Major Cities Near Yosemite National Park

Many Yosemite visitors drive from international airports in major cities. Here are handy guides to finding the services in nearby cities.
By Staff,

Many Yosemite visitors drive from international airports in major cities. Here are handy guides to finding the services and activities you want from the cities nearest the park.

San Francisco, CA

Experience world-class attractions and culture in the City by the Bay.

San Francisco's Dolores Park

Bay Area airports

Travelers have a choice of major airports in the Bay Area: San Francisco International (SFO); Oakland International (OAK); and San Jose International (SJC). All airports connect to public metro transportation systems.

Getting around town

Bay Area Rapid Transit (locally known as BART) connects San Francisco with Oakland, Berkeley, and other regions with 100 miles of rail lines (bart.gov). For hikers and bikers, the Bay Area Ridge Trail encompasses 300 miles of multiuse urban paths (ridgetrail.org).

Lodging, dining, and tourist info

For San Francisco, go to sanfrancisco.travel. For Oakland: visitoakland.org.

Top 5 things to do in San Francisco

›› Cruise to The Rock
Hop a boat to Alcatraz Island to see the infamous prison, which operated from 1933 to 1963 and held several prominent gangsters, including Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Alcatraz Cruises runs the daily ferry to the island ($30-$37 adults; alcatrazcruises.com). Several operators also run evening dinner cruises in the bay.

›› Visit Golden Gate Park
See the heart of San Francisco with a day in the park. Stroll the trails (don’t miss the bison paddock) or stop by museums like the de Young art museum and the Conservatory of Flowers.

›› Be amazed at Aquarium of the Bay
Located at Pier 39, the Aquarium will thrill children and adults alike with an intimate glimpse at marine life. The museum features more than 20,000 aquatic animals, plus interactive exhibits such as touch pools with sharks, rays, and sea stars (aquariumofthebay.com).

›› Get wild at the California Academy of Sciences
See a giant anaconda, wander a glass-encased rainforest, stargaze at Morrison Planetarium, and browse many more natural history exhibits at this Golden Gate Park complex.

›› Walk Golden Gate Bridge
The city’s iconic, 746-foot-tall bridge connects two segments of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (see page 48). And at 1.7 miles long and more than 200 feet above the bay, the bridge itself makes for a memorable stroll. Grab a jacket (winds and fog make the bridge chilly) and set out (goldengatebridge.org).

Fresno, CA

Experience the fruits (and wines) of the San Joaquin Valley.

Fresno, California skyline by JMora24 via Wikimedia Commons

Getting around town

The Fresno Area Express (FAX) buses connect downtown with the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and major attractions (fresno.gov).

Top 3 things to do in Fresno

›› Tour an underground garden
Wind through a subterranean system of grottos, chambers, and sunny courtyards at Forestiere Underground Gardens, modeled on ancient European catacombs (undergroundgardens.com).

›› Visit the Fresno Art Museum
This popular downtown museum features a permanent collection of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican art, textiles, and artifacts, plus diverse traveling exhibitions (fresnoartmuseum.org).

›› Sip the Madera Wine Trail
Hop from tasting room to tasting room in nearby Madera, home to more than 12 wineries, most located along the CA 99 corridor (maderawinetrail.com).

Sacramento, CA

Return to California’s Gold Rush on a riverboat tour and restored railroad.

The Tower Drawbridge in Sacramento California

Getting around town

The Sacramento Regional Transit District operates bus and light rail serving 400 square miles (sacrt.com).

Top 3 things to do in Sacramento

›› Hop aboard State Railroad Museum
This extensive museum includes lavishly restored luxury dining cars and all manner of locomotives. It also operates several different train trips through the Central Valley (csrmf.org).

›› Ride back in time
The Delta King was a major transporter of goods and people on the Sacramento River in the early 20th century. Today, the restored riverboat offers dinner cruises (deltaking.com).

›› Bike along the American River
The Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail follows the American River for 32 miles from Discovery Park in Sacramento to Folsom Lake (saccycle.com).