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California, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Big Sur

September trip

Hi , we are 2 healthy couples in our  late 60s from North  Carolina going to California in September, 2017.  We want to see San Francisco, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite NP, Sequoia NP, and travel the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur if possible after the landslide earlier this year.  We plan to fly into and out of San Francisco and rent a car, but could fly anywhere.   Any ideas on an itinerary would be great and must visit sites along the way.  We will not be hiking but don't mind short walks.  Thanks in advance, Janice

6 Answers

answered by
Fritzi from San Francisco

This is an ambitious trip. To spare your self all the driving, you could base out of SF and take day trips (i.e., pay for a tour) to Napa, overnight to Carmel By the Seaand/ or Yosemite Valley. It would be much more relaxing to enjoy the scenery. Plus you can sample more wine in Napa when you don't have to drive. You can also take Amtrak into Merced and Yarts (Yosemite Area Rapid Transit) into Yosemite, it is the only national park with a public transit option. I recommend you stay in El Portal as the in park hotels are so overpriced for what you get. 


Or you could take this driving route: Napa, Lake Tahoe, down 395 over Tioga Pass Entrance into Yosemite, back to I-5 to 156 into Monterey/ Carmel. Them back up 101 to SF. 


If you consolidate your hotel stays within one brand where possible you can probably earn at least one free night or maybe more. Choice brand hotels give a free night for every 2 stays. 


I feel so fortunate to be a CA native as it has taken me a lifetime to get to all these places, so good luck.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Napa (city)
  2. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  3. Yosemite Valley (attraction)
  4. Merced (city)
  5. El Portal (city)
  6. Lake Tahoe (city)
  7. Tioga Pass Entrance (attraction)
  8. Monterey (city)
2 thanks

answered by

Although it's a round trip, a cruise from Montereydown Highway One to Big Sur  is amazing. About 30 miles each way.  You could drive from San Luis Obispo to the coast and up to Monterey but, oy vey what a tortuous 95-mile journey!  And I'm not sure the road is passable all the way, due to flood damage.  If near Monterey, a visit to Carmel By the Seaa few miles south is a must.  The 17-mile drive near Pebble Beach is worth the toll.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterey (city)
  2. Big Sur (city)
  3. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  4. Pebble Beach (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Mel from Columbia

Hello Janice.  We are in the 60 range too (63 and 59) and also planning a trip to California in September - 11 days, 10 nights.  I put lots of research into this and wanted to see San Francisco and several national parks.  I had planned to go down Pacific Coast Highway #1 from Carmel-By-The-Sea to Cambria, but I had to alter that with the road closure (instead hitting Salinas Valley area, Pinnacles National Park and Paso Robles).  The highlights:  4 national parks (Pinnacles National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park - Foothills Visitor Center, Yosemite National Park Rd),  San Francisco, Carmel By the Sea, Paso Robles, and Sonoma

We are excited about our first California trip - it's packed with adventure!  Here is our itinerary:

1 thankscomments (2)

answered by

Of all the places to see, Yosemite Valley should be #1 (in terms of priority, but not necessarily the first place to go... just don't miss it).  You should book lodging there now, however.  You will love love love it.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Yosemite Valley (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Janet from Emerald Hills, Ca

you will love California! You have to remember that CA is a huge state. San Francisco and Napa are close at hand, but Lake Tahoeis a ~4 hr drive from SF. Yosemite Valley is probably 4-5 hr drive. Big Sur about 3-4 hrs drive the other direction and Kings Canyon National Parkis further away still. All fabulous places, all must sees, just understand the magnitude of your undertaking. If it were me, I might make a day trip or a couple of days to Napa; depends a little bit on your budget. It's an expensive area, but you'll find all the wineries you can stand, fabulous scenery, and lots of fantastic places to eat. Then maybe back to SF and another couple of days to big sur stopping in Santa CruzCarmel By the Sea on the way. You can only go so far on Hwy 1, be sure you have the latest info on the closure.  Then I think I would do the east side of the Sierras....Tahoe CityYosemite Valley and Kings Canyon National Park.  Stunning drive. Note it's high season. Lodging will be at a premium.  It's's all very big and it takes time. Check your driving times always to understand what you're biting off. Great trip. You'll love it. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Tahoe (city)
  2. Yosemite Valley (attraction)
  3. Big Sur (city)
  4. Kings Canyon National Park (park)
  5. Napa (city)
  6. Santa Cruz (city)
  7. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  8. Tahoe City (city)
1 thanks

answered first by

We did a similar trip but only had 10 days so we started in SF, up to Yosemite, Sequoia, PCH, Monterey, Carmel By the Sea, Napa and finished in SF.  In SF we would suggest San Francisco Ferry Building for several delicious food options in just one location and don't miss driving through the Golden Gate Bridge.  As for Yosemite, don't let the entrance to the parks fool you as a starting point for visiting this park.  The real starting point is Yosemite Valley and you'll see that it's about an hour away from the entrances. Therefore, would suggest you stay within Yosemite Valley to truly enjoy it.  If you can, try to do the reverse trip of what we did so that you can be on the outside lane of the Pacific Coast Highway while going from SF to Sequoia.  Don't miss Gorilla Barbecue for a quick stop for BBQ - it's amazing!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterey (city)
  2. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  3. San Francisco Ferry Building (attraction)
  4. Golden Gate Bridge (attraction)
  5. Yosemite Valley (attraction)
  6. Pacific Coast Highway (attraction)
  7. Gorilla Barbecue (restaurant)
1 thanks

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