We so often find beauty in soft things: a pink sunset, a bouquet of flowers, a sparkling beach. Many of us write off the extremes of the spectrum as harsh places not worth considering, but this Las Vegas to Yosemite road trip leans into them with stops at three more extreme parks, Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
Things to Do and See on this Road Trip
Start amongst the loud and glittering scene of the Las Vegas Strip, the brightest spot on the planet, before pointing your wheels westward. You’ll find Death Valley National Park, which is a land known for its extremes. Its elevation ranges from 282 feet below sea level (the lowest point in North America) to 11,049-foot Telescope Peak and recorded the world’s hottest temperature of 134-degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.
From Death Valley, head towards the towering Sierra Nevada mountains. There grows the oldest living thing on Earth, the Methuselah Tree near Bishop, along with fascinating history to explore before crossing over Tioga Pass into Yosemite. You’ll encounter looming rock formations and pounding waterfalls. Stop in Fresno on your way to Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, where you’ll find some of the world’s tallest trees. Just walking underneath them will make you feel small.
As you finish the route, passing through the towns surrounding the parks like Visalia, Exeter and, farther south, Bakersfield, you’ll realize that extremes can be beautiful too. Read on to discover our favorite route through this landscape.
Start: Las Vegas, Nevada
Death Valley National Park
The largest national park in the contiguous United States, Death Valley National Park is just 142 miles from Las Vegas, but you might feel as though you’ve landed on the moon. Stretching across 3.4 million acres, the park is made up of a patchwork of salt flats, badlands, artfully colored hills and ruins from those who dared to settle in this unforgiving landscape. You’ll also find the lowest point in North America in Badwater Basin, which sits 282 feet below sea level and encompasses nearly 200 square miles of salt flats.
Here are our top 6 stops plus road-trip tips for a fantastic scenic drive on the way to Yosemite National Park.
Sights to See East of Yosemite
Inyo County is the Land of Extremes
Inyo County claims the highest and lowest points in the lower 48. Stop at a WWII internment camp, watch and listen to the sky and see restored trains.
Bishop’s Big Backyard
On the Eastern Sierra, walk among ancient trees, watch mules compete, hike to a lake and relax in a small town with down-to-earth people.
Want to Avoid Traffic and Parking inside Yosemite?
Park your car in a Yosemite gateway town such as Mammoth Lakes on Hwy. 120/395 or Oakhurst on Hwy. 41, and take the YARTS bus into Yosemite Valley. From there, you can ride the shuttle to many attractions and trailheads in the park.
Yosemite National Park
Enter Yosemite at its east entrance on Tioga Road. (In winter, enter the South Entrance.)
Pick Your Perfect Yosemite Activities – Climb, Raft, Bike, Ski, Hike
The ultimate guide to activities inside Yosemite National Park. Which ones have you tried?
5 Famous Viewpoints Close to the Road in Yosemite
Visitors to the park won’t want to miss any of these following heart-stopping vistas, all easily accessible from paved roads throughout the park.
Best 2-Day Eco-Friendly Yosemite Vacation Itinerary
Experience the best of Yosemite while traveling sustainably by eating locally grown food, staying at eco-friendly lodges and hiking on gorgeous trails.
Tour Yosemite Like a Local with Gypsy Guide
On your Yosemite adventure, listen to an entertaining guide in your car.
Around the Clock
How to take photos of Yosemite’s most stunning scenes from sunrise to sunset to night skies by pro Tamron photographer, Ken Hubbard.
Exit Yosemite at its south entrance.
Relaxing Spots near Yosemite’s South Entrance
Mountain Escape at Tenaya at Yosemite
It’s just a few miles from Yosemite’s famous Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias full of the world’s largest single trees. But you’ll feel worlds away from everything at Tenaya at Yosemite.
Go Jump in the Lake at Miller’s Landing Resort
Just 20 minutes from Yosemite National Park’s South Entrance lies a lakeside paradise where contemporary cabins are just a stroll from the shore, boats of all sizes are available for rent and the water in the summer reaches almost 80 degrees.
Two More National Parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon
4 Fantastic Fresno Finds
From underground gardens to a world-class zoo, Fresno is the perfect stop between Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks.
Take a Trip Around the World at Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Journey around the world without ever leaving central California. This incredible zoo is home to more than 200 species and has interactive and award-winning habitats that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the California coast, the African savannahs or the Australian outback.
The Majestic Mountain Loop Stops at Three National Parks
If the only national park you visit in California is Yosemite, you’ll miss seeing the world’s largest living tree in Sequoia National Park and the nation’s Christmas tree in Kings Canyon National Park.
Explore the towns that sit at the foot of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. Get outdoors and experience agri-tourism at its best where farms that roll up to the towering Sierra Nevada mountains are filled with the intoxicating scent of peaches, table grapes, nectarines, kiwis and oranges.
Stay at Wuksachi Lodge in the Heart of Sequoia National Park
Located just down the road from the famous General Sherman Tree, this stone-and-cedar mountain-style lodge is the perfect getaway.
Choose Your Stay in Kings Canyon National Park
From hotel rooms to rustic cabins, you’ll find your perfect getaway at Kings Canyon National Park.
Driving the Streets of Bakersfield
At the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, you’ll find country music, craft brews and genuine grub in Bakersfield.