There are several ways to travel between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. Driving on your own or taking a one-day guided tour are two of the most popular options.
The great part is that there are also many other options. These include taking a multi-day tour, flying to a nearby airport, taking a shuttle from SFO, or taking public transportation such as a bus or train.
The fastest of these will take about four hours. The slowest will take about 14 hours.
Yosemite National Park is a Northern California gem with various hiking trails and outdoor activities. You can explore Yosemite Falls, check out Half Dome, or soak in the beauty of El Capitan.
You can visit Yosemite for just a day or extend your visit out to a week or more.
For each of my recommendations, I've included tips, an estimate for the one-way journey, and other details to help you decide which one is best for you.
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The most popular and direct route from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is via 120 to the Big Oak Flat Entrance. It's a fun way to enjoy a Yosemite road trip.
This route takes about four hours to reach the entrance and another forty-five minutes to reach Yosemite Valley.
You'll leave San Francisco over the Bay Bridge along I-80. You'll then follow the signs to I-580 and take this all the way to I-205 toward Tracy/Stockton. You'll then take I-5 for one mile until you reach the CA-120 exit toward Manteca/Sonora.
You will then follow the signs to stay on CA-120 east until you reach the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
This is also the route you want to take to reach the Hetch Hetchy entrance, which is also about four hours from San Francisco. It's then another twenty minutes to reach the reservoir.
On your way, you will pass through Oakdale, Groveland, and Buck Meadows.
The second option is to take CA-140 into Yosemite National Park. This is an option for those that might be staying in or want to visit the historic town of Mariposa.
This route takes about an extra half hour, and you will enter Yosemite National Park through the Arch Rock Entrance.
This route starts out the same as the one above. You'll leave San Francisco via the Bay Bridge and then follow signs to I-580 East. You'll then take I-205 East toward Tracy/Stockton, merge onto I-5, and then exit onto CA-120.
You'll then exit off CA-120 onto CA-99 toward Modesto/Fresno and take that for 55 miles until you reach the CA-140 exit (186B). From this exit, the entrance is about an hour and a half away. It's another thirty minutes from this entrance to reach Yosemite Valley.
If you don't want to drive and only have a day to explore, then I'd recommend taking a one-day tour from San Francisco to Yosemite.
This tour is a long day, but you'll get the chance to relax and enjoy yourself as someone else does the driving.
Pick-ups start at 6:30 am, and you'll leave San Francisco a little after 7 am.
You'll then be driven to Yosemite, with a short bathroom stop along the way.
Once you arrive at Yosemite National Park, you will enjoy a 1.5-hour guided tour on the bus. It will include information on the history of this famous national park, views around the Yosemite Valley floor, and a close-up look at Yosemite Falls.
The bus will then stop, and you will have three hours to explore Yosemite Valley. You can have a picnic lunch or enjoy one of the local restaurants in the Valley (find some recommendations here).
You can do a short hike, check out the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, admire Half Dome from the valley floor, or do a little shopping in Yosemite Village.
You will then return to the bus for the four-and-a-half to five-hour drive back to San Francisco. The full tour takes about 15 hours, so you'll return to San Francisco around 9 or 10 pm.
It's an easy way to get a quick overview of this fantastic national park.
If you want to spend a little more time in Yosemite National Park, then you will love this two-day tour. This one includes transportation to and from your San Francisco hotel.
Once you reach Yosemite National Park, you'll first get to check out Tuolumne Grove, home to one of the park's giant sequoia groves.
After you explore this fantastic area of the park, you'll continue to Inspiration Point, which offers stunning views of Yosemite Valley. From there, you will continue to Yosemite Valley, where you will get to spend the rest of your stay exploring as you wish.
Accommodations are not included, so make sure to book a room at one of the Yosemite Valley hotels or campsites (learn more here).
You'll then meet up with the tour bus on day two based on an agreed-upon time and location.
If you plan to head to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco for a few days or more, you can also take the one-way shuttle transfer from San Francisco airport.
It's a great option for those that don't need a car for their stay in Yosemite National Park.
Even though this is a transfer service, a nice addition is that from June to September, they make a stop at Tuolumne Grove. That way, you can explore this area of giant sequoias on your own for a while before they drop you off in Yosemite Valley.
You can book a one transfer from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park and the return trip based on the day you plan to return to SFO.
The one way trip takes around 7 hours.
If you don't want to rent a car, you can take public transportation from San Francisco to Yosemite. This is a good option for those that plan to spend several days in Yosemite.
It includes two transfers. You will first need to make your way from San Francisco to one of two Amtrak stops in the East Bay. You'll then transfer over to the bus to Yosemite at Merced.
The train ride is about three and a half hours, and the bus ride is another three hours.
With transfers and waiting, this option can take anywhere from seven to eight hours.
Amtrak runs a bus bridge from downtown San Francisco over to the Emeryville Amtrak Station. It's the closest station to San Francisco.
It runs from around 6 am to around 10 pm. You'll want to confirm the exact times it leaves San Francisco to make sure you can arrive before your train leaves Emeryville.
This bus bridge is included with your ticket.
The second option is to take BART from downtown San Francisco to the Richmond stop. From here, you will board Amtrak at its Richmond stop.
This BART train runs every 15 to 20 minutes.
Once you arrive at the BART Station, follow the signs to get to the Amtrak train stop within this station.
You will then take the Amtrak to the station in Merced. From here, you will transfer to the YARTS Merced Hwy. 140 bus.
It picks up at the Merced Amtrak Station five to six times a day, depending on the season. Most of the pick-up times are in the morning, with one in the evening, so you'll need to coordinate your arrival with this bus.
It drops you off in Yosemite Valley. You can get off at the Yosemite View Lodge stop (inbound only), Curry Village, or the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center stops.
You can also take the Greyhound Bus to Merced and then switch to the local YARTS bus to get into Yosemite. This is the least expensive option on the list.
You'll start by picking up the Greyhound Bus in San Francisco at the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco. You'll follow the instructions on your ticket and the signs to find the bus when you arrive.
You will take this to the stop in Merced. You will then transfer to the YARTS Highway 140 bus (stop Merced Transpo), which will take you to Yosemite Valley.
The bus ride from San Francisco takes almost four hours. The bus ride into Yosemite National Park takes another three hours. So, it will take anywhere from seven to nine hours for this option with transfers.
One thing to note about traveling by Greyhound is that they have a direct route to Merced and one that includes a transfer. Make sure to book the one that is direct as the route with the transfer will take you more than eight hours (plus, then you'll have another three hours on the bus into Yosemite National Park).
You can also drive to Groveland, Merced, Fresno, or any of the YARTS bus stops and take the bus in from there.
This option allows you to leave the driving into Yosemite National Park to someone else so that you can soak in the beauty all around you.
It's a great option if you plan to stay for a night or two. You could drive to your hotel the first day and then grab the bus into the park to explore the next.
This option will vary depending on where you decide to stay, but it will take roughly two to two and a half hours for the drive and then another two to three hours on the bus.
This tour is similar to the two-day tour but includes one additional day for you to explore on your own.
It will pick you up in San Francisco, take you to Yosemite to explore the giant sequoias, and then drop you off in Yosemite Valley.
You will then explore on your own the rest of day one, all of day two, and then meet back up with the bus at an agreed-upon time and location on day three.
You will need to book your own accommodations. If they are outside of Yosemite Valley, you will need to arrange your own transportation to get to and from the meeting point.
This tour includes four days to explore the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite National Park.
Day one will include the drive from San Francisco to Yosemite, with time in the afternoon to explore Yosemite Valley.
Day two will include a hike and lunch among the Giant Sequoias before heading up and over Tioga Pass to see Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows.
You will spend this night in Mammoth Lakes.
On the morning of day three, you can either visit the Ansel Adams Wilderness area or Devil's Postpile National Park.
You will then head north to Lake Tahoe with a stop along the way at the historic Bodie Ghost Town. That night, you'll stay in Lake Tahoe.
Day four starts with exploring the lake on a kayak, paddleboard, or the shoreline by bike. You can also enjoy one of several other activities, including hiking, a gondola ride, or some gambling at a local casino.
You'll spend the entire day in South Lake Tahoe and will return to your hotel in San Francisco around 9 pm.
Another great way to get from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is to fly between SFO and Fresno.
From there, you can rent a car and drive the rest of the way.
United Airlines offers a direct flight from SFO to Fresno. The flight takes less than an hour and is an easy jump to this area near Yosemite National Park. It usually costs around $150 in the winter months and up to $400 in the summer per person.
You can then rent a car to drive into Yosemite National Park. This drive takes about two hours and thirty minutes to drive from Fresno Yosemite International Airport to Yosemite Valley.
This entire trip will take anywhere from four to six hours.
The final option to get from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is to fly to Fresno Yosemite International Airport and then take the YARTS bus.
The flight takes about an hour. The bus will take another four hours.
You'll pick up the Highway 41 bus directly at the airport. It only runs three times a day, so you'll want to coordinate your flight and make sure you don't miss the bus pick-up times.
This bus only runs from early May through early September.
This trip, in total, will take anywhere from five to seven hours.