Known for its steep granite cliffs, waterfalls, towering sequoia groves, and diversity of wildlife, Yosemite National Park is something you don’t want to miss. On this day trip limited to just 20 people, you can leave the logistics to a tour guide so all you have to do is enjoy a small-group experience in the great outdoors. You have both guided sightseeing and free time, ensuring you see the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s major attractions, like Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite Valley, with the chance to explore more of the park however you wish.
Yosemite National Park day trip from San Francisco
Travel through the Central Valley farmlands, historical Gold Country, and the Sierra Nevada foothills
Spend hours snapping photos of Yosemite’s stunning forests, rock formations, and waterfalls
Visit Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan on a guided van tour
Enjoy free time to explore Yosemite’s other natural wonders by foot or bike
Take in a breathtaking panorama from the Tunnel View overlook for an expansive view of the Yosemite Valley
Small-group tour limited to 20 ensures a more personalized experience
You may think you don’t have time for a Yosemite trip during your stay in San Francisco, but this full-day tour by luxury biodiesel van provides a stress-free way to do so. Your day trip starts with early morning hotel pickup for the drive across the Bay Bridge toward California’s Central Valley, one of the country’s largest farming regions.
During the drive, stop briefly at a roadside fruit stand to purchase some local nuts or fruit (own expense). Continue the drive past horse and cattle ranches as you make your way into the foothills of the Sierras and Gold County, where ambitious pioneers panned for gold during the 1849 Gold Rush.
When you arrive at Yosemite National Park, start your visit with a driving tour of the park’s main natural attraction, Yosemite Valley. Stop often for photo ops of this glacial valley known for its rock formations and waterfalls, and enjoy access to some areas that big-bus tours can’t reach. See Half Dome, Yosemite’s most iconic feature, and observe daring rock climbers ascend the 3,000-foot (914-meter) sheer granite face of El Capitan. Visit Bridalveil Falls, check out the Tunnel View overlook for an expansive view of the Yosemite Valley, and head to Yosemite Falls, North America’s tallest waterfall.
You have time to buy lunch here at one of the various eatery options, and then enjoy free time to experience the park however you wish. Perhaps go for a hike, or rent a bike to cover more ground. If you’re not feeling active, make your way to the visitor’s center for informational exhibits, head to the Ansel Adams Gallery to see works by the legendary photographer, or visit the Ahwahnee Hotel for some Yosemite history.
In the late afternoon, meet back up with your group for the return drive to San Francisco, which includes one short rest stop. Arrive in the city in the evening, enjoying a twinkling view of the downtown skyline and the bay before hotel drop-off.
San Francisco Bay
As you settle in for the journey, we’ll pass by some exceptional San Francisco sights. Catch views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the incomparable San Francisco Skyline as we head east on the Bay Bridge. The journey to Yosemite typically takes about 4 hours.
You’ll taste a piece of California’s rich agricultural hub as we pass through a slice of the Central Valley famous for specialty fruits and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cherries, and strawberries. Here we will also make a stop at a grocery store for you to pick up lunch and any other supplies you'll need for the day.
We’ll continue into the mountains as we connect with the rich history of California’s gold country, passing through some of the first settlements built during the Gold Rush. Take in the earthy forest smell as we make our way to the heart of the park. Your guide will pepper in stories and historical facts about the different sights.
The climb through Yosemite Valley offers breathtaking views as we wind our way up to 4,500 feet above sea level. Arrive at Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, massive sequoia trees and biological diversity.
Admire famous Half Dome, depicted in famous photographs by Ansel Adams, and watch rock climbers scale El Capitan's 3,000-foot (914-meter) sheer granite rock face. Enjoy incredible vistas from the Tunnel View overlook, and end your in-coach tour near the base of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America.
The suspense is over! Once we reach the drop off location, you’ll have around 3 hours of free time to explore. Want to hike or bike around? Your guide will point out the best spots on your map. You’ll have options to meander or bike down paved paths, hike the trails, engage further with the park’s history at the visitor center, or visit the Ansel Adams Gallery. Although you could spend three weeks in Yosemite, the three hours you get on your own is enough time to understand why Yosemite is one of America’s most popular national parks.
Once we’ve had our time to explore, we’ll come together in the late afternoon and set our course back to San Francisco, stopping for a short break before arriving back in the city. You will arrive back at your hotel by around 8:30 – 9:00 p.m. to sleep off the days’ adventures.
We are so glad you enjoyed your trip to Yosemite with us! It is a big day, but couldn't agree more that it is well worth it and breathtaking! Thank you for acknowledging our staff and guide and taking the time to leave us a review. It is much appreciated.
This is a self guided tour which has a stop at tunnel view. The tour mainly drops you off at Yosemite valley and it’s up to you how to manage your 3hours of time. If you are going to visit Yosemite- I would suggest look at some other tour which drives you to the points or atleast escorts you to maxmize your time there. This tour didn’t meet my expectations and I felt the time we had could have been better utilised. The guide said that as we are a good group who has returned in time during the stops he was accommodating another spot - the El Capitan meadow. This spot though it was ok, Yosemite has other spots as well which could have been easily covered. There was rainbow forming around the waterfall at Valley view which the bus just sped past.
I am sorry that you did not enjoy your trip to Yosemite. Our guides offer suggestions how you spend your visit, so you can decide how to spend your time based on your interests and abilities.
The rainbow sounds beautiful, but please keep in mind as a commercial vehicle we are at limited to stopping in commercial zones that are safe for you, our customers.
Incredible! Absolutely pristine.
Albeit a few days in the valley is ideal, we managed to get a lot out of our day trip. Party because it was a small group of people and also our guide, James was fantastic.
We are glad you found your adventure to Yosemite with us "incredible." We are also glad you enjoyed your time with James. He is a wonderful asset to our team! Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review.
The tour is very well organized in terms of pick up and drive there and back, with regular stops for bathroom breaks and food. In fact, the organizers are very considerate and they always stop in a place that has a supermarket as well, so you are not stuck with just your usual fast food options, which I thought it was a nice touch. The main thing to take into account about the tour once you reach Yosemite is that it is a self guided one. Matt, our driver, gave us all maps, explained to us the paths which we could explore and how to reach them, and then left us to our own devices to enjoy what the park has to offer. Most trails are well signposted, but you do require a bit of spatial orientation to figure out where you are/where you're going.
The tour makes for a fairly long day, but the transportation there and back is quite comfortable and you do get good views of the area.
I would definitely recommend this tour as a taster for Yosemite. Cause chances are, you will want to go back and stay for longer!
Thank you for taking the time to leave a review for us. We are glad you enjoyed your time with Matt and that provided you with maps and explained the lay of the land. This is a great tour for an introduction to Yosemite for those with limited time, but Yosemite will be there for those that wish to return.
We even offer overnight tours and 3 day camping trips, that give guests a more in depth look at the park. These are great options for people looking to explore and enjoy more of what Yosemite has to offer.
We enjoyed Yosemite a lot. It has perfect free bus stops for travelers.
however there was some mistakes on our reservation so we were not on the tour list which means we may not have been on the tour.... anyway the tour was okay.
Overall a good day trip with magnificent view of the national park. Our tour guide Matt was very informative and provide enough information. Its a bit rush for a day tour to visit this park but overall a very good experience.
Thank you for taking the time to write a review. It is a bit of journey, but totally worth it, as you said! Winter is a beautiful time of year to visit Yosemite, the snow capped peaks are breathtaking.
Amazing, amazing, amazing. That's all I can say. What an amazing day. Intimate bus group - very friendly. Great guide who was very knowledgeable. The on board videos were awesome. Had about 3-4 hours free to explore the valley and have lunch. Such a great day. Would definitely recommend.
We are so glad you enjoyed your trip to Yosemite! It can be very nice to travel with a small group. Our guides have a great deal of knowledge and we are happy that they were able to share that knowledge with you!