How to Visit Yosemite from San Francisco

Visiting Yosemite from San Francisco

Want to know how to visit Yosemite from San Francisco? If so, keep on reading!

To visit San Francisco and not to visit Yosemite would be a huge mistake.

Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular national parks in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the US.

Yosemite NP is a mind-blowing wonder of the natural world shaped by glaciers, erosion, and weather for 30 million years. The 747,956 acres park is famous for the biodiversity,  majestic granite cliffs, spectacular waterfalls, thousands of lakes and ponds, 800 miles of hiking trails, and remarkable wildlife.

Yosemite NP is a place that leaves the visitors speechless. Yosemite National Park is one of the must-see places during the lifetime. Therefore, it is not surprising that every year about 4 million people visit Yosemite NP.

Visiting Yosemite from San Francisco
Tourists climbing rocks in Yosemite NP. Don’t do this, please! © World Travel Connector

If you are thinking of visiting Yosemite from San Francisco or not, I have to stop you immediately.

Go! You have to see Yosemite NP!

In this post, I am going to help you explain how to get to Yosemite from San Francisco.

Guide to visiting Yosemite from San Francisco

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO. 

HOW TO VISIT YOSEMITE FROM SAN FRANCISCO

As always, the best is to start with the basics.

Visiting Yosemite from San Francisco
Half Dome in Yosemite NP © World Travel Connector

Where is Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite NP is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the US state of California. The nearest larger cities to Yosemite are San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles in California and Las Vegas in Nevada.

Thus, Yosemite is a popular weekend getaway destination from San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Visiting Yosemite from San Francisco
Yosemite National Park © World Travel Connector

How far is Yosemite from San Francisco Ca?

The distance between Yosemite and San Francisco is about 170 miles. Yosemite from San Francisco is within 3 and a half hours driving distance taking the fastest route (via Interstate 580 and the State Route 120).

Visiting Yosemite from San Francisco by a camper van
Visiting Yosemite NP by a camper van is always a good idea! © World Travel Connector

How far is Yosemite from San Francisco airport (SFO)?

SFO to Yosemite

Driving time from San Francisco to Yosemite depends on the day of the week and the time of the day.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Yosemite drive takes a minimum of 3 hours at the best with no traffic. But no traffic jam in SF is a very rare case.

An average drive from San Francisco to Yosemite takes about 4 and a half hours.

How to get to Yosemite from San Francisco?

1. Yosemite from San Francisco by car

The fastest route: via I-580 E and CA-120 E;

From SF take Interstate 80 to Oakland where it turns into I-580 East. After 45 miles (72 km), it turns again into State Route 120 (Highway 120). The route leads to the Priest Grade, Big Oak Flat and Groveland, and finally to Buck Meadows in Yosemite NP.

Time: 3 h 48 min (167 miles)

The most scenic route: via CA-99 S and CA-140 E

After taking I-580-East to I-205-E, take Highway 140 (instead of Highway 120) via Merced to the town of Mariposa, and then Midpines and finally Arch Rock entrance of Yosemite NP.

Time: 4 h 12 min (199 miles)

Map of driving directions from San Francisco to Yosemite NP

But, how to get to Yosemite without a car?

2. Yosemite from San Francisco by bus

Unfortunately, there is no a direct bus from San Francisco to Yosemite.

If you want to reach Yosemite from San Francisco by bus, take Greyhound bus in San Francisco to Merced and in Merced get the YARTS (Yosemite Area Regional Transportation) bus that goes directly to the Yosemite Visitors Center. The ride takes 6 and a half hours.

All year round there is a free Yosemite Valley Shuttle from the Yosemite Visitors Center taking visitors to main Yosemite sights.

Time: 6.30 hours

3. Yosemite from San Francisco by train

San Francisco to Yosemite train

Take a BART train from the BART station in San Francisco to Richmond. The ride lasts 35 minutes.

In Richmond get off the train and go AMTRAK train station. The AMTRAK train station is only a few steps away from the BART station. From Richmond go to Merced. The ride from Richmond to Merced lasts about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

In Merced get off the train and take YARTS Bus to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. The ride lasts about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Time: 6 hours

4. Yosemite from San Francisco by private transfer

Transfer from San Francisco to Yosemite: San Francisco to/from Yosemite National Park: 1-Way Transfer

Taking a private transfer from San Francisco to Yosemite is an affordable option that gives you plenty of flexibility to organize your time and accommodation in Yosemite NP independently.

Do some hikes and explore Yosemite on your own.

Don’t forget that there is free Yosemite Valley Shuttle at Yosemite Valley Vistors Center available for Yosemite sightseeing.

After spending some time in breathtaking Yosemite nature, take transfer back from Yosemite to San Francisco.

5. Yosemite tours from San Francisco

Visiting Yosemite from San Francisco with a tour is a great option if you want to see Yosemite in one day.

If you feel more comfortable taking a Yosemite tour from San Francisco than driving from San Francisco to Yosemite, here are some great Yosemite tours:

San Francisco to Yosemite day trip

▢ Small Group: San Francisco to Yosemite Park Small Group Tour

▢ Private Tour: Yosemite Full-Day Private Tour from San Francisco

▢ Yosemite and Giant Sequoias tour: San Francisco: 1-Day Yosemite National Park, Giant Sequoias

2 day San Francisco – Yosemite trip

▢ 2 Day Tour: From San Francisco: Yosemite Lodge 2-Day National Park Tour

Milijana Gabric visiting Yosemite from San Francisco
Me taking photos in Yosemite NP © World Travel Connector

What to do in Yosemite?

Glacier Point should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
On the way to the Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park © World Travel Connector

Amazing things to do in Yosemite National Park

If you are wondering where to go in Yosemite and what to see in Yosemite, here are top Yosemite attractions and the best things to do in Yosemite NP:

▢ Start with the Yosemite Vistors Center and Museum to inform yourself about Yosemite NP

▢ Visit historic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, a National Historic Landmark from 1927

Visiting Ahawhnee Hotel in Yosemite from San Francisco
The Ahwhnee Hotel in Yosemite NP © World Travel Connector
Visiting Ahawhnee Hotel in Yosemite from San Francisco
Restaurant in the Ahwahnee © World Travel Connector

▢ Head to Mirror Lake in Tenaya Canyon, the last remains of a glacial lake from the Ice Age

▢ See Yosemite Falls in Yosemite Valley. The Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in Yosemite NP, the tallest waterfall in the USA, and the tallest waterfall in North America

▢ Admire El Captain, the iconic vertical granite monolith in Yosemite National Park

Visiting El Captain in Yosemite from San Francisco
El Captain in Yosemite NP © World Travel Connector

▢ Appreciate the splendor of Half Dome, the famous granite dome in Yosemite

Viisting Yosemite from San Francisco
Famous Half Dome in Yosemite © World Travel Connector

▢ Observe impressive Cathedral Rocks and Spires located opposite of El Capitan

▢ Show respect to isolated Sentinel Rock, a granite peak towering over Yosemite Valley

▢ Enjoy the views of Bridalveil Fall, a majestic waterfall in Yosemite National Park

▢ Head to Glacier Point, the most impressive Yosemite viewpoint for breathtaking views of Yosemite National Park

Glacier Point should be a part of your USA southwest road trip
On my way to the Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park © World Travel Connector

▢ Go to Taft Point for the views of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan

Milijana Gabric from World Travel Connector.com visiting Yosemite from San Francisco
Me in Yosemite Valley © World Travel Connector

▢ Visit scenic Toulumne Meadows along the Tuolumne River

▢ Explore glacial Hetch Hetchy Valley

▢ Hike to Happy Isles along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley

▢ See seasonal Horsetail Fall that occurs in the winter and early spring

▢ Do some of the famous Yosemite trails: Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, Bridalveil Fall Trail, and Half Dome Trail (a hiking permit is needed).

▢ Head to Wawona near Mariposa within Yosemite NP to see famous Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree

▢ Go to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to witness more than 500 ancient giant sequoias

Sequoia National Park in Californiashould be on any USA southwest road trip itinerary
Me hugging a giant sequoia in Mariposa Grove in California © World Travel Connector

Where to stay in Yosemite?

Places to stay in Yosemite:

Unfortunately, accommodation options in Yosemite NP are limited and somewhat pricey.

But, let’s be honest, you are not visiting Yosemite NP every day. Yosemite is the place where the visitors want to see the most of it during their visit. Therefore, great location of accommodation in Yosemite is crucial.

Yosemite View Lodge – a wonderful 3-star hotel with stunning views in the heart of Yosemite NP. It is located on I-140 and only 25 mins by car or by the YARTS bus from the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center. If you are taking a scenic route from San Francisco to Yosemite via Mariposa, this is a great place to stay in Yosemite.

Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite – is a stylish 3-star retreat and favorite accommodation of families who visit Yosemite. It is located on I -120 in Buck Meadows and about 45 min from the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center. If you are coming from San Francisco to Yosemite taking the fastest route and you are visiting Yosemite with your family, most likely you would enjoy this place!

Yosemite Westgate Lodge – is a 3-star hotel with lovely contemporary furnished rooms located in Groveland. It has a great location on I-120. So, if you are coming from San Francisco to Yosemite taking the fastest route, this is a place you might want to stay in. the hotel is only one hour’s drive from the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center.

The Ahwahnee Hotel – the National Historic Landmark in Yosemite and a 4-star upscale hotel with exclusive interior design and remarkable architecture in the Yosemite Valley. Unbeatable luxury lodging in Yosemite National Park. The Ahwahnee Dining Room with spectacularly high ceilings and elegant chandelier-lit is the only fine dining option in Yosemite. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served every day, and Sunday brunch on Sundays.

Visiting Ahawhnee Hotel in Yosemite from San Francisco
Me in the Ahwahnee in Yosemite
Ahwahnee hotel is a must see when visiting Yosemite NP
Me in the Ahwahnee in Yosemite © World Travel Connector
Read how to visit Yosemite from San Francisco

Best time to visit Yosemite

Yosemite peak season is summer. Yosemite NP is most visited from June to August.

The best time to visit Yosemite and to avoid the crowds are May and September.

Keep in mind, sometimes Tioga Pass might be closed in May because of the snow.

During winter months most of Yosemite facilities are closed because of the cold and snow (roads, viewpoints, hiking trails, and campgrounds).

What is the closest airport to Yosemite?

Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is the closest airport to Yosemite. The airport is located about 65 miles from the park and it takes about an hour and a half drive from the airport to the park.

Another airport close to Yosemite is Merced Regional Airport (MCE). The YARTS bus stops at the airport and reaches Yosemite Valley in a 3-hour drive. Buth, this is a smaller regional airport.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and San Jose International Airport (SJC) are international airports near Yosemite. They are all within 3-4 hour driving distance.

You can check out flights to Yosemite on Skyscanner and rent a car and explore Yosemite on your own:

▢ Rent a car at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT)

▢ Rent a car at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

▢ Rent a car at Oakland International Airport (OAK)

▢ Rent a car at San Jose International Airport (SJC)

Where to fly to go to Yosemite?

Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is the nearest airport to Yosemite National Park. it takes about an hour and a half drive from the airport to the park.

Merced Regional Airport (MCE) is also close to Yosemite NP. It takes a 3-hour drive from the airport to the Yosemite Visitors Center.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and San Jose International Airport (SJC) are larger international airports near Yosemite. They are all within 3-4 hour driving distance.

Yosemite Park Map

Yosemite attractions map

Guide to visiting Yosemite from San Francisco
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO.

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