13 Best Stops On A Las Vegas to Yosemite Road Trip (With Winter Route)

If you’re looking for a breathtaking road trip that will take you through some of the most amazing scenery in the country, look no further than a journey from Las Vegas to Yosemite National Park.

I’m excited to share this Las Vegas to Yosemite road trip guide with you so that you can discover for yourself all the natural wonders beyond just the city of Las Vegas and Yosemite NP.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, or just want to see what kinds of scenic stops are out there, keep reading.

The routes I provide in this post will take you through some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in the American West, including Death Valley, the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Yosemite Valley.

Use this post to create your custom Las Vegas to Yosemite itinerary, and you’ll be ready to hit the open road and enjoy the journey!

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!


Las Vegas To Yosemite Road Trip Overview

In general, there are two main routes you can take to get from Las Vegas to Yosemite.

Which route you take will depend mostly on weather conditions and whether there are road closures during the time of year you plan to travel. The two routes are:

  • US-95 (highlighted in blue) – this is the shorter route; takes you through Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, and Tioga Pass.
  • I-15 and CA-58 – this is the longer route that avoids Tioga Pass; takes you west of the Sierra Nevadas via the central valley.
Best Stops From Las Vegas To Yosemite

Now that you have a sense of what the routes look like, let’s start by diving into all the best things to do between Las Vegas to Yosemite on the shorter US-95 route.


13 Best Stops On A Las Vegas to Yosemite Road Trip

1. Las Vegas

What To Pack To Las Vegas - TravelsWithElle

Vegas may be known for its lavish casinos, spas, resorts, and nightclubs, but there’s so much more to do in Las Vegas besides spending money, gambling, and partying. Once you veer off the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll get a chance to really see what this city has to offer.

While you’re here, don’t miss the Neon Boneyard Museum, a visit to the Arts District, Area 15, and of course, a walk on the Las Vegas Strip!

Read More: 58 Fun Things To Do In Las Vegas Other Than Gambling and Drinking

If you have more time to spare in Las Vegas, you can take some time to check out some of these fun stops just outside of the Las Vegas area:

  • Seven Magic Mountains
  • Pioneer Saloon
  • Bonnie Springs Ranch Old Nevada Western Town
  • Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

2. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon SP - Best LA to Vegas Road Trip Stops - Travels With Elle

Whenever I travel out of town, I always try to find new nature spots to explore and hike. If you’re anything like me, I’ve got something fun for you nature lovers out there!

Just as you are leaving Las Vegas, take a slight detour to the out-of-this-world gorgeous Red Rock Canyon. This scenic 200,000-acre area is composed of red sandstone rock formations and is only a mere 17 miles west of the Strip.

Once you arrive at the Visitor Center, take the one-way 13-mile scenic drive. This drive boasts some seriously spectacular scenery. For just a $7 entry fee, you can get your fill of rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking!

3. Pahrump

Pahrump is Las Vegas’ version of Napa Valley, also known as the “Gateway to Death Valley.” It is located about 60 miles west of Las Vegas and sits at an elevation of around 3000 feet.

Despite its small size, there are plenty of things to do in Pahrump! There are several casinos, a number of golf courses, and many wineries. The town is also home to a number of museums and art galleries.

You can even fly over the Pahrump valley in a colorful hot air balloon! You’ll get an incredible opportunity to see Las Vegas, the Red Rock Mountains, and the Southwest Valley at sunrise–the most beautiful time of the day.

Whether you’re looking to gamble, drink, or just relax in the desert sun, Pahrump has something for everyone.

4. Death Valley National Park

The Perfect California Desert Road Trip - Travels With Elle

Death Valley National Park is a really unique place that’ll have you thinking you’re on another planet. It’s home to the lowest point of elevation in North America, and it’s also the site of the hottest temperature recorded on the continent.

Death Valley National Park is only a 2-hour drive from Las Vegas and on the way to Yosemite. Explore the park’s beautiful salt pans, sand dunes, Badwater Basin, Furnace Creek Visitor Center for camping, and more during your stop at Death Valley.

WHERE TO STAY AT DEATH VALLEY NP

  • The Inn at Death Valley – Located within Death Valley National Park, this modern inn has cute little casitas that travelers can stay in! There’s a lovely outdoor pool, bar, and restaurant, as well as a range of wellness facilities including a sauna and a fitness center.
  • The Ranch At Death Valley – also another great option located inside the park!

And if you would rather not drive or worry about planning out what sites to see, there are many tours from Vegas that can take you out there:

5. Big Pine

Big Pine Lakes Hike - Eastern Sierra California Road Trip - TravelsWithElle

Big Pine holds a very special place in my heart. For me, it’s home to one of my favorite hikes in all of the USA–the hike to Big Pine Lakes!

The hike to Big Pine Lakes is easily one of the best day hikes in all of California. If the views of Temple Crag and the surrounding mountain ranges don’t take your breath away, the color of the bright, turquoise lakes will.

The Big Pine Lakes trail is a loop trail, beginning at Big Pine Creek Campground and working its way back into the Sierra Nevadas, covering 15-16 miles of distance in the form of a loop trail. There are a few different ways to experience Big Pine Lakes, either as a day hike or as an overnight camping trip.

Big Pine Lakes Hike - Eastern Sierra California Road Trip - TravelsWithElle

If you have an extra day to spare on your Las Vegas to Yosemite road trip, this is undoubtedly going to be the most memorable stop.

6. Bishop

Bishop CA - Eastern Sierra California Road Trip - TravelsWithElle

Nestled between the Sierra Nevada to the west and the White Mountains to the east, Bishop is the largest town in the Owens Valley.

Some popular activities around Bishop include bouldering, hiking, mountain biking, and off-roading.

If you’re a climber or boulderer, then you’ll already know about the popularity of the Buttermilk Boulders.

Bishop Creek Canyon is another awesome outdoor wonderland, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore, fish, and camp. Expect a whole variety of mountains, lakes, streams, forests, and waterfalls once you reach the canyon area.

There are four lakes in the Bishop Creek Canyon, each offering a variety of recreational activities. If you are limited on time and need to pick just one, opt for South Lake or Lake Sabrina (with boat rentals, a cafe, and a store).

Within the town of Bishop itself, there’s a lot to see and do, given its thriving arts and culture scene! Start by driving down North Main Street and soaking in Bishop’s quirky charm.

What you’ll immediately find is that there are a lot of antique, secondhand shopping opportunities! One of our favorite finds was Mammoth Gear Exchange where we found new and gently-used outdoor gear at steeply discounted prices!

Oh yes, don’t miss the opportunity to stop by Erick Schat’s Bakkery to carbo-load on delicious breads/pastries, an activity you need NOT be shameful of.

Erick Schats Bakkery Bishop -Eastern Sierra California Road Trip - TravelsWithElle

PRO TIP: Bishop, CA is a really great place to get affordable gas, way more affordable than Mammoth Lakes or any of the nearby towns. It’s also a good place to grab a meal and hit the grocery store for any last-minute camping needs. Our favorite food joints here were Burger Barn and Mercado Mexico!

WHERE TO STAY IN BISHOP, CA

  • Creekside Inn – One of the best options in Bishop, hands-down! This hotel features a year-round outdoor hot tub and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool. It also offers guests a creek-side patio with stellar views of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Guests can enjoy a daily hot breakfast too.

7. Mammoth Lakes

Things To Do In Mammoth Lakes - TravelsWithElle

The year-round adventure haven of Mammoth Lakes, CA is not to be missed. If you visit the Eastern Sierra region and skip Mammoth, did you really even visit? (Kidding.)

Many people know of “Mammoth” for its world-class skiing and snowboarding during the wintertime. Mammoth Mountain is a huge draw for the area, and people come from all over the world to hit the slopes here.

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Meanwhile, in Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding region, there is plenty of nature to be explored by hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and other outdoors enthusiasts.

From gondola rides to hiking, mountain biking to snowboarding/skiing, ziplining to beer tasting, Shakespeare plays to outdoor movie nights, there’s something for every adventurer here!

We definitely recommend spending a night or two in or around Mammoth Lakes in order to enjoy a few of the activities Mammoth has to offer.

We loved how many amenities there were in this town, as well as how central it was to so many cool sites like Devil’s Postpile, Rainbow Falls, Minaret Vista, Hot Creek Geological Site, Earthquake Fault, and Wild Willy’s Hot Spring.

Two awesome places to grab coffee really early in the morning before you head out on your adventures are Black Velvet Coffee (get the liege waffle to pair with your coffee) and Stellar Brew & Natural Cafe (you can even pick up fresh smoothies here). We recommend grabbing breakfast at The Stove Restaurant.

WHERE TO STAY IN MAMMOTH LAKES, CA

  • The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth – this is where we stayed on our most recent trip. The rooms are spacious and come with a living space, fireplace, and fully equipped kitchen. Of course in true Westin style, there are wonderfully soft bedsheets and bathrobes provided. There is an awesome heated swimming pool and huge hot tub pool.
  • The Village Lodge – this is our second choice in the Mammoth Lakes area. Featuring direct access to a gondola and ski elevator at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, the Village Lodge condos are surrounded by mountain views. The property features a heated outdoor pool, 5 hot tubs, and 3 gyms, as well as free WiFi. Rooms include a dining area and a fireplace, and a balcony with a view of mountains or the courtyard. Some come with a kitchenette as well.

8. June Lake Loop (Quick Detour)

June Lake - Best of Eastern Sierra Road Trip - Travels With Elle

Take a detour right before you hit Mammoth Lakes, CA to see a series of sparkling lakes and gorgeous flora! The highlight here? Gorgeous mountain views, blue alpine lakes, plenty of world-class fishing, and colorful fall foliage.

For roughly 16 miles on the June Lake Loop, the road winds past a series of glacial lakes, all backdropped by scraggly peaks that reach up towards the skies. It’s a drive you’re definitely going to want to have your camera ready for.

The June Lake Loop takes you through the quaint mountain town of June Lake which you should definitely stop at and explore. More on that below!

You can certainly cover the entire scenic drive in 1-2 hours, but if you have more time to explore, there are plenty of spots to hike, bike, SUP, kayak, fish, and snap pictures.

Check out Silver Lake, Grant Lake, and Gull Lake, which offer swimming, boating, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, waterskiing, and jet-skiing. A variety of watercraft, from kayaks to stand-up paddleboards to powerboats can be rented on-site.

If you’re into fishing, the four lakes here (June, Gull, Silver, and Grant) are renowned for fishing and are stocked with trophy-size Alpers trout.

9. June Lake

June Lake Oh Ridge - Best of Eastern Sierra Road Trip - Travels With Elle

I personally love, love, love June Lake! If you’re looking for a great place to take a dip, have a lakeside picnic, or get out on the water on a watercraft, head to Oh Ridge at June Lake.

What you’ll find as soon as you get in the water is cold but shallow water and fine, soft sand, perfect for the whole family to play in. The view of the lake from Oh Ridge is probably one of the most picturesque so definitely be sure to take a few photos with the lake/mountain views.

There are campgrounds and cabins surrounding the lake too, something we’re definitely coming back for next time! Check out Oh Ridge CampgroundJune Lake Campground, and June Lake RV Park.

In addition to world-class trout fishing, swimming, and beaching, June Lake (and the loop’s other three lakes) offers a variety of other water sports. During the summer/fall seasons, I highly recommend getting out on the water one way or another! The water might be a little chilly, but it’s so refreshing to take a dip in when it’s hot.

June Lake - Eastern Sierra Road Trip Stops - TravelsWithElle

Aside from the lake, June Lake is home to a rustic little mountain town.

If you’re looking for a spot to eat after your lake adventure, we loved Epic Cafe, serving up hearty soups, filling salads, and warm paninis. You absolutely cannot miss their Epic Carrot Cake, or any of their pastries and scones for that matter!

You can also check out June Lake Brewing or the Ohanas395 food truck if you’re looking for lunch bites/brews! You can even pick up a few additional drinks or snacks to pair with your meal from the big general store in town.

WHERE TO STAY IN JUNE LAKE, CA

  • For the budget-friendly traveler who doesn’t mind roughing it, I’d recommend trying to snag a campsite at June Lake or Silver Lake.
  • If camping is not your thing, Double Eagle Resort & Spa is a luxurious day spa and resort with a fitness center and indoor swimming pool. What better way to combat those tired legs from hiking with a well-deserved massage here?

10. Mono Lake

Mono Lake - Eastern Sierra Road Trip Stops - TravelsWithElle

You might have heard about Mono Lake in passing, but what’s the deal with Mono Lake?

First off, Mono Lake is old. Second, it’s super salty. Mono Lake began to form around 750,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest lakes in North America.

Runoff water from the surrounding mountains became trapped in the basin, and with no outflow (and limited inflow during the summer and fall), dissolved salts and calcium accumulated here.

With a salinity level over three times that of the ocean, Mono Lake has become a very unique environment, supporting a diverse collection of wildlife. And guess what? You can even boat and swim in the lake! A swim in Mono Lake provides an oddly buoyant swim, which means you’ll effortlessly be able to float!

The best place to see the Mono Lake tufas is undoubtedly at the Mono Lake South Tufa Area. One of the best times to visit is during an evening sunset when you can meander along the boardwalks as the sun lights up the tufa formations (those things sticking right out of the lake).

Mono Lake - Best of Eastern Sierra Road Trip - Travels With Elle

Mono Lake Navy Beach viewpoint is a good option for photography. The Visitor Center also has a bookstore, restrooms, and a shaded picnic area. There is also a short interpretive trail behind the building, winding over to the lake’s shoreline.

11. Lee Vining

A stop in Lee Vining and the Mono Lake area puts you right at the gates of Yosemite–almost there! Lee Vining is a great place to use the bathroom or pick up a quick snack before driving into the park.

While hotel options are limited here, you could also make this your home base if you’re planning on visiting Yosemite over a course of multiple days. From here, you can reach Yosemite within 18 minutes.

To get into the park, it’ll just be a quick 13-mile drive via the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite. From there, you’ll be able to branch out into the park to explore the natural landmarks of your choice.

12. Travertine Hot Springs

Travertine Hot Springs Mammoth Lakes CA -- Best Hot Springs In Northern California

While Travertine Hot Springs is not on the direct route to get to Yosemite from Las Vegas, it’s just a short detour away! It’s just such a unique stop, that I had to include it for those who were interested.

Travertine Hot Springs, located in the town of Bridgeport, CA (30 minutes away from Lee Vining), is a very popular collection of hot mineral pools boasting some of the best views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A soak with a side of views? Don’t mind if I do.

There are a few natural pools to choose from, all of which have hot mineral waters that emerge from the ground, flow down rock formations, and finally reach the pools at a comfortable temperature. There are pools of all temperatures, the hottest being the one nearest the parking area.

By far the best time to take a soak in these pools is before/during sunrise and during sunset. The picturesque backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range makes this soak that much more tranquil.

13. Tioga Pass

Tuolumne Meadows - Travels With Elle

The Tioga Pass is the highest highway pass in all of California. Driving on this road grants you a beautiful drive that takes you through some of the most stunning scenery of Yosemite National Park.

The pass itself is winding and scenic, and the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. You’re going to have your breath taken away as you drive into the park! Passengers, keep your eyes peeled because you won’t be disappointed by the sights!

NOTE: Due to its high elevation, Tioga Pass is usually closed due to snow from November to June. Be sure to check whether it is closed or not before attempting to take this route. More on that below.

And there you have it–all of the fun spots from Las Vegas to Yosemite that I recommend you consider stopping at!


What Is The Best Route From Las Vegas To Yosemite In The Winter?

While Tioga Pass is the quickest (and most scenic) route to get from Las Vegas to Yosemite, it’s important to know that it’s not open year-round.

Due to its high elevation, the snow and ice that begins around the month of November and lasts until late May/early June make the road impassable.

As a general rule of thumb, Tioga Pass is typically closed for drivers’ safety between November and to late May. For the most up-to-date road conditions, check the NPS website–if there’s a Tioga Pass road closure, it’s usually posted at the top of the page.

So if Tioga Pass is closed, what should you do to get from Las Vegas to Yosemite?

Well, you’ll want to take an alternative route, traveling along the Central Valley via I-15 and CA-99, located west of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Best Stops From Las Vegas To Yosemite Winter Route

Below are some of the best things to do on the Vegas to Yosemite winter route!

Mojave National Preserve

On your road trip to Yosemite from Las Vegas, you should consider passing through the Mojave National Preserve. The desert landscapes are incredible!

The unending stretches of desert and the amazing rock formations really make this area look out of this world.

Kelso Dunes is probably the most famous attraction in the park. Nicknamed the Singing Sands or Singing Dunes, you’ll find that as you are walking along the ridge of the dunes as lots of sand begins to drop off the sides, it will make a super unique sound. The sound is produced by the sand’s vibrations when it moves along the ridges!

Calico Ghost Town

Calico - 7 Lively California Gold Rush Towns You Must Visit

Calico Ghost Town is such an exciting stop on the Vegas to Yosemite winter route! Once filled with miners searching for silver, this town was eventually abandoned in the 1890s, rendering it a “ghost town.”

It has since been restored to look as it did in the 1880s and has been turned into a fun roadside attraction aimed at transporting visitors back in time.

Calico Ghost Town recreates the California Silver Rush life with pioneer-style restaurants, shops, and sights. Expect to spend 1-2 hours here, walking around and perusing the gift shops.

This is by far one of my favorite stops along Historic Route 66, because I’m a sucker for western towns, California gold rush towns, and all things reenactment! I had a short but wonderful time here on my last LA to Vegas road trip–the holiday decorations certainly made it that much more festive!

Barstow

Barstow - Los Angeles To Las Vegas Road Trip: Cool and Quirky Route 66 Stops - Travels With Elle

Alright, we’ll admit, Barstow isn’t too interesting, but it is great for bathroom breaks, a re-up on snacks, and a quick leg stretch.

Because The Barstow Station is a major stop for tour buses, you’ll find that it’s one of the bigger towns along the way. It features an outlet mall, electric charging stations for electric cars, a McDonald’s made out of an old railroad station, a ton of other fast-food restaurants, and various gift shops.

There are also numerous accommodation options here. If you’re going to be stopping here for the night, do not miss the Skyline Drive-In Theater! It gets very dark out there, which makes it the perfect setting for an outdoor movie night!

Bakersfield

On this alternative winter route, Bakersfield is just about the midpoint between Las Vegas and Yosemite National Park. Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few things to do in Bakersfield, California!

For starters, the city is home to a variety of museums and art galleries, including the Bakersfield Museum of Art and the California Living Museum.

If you’re looking for something a bit more active, Bakersfield is also home to several parks and recreation areas, such as Hart Park and Panorama Bluffs. There are also several golf courses in the area, as well as a waterpark and an amusement park.

The city also has a vibrant nightlife, with many bars and clubs to choose from. And of course, no visit to Bakersfield would be complete without taking a drive on the historic Route 66.

So whether you’re looking for culture or history, food or drink, Bakersfield isn’t a bad stop to consider.

Fresno

Fresno - Las Vegas To Yosemite Winter Route

Just an hour away from Yosemite, the city of Fresno makes for an affordable home base for those planning on exploring Yosemite National Park for several days.

Fresno is the perfect place to visit or stay in if you’re looking for a mix of city and countryside. Home to a number of museums, cultural attractions, and parks, Fresno offers something for people of all ages.

There’s the Fresno Art Museum, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, and the Forestiere Underground Gardens–all of which can keep you entertained for a whole day.

The Children’s Museum of Fresno is a great option for families, with hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. Those looking to get outside can explore one of Fresno’s many parks, including Woodward Park, which is home to a number of hiking trails and a lake.

In addition, the city offers a variety of shopping and dining options, as well as a number of annual events, such as the Fresno Fair and the Fresno Greek Festival.

Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove - Las Vegas To Yosemite Road Trip Stops

If you want to visit an attraction that’s close to Fresno, but actually a part of Yosemite National Park, you’ve got to add Mariposa Grove as a stop.

Mariposa Grove, while not at the heart of Yosemite, is home to one of the park’s most iconic offerings–the Giant Sequoias!

The grove is home to over 500 Giant Sequoias, some of which are over 3,000 years old. The Mariposa Grove also includes the famous Grizzly Giant, which is the largest tree in the park.

Visitors can explore the Mariposa Grove on one of several easy trails or take a leisurely stroll through the sequoia forest. The Mariposa Grove Visitor Center is also a great place to learn about the history and ecology of these amazing trees.

Whether you’re looking to start exploring Yosemite’s natural wonders or just want to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s tallest trees, Mariposa Grove is definitely worth a visit.


Frequently Asked Questions: Las Vegas To Yosemite

How far is Las Vegas to Yosemite?

The shortest route from Las Vegas to Yosemite is approximately 340 miles (about a 5.5-hour drive) via US-95N. This is to the eastern entry point to Yosemite (near Lee Vining).

However, it is important to note that this entry point (via Tioga Pass) is not always open year-round.

The longer route that most travelers take during the winter months when Tioga Pass is closed is approximately 450 miles (about a 7-hour drive) via I-15 and CA-99.

Regardless of which route you take, you’re probably going to need a lot more time to account for traffic, photo stops at scenic areas, overnight stays, food stops, and bathroom breaks.

With so much to see in between, I highly recommend taking your time and make an adventure out of it!

How many days do you need for a Las Vegas to Yosemite road trip?

Because there are so many cool things to do in-between Las Vegas and Yosemite, to do it all, you’re going to need weeks.

If you’re short on time and don’t have weeks (most of us don’t), I’d recommend taking 4 to 7 days for your road trip. That way, you’ll be able to explore at least some of what California’s Eastern Sierra region has to offer!

If possible, give yourself over a week so you can travel slower, do longer hikes, swim in some lakes, enjoy the quiet outdoors, and even get some stargazing in.

What are the road conditions from Las Vegas to Yosemite?

All of the roads between Las Vegas and Yosemite are fully paved, so the majority of vehicles will have no issues driving on them.

In terms of elevation, it is important to know that you’ll experience some pretty drastic elevation changes (an example would be from Lee Vining to Yosemite via Tioga Pass), so make sure your car is capable of accelerating and braking without any issues.

And because changes in elevation also bring changes in temperatures, be sure to pack layers so that you’re prepared for any type of weather.

Is there an entry fee to get into Yosemite National Park?

Yes, just like all National Parks in the US, there is an entrance fee. Yosemite NP’s entrance fee is $35 per vehicle. This entrance fee is good for 7 days.

That means if you decide to leave the park to explore all the cool landmarks to the east or west of the park, you’ll be able to get back into the park within 7 days without having to pay that fee again.

Is one day enough for Yosemite National Park?

While personally, I don’t think one day is enough to see all that Yosemite National Park has to offer, one day in the park does allow you to get a good taste of what the park has to offer.

With just one day, you’ll probably only be able to experience Yosemite Valley and not other parts of the park such as Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, Mariposa Grove, etc.

Wondering what to do with one day in Yosemite? Check out this post for ideas! Yosemite National Park Day Trip: 13 Unmissable Things To See


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