The San Francisco to Yosemite National Park Road Trip is one of the most popular and interesting road trips in Northern California.
This California road trip combines the famous attractions of San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island to the stunning natural scenery of the Yosemite Valley.
On your way to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco, you can enjoy abandoned Gold rush towns, historic attractions, and stunning landscape views.
When to plan San Francisco to Yosemite road trip
Yosemite National Park is a perfect road trip from San Francisco and the Bay Area in all seasons.
Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places in America, with its breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The best time to visit Yosemite is from June through September when you have more daylight hours for activities.
If you have your eyes set on a difficult hike or climb then mid-summer is probably your best bet to visit.
Winter in Yosemite is a beautiful time to visit the park.
The snow-covered trees, crisp air and ice crystals forming on your eyelashes make it an experience that is sure to please.
In the winter you can enjoy all cold-weather activities such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.
How many days to keep aside for the Yosemite road trip itinerary?
We recommend keeping aside a minimum of 3 to 4 days for the San Francisco to Yosemite road trip itinerary.
If you have never been to San Francisco, then you will need one to two days to explore the vibrant City.
Similarly, you will also need two to three days to explore Yosemite and nerds highlights including the giant sequoias and more.
How far is Yosemite from San Francisco?
When driving from San Francisco and the Bay Area, the closest entrance is the Big Oak Flat entrance.
Located on the coast side of the park on Highway 120, this west entrance is also known as the Arch Rock entrance.
The Visitor Center here is known as the Big Oak Flat information center.
The drive from San Francisco to Big Oak Flat information center is about 170 miles and takes about 3:30 hrs.
San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip Planner: Essential stops
Because of the proximity, you can also do a day trip to Yosemite from San Francisco.
However, we do not recommend that as there are several attractions including Gold Rush towns on the scenic drive.
Here are some of our favorite and must-visit road trip stops and attractions on your way to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco.
If you are flying to Northern California to see Yosemite, then San Francisco makes an excellent starting point for the road trip.
After landing at the San Francisco Airport, take some time to see this beautiful California City.
Visit popular attractions in downtown San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Union Square.
Take a cruise on the San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island and admire the Golden Gate Bridge from the water.
Enjoy the culinary attractions and shopping in the city then pick up your rental car to visit Yosemite National Park.
Oakland is the Bay Area’s most diverse city, and it has so much to offer.
Enjoy people-watching in Jack London Square, see the Victorian architecture, and visit the museums.
There are plenty of great restaurants, coffee shops, thrift shopping opportunities, parks, and more in the city.
Oakdale, located in the heart of the Central Valley, is a great place to stop on your San Francisco to Yosemite National Park Road Trip.
Oakdale is known for its rich history and heritage and is popular with tourists looking to experience small-town America.
There are plenty of things to do in Oakdale including The Cowboy Museum, outdoor recreation, and the charming downtown.
It is a great place to stop on your way and grab a quick bite.
Just a few hours drive from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, visitors can find solitude in the quiet town of Groveland, California.
With its vintage small-town charm and breathtaking views of Yosemite, Groveland is a great escape from city life.
Groveland started as a Gold Rush-era town and was famous for its gold discoveries.
Today, the mining town has a beautiful and very well-preserved Main Street with attractions such as the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest Saloon in California.
It also has many hiking trails nearby and makes a great place for an overnight stay on your way to Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park
Finally, the highlight of your trip!
Yosemite Village is the main visitor center in Yosemite National Park and where you will find most of the park’s services.
The village is located in the Yosemite Valley, which is world-famous for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, and meadows.
Here you will find several rustic-style buildings, the famous Yosemite Museum, the Ansel Adams Gallery with its stunning photographs, as well as the Yosemite Indian village.
Yosemite Village is on the National Register of Historic Places and is worth exploring as a separate attraction.
The stunning Yosemite Valley is open year-round and has a variety of activities for visitors.
It offers camping with beautiful views, rock climbing, hiking trails, and even horseback riding!
Popular attractions include Half Dome and El Capitan which offer some of the most challenging climbs in North America.
The beautiful Yosemite Falls is one of the must-visit attractions in Yosemite National Park.
This waterfall is made up of three falls, Upper Yosemite Fall, Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall.
It’s a popular destination for hikers and has many different trails to choose from that range in difficulty.
Glacier Point is another must-visit destination.
The Glacier Point road is usually closed during the winter months due to snow, but once it opens it’s a popular attraction for photographers.
It is an amazing viewpoint where you can see Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Sentinel Rock!
When the road is open from late May to October, you can drive up to the viewpoint or take the Glacier Point tour by bus.
In winter, the point can be accessed by cross-country skiing for over 10.5 miles.
The Mariposa Grove is a beautiful grove of Giant Sequoias and is one of the most popular Yosemite attractions.
The grove is home to some of the largest trees in the world, including the Grizzly Giant which is over 2,700 years old!
Other popular trees include the California Tunnel Tree and the Wawona Tree.
The Mariposa Grove is open all year round, but the best time to visit is in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.
Badger Pass is a ski resort located in Yosemite National Park and is one of the oldest ski resorts in California.
It’s open from December to March and has downhill and cross-country skiing, as well as snowboarding and tubing.
Badger Pass is also the starting point for many hiking trails in Yosemite Valley.
If you are visiting Yosemite National Park during the summer months then it’s worth taking a drive up Tioga Pass.
Tioga Pass is the Eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
This route is closed in the winter due to heavy snowfall, but during warmer months this is one of the most beautiful drives you can take in Yosemite National Park.
Popular attractions along the road include Tuolumne meadows, TenayaLake, Tenaya Lodge, and Olmsted Point.
Tenaya Lodge located in Fish Camp, California is a great place to stay and explore this region of the National Park.
Optional: Lake Tahoe Area
After exiting Yosemite National Park, consider taking a drive west along California State Route 120 towards Lake Tahoe.
This area offers some amazing views of the surrounding mountains and forests along winding mountain roads.
Lake Tahoe is surrounded by beautiful forests, ski resorts, hiking trails, and casinos.
There are many outdoor activities in the Lake Tahoe area so be sure to check them all out!
From Lake Tahoe take I-80 towards Reno to visit the Biggest Little City in the World.
This city is full of casinos, hotels, and restaurants.
Reno is also the home of The University of Nevada, Reno, and offers some great nightlife for those who are looking to let loose after a day of exploring Yosemite National Park.
Optional: Stanislaus National Forest
Stanislaus national forest, located along the Stanislaus River, is one of the most underrated regions of the Sierra Nevadas.
It is one of the oldest national forests in America.
Summer activities include hiking, camping, white water rafting, and kayaking while in winter Bear Valley Ski Resort is famous for its snow fun.
Optional: Sequoia National Park
We hope you like the ultimate San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip Planner.
Did we miss any essential stops on the Yosemite San Francisco road trip?
Let us know in the comments!