|Yosemite is the most famous of the California parks. It is about 3.5 hours by car from San Francisco. It can be reached from San Francisco either from 120 or from 140. 120 is narrow and winding, 140 is faster but a little longer. Yosemite is a large park, although the main tourist sights are concentrated within the Yosemite Valley. A paved road circles around the valley. Most tourists simply drive around the road and take pictures of what they can see from the road. More adventurous tourists may want to hike up to some of those sights, and beyond, but the hikes are not trivial. Outside the Valley there are many other attractions: although they are not as popular, and they often require a lot more hiking, and the only road to get there (highway 120) is closed in winter till mid May, they are no less spectacular than the Valley (and they don't get the colossal crowds of the Valley).|
The Valley's attractions: The Yosemite Valley is only a tiny fraction of Yosemite, but contains the most famous attractions:
Non-valley AttractionsThe rest of Yosemite is huge and contains truly spectacular wilderness. Recommended hikes:
ResourcesYosemite is one of the least friendly parks in the world. It is terribly difficult to get any kind of information, and almost impossible to speak to a human being. In most cases, the only way to get even the simpler piece of information is to drive to the park.
Directions from the Bay Area
Take the I-580 EAST towards (I-880)/STOCKTON
Take I-205 E towards TRACY/STOCKTON.
You will be forced to take the I-5 NORTH exit
Pay close attention because you have to exit almost immediately to direction CA-120 RAMP towards MANTECA/SONORA
Now you are on 120, a road with traffic lights (ignore any exit called Yosemite Ave)
At some point you will be forced to take the CA-99 NORTH
Pay close attention because you have to exit almost immediately to direction CA-120 East towards Yosemite
Turn RIGHT onto CA-120 East
This will take you to Escalante and then Oakdale. Oakdale is a good place to get gasoline.
When you enter Oakdale, pay close attention because you have to turn LEFT at the main intersection towards SR-120/108
About 20 minutes after leaving Oakdale, pay close attention again because you have to turn right into 120 East (this is where 108 and 120 split, with 108 going to Sonora and 120 going to Yosemite). If you miss this turn, you'll end up in Sonora.
After you make this RIGHT turn, the road is much faster. In less than 15 minutes you will pass the town of Moccasin. If you are driving a small car and you are not using A/C, turn RIGHT into Old Priest Rd, which is a significant shortcut (but extremely steep). Overheating is very common on this road for bad USA-made cars running A/C.
At the top continue straight onto 120 to Groveland, which is the last main town before Yosemite (and the last decent restaurants)
Twenty minutes later you will pass the last gas station on your right. Ten minutes later you will pass the last motel (Yosemite Gateway) on your right. And one minute later you will see the sign "Yosemite National Park" and the entrance station.