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San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

singapore
Level Contributor
42 posts
3 reviews
San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

Hello!

I will be on a family vacation (4 person) in SF and it will be our first time in mainland USA.

Will need to get to LV after a few days.

This will happen in mid-Nov.

I have read about a scenic 2day drive through Yosemite.

1) Is it worthwhile to rent a car and drive to LV or just fly to save time?

2) can someone elaborate more on the highlights of that scenic drive with regards to the mid-nov period?

3) Is the drive straightforward? is there a particular map that will help?

thank you!

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Providence, Rhode...
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1. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

How many days total will you be spending in San Francisco and Las Vegas? It will depend on that a lot. If you are on a very long vacation, the drive can work, but if you are pressed for time at all, flying would be the best option.

Anaheim, California
Level Contributor
25,711 posts
13 reviews
2. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

OK, just went to Google Maps and found the most direct route (aka Non-scenic) to Las Vegas. It would be about 10 hours (over 560 miles) without any stops, so if you want to do any sightseeing, or even take a break for some food and a restroom break, it would be longer.

It is basically leaving the San Francisco area and taking Interstate 5 south to Bakersfield.

Get off the main Freeway and switch to the Blue Star Memorial Highway (note, this portion is a highway with some stops and not as nice as an Interstate), this segment is about 127 miles.

When you get to the Barstow area, you switch to the Interstate 15.

IMHO, you are on vacation, take a plane.

Note that both San Francisco Airport (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) are easily accessable by the BART system.

Also note that there are many "low cost" airlines that do not show up on most airline fare searches, you need to go to their websites directly to check out their offerings. I am also going to mention baggage fees, as they are an important part of the pricing. And the airport code for Las Vegas is LAS.

Southwest Airlines, 2 free bags ber person.

JetBlue Airlines, 1 free bag per person.

Virgin America, no free bags unless you pay full price.

Frontier Airlines, 2 free bags if you choose the "classic" option.

Bushey, England
Level Contributor
317 posts
30 reviews
3. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

Phuture2000: I once drove from Yosemite to Vegas via Tioga Pass (and through Death Valley) and it's a great scenic route but you need to be aware that the pass closes during the winter, often as early as mid-November. See closing dates below:

www.monobasinresearch.org/data/tiogapass.htm

You can still drive from Yosemite to Vegas with a southerly detour (I think this is via Bakersfield) but you won't get the stunning views.

Corona del Mar...
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
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4. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

"Scenic" is in the eye of the beholder. Of course Yosemite is scenic, it is one of the wonders of the world, but after you leave Yosemite and are out of the mountains you drive through little towns that aren't overly interesting for a few hours and then through desert for about three hours. Now I find the desert scenic because of the vast nothingness except for sun blanched hills and the occasional cactus or joshua tree, but not everyone does.

If it were me I might be tempted to drive to Yosemite and then fly to Vegas from Fresno.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
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5. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

The extremely scenic three-day two-night route would be

SF to Yosemite Valley (I-580 to Hwy 120) about 4 hours. Not so scenic for the first 3 hours.

Fabulously scenic in the Valley.

Yosemite Valley to Lone Pine (Hwy 140 to Hwy 120 to Hwy 395) Fabulously scenic for the entire drive. This is assuming that Tioga Pass is open. It is not guaranteed! www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tiogaopen.htm In the past three years the Pass closed Nov 12, Oct 30, and Dec 6. I wouldn't count on it being open in mid-November.

Lone Pine to Las Vegas via Death Valley. Again, lots of great scenery until you leave Death Valley.

Only one night? Maybe a drive through visit of Yosemite, staying in Lee Vining.

If Tioga Pass is closed, you can drive north from Yosemite to Tahoe, then cross the year-round open pass there and drive south on Hwy 395. (Lots more driving!) Or you could leave Yosemite from the South Entrance and head down to Fresno & Bakersfield, then continue east to Las Vegas.

A map? A California state map would be ideal.

mileages: nps.gov/yose/…mileages9-2007.pdf

Also, since this question is not about San Francisco, it is really better placed on the California state forum. But the kind folks on the SF forum usually don't fuss when travelers ask questions about destinations other than their beautiful city.

Edited: 20 October 2010, 11:48
Corona del Mar...
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
Level Contributor
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435 reviews
6. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

I would not count on Tioga Pass being open in mid November and would make plans accordingly. And driving north to Tahoe just to get to 395 is a 200 mile detour and then you backtrack down that 200 miles again on the other side of the mountains.

Your best route if you drive to Yosemite is to leave the south entrance and take Highway 41 down to Highway 99 to Bakersfield to Highway 58 until you hit the 15 Freeway in Barstow. That is a very straight forward route and scenic in different parts.

Try using Google Maps to figure out the route, but bear in mind, it will keep trying to use the Tioga Pass for directions. You have "drag" the route away from the pass to roads to the west, since east most likely will not be available.

Edited: 20 October 2010, 12:00
San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
6,620 posts
194 reviews
7. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

I'd fly. Mostly because it's a long drive, but also because I am over even possibly driving in snow after having a terrible accident where my car flipped over.

Too bad we don't have a third option like a train. Who would have anticipated that we'd miss these old forms of travel and that they'd be so environmentally friendly as forms of mass transit.

singapore
Level Contributor
42 posts
3 reviews
8. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

Thank you all for the very valuable help!

Mailgirl- I only hv abt 8 days in USA.. intend to keep it 4 for each city. itz a rush but..

darkbeer - tks so much for the tip on alternative airlines! Itz definitely cheaper and faster than what delta offers!

movila - very tempting descriptions!

scottca - I agree with u 'beauty is in the eyes of the beholder'... I cant figure out the flight from fresno.. and the google map reallys helps!

pacificNWfamily - thank you so much the detailed info! i really hope tioga will be open! why lee vining? i'm thinking of staying the lodge near the falls. and yes the SFers r so kind!

sfimporter - your car flipped over?? Does renting a 4WD helps? if itz mid-nov, the snow shouldnt be too heavy right?

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
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6,620 posts
194 reviews
9. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

My accident happened at the end of November, though not on this drive. My rookie mistake was that I was behind someone with four wheel drive and increased my speed when they did. Luckily we weren't going too fast, but we still slid across the road, hit a ditch and flipped completely over and back up to right.

Destroyed the car, but thankfully, aside from some minor back injuries that didn't surface until months later, everyone was okay - including the dog.

N California
Level Contributor
524 posts
50 reviews
10. Re: San Francisco to Las Vegas - drive or fly?

I would think about doing the drive, though recognizing that it would be a long one. Driving through the farming country, the empty desert, and the small towns, gives a perspective on America that you really miss by sticking to the big cities. If there is snow over Tioga Pass, it will be closed (I suspect it is likely to be closed for the winter by mid-November this year), though the weather pattern could change. If the pass is closed, I would take the southern route out of Yosemite.