Distance: 610 miles
Drive Time: 12 hours
One of the most scenic ways to get to Las Vegas from San Francisco passes through Yosemite National Park, along the eastern side of the Sierras and past Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. You'll have to pay an entrance fee to drive through Yosemite, even though you're just driving through - but the scenery is worth it.
The map above shows the route in general. Click on the map and you'll get a slightly larger version. If you'd like to see it even bigger, zoom in and out or get detailed driving directions and explore what you might see along the way, go to the interactive version.
This is the general route: From San Francisco, take I-80 east, connect to I-580 East, then I-205 toward Tracy, merging onto I-5 north toward Stockton. Exit at CA Hwy 120 east toward Sonora. In the process, you will travel on US Hwy 99 for a short distance. Follow CA Hwy 120 through Mariposa to Yosemite, then continue on it across the mountains and over Tioga Pass to Lee Vining. Take US Hwy 395 south.
If your vehicle is up to it, this route will take you across Death Valley, a real hot spot with some of the highest recorded temperatures on earth: Turn left (east) just past Lone Pine onto Hwy 136, which will become CA Hwy 190. Turn left onto North Hwy, then right onto Daylight Pass Rd toward Beatty, crossing into Nevada. Daylight Pass Rd becomes NV Hwy 374. Turn right onto US Hwy 95 and take it to Las Vegas. If you choose this route, don't start out with taking along some good, old-fashioned technology: a paper map. GPS systems are often wrong in this part of California - with occasional tragic consequences - and cell phones aren't like to work, either.
If you'd rather not drive through such a hot place, turn east onto US Hwy 6 near Bishop and then onto US Hwy 95 at Tonopah, Nevada.
Whether or not Tioga Pass will be open depends on Mother Nature – the opening date depends on how much snow has fallen and how fast it can be removed and it closes when the snow gets too deep to plow. To check road status during your trip, you can go to the Department of Transportation website or call 800-427-7623 and enter the highway number you want to know about. Tioga Pass is on CA Hwy 120.