wilderness, canyons and offer views of some of the most majestic scenery in America! There are few driving, here we will detail one of the most scenic!

How long is the drive from Yosemite to Death Valley?

The drive between Yosemite and Death valley takes approximately 4-5 hours and covers between 231 miles and 300 miles depending upon the route.

It can be done in 4 hours amongst the shortest route...but its much better to take your time and experience the breath taking scenery.


Related Read: Best Airport for Yosemite

Which is the best driving route between Yosemite & Death Valley?

Highway 395, more scenic and faster!

Highway 395 is the fastest route and spans 231 miles over approximately 4 hours! You may thing this would mean it may be less scenic then highway 95 but you'd be wrong! In fact, highway 395 has much more dramatic scenery as it follows Owens Valley.

On this driving route you will see the Sierra mountains rise dramatically to your west and breath taking vistas over the valley to the east.  You will also have sights of Mt. Whitney, Alabama Hills and Mono Lake.

If you drive along highway 95 you will find it a longer journey 300 miles (5 hours) and less scenic as the mountains aren't as high and valleys aren't as wide. The climate is also dryer with sparse vegetation.

Along 95 the mountains aren't as high, the climate is dryer (and the vegetation sparser) and the valleys aren't as wide. As a result I think you'll get more impressive shots along 395.

Map of Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip:

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When is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park to avoid crowds?

The best time to visit Yosemite to avoid crowds are May and September. At this time of year the park is accessible, but not too crowded. It's vital to know that many roads and trails in Yosemite are closed for the majority of the year due to snow.

Related Read: 20 Best Camping Spots In Northern California

May at Yosemite:

In May, average highs range in the mid-60s. Lows, however, stay in the mid-30s, so remember to bring a coat with you. These temperates make the visit comfortable and its also the best time to see the parks waterfalls as the snow has melted!

We still love Yosemite National Park, here at TownandTourist!! The beast of USA

Insider Tip:

In May, some roads and trails may still be closed, so you are best visiting towards the end of the month.

September at Yosemite:

September, highs are in the mid-70s, while lows are in the mid-40s. This temperature range offers a more comfortable hiking experience. There is also fewer people on the trails and the sun won't be as intense. However, the waterfalls won't be as free flowing.

Winter at Yosemite:

Yosemite National Park was named one of our: 20 Incredible Winter Camping Destinations: USA


Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip Itinerary:

1. Yosemite National Park (3 day Itinerary)

How much does it cost to enter Yosemite?

Yosemite costs approximately $35 per car valid for seven days

Day 1: Hiking Cooks Meadow to Glacier Point.

Cooks Meadow Loop hike  spans 2.25 miles and take you around the Yosemite Valley. This is the ideal introduction to Yosemite and is fairly easy, flat and offers breath taking views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Afterwards we took the drive to the base of El Captain.

Insider Tip:

You should check out Yosemite Village, where you can pick up a useful hiking map and visit the Ansel Adams gallery. There’s also a shop and some restaurants where you can grab lunch...or alternatively bring a packed lunch like we did!

Drive up Glacier Point Road:

From the valley you can take the 1 hour drive Glacier Point which offers panoramic views of Yosemite. On the way you will find some nice hikes so it's well worth stopping of.

glacier-point-sign-yosemite National Park

Related Read: 15 BEST California State Parks!

Sentinel Done and Taft Point Hikes

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point hikes are both short but I would budget at least an hour for each to really enjoy the spectacular views along the way. The Taft Point Hikes (2.2miles) offers a forested hike with epic views of the valley and deer which can get really close!

Insider Tip:

There is a Sentinel Done and Taft Point combo hike which takes around 4 hours. However, we chose to return to the trailhead after each to grab water and use the toilet.

Glacier Point:

Glacier Point is one of the most popular viewpoints of Yosemite National Park. From the top you will be able to enjoy incredible views of high country, Half Dome, Nevada Falls to the forests in the valley below! This is a must see for any trip to Yosemite!

Insider Tip:

There are now restrictions on driving on Glacier Point Rd from Mid-May to September between 10 am and 4.30 pm.

If the Glacier Point parking lot is full, you will have to park at Badger Pass and then take the shuttle bus to Glacier Point, this shuttle also stops at the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point trailhead. See the NPS website for the latest updates.

Day 2: Mist trail & Vernal Falls

Mist Trail is a 7 mile hike which is really popular during the summer months. The steep trail, which has rock stairs for some parts which take you past the spectacular Vernal and Nevada Falls. These both offer fantastic flows even during the summer!

Insider Tip:

Hike down Muir Trail on the way back rather then retrace your steps this routes offers some unique views of the Nevada falls.

Yosemite National Park vernal Falls . Source: Getty Images


Afterwards head to Curry Village for lunch, where they have everything from Pizza to Ice cream and some tasty coffee.

Day 3: Mono Lake

Mono Lake is a saline soda lake, which was formed at least 760,000 years ago! Unique rock formations look like something from the terrains of Mars and offer some of the strangest scenery known to man!

Insider Tip:

Sunrise or Sunset are the best time to visit Mono Lake.

After visiting Mono Lake, you can also take the short June Lake loop and then drive to Mammoth Lakes.


Mono Lake was included in our list: 15 BEST California State Parks! Camping Tips!

Where to stay in Yosemite National Park?

The best accommodation is inside the park and better still Yosemite valley. A few favourites we stayed at included, the Tenaya Lodge which is a luxurious hotel in the park and the Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite which is in an ideal location.

Insider Tip:

Be sure to book far in advance as the best rooms sell out a year ahead.

2. Bishop & Lake Sabrina

Bishop is an outdoorsy adventure town with an artistic side! It can be reached just of US 395 and is well worth visiting! Many call it a "Small town with a big backyard" as it allows easy access to some of Sierras most dramatic high country.

Located at the north end of Owens valley this is an ideal paradise for hikers, skiers, mountain bikers and anglers.

Bishop Sierra Nevada mountains

Lake Sabrina:

Lake Sabrina is an alpine stunner which is just a half-hour drive southwest of Bishop.

Birder watchers take note: Lake Sabrina is an ideal place to look for the prestigious snow quail.

Lake Sabrina California

John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas:

Bishop is a great place to springboard yourself into the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness Areas, when the snow melts. You can also visit Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to the east and the Volcanic Tablelands to the north.

Where to Eat in Bishop?

When you have finished giving your eyes a feast its now time to give you belly a feast! Head to Erick Schat’s Bakery for just-baked bread and treats. You should also try the unique jerky at Mahogany Smoked Meats.

Insider Tip:

Bishop is home to an artistic movement with over 20 brightly colored murals dotted downtown.

3. Lone Pine & Mount Whitney

Lone Pine is a small town in some very big country! With a population of just 2,000 residents, Lone Pine stretches along U.S. Highway 395 and is at the heart of the vast Owens Valley.

To the east you can see the great Inyo Mountains which tower over the valley, while the Sierra Nevada rises in the west just behind the jumbled boulder formations of the Alabama Hills!

Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip Lone Pine

As you drive down Highway 395 you will feel the road narrow and slow as it turns into Lone Pines Main Street. Here you will find western style buildings with neon signs enticing you to pull over.

Fun Fact: Fishing is huge in Lone Pine, as its offers jumping of to Owens Valley and the Golden Trout Wilderness.

Lone Pine also has a history of being a backdrop for the greatest movies of all time, to find out more check out: The Museum of Western Film History

Where to eat at Lone Pine?

For Breakfast check out labama Hills Café & Bakery on W. Post St, a homely local spot which offers lots of filling foods, including breakfast burritos!  Whitney Portal Store is a nice place for lunch.

Mount Whitney:

As you drive into high country from Lone Pine the road climbs nearly 5,000 feet and zigzags its way up the face of the Eastern Sierra before reaching Whitney Portal, the gateway for hikers who are bound for the summit of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney the highest point in the USA! (outside Alaska).

Mount Whitney

Insider Tip:

Even if you don't plan on hiking to the summit Whitney, you can hike stretches of the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail  and through a wooded canyon along Lone Pine Creek.

4. Panamint Springs

Driving Route: Continue along US 395 and look for signs for highway 136 which merges onto highway 190 and takes you into death valley past Panamint Springs.

Panamint Springs is famed for its no thrills, easy access resort which offers basic accommodation and campground.

The Pananmint Springs resort is close to major death valley sights. 30 miles from Mesquite Sand Dunes and 70 miles from Badwater. Places to stay which offer more amenities and luxury include The Ranch at Death Valley  (we stayed here) .

5. Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is arguably the most EXTREME place in the USA! Death Valley holds records such as the hottest place in the USA with recorded temperatures of 130 degrees F (54'C) and the lowest point in the USA at Badwater Basin, which is 279 feet (85 m) below sea level!

These remarkable conditions have formed extremely unique & beautiful landscapes which you have to experience!

When is the best time of year to visit Death Valley?

Due to death valleys extreme temperatures (122'F) and humidity between (10%-55%) the best time to visit is during the colder months. AVOID Death Valley during the summer (End of May, June, July, August and Early September).

Death Valley National Park west coast road trip. Source: nps

The weather in Death Valley, California is extremely dry and hot throughout the year, especially in the summer where temperatures easily pass 122 ºF. During the winter, humidity levels range from 32% (day time) to 55% (night time), and 10% to 25% during the summer, respectively.

Which Road Trip such I take through Death Valley?

I suggest taking the 1-2 day route through Death Valley, stopping at the popular landmarks located along Highway 190, which include Zabriskie Point, Mesquite flat, Dante’s View, Badwater Basin etc.

How to get to death valley from Las Vegas?

Death Valley is only tow hours from Las Vegas (110 miles). From here, we will access the park through the east entrance.

Death Valley Road Trip Highlights:

  1. Mesquite Flat
  2. Badwater Basin
  3. Dante’s view
  4. Zabriskie Point
  5. Salt Creek
  6. Artist’s Palette
  7. Racetrack Playa
  8. Devils Golf Course
  9. Golden Canyon Trail
  10. Rhyolite Ghost Town

Mesquite Flat:

This is the most popular sand dunes in Death Valley and is easily accessible from the Main road. They rise to a height of 328 feet and are the only dunes where sand boarding is allowed.

Mesquite Flat sunset death valley california. Source: Shutterstock

Badwater Basin:

Badwater Basin is one of the largest salt flats in the world and covers 985 square feet. It also is the lowest point in the U.S.A and lies 282 feet below sea level.

Insider Tip:

Getting to Badwater Basin takes approximately 20 minutes from the main road.

Dantes View:

Dantes view offers one of most the fantastic views of Death Valley and Badwater basin and is a must visit spot. To get there you will need to take the 13 mile road which has no exit, this takes around half an hour but its so worth it!

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point another incredible viewpoint with offers Panoramic views of Death Valley. This viewpoint is located right by the road so if your just on a 1 day trip this spot it ideal.

Devils Golf Course

The Devils Golf Course offers a unique shape where salt crystals form large holes in the ground and is a unique phenomenon of death valley.

The Devils Golf Course is on Badwater Road and lies between entry & exit of the Artist circular road

Devils golf Course california. Source: Getty Images

Artists Palette:

Artists Palette is a colorful area where the oxidized minerals of the mountain glow in reddish, pink, yellow and green tones. To get here take the 20 minute route, artists road which is a one way drive between southeast & northwest with incredible views.

Salt Creek:

Salt Creek is close to Mesquite Flat so is well worth a walk by. Here you will discover fascinating salt crystal stream which is home to the Salt creek pupfish.

Furnace Creek:

Furnace Creek was an Indian village, and today it is one of the few places within Death Valley National Park. Here you can find lodging, restaurants, and the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Close by you can also find The Old Harmony Borax Works which has the remains of the main borax mine that was in operation from 1882 to 1889.

Insider Tip:

Here you can find a gas station, buts its very expensive so its better to enter the park with a full tank.

Insider Tip:

The Death Valley Visitor Center is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day, where you can see a 20-minute video about the park. During the winter months from November to April, there are activities such as ranger talks and guided walks.

Tips on Driving Through Death Valley

  • Bring Plenty of Water
  • Bring Plenty of Gas
  • Make sure you have all your Travel Essentials
  • Make sure you have all your Travel Accessories
  • Bring a Great Travel Camera to capture some scenic shots.
  • Bring some High Quality Hiking boots: See Recommended Hiking Gear
  • Make sure your Car is serviced, with a spare tire or alternatively rent a fully reliable car.

How to get the best car rental Deals?

To get the best car rental deals check out: Ultimate Car Rental Travel Hacks!

car rental travel hacks

Want to the know the secrets of great hotel deals, check out: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??

Winter Camping in Death Valley is a true bucket list experience, for more info check out:

20 Incredible Winter Camping Destinations: USA

Winter Camping at Death Valley is a bucket list experience , Source:

Western National Parks Road Trip: U.S.A

Death Valley National Park west coast road trip. Source: nps

25 Most Epic Driving Roads in the U.S.A: Road Trip Ideas!

Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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