Seattle to LA Road rip

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Rami77
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Seattle to LA Road rip
10 months ago

Dear all,

As the subject clearly indicates, I am planning to drive from Seattle to LA starting June 20 or 21 (TBD). I must reach LA on the 25th, as my flight across to the other side of the world leaves on the 26th.

The main goal of this trip is landscape photography. I do not mind missing some stops as long as I hit the high points. I have come to realize I do not have much time to stop at many places, so I need help to plan and prioritize stops and plan the route. I plan to cover Mount Rainier during my stay in Seattle, so I do not need to include it in my itinerary.

Many thanks in advance for all your tips and suggestions,

Brent J
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

I recommend the southern Oregon coast. Highway 101 between Yachats and Florence is one of the most beautiful stretches of road I have ever seen.

I'm sure you'll get lots of recommendations. It'll be hard to fit it all in.

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nevada5
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

Will you stick to I-5 or do some coastal driving?

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Rami77
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to nevada5, 10 months ago

My main purpose is photography, so I will tailor my route to hit the high points either on the coast or more inland. At this point, all options are open. My original idea was to be on the coast the whole way, but I am getting a lot of advise to go inland to see some specific areas.

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Craig Gillette
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

I think the question was also important in time planning.  The I-5 route is much faster.  I'm not sure you could drive all of 101 and 1 in the time you have available so the more time you spend on the coast, the less you can give to any of the inland spots.  Perhaps deciding on one or two coastal stretches might work but you can lose several hours just driving east/west.

I'd suggest south of San Francisco, maybe the 101 to near Monterey then take Highway 1 south utnil it comes back to the 101 at San Luis Obispo then 101 south to L.A.  That picks up the Big Sur area.  FWIW, the I-5 south of about Redding isn't all that interesting in California and it's especially uninspiring south of Sacramento.  The drive from San Fransisco to Los Angeles is pretty much a full day in itself.  IIRC it's about 3 nrs. from Monterey to San Luis Obispo with some time for photography and hustling on a beautiful road that requires/deserves more time than hustle.  And about 4 hours or so from San Luis Obispo to L.A.

North of Redding, you've got Mount Shasta, Lake Shasta and the Sacramento River Canyon.  Also Crater Lake in Oregon.  If you come west to the coast at Redding, then south, you've got a number of redwoods parks, interesting towns, pretty coast, and some  option to move a little faster on 101 as opposed to taking 1 all the way.

Searching any of these place names will help add info.

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drh681
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

I think you'll be hard pressed to photograph anything but rest stops and gas stations.

But I-5 goes right by Mount Shasta and through Sacramento.

You could dodge west to US 101 and see some more wild spaces and The Golden Gate Bridge.

Highway 1 in California will take f o r e v e r.

According to Bing it is 1150 miles and 16 plus hours to drive from Seattle to Los Angeles the fast way, (I-5)

If you take 101 from San Francisco you go through some nice areas and at Lompoc there are beds of flowers being raised for seed this time of year.

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nevada5
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

Craig's suggestions are pretty right on. I've driven the entire I-5 and coastal routes, much of the routes several times (travel photographer living in Napa, Calif for 15 years.) Crater Lake is certainly unique but you'll spend a lot of time getting to scenery similar to the Mount Rainier scenery.

If I were doing this I'd head SW from Portland to the coast just N of Newport Oregon. I'd take in all the coast down to Eureka, California which will get you into the Redwoods as well, like Craig said. Portland to Eureka is a 10 hour drive, but you might figure a day and a half with stops??? I can take 10 days doing this drive, so YMMV.

Getting back to I-5 in N Calif is not easy. Avoid Hwy 299 to Redding - it can be a 4-hour drive. Better to go S on 101 and take Hwy 20 on the N side of Clear Lake. But, Hwy 101 down to the North SF Bay area is a good highway, much of it 4 lane and you move along well - through some very scenic wine country.

Then at Petaluma you can go SE to Hwy 37, go through Vallejo and Benicia. I love the Golden Gate area but you can get really hung up there (photography and traffic.)

I-5 down to LA is definitely boring, but Hwy 1 from Monterey S through Big Sur is fantastic. So I might work my way down the East Bay to Monterey. You can drive Monterey to LA on Hwy 1 in 7-8 hours, but plan on lots of stops.

I hope this helps. Have fun.

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drh681
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to nevada5, 10 months ago

I'd only add that Highway 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay is 150 miles of mountain road. A very strenuous drive if you are alone.

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jedinstvo
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Your biggest problem
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

Your biggest problem will be bed bugs. This plague has returned to America after an absence of some 50 years. They come out at night after you've dozed off and they will bite and scratch and make marks all over your body. Be sure and zip up your suitcase before you hit the sack because they'll climb into that too. There is no remedy except to sleep in the car. Or not sleep at all.

What I'd do photographically is get about four GoPros and always keep one mounted on the dash board and running. Then you'll have a continues movie from Seattle to LA. You can put it all together in Final Cut later on.

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Craig Gillette
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Re: Sign just before Point Lobos at Carmel
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Re: Your biggest problem
In reply to jedinstvo, 10 months ago

jedinstvo wrote:

Your biggest problem will be bed bugs. This plague has returned to America after an absence of some 50 years. They come out at night after you've dozed off and they will bite and scratch and make marks all over your body. Be sure and zip up your suitcase before you hit the sack because they'll climb into that too. There is no remedy except to sleep in the car. Or not sleep at all.

What I'd do photographically is get about four GoPros and always keep one mounted on the dash board and running. Then you'll have a continues movie from Seattle to LA. You can put it all together in Final Cut later on.

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Looks like you had a bad experience. All you have to do is stay in good hotels and  inspect the room, and bed area especially, like the mattress and related fabric folds and crevices, and you can easily tell if they are in the room.  If they are there then find some place else.

Apparently they have come back because a certain pesticide was banned. Heat treatments (I believe above 105 degrees) can easily kill them and any eggs so I'm sure the hotel/motel industry will find a convenient and effective alternative to that banned pesticide, if they haven't already.

Until fairly recently I used to travel a lot through many hotels and I never had an issue. Stay at good quality hotels where maintenance is top notch and inspect the room, as I said, and you should be fine. As a rule anywhere you  stay you should hang clothes up and keep your bags closed to prevent other critters from getting in like some dangerous spiders or any other critters.

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Doug Pardee
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to drh681, 10 months ago

drh681 wrote:

I'd only add that Highway 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay is 150 miles of mountain road. A very strenuous drive if you are alone.

I can't really recommend that Big Sur drive in your situation. Yes, it's very pretty on a sunny day. But the road demands to be taken slowly, and photographic opportunities are limited and will take some time: finding a place to pull over, hiking back to the spot of interest, climbing up or down the slopes to get the right angle, etc. And in the end, you get a bunch of almost interchangeable photos of rocky coastline. Very nice photos, yeah, but there's a sameness about them.

And if it happens to be foggy that day, your speed will be further reduced and your photos won't be so spectacular.

Highway 1 through Big Sur is a 2-lane road with essentially no alternative routes once you get on it. Accidents, land slides, road construction, etc. can set you back by hours. CalTrans has the following notice (sorry for the all-caps, but that's the way they report it):

1-WAY CONTROLLED TRAFFIC 13.4 MI NORTH OF BIG SUR /AT ROCKY CREEK RD/ (MONTEREY CO) FROM 0700 HRS TO 2100 HRS MONDAY THRU WEDNESDAY & 24 HRS A DAY FROM 0700 HRS THURSDAY TO 2100 HRS SUNDAY THRU 9/1/13 - DUE TO CONSTRUCTION

Personally, I'd do anything possible to get to Yosemite. By driving the main road through Yosemite, you can stop at just about any wide spot and take an amazing photo. Almost every photo you've seen of Yosemite was taken within a few feet of the main road. Okay, some of the photos were taken within a few feet of the spur road out to Glacier Point.

Getting to and from Yosemite, maybe not so scenic. A chance to make up some lost time.

Please do allow plenty of time for the LA traffic at the end of your trip. It sounds like you're okay, planning to arrive the day (night) before.

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MarkInSF
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to drh681, 10 months ago

drh681 wrote:

I'd only add that Highway 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay is 150 miles of mountain road. A very strenuous drive if you are alone.

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Only if you're not used to that kind of driving.   It's a steady 50 mph road for pretty much the whole way. With a few especially twisty bits that are slower.   The southern part, down near Hearst Castle is straighter and more open.   In any case, do it.   It's incredibly gorgeous.   Unfortunately, this time of the year there is the very real possibility of fog at the coast, in which case the drive is way less attractive.   You'll be able to tell from the stretch of 101 north of Monterey, where it runs along the coast.   If that is socked in, consider skipping Big Sur.   Instead, spend the couple of hours you spend at either end.   The Monterey Bay Aquarium is amazing, and Santa Barbara is lovely.

One suggestion.   When you're going down 101, if you want to dave a few minutes, instead of staying on 101 the whole way turn off at Los Olivos and take the road (CA 154?) towards Santa Ynez.   That brings you over the mountains into Santa Barbara from the back.   It's slightly shorter than 101 and avoids traffic that can pile up around Goleta.   You do miss a bit of scenic coastline west of Santa Barbara, but if you came down via Big Sur you've likely had enough of that.   The Santa Ynez Valley is pretty, too.

As for the rest, the suggestions you're getting are excellent.  101 is mostly a fast road, if slower than I5.  You'll be doing 60 for most of the way.   The summer weather, as I noted, is problematic, but 101 through the redwood country is inland and sunny.   The part of CA 1 north of San Francisco is also spectacular, with many stretches rivaling Big Sur and the Oregon Coast, but I'd stay on 101as 1 is a lot longer and slower and 101 down the Russian River Valley is also quite attractive.   It goes right down through a major part of the California Wine Country, nearly as scenic as Napa.   If you want to spend a few hours in San Francisco, lovely (it's my home), but you won't scratch the surface.   However, coming over the Golden Gate Bridge makes it worthwhile.  Not to be missed.   If you don't have time for SF, just stay on CA 1across the city and down onto I 280, which is one of the prettiest stretches of freeway you'll ever see.   When you get down to near San Jose get back on 101, or if you have the time, take scenic CA 17 over the hill to pretty Santa Cruz and pick up Hwy 1 there again to carry you around Monterey Bay.

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MarkInSF
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to Doug Pardee, 10 months ago

Doug Pardee wrote:

drh681 wrote:

I'd only add that Highway 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay is 150 miles of mountain road. A very strenuous drive if you are alone.

I can't really recommend that Big Sur drive in your situation. Yes, it's very pretty on a sunny day. But the road demands to be taken slowly, and photographic opportunities are limited and will take some time: finding a place to pull over, hiking back to the spot of interest, climbing up or down the slopes to get the right angle, etc. And in the end, you get a bunch of almost interchangeable photos of rocky coastline. Very nice photos, yeah, but there's a sameness about them.

And if it happens to be foggy that day, your speed will be further reduced and your photos won't be so spectacular.

Highway 1 through Big Sur is a 2-lane road with essentially no alternative routes once you get on it. Accidents, land slides, road construction, etc. can set you back by hours. CalTrans has the following notice (sorry for the all-caps, but that's the way they report it):

1-WAY CONTROLLED TRAFFIC 13.4 MI NORTH OF BIG SUR /AT ROCKY CREEK RD/ (MONTEREY CO) FROM 0700 HRS TO 2100 HRS MONDAY THRU WEDNESDAY & 24 HRS A DAY FROM 0700 HRS THURSDAY TO 2100 HRS SUNDAY THRU 9/1/13 - DUE TO CONSTRUCTION

Personally, I'd do anything possible to get to Yosemite. By driving the main road through Yosemite, you can stop at just about any wide spot and take an amazing photo. Almost every photo you've seen of Yosemite was taken within a few feet of the main road. Okay, some of the photos were taken within a few feet of the spur road out to Glacier Point.

Getting to and from Yosemite, maybe not so scenic. A chance to make up some lost time.

Please do allow plenty of time for the LA traffic at the end of your trip. It sounds like you're okay, planning to arrive the day (night) before.

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Much as I love Yosemite, it is very hard to fit into a north-south trip.   CA 49, the road that runs up and down through the Sierra foothills, is winding and slow.   To get from the Bay Area to Yosemite is half a day, and once you get to Yosemite you won't want to do a quick drive through.   It needs more time than that.   True, you'll get more distinctive photo ops there than in Big Sur, but one can be driven through on the way to LA and the other is a major side trip.

I've driven Hwy 1 many times and never had any significant tie ups.   During the winter there are more likely to be problems caused by mud/rock slides.   The only summer problem is the possibility of fog, and weather forecasts will tell you whether that's likely.   Road conditions should in all cases be checked out to see if major construction is likely.   As for fog, you can get a pretty good idea by conditions on Monterey Bay.   If it is socked in, skip it.   If you have an extra day, by all means consider Yosemite.   But it is a day extra, if you're otherwise staying near the coast (as you will, I5 being boring).

On the way down through Oregon both 101 and I5 are acceptable.   The coastline is pretty, but fog is a possibility and it is a much longer, slower trip.   And you miss Crater Lake, which is out of the way somewhat, but one of those amazing places unlike any other.   It does take some effort to get there, but less than Yosemite, and the roads criss-crossing Oregon are all quite scenic.   I'd have a hard time deciding which roads to take.   The coastline of Oregon and California is all lovely, but also similar, though the northern bits are forested, which runs out south of Big Sur.   The best reason for going through Big Sur is that the inland roads are less interesting.   101 is OK, but the Salinas Valley gets a bit dull after a while, and I5 is deadly dull except for the stretch just north of LA (over the Grapevine).

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dherzstein
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Re: Your biggest problem
In reply to jedinstvo, 10 months ago

jedinstvo wrote:

Your biggest problem will be bed bugs. This plague has returned to America after an absence of some 50 years. They come out at night after you've dozed off and they will bite and scratch and make marks all over your body. Be sure and zip up your suitcase before you hit the sack because they'll climb into that too. There is no remedy except to sleep in the car. Or not sleep at all.

What hotel did you stay in?  I live in California and I've never encountered bedbugs, I don't know anyone who has encountered bed bugs.  I have only read of bed bugs in the druggy hotels in the bad parts of S.F.

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Rami77
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Thank you all: Itinerary draft
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

Dear all,

As always, members of dpreview never fail to help. Plenty of suggestions, tips and comments. Thank you all so very much.

I have tried to take it all in and I think I came up with a draft itinerary having secured a couple of more days for the trip. I decided to sacrifice the columbia river gorge and norther CA for the portland coast, Crater Lake and Yosemite. Here is the itinerary first draft:

18 June pm: Seattle to Portland

19 June: Portland - Cannon Beach - Yachats.

20 June: Yachats - Gold Beach.

21 June: Yachats - Crater Lake via Brookings & Grants Pass.

22 June: Crater Lake - Redding CA.

23 June: Redding - Yosemite.

25 June: Yosemite - LA.

Besides Yosemite, do you recommend advance booking for lodging at any of the overnight stops? Would you recommend another town just before / after the suggested sops for any reason? I tried to keep the "theoretical" driving times at about 4-6 hours a day (in reality more like 10 with stops and all).

Any other suggestions are also very welcome and thanks again.

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dherzstein
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Re: Thank you all: Itinerary draft
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

Rami77 wrote:

Besides Yosemite, do you recommend advance booking for lodging at any of the overnight stops? Would you recommend another town just before / after the suggested sops for any reason? I tried to keep the "theoretical" driving times at about 4-6 hours a day (in reality more like 10 with stops and all).

If you can't book anything in Crater Lake NP, then I can recommend the Prospect Hotel B&B in Prospect, Oregon (about 25 miles west of CRNP).

It's already too late for Yosemite Valley reservations.  You'll have to book something along CA-120 (your Redding-Yosemite route) or CA-41 (your Yosemite-LA route).  Try for something in Groveland, CA-120 on the way in and Fishcamp or Oakhust, CA-41 on the way out.

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jaymc
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Re: Your biggest problem
In reply to dherzstein, 10 months ago

I've only encountered bedbugs in small hotels along Hwy 101. I've traveled the 16hr trip from Seattle to LA over 20 times. The times I do stop, around Sacramento, I stop at a Motel 6 - simple, cheap, and  clean.

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MarkInSF
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Re: Seattle to LA Road rip
In reply to drh681, 10 months ago

drh681 wrote:

I think you'll be hard pressed to photograph anything but rest stops and gas stations.

But I-5 goes right by Mount Shasta and through Sacramento.

You could dodge west to US 101 and see some more wild spaces and The Golden Gate Bridge.

Highway 1 in California will take f o r e v e r.

According to Bing it is 1150 miles and 16 plus hours to drive from Seattle to Los Angeles the fast way, (I-5)

If you take 101 from San Francisco you go through some nice areas and at Lompoc there are beds of flowers being raised for seed this time of year.

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Hwy 1 north of the GG bridge, from near Sausalito to north of Ft.  Bragg, is, indeed, fairly slow.   Actually, the road itself is a consistent 50 mph., give or take a bit, but the mileage is a lot more than 101.   The scenery is very pretty, with forest down to the sea in places and a lot of rocks off the Sonoma coast.  But there is nothing in that section that you can't also see on the Oregon coast or on the Big Sur stretch, which is much less out of the way and adds far fewer miles to the trip.   OK, one thing you won't see in the southern stretch is Ft. Ross, an old Russian outpost (other than the chapel, a reconstruction.)

San Francisco, my home, could use its own guidebook, but you aren't going to have that much time and it's a difficult place to drive (to say the least).   Coming over the GG Bridge is worth putting up with a little traffic.   The drive on 101 down through Marin County really isn't bad for traffic except in the morning rush hour.   Even kind of scenic.   Sausalito is a nice place to stop and stretch or have a meal.   It's right off 101, easy off, easy on.   Cute, if touristy.

South of SF you have choices.   The section from SF to the Monterey Peninsula on Hwy. 1 is pretty, but everyone skips it (though it's one of my favorite Sunday drives) .   It's less dramatic than the Big Sur stretch and adds a lot of miles.   Much better to take I-280 (really pretty) south from SF, then CA 85 to 101 and on down.   Then cut over to Hwy. 1 near Carmel and take the famous stretch through Big Sur to Morro Bay.   Despite all the grumbles, it adds no more than two hours to the trip.   If it's foggy, don't bother.   It's not that complicated.   It's a consistent 50mph road (except for a few slow curves).   I do this at least once a year on my drive down to see my mother.   It does it a long day's drive from SF to LA, but encourages spending the night in Monterey, a good idea anyway, or even down in the settled part of Big Sur.

Further south there's Hearst Castle, an amazing sight, though not a quick in and out.   The tours are mostly reserved well ahead of time.   There are about four tours covering different parts of the house and grounds, all starting out the base of the hill, from which they bus you to the top.   A visit takes a little planning, but if you can fit it in it's a place you'll never forget.  The IMAX history video shown in the visitor's center is very good.   The little town of Cambria, nearby, is very cute, and a beach near San Simeon has one of the more visible populations of elephant seals, right off the highway.   There are some seaside motels in the San Simeon area with nice views, but Cambria is cuter.  The section of Hwy 1 further south, through Lompoc, is mostly rural and can be skipped, though you may see flower fields in bloom.

If you have the time, Santa Barbara is beautiful and photogenic, especially the magnificent downtown courthouse and the elegant mission, perhaps the prettiest of all.   Santa Barbara is a great place to stretch your legs for an hour or two.   If you feel like a walk, just start around the courthouse, walk around the reconstructed Presidio, then over to State Street to walk a few blocks down towards the ocean.  The mission is a short drive away.

The section of Hwy 1 from Oxnard (or beyond) to Malibu is OK, if you like seeing a line of beachfront mansions.   If you're going to LAX, it's not that much slower than taking the freeways, which can be jammed even away from rush hour, at least in spots.   Pacific Coast Hwy. moves well enough, though if you aren't in a big rush.   Anyhow, I do this trip a couple of times per year, and to relieve boredom add various bits of Hwy 1 into the mix.   It's not that slow.

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Craig Gillette
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Re: Thank you all: Itinerary draft
In reply to Rami77, 10 months ago

You may have time to wander Sacramento - the railroad museum and Old Sacramento at the river and capitol building are interesting.

Approaching Yosemite from the north , the prime entrance would be via 120.  Sonora or Jamestown are farther out than Groveland but not a bad choice for a late arrival then into Yosemite in the morning.  However, entering via Mariposa isn't a bad alternative.  It depends on where you get your lodging.  Since you have two nights in the area, I'd suggest considering El Portal and Mariposa as well.  The drive from Merced on 99 to Mariposa via 140 isn't too strenuous and it's about an hour from Mariposa into the valley.  El Portal is the most convenient lodging to the valley sites.  The Wawona area is farther out on the Wawona Road and you'd likely pass out south through there.

It's really going to depend on where you find a room to decide the route in that area.

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