Top 6 Fun Stops on the way to Yosemite!

San Francisco to Yosemite along Highway 120

Just a 3-hour drive from the San Francisco International Airport to the beautiful mountains of Yosemite National Park.YOSEMMITE-NATIONAL-PARK

  • Hwy 101 South from San Francisco International Airport to Highway 92 East
  • Highway 92 East to Highway 680 North
  • Highway 680 North to Highway 580 East toward Stockton
  • Highway 580 East to Highway 120 toward Manteca
  • Continue on Highway 120 to Big Oak Flat Entrance of Yosemite National Park

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       Let’s Start in Knights Ferry- East of Oakdale on Highway 120

KNIGHTS-FERRY-BRIDGE-HISTORICAs you leave the hustle of the big city take a breath of fresh air in the historic town of Knight’s Ferry.  Stop in for a nice lunch at  River’s Edge Resort.   It  overlooks the Stanislaus River, the rafters and the fisherman are always smiling and happy as they float by! Sunshine Rafting Adventures is a great local rafting company if your up for it! You can grab a bag lunch and take a short walk to one of the oldest covered bridges in California at the Knight’s Ferry Recreation Area. It was built in 1863, just a great reflection of the history in Knight’s Ferry.  Refresh yourself at the Ice Cream Parlor on Knight’s Ferry Main Street, across from the volunteer fire house. As you are leaving town stop and say Hi to Manny and friends at the 50’s Roadhouse! Take a picture by the biggest rooster in town..When I need a day to refresh my soul and spirit I go sit by the river and just enjoy the calm.  Sometimes it all you need to have a better outlook on the day!!

Chinese Camp-Highway 120

Don’t Blink! Another little historic town along the Highway 120 corridor leading into Yosemite is Chinese Camp. chinese-camp-historic-yosemite

The Tavern on the

corner serves the coldest beer around! New owners have really made it a nice friendly place to stop on the way to Yosemite! It has several old abandon buildings and several historic homes. The local elementary school has a modern Chinese touch to it. This is also a nice place for a bottle of water and pick up  a post card to send to  friends and family. Share your vacation!

don-pedro-lae-moccasin point-marina-vista-pointLake Don Pedro Vista Point-Highway 120

Get out and stretch your legs! This is a great place take a picture  overlooking beautiful Lake Don Pedro at Moccasin Point Recreation Area. When you are at the Vista Point you can see the Jacksonville Stent Bridge to the East and up towards Woods Creek to the North. Railroad Canyon runs to the West into another big body of water leading to Fleming Meadows. Ski boats, Fishing boats, House Boats and Party boats are available for rent at both Marinas. In 1849 under the Jacksonville Stent bridge, there was a town called Jacksonville. It was the largest town on the Tuolumne River and it served as a trading post to the miners. I love the lake and I just wanted to share that little bit of history with you on the old town! Camp at Lumsden Campround and float down the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River to the Old Wards Ferry Bridge with ARTA River Rafting Adventures or Sierra Mac Whitewater Trips!

6 Miles to the top of Priest Grade-Highway 120knights-ferry-rivers-edge-stanislaus-river

Imagine this road in a covered wagon? Thanks goodness its 2020 and it only takes about 8 minutes to drive! Please stay in your own lane and watch out for other drivers or a few occasional falling rocks. Please stay on Highway 120 DO NOT TAKE OLD PRIEST GRADE. It is a windy uphill road and just safer to stay on the Highway 120. GPS will try to take you up the Old Priest Grade, just don’t do it. If you didn’t get a chance to eat, Priest Station Cafe is at the top of the hill.

groveland-highway 120-yosemite-iron door saloonGroveland-Highway 120

Plug in your smart car and take a walk around this charming historic mountain town. There is a local museum with great pieces of history, visit The Breezeway for some snazzy clothing ideas,have some chips and salsa at Cocina Michocana or a fresh cup of coffee at Mountain Sage. Take a walk down Highway 120 and stop in the Iron Door Saloon, one of the oldest operating saloons in California. Try to stick a dollar bill on the ceiling and watch  the bar patrons go crazy, then your invited the Iron Door Dollar Party in October. The Iron Door has some great live music so bring your dancing shoes too! Groveland has 2 historic hotels and both have recently been remodeled, walk in have a refreshment and view a room! The Groveland Hotel offers music in their fragrant outdoor patio in the summer, a must do if your in town! Need groceries or something from a pharmacy? Groveland has a pharmacy located near Yosemite Bank and grocery store near the Mary Laveroni Community Park.

Buck Meadows-Highway 120

All happy and a full stomach!

This is small town living! A little White Church, a country store with a gas pump and RV park, a modern hotel and the Lucky Buck Cafe. How cute is that? Besides the Lucky Buck Café with the biggest scooners of beer around, Rainbow Pools is a favorite local hot spot. The Tuolumne River runs thru the Tuolumne Canyon with plenty of swimming holes along the way. Fishing for some Rainbow trout, jumping of the rocks into the pools, having a picnic or taking a short hike this place is an awesome afternoon stop! Another one of my favorite place to go! Somedays I take book and read other days I take a burrito and a beer!

You finally made it! Welcome to Yosemite National Park, Ca

Hasn’t it been a beautiful drive by Lake Don Pedro and  through the mountains to get here? Go ahead and take a deep breath of this fresh Yosemite air! As you enter the Big Oak Flat entrance, you will pay your fee of $30 a vehicle and receive a map of Yosemite National Park. Myself, I like to drive into the Yosemite Valley floor. However, as a guest aand 1st time visitor I would try the Yosemite Shuttle Bus. There is parking near the main gate. The bus picks up and drops off at different locations around the Valley.

Why I suggest that is:yosemite-parking-shuttle-bus

  • The parking is very crowded and its very frustrating wasting your day trying to find a parking place.
  • When you are driving you can not sit back and enjoy the scenery as you are watching for animals and curves in the road. Hop on the bus.
  • Less stress is best and enjoy yourself.

If you choose to drive into the Valley here are a few suggestions.

  • Drive the speed limit as the Park Rangers are very strict on speed inside the Park Boundaries.traffic-bridalveil-yosemite
  • Watch for Bears and other Wildlife they will cause damage to your car in an accident.
  • Please have patience while finding a parking place.
  • Wear a life jacket when near the water.
  • Turn on your headlights while driving.
  • Pay attention to warning signs.








roadhouse-yosemite-vacation-home               Need a accommodation near Yosemite?




No problem! Currently I have 3 homes available within a 30 mile radius of Yosemite Gate. Prices range from $129 to $149 per room or we can arrange to rent the whole house. Call me at 209-768-9264 for dates, rates or specials.

                                                                             Anything else?

I have lived in this beautiful area for the over 25 years, so if I can help make your visit to Yosemite anymore special, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

We do have access to Yosemite Tours,  Horseback Riding, Kayak Rentals, Bicycle Rentals, Fishing Guide Service.

South Fork Campground offer free camping.Contact me at:

Lets Wrap this up!

Yosemite National Park has had a special place my heart for the past 25 years and I am so excited to share my adventures in and around YNP with you!  There is always so much to see, it seems there is not enough time for it all. If you would like to visit Yosemite with me as your personal guide it would be my pleasure!

Watch for updates and photos to the website and an upcoming blog!

Yosemite-Half Dome
Always the 1st photo stop!



20 thoughts on “Top 6 Fun Stops on the way to Yosemite!”

  1. It looks like there are many ways to get to Yosemite and there is 5 to be exact. It overlooks the Stanislaus river and it looks like there are many different types of rafting companies that supply the river in Yosemite. There are also lots of restaurants and attractions. Which of these is your favorite and why do you like it so much?

    • My favorite rafting company on the Tuolumne River is Sierra Mac…the owner Marty is such a awesome dude. My favorite restaurant is the Lucky Buck Cafe..Coldest beer around and the hottest servers on the hill! If you are ever in the area on the Highway 120 side stop by and say hi!



  2. Wow this is amazing! Thank you very much for sharing this article as it contains in depth informations about Yosemite such that it would be easier for first timers like me to find our way around the park. Though I have not visit Yosemite before but it will put an unending smile on my face if I’m opportuned to visit.


    • You should check it out sometime it’s absolutely beautiful! Right now there is a little bit of snow which makes the waterfalls so beautiful! Put Yosemite in your bucket list!

  3. In all honesty, Yosemite is really awesome to see here and I’m delighted you shared this post. I just got a leave from my working place and I’m delighted that I got to know about Yosemite just at the same time. This park seems a lot like fun and a better way of rejuvenating and surely, I would consider exploring this place right now. Thanks

    • Hello thank for your reply. Yes if you are looking for some rejunivation you definitely need to hit the hot springs in Lee vining which is over the Tioga pass in Yosemite. That portion of the highway doesn’t open until memorial day weekend due to the snow however it’s definitely worth the wait and the trip over the pass! As you can see on her site we have accommodations near Yosemite if you’re looking for a place to stay.

  4. For some reason, I always thought Yosemite was part of Upper Canada. And btw only recently did I learn the proper pronounciation which is yo-say-me-tee, is this correct? I always thought it was Yose-mite! I’m convinced it’s an amazing place just looking at your pictures. I wish I get an opportunity to visit one day. Thanks for your complete review, including parking tips!


    • Hi and thank you for your response! Yosemite is 3 hours East of San Francisco Bay area. Most of the photos on my site or once I’ve taken myself with my telephone aren’t they pretty? I’m constantly taking pictures! You are so funny and right about the pronunciation of Yosemite.. many of my oversee guests at my bed and breakfast pronounce it differently. It’s cute to hear all the different accents but what is the best is hearing the excitement in their voice about what they saw that day in the park! If you ever get a chance to visit Yosemite look us up as we have some fun adventures and accommodations also! Thank you again

      • I’ll bookmark your site just in case we find ourselves wanting to visit the place. We’re in Toronto, Canada. Too far to drive but it’s only a plane ride away. And I’ll be sure to stay at your bed and breakfast.

        All the best,

  5. thank you for this amazing article we have been looking into going to this National Park! That is how we stumbled across your article we have been through multiple different national parks and this one in San Francisco is next up on our list. All these stops along Highway 120 sound very fun. Especially Groveland the iron door Saloon sounds like so much fun I will be sure to park so that I can just walk into the national park with my family this way I don’t have to worry about the animals and the speed. What do you think is the top number one spot in the national park I should hit with my family?

    • Glacier point is a must-see with you and your family. You were at the top of the valley floor overlooking this mass of granite beauty. It is something your kids will never forget. Your kids will have a great time if you stop in knights Ferry and let them run around the Stanislaus River Bank and play in the sand. There’s also a nice place to picnic there. there is also a information center there and will let you know the schedule of when the Salmon run. Oh and you have to stop at the iron door. Tell Chris Prentice sent you in and he’ll serve you up a few free sodas.remember if you are staying in the area we provide accommodations also. I would appreciate it if you could share with your friends and family our site for their Yosemite vacation. Thank you!

  6. Much obliged to you for sharing such an incredible article with us about Top 6 Fun Stops on the way to Yosemite. A very good article with useful information, one of the best I have read. I think this article will be very useful for their family, who will be traveling to Yosemite. By reading your article I have known a lot about Yosemite. I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I am going to bookmark it. I will definitely share this article with my friends. Much obliged and thanks.

    • Thank you for taking the time to review my page. My goal was to share some of my favorite places from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley. The whole route from San Francisco do you semity is so beautiful and sometimes you don’t get to see the local favorite places. Thank you for bookmarking my page and I would truly appreciate if you shared this with your friends and family. If you and yours ever get near Yosemite please look us up for adventurous and accommodations. Thank you again!

  7. I love traveling and haven’t done enough of it yet. I live in Washington State and know Highway 101 all too well. The rest of the trip, to Yosemite, has highways I don’t believe I have ever traveled. I have never been to Yosemite park, but I really want to go and now I have to put all these stops on the way.

    Knights Ferry and Groveland really catch my eye on your list here. I have a lot of interest in old mining towns and would like to check some off my travel list. All while Sunshine Rafting Adventures sounds like a great way to start off the road to Yosemite. I have always wanted to go on a Rafting trip and this will be on the way to the real destination. All these places sound incredible and I hope to visit them all someday. Thanks for this post!

    • Thank you for your reply. I agree highway 101 is a beautiful highway however so is the highway 120! The Stanislaus River in knights Ferry is perfect for a few hour trip. The wild and scenic Tuolumne River has stage 4 rapids and it’s quite a thriller. There are other old mining towns that I have not included, Coulterville and Columbia to name a few. Both of those small towns have old gold museums that are quite interesting to visit. Look us up if you’re ever in the area as we provide adventures and accommodations.

  8. Many thanks to you for sharing such an excellent article with us .I went to San Francisco a while ago because my intention was to see the beautiful mountains in Yosemite National Park. Here I breathe fresh air in the historic Knight’s Ferry and lunch was wonderful. A short walk to one of California’s oldest covered bridges at Knight’s Ferry Recreation Site .I enjoyed the serene atmosphere by the river and The Tavern has seen several old abandoned buildings and several historic buildings .The Stanislaus   River caught my eye and it seems there are many different types of rafting companies that have provided the river in Yosemite .Apart from this I have seen some other restaurants and places of interest that have fascinated me .After reading your article I have been searching for more places and looking for places to visit, as well as the tips you give me will be a great way to find those places and I will definitely share my new experiences with you there. 

  9. hello, it is a great and nice feeling to know that someone will create a great website like this and also create a write up on an article like this. i never realized that such beautiful places exist so close to me. i have to take advantage and visit. thank you for this post

    • Hi Benny..if you are anywhere in Cali Yosemite is a must see! Words can’t even describe it. The lessons said to find a niche that I was excited I found o need to do something with it! Thanks again for taking the time it’s a comment on my page. Since we are in the accommodation business near Yosemite if you get close give us a call. And please feel free to share with your friends and family also!

  10. Hello Brenda,

    Great information! I live in Southern California and have been wanting to visit the Yosemite, I was actually looking into travel via Amtrak during last year’s New Year’s holiday season, but I did not find good hours that worked for me. Perhaps driving will be my best bet due to the fact that I can just make all those nice stops mentioned on your website.

    I will definitely keep in mind your suggestions and bookmark your website for future reference.

    Thank you for sharing, I know there is a lot of people out there in the need of this type of information. It is clear, understating, good images and great tips.

  11. WOW! What wonderful information about what you can see along the way to Yosemite!

    You make the adage true “It’s the Journey, not the Destination.” However, the destination is really quite spectacular. But all those little stops on the way sound like so much fun!

    Thank you for sharing your love for this amazing part of our country!


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