Northern California National Parks Trailblazer
Are you kidding? Five national parks in five amazing days? This is the bucket-list trip you’ve been looking for! You’ll stockpile forever memories from the sandy beaches of the Pacific Coast to the breathtaking granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park. You’ll experience the emerald beauty of Lake Tahoe, savor the tastes from Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries and gaze at the grandeur of soaring redwood trees in Muir Woods. (Remember! Charge your camera batteries!)
You’ll see some of the most the prized destinations in Northern California, including the Pacific Coast Highway, Monterey, Point Reyes, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Your tour includes hotel accommodations, some meals, wine tastings, and admissions to attractions, including Yosemite.
It all starts in one of the world’s greatest cities, San Francisco. You might want to come a few days early or stay over a bit to make sure you see all you can of The City by the Bay. After our experienced Expedition Leader picks you up at the front door of your downtown hotel, you’ll get a quick tour through fashionable Union Square, fascinating Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. Then it’s on to Monterey!
Pacific Coast beauty will surround you as your luxury coach heads south on Highway 1. In Monterey, you’ll have time to visit its world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and see all its creatures. You might want to check out the unusual art at the Dali 17 Museum. Want some exercise? You’ll have time to walk the city’s historic streets or check out the watersports center!
During our stop at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of all kinds of wildlife, such as sea otters, elephant seals, humpback whales, white sharks and dozens of species of seabirds and shorebirds. You’ll enjoy our leisurely tour along 17-Mile Drive, which starts in Pacific Grove and winds through Pebble Beach and Carmel by the Sea. The Lone Cypress tree will catch your eye, and earn a spot in your photo collection. This tree is a native species that has adapted to harsh coastal conditions.
After some relaxing free time in Carmel, you’ll arrive back in Monterey in time for a sunset welcome reception hosted by your Expedition Leader. Then, around sunset, capture another memory on a leisurely walk on the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Lose yourself in the rhythmic sound of waves crashing along the beach before retiring to your room at the Monterey Bay Travelodge.
After a buffet breakfast, we’ll cross the wide San Joaquin Valley and climb into the Sierra Nevada mountains to Yosemite. Your Expedition Leader will provide engaging, and sometimes humorous, details about the region’s history, geology and wildlife that will enhance the outdoor experience.
Your entrance to Yosemite Valley will be at the Mariposa Grove, where 500 Giant Sequoia trees soar to the heavens. The flat, two-mile Grizzly Giant Loop Trail introduces you to the most famous inhabitants in the grove – the Bachelor, Three Graces, Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel trees. During our Yosemite stops at Inspiration Point and El Capitan Meadow, you again will experience nature’s handiwork the best way – in person. (The photos never do justice, do they?)
Keep your camera handy as you approach the Yosemite Valley floor because the memory-making sights never end -- Inspiration Point, El Capitan Meadow, Half Dome, Lower Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls. (Be sure your camera has room for all these memories!)
In season, you can hike the trail to the top of Nevada Falls or cool off in the Merced River. There will be time for you to visit the Ansel Adams Gallery (it’s free!) or the historic Majestic Hotel. And if you want to rent a bike and explore on two wheels, have at it!
You’ll spend Night 2 just outside the gates of Yosemite park at View Lodge, where the views are amazing. Up early, you’ll have time for a morning hike in this glacier-carved valley before our tour departs for Tuolumne Grove, where some unbelievably tall creatures await. The Giant Sequoias are among the largest and oldest trees on Earth. (No climbing allowed!)
After an early leisurely departure from Yosemite, lunch will be in the Gold Rush community of Columbia, where you can stroll and take old-timey selfies along the wooden sidewalks of this historic mining town and even take a stagecoach ride. (Go back in time, but don’t miss the bus!)
You can rest a bit on the scenic drive through the El Dorado National Forest on the way to Lake Tahoe. The beauty of this glistening mountain jewel will energize you. And with all the seasonal activities in the area, that’s a good thing! Take an Emerald Bay cruise, visit Vikingshold Castle, hike in the forest or walk on the beach. In winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding, and much more. Save some energy for night shows, fine dining and gaming at Harvey’s, Harrah’s, Dottie’s or the Lakeside Inn, where you’ll stay.
Your Expedition Leader will be raring to go the next day (where does all that energy come from?). But first, you’ll all enjoy a breakfast buffet in Lake Tahoe. Then it’s on to more great food and fine wine (with the emphasis on “fine”) as we travel through the scenic country of Napa and Sonoma valleys.
You’ll experience the many micro-climates and see the soil types that combine to produce some of the world’s best winemaking grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel. (Thirsty yet?)
Stop No. 1 will be at the Oakville Grocery, full of locally sourced picnic items. Then its time for our first wine tasting with fruit of the vine selected exclusively for us by the winemaker. At some point, you may want to give a shout-out to George Calvert Young. He planted the first Napa Valley grapes in 1839. (Cheers, George!)
Today this region produces some of the world’s best wines. The experts say so! Look it up! At the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, a contest conceived by a British wine merchant with French judges, California wines won best-in-the-world honors. (Take a bow, California!)
As you try your own tasting, just remember these five easy wine-tasting steps: See, swirl, sniff, sip, savor. Repeat. Nothing to it! (The more you sip, the better you get!)
Enjoy a tasty picnic lunch with your tour companions and test food-wine pairings and see what delights your taste buds. Whether you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or a wine-tasting novice, you’ll be warmed by the good company of the people in your tour and your friendly vineyard host.
You’ll make your second winery stop at a small family-owned winery in Sonoma Valley. Standing in their barrel room, you’ll experience an in-depth tour of the winemaking process. And you can add to your wine collection with wines not sold in retail stores.
Of course, we provide options for you. You can board the lovingly restored Napa Valley Wine Train and ride in a glass-domed Pullman car and get nostalgic about old-time rail travel as you dine on local cuisine and wine. (All aboard!)
Another alternative: a gourmet food-and-wine pairing dinner that will delight your palate. You’ll retire to your room at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn tired but so excited by the wine-country experiences of the day.
You’re in the homestretch! On Day 5, we cruise toward Point Reyes, just a few miles from the northern span of the Golden Gate Bridge. The thundering ocean breakers, wide beaches and rocky headlands of the Point Reyes National Seashore offer unforgettable scenes. Stay alert for spawning Coho salmon in area streams, oyster fishing boats on Drakes Bay, elephant seals and their pups on the beaches and migrating gray whales surfacing near Chimney Rock.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse will provide you with a powerful new profile picture – one that captures your adventurous spirit. Descend the 300 wooden steps to its base and capture an indelible memory. Minutes away is the Cypress Tree Tunnel, another stunning site with can’t-miss photo potential.
When you’ve had your fill of locally sourced food, we have a special dessert – a stop at the Muir Woods National Monument and its ancient Coastal Redwood forest. Some trees rise 250 feet in the air and have stood for over 1,000 years. (Now that’s old!)
Our last photo stop of the day comes at the northern footing of the Golden Gate, one of the most famous bridges in the world. Your selfie with the bridge is a forever keepsake. You’ll linger a bit before a short jaunt to a sea-side restaurant in Sausalito for a four-course departure dinner. You’ll enjoy fantastic cuisine and good company with your tour mates as you watch twilight settle over the city across the bay.
Filled with five days of fun and a lifetime of magical memories, you’ll arrive back at your San Francisco hotel inspired to start planning your next adventure.
What is included in a 5-day tour?
- Luxury transport along California’s Pacific Coast
- Admission to 17-Mile Drive near Carmel by the Sea
- Welcome reception in Monterey
- Yosemite National Park entrance fee
- Excursion to Emerald Bay & Vikingsholm Castle
- Quartz Mountain stagecoach ride in Columbia Tour
- Tasting fees at winery experiences
- Departure dinner in Sausalito
- Admission & parking to Muir Woods
- Continental breakfasts at all hotels
NOTE: Call us 415-357-0700 to add any fun activities of your choice at the locations that you will be visiting with us (additional fees apply).
How much are wine-tasting fees in the country?
The average Napa Valley tasting fee for a basic tasting is $15 to $25. But don’t worry, our two tastings are covered in the tour price.
How much is the admission to Monterey Bay Aquarium?
Adult - $49.95; Children ages 3–12 - $29.95; Under 3 - Free (not included)
How far is Lake Tahoe from San Francisco?
The distance between South Lake Tahoe and San Francisco is 154 miles.
Where is Muir Woods Park located?
Muir Woods, the beautiful national monument, is just 16 miles north of San Francisco.
Facts & Figures
- Average Monterey temperature in winter: 58°F; summer 66°F
- Average Yosemite temperature in winter: 40-50°F; summer 70-80°F
- Average daytime Napa temperature in winter: 58°F; summer 80°F
- It is 86 miles from San Francisco to Monterey.
- There are 475 wineries that produce more than 1,000 different wine brands in Napa Valley.
- 95% of Napa Valley’s wineries are family owned.
- 17 million gallons of wine are made in California each year, about 90% of U.S. wine output.
- The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary covers 5,312 square miles.
- Around 4 million people visit Yosemite every year. August is the busiest month.
- Yosemite Falls are 2,425 feet high.
- The second deepest lake in the U.S. is Lake Tahoe at a depth of 1,645 ft (501 m).
- Lake Tahoe is 2/3 in California and 1/3 in the state of Nevada.
- Charles Krug is credited with establishing Napa Valley's first commercial winery in 1861.
Related Blog Posts
“Paradise Found” in Monterey, California!
7 Essential Stops for your Monterey and Carmel Vacation
Our Giant Redwoods Have Waited Thousands of Years to Get Crossed Off Your Bucket List!
Grape Harvest is Magic Time in Napa!
Touring California’s Wine Country: What to Know Before You Go
The San Francisco Tour That Moms Love Most
What is the Best Time to Visit Yosemite
Majestic Yosemite Valley. See it! Feel it!
Every other Monday starting October 22, 2018.