Itinerary in brief:
- 1 night San Francisco
- 2 nights Napa Valley
- 2 nights Lake Tahoe
- 3 nights Yosemite
Day 1: Arrival in San Francisco
On arrival in San Francisco you will make your own way into the city and check into your hotel for one night. Depending on what time your flight arrives you could get out and explore, so why not head to the harbour for a bowl of clam chowder as the sun goes down – the perfect start to a Californian adventure!
Day 2: San Francisco
Enjoy a day in San Francisco. Make sure you take the cable car down to visit the sea-lions at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf before jumping on a boat over to Alcatraz Island where you can learn about the prison’s history. Spend the afternoon uncovering the rest of the city - why not browse City Lights Bookstore for a glimpse into Beat Poetry history before strolling into Chinatown for some dumplings. Explore the Mission District with its colourful murals and famous burritos before renting a bike and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge for iconic views back over the city.
After spending the day enjoying San Francisco, you’ll drive to Napa Valley, just an hour out of the city where you will check into your hotel for two nights.
Day 3: Napa Valley
With a day to enjoy Napa Valley, you need to get stuck right into the wonderful food and wine of the region. Hop between vineyards tasting the different wines – Cabernet Sauvignon is the speciality here but there are lots of others to choose from including Merlot, Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. With world class wine comes top notch food – The French Laundry Restaurant has been voted best in the world many times and while you’ll struggle to get a table here without booking months ahead, there are plenty of other excellent eateries to pair your new favourite wines with.
Day 4: Napa Valley to Lake Tahoe
After a quiet morning in Napa recovering from a day of indulgence yesterday, you’ll drive north into the Sierra Nevada Mountains where you’ll find Lake Tahoe, a blue gem high up in the mountains. In the winter this is California’s most popular ski resort but in the summer it is a great place to enjoy the lake.
Day 5: Lake Tahoe
A mass of shimmering blue-green water, Lake Tahoe is a highlight of any trip to Northern California. Why not spend your day here kayaking on the water? You can explore Emerald Bay, a beautiful section of the southern shore before having lunch at a beach bar and taking the cable car up the mountain for stunning views over the lake. It’s also a great spot to do some fishing or hiking – although a lot of visitors end up relaxing on the tiny beaches that hug the shoreline. Whatever you end up doing, we know you’ll love your time in Lake Tahoe.
Day 6: Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park
This morning you’ll drive south to Yosemite National Park. You’ll probably approach from the east – driving past the bizarre Mono Lake, a soda lake full of strange salt formations. you’ll turn into the park and drive through to the western edge where you’ll check into your hotel for three nights.
Days 7 & 8: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is enormous so with two days to explore you’re never going to see all of it, which means you need to plan wisely. First stop will be the valley, where the visitor centre and a couple of hotels sit in the imposing shadow of El Capitan, a favourite of rock climbers from all over the world. Hike up to Nevada Falls to get a sense of the wonderful hiking that you can experience here. For the best views of Half Dome, drive to Glacier Point where you can take photos of the mountain and down into the lush valley you were previously exploring.
On your second day, you’ll have time to venture further away from the crowds – wander through the Tuolumne Meadows, hike a section of the Cloud’s Rest Trail, take a swim in Tenaya Lake or drive north to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Your time here will fly by and by the time you leave you’ll most likely be planning your next trip!
Day 9: Depart Yosemite National Park
Today you’ll say goodbye to Yosemite National Park and drive back to San Francisco Airport where you’ll drop off your rental car in time to catch your onward flight.