Family Road Trip - Yosemite to Death Valley

Yosemite to Death Valley – Incredible National Park Road Trip

On this Yosemite to Death Valley road trip, minds will be blown by the unbelievably magical and sensational natural works of art. 

Yosemite National Park is famous for its majestic views, rushing waterfalls, towering monoliths, and spectacular scenery. Rock climbers travel from all over the world to get a chance to climb Half Dome, the iconic landmark of Yosemite National Park.

On the other hand, Death Valley National Park is famed for its unreal extremes in temperature, dryness, and humidity.

Even with these well-known factors, millions of visitors travel to the park to witness its glorious landscapes and natural features, such as the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a significant draw for people wanting to try their skills at sandboarding or sand sledding.

Both of these west coast national parks have their magnetic appeal, making for a unique California road trip to take with the family! 

Distance from Yosemite to Death Valley

Without stopping, the route from Yosemite National Park to Death Valley National Park is around 486 miles.

Leaving Yosemite National Park, take CA-120, then turn onto CA-88 and follow it to hang onto US-395 S. You will follow this road until you reach CA-136 and then turn onto CA-190 to reach the stopping point of Death Valley National Park.

Scenic Route From Yosemite to Death Valley 

For the more scenic route, including stops at recommended points of interest, you’ll cover 572 miles full of spectacular opportunities for adventure and memory-making with the family! 

The scenic route will leave Yosemite National Park on CA-120 to CA-4 E.

  • Turn onto CA-49 N, then CA-88 E to merge onto CA-89 N to reach Emerald Bay State Park off of US-50 E.
  • Leaving Emerald Bay State Park on Ca-89 N, travel to US-50 E to access NV-207 E.
  • Follow this route until you hit NV-206 S then turn onto NV-756 E to reach US-395 S, following the road until you hit CA-270 E to reach Bodie State Historic Park.
  • After you leave the park on CA-270 W, take CA-167 W to US-395 S to Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.
  • Use US-395 S to CA-203 W to reach Minaret Vista.
  • Follow CA-203 back to US-395 S until you turn off US-6 E for the Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site.
  • Take US-395 S to CA-136 and CA-190 to reach your final destination of Death Valley National Park.

How Long do I Need when driving from Yosemite to Death Valley

The non-stop route takes around nine and a half hours to complete. So if you want time to explore Death Valley National Park, this will require two days at a minimum. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - How Long do I Need when driving from Yosemite to Death Valley

For the scenic route, including stops at various attractions and activities, we recommend taking at least four to five days so everyone can take their time soaking in all the breathtaking views and awe-inspiring attractions.

The driving route takes almost 13 hours without stopping at the attractions, so splitting up the drive can help stretch the legs and reduce the exhaustion of driving long distances to reach each recommended attraction.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Yosemite to Death Valley

Death Valley National Park has deadly extreme temperatures and humidity, so it’s highly advised to avoid the park in the summer months from June to August.

Instead, we recommend March to early May or late September to October for a road trip from Yosemite National Park to Death Valley National Park. 

Yosemite National Park can get chilly in the evenings during these recommended months. However, this is the safest time to visit Death Valley National Park without suffering from extreme temperatures. 

Best Stops on a Yosemite to Death Valley Road Trip

We’ll be taking you through the top stops on the more picturesque route, though you could always split your journey and make some stops on the way there and some stops on the way back from Death Valley if you’re making this a circular loop trip.

Yosemite National Park

The perfect starting point, Yosemite National Park is a prevalent national park on the west coast full of breathtaking natural wonders that draw in millions of visitors annually. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Yosemite National Park

Famous for its ancient giant sequoia trees, roaring waterfalls, and towering rocky monoliths, Yosemite National Park is every outdoor adventurer and nature enthusiast’s wonderland.

From Glacier Point, bask in awe-inspiring viewpoints of famous landmarks in the park, including Clouds Rest, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome. The highest waterfall in the park, Yosemite Falls, is also one of the tallest waterfalls on the planet!

  • Hikers take note of the need for a seasonal permit if hiking Half Dome – all other time restirction permits in place over COVID have now been removed

Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe

Lying on the National Natural Landmark of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park is home to natural and architectural phenomena. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay is a crown jewel in Lake Tahoe, its stunning array of blues and greens catching the eye, the mountain backdrop making it one of the most photographed locations in the United States.

The bay hosts the only island on Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island, which houses the abandoned structure of Mrs. Knight’s teahouse. It also is home to the architectural stunner Vikingsholm Castle, a 38-room mansion built in 1929 said to be one of the best examples of Scandinavian architecture in the nation.

Bodie State Historic Park, Bridgeport

Preserving an abandoned California gold mining ghost town, Bodie State Historic Park is a State Historic Park and National Historic Site that preserves and maintains the town.

Visitors to the park step back in time to what the ghost town once looked like when the state of California took over the park to save its historical and educational value. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Bodie State Historic Park

Where once there was a bustling gold mining town with what was reported to have 65 saloons, it now remains an abandoned ghost town. The buildings remain in their weathered 1880s appearance, offering an eerie yet drawing appeal that continues to draw in visitors year-round.

Tours, mining, or mill district tours allow visitors to learn more enigmatic and curious hidden gems about this historic ghost town. 

  • Important Note – There are no commercial facilities at Bodie State Historic Park, so as to preserve the historic and abandoned atmosphere. So bring plenty of water and food to stay hydrated and fueled for your adventure through Bodie State Historic Park!

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve was established to preserve and protect the incredible tufa towers. These towers are formed thanks to the reaction of the mixture of alkaline lake water and freshwater springs to create calcium-carbonate knobs and spires, also known as tufa towers. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

The ancient lake, Mono Lake, is more than one million years old and one of the continent’s oldest lakes. Kayaking through the waters of this ancient lake is a popular activity, providing an opportunity for up-close looks at the magnificent tufa towers erected out of the waters.

There is also a boardwalk trail at Mono Lake County Park to access the north shore tufa site for a land-based option for seeing these spectacular natural wonders. 

Minaret Vista, Mammoth Lakes

Presenting the opportunity for unrivaled observation points of the Mammoth Lakes Minarets of the Ritter Range, the Minaret Vista is one of the most scenic attractions on the road trip. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Minaret Vista

The Minarets are a collection of jagged peaks settled on the Ritter Range, a sub-range part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And at the Minaret Vista, you can see unobstructed views of these landmarks and the two tallest peaks in the Ritter Range, Banner Peak and Mount Ritter. 

Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site, Bishop

On the National Register of Historic Places and a California Historical Landmark, Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site is situated on the historic Laws Railroad station and rail yard.

The site also includes the 1883 depot, trains, and other significant buildings that are preserved and used to educate others on the impact of the Iron Horse on local and worldwide history. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site

Donated to Inyo County by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the land is used to recreate a historic village surrounding the original 1883 depot and Agent’s House. This was done by relocating historic buildings to the site from numerous sites in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, and each of these buildings presents unique exhibits of historical artifacts.

Visitors to the Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site can also see the last steam train to ever operate on the old Narrow Gauge line at the museum, the “Slim Princess.” 

Death Valley National Park

The lowest, driest, and hottest national park in the United States, Death Valley National Park is a one-of-a-kind attraction that deserves all the hype it receives. A land of extremes, Death Valley is notorious for its record-breaking humidity and heat during the summers. 

USA Yosemite to Death Valley - Death Valley National Park

But Death Valley National Park is known for so much more than its humidity and heat. The park hosts some of the most intriguing natural and historical finds.

Death Valley National Park has been inhabited by Native Americans (the Timbisha Shoshone) and seen 1800s explorers passing through the valley on their way to the boisterous California gold rush.

Death Valley National Park was also designated a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, offering some of the most optimal opportunities for stargazing in the United States.

Death Valley National Park Accommodations

There’s a choice of camping within Death Valley National Park – ideal if you’re wanting to catch those night skies, or staying at one of the park lodges in Furnace Creek.

The Inn at Death Valley

Termed the crown jewel of Death Valley, The Inn at Death Valley is a historic inn and hideaway established in 1927. As luxury as its gets within the national park, guests can stroll through palm gardens, jump in the outdoor pool, bask in the views on the Stargazers Deck, and more at this little oasis in Death Valley. 

NB, also attached is The Oasis at Death Valley, the newly refurbished four-diamond resort.

The Ranch at Death Valley

Presenting a refreshingly renovated stay, The Ranch at Death Valley is the perfect family-friendly retreat to simmer down and relax between adventuring the enigmatic attractions from Yosemite National Park to Death Valley National Park.

Formerly a working ranch, The Ranch at Death Valley is in an old western-vibe town square with a general store, coffee bar, ice cream shop, restaurant, and the Last Kind Words Saloon. The pool and playground are the big drawcard for families.

Nearby Accommodations

If these don’t fit your budget, then look to the small towns outside of the national park, try Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel in CA. If you’re perhaps headed onward next to Las Vegas, the town of Pahrump, NV has some more options, including RV parks.

Search more options including VBRO here:

More Tips For Road Tripping Yosemite To Death Valley

  • As Yosemite National Park can get quite chilly in the evenings during the recommended months to visit, bring a jacket and appropriate attire to stay warm.
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen (you can still get sunburned in the winter!) and pack plenty of water to stay hydrated. 
  • There are a few points along the trip where picnicking is highly recommended to bask in the astounding and refreshing scenery of nature’s wonders. For the trip, pack a cooler, tasty treats, and reusable utensils for a cute picnic with the family. 
  • Download the Waze app on your phone to stay on track of construction, traffic jams, accidents, and speed traps. Waze will use real-time data to establish a safe and optimal route to reach your desired destination.
  • Download the app Sit or Squat. This app is excellent for families as it helps find public toilets in remote or unknown areas to avoid the risk of potential accidents in the car (or rental car!).
  • Heading the opposite direction through the mountains? Check out this Yosemite to Lake Tahoe itinerary
  • Never forget an important road tripping item again! Grab our downloadable checklist of road trip essentials before your next journey.
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© Family Road Trip 2024

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