It’s so crazy how many things there are to see in California. It’s hard planning a trip to California and only visiting one place. I love combining multiple cities and destinations when I travel to see as much as I can in one trip. Carl and I spent one week in California and planned a road trip through Northern California. We spent time in Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco and had an amazing adventurous week! In this travel guide, I want to share our Northern California road trip itinerary for inspiration on your upcoming California vacation!
First Stop: Yosemite National Park (3.5 Days)
The first destination on your Northern California road trip itinerary is Yosemite National Park. I recommend spending 3.5 days here. On the day you land, you will spend the first day driving to Yosemite, getting any supplies that you may need for your trip like groceries, and going to dinner and settling in before your first full day!
For the next three days, here is a sample Yosemite National Park Itinerary to explore different areas of the park.
Day 1: Explore Yosemite Valley. Start the day by hiking the Mist Trail. Then, check out the famous sights in the Valley like Tunnel View and El Capitan. End the day with hiking the Lower Yosemite Falls trail.
Day 2: You can do a challenging hike like Half Dome or Cloud’s Rest. If you are not up for a challenging hike, you can drive through Tioga Pass Road, check out the view at Olmsted Point, and relax at Tenaya Lake.
Day 3: Check out the sequoia trees in Yosemite at Mariposa Grove in the first half of the day. For the second half, explore the hiking trails at Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Second Stop: Lake Tahoe (2.5 Days)
The second stop on your Northern California road trip itinerary is Lake Tahoe! The drive from Yosemite National Park to Lake Tahoe is about a four hour drive. I recommend getting breakfast at Yosemite and then driving to South Lake Tahoe to get there for lunch. I recommend spending 2-3 days in Lake Tahoe.
When you arrive in South Lake Tahoe, I recommend getting lunch at Base Camp Pizza and then exploring the town.
For the next two days, here is how you can spend time exploring Lake Tahoe:
Day 1: Check out a few of Lake Tahoe’s awesome hiking trails! Drive to Emerald Bay State Park and stop along the way to check out some great viewpoints. Two of the hiking trails you can do in the same day is Granite Lake + Maggie’s Peak and Eagle Lake Trail.
Day 2: Spend the day exploring some portions of Rubicon Trail and then relax at a few of Lake Tahoe’s beautiful beaches like Sand Harbor Beach and Secret Cove Beach. If there is time, you can even bike the Lake Tahoe East Shore Bike Path!
Final Stop: San Francisco (1 Day)
On the last stop of your Northern California road trip itinerary, I recommend checking out San Francisco. The drive from South Lake Tahoe to San Francisco is about four hours.
There is so much to see in San Francisco so I recommend spending a few days here. But if you only have one day like us, it is definitely possible to see a few highlights and get the vibe of the city.
One of the things I highly recommend is checking out one of the awesome viewpoints to see the Golden Gate Bridge. There are many great viewpoints, but the one that I went to was at Battery Spencer. You can find it on Google Maps by searching “Golden Gate View Point.”