What better way to kick off Thanksgiving weekend than a roadtrip with one of your new best travel nurse friends in a rad Camper Van? I don’t think much could’ve topped this trip. Tori and I were roomies for a month and this trip was such a success, and a great escape from reality we both needed!
After working Wednesday and Thursday night shift for Thanksgiving we hopped into the van Friday morning and started our 9 hour drive to South Lake Tahoe. We took the 395 route taking us through the Alabama Hills which is a beautiful stretch of rode, much more exciting than the I-5.
Instead of driving 9 hours straight, what a bore that would be, we had our sights on stopping at Wild Willy’s Hot springs in Mammoth Lakes for sunset. We were truly chasing the sun setting and cut it pretty close arriving just at 4:45 when sun set but I think we were rewarded with quite the beautiful views.
Into the mountains we go!
From there in the dark we had about 2.5 hours left to get to Tahoe. Through the rain, and some light falling snow we made it! We parked the camper van at Zephyr Cove on the Nevada side of Tahoe. Nice little RV and tent campground which included showers, which were much appreciated!
We woke up Saturday morning and grabbed breakfast at the restaurant across the street. Coming from the sunny and 75 degrees of San Diego we both enjoyed finally feeling like winter time!
Hopped back into the van and did the loop around Tahoe, first stop was Sand Harbor beach. I will have to revisit Tahoe in the summer to go paddle boarding on the crystal clear water around this beach, but even in the winter it was absolutely beautiful!
accurate depiction of my mood whenever I am back in the mountains
Continuing on the loop we stopped in Tahoe City next to do some shopping and meet up with my friend Lauren who came up spontaneously to visit! Tahoe city has a lot of super cute shops and boutiques. Took full advantage of the outdoors store for some boots for Tori and I picked up some items for snowboarding season coming up when I head back to Idaho/Washington for Christmas!
We ate lunch at Fire Sign Café and all shared three different sandwiches which were delicious! Highly recommend this place for a good lunch. Another place that we were bummed was closed was Sunnyside, a restaurant on the waterfront.
Back on the road stopping at Emerald Bay state park for some epic views of the lake from a higher viewpoint. There are hiking trails around here but with it being so close to sunset we just chose to relax and take in the scenery.
Our plan was to take the gondola up Heavenly Mountain for sunset but as trips don’t always go as planned (which will become evident in the days to come) it was closed when we got there! We picked up some coffee and walked around downtown. There are plenty of fun bars and restaurants with fire pits and live music to sit and relax. The Hangar looked like a fun little brewery spot to hang out at for 20 somethings! We chose to be grandmas and head back to the campsite for a Saturday evening playing and dancing to middle school jamz with a bottle of wine in the camper van. Wow adulthood seems super exciting right?
Sunday morning we woke up and grabbed a bagel and coffee from a cute little coffee shop in South Lake Tahoe called Freebird.
Had to pull over for some epic views out the back of the camper van too!
So before planning a trip to Yosemite, MAKE SURE YOU CHECK ROAD CLOSURES. There are three different routes into the park. One from 120 and Tioga rd which is closed from Nov-April. It closed a few days earlier than stated due to a storm that hit the week prior. This originally added an extra 2 hours to our trip. When getting to the turn off for East 120 and Mariposa Grove it had 120 closed at the west entrance as well, so off to Mariposa we went with another half hour added to the driving time. So in total it took up 4.5-5 hrs to get from South Lake Tahoe into Yosemite Valley.
Per car fee is $35 or you can buy a year long National Park pass for $80 which if you do enough traveling you might as well!
We only had three hours until sunset while in the park which eliminated us doing any hikes. There are plenty on AllTrails to occupy multiple days.
Here are some easy spots for pictures around the valley
Down in the valley
I’ve been to Yosemite before and a good hike to a beautiful waterfall is the Vernal Falls trail. It is about 2.5 miles or more depending how far up the fall you want to go.
If you go when Tioga is open, a great place to catch the sunset that doesn’t require a hike is Glacier Point. Otherwise Taft Point is nice too!
We spent the night in a campsite right outside of Seqouia in Three Rivers. An adorable little town. Oddly, when you look at the town sign that generally says “population” it says “souls,” scared? Yes just a bit.
Another thing to do before heading into the national parks is look at construction! Seqouia had a landslide a little ways back and for the past few month there is road construction. During the week delays can be up to 2 hours which lucky us, we definitely experienced! They only let traffic through every 2 hours so if you are not there at the right time you get to sit and take in the stagnant views. Luckily our view was pretty epic and we just set up a picnic and brought the speaker out and chatted with other people waiting as well.
We only had 2 hours in the park which was sad because this was probably my favorite portion of the trip. We mapped out our game plan and headed straight to General Sherman and then worked our way back.
General Sherman is the largest living tree. It is 275 ft tall and is 2100 years old. Now that’s a big ole tree.
Here are some other pictures of sequoias..
Our last stop in the park was to hike Moro Rock. It is only 1/4 mile but has a lot of stairs! We were both huffing and puffing at the top but the views are worth it! You know how the saying goes “the best view comes after the hardest climb.”
After that is was 5.5 hours back to San Diego to drop off the van!
S/O to Tori for partaking in the roadtrip! It’s always a good time with friends who vibe to the same music. Thank you Mumford and Sons for your new album and supplying us lots of tunes.
If you are in the San Diego area and want to add a little spice to your normal roadtrip I highly recommend renting out a camper van. Devonthedoo on instagram is how we rented ours, and I would rent it out again in a heartbeat!
As for future plans, in a week ne and 7 other travelers are heading down to Cabo San Lucas for one last hurrah and to also celebrate a birthday. Other than that I was lucky enough to have off for the holidays so I will be going back to Washington and Idaho and then you’ll have to stay tuned for any other fun before starting up in Phoenix Jan 21!