5 Best Road Trips

San Francisco to Yosemite National Park Road Trip

Explore San Francisco before heading inland to sample Northern California’s amazing food and wines on this epic 431-mile adventure.


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There are few better places to start a road trip than San Francisco. From walking on the Golden Gate Bridge to seeing the bay up-close via boat, foot or the aquarium, you’ll find San Francisco offers a fantastic blend of outdoor experiences and cultural opportunities. Don’t miss visiting Alcatraz Island, a national park site.

After exploring this colorful city, hit the open road to towns like Livermore and Dublin on the “sunny side of the bay.” There’s a vibrant wine scene here as well as alfresco dining and affordable lodging. Continue east to Oakdale, known for its cowboy culture, and then on to towns like Sonora and Pinecrest, home to lakeside resorts and historic Gold Rush towns. Don’t miss Columbia State Historic Park where scenes from the TV show Little House on the Prairie were filmed.

Beyond lies Yosemite in all its breathtaking beauty. Be sure to read our In the Park section for everything to do, including our favorite hiking trails [pages 4-19]. Spend the night in the park or just outside of it in gorgeous lodges, cabins or houses.

After exploring Yosemite, exit via the Arch Rock Entrance to towns like Mariposa where charming downtowns and outdoor activities await.

As you drive closer to San Francisco, stretch your legs in Modesto to dine and buy fresh produce at a fruit stand. Discover our top picks on this route in the next several pages.

Map

Start: San Francisco

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay
The notorious prison, Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco BayDepositphotos

Dive Deep into Bay Culture at 9 San Francisco Gems
There’s a reason why so many songs have been written about San Francisco. From its creative food scene and colorful Victorian buildings to its cultural offerings, it’s nearly impossible to experience it all in one trip. Our advice: don’t try to do it all. Pick several places and dive deep

Explore Alcatraz 
Once home to Al “Scarface” Capone and other notorious criminals, Alcatraz Island is a National Park Service site located 1.25 miles offshore. It was one of the country’s most infamous federal prisons. 

Stay at the BEI San Francisco
In the heart of downtown San Francisco, discover a boutique hotel that cultivates authentic connections. Inspired to create harmonious, balanced spaces centered around community, BEI San Francisco delivers a modern hotel experience. Learn more at www.beihotelsf.com

Rent an RV with Outdoorsy
Do this road trip in a rental RV to stay close to nature. Or check out Destination Delivery: Have an RV delivered directly to a campground or parking site to camp in style without having to get behind the wheel. www.outdoorsy.com/rv-rental/california/yosemite-national-park

The Sunny Side of the Bay in Tri-Valley

Green hills of Del Valle Regional Park in Tri-Valley, California
The green hills of Del Valle Regional ParkPhoto by Derik Gaumer Photography courtesy of Visit Tri-Valley

Discover a down-to-earth wine, beer, ice cream and caffeine tasting scene and sun you can count on, 45 minutes from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

Oakdale’s Cowboy Country

Cowboy hat and western wheel
Deposit Photos

Oakdale is hailed the Cowboy Capital of the World
Turn off the main strip to explore Oakdale’s historic downtown including a cowboy museum and a Western saloon.

Stay at the Holiday Inn Express Oakdale
Enjoy this relaxing stop on Hwy 120 on the way to Yosemite National Park with modern, clean rooms and amenities such as complimentary breakfast, high speed internet and an outdoor pool. Find more information at www.hieoakdale.com

Half of Tuolumne County Lies in Yosemite.

The bridge at Wapama Falls in Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley near Evergreen Lodge
The bridge at Wapama Falls in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy ValleyPhoto by Kim Carroll Photography courtesy of Everygreen Lodge

Tuolumne’s Top 7
Discover the top seven things to do in its quaint towns from boating to Gold Rush-era experiences.

Backstage Passes to Yosemite at Evergreen and Rush Creek Lodges
Stay on the west edge of the park to take a deep breath and disconnect. Enjoy food and wine events. Hike on less-traveled paths. Swim and soak in salt water pools.

Want to avoid traffic and parking inside Yosemite?
Park your car in a Yosemite gateway town and take the YARTS bus into Yosemite Valley. From there, you can ride the shuttle to many attractions and trailheads in the park.

Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View, perhaps the most famous view of Yosemite
Tunnel View in YosemiteDepositphotos

Enter the park on Highway 120.

5 Famous Viewpoints Close to the Road in Yosemite
Visitors to the park won’t want to miss any of these following heart-stopping vistas, all easily accessible from paved roads throughout the park.

Year-round Fun in Yosemite National Park
Take a leap and try new activities to explore the park. Which ones have you tried?

Tour Yosemite Like a Local with Gypsy Guide
On your Yosemite adventure, listen to an entertaining guide in your car.

Resort Getaway at Tenaya Lodge

Tenaya Lodge's explorer cabins in the forest
Stay in one of the new 2-bedroom Explorer Cabins at Tenaya LodgeTenaya Lodge

A world-class spa, three swimming pools, on-site activities, cabins tucked in the woods and four restaurants await you at Tenaya Lodge.

13 Gems in Mariposa County’s Gold Rush Towns

Airplane tour over Yosemite with Airborrn Aviation
Airplane tour over Yosemite with Airbornn AviationPhoto courtesy of Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau

Find the largest alpaca farm in the state, stay in a classic Airstream trailer, take a scenic flight over the park plus ten more things to do in this charming historic county.

Break for Modesto

Historic Graffiti Car Cruise Route in Modesto, California
Historic Graffiti Car Cruise RoutePhoto by Diane Moody courtesy of Visit Modesto

Stop in Modesto, half way between Yosemite and San Francisco, for a much-needed break from the car and grab a bite to eat, visit a farm stand or see a show.

End: San Francisco, Calif.