13 Best Things To Do Between San Francisco And Yosemite NP

If you’re looking for things to do between San Francisco and Yosemite and have no idea about what lies in this region in Northern California, this post has got your back!

Having lived in the Bay Area since the late 90’s (wow), I know a thing or two about Northern California. I also love road tripping between the magical destinations of both San Francisco and Yosemite National Park!

This road trip guide will take you on a journey through some of the most beautiful scenery in California. From hiking to waterfalls to wine tasting, I’ve got you covered. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure on the road!

Here are some of the best things to do between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park.

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How Many Days For a San Francisco to Yosemite Road Trip?

If your main goal is to see as much as possible between San Francisco to Yosemite, I’d recommend you take at least 3 to 4 full days for your San Francisco to Yosemite road trip itinerary.

If you have never been to San Francisco, you’ll need at least another 2 days of sightseeing there alone!

Similarly, it will take about 2 days to explore Yosemite and all its wonders, including the majestic waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, enormous sequoias, and more.


How Far is Yosemite from San Francisco, California?

Getting to Yosemite National Park from the San Francisco Bay Area will take you just about 3.5 hours (170 miles).

The closest entrance is the Big Oak Flat entrance, located on the western side of Highway 120. The Visitor Center here is known as the Big Oak Flat information center.

Getting from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley–where a lot of the magic and action takes place–will take about 3 hours and 45 minutes (186 miles).


What To Expect On A San Francisco To Yosemite Road Trip

On the way to Yosemite, you’ll be really close to some iconic gold rush towns like Columbia, Murphys, Jamestown, and Sonora, CA.

Along historic Highway 49 in Northern California, you’ll be delighted to find a chain of quaint towns that continue to maintain the 1800’s vibe to this day!

Many of these towns are still living, breathing towns that have evolved to serve local communities and tourists alike. Who doesn’t like gold panning activities, horse-drawn carriages, old-fashioned ice cream and candy shops, and historical buildings brimming with history?

But that’s just one flavor of what you could expect. Along the way, you can expect views of wide-open land and pure countryside too.

ARE YOU ROAD TRIP READY? YOUR QUICK CHECKLIST:

License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!

Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.

Jumper Cables / Car Jump Starter | A must-have for any road trip! If you’re looking to invest in something exponentially more powerful/convenient than simple jumper cables, get the NOCO Boost HD Car Battery Jump Starter Box. This tool was sent from heaven and serves as a car jump starter, portable power bank, LED flashlight, and 12-volt portable power–all in one!

iOttie car mount | This is my partner in crime on any road trip. It’s got an amazing grip and popping your phone in and out of the mount could not be easier. If you’re renting a rental car and you’re not sure if it has a navigation screen, bring a phone mount with you. The iOttie attaches by suction, so it’s easy to transport from car to car.

Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This convenient little kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.

Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.

Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more.


Best Things To Do Between San Francisco And Yosemite National Park

San Francisco

Cable Car - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA is one of the most recognizable cities in the US, home to techies, yuppies, and hippies alike. Sure, it’s known for its extremely overpriced housing prices, but it’s also known for its liveliness, vibrancy and diversity.

I live 30 minutes away from San Francisco so it’s nothing new to me, but I still find that each time I visit the city, I am amazed at everything this place has to offer. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure! Here’s a list of a few of my favorite things to see and do:

If you’ve never been to San Francisco and you have a few days, I’d recommend spending 2-3 full days in SF to take in all that the city has to offer.

Spend a day knocking out the tourist attractions such as visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, touring Alcatraz Island, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, grabbing dinner and drinks in North Beach, and shopping in Union Square.

With your extra days here, dive into the culture of San Francisco a little more. I recommend you make time for the following!

  • Take a food tour – San Francisco is known for its top-notch dining options.
  • Explore Chinatown – San Francisco’s Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown in the U.S. Naturally, you’re going to find some really good Chinese food here. There are also a good amount of souvenir stalls and tea shops to peruse on the main streets.
  • Explore the Mission District – The Mission District is an exuberant, lively neighborhood with Latinx roots and a down-to-earth hipster vibe. Here, you’ll find some of the best Mexican food in the city, as well as hipster coffee shops, boutiques, and a bunch of bars and cocktail lounges.
  • Explore North Beach – North Beach is one of the culturally richest, most-loved neighborhoods in San Francisco! Here, you can find restaurants and shops of amazing quality, as well as a high density of bars, hole-in-the-wall bakeries, eateries, and coffee shops.
  • Hang out at Golden Gate Park – Have a picnic or a jog at the expansive Golden Gate Park. Did you know it’s 20% larger than New York’s Central Park?
  • If you want to catch great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, head to Baker Beach or Marin Headlands just across the bridge.

Looking for more SF travel tips?

Oakland

Best Things To Do In Oakland CA - Travels With Elle

Despite being less than 15 minutes away from SF across the bridge, the cultures, sights, and sounds you’ll find in Oakland are quite distinct and worth experiencing for yourself.

From a stroll around Lake Merritt to a visit to The Oakland Zoo, from First Fridays to the Laney College Flea Market–there’s something here for all types of travelers.

While you’re here, do not miss your chance to try a fried chicken sandwich at World Famous Hotboy’s–it’s the best chicken sandwich in California (yeah, I said it!).

There’s simply way too much to do in Oakland, so much so that I dedicated a whole post to the best things to do in Oakland here.

Oakdale

Oakdale, located in the heart of the Central Valley, is a convenient place to stop on your San Francisco to Yosemite road trip. It’s a great place to stop for lunch and stretch your legs.

Oakdale is known for its rich history and provides that small-town feel that’s missing from places like SF.

This small town has a variety of restaurants to choose from, as well as some unique shops to peruse in the charming downtown area. Be sure to check out The Cowboy Museum and the Oakdale Cheese Company for some delicious local cheese!

Dodge Ridge Ski Area

Ski resorts and snowplay areas are some of the best places near Yosemite in the snowier months. They offer wintertime recreational activities for all ages!

During the winter months, skiers and snowboarders can shred at the Dodge Ridge Ski Area (about 30 miles east of Sonora), while families can head to Leland High Sierra Snowplay (4 miles east of Strawberry) for tubing, sledding, and riding mini-snowmobiles.

Sonora

Sonora Gold Rush Town - Travels With Elle

Sonora, CA is one of the oldest cities in California and was incorporated on May 1, 1851. Like so many Gold Rush towns, Sonora was considered the wild, wild west where many carried a gun wherever they went.

The beautiful historic buildings and homes in this town are evidence of how prosperous Sonora was in its prime. Today, Sonora is the largest and liveliest of the California gold-rush town trio on California State Route 49 (Sonora, Columbia, Jamestown).

Its main street is lively and entertaining, lined with gift shops, saloons, and many restaurants. The variety of storefronts is an eclectic mix, ranging from bakeries and coffee shops to old-timey bars, antique shops, and emporiums selling various goods.

If you like old-fashioned candies, don’t miss The Candy Vault!

If you want to take a stroll through nature, consider spending an hour or two on Dragoon Gulch Trail, which gives visitors a unique opportunity to stroll through the Mother Lode’s oak woodlands.

There’s also an awesome farmer’s market that takes place here on Saturday mornings.

Jamestown

Sonora California - Travels With Elle

Jamestown, CA features a few blocks of historic buildings strung along its main street, which is now home to various shops, restaurants, and attractions.

While you’re here, try your hand at gold panning at California Gold Company and Jamestown Gold Panning.

And by far the best attraction here is Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, which is the perfect place to spend a part of your day if you love trains and locomotives.

Railtown 1897 offers an authentic railroad experience with tours, train rides, and special events throughout the year. They house trains that have been featured in hundreds of TV shows and movies (including Back to the Future III and Little House on the Prairie).

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Columbia State Historic Park

10 Things To Do at Columbia State Historic Park - Travels With Elle

Go back in time to the Gold Rush days of the mid-19th century at Columbia State Historic Park. Back in the 1850’s, Columbia was once the second-largest “metropolitan” city, right behind San Francisco! It was booming with gold miners looking for opportunities and riches.

This place is seriously amazing for history buffs and children alike. This park is a reenactment town and museum jumbled up into one unforgettable and immersive experience, featuring old-fashioned candy stores, restaurants, saloons, gold-panning areas, picnic areas, and old-timey gift shops.

There are also docents donning period costumes who put on public displays and host special events throughout the year.

Read More: 10 Best Things To Do at Columbia State Historic Park

Murphys

Murphys Gold Rush Town - Travels With Elle

Murphys, CA is another really cool California Gold Rush town located between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park.

Yet another town beaming with ample gold rush history, Murphys today stands as a vibrant, thriving community, alive with art galleries and live theater, eclectic shops, fine restaurants, charming B&B’s, and a multitude of outdoor activities you can enjoy.

This town is within close proximity to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, which is a plus for those who want to explore nature.

Some notable museums include Ironstone Heritage Museum and Murphys Old Time Museum. If you’re still not sick of history-rich establishments, there is also Angels Camp Museum nearby.

Are you a wine lover? Well, you could spend a whole day visiting local tasting rooms and vineyards around the area and still not be able to cross them all off your list. A few quality breweries also exist, including The Watering Hole and Murphys Pourhouse.

Murphys is also home to a variety of annual events throughout the year, including Presidents Wine Weekend (February), Murphys Irish Day Parade and Street Fair (March), Taste of Calaveras (April), Jumping Frog Jubilee (May), and Grape Stomp (October).

Definitely worth checking out, sipping on some wine, and visiting the Mercer Caverns!

Rainbow Pool (Groveland, CA)

Conveniently located just off Highway 120 on the way to Yosemite National Park, you will find Rainbow Pool. This area hosts natural swimming holes along the south fork of the Tuolumne River, where you can dip your feet or even jump off rocks and take a plunge.

This area is a popular picnic, swimming, hiking, and fishing spot among the locals.

God’s Bath (Stanislaus National Forest)

God's Bath Tuolumne County

Gods Bath is located deep in the Stanislaus National Forest, so it’s not the easiest spot to get to. However, this granite-clad swimming hole has a cliff-jump area and is worth the drive if you’re on the hunt for awesome swimming holes in California.

If you plan on visiting, why not hit two birds with one stone and pay Sonora, CA a visit too? It’s the closest town from God’s Bath.

Pro Tip: The drive to God’s Bath is a very windy one, and you can expect to walk a mile from the parking lot to get there.

Wassama Round House State Historic Park

Wassama Round House State Historic Park is a great place to stop and stretch your legs on your road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite.

This California state park is home to the Wassama Round House, a ceremonial structure used by the Southern Sierra Miwok people for religious and social gatherings. The round house is open for tours, and the park also has hiking trails, picnic areas, and a campground.

If you’re looking for historical and off-the-beaten-path things to do between San Francisco and Yosemite, be sure to add Wassama Round House State Historic Park to your list!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park - Travels With Elle

Ah, Yosemite. Known for its majestic rushing waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, and granite cliffs more massive than one could imagine. California is so lucky to be the home of this iconic National Park!

On average, about four to five million people visit Yosemite each year, and most of them spend the majority of their time in Yosemite Valley.

It’s a no-brainer why this is. Yosemite holds many natural wonders such as Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall, Half Dome, and El Capitan. Here, you can take a hike among ancient sequoia trees, ride bikes with incredible rock formations as your backdrop, soak in the Merced River, and even catch glimpses of baby bear cubs.

I’ve been to Yosemite seven times now and I keep going back, so I know you’re going to have a wonderful time here! No matter what season it is, Yosemite makes for a great weekend destination.

However, if you have only one day to spend in the park, make the stops mentioned in this Yosemite 1-day itinerary your priority!

If you’re able to make it over to the eastern end of Yosemite (keep reading to discover what other destinations lie on the eastern side of Yosemite), you’ll be blessed with views of Tuolumne Meadows, Olmsted Point, and more.

PRO TIP: For most of the National Parks, you’ll need to pay a $25-35 entrance fee. This pass lasts for 7 days. If you plan on visiting other National Parks or National Monuments throughout the year, I’d highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, which costs $80 and will get you into any of the 2,000 National Parks, National Monuments, or National Forests for an entire year.

You can buy a pass online at REI or in-person at the entrance gates of any National Park.

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows Yosemite National Park - Travels With Elle

Ah, Tuolumne Meadows, a place where not many Yosemite visitors make the time to explore. What a shame, because it’s simply beautiful here.

Tuolumne Meadows, accessible from Yosemite National Park, boasting amazing hiking and rock climbing opportunities.

Camping is also available at the Tuolumne Meadows campground. Why not stay the night and make the most out of your time here with mother nature?


Other Destinations Near Yosemite National Park

  • Bodie State Historic Park – the largest ghost town in the West, located just 45-minutes northeast of Lee Vining and the eastern end of Yosemite National Park.
  • Travertine Hot Spring – boasting some of the best views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This is located in Bridgeport, CA
  • Mono Lake – a super-salty lake with cool tufas rising out of the water that began to form around 750,000 years ago.
  • June Lake – an awesome place to take a dip, have a lakeside picnic, or get out onto the water on a SUP or kayak.
  • Mammoth Lakes – An alpine town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that features many cool sites like Devil’s Postpile, Rainbow Falls, Minaret Vista, Hot Creek Geological Site, Earthquake Fault, and Wild Willy’s Hot Spring.
  • Sequoia National Park – towering sequoia groves at every turn.
  • Lake Tahoe / Reno, NV – lake activities, gorgeous hikes, casinos, and a whole lot of good food!

Read More: Best Things To In California’s Eastern Sierra: Yosemite, Mammoth, Bishop, and More


Other Destinations Near San Francisco, CA

  • Oakland and Berkeley – the East Bay’s got so much culture (and good food) that can be best experienced in these two neighboring cities.
  • Napa Valley – California’s premier wine-tasting destination, full of good wine and good food.
  • Sonoma and Sonoma County – a more affordable, more down-to-earth version of Napa Valley.
  • South Bay – the tech capital! The South Bay consists of Silicon Valley cities like Santa Clara, San Jose, and more!
  • Santa Cruz – a laidback college town famous for its surf culture–it’s so quintessentially California!
  • Muir Woods / Sausalito half-day combo tour
  • Mount Tamalpais State Park – awesome hiking (and one of the best places to see forests and waterfalls)
  • Point Reyes National Seashore – a perfect adventure of wildlife viewing, gourmet cheeses, and fresh oysters.

Read More: San Francisco to Santa Cruz Road Trip: 15 Best Stops On Highway 1


Where To Stay In San Francisco, CA

There are tons of lodging accommodations in San Francisco ranging from budget-friendly to outright luxurious. Hotels tend to cost a lot more in SF compared to other urban cities, so take care to do some research before settling on an option.

In order to save you time and money, I want to help you minimize the need to take Uber/Lyft everywhere. As such, I’d recommend staying in a neighborhood that’s relatively central to everything.

I recommend staying in or near the following neighborhoods: Mission District, Hayes Valley, The Castro, and Union Square (Union Square is where you’ll find most hotels are located).

Union Square

Hotel Nikko San Francisco – Hotel Nikko San Francisco features beautiful modern accommodations with a bar, on-site restaurant, fitness center, swimming pool, and a terrace. You’ll be super close to a ton of public transportation options.

San Francisco Marriott Marquis Union Square – This downtown San Francisco hotel offers a fitness center, restaurant, and luxurious rooms with panoramic views. As with other Marriott hotels, this one is equally as modern and spacious.

Handlery Union Square Hotel – This San Francisco hotel is in Union Square, a 5-minute walk from the Powell Street cable car line. It features an outdoor pool and modern, spacious rooms. Guests will also have access to a fitness center one block from the hotel and an on-site sauna. Handlery is located 0.5 miles away from Chinatown and 1 mile away from North Beach.

Noe Valley / Mission District

Noe’s Nest Bed & Breakfast

Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast is located in a charming Victorian house in San Francisco’s central Noe Valley neighborhood (near the Mission).

Noe’s Nest Bed & Breakfast serves a generous daily buffet breakfast and offers guest rooms with free WiFi. Seriously, the rooms are so charming and the breakfast is just delightful.

1906 Mission

1906 Mission is a San Francisco bed and breakfast that features a modern, environmentally conscious design.

Each room is designed with the environment in mind: energy-efficient lighting, re-purposed building materials, and free organic toiletries are provided. Do note that these rooms have a shared bathroom.

Hayes Valley / Castro

Hayes Valley Inn

While Hayes Valley Inn is not the most central option, I added it to this list because of its simple charm! I stayed here a few years ago and had a wonderful, homey stay!

Hayes Valley Inn is just 5 minutes’ walk from attractions such as the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and San Francisco City Hall. Guests can easily discover local boutiques, art galleries and cafes.

Do note that these rooms have a shared bathroom.

Beck’s Motor Lodge

Beck’s Motor Lodge in the Castro features charming, bright, and modern rooms!

It’s located only steps from the city’s historic cable car lines with direct access to Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. Dolores Park and San Francisco’s Mission District are just 15 minutes’ walk away from this motel.

A number of antique shops, cafes and unique stores are located in the neighborhood. This is one of the rare hotels that offer free parking!


Where To Stay In Yosemite National Park, CA

Camping at Yosemite

Camping and tent cabin rentals are affordable and ultra-convenient lodging options. However, campsites within Yosemite National Park are extremely popular and almost always sell out as soon as they’re available for booking.

This is understandable, you’re paying under $50 a night to be smack dab in the middle of the park’s breathtaking beauty!

There are 13 campgrounds inside the park with varying availability. Some campsites require reservations year-round, while others are first-come-first-served.

If you’re looking to make camping reservations, make sure you’re looking at least 6 months in advance!

Other Lodging Inside Yosemite National Park

Curry Village: Most Affordable Option

Curry Village - Yosemite National Park - Travels With Elle

Curry Village is the largest affordable lodging facility in Yosemite Valley, offering many lodging options including motel rooms, wood-sided cabins, and canvas tent cabins.

This lodge is one of the most popular options inside Yosemite due to its convenient location. It’s also the most convenient area to stay if you’re looking to hike Half Dome in the early morning.

Within the village, they also have a cafeteria and snack bar with surprisingly good pizza. Due to its popularity, Curry Village sells out quickly so be sure to make your reservations about 1 year in advance to ensure you snag a spot.

The Ahwahnee: Most Luxurious Option

Known for its stunning interior design and architecture, The Ahwahnee was designed to reflect its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. One reason why it’s super cool to stay at? The hotel is a National Historic Landmark!

Inside The Ahwahnee sits The Ahwahnee Dining Room, which is a culinary delight. It is open year-round, serving very well-made breakfast and dinner. With ceilings over 30 feet high and massive windows that take in the surrounding views, the dining room evokes a feeling of grandness and opulence.

If you can get reservations at this hotel, then enjoy the splurge and the luxury of waking up inside the park. They book up a year in advance.

Lodging Outside of Yosemite National Park

Sierra Sky Ranch

Sierra Sky Lodge - Yosemite National Park

Outside the park, one of my favorite lodges is Sierra Sky Ranch in Oakhurst.

Though it is further away from the park entrance, I find that this historic ranch is one of the nicer hotels in the area!

The rooms are impeccably decorated with ranch-inspired decor and the hardwood used throughout the property really warms up the lodge’s atmosphere. There are such cozy common areas here and the rooms are offered at super affordable prices.

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

Tenaya Lodge is a very wonderful lodging option just outside of Yosemite in Fish Camp.

You’re going to get cozy cabin feels despite being in a modern and comfortable lodge. Fun amenities like s’mores kits are included with your stay!

After a long day of exploring, guests at Tenaya can relax with a massage from the spa, enjoy a gourmet dinner at the on-site restaurant or arrange the next day’s activities with help from the hotel’s concierge staff.


SAN FRANCISCO TO YOSEMITE: ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST

Aside from the normal clothing and toiletries you’d pack for any regular trip, here are the things I’d recommend you not leave home without for your Yosemite NP road trip:

  • America the Beautiful National Parks Pass | Entrance to Yosemite NP cost $35 for a 7-day pass. However, the National Parks annual pass is a great way to save on entrance fees. If you intend to visit three or more National  Parks or National sites in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will more than pay for itself. This pass can be purchased at the park entrances or online here.
    • [Example: 3 National Parks x $30 parking each = $90. Savings with the annual pass = $10. Any more parks you go to thereafter = FREE! ]
  • License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
  • Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
  • Jumper Cables | Jumper cables are one of those things on your road trip list you hope to never use, but are so crucial to have just in case. If you’re looking to invest in something exponentially more powerful/convenient than simple jumper cables, get the NOCO Boost HD Car Battery Jump Starter Box. This tool serves as a car jump starter, portable power bank, LED flashlight, and 12-volt portable power–all in one.
  • Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
  • Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
  • Flashlight | You never know when you’re going to be stranded on the road at night, out hiking late, or even exploring a dark cave. Leaving a flashlight in your car can really come in handy when you’re faced with unexpected situations.
  • Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip, but especially on summer road trips. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more. If you’re looking for the best cooler technology out there, the Yeti Portable Cooler is top of the line. You can’t beat YETI!
  • Swiss Army Knife | A multi-tool is great to have in any car, regardless of if you’re going on a road trip or not. It can be useful in so many situations! There have been so many instances where I’ve needed to cut something or open up hard-to-open packaging while away from home, and this has been a lifesaver.
  • First Aid Kit | It’s always good to carry a first aid kit around with you when traveling. Road trips make it easier to do this since all you need to do is toss it in the trunk! Note: This is not the same as the roadside emergency kit.
  • Roll-up Picnic Mat | Probably one of the best inventions since sliced bread, and one of my best investments for the summertime! Not only are these picnic mats super-portable because they roll up into themselves, but their water-resistance factor is a game-changer. No need to worry about wet-grass-butt anymore!
  • Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
  • Hiking Socks | Make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
  • Hiking poles | Very helpful for more intense hikes like the Mist Trail and Half Dome. Here is a budget-friendly optionor a lighter, higher-quality, more ergonomic option
  • Lots of water and snacks | maybe even a packable lunch.
    • Stinger Waffles are one of my favorite sources of quick and delicious energy.
  • Waterproof Rain Jacket | A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is critical for any outdoor adventure. Nights here in the mountains can get cold, and you never know when rain may come. Since these weigh virtually nothing and are so easily packable, I recommend you carry one with you whenever you head outdoors. My top recommendations are Marmot Men’s PreCip (for men) and The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket (for women).
  • Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers in the mountains, especially at night. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of outdoor adventuring!
  • Daypack | I’m a fan of the Osprey Daylite Daypack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
  • Camelbak Water Reservoir | I love water reservoirs for a few reasons. For longer hikes, it’s always best to bring a water reservoir of 2-3 liters of water with you. And even if you don’t plan on hiking, a water reservoir means you can bring water with you in your backpack while you explore without dealing with clunky bottles.
  • Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Sun protection is key for any outdoor destination. It’s especially important when you’re at higher elevations! Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun. As a bonus, bandanas and Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your bandana or Buff then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down.
  • Sunscreen | Sunscreen is absolutely necessary for mountain destinations. Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors. No matter where we go, we like a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that damage our environment. For the face, we are absolutely obsessed with Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen.
  • Mini survival kit | Get one that’s pre-made like this one, or make your own. Be sure to carry this with you in your hiking backpack.
  • Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need when you’re hopping from water shoes to regular shoes or simply need to dry your feet off. This one here is a great option.
  • Hand Sanitizer Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike (or even after a walk outside on a scorching hot day) but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes are my fave. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
  • Headlamp / Flashlight | This is a must if you’re going to be camping or doing sunset hikes. Being able to find your way through the wilderness in darkness is essential, so you should always carry a light source with you, even if you don’t plan on staying out past sunset. An LED headlamp allows you to hike hands-free and is my preferred source of light. Always carry extra batteries.
  • Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the funky roadside stops and eateries… the last thing you want is to be driving along with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
  • Travel Adapter | If you’re traveling from abroad, a universal travel adapter is a necessity. This 5-in-1 travel adapter is perfect for travel use with cell phones, laptops & other devices anywhere in the world.
  • Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
  • Emergen-C packets or Liquid I.V. Hydration Packets | These are a great way to support your immune system and overall health on a road trip. They are light, take up no space, and are easy to pack.
  • Medications | Motion sickness pills for those windy roads; painkillers, anti-inflammatories, etc.
  • Camping Gear / permits | Only required if camping.

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