Family self-drive from San Francisco to Yosemite

Trip ideas
Duration (in days): 7

From: San Francisco, USA

To: San Francisco, USA



Exc. International flights (per person based on 2 adults, 2 children) 
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Enjoy the perfect family trip to California, taking in the big city and the great outdoors on this drive from San Francisco to Yosemite. Start with a few days in the city, where you can wander the streets of Chinatown, hop on the tram to Fisherman’s Wharf and cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge for unique views back over the city. After enjoying this eclectic city, drive east towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains and start exploring the valley, swimming in the lakes and hiking along the granite trails to get views of the waterfalls. This trip is an ideal introduction to the city of San Francisco whilst also giving you the chance to discover the natural beauty of Northern California.

This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements please to start planning your dream trip.


  • Visit the famous island prison of Alcatraz
  • Explore the neighbourhoods of San Francisco, from Chinatown to the Mission District
  • Hike amongst the towering granite mountains of Yosemite Valley
  • Climb the steep but beautiful trail to Vernal Falls
  • Look out for wildlife in the wildflowers of Tuolumne Meadows



Itinerary in brief:

  • 3 nights San Francisco
  • 3 nights El Portal


Day 1: Arrive San Francisco

On arrival in San Francisco you will make your own way into the city, where you will check into your hotel for 3 nights.

Days 2 & 3: San Francisco

San Francisco is an exciting city to explore with a family – the immigrant heritage of the city means you can be introducing your kids to dim sum in Chinatown at lunch time and enjoying some Mexican food in the Mission District in the evening. We’ve included a trip to Alcatraz where your family will hear exciting tales of escape and learn about the history of the island prison. You’ll also be able to use the hop on hop off bus service to get around the city, allowing you to discover the restaurants and aquarium at Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf before heading over to Union Square to fit in some shopping or even hiring bikes and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge to explore the Marin Headlands with views back over towards the city. Your time here will go in a flash!

Day 4: Drive from San Francisco to Yosemite

Today you’ll collect your rental car and drive east towards the Sierra Nevada mountains, where Yosemite National Park lies. On arrival in El Portal, a small village just outside the park, you’ll check into your hotel for 3 nights.

Days 5 & 6: Yosemite National Park

You have 2 full days to explore the national park. You’ll start, as everyone does, in the Yosemite Valley, a gorge in the endless granite that shows off the famous Yosemite Falls as you drive towards El Capitan. At the end of the valley you can take a steep but beautiful hike up to Vernal Falls, or if you’re feeling fit you can keep going until you reach Nevada Falls, each stunning waterfall cascading down the cliffs before you. For the best views, drive to Glacier Point where you can take a wonderful photo with Half Dome in the background – the drive along here will take you past small, lush paddocks where chipmunks scurry amongst the wildflowers.

On your second day, venture further away from the valley towards Tuolumne Meadows, where you can (carefully!) look out for black bears in the surrounding hills. If you want to embark on a hike you could try a section of the Cloud’s Rest Trail – it’s a hard one if you’re attempting the full walk but a small section with kids is just right. If you just want to relax, why not take a picnic and spend the day at Tenaya Lake, one of the most scenic in the valley where you can swim in the clear water and wander along the rocky shoreline.

Day 7: Depart San Francisco  

Today is your last day in California – you’ll drive back to San Francisco through the Sierra Nevada mountains, dropping your rental car at the airport in time to catch your onwards flight.



San Francisco sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean giving it a changeable climate, where you can experience summer and winter in the same day. Coastal breezes keep the city cool and huge fog drifts can sweep over the Golden Gate Bridge during the summer meaning winter is usually more reliable with clear days and moderate temperatures. Yosemite has deep snowfall in the winter with many roads closed for the season while summer sees blue skies and lots of tourists. Visit before July if you want to see the waterfalls in their full glory from the snowmelt.

This itinerary is purely a suggestion, and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you

What's included: 

  • 6 nights in 3* accommodation
  • Car hire
  • Alcatraz Day Tour with Hop on Hop off Bus Pass

Not included: 

  • Fuel
  • Meals
  • Anything not mentioned above


6 nights in 3* standard accommodation.

Hotels in this category include:

  • Hilton Parc 55, San Francisco
  • Yosemite View Lodge, El Portal


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