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Northern California National Parks Five Day Tour from San Francisco

This five-day tour puts you in the middle of Northern California’s majestic national parks. You’ll make memories from the sandy beaches of Monterey to the breathtaking granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park. You’ll savor the tastes from Napa and Sonoma Valley wineries and gaze at the grandeur of soaring redwood trees in Muir Woods before returning to San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge.

Luxury transport along California’s Pacific Coast
Four nights hotel accommodations
Admission to 17-Mile Drive near Carmel by the Sea
Happy Hour welcome reception in Monterey
Yosemite National Park entrance fee
Excursion to Emerald Bay & Vikingsholm Castle (not available in winter)
Tasting fees at two winery experiences
Admission & parking to Muir Woods
Meals or beverages
Guide gratuities: recommended

Day 1

This 5-day grand tour of Northern California’s national parks begins in one of the world’s greatest cities, San Francisco. Your Expedition Leader will pick you up at the front door of your downtown hotel and give a quick tour through fashionable Union Square, fascinating Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Pacific Coast beauty will surround you as we head south on Highway 1. 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.

After reaching coastal Monterey, we can arrange a collection of memory-making excursions. Fascinated by local Pacific Coast sea life? Head over to the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, an ocean conservation and research facility.

Feeling more adventurous?  Let us help you arrange to kayak, bike or paddleboard along the grand Monterey Bay Coastal Trail.

The afternoon features a leisurely roll along the scenic 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach Golf Links before arriving at Carmel by the Sea. The Lone Cypress tree, a species that has adapted to harsh coastal conditions, makes the perfect group photo.

As the sun sets, join your Expedition Leader and your tour mates for a getting-to-know-you sunset happy hour. You will have free time for dinner, then, lose yourself in the rhythmic waves of the beach before retiring to your comfy Monterey lodging.

Day 2

You’ll make a leisurely departure from Monterey as the group makes a crossing of the wide San Joaquin (aka Central) Valley and climbs into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Your Expedition Leader will provide fascinating stories about the region’s history, geology and wildlife.

Once we reach the Yosemite Valley, you will have a guided tour as well as a couple of hours of free time to explore. Check out the Ansel Adams Gallery or the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center in Yosemite Village. Both are great spots to pick up some souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. Don't forget to snap some cool pictures of Yosemite Falls!

After re-boarding your tour vehicle, you day has more highlights. The tour makes a photo stop at El Capitan Meadow where you can get straight on view of the Yosemite icon, an impressive vantage point for Cathedral Rocks and Horsetail Fall.

You’ll have several hours of free time for dinner after checking into your hotel.

Day 3

Start your day with the hike to Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. You will not doubt for a second that these Yosemite trees are the largest living creatures on the planet. No picture does them justice, but that should not keep you from trying!

After a 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, all walking distance from where you’ll stay.

Day 4

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 (not included) 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.

As you approach California’s famous wine country, you’ll learn about the micro-climates and soil types that combine to produce some of the world’s best winemaking grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel.

Soon, it will be time for our first wine tasting with fruit of the vine selected exclusively for us by the winemaker. Today this region produces some of the world’s best wines. 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.

As late afternoon approaches in the wine country, you’ll make a stop at a small family-owned winery in Sonoma Valley. Try some new varietals and see what delights your taste buds. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or novice, you’ll be warmed by the vineyard host who will explain their winemaking process

After checking into your charming hotel, make dinner plans that will delight your palate.

Day 5

On Day 5, we cruise toward Point Reyes. 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.

We’ll stop for photos at the northern footing of the Golden Gate. Your selfie with the bridge is a forever keepsake. You’ll linger a bit before a short jaunt to charming Sausalito where you can enjoy fantastic shopping and an early dinner (not included) as you watch twilight settle over the San Francisco skyline.

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.


Day 1

  • Depart San Francisco
  • Take lots of pictures as we drive coastal Highway 1
  • Explore Monterey’s marine life, history and more
  • Cruise beautiful 17-mile Drive
  • Stroll the shops of Carmel by the Sea
  • Enjoy a hosted seaside happy hour

Day 2

  • Cross the Central Valley and Sierra foothills
  • Take spectacular photos of El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls
  • Enjoy free time hiking or relaxing in Yosemite Valley

Day 3

  • Marvel at 2,000-year-old Giant Sequoias
  • Discover Columbia town aka "Gem of the Southern Mines."
  • Drive through El Dorado National Forest on your way to Tahoe
  • Excursion to Emerald Bay & Vikingsholm Castle
  • Enjoy dinner in South Lake Tahoe and check out the casinos

Day 4

  • Travel to Napa from Lake Tahoe
  • Learn about winemaking at a family-owned winery in Napa Valley
  • More wine tasting and time for lunch in Sonoma Valley

Day 5

  • Observe nature at Pt. Reyes National Seashore
  • Walk among Coastal Redwoods in Muir Woods
  • Enjoy free time for shopping and dining in seaside Sausalito
  • Return to your hotel in San Francisco

Read more helpful articles about San Francisco in our BLOG.

Important Information
Does this tour operate every day?

No. We offer this 5-day tour several times per month based on seasonality.

How much driving is involved each day?

The distances in California can be significant. However, we have carefully arranged the tour route so that travel times do not exceed 4-5 hours on any tour day.

Is there a place where we can cook our own food?

Some of our hotels have simple kitchenettes for heating water or making coffee but generally useful for preparing a meal. There are outdoor public campfires or grills in some national parks but cannot guarantee their availability.

Will the driver/guide pickup and dropoff at the hotel each day?


Will we be with the same driver and other tour guests for the whole tour?


Are park admission fees included?

All planned park admissions are included.

Do you pick up outside of San Francisco?

At this time we only do pickups at popular San Francisco hotels.

Is this a guided tour? In what language?

The tour is narrated in English but we offer complimentary recorded audio guides for SOME of the destinations 8 languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, and Portuguese. If an audio guide is required, please specify when booking.

What is required if I am travelling with a child?

Please note that for your child's safety, we require you to bring a child safety seat or booster seat for all children under 8 years of age or 4' 9" in height, as dictated by California State Law. Failure to provide a seat for your child will result in forfeit of your seats on the tour without a refund. Please also note that any children 12 years and older must have an adult ticket as they do not qualify for a child-priced ticket.

What should I wear?

Temperatures vary depending on the season and time of day in Northern California, so we recommend that you wear layered clothing in case of unexpectedly climbing or falling temperatures. We do not recommend wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts in the winter. However, we realize that everyone is acclimated to different weather and thus trust you to make your own judgement. For footwear, we recommend comfortable walking shoes, such as regular tennis shoes, sneakers, or boots with rubber soles and treads. In the summer months, hiking sandals can be worn, but high heels, beach flip-flops, and other open-toed shoes are not recommended.

Are meals included?

Meals are not included on this tour. Your guide will make restaurant recommendation in the area but they are not covered in the tour price.

How accurate are the times on the itinerary?

Times listed are approximates only. Traffic and other unforeseen issues can cause delays or changes in these times, which are out of our control. Please do not make flight/travel arrangements on the same day as your tour.

Are there restrooms on board the vehicles?

Our vehicles at this time do not have any restroom facilities. We do, however, make several stops while traveling and there will be opportunities for you to use the restroom.

Do I need to call to reconfirm my tour?

Yes, we request that you reach out to us at least a day in advance to confirm your tour and pick up details. You can contact us via our live chat function or by calling our office at 1-866-231-3752 (toll free from the USA) or +1-415-967-6461 (internationally) during office hours. You can call us from your hotel’s phone if you do not have a working mobile phone while you are in the area.

What should I bring?

Comfortable shoes for walking
Extra spending money for meals, snacks, souvenirs etc
A light jacket (easily removable) in case of wind
Water bottle
Warm clothes and a waterproof jacket (during the winter months)
Hat and sunscreen (during the summer months)
Sturdy umbrella (if the forecast calls for rain)

What kind of luggage am I allowed to bring?

You are allowed up to travel with up to 2 items: 1 personal item or carry on bag + 1 Overnight bag (4”x16”x10”, or 60cmx40cmx25cm) free of charge. These items must be within the size limitations. Each additional item above the 2-item allowance will incur a $25 excess luggage fee.The maximum size allowed for an overnight bag is 24”x16”x10”, or 60cmx40cmx25cm. Any “Oversize” luggage larger than those dimensions is $50 regardless of the number of personal items brought on board. (i.e. 1 Oversized luggage - $50, 2 Oversized pieces = $100). You must advise us of oversize luggage 48 hours prior to departure in order to guarantee the accommodation of the luggage on the vehicle.

Northern California National Parks Five Day Tour from San Francisco
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