Drive      Fly      Stay      Login    Signup

Gretna, Virginia

California, San Francisco

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.

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 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!


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 (attraction)
  11. Monterey County (attraction)
  12. Monterey (city)
  13. Pacific Grove (city)
  14. Carmel (city)
  15. Big Sur (city)
1 thankscomments (3)

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

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)
1 thankscomments (1)

Questions   ·   Destinations   ·   Drive   ·   Fly   ·   Airports   ·   Stay   ·   Search

Login   ·   FAQ   ·   About   ·   Feedback   ·   Privacy   ·   Terms