I know it seems unnecessary to open up this topic on transportation, when you can use any navigation system and figure out how to get from one place to another nowadays. But if you happen to plan a Southwest USA Road Trip, like I did back in October of 2015 you will probably come across the dilemma on how to get from Yosemite National Park to Las Vegas. Google Maps will give you two options, Via Michelin others, and you will be left wondering which way is the best. But it's not only about getting the right route, it's also about being prepared for this part of the journey, that goes through the desert and very lonely (and few) places.
The images in this post were taken with our phone cameras, and are actually screenshots from our USA Road Trip documentary which is 90 minutes long. Let me know if you would be interested in me uploading it.
Driving through Yosemite National ParkDriving through the Yosemite National Park is a joy. The CA-120 route takes you across the mountains, and if you are driving west to east it will also take you through the Tioga Pass and all the way to the Route 395. I highly suggest cutting the road trip with a stay in Mammoth Lakes. It's a lovely little town, mostly visited in winter for it's ski centers.
The next image shows you the road leading from the CA-120 junction to the Route 395 towards Mammoth lakes. The second one down is us in the parking lot of the Austria Hof Lodge, the motel where we had spend the night.
Routes and Roads towards Las VegasSo this is where it gets important. Driving from Mammoth Lakes to Las Vegas takes approximately 5 hours pure driving. This next google map is just for illustrative purposes, since there is another driving option which it doesn't show. The one we chose is the one marked in blue. I wouldn't choose the other two here. There is another option. You can drive down the 395 towards Lone Pine, take a turn towards Route 136 and Route 190 which cuts to Interstate 95 towards Las Vegas. This route takes you through the Death Valley National Park.
Things to ConsiderThis is a drive through the desert. Sure, Yosemite National Park is full of lush woods and incredible, breathtaking nature, but as soon as you step onto Route 395 the landscapes starts to change. Mammoth Lakes would be a good place to stock up on water and some food as well as tank up. The next 3-4 hours will be spent in remote, isolated areas. Make sure to use the restrooms as well. If you take the other route option which I talked about in the previous section, then Lone Pine will be the last populated place worth stopping on your journey.
Sights and Landscapes of Black Mountain
Yes, it's called Black Mountain, and fittingly so. Don't be afraid of the road leading you to the I-95 Highway, but also beware. There will be up-hill driving, many dips in the road, curvy parts as well as long stretches of seemingly never ending road. You won't come across many other cars here. In fact we only saw there or four, for the whole two hours we drove through these parts of the USA! Very important note: If you are driving on the "blue route" above, like we did, the next gas station after Mammoth Lakes is in Beatty. And that's a three hour drive.
Arriving in Las VegasLas Vegas pretty much materializes out of thin air. Being a city that has made the desert come to life it shouldn't be any other way, I guess. We were a bit disappointed at first when we entered the city, being previously spoiled by the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway and San Francisco. Las Vegas comes of as sleazy at first, since the outskirts of the city are filled with shady looking buildings and places. But don't give up on it. Once you come closer to the Las Vegas Strip things get considerably better. This is an interesting drive, full of loneliness and amazing sights of nature and the desert. Las Vegas comes as a much needed change at the end of it.
I hope that this post will be of use to the future traveler and if you are interested in out big travel series to the USA click here to view it!