San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip Guide

Set out on an unforgettable journey from San Francisco, through the heart of California’s Central Valley, to the awe-inspiring landscapes of Yosemite National Park. This road trip perfectly blends city charm, historical exploration, and natural beauty. While the direct route spans 170 miles and takes about three hours, the real adventure lies in the stops along the way. Explore our guide to making the most of your San Francisco to Yosemite road trip.

Getting from San Francisco to Yosemite

For locals, driving your own car is the most convenient option. Visitors can easily rent a car from numerous locations at the airport or downtown San Francisco. The recommended route to Yosemite is Highway 120, the most direct and scenic way to enter the park from the West. Although the journey can be completed in a day, we suggest making a few stops along the way to fully experience the attractions and beauty of the route.

Driving Highway 120 from San Francisco to Yosemite

Taking Highway 580 to 120 is usually the fastest way to get from San Francisco to Yosemite. Without traffic, you can drive this route in just over three hours. Staying on Highway 120 will lead you into Yosemite through the Big Oak Flat Entrance, the main entrance to the park.

San Francisco

Begin your journey in San Francisco, a city known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, vibrant food scene, and historic landmarks. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can enjoy fresh seafood and watch sea lions basking in the sun. Take a trolley ride up the steep hills, visit Alcatraz Island, and soak in the sunset over the bay.


A short drive from San Francisco brings you to Berkeley, home of the University of California, Berkeley. Discover the rich history of the 1960s Free Speech Movement at the Berkeley Freehouse. Stroll along Telegraph Avenue for vintage shopping and eclectic people-watching. Don’t miss the Gourmet Ghetto, a culinary hub perfect for a delightful lunch before returning to the road.


Continue your San Francisco to Yosemite road trip to Livermore to experience the essence of California Wine Country. Visit some of the area’s renowned wineries for a tasting tour and enjoy the scenic vineyard landscapes with rolling hills. It’s a great place to unwind and treat your tastebuds before the next leg of your journey.


As you venture further, Oakdale welcomes you with its rich ranching history. Known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, this town offers a glimpse into the Wild West. Visit the Cowboy Museum to learn about the local heritage. Enjoy outdoor activities like fishing and kayaking on the Stanislaus River, or indulge in local cheeses and wines at Oakdale Cheese & Specialties.

Columbia State Historic Park

Your next stop is Columbia State Historic Park, a preserved Gold Rush town. History comes to life here with stagecoach rides, historic saloons, museums, and daily town tours starting at 11 a.m. Explore several hiking trails, enjoy a picnic, or stay overnight to fully immerse yourself in the 19th-century atmosphere.


Before reaching Yosemite, stop in Groveland, a charming town near the park’s northern entrance. Explore Main Street, where you’ll find the Iron Door Saloon, California’s oldest continually operating saloon since 1852. For history enthusiasts, the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum offers insights into the region’s indigenous tribes, the Gold Rush, and the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. It’s the perfect spot to experience the Old West before arriving at the final stop on your road trip.

Yosemite National Park

Welcome to Yosemite National Park, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where breathtaking views and endless outdoor activities await. Enter through the Big Oak Flat Entrance, the park’s main gateway, and prepare to be awed by the park’s natural beauty. Whether you enjoy hiking, photography, or simply soaking in the scenery, Yosemite offers the perfect conclusion to your road trip and the beginning of an unforgettable adventure.

Where to Stay Near Yosemite National Park

After road-tripping from San Francisco to Yosemite, leave your car behind and immerse yourself in the park’s stunning scenery. Stay at Under Canvas Yosemite, located just 10 minutes from the Big Oak Flat Entrance and conveniently near a YARTS stop for car-free access to Yosemite Valley. Enjoy luxurious glamping on 85 acres of forested land with king-size beds, plush linens, private ensuite bathrooms, and upscale lounge areas furnished by West Elm. The main lobby tent features café-style dining and other elevated amenities, making Under Canvas the perfect base for exploring Yosemite and experiencing nature in comfort and style.


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