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Gretna (Virginia)

Hope from Gretna (Virginia) asked

Need help with a CA itinerary from Northern CA to Southern CA

After weeks of debating & decisions, I have finally made a flight reservation for September into San Francisco.  I was trying to stay in between convention dates, since there is a HUGE one around  the 13th.  So, could someone please, please help me get an order (itinerary) lined up accordingly?  We hope to have from around the 6th. of Sept. until the 22nd. -These are the plans to go to:  Lake Tahoe (3 nights), Yosemite (2 or 3 nights), SF (will be the first 3 nights; maybe 4), Sonoma Valley (not into wine tasting, so either an afternoon or 1 night), June Lakes/Mammoth Lakes (if time allows), Big Sur/Carmel/Monterey (3 nights hopefully).  Now, please someone line this up in a correct order, since I have no idea of directions in CA.  Please add or suggest what I might have missed.  Btw, was told to NOT stay in Carmel area during Jazz Festival time, which is 18-20th. **Also, we see the best flight rates in San Jose to head home, so need to be near that area by end of trip.  -I would be so very grateful for your help with this itinerary.

California (CA)   San Francisco (California)

2 Answers
answered by
Krista from San Francisco

Hi Rhonda,

How exciting! I suggest going about your itinerary in a circle, map and suggestions below:

  • 9/6-9/10: Fly into SFO and spend three days in the city.

  • 9/11: Drive to Sonoma (~1.5 hours). I suggest getting a hotel even if you aren't a big fan of wine - there are wonderful restaurants and spas to enjoy. If you aren't wed to Sonoma, Healdsburg (Napa) is my favorite wine country destination. I like Chalkboard Restaurant for lunch along with Preston Family Vineyards for cheese, produce and tastings (great for those who want to experience a vineyard vibe but are not wine enthusiasts). Downtown Healdsburg is also full of quaint shops.

  • 9/12-9/13: From Sonoma, drive to Tahoe City. I recommend checking out Kings Beach (North Shore) along with the Rubicon Trail, an awesome trail that will give you great views of Emerald Bay. South Lake Tahoe (in Nevada) will give you access to casinos.

  • 9/14-9/17: Make it a point to stop in Yosemite Valley (California) coming home from Tahoe. You can easily spend a few days here, especially if you're an avid fan of the great outdoors. This is nature at it's finest!

  • If you must leave something out, I say to skip Mammoth - Tahoe will give you the lake and great views that you're looking for. 

  • 9/18-9/22: From Yosemite, head south to the Monterey County. This will required you to cut across the state.

  • I recommend spending a day in Monterey/Pacific Grove, a day in Carmel, and a full day in Big Sur. I wrote about some of my Big Sur faves here!

  • Finish the loop by driving back up to the airport in San Jose, which is about an hour from Monterey.

    Have a great trip!


Comments (3)

Thank you, Krista, so very much! ..but, I mentioned about a Jazz Festival going on in Carmel/Monterey area the 18-20th..are you familiar at all? I was told rates would be very UP during that time. .and lots of people. Should I turn the whole trip around because of that??

Hi Rhonda - my pleasure! You certainly could do the trip in reverse - but I lived in Monterey for two years and the Jazz Festival didn't make it *that* crazy. Ultimately, it's your decision - and the trip will be wonderful however you decide to go. :)

Krista G. -I have now made reservations in San Francisco for 4 nights..haven't made the one for Napa Valley/Sonoma Valley (not sure which I want to do or where to stay)..have made reservations in Tahoe, and in Mariposa, Ca (for Yosemite), what is now left is last 5 nights. Someone mentioned that we should do Cambria for a night or so , then the last several in Monterey. I just hope I can find somewhere reasonable & decent, since the festival is going on. Do you have a suggestion for a nights stay in Sonoma Valley?

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sonoma (city)
  2. Healdsburg (attraction)
  3. Chalkboard Restaurant (restaurant)
  4. Preston Family Vineyards (restaurant)
  5. Tahoe City (city)
  6. Kings Beach (city)
  7. Rubicon Trail (attraction)
  8. Emerald Bay (attraction)
  9. South Lake Tahoe (city)
  10. Yosemite Valley (California) (attraction)
  11. Monterey County (attraction)
  12. Monterey (city)
  13. Pacific Grove (city)
  14. Carmel (city)
  15. Big Sur (city)
comments (3)
likes (1) thanks
answered first by
Kristal from San Francisco

Hi Rhonda,

Assuming you have a car, I would do it in this order: 

Land in San Francisco, spend some time there, take a day trip to Sonoma. I think a day trip is fine, it's only an hour away and you'll have enough time to see the city. I would suggest going to Fremont Diner, I always have a great meal when I'm there. For a full review, head to my blog,

Assuming it's a day trip, that will have you back in San Francisco, from there it makes most sense to do Lake Tahoe, then Yosemite National ParkJune LakeMammoth Lakes and finally Monterey. You will then be closest to San Jose for your flight back home. I have Google mapped it for you:,+CA/Sonoma,+CA/San+Francisco,+CA/South+Lake+Tahoe,+CA/Yosemite+National+Park,+Yosemite+Village,+CA/June+Lake,+CA/Mammoth+Lakes,+CA/Monterey,+CA/@37.7670449,-123.1022595,7z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m50!4m49!1m5!1m1!1s0x80859a6d00690021:0x4a501367f076adff!2m2!1d-122.4194155!2d37.7749295!1m5!1m1!1s0x8085ac43817b9d77:0x380ed210ee6e045!2m2!1d-122.4580356!2d38.291859!1m5!1m1!1s0x80859a6d00690021:0x4a501367f076adff!2m2!1d-122.4194155!2d37.7749295!1m5!1m1!1s0x80998589eea54fe1:0xdd1b2f46fb23918e!2m2!1d-119.9771868!2d38.939926!1m5!1m1!1s0x8096f09df58aecc5:0x2d249c2ced8003fe!2m2!1d-119.538329!2d37.865101!1m5!1m1!1s0x80966ae6eb4dd0ab:0x65648c79be3ffeb4!2m2!1d-119.0754232!2d37.7797825!1m5!1m1!1s0x80960c5f79b3179f:0xf114d9d70fee8d6d!2m2!1d-118.972079!2d37.648546!1m5!1m1!1s0x808de45270b5fb91:0xee484909d84a3d5e!2m2!1d-121.8946761!2d36.6002378!3e0

Hope this helps, have a great trip!

- Kristal

Comments (1)

Thank you SO MUCH! I just have to hope we find a reasonable rate to stay at Monterey area, since it's a Jazz Festival going on (I think I mentioned that before) at time of our last days. I very much appreciate your help Krystal!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
  2. Sonoma (city)
  3. Fremont Diner (restaurant)
  4. Lake Tahoe (attraction)
  5. Yosemite National Park (park)
  6. June Lake (city)
  7. Mammoth Lakes (city)
  8. Monterey (city)
  9. San Jose (city)
comments (1)
likes (1) thanks

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