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Planning a ride to Yosemite. Looking for tips & advice

Old 12-10-19, 11:02 AM
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arbj
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Planning a ride to Yosemite. Looking for tips & advice

Hi,

I have never ridden much on uphills, I ride mostly on flat roads. I mostly ride 25 miles for 3 times a week (Alternate days). The weekend rides are little longer at 40 miles. I ride on a mountain bike, specialized Rockhopper Comp 29er

I am planning a solo cycle ride to Yosemite valley, starting from Merced (CA) . The plan is to take a rental car, upto Wawona, park there. Then start the ride from there and end at Yosemite valley, take some photos, enjoy the view etc, then start the descent back to Wawona, and then drive back to Fresno. The alternative plan is to ride from Wawona unto Glacier point (uphill).

The plan is for sometime in May next year.

My queries are

1. Is this a good time for visiting and riding??
2. What about traffic? Is it possible to ride on the road ?? I googled around and found that Yosemite is mostly crowded during tourist season, with lots of cars on the roads, besides some sections are narrow.
3. I am not sure about uphill rides, but I don't mind trying it out, is it a really tough climb ?? google shows about 4000 feet height from 100 feet.

Any suggestions would be welcome, also some other destinations would be very helpful.

thanks
nm
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Old 12-11-19, 09:39 AM
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I found this video by the Vegan Cyclist very informative:

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Old 12-11-19, 05:01 PM
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then start the descent back to Wawona,
I think you mean the ascent out of the valley, since that's by far the big biggest climb of the day. I hope you are comfortable slowly climbing back up through that tunnel while cars race by.
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Old 12-11-19, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser View Post
I think you mean the ascent out of the valley, since that's by far the big biggest climb of the day. I hope you are comfortable slowly climbing back up through that tunnel while cars race by.
______________________________________________________________________
Indeed...so many distracted drivers of motor vehicles (cars, trucks, 5th wheels, RVs, travel trailers) for my comfort level.
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Old 12-11-19, 06:24 PM
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I rode through the Yosemite Valley in late June several years ago. The climb out of the Valley was long and pretty hard, but doable. It was a grind for me to get to Lee Vining in one day. I didn't find traffic to be that bad, but I am pretty traffic tolerant, so YMMV. It is a beautiful place and I stayed a week in the valley and did some hiking and tourist stuff.
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Old 12-12-19, 06:06 AM
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I saw that youtube channel. I think they also run guided tours for a fee.

Some amount of traffic should not be a problem I think. But I am worried about a stream of traffic behind me, as I tend to go slow on uphill climbs.

I found some alternatives places..

1. Lassen volcanic national Park.
2. Grand Canyon (Arizona)- Flagstaff, Sedona etc. (also crowded I believe).
3. LA to San Diego riding along the beaches. I believe some stretches have lot of traffic, also one needs to show some ID at the naval base on route.

Perhaps there are other places worth visiting.

Thanks
nm
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Old 12-12-19, 01:46 PM
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If you end up wanting to do some of the Pacific Coast, I would recommend another section rather than LA to SD due to traffic and limited camping. Monterey to San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara is a good choice.

If you do end up LA to SD, pre-planning is key as hostels fill up, and the Marine Corps base requires pre-registration. Alternatively, you can ride along the freeway as it is legal but is certainly second-best to going through the base.
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Old 12-12-19, 09:04 PM
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Most of the route from LA to San Diego has bike lanes, and the freeway has wide shoulders. Much of the route through the base does not have shoulders, and several riders were hit, one being killed, from the rear by a distracted transit bus driver on one of those narrow sections a few years back, despite having at least one bright flashing taillight going in daytime.

I've ridden N-S through Lassen Park on loaded tours several times. It was one of the highlights of the trip every year. It is quite hilly, but only hits 7% grade on the last little set of switchbacks before the summit. Most of the rest of route is 6% or under. The roads are shoulderless, but traffic is fairly light, and the speed limit is 35 mph. In normal years, the Park road is still closed by snow in May, and in heavy snow years, may not be open until July. If you can hack it, try to allow for a hike to the top of Lassen Peak or Bumpass Hell from the summit area; I managed both of those in Shimano SPD sandals.

Have you considered the Lake Tahoe area? That also has some beautiful scenery, beaches along the lake, lots of bike paths, and those should be clear of snow by May. You can do a 71 mile loop around the lake, much of it on paths, but it does have some 800 ft climbs on shoulderless roads around Emerald Bay and then again up to Spooner Summit. There are lots of other very nice rides you could do out of South Lake Tahoe and back if that's a bit much. It kicks the LA-SD ride to the curb, IMO.

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Old 12-12-19, 10:05 PM
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Maybe I'm misreading or misunderstanding your plans as detailed in your post. If I understand it correctly you should do some reconsideration.

Yosemite Valley is 4000 feet. Glacier Point at Yosemite is 7000 feet. The round trip from your hotel to the Valley is about 90 miles. And you plan to ride there and back with a tourist stopover and all in the same day? I don't recall how far it is from the valley floor to Glacier Point road wise.

If you were driving to Yosemite my favorite time to go and stay for three or four days was always to go the day after Memorial Day, in 2020 that is Monday, May 25th. That day is ideal because the park clears out until Friday following Memorial Day. If you have not been to Yosemite before being there for one full day won't do much except inspire awe at what you can just from the Valley floor and separately from Glacier point.

Note: The iffy part of the day after Memorial Day is the weather. It normally will be cool days and cold nights. Maybe some rain, maybe not. Snow possible. But weather aside besides the park being lightly populated at the time I mention the park is green everywhere and the waterfalls and rivers are full force.
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Old 12-12-19, 11:28 PM
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Thanks a lot for the helpful tips. I am now getting an idea of whats involved.

The Yosemite trip looks doable, but for the traffic. Lassen trip maybe I would do after trying out other rides.

I did consider the Lake Tahoe area, but was not sure. Now I think this is the best possibility, depending on the month and the traffic situation

Another area I found in Strava is the Palomar Mountain state park area. I think some people have done pretty long loops here.

Thanks anyway for all the help.
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Old 12-13-19, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by arbj View Post
Thanks a lot for the helpful tips. I am now getting an idea of whats involved.


The Yosemite trip looks doable, but for the traffic. Lassen trip maybe I would do after trying out other rides.


I did consider the Lake Tahoe area, but was not sure. Now I think this is the best possibility, depending on the month and the traffic situation


Another area I found in Strava is the Palomar Mountain state park area. I think some people have done pretty long loops here.


Thanks anyway for all the help.

there are tons of options in the palomar mountain state park area for touring/riding. highest riding point in the area is 6,100 feet so a lot below yosemite np.
some people feel the altitude at that point but as a guy living at 275 feet above sea level and riding in the area 20 times a year on 20 day trips, i don't feel it.
places with dedicated (hotel/motel) lodging in the area are going to be temecula, fallbrook, escondido, julian, borrego springs, pine valley, alpine, ramona.
places to refortify/restock/resupply are the same. bicycle repair/supplies are limited to temecula, fallbrook, escondido and ramona.
using the town of julian as a base point, you can drop down into the anza-borrego desert state park via banner grade and loop back around via teofilo summit/san felipe/county hwy s2
or continue to the town of borrego springs and ascend the longest grade (11.3 miles) in san diego county via montezuma grade, descend to ca hwy 79 and head south back to julian.
or you can hit the south and/or east grade(s) of palomar mountain along with rolling and low trafficked mesa grande rd. acess to cuyamaca rancho state park or the cleveland
national forest/laguna mtns is to the south. lots of camping in the area. best time(s) of year are late feb-early april and october-first two weeks of nov. you can hit the desert and
(choose one or two) laguna/cuyamaca/palomar summits on the same long (century) ride. a 5,000-5,500 foot difference with arm warmers and a windbreaker make it possible.

easy to construct 10-140 mile loops from julian. the riding is challenging, scenic and rewarding and is arguably the best area in southern california to ride. weekday traffic between 10am-4pm is minimal.
weekends...triple the vehicular traffic.

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Old 12-13-19, 05:11 AM
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having ridden yosemite valley a few times, tho, i think you'd be really really happy with that. try for a weekday on a non-holiday weekend.
the valley itself is flat. the climb to glacier point, while awesome, might prove to be too difficult.

recommend cycling the valley but also (if you have access to a vehicle), driving the 120 to tenaya lake. park nearby and ride from tenaya lake to the
yosemite eastern entrance at 9940 feet and back. relatively flattish. super-scenic. decent sightlines. both rides will be a good primer on potential future trips.
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Old 12-14-19, 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by ooga-booga View Post
having ridden yosemite valley a few times, tho, i think you'd be really really happy with that. try for a weekday on a non-holiday weekend.
the valley itself is flat. the climb to glacier point, while awesome, might prove to be too difficult.
The climb isn't crazy steep but it isn't easy and it is pretty much all day climbing all the time. It is a nice but fairly challenging ride for a reasonably fit cyclist who has been doing some riding in the mountains and is acclimated to both the elevation and to the climbing. I agree that it wouldn't be fun to show up from sea level with no climbing mileage in your legs and try to do it.

recommend cycling the valley but also (if you have access to a vehicle), driving the 120 to tenaya lake. park nearby and ride from tenaya lake to the
yosemite eastern entrance at 9940 feet and back. relatively flattish. super-scenic. decent sightlines. both rides will be a good primer on potential future trips.
The valley is beautiful and a great place to spend some time. I'd recommend spending a week there if you can. I'd say use your bike to get around the valley, but probably hike as much as or more than ride.

I almost never take days off from making forward progress on tours and felt it worth taking a week in the Yosemite Valley. I bought a pair of trail runners and did a lot of day hikes using the bike to get to trail heads and other attractions. There is a lot to see and do there.
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Old 12-14-19, 12:40 PM
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The YARTS Bus also takes the 120 over the Sierra Crest, so another option for one not into that much climbing and thin air is to take it to Tioga Pass and then ride back down into the valley--it's mostly, but not completely, downhill.
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Old 12-14-19, 09:17 PM
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I did a bit of riding in Yosemite a couple of years ago. There is definitely a lot of traffic but to be honest I didn't find it that bad. I found most drivers to be patient and respectful, even supportive of me cranking up the hills. Maybe it's because most people there are on some kind of vacation so there's less urgency to get somewhere on a schedule. There's not a lot of space, but as staehpj1 noted above, how much that bothers you just comes down to your tolerance for riding in those conditions. I ride daily in an extremely dense urban area so for me it was fine in the park.

I cycled into the valley on 140 and stayed in the backcountry campground. The next day I cycled up Tioga Rd to Porcupine Flat Campground. The following day I left most of my gear set up in the campsite and cycled the rest of the way up to Tioga Pass with a stop and little hike at Tuolumne Meadows. The entire Tioga Rd. ride was great and the tunnels weren't bad at all. Returned to Porcupine Flat for another night there before bombing back down into the valley to stay another night in the backcountry camp.

The next day I cycled out of the park through Wawona Pass. The long tunnel on this route was a bad one. It's really long and you're going uphill so I felt like I was in it forever. Not a pleasant experience for me. That being said, the climb aside from the tunnel is very enjoyable and the descent from Wawona Pass is fantastic. It's fast and swoopy without ever getting too technical or requiring a heavy hand on the brakes. North Gate Brewing in Oakhurst is a great place to have a beer at the end of the day.

One or two of the tunnels on Tioga Rd. and the long tunnel going up Wawona have these access/maintenance tunnels branching off the side that lead out to the mountain side. They're just large enough for you to push your bike into. So if you're willing to stop in the tunnel (obviously this depends on the traffic coming up behind you) you can push your bike in then walk down these little tunnels until they pop out the side of the mountain and you'll be treated to a perspective of the park that most people have never seen.

I thought the park was a great place to ride. Yeah there are a lot of people, but there are a lot of people because it's so gorgeous there. The climbs are long and drawn out rather than intense and steep and the views are certainly worth the struggle.
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Old 12-15-19, 04:26 AM
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I've spent months at a time in the Valley since the mid 1990s ... climbing and hanging. I've only biked on borrowed bikes on the Valley floor for commuting purposes so I cannot speak about the road touring prospects. I've hitched hiked all through that area, including to, from, and inside the park with tons of gear including massive haul bags for big wall climbing and on around the East Side down through to Joshua Tree.
If any section of road either freaks you out or is too much for you, you can stick out your thumb (or make a cardboard sign) and you'll get a ride in a reasonable amount of time (with your bike) either via a car, truck, or RV (side benefit you'll get to meet and chat with the cool people who give you the lift). You'll always have a backup plan.
So I wouldn't sweat it.
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Old 12-15-19, 04:01 PM
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Just make sure you can handle hills that climb at 5-6% grades for up to ten miles without a break, or have a bailout plan.

The east side of the Sierra also has some nice rides--you could stay in Mammoth Lakes and ride to Mono Lake and back, for example, including the June Lake Loop, and that has less climbing than your proposed Wawona out-and-back. It has dramatic scenery...you may feel like a tiny bug crawling along beneath the mighty Sierra crest.
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