The national parks of the United States help to demonstrate the immense diversity and beauty found all over the country. From towering mountains to expansive deserts, alpine lakes, lush forests, and endless plains, the United States is home to a rich and varied spectrum of landscapes, just waiting to be explored and enjoyed, and the country’s national parks are some of the best places to go if you’re looking to engage with nature.
There are dozens of national parks dotted all across America, and California is home to quite a few of them, with Yosemite National Park being the best-known example. Situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the central part of the state, Yosemite national Park stretches out across over 740,000 acres and extends into no less than four different counties. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was one of the earliest national parks to be established.
Around 5 million people visit Yosemite National Park on an annual basis, and that number is going up with each passing year. Some of the most popular activities in the park include hiking, mountaineering, wildlife watching, and skiing in winter, and one of the best things about Yosemite National Park is that it’s quite conveniently located near some of California’s biggest cities like San Francisco and Sacramento.
Getting to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco
San Francisco is around 170 miles away from Yosemite National Park. The scenery in between the city and the park is extraordinary, so the journey to Yosemite is almost just as exciting and enjoyable as actually getting there and seeing the park for yourself. You can choose to travel to Yosemite from San Francisco by car, bus, or even train.
Getting to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco By Car
Choosing to organize a road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is one of the best ways to spend a day. The drive is a long one, but it's very beautiful and the biggest challenge will be resisting the temptation to make lots of stops along the way to simply admire the views all around you.
Next read: Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park
The journey takes between three and four hours in total, so it's wise to set off early in the morning, at around 6am ideally, so that you arrive at the park in good time and have more or less a full day to explore.
Getting to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco By Bus
Various San Francisco to Yosemite bus tours are available, with a lot of different tour operators running buses direct from San Francisco and the Bay Area straight to the visitor center at Yosemite.
These journeys can take around four hours to complete, but they give you the advantage of being able to sit back, relax, and admire the amazing views along the way. Plus, many of the buses leave from central locations in Downtown San Francisco like Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf.
Getting to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco By Train
One of the most amazing ways to travel from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is to take the train. Amtrak runs its 'San Joaquins' service from San Francisco direct to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. The trip takes just a few hours in total and your train ticket actually includes access into the park, which is a nice bonus. Plus, the advantage of taking the train is that you never have to worry about traffic or parking.
Amtrak offers Thruway Bus connections from San Francisco to Emeryville, where you'll ride the train straight to Merced and then get on another Thruway over to the visitor center. While riding on the Amtrak from San Francisco to Yosemite, you can head over to the Observation Car with its extra large windows and comfortable seats to admire the amazing views of the Central Valley.
Important Information and Things to Do at Yosemite National Park
- Tours - If you're only at Yosemite for a single day, you’ll want to pack as much into that day as possible, so choosing a guided or self-guided tour and planning the day trip out in advance is essential. Guided tours set off from the Yosemite Valley Lodge and last for around two hours, taking you to some of the top landmarks and offering some amazing photoshoot opportunities. You can also simply grab maps of the park and follow preset routes to do your own self-guided tours.
- Getting Around - The Valley Shuttle Bus is a good option for people wanting to get around Yosemite National Park quickly and conveniently. The bus stops off at various landmarks and vistas along the way and offers a hop-on and hop-off service, so it’s the perfect option for every traveler.
- The Visitor Center - If you’re planning a day trip to Yosemite, you probably want to spend as much time as possible outdoors and admiring the views and scenery of the park itself, but the visitor center is still worth a little of your time. It features a lot of interesting and educational displays and exhibits to teach you more about the history and nature of the park, so it’s a good place to start off before heading out on the trails.
- Things To Do - Some of the key landmarks to check out during your Yosemite day trip include Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Glacier Point, and Half Dome. There are some great hiking trails that let you see all of these different landmarks, so be sure to read up and learn as much as possible before you arrive in order to plan out your route and have the best possible time. Don’t forget to take plenty of water and snacks as well in order to stay happy, healthy, and hydrated for your adventures.