“Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Yes, it’s the title of a classic 1980s film starring Steve Martin and the late John Candy, but it’s also the list of ways you can get to Yosemite Mariposa County with varying degrees of effort.
For many travelers, a San Francisco/Yosemite trip is the perfect blend of city and nature, the yin and yang approach to travel. Start off in the hustle and bustle of the city by the bay, take in a Giants game, or walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and shop in Union Square before shifting gears and heading to one America’s greatest natural wonders.
Regardless, Yosemite visitors starting off in the Bay Area will find quite a few ways to get to the park and surrounding environs. Here are some of the more popular options.
The best – and perhaps quickest – way to get from San Francisco to Yosemite is to simply hop in a car and drive. Whether you have your own car or are renting one from San Francisco International Airport, you’ll want to head about three hours east to Mariposa for the best route into the park.
From SFO, get on southbound US 101, then take CA 92 East to I-580 before getting on I-5 South. Then, proceed to CA-99 South in Merced before continuing on CA-140E to 6th Street in Mariposa. From there, you can establish your basecamp by staying at a hotel such as the family-friendly Mariposa Lodge or head up CA-140 a little further to stay at the quirky Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort in Midpines. Stay in a cabin for a family-friendly experience, complete with your own kitchen and views of Yosemite’s beautiful forests.
From Mariposa the closest entrance is on CA-140, or the Arch Rock Entrance. This also the lowest elevation of the all the entrances to the park meaning it typically offers the best driving condition in the winter. Explore those options on our road conditions and resources page. As always, weather can be a major factor in travel into Yosemite National Park – especially in winter – so check road conditions before and during your trip.
If your ultimate destination is Yosemite Valley, the closest airport is the Merced Regional Airport. This airport is smaller than Fresno but offers $39 return flights from Oakland International Airport and less overall driving time to the Valley. It’s a great option for any travelers coming from the bay area.
Fresno/Yosemite International Airport is the closest airport to the southern entrance to Yosemite. This airport is about a two-hour drive to the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, then another hour to the valley floor.
From either airport you can either rent a car or take the very handy YARTS bus to Yosemite Valley.
For pilots and those with access to private planes, the Mariposa Airport is another great option, putting you squarely in the middle of the action.
Admittedly, this option is a bit more complicated, but there are routes that include hopping on a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transportation) train at SFO and taking it into Richmond, California, where you can catch an Amtrak to Merced and then onto Mariposa. Some of this route involves Greyhound buses, so it’s not purely a train trip, but Google Maps offers a compelling option for those looking to take the (very) scenic route, some as short as six hours.
Before visiting Yosemite Mariposa County, take a peek at our live webcams to get a sense of weather conditions marvel at the attractions you’d like to visit. Then, head over to our vacation planner to get started dreaming about your next Yosemite adventure.
However you get here, just get here! You won’t regret a second of your time in our natural wonderland.