How to Get From San Francisco to Yosemite National Park (2023)

Defined by its towering granite cliffs, giant sequoia groves, and plunging waterfalls, Yosemite National Park is a natural oasis just 155 miles (249 kilometers) east of San Francisco. The four-hour drive makes for a great road trip—especially when you consider the convenience of a car in getting around the park itself. While having your own transport is handy when zipping around to the different viewpoints in Yosemite (some hours away from each other), sticking exclusively to public transportation is also an option with the park's free shuttle. In fact, you can travel all the way from San Francisco on planes, buses, and trains without ever having to get behind a wheel yourself. Be cautious, no matter how you arrive, for how winter road closures within and around Yosemite National Park might affect your travels.

TimeCostBest For
Bus6 hours, 30 minutesfrom $25Traveling without a car
Train + Bus7 hoursfrom $13Minding a budget
Plane + Car3 hoursfrom $39Arriving on a time crunch
Car4 hours191 miles (307 kilometers)Exploring the area

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From San Francisco to Yosemite National Park?

The cheapest way to get from San Francisco to Yosemite is by a series of buses and a train. First, you can take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train from Civic Center/UN PlazaStation to Dublin/Pleasanton Station, a 50-minute ride that costs about $7.10. From there, you can walk to the Iron Horse Parkway bus stop and catch the SmaRT BART Commuter bus to Roger K. Fall Transit Center ($2) two hours away. Merced County Transit's public bus will pick you up from the Roger K. Fall Transit Center and drop you off at Merced Transpo bus stop (a one-hour ride), where you can get the final Yosemite Area Regional Transportation (YARTS) bus two hours and 45 minutes to Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Altogether, the trip requires three transfers, takes about seven hours (not including waiting times for buses), and costs between $13 and $23. It may be the cheapest way to get from San Francisco to Yosemite, but it's certainly one of the most exhausting.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From San Francisco to Yosemite National Park?

The fastest way to get to Yosemite from San Francisco is to fly. Yosemite's nearest commercial airports are in Fresno (Fresno Yosemite International Airport) and Merced (Merced Regional Airport—the closest to the park), but both are small. Sometimes, you can snag a cheap return flight to Merced from Oakland International Airport, but the drive from Merced to Yosemite Valley is two hours long (on top of the 45-minute flight). The YARTS bus, which stops at the airport, can also take you all the way to Yosemite Valley if you don't mind a three-hour bus journey. However, when you consider the time it takes to actually commute to the airport, check a bag, go through security, and travel by ground on the other side, flying is about as time-consuming as driving the entire distance.

More frequent flight schedules are available for airports in Sacramento and Reno, Nevada, but during the winter—when Tioga Pass is blocked with snow for months—the park entrance that's nearest to Reno is closed.

(Video) California Trip ~ Drive from San Francisco to Yosemite

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

The quickest driving route between San Francisco and Yosemite takes about four hours. Interstate 80 will lead you into Oakland, where you can merge onto 580 East for 45 miles (72 kilometers), then State Route 120. This scenic route passes through fruit and almond orchards, small agricultural towns, and ranches in the rolling foothills before ascending sharply up the Priest Grade to Big Oak Flat and the old gold mining town of Groveland. You'll get impressive views ofLake Don Pedro,the Stanislaus National Forest, and the Tuolumne River Canyon, too.

It's always a good idea to check the CalTrans website (or national park alerts) for current road conditions, seeing as many roads in the area are closed during winter. The Big Oak Flat Entrance—one of five—is open year-round. Oakdale is the largest town east of Highway 99, so stop here for groceries to avoid paying a fortune at the Village Store. The nearest gas pumps to Yosemite Valley are open year-round inside the park at Wawona (45 minutes south of the valley on Wawona Road) and Crane Flat (30 minutes northwest on Big Oak Flat Road). In the summer, gasoline is available at Tuolumne Meadows on Tioga Road, too.

Is There a Bus That Goes From San Francisco to Yosemite National Park?

Besides private bus tour companies—such as Gray Line and Viator—that offer day trips to the park from San Francisco, there's no single bus that runs the route directly. You can, however, get by with only transferring once if you take a Greyhound bus to Merced ($20, three hours and 45 minutes), then transfer onto the YARTS bus ($5 to $10, two hours and 45 minutes), which will take you all the way to the visitor center. The entire journey takes six and a half hours, not including bus wait times.

(Video) YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – Travel Guide for first-time visitors (watch before you go!)

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Yosemite National Park?

The best time to travel to Yosemite is during May and September, when most things in the park are open (not all things: Tioga Pass sometimes isn't clear enough to open until July and closes in November), but summer crowds aren't at their peak. June through August, you can expect major crowds on the trails and in the campsites, not to mention traffic coming into the park. Winter in Yosemite National Park, while beautiful, is a different experience entirely. Many hiking trails, roads, viewpoints, and campgrounds are closed for the season and there aren't many people around. Driving into the park during winter—where the Sierra Nevada range begins—can be treacherous.

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Yosemite National Park?

Highway 140—as opposed to the most direct route, 120—is by far the most scenic drive into the park and the best way to go if you’re visiting for the first time. It’s open most of the time and passes through the towns of Mariposa and Fish Camp. It’s also a popular route for people driving to Yosemite from the San Jose area.

From Highway 99 at Merced, 140 passes through open ranch land, into the wooded foothills, and through the old mining town of Mariposa, which has an old-fashioned main street with many cute places to eat. Continuing uphill through Midpines, the road parallels the Merced River for about 30 miles (48 kilometers). In spring, redbud trees sprout magenta-colored blooms along its banks and the river rises high enough to accommodate whitewater rafters, but it’s a pretty drive in any season. The road enters the park via Arch Rock.

(Video) Drive from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park #1

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

At Merced Regional Airport, you can take the YARTS bus all the way into Yosemite Valley. Otherwise, you can catch the Merced County Bus, a Greyhound, or the Amtrak, but none of those go into the park.

What Is There to Do in Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is a nature lover's paradise. There are miles upon miles of trails, among them the famous Bridalveil Fall Trail, Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, and the strenuous Half Dome Trail, which requires a permit to hike. Half Dome and El Capitan are the two world-recognized granite walls that make up that iconic Yosemite scene. As far as waterfalls, the park is home to dozens, including one of the world's tallest: Yosemite Falls. There are 13 campgrounds in which to lounge and the Merced River in which to float on a hot day. For the real adventurer, there are plenty of opportunities for a thrill, including rock climbing, zip lining, and rafting tours.

(Video) Road trip Timelapse: from San Francisco to Yosemite

FAQs

How can I get from San Francisco to Yosemite? ›

Fastest Route from San Francisco to Yosemite

Leaving the city via the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, take I-580 E/I-205 E for about 68 miles and then take Exit 461 towards Manteca/Oakdale. From here take SR 120 for about 120 miles until you reach the heart of the Yosemite Valley.

Which entrance to Yosemite is best from San Francisco? ›

Arch Rock Entrance

If you are coming from San Francisco, the fastest route to the park is via the Arch Rock Entrance or the Big Oak Flat Entrance. To enter via Arch Rock Entrance, you will take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 140 east into the park.

Is it hard to drive from SF to Yosemite? ›

It's also easy to travel from San Francisco to Yosemite by car, and it's feasible to get there by train or bus. Consider the time of year you will be visiting Yosemite because some roads in the park are seasonal. Start planning your trip to Yosemite with our list of transportation options.

Is there a train from San Francisco to Yosemite? ›

There are 3 daily trains from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley. Traveling by train from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley usually takes around 7 hours and 40 minutes, but the fastest Amtrak train can make the trip in 6 hours and 21 minutes.

How many hours drive from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park? ›

Yosemite is about 170 miles away from San Francisco and about a 4-hour drive. So, we recommend starting your day as early as 5 AM or 6 AM to have full experience in the park.

Is one day enough for Yosemite? ›

Can you go to Yosemite for one day? You can definitely visit Yosemite in a day. A day trip gives you enough time to tour Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point Road, seeing some of the most popular attractions in the park.

What is the safest route to Yosemite? ›

Highway 120 will be the best way to approach Yosemite if you are coming from the big cities of San Francisco or Sacramento and their major airports. This scenic route skirts around the Northern edge of Mariposa County and passes through the lovely towns of Buck Meadows and Groveland.

How far are the redwood trees from San Francisco? ›

The distance from San Francisco to the redwood forest and natural wonders of Yosemite is about 170 miles each way. That is about 8-10 hours driving round trip.

What is the most scenic route to Yosemite? ›

All of the roads in Yosemite National Park are scenic, but the most famous scenic drive is along the Tioga Road, a 46-mile (62 km) drive from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass. The road is typically open from late May or early June through sometime in November. (Check current road conditions.)

What is halfway between San Francisco and Yosemite? ›

The best city between San Francisco, CA and Yosemite National Park to meet is Modesto, California which is about 12 miles from the exact midpoint. The town that marks the exact halfway point is actually Turlock, California.

Where should I stop between Yosemite and San Francisco? ›

Oakdale, located in the heart of the Central Valley, is a great place to stop on your San Francisco to Yosemite National Park Road Trip. Oakdale is known for its rich history and heritage and is popular with tourists looking to experience small-town America.

How many days do you need in Yosemite park? ›

How Many Days Should You Spend in Yosemite? For the best experience, plan on spending three days in Yosemite, especially if you like hiking. Three days gives you enough time to hike a few trails, explore Yosemite Valley, drive Tioga Road to Olmsted Point, and visit Glacier Point and Taft Point.

How do I get Yosemite without a car? ›

Transportation
  1. Fly to Yosemite – Local Airports and Airlines.
  2. Ride the YARTS Bus to Yosemite National Park.
  3. Stress-Free Travel to Yosemite on Amtrak.
  4. Yosemite Shuttles and Regional Buses.

What is the best month to visit Yosemite National Park? ›

The best times to visit Yosemite are May and September, when the park is accessible, but not too crowded. It's important to know that many roads and trails in Yosemite are closed for the majority of the year due to snow.

Does Bart go to Yosemite? ›

What companies run services between Fremont Station (BART), CA, USA and Yosemite National Park, CA, USA? You can take a bus from Fremont Station (BART) to Yosemite National Park via Hayward BART, Hayward, Merced Transpo, and Yosemite Valley Visitors Center in around 9h 29m.

What airport do you fly into for Yosemite National Park? ›

Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is the closest airport to Yosemite, and worlds away from the mad bustle of LAX and SFO.

Is there a bus that goes to Yosemite? ›

Yosemite Valley Shuttle System

Valleywide shuttle: This route serves all stops in Yosemite Valley, including lodges, food service, campgrounds, and trailheads. Buses arrive every 12 to 22 minutes from 7 am to 10 pm.

Can you drive your car into Yosemite? ›

You can drive your car into and around Yosemite, although some roads are closed from around November through May/June and tire chains may be required on open roads from around October through April (depending on conditions). You can use public transportation to get to and around Yosemite all year.

How long does it take to drive thru Yosemite? ›

Driving straight through takes around one and a half hours, but we recommend adding a few scenic lookouts along your route. Whether you enter from the west or the east of the park, you are immediately greeted with jaw-dropping views.

Does it cost money to drive through Yosemite? ›

Reservations are not required to visit Yosemite National Park. As always, we strongly recommend that you make a reservation if you plan to stay overnight in Yosemite. The park entrance fee is $35 per car (valid for seven consecutive days).

How do I get from San Francisco to Yosemite without a car? ›

By Train or Bus

Unfortunately, there isn't any public transport that goes the entire way to Yosemite from San Francisco. But you can take either an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus to the town of Merced. From Merced, you transfer to the YARTS system to get to Yosemite.

Is Tioga Pass scary? ›

However, the Tioga Pass is far from scary. I could see if someone was deathly panicked of heights...then there might be an issue. But the Tioga Pass is a wide two-lane road with many turnout areas to pull off and soak in the absolutely spectacular scenery.

Can I drive through Yosemite without a reservation? ›

Reservations are not required to visit Yosemite National Park. As always, we strongly recommend that you make a reservation if you plan to stay overnight in Yosemite. The park entrance fee is $35 per car (valid for seven consecutive days).

Is Muir Woods better than Redwood National Park? ›

The trees are the same type, but RNP is much larger - bigger area, larger groves, not very crowded. Muir Woods is relatively compact and due to its smaller size and proximity to SF, it can be crowded. Are you starting out from San Francisco?

Is Muir Woods worth visiting? ›

There are plenty of other locations that you can see redwood trees. However, Muir Woods is a destination that you should at least visit once. It is a historic and internationally known national monument. Even though it has become a little “touristy” the natural beauty and impressiveness of the redwoods still remains.

How far is sequoia from San Francisco? ›

The distance from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park is 226 miles. The road distance is 280 miles.

Why is Glacier Point closed in 2022? ›

Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic in 2022 to rehabilitate and improve the road. The only access to Glacier Point will be via the Four Mile, Panorama, and Pohono Trails, all of which are strenuous hikes. There will be 30-minute delays in 2023.

Can you visit Yosemite without hiking? ›

Tunnel View

One of the best spots in Yosemite valley to view El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall all in single frame. You can find it just outside the Wawona Tunnel on State Highway 41. Just park at one of the lots. No hiking required.

Is the drive to Yosemite steep? ›

Highway 120 between Tioga Pass and its junction with US 395 is a steep, winding mountain road. The steepest portion of the road is an eight-mile section that ascends about 2,500 feet (from Lee Vining toward Tioga Pass). Portions of the road have a grade as steep as eight percent.

Is Napa Valley close to Yosemite National Park? ›

Yes, the driving distance between Napa to Yosemite National Park is 193 miles. It takes approximately 4h 16m to drive from Napa to Yosemite National Park.

Should I go to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park? ›

Yosemite is where you want to go if your goal is to see towering granite and awe-inspiring waterfalls. While there are large sequoia trees in some parts of Yosemite, they aren't as prominent. If walking (and even driving) among the giants is your end goal, head over to Sequoia National Park.

Is 2 days enough for Yosemite? ›

However, two days will be enough time for one great hike (the best way to see Yosemite) and a few other glimpses into what this 1,200 square-mile UNESCO World Heritage site and natural wonder reveals to visitors.

How many days you need in San Francisco? ›

Most visitors find three days in San Francisco is a good amount of time to get a solid introduction to the city. However, if you have a week it's highly recommended you take a few San Francisco day trips. For example, to the Wine Country or vibrant cities like Oakland and Berkeley, which are across the Bay.

How far apart are Sequoia and Yosemite? ›

The direct drive from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park to Yosemite National Park is 215 mi (346 km), and should have a drive time of 5 hrs 53 mins in normal traffic.

Are there mountain lions in Yosemite? ›

Mountain lions—also called cougars, pumas or panthers—roam Yosemite's mountains and valleys. These important predators, native to the Americas, are a natural part of the Yosemite landscape.

Can I sleep in my car in Yosemite? ›

Within Yosemite National Park, you may not sleep in your car or RV except in a campsite that you're registered to stay in (except at Camp 4, where sleeping in cars is not allowed because it's a walk-in campground). Sleeping in your car along the side of the road is not allowed.

Is 3 days in Yosemite enough? ›

3 days is sufficient to cover the highlights of Yosemite as well as some hidden gems. You could easily spend weeks or even months exploring Yosemite National Park, but 72 hours will give you a decent taste of it.

How do I get Yosemite without a car? ›

Transportation
  1. Fly to Yosemite – Local Airports and Airlines.
  2. Ride the YARTS Bus to Yosemite National Park.
  3. Stress-Free Travel to Yosemite on Amtrak.
  4. Yosemite Shuttles and Regional Buses.

Is the drive from San Francisco to Yosemite nice? ›

Sure, it's a fairly quick drive that could be knocked out in an afternoon, but if you're willing to make a longer day out of it, there's plenty to do and see along the road. From Bay Area shopping to valley wineries to historic landmarks, the drive from San Francisco to Yosemite is littered with worthwhile detours.

What airport do you fly into to get to Yosemite National Park? ›

Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is the closest airport to Yosemite, and worlds away from the mad bustle of LAX and SFO.

Can you drive your car into Yosemite? ›

You can drive your car into and around Yosemite, although some roads are closed from around November through May/June and tire chains may be required on open roads from around October through April (depending on conditions). You can use public transportation to get to and around Yosemite all year.

Are there shuttles to Yosemite? ›

Yosemite Valley Shuttle System

Valleywide shuttle: This route serves all stops in Yosemite Valley, including lodges, food service, campgrounds, and trailheads. Buses arrive every 12 to 22 minutes from 7 am to 10 pm.

How do I get from San Francisco to Yosemite without a car? ›

By Train or Bus

Unfortunately, there isn't any public transport that goes the entire way to Yosemite from San Francisco. But you can take either an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus to the town of Merced. From Merced, you transfer to the YARTS system to get to Yosemite.

Should I rent a car for Yosemite? ›

The best way to get around Yosemite is by car. Unless you're taking a private car or public transportation from one of the park's nearby airports, there's no point in ditching your (albeit expensive) rental car and taking Yosemite's shuttles around the park, especially after a long hike.

What is halfway between San Francisco and Yosemite? ›

The best city between San Francisco, CA and Yosemite National Park to meet is Modesto, California which is about 12 miles from the exact midpoint. The town that marks the exact halfway point is actually Turlock, California.

Where should I stop between Yosemite and San Francisco? ›

Oakdale, located in the heart of the Central Valley, is a great place to stop on your San Francisco to Yosemite National Park Road Trip. Oakdale is known for its rich history and heritage and is popular with tourists looking to experience small-town America.

Is 120 or 140 better for Yosemite? ›

Highway 120 will be the best way to approach Yosemite if you are coming from the big cities of San Francisco or Sacramento and their major airports. This scenic route skirts around the Northern edge of Mariposa County and passes through the lovely towns of Buck Meadows and Groveland.

What is the best month to visit Yosemite National Park? ›

The best times to visit Yosemite are May and September, when the park is accessible, but not too crowded. It's important to know that many roads and trails in Yosemite are closed for the majority of the year due to snow.

What major city is closest to Yosemite? ›

Major cities near Yosemite National Park
  • 78 miles to Fresno, CA.
  • 79 miles to Modesto, CA.
  • 94 miles to Stockton, CA.
  • 116 miles to Sacramento, CA.
  • 117 miles to Reno, NV.
  • 131 miles to San Jose, CA.
  • 133 miles to Fremont, CA.
  • 147 miles to Oakland, CA.

How many days do I need in Yosemite? ›

How many days to spend in Yosemite National Park? One day is enough to see all of the Yosemite Valley, but 2-3 days is ideal if you wish to take some of the longer hikes or explore Glacier Point and the Tioga Pass.

Can you enter Yosemite without a reservation? ›

Other than the entrance fee, you don't need a reservation or permit to visit Yosemite. However, you should get a lodging or campground reservation if you plan to spend the night.

What is the most scenic route to Yosemite? ›

All of the roads in Yosemite National Park are scenic, but the most famous scenic drive is along the Tioga Road, a 46-mile (62 km) drive from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass. The road is typically open from late May or early June through sometime in November. (Check current road conditions.)

Can you bring food into Yosemite? ›

"Food" includes all food and drinks, regardless of packaging, along with trash, toiletries, and other scented items. These items must be stored in either an allowed bear-resistant food container or food locker. Hanging food is illegal throughout Yosemite.

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