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 ferry, foot or aquarium, you'll find San Francisco offers a fantastic blend of outdoor experiences and cultural opportunities.
Then take one last look at this colorful city in your rearview mirror before you hit the open road to the Tri-Valley area, known as the "sunny side of the bay." Don't get so tangled up in the area's vineyards that you neglect the valley's amazing beer trail linking such towns as Livermore and Danville.
Continue east to Tuolumne County where lakeside resorts and historic Gold Rush towns await. Beyond lies Yosemite in all its breathtaking beauty. After exploring Yosemite, take the Arch Rock Entrance to Mariposa where a charming downtown and an extraordinary gold nugget await. Then, stop in Hilmar for an insider's look at cheesemaking. In Modesto, stretch your legs on the pedestrian-only 10th Street Plaza. Discover our top picks on this route below.
Road Trip Itinerary
Start: San Francisco
Dive Deep into Bay Culture at 9 San Francisco Gems
Walk with sharks at the Aquarium of the Bay, take a rocket boat cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet, explore the "The Rock," a notorious prison, with Alcatraz Cruises, plus 6 more things to do at this Golden Gate city.
Tri-Valley's Grape Scene
Discover a down-to-earth wine tasting scene and sun you can count on less than an hour from San Francisco.
Western Gateways to Yosemite
Tuolumne's Top 7 on the Edge of Yosemite
Half of Tuolumne County lies in Yosemite. Discover the top seven things to do in its 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.
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.
Yosemite National Park
Download the Yosemite Driving Tour App
Feel like you're touring with a local in your car. The GyPSy Guide app uses your phone or tablet's location to play commentary about Yosemite attractions such as Half Dome and Tunnel View as you drive.
Take a Private Tour of Yosemite
Go on one of four classic tours, or go stargazing, fly fishing, or hiking with an expert guide from Yosemite Family Adventures.
Home in the Park
Who knew you could retreat to a house, cabin or condo in the heart of Yosemite National Park? Choose from over 100 properties in three locations at Yosemite's Scenic Wonders Vacation Rentals.
California's Agricultural Side
8 Gems in Mariposa County on the Edge of Yosemite
Find a huge gold nugget, the largest alpaca farm in the state, and an olive oil tasting room on your visit to the charming historic county of Mariposa.
See the Big Cheese in Hilmar
Tour Hilmar Cheese Company, the world’s largest cheese and whey factory. The Visitor Center offers free self-guided tours, guided tours, and free samples.
Break for Modesto, California
Head west of Yosemite to Modesto where filmmaker George Lucas was born and where the E.&J. Gallo Winery, the largest family winery in the United States, is based.