Planning a road trip from Reno to Vegas in June. Will Death Valley be too hot to check out?
November 28, 2012 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Planning a road trip from Reno to Vegas in June. Will Death Valley be too hot to check out? Also, your favorite places along the way?

My girlfriend and I are planning to take a seven to ten day long road trip through the Sierra Nevada region in late June. We're flying into Reno and out of Vegas, but don't intend to spend much time in either of those two cities.

The plan so far focuses mostly on things on either side of Route 395, and includes:

- Virginia City
- Bodie and Mono Lake
- A day or two in Yosemite. I have not yet detailed our plans there.
- Horseback riding and Devils Postpile in Mammoth Lakes
- Bishop (primarily for Erick Schat's Bakery)
- Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
- Stopping at hot springs along the way: Travertine, Buckeye, etc

Then, we figured we'd cut across Death Valley, making a stop in Rhyolite on the way to Vegas. This is as far as I've gotten in planning and where my question comes in. We decided on late June because from what I read, many things in the mountains do not clear up until that point.

So, my question is: Once we get out of the mountains, will we be able to spend time in Death Valley, or will it be unbearably hot by that point?

Additionally, I would be thrilled to hear any other points of interest around these parts that you've enjoyed. I've already gone through many AskMe questions and answers to come up with what I have so far. Details: We're from PA, late 20s, we like photographing natural (and unnatural) beauty, ghost towns, going on moderate day hikes, and finding good food and coffee.

Thanks much!
posted by (lambda (x) x) to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you been to Yosemite? Two days there won't really give you much time at all. Try to stay out of the Yosemite valley, because it's crowded with school trips at that time of year. Also, Buckeye Creek Hot Springs are really a favorite of mine. There are some super crowded hot springs in that area, but you want the ones that are in the creek. You have to drive through a campground then off a fire road. It's a little bit of climb down the rocks but totally worth it. Those springs are awesome!

I blogged about those hot springs. (Self Link)
posted by 26.2 at 11:17 AM on November 28, 2012

Do NOT miss Lake Tahoe. It's stunning. I live here and from the north shore from the Reno airport it's only 45 minutes.

Schat opened up a bakery in Carson City, which is close to Virginia City.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:38 AM on November 28, 2012

Best answer: I'm a tour leader in this area, I am not your tour leader in this area. I've made the drive from Vegas to Bishop to Yosemite through Death Valley a few times since June. I wouldn't say it's unbearably hot, but it's pretty unpleasant. If you want to stop through, I say go for it. Do take precautions though, and do be ready to book it out. Death Valley can be completely awesome, but it's not necessarily for everyone.

On your list: Spend more time in Yosemite. Seriously. The ghost towns and other sights in the area aren't much to write home about. Yosemite really is. When I'm in this area, I book it from Vegas to Bishop, sometimes I stop in Death Valley, sometimes I don't.

My advice would be this. Start out of Vegas unnaturally early. Like 7am. Gas up as far out of town as you can. When you get gas, stop and get a packed lunch. Head through Death Valley to Bishop. While in Death Valley, hit Zabriskie Point on the way in. Head on to the Visitor Center and get some tips tailored to you. At this point, you'll know if you even want to spend more time here. It should be a decent time for a fairly early lunch in the shady area behind the visitor center (or inside the air conditioned visitor center.) After whatver you decide to see in Death Valley, continue on to Bishop. There's a convenience store at Stovepipe Wells that makes for a nice restroom/cold beverage and salty-snack break. If you take this route, you'll pass Manzanar. It's a Japanese Internment Camp from WWII. It's a bit of a rush to see it in the same day if you do much of Death Valley, but it's a really well done site, and worth the stop.

The next morning, stop and get some Eric Schatt's for breakfast. From here, I'd head on in to Yosemite. Again, I'd bring a picnic lunch and stop at the Mono Lake tufas. They're strikingly bizarre and beautiful. From here, you can gas up in Lee Vining (I recommend the Mobil, it's the coolest gas station anywhere). You'll head into the park over Tioga Pass from the Mobil. You can make a few stops here (I recommend Tenaya Lake and Olmstead Point.) From here, you've got your pick of places to stay, either in or out of the park.

This is a simplified version of what I do with my tours through the area. I feel it keeps things pretty simple, but allows you to see some sights along the way while maximizing time in Yosemite. It's a lot of driving. A lot. There certainly are plenty of things to add in and take out, as time allows. I honestly can't speak for anything else on your list, but I'd love it if someone else could. Feel free to me-mail me with any questions.
posted by piedmont at 11:58 AM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Regarding the weather in Death Valley in June -- highs will be ~110 degrees and lows will be ~80 degress. So no, I wouldn't try hiking to the bottom of Ubehebe Crater in the middle of the day -- but if you keep your most active times to the early morning or late evening, you should be okay. This sort of depends on where you are from, and what temperatures you are used to.

(Also, make sure you know what to do if your car overheats. Check your coolant.)

But yes, even though I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Death Valley, and I think that sunrise at Zabriskie Point is awe-inspiring, I agree with Piedmont that extra time in Yosemite might make more sense since your trip sounds a little packed. Either way, have fun!
posted by tinymegalo at 4:32 PM on November 28, 2012

"Unbearably hot" is kind of subjective - it depends on your heat tolerance. I was in Death Valley around that time of year once and enjoyed the experience - but it was very hot. Hiking in the heat of the day would be inadvisable. Also our car unexpectedly broke down. This can happen. Bring plenty of water, just in case.
posted by unsub at 11:55 PM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks very much, all!
posted by (lambda (x) x) at 7:20 AM on November 29, 2012

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