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.

There are few better places to start a road trip to Yosemite National Park 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 organic wine scene here as well as alfresco dining and affordable lodging. Continue east to Oakdale for lakeside camping and agri-tourism opportunities, 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. 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.

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Route

  1. Start: San Francisco and Alcatraz Island
  2. The Sunny Side of the Bay in Tri-Valley
  3. Unexpected in Oakdale
  4. Tuolumne’s Top 8 on the Edge of Yosemite
  5. A Tale of Two Lodges, Evergreen and Rush Creek
  6. Yosemite National Park
  7. Resort Getaway at Tenaya Lodge
  8. 13 Gems in Mariposa County’s Gold Rush Towns
  9. Break for Modesto
  10. End: San Francisco, Calif.

Map

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

Trade Wheels for Rails – Take the Amtrak Train
Ride Amtrak to Yosemite to avoid Bay Area traffic, travel sustainably and enter the park for free. Here’s how it works.

Start: San Francisco

A San Francisco Street Car with a view of Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz Island
A San Francisco Street Car with a view of Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island (Photo: Depositphotos)

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.

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.

Unexpected in Oakdale

Mural in Oakdale, Calif.
Mural in Oakdale, Calif. (Photo: by Nancy Podolsky courtesy Visit Oakdale)

Vacation in Oakdale’s cowboy country by exploring a cowboy museum, a sandy beach, bike trails and three breweries.

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

Tuolumne’s Top 8 on the Edge of 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

Discover the top eight things to do in these quaint towns from boating to Gold Rush-era experiences.

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.

A Tale of Two Lodges, Evergreen and Rush Creek

Guests warming by the fire pit in September at Rush Creek Lodge
Guests warming by the fire pit in September at Rush Creek Lodge (Photo: by Kim Carroll Photography courtesy of Rush Creek)

Looking to recharge? Stay at Evergreen Lodge just a mile from the park’s Hetch Hetchy Entrance or Rush Creek Lodge less than a mile from the Big Oak Flat Entrance.

Yosemite National Park

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

Enter the park on Highway 120.

Pick Your Perfect Yosemite Activities – Climb, Raft, Bike, Ski, Hike
The ultimate guide to activities inside Yosemite National Park. Which ones have you tried?

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.

Best 2-Day Eco-Friendly Yosemite Vacation Itinerary
Experience the best of Yosemite while traveling sustainably by eating locally grown food, staying at eco-friendly lodges and hiking on gorgeous trails.

Kena Peay cooks up buffalo chicken crunch wraps in Yosemite National Park.
Kena Peay cooks up buffalo chicken crunch wraps in Yosemite National Park. (Photo: Grant Ordelheide)

Trailside Chef Kena Peay
Kena Peay shows us that cooking in the outdoors can be easy and wonderfully gourmet.

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

The Giving Trees
Don’t leave Yosemite without visiting the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

The Living History of Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers
Yosemite ranger Shelton Johnson brings to life the stories of the Black soldiers who served as the park’s first rangers.

Exit Yosemite at the South Entrance

Resort Getaway at Tenaya Lodge

Explorer cabin at Tenaya Lodge
Explorer cabin at Tenaya Lodge (Photo: Delaware North)

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

Alfresco dining in downtown Modesto
Alfresco dining in downtown Modesto (Photo: Courtesy 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.