Vacation Planning Tools

From multi-day and multi-city itineraries, to scenic drives filled with history and wildlife, we have a route for you! Choose a selection from one of our three drop-down menus to plan a route to and around the park.

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Now that you have a route selected, use the options below to select specific Points of Interest and other activities. We have included a Map Legend on the right side for easier use

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Itinerary: San Francisco, CA to Yosemite

Orange Route (195 miles): San Francisco, CA to Yosemite

Start off in California’s most romantic coastal city, San Francisco. After having fun exploring the Bay Area, head east to Yosemite National Park, passing through Oakland, Manteca, Oakdale, Big Oak Flat, and Groveland on Highway 120. This is our shortest and most direct sample route, covering almost 200 miles. This route is best traveled from spring through fall.

Explore San Francisco
The Bay Area offers a wealth of National Park Service (NPS) sites, starting right in the city of San Francisco. In the popular Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park has a unique collection of historic 19th-century sailing vessels. Take the whole family to Golden Gate Park, a favorite urban greenspace that stretches west all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In the heart of the park are two outstanding museums: the kid-friendly California Academy of Sciences, with its planetarium shows and four-story indoor rainforest, and the de Young Museum, respected for its outstanding art collections from around the world.

Marin County & Wine Country
Golden Gate National Recreation Area stretches from the city of San Francisco north across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. In just one day, you can go hiking in the golden hills of the Marin Headlands, be awed by the serene cathedral of coast redwoods (incidentally, the tallest trees on earth) at Muir Woods, and kick back on crescent-shaped Stinson Beach, a family-friendly destination.

Further north, Point Reyes National Seashore awaits with its rocky headlands, historic lighthouse, tule elk herds, migratory northern elephant seals, and a hiking trail that follows the famous San Andreas Fault, responsible for many of California’s biggest earthquakes. Not far away you’ll find the vineyards of Northern California’s well-known wine country, stretching from the Russian River Valley near the coast to the sunny inland Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

East to Yosemite National Park

When you’re done exploring the Bay Area, head across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland. Follow Interstate 580 (I-580) south, then east. Take I-205 east to I-5 north. Exit onto Highway 120, which leads east through Manteca and Oakdale, both useful stops for picking up any last-minute supplies. Farther east, Highway 120 is dotted with historic mining towns dating from California’s mid-19th-century Gold Rush. Groveland is a wonderful throwback to the Old West days, with its historic hotels, saloons and eateries. From here, it’s a short drive east to Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat (Northwest) Entrance, past the turn-off to Hetch Hetchy.

Alternate Route via Highway 140
Especially in winter, when driving conditions on Highway 120 in and around the park may require chains, snow tires and/or 4WD, an easier approach from the Bay Area to Yosemite follows Highway 140. Driving this 210-mile route takes around four hours, barring any traffic jams.

The alternate route starts off the same way by crossing the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, then following I-580 south, then east. But instead of diverting onto I-205 east, keep following I-580 south, then take Highway 132 east to Modesto and Highway 99 south to Merced. East of Merced, Highway 140 winds up into the Sierra Nevada foothills, following the Merced River Canyon. It passes the small towns of Mariposa (another Gold Rush era mining settlement), Midpines, Briceburg, and El Portal before arriving at Yosemite’s Arch Rock (West) Entrance.

Top Ten Things to do in Yosemite Park

1. Yosemite Valley Waterfalls

When snow melt from mountain peaks brings icy waters rushing downstream into Yosemite Valley, great waterfalls spring to life. During the peak seasonal flow, which usually happens in May, the thundering of waterfalls can be heard clear across the valley. Read More...

2. Famous Viewpoints

Yosemite’s Tunnel View with Half Dome, Valley View with Merced River, Glacier Point, and Olmsted Point are the most famous views in the National Park. Read More...

3. Walk Among Giant Sequoias

Start by taking the whole family on a joyful nature walk through the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Read More...

4. Black Bears & Wildlife

With more than 400 kinds of animals and multiple life zones for plant life, Yosemite is a top spot for wildlife watching. Read More...

5. Explore Trails

Whether you want to get out of the car and do a little exploring, or you’re planning a backcountry adventure on foot or horseback, we’ve got just the thing for you and your family. Read More...

6. Go Camping on Your Yosemite Vacation

Nothing beats sleeping under the stars in Yosemite National Park, especially if you’re looking for a little family togetherness Read More...

7. Go Rock Climbing in Yosemite

Stalwarts like the giant wall of El Capitan, the polished promontory of Half Dome, and skyscraping Glacier Point all call to expert climbers, who sometimes bivouac overnight while suspended in mid-air. Read More...

8. Yosemite’s Curry Village Ice Skating Rink

Yosemite is covered in powdery blankets of snow, and the valley becomes a winter wonderland. Read More...

9. Explore History & Culture

Yosemite is the wild, wild West. From its earliest Native American inhabitants, to the mid-19th-century California Gold Rush, and the later arrival of ranchers, loggers, and hoteliers, the land surrounding Yosemite National Park is amazingly rich in historical sites. Read More...

10. Festivals & Ranger-Led Activities

Come to watch waterfalls in spring, go hiking in the Sierra Nevada high country in summer, roast marshmallows over your campfire in fall, and go skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Timing your visit to coincide with one of the region’s many festivals will only enhance your Yosemite vacation. Read More...

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