Yosemite National Park is a popular vacation spot and a natural wonder, so many visitors enjoy making their own road trips to Yosemite. The drive from San Jose to Yosemite is one of the best things to do if you’re looking for a day trip from the Bay Area. It takes 4 hours and 10 minutes to travel directly from San Jose to Yosemite National Park over a distance of 190 miles (305 km).
How to get to Yosemite National Park from San Jose?
It takes about 190 miles to get there by car. Without breaks, it will take about 4 hours to get there. Highway 120 is the quickest route from San Jose to Yosemite, so follow that if you’re looking for directions. Highway 120 is another option if you’re coming from Oakland or San Francisco. There are other fantastic road trips you can take if you’re coming from a different city in or outside of California.
The closest airport to Yosemite, Fresno/Yosemite International Airport, is more than a two-hour drive away, so you’d need to rent a car or use public transportation. YARTS allows you to ride the bus. Oakland International Airport is the largest airport that is most accessible to Yosemite National Park.
Best stops along San Jose to Yosemite National Park
Any visitor to Yosemite Valley for the first time must stop at Tunnel View, the famous photograph by Ansel Adams. You can find it on State Highway 41 right outside the Wawona Tunnel. There is no need to hike; just park at one of the lots and proceed to the vista. In the summer, this location can become very busy, so try to get there early.
You can see Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, and El Capitan from this vista. The best times to view Tunnel View are early spring and winter, when the lovely granite domes are draped in snow and mist. This vista changes with each season to show something new.
Winchester Mystery House
The widow of firearms tycoon William Wirt Winchester, Sarah Winchester, once lived in a mansion in San Jose, California, known as The Winchester Mystery House. Nine months after Winchester’s passing in 1922, the house started drawing tourists. The large mansion in the Victorian and Gothic styles is well known for its architectural oddities.
However, there is no proof to back up the claim that it is one of the “most haunted places in the world.” There is a lot of fanciful, unreliable, and frequently demonstrably false folklore surrounding the Winchester House and its owner.
Escalon is a town that is also well-known for its agriculture. In Spanish, it is referred to as “stepping stones.” Visit Main Street Park in Escalon to see the historic Santa Fe caboose from the 1800s. Children can run around and inside the caboose.
Take a short walk to see Escalon’s first fire bell from the 1900s and the town’s historical museum. A stunning mural that depicts Escalon’s historical reputation for agriculture, railroad transportation, and dairy is located directly above the fire bell.
Modesto is an adorable mixture of urban and suburban living, with forest streets, delightful brick homes, modern segments, and a busy downtown. For excellent dining options, visit downtown Modesto.
The Great Valley Museum and the McHenry Mansion are two museums worth visiting. You can learn everything there is to know about Modesto’s past for free at the McHenry Mansion. The National Register of Historic Places now recognises this 1880s construction.
A science museum with more than 200 plant and animal specimens is called the Great Valley Museum. Before continuing your road trip, you could attend some of the free concerts, festivals, or performances in Modesto.
In Stanislaus County, California, the United States, there is a historic unincorporated community called Knights Ferry. It is located on the Stanislaus River, about 30 miles east of Modesto, nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The first town you will see on HWY 120 is Manteca. Manteca has a long history of agriculture and culture, as well as rich soil from the Central Valley. Visit the Manteca Historical Society, an all-age museum that houses pictures, exhibits, and artefacts, to find out more about the area’s past.
Manteca’s community commissioned mural artists to depict its past, present, and future in order to help promote its history. Explore Manteca’s 32 murals on an auto tour. Check out the “Sierra’s Crown Mural” at 226 East Yosemite Avenue; it’s a great place to start your journey to Yosemite.
The county seat and largest city in Merced County, California, is located in the San Joaquin Valley. The city’s population increased to 86,333 as of the 2020 Census from 78,958 in the 2010 Census. Merced, a charter city that was founded on April 1st, 1889, is run by a council-manager system.
In California’s Stanislaus County and San Joaquin Valley, there is a city called Oakdale. It is incorporated into the Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area. “Cowboy Capital of the World” is Oakdale’s catchphrase. At the 2020 census, the population was 23,181, up from 15,503 in the 2000 census and 20,675 in the 2010 census.
The Oakdale mural is painted on the side of Hobbies Arts & Crafts when you first arrive in town. You can see a cowboy riding a horse while surrounded by cows and blooming flowers.
Turlock, a nearby small town, is renowned for its long agricultural history. Through 25 exhibits, the Turlock Historical Society Museum offers local history about Turlock for free. Additionally, the community has 24 parks, additional cultural attractions, and shopping malls like Turlock Shopping Center and Monte Vista Crossing.
The Loddon Blue and Grosso varieties of lavender are grown at the Pageo Lavender Farm in Turlock. Visit the gift shop at Pageo Lavender Farm to find handmade lavender lotions, bath salts, soaps, gift baskets, and other items.
San Francisco Premium Outlets
The Livermore Valley, California’s oldest wine region, is home to San Francisco Premium Outlets, which are only 40 miles from downtown San Francisco. Visit more than 180 renowned designers and iconic brands at the biggest outdoor outlet mall in California while taking in the lovely weather in Northern California. Shoppers will enjoy visiting outlets for brands like Allbirds, Disney Store, Furla, Longchamp, Stance, and Timbuk2, as well as stores like Burberry, Coach, Gucci, Prada, and Tory Burch. Once you have finished shopping, head to nearby Pleasanton, downtown Livermore, or Danville for a great night out. It’s conveniently located at Exit 48 on the I-580.
Columbia State Historic Park
The historic downtown of Columbia, California, is preserved by Columbia State Historic Park, also known as Columbia Historic District, a state park unit and National Historic Landmark District. Nearly 30 buildings, the majority of which are still standing today, were constructed during the California Gold Rush.
Gallo Center for the Arts
In Modesto, California, there is a performing arts venue called the Gallo Center for the Arts.
The Foster Family Theater and the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater are two theatres that are part of the structure, which had its official opening on September 27, 2007, respectively.
Six resident companies perform at the Gallo Center: the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Central West Ballet, Modesto Community Concerts Association, Modesto Performing Arts, Opera Modesto, and YES Company. Since the Center’s debut, numerous celebrities and notable individuals have toured and stopped by, with Patti LuPone being the first to perform in the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater. At the Center, touring Broadway productions have also appeared, from classics like Evita and Cats to more recent productions like Shrek: The Musical.
Lake Don Pedro
A reservoir with a 160-mile shoreline is called Lake Don Pedro. Here, you can go boating, camping, fishing, and doing water sports. To feed some fish, travel an additional 30 minutes to the Moccasin Fish Hatchery.
The Tech Interactive
A science and technology facility called The Tech Interactive provides STEAM education resources such as hands-on activities, labs, design challenges, and more. It is situated close to the Plaza de César Chávez in the heart of San Jose, California.
A booming town in the Sierra foothills once stood where Chinese Camp is now a deserted ghost town. It was portrayed on the big screen, so you might recognise it. With overgrown vegetation and eerie abandoned buildings, nature has now taken back control of the area. Take a stroll and capture some images. Embark on a hike! In Tuolumne County, just south of the famed town of Chinese Camp, is a region of 7,100 acres of public land known as Red Hills.
Mariposa was established in 1849 and was one of the Gold Rush towns. Check out the local museums in historic towns like Mariposa, such as the Mariposa Museum and History Center, the California State Mining & Mineral Museum, and the Yosemite Climbing Museum, for information about the Gold Rush in the 1800s. Yosemite Ziplines and Adventure Ranch, Yosemite Close Up Tours, and Skydive Yosemite are additional Yosemite excursions available in Mariposa. Since Mariposa offers a wide variety of dining and lodging options, some Yosemite visitors opt to stay here while visiting the park.
You arrive at Groveland, the Northern Gateway to Yosemite, signalling the end of your Yosemite road trip. Due to its historic lodging and dining options, Groveland attracts lots of Yosemite visitors. A traditional tavern with live music, food, and drinks is called Iron Door Saloon.
El Portal, which translates to “the gateway” in Spanish, makes perfect sense given that this is the location of Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance. The route from El Portal to Yosemite is stunning because you will be travelling next to the Merced River and will be encircled by its canyons. Take a moment to pause at a turnout and enjoy the scenery.
Before visiting Yosemite National Park, do you need to buy lunch or groceries? Get some sandwiches and beverages at the El Portal Market. This is also the last gas station on HWY 140; the closest one is at Crane Flat on HWY 120, which is about 20 miles away. Fill up before entering the park. Your road trip to Yosemite has come to an end, but the scenery is about to get better!