Yosemite Highlights Tour (5 Days)

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  • DepartureMay-Sept (departs Tuesdays)
  • Pick Up Location(s)8:15 am pickup from a central SF hotel
    9:15 am pickup at the Dublin BART Station
  • Duration 5 days/4 nights
  • TransportationTransportation in a modern 13 passenger tour bus/SUV or minivan

Yosemite Hiking & Exploring Off-The-Beaten-Path…

Explore the breathtaking wonders of Yosemite National Park on our immersive five-day tour designed to capture the essence of this natural marvel. Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite is renowned for its towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and pristine alpine meadows. Over five unforgettable days, our expertly crafted itinerary blends iconic landmarks with hidden gems, offering a perfect balance of adventure and relaxation.

Begin your journey with awe-inspiring visits to Yosemite Valley, home to the iconic El Capitan and Half Dome. Delve into the park’s rich history and geology as you wander through ancient sequoia groves in Mariposa Grove and witness the thunderous power of Yosemite Falls. Venture off the beaten path into the high country, exploring the serene beauty of Tuolumne Meadows and its crystal-clear rivers. Embrace the tranquility of Elizabeth Lake, tucked away in a secluded corner of the park, where the majesty of Yosemite’s wilderness truly comes to life. Each day brings new experiences, from guided hikes along panoramic trails to peaceful moments by alpine lakes.

Indulge in comfortable accommodations along the Merced River in El Portal, California and enjoy hearty meals that highlight local flavors, ensuring a rejuvenating experience amid Yosemite’s natural splendor. Whether hiking up the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls or wandering among the giant Sequoias of Mariposa Grove, our Yosemite tour promises an unforgettable adventure in one of America’s most cherished national parks.

Weather permitting. Some activities are not accessible in extreme weather or due to road closures. Every attempt will be made to find comparable activities if these options are not available during your trip. This tour runs weekly, from May to September (see Yosemite Escape 3-day Camping Tour for additional summer overnights in Yosemite).

Highlights

  • Explore iconic Yosemite Valley
  • Visit the majestic Giant Sequoia Trees
  • Hike the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls
  • Hike to the Grizzly Giant in Mariposa Grove
  • Visit the Giant Forest, home to the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume
  • Visit Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome
  • See Tuolumne Meadows and hike Elizabeth Lake
  • Enjoy comfortable lodging accommodation along the Merced River
  • Drive along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
  • Panoramic views from the top of Morrow Rock

Price Includes

  • Complimentary pick up/drop off from the San Francisco Hilton hotel (Mason St. entrance) or Dublin BART Station
  • Narrated guided tour by a full-time professional, knowledgeable guide
  • Transportation in a modern 13 passenger tour bus/SUV or minivan
  • Park entrance fees to Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
  • Comfortable twin-share accommodation in a 3-star hotel
  • Welcome and farewell dinner

Price Excludes

  • Local shared food kitty ($50) payable at pickup. Food kitty covers, 4 light breakfasts, 5 deli style lunches
  • Optional activity entrance fees
  • Guide Gratuity(customary 15-20% of tour cost as per TripAdvisor tipping guide)

Why We Love This Tour

“If you’re looking for a mix of adventure, stunning nature, and great company, this tour is for you. You’ll get to see incredible spots like Lower Yosemite Falls and Tunnel View with jaw-dropping views of El Capitan and Half Dome. The Mist Trail hike is a thrill, taking you past the powerful Vernal and Nevada Falls. We also explore lesser-known gems like Elizabeth Lake and Porcupine Creek for some serene, off-the-beaten-path fun. There’s also free time in Yosemite Valley to do your own thing; visit the Yosemite Museum, chill by the river, or just soak up the beauty. This tour offers a little bit of everything, breathtaking views, and meaningful connections. You’ll leave with amazing memories and new friends.”

Jess M.

Yosemite Highlights Tour Itinerary

**Sample Itineraries: Please note that due to rapidly-changing conditions beyond our control (weather, crowds, traffic) and the small size of our vehicles/groups, we allow our guides the flexibility to tailor your itinerary to best suit the needs of the group. While we guarantee that we’ll do our best to provide you with all of the highlights within this Yosemite Highlights Tour itinerary (conditions permitting), we do not guarantee them in this specific order. **

Day 1 - San Francisco to Yosemite National Park

Day 1 begins with an early rendezvous in San Francisco, where excitement mounts among our group for our journey into Yosemite National Park.

The drive from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park offers a captivating journey through diverse landscapes and scenic vistas. Starting from the bustling urbanity of San Francisco, we venture eastward, gradually leaving behind the cityscape for rolling hills and expansive valleys.

As we traverse across California’s Central Valley, the scenery transforms into vast agricultural fields stretching towards the horizon. The road cuts through charming rural towns, each offering glimpses of local life and agriculture that characterizes this fertile region.

Approaching the Sierra Nevada foothills, the landscape begins to rise, marking the gateway to Yosemite. Curving roads wind through pine forests and oak woodlands, with occasional glimpses of the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in the distance.

As we near the park, the anticipation builds. The road ascends, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, gradually revealing the granite cliffs and iconic landmarks that make Yosemite a natural wonder. Finally, we arrive at the park’s entrance, where the beauty of Yosemite Valley beckons us with its towering waterfalls, ancient sequoias, and breathtaking vistas, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure amidst nature’s grandeur.

When we will arrive at the park we will visit Lower Yosemite Falls, where the sheer power and mist of the waterfall captivate us. Afterward we’ll visit Tunnel View, offering an iconic panorama of Yosemite Valley with El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome standing majestically before us.

Later in the afternoon, we will head to Cedar Lodge in El Portal, CA, a charming retreat nestled along the Merced River just outside the park. Here, we settle into our comfortable accommodations before gathering for a relaxed and hearty welcome dinner, setting the tone for our adventures ahead.

Day 2 - Hike the Mist Trail

Day 2 invites us to tackle the Mist Trail, an exhilarating hike that takes us past Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. The rush of water and verdant scenery invigorate our senses, making for a thrilling morning amidst Yosemite’s natural splendor.

The Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park is renowned for its stunning views and challenging terrain, making it one of the park’s most iconic hikes. Beginning in Yosemite Valley, the trail follows the Merced River, offering picturesque vistas along the way. The highlight of the trail includes close encounters with Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall, two of Yosemite’s most impressive waterfalls.

The hike to Vernal Fall spans approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the trailhead. This segment is notable for its steep granite staircases that climb alongside the rushing waters. During spring and early summer, the waterfall is at its peak flow, creating a misty spray that often forms rainbows in the sunlight. It’s a breathtaking sight, but the mist can make rocks slippery, requiring caution.

Continuing beyond Vernal Fall, the trail extends another 2 miles (3.2 km) to Nevada Fall. This cascade drops 594 feet (181 m) and offers sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding valley. The ascent to Nevada Fall is less steep than the initial climb to Vernal Fall, allowing hikers to catch their breath while still enjoying the beauty of Yosemite’s wilderness. The Mist Trail promises an unforgettable Yosemite experience, combining exhilarating hiking with the awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite’s iconic waterfalls.

The trail is open year-round, with varying conditions depending on the season. Spring sees the highest water flow, while summer offers drier trails but still with potential for slippery conditions due to residual mist. Fall and winter bring reduced water flow and the possibility of trail closures due to ice and snow.

After our hike, we return to Cedar Lodge to unwind and enjoy the peaceful surroundings along the Merced River.

Day 3 - Hike Elizabeth Lake

Day 3 offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure as we uncover Yosemite’s hidden treasures in the high country. One such gem is Elizabeth Lake, a tranquil alpine lake nestled in Yosemite National Park’s elevated terrain.

Surrounded by towering granite peaks and lush alpine meadows, Elizabeth Lake offers a picturesque setting that typifies Yosemite’s natural beauty. The lake itself is known for its clear, reflective waters, often mirroring the surrounding mountains and skies. It’s located in the northern part of Yosemite, accessible via the Elizabeth Lake Trail, which starts from the Tuolumne Meadows area.

The hike to Elizabeth Lake is approximately 4.8 miles (7.7 km) one way, making it a moderate trek suitable for those looking to explore Yosemite’s high-country landscapes. The trail winds through dense forests and open meadows, offering occasional glimpses of nearby peaks like Unicorn Peak and Cathedral Peak along the way.

Visitors to Elizabeth Lake can enjoy peaceful moments by the water, surrounded by the natural tranquility of the Yosemite wilderness. It’s a popular destination for hikers seeking a quieter alternative to some of the more heavily trafficked areas of the park, offering a chance to experience the beauty and solitude of Yosemite’s backcountry.

After the hike, we will return to Cedar Lodge, to relax and reflect on the day’s adventures, sharing stories under the starlit sky.

Day 4 - Visit Glacier Point & Sentinel Dome

Today begins with an early morning drive to Glacier Point, where we’ll enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. The drive to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park is a captivating journey through stunning natural landscapes. From the hotel we’ll embark on Wawona Road (Highway 41), which winds through dense forests and occasional meadows, offering glimpses of Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs and the Merced River below. Along the way, we’ll pause at Tunnel View, a renowned overlook showcasing El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome in a breathtaking panorama. Continuing on Glacier Point Road, the route ascends steeply through towering pine forests, with numerous pullouts providing opportunities to admire the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Upon arrival at Glacier Point, we are treated to an iconic vista of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and the High Sierra, perfect for photography and taking in the awe-inspiring scenery. Whether exploring Yosemite’s natural wonders or seeking a panoramic perspective of its iconic landmarks, the journey to Glacier Point offers an unforgettable experience of the park’s majestic beauty and geological marvels. For those looking for more adventure, a hike to Sentinel Dome offers expansive panoramas extending to the horizon.

In the afternoon, you’ll have free time to explore Yosemite Valley. Whether you’re visiting the Yosemite Museum, relaxing along the Merced River, or simply taking in the natural beauty, there’s something for everyone. In the evening, we’ll come together for a heartfelt farewell dinner, savoring local flavors and reminiscing about the unforgettable moments shared on our journey. Our final night at Cedar Lodge will be spent in camaraderie under the starlit sky, cherishing the memories created in this remarkable natural setting.

Day 5 - Mariposa Grove then onto San Francisco

On our final day, our final exploration takes us to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, where we encounter ancient giant sequoias, including the legendary Grizzly Giant. Walking among these towering trees, we are humbled by their grandeur and inspired by their resilience, reflecting on the enduring power of nature. 

Mariposa Grove, nestled within Yosemite National Park, is a breathtaking sanctuary of giant sequoias, revered as some of the largest and oldest living organisms on the planet. Spanning both upper and lower groves, this majestic forest houses over 500 mature sequoias, towering up to 285 feet in height and boasting diameters reaching 30 feet. Walking amidst these ancient giants is a surreal experience, surrounded by a serene atmosphere that highlights the grove’s natural beauty and profound tranquility.

The hike to the Grizzly Giant, a standout among these colossal trees, begins from the grove’s parking area and spans a leisurely 2-mile round trip along well-maintained trails. Along the way, interpretive signs enrich the journey with insights into the sequoias’ remarkable biology and the conservation efforts dedicated to their preservation. The Grizzly Giant itself, estimated to be around 1,800 years old, stands as a towering testament to resilience and longevity, soaring approximately 209 feet tall with a base circumference of about 96 feet. Standing before this ancient giant offers a humbling perspective on the enduring power of nature and the significance of conservation efforts in safeguarding these natural wonders. Mariposa Grove, with its accessible trails and visitor amenities including restrooms and interpretive exhibits, provides an unforgettable opportunity to connect deeply with Yosemite’s natural heritage and to appreciate the profound beauty of the giant sequoias.

Leaving Yosemite behind, we journey towards San Francisco, concluding our adventure enriched by the serene landscapes and natural wonders of Yosemite National Park. The experience leaves an indelible mark, reminding us of the importance of preserving and appreciating our natural heritage.

Book Our Yosemite Highlights Tour as a Private Tour

We understand how important quality time with your friends and family is. We also understand the hesitation some customers may have in sharing a vehicle with people they don’t know. While we love the ease of travel & new friendships that shared tours provide, we have adapted to bring our customers more options when it comes to booking a tour.

This tour is now available to book as a private excursion for up to 13 guests.  You’ll receive the same itinerary and inclusions that our typical tour would provide, plus personal one-on-one attention from your guide and the ability to choose exactly who you’ll bring with you.

Feeling like making some changes or additions to the itinerary? Contact us and we can create a quote for any custom experience you’d like to partake in anywhere in the 50 states.

Reserve your Yosemite Highlights Tour as a private excursion now!

Secure Your Dream Trip with Travel Insurance

At Incredible Adventures, we believe that you should be able to travel stress-free. So we’ve partnered with Arch RoamRight to offer our guests the most comprehensive travel insurance possible. Wherever you are, you’ll be guaranteed financial coverage for any unexpected twists and turns on your travels. We believe no one should have to lose out on investing in a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

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