Mountain Driving For Dummies
Updated: Mar 13
What did I do wrong!?! We can all identify with that bewildered feeling we are left with when someone honks, yells, or speeds around us! Thankfully, you don't have to experience that WTF feeling while driving through Yosemite and the Sierra foothills as long as you follow our Mountain Driving for Dummies guide!
What did I do wrong!?!
You are probably driving WAY too slow: Believe it or not, many of those curvy and crazy mountain roads have a 55 mph speed limit! It's nearly impossible to follow that speed if it is the first time on that stretch, but that won't get that angry local off your tail. No worries, use pullouts! Seriously, just slow down and wait for a turnout or a large scenic viewing area to pull off into so those behind you can pass safely! Whew! Now you'll be able to enjoy the view without worrying.
Don't speed up on the straightaways: Many first-time mountain rookies try to appease the people behind them by speeding up on the straightaways; however, they just slow down again as soon as it gets curvy. Instead, keep your speed the same or slow down and pull to the side to let those behind you take advantage of the few passing lanes available in the mountains. This is especially important for RVs.
Obey traffic and speed signs: If you see a sign for 35MPH or a wildlife crossing, we highly recommend you adjust. If not, you might find yourself flying through a small township or playing tag with a herd of free-range Angus.
Red Bear - Dead Bear: Along those same lines, you may see these signs throughout Yosemite. They mark the location of every fatal interaction between a car and a black bear. To make matters worse, they are almost all located in 25MPH zones... sniff!
Pull off the road completely: You haven't seen another car in over an hour, and you want to take a picture of that deer, or maybe you want to sled down an epic hill, or you need to put chains on. No matter the situation, you must get entirely off the road! Seems silly, but everyone living in a mountain town has a weekly story of almost running into a flatlander parked on the highway. Don't be that guy!
Don't Tailgate: This is dangerous in winter or summer because tourists, wildlife and bad drivers can react in unpredictable ways. Tailgating will only ever ruin your time in the mountains.
Don't ruin the wilderness experience: Whether your goal is to commune with nature or not, don't ruin it for others. No need to honk insistently or play loud music. By now, we all know that your Tesla can make farting noises, so just chill out and enjoy the serenity of the Sierra.
You can probably pick up that hitchhiker: Welcome to the land of long-distance hiking! Many of us park our cars, hike 30-60 miles or more and then depend on hitchhiking to get back to our vehicles. This is a very common practice in the Sierra!
Have some idea of where you are going: In very rural areas, you will not have cell service. I can personally recall at least a 100 instances where I was helping a lost person that did not know the name of the hotel or the name of town they were staying in.
Downshift: If you find yourself hitting the brakes a lot or if you are smelling your brakes, then just downshift your vehicle into 1st or 2nd gear. Many steep grades will remind you of this; however, people forget and ruin their brakes everyday!
Winter road conditions: Did you know you are legally required to carry snow/tire chains when entering a chain control area? Yep, even if it's a warm sunny day, weather can change quickly and leave you needing tire chains to get over a pass or up and out of a valley.
Where to get tire chains? The further from civilization you get the more expensive they become. In the Highway 120 Yosemite corridor, we recommending getting them in Sonora, Big Oak Flat or downtown Groveland. Anything beyond that will cost you an arm and leg.
How to put them? CLICK HERE to learn how to put them on.
When to put them on? You can CLICK HERE for the official details on when to put them on. The breakdown of road conditions goes like this:
Requirement 1 (R-1): Chains OR snow tires
Requirement 2 (R2): Chains OR 4WD
Requirement 3 (R3): Chains on all vehicles, no exceptions.
>R3: The Road will be closed.
Who does this apply to? EVERYONE! Especially if you plan to visit the mountains in an RV! Got more questions!? Call, message or email with questions.