A Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park drive will take you from a modern metropolis to a peaceful natural sanctuary. It’s the perfect road trip to experience the best of both worlds in California!
Part of what makes this road trip so amazing is all the opportunities you’ll have for stops along the way. From the vibrant downtown of San Francisco to pristine mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, there’s something every traveler will be interested in exploring.
If you’re curious to learn about the logistics of planning an epic Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park road trip, then read on to discover the best stops and helpful tips for your adventure.
- Distance From Los Angeles To Yosemite National Park
- How Long is the Drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite?
- Best Time of Year to Drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park
- Best Stops On A Los Angeles to Yosemite Road Trip
- More Tips for Road Tripping from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park
- Continuing Your California Road Trip
Distance From Los Angeles To Yosemite National Park
There are two primary routes to take from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park. One is on CA-99 and is a much more direct shot. Using this route on your trip to Yosemite will cover about 280 miles.
The longer and more scenic route will bring you along the Pacific Coast Highway and is about 335 miles or longer if you make a stop in San Francisco.
How Long is the Drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite?
Taking the CA-99 route can be as short as 5 hours between Los Angeles and Yosemite.
Along the Pacific Coast Highway, the drive can be between 8 to 10 hours. Even though this drive is a bit longer, we’d highly recommend this scenic route from Los Angeles to Yosemite since it traverses some of the most picturesque coastline of California, and there are lots more interesting places to stop at to get out and explore.
Best Time of Year to Drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park
June to September is considered the best time of year for a trip to Yosemite National Park since during these months, the weather is usually excellent, and you typically won’t need to worry about trail closures due to poor conditions.
Keep in mind that July and August are the busiest months for visiting Yosemite and for road tripping California national parks. It’s essential to make sure you make your reservations in advance if you’re traveling during the peak summer season.
Best Stops On A Los Angeles to Yosemite Road Trip
Now that the nitty-gritty is out of the way, check out these awesome places to visit while driving from LA to Yosemite National Park.
LA to Yosemite: CA-99 Route
Firstly, here are some of the stops you can include while taking the CA-99 route. Depending on your time frame, these spots can be good for a short lunch break or for a longer afternoon of hiking, swimming, or city exploration.
Angeles National Forest
Leaving behind the skyscrapers and city lights of Los Angeles, you’ll encounter a very different type of scenery in the Angeles National Forest. It’s easy to appreciate the landscape of canyons and rolling green hills from the comfort of your vehicle, or there are countless opportunities to pull off and check out some of the hiking trails.
If you have time for more than a stop at one of the lookout points, you can hike to Switzer Falls. This stunning 50-foot waterfall is accessible from a relatively short hike, and you’ll be able to cool off at the end in the natural swimming hole formed beneath the waterfall.
As you head north on CA-99, if you have time for a bit of a detour, you can travel a bit farther east on CA-178 to Lake Isabella.
One of the most popular sites in California for all things water-sport related, Lake Isabella is a perfect place to include in a summer road trip from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park. Swim, kayak, or just stop for a picnic to enjoy the views of the Sierra Nevada mountains from the shore of the lake.
Lake Isabella is about halfway between Los Angeles and Yosemite, making it perfect for a long lunch break or to spend a night at one of the campsites or cabins if you’d rather include a mini vacation on the lake before continuing north.
Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks
These twin national parks are practically worth entire trips by themselves, and since they’re not far off the direct route on CA-99, they’re perfect for including in a drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite.
The huge sequoia trees are the top attraction of the park, especially General Sherman, which is the largest known living tree on Earth. Taking photos underneath this giant is a perfect way to commemorate your road trip in California.
The wonders of the park aren’t limited to what you can see above ground. Boyden Cavern is another popular park attraction where you can tour the underground caverns, which have impressive displays of stalactites, stalagmites, and other cave formations.
Known as being a gateway to both Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite, Fresno has a number of cool cultural attractions to check out during your trip.
Any stop in Fresno wouldn’t be complete without a stop to visit the Forestiere Underground Garden. This unique site has earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to the incredible maze of underground patios, courtyards, and rooms created by Baldasare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant who spent the second half of his life building this unique garden.
Fresno also has several museums, such as the Fresno Art Museum, which is considered one of California’s top art museums featuring works from Salvador Dalí, Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol, among others.
Families with young children will definitely want to plan a stop at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, which has nearly 200 different species of animals and activities such as a petting zoo and a stingray feeding tank where visitors can toss treats to these incredible marine animals.
Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
A hop-skip-and-a-jump from Yosemite, Mono Lake is an excellent stop to include in a drive to Yosemite.
At the very least, you’ll want to pull off to get some photos of the tufa rock towers, which are the iconic rock formations found in Mono Lake. The backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains rising majestically in the distance completes the incredible scene.
If you have more time, you can check out some of the hiking trails around the lake or take a canoe tour out into the water to get a different perspective of the landscape and an up-close view of the tufa formations.
LA to Yosemite: Pacific Coast Highway Route
For travelers who want to take their time exploring the coastal scenery of California, then the Pacific Coast Highway is tour preferred route to take when driving from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park.
Not only is this drive picturesque, but it would be easy to turn the Pacific Coast Highway stretch into a weeklong trip, if time permits. Let’s take a look at the best stops taking the Highway 1!
(NB, traveling in Spring 2023 please be aware of important road closure information affecting this route)
The two-hour drive between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara brings you past some beautiful coastal scenery.
Making a stop in Santa Barbara is a perfect way to spend some time on the beaches of California during your drive to Yosemite. Santa Barbara is considered to have some of the state’s best beaches for swimming, surfing, kayaking, or simply taking in the spectacular sunset over the Pacific.
You can stop for lunch at one of the seafood restaurants overlooking the beach, or if you have more time, you can spend a night in Santa Barbara.
Check out the famous Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail to sample some of the finest wine in California, or visit the incredible Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens, which are home to an impressive collection of rare species of wildflowers and plants native to California.
One of the biggest benefits of taking the Pacific Coast Highway on your Los Angeles to Yosemite road trip is that you’ll have the chance to drive through Big Sur which ranks among the best coastal drives in the world.
The dramatic rocky cliffs, incredible rock formations, and endless opportunities for wildlife make Big Sur one of the most popular places to visit in California. If you have time to spend a few nights in Big Sur, it’s an excellent addition to a drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park.
At the very least, you’ll want to stop at the world-famous Pfeiffer Beach, which is known for the iconic Keyhole Rock. It’s one of the most photographed spots in California and certainly not something you’d want to miss, including on your drive to Yosemite.
Point Lobos State Nature Reserve is another highlight where you can hike scenic coastal trails, view the sea lions which make their home in the park, or visit the fascinating whaling museum, which documents some of the history of the region.
There are plenty of places for camping in Big Sur, or you could spend a night in one of the coastal lodges if you’re interested in exploring this stunning section of California’s coast.
From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the endless museums, San Francisco is a destination for many travelers on a trip to Yosemite.
Driving from San Francisco to Yosemite takes between three and four hours, so the city is a perfect place to spend the night before concluding your trip to Yosemite the following day.
San Francisco has a great diversity of culture, from the vibrant Chinatown neighborhood to the historic downtown area. People of all ages will enjoy visiting the popular Golden Gate Park, which has endless activities, including a nine-hole golf course, a roller-skating arena, and even a small herd of bison that live in a special paddock in the park maintained by the San Francisco Zoo.
Spend the afternoon strolling around Fisherman’s Wharf to see some of the unique historic buildings of the city and take advantage of the opportunity to eat at one of the best seafood restaurants in California.
San Francisco also has a variety of concerts, festivals, and events throughout the year. If you are driving from Los Angeles to Yosemite in the summer, you might want to check out what’s happening in San Francisco to see if you could add a film or jazz festival to your trip itinerary.
Columbia State Historic Park
Take the opportunity to travel back in time to the Gold Rush era of California during your road trip to Yosemite from Los Angeles by making a pit stop at Columbia State Historic Park.
During the time of the Gold Rush, Columbia has nicknamed the “Gem of the Southern Mines”, and to preserve an aspect of this part of California’s history, the town was converted into a sort of permanent living museum.
Kids will love participating in activities like making candles or posing for Old West-style photographs in one of the historic saloons. The park also has a number of excellent walking and hiking trails that bring you past fields of wildflowers and picturesque California countryside.
The park is only slightly out of the way for a drive to Yosemite, and it’s an easy detour to include for an afternoon of fun travel memories, especially for families.
There are five entrances to Yosemite National Park, all of which have their benefits in terms of exploring this natural gem of California.
Typically, a drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite along the shorter CA-99 route will bring you to the Tioga Pass entrance on the west side of the park. This is typically the less busy entrance of the park and camping spots close to Tioga Pass don’t fill up quite as fast as some other sites around Yosemite (although you should still book well in advance!).
If you decide to take the longer drive and stop in San Francisco, then you’ll be able to choose from one of the four entrances on the eastern side of the park. If you’re hoping to end your trip to Yosemite as close as possible to Yosemite Valley, then the Big Oak Flat entrance is the way to go.
Yosemite Valley and the jaw-dropping El Capitan monolith are undoubtedly the stars of the show at Yosemite National Park, but there’s a lot more to see and do as well. Once you’ve had the chance to explore the valley, take the time to check out some of the lesser-known areas by hiking or biking through the park.
On hot afternoons you can cool off on a gentle river rafting ride down the Merced River. There’s even a shuttle bus to conveniently take you back to the rental shop to drop off your equipment.
Experienced hikers won’t want to pass up the chance to see the upper Yosemite Falls, or there is an easier path to the base of the lower falls (check out this great selection of easy Yosemite hikes for kids). Just be sure to pack your rain gear, especially during the spring, since the waterfall spray is very cold!
More Entry Tips For Visiting Yosemite
- All vehicles must pay a National Park entry fee – currently this is $35 per vehicle valid for 7 days, or an annual park pass is $70.
- If you’re stopping in other California National Parks, such as Sequoia and Kings Canyon, it may well be worth investing in an America the Beautiful annual pass, or see if your family is eligible for a 4th Grader Pass – Every Kid Outdoors
- Timed entry passes to the national park no longer apply in 2023, but do be prepared for queues and often bumper to bumper traffic
- Pre-booking your camping spots in Yosemite is a must traveling in the summer (April to October) – some spots open 5 months in advance, others two months or two weeks – set your alarms 9:00 AM PST!
More Tips for Road Tripping from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park
While a drive to Yosemite is best for making the most of other stops in California along the way, once inside the park, the shuttle buses are a very convenient option for getting around. This way you also won’t need to worry about finding parking.
Most of the roads in and around Yosemite National Park have convenient turnout spots where you can stop to get photographs or appreciate the view without blocking traffic.
During the summer and fall, biking is a convenient way to get around Yosemite. Leave your car safely at the campsite or lodge parking lot, then rent a bike to explore. There are lots of paved bike paths to make this transportation option easy.
Make sure you pack for a variety of weather conditions and bring extra water bottles and canteens to stay hydrated on long hikes.
Traffic on a drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite can be tough to navigate, especially during the summer. Sometimes because of construction or tourist traffic in and around big cities, it might be shorter to take a less direct route so it’s a good idea to check road conditions in advance.
Continuing Your California Road Trip
If you have longer to spend in the Golden State, you may also be interested in:
- Interesting stops to make between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe
- A scenic driving itinerary from Yosemite to Death Valley National Park
- Looking to skip some of the crowds? Follow this detailed family itinerary for the state’s hidden gem, Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Continue your drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, best things to see and do driving from San Francisco to Redwoods National and State Parks
- Combine all of California’s national parks on one epic trip itinerary!
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