San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip

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This San Francisco to Yosemite road trip takes you from the soaring skyscrapers and salty sea air of the City by the Bay, through California’s world-famous farmland and wine country, and into the wooded mountains and grassy meadows of the legendary Yosemite Valley.
The landscape of California is renowned for its versatility, no matter what biome you want to visit, it’s only a day trip away!
Before you hit the road, make sure you are well prepared with roadside assistance with Jerry! For just $6.99 per car, you’ll have access to amazing services like towing, fluid delivery, and locksmith services.
While you’re prepping for your trip, it might also be a good idea to make sure you aren’t paying too much for car insurance. A licensed broker, Jerry does all the hard work of finding the cheapest quotes from the top name-brand insurance companies and buying new car insurance. Jerry will even cancel your old policy for you.
Now get ready for beautiful sceneries and tall trees, we’re taking you to Yosemite!
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Start in— San Francisco, CA

The City by the Bay is known best for two things: the Golden Gate Bridge and fog (aptly named Karl. Yes, really). But underneath the fog lies a treasure trove of great restaurants, museums, and recreation.
There’s more to be done in San Francisco than can be reasonably done in a day, so to get the best of what the city has to offer, make sure to take a few days to explore and get acquainted with the Golden City.

Eat here

  • House of Prime Rib: True to its name, House of Prime Rib features prime rib and the appropriate accouterments. After decades in the biz, it does prime rib better than anyone else. Reservations here are a must, as House of Prime Rib tends to book out several weeks in advance.
  • Sotto Mare: San Francisco is the actual birthplace of cioppino, a delicious seafood stew, thanks to the Italian immigrants who made this city home. Sotto Mare is the place to go for the best example of this now infamous dish.
  • Sam Wo Restaurant: Get a taste of cultural history! Sam Wo Restaurant is the oldest Chinese restaurant in San Francisco (and quite possibly, in the US).

Do this

  • Chinatown: San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest in the country. It’s also the largest enclave of Chinese Americans outside of China, making it a fantastic epicenter of Chinese heritage, culture, and tradition.
  • Alcatraz: One of the most famous and controversial prisons in the country, Alcatraz gained notoriety for housing the most dangerous criminals of the twentieth century. But there’s more history on the island than just its tenure as a prison, so hop on a ferry and head on over for a tour of the complex and surrounding grounds.
  • Golden Gate Park: This massive green space on the western shore of the peninsula offers up plenty of natural wonders. From the Japanese tea garden to the Academy of Sciences and the Conservatory of Flowers, there’s something for everyone at Golden Gate Park.
  • Walk the Golden Gate Bridge: No trip to San Francisco would be complete without taking a trip across the city’s iconic bridge, whose 1.7-mile length spans the strait between the San Francisco Peninsula and northern Marin County.
A daytime view of a street in San Francisco Chinatown. People walk down the street and red lanterns hang overhead.
Chinatown, San Francisco, California

Stop in— Napa Valley

Napa Valley is renowned for quality wine and excellent food and is always worth a stop. Napa proper tends to be extremely crowded in peak season, and that means reservations for wine tasting or restaurants are a must.
You can also skip over to the lesser-known but equally fabulous Sonoma, or up north another half hour or so into Healdsburg, which both have great food and wine restaurants that let you sample local wares without the massive crowds.

Eat here

  • Castello di Amarosa: This winery in Calistoga is a great place to visit. The location is modeled after an authentic Tuscan castle and they have excellent wine and tours.
  • French Laundry: If you’re craving Michelin-starred food, head to French Laundry. Otherwise, there are tons of small, intimate bistros to choose from.

Do this

  • Wine tasting: Napa’s wine country is where California wine became a serious contender against its French rivals, and its fame has risen ever since. This is not a cheap area to visit if you hit all of the mainstream attractions, so avoid the wine train and the massive wineries, and head to the small, lesser-known wineries that are more dedicated to craft rather than profit.
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Rectangular shrubs in front of tents at a Napa Valley winery.
Napa Valley, California

Stop in— El Dorado County

Just a few miles northeast of California’s state capital, El Dorado County is where the state’s gold rush began in earnest, and the entire region is steeped in gold rush history. It’s a beautiful area that is sure to satisfy any nature and history lovers, with expansive local parks, hiking, history, architecture, and more.

Eat here

  • The Argonaut Farm to Fork Cafe: This farm-to-table fare is a fave among campers. Make sure to try out their mimosa and bagel sandwich!
  • Wineries: The area is home to more than 70 wineries! Try some of our favorites: Jose Wine Caves, Story Winery, and Gold Hill Vineyard.

Do this

  • Coloma: Visit the small town of Coloma, where gold was first discovered. You can stop by the local state parks and try your luck at panning for gold.
Branches of lush green leaves obscure a view of the water below in Coloma, California. The sun peeks through.
Coloma, California

Arrive in—Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of the great natural wonders of the world, boasting everything from majestic waterfalls, to soaring peaks, to sweeping forests and meadows. The best time of the year to go is in the spring when the glacial runoff has the waterfalls going at full power.
Summer and fall tend to be busier and quite hot, and the waterfalls are usually dried up. The valley is beautiful in the winter, but it’s also very cold, and the roads tend to be iced over thanks to the snowfall.

Eat here

  • The Ahwahnee Dining Room: Looking for a fine dining experience in the park? Try out the Ahwahnee Dining Room, where you can eat delicious bites with a beautiful view of the surrounding scenery.
  • Base Camp Eatery: Stop by the Yosemite Valley Lodge and have a mouth-watering steak at Base Camp Eatery. Their menu also includes seafood and vegetarian options.

Do this

  • Horsetail Fall: This waterfall flows over El Capitan and is infamous for the way it glows red when lit by the sun, giving the impression of a firefall. It only runs in the winter.
  • Waterfalls: Make sure to stop by Bridalveil, Yosemite, and Snow Creek waterfalls.
  • Hiking: Some major geological features in Yosemite include Half Dome, which is available for intrepid hikers and climbers to trek to the top of, El Capitan, and The Three Brothers.
  • Take a drive or a walk: There are lots of designated driving roads and walking trails to take you through the valley and all of its major landmarks, whether you’d rather bike, walk, or drive.
Puffy white clouds cover the sky above mountains and a valley in Yosemite National Park, California.
Yosemite National Park, California

The fast way back

Cut your trip in half by heading back via CA-120 W and I-580 W. This route takes half as long (about three and a half hours) and it cuts straight through the state’s central valley.
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Why you need roadside assistance

The landscape between San Francisco and Yosemite is diverse, and so are the road conditions. From narrow city streets to winding mountain roads, there are plenty of massively inconvenient places to break down, and help may not always be readily available. Roadside assistance is a valuable asset in these situations.
That’s where Jerry comes in. Jerry offers roadside assistance at $6.99 per car, regardless of who your insurance carrier is. And that includes all the services you’d expect, like towing, fluid delivery, tire changing, locksmith services, rental car reimbursement, and much more.
Jerry blew my mind, honestly. From start to finish, using the app took me 10 minutes, and I ended up with $100 of savings a month. Best of all, customer service answered all my questions about rental car reimbursement and roadside assistance.” ––Savanna R.
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