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 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 and ice cream trails linking such towns as Livermore and Danville.
Continue east to Oakdale, known for its cowboy culture, and then on to towns like Sonora and Pinecrest where lakeside resorts and historic Gold Rush towns await. 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. Spend the night in the park or just outside of it in gorgeous lodges, cabins or houses.
After exploring Yosemite, take the Arch Rock Entrance to Mariposa where a charming downtown and outdoor activities await. As you drive closer to San Francisco, stretch your legs in Modesto on the pedestrian-only 10th Street Plaza.
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, beer and ice cream tasting scene and sun you can count on, 45 minutes from San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.
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.
Half of Tuolumne County Lies in Yosemite.
Tuolumne's Top 7
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
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.
Expand Your Park Experience with Yosemite Family Adventures
Take a private tour of the park with Yosemite Family Adventures. Do one of four classic tours, or go stargazing, fly fishing, or hiking with a Yosemite expert guide.
Home in the Park with Yosemite's Scenic Wonders
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.
Resort Getaway at Tenaya Lodge
A world-class spa, three swimming pools, on-site activities, four restaurants and a grab-and-go deli await you at Tenaya Lodge.
13 Gems in Mariposa County
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
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.