JOURNEYS

Explore Yosemite National Park and More High Sierra Wonders

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Yosemite National Park

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These days, Groveland’s name isn’t quite as recognizable as counterparts like Yosemite and San Francisco, yet those areas wouldn’t be what they are today if it weren’t for the humble town. As an integral part of the California Gold Rush, Groveland today boasts history, nature, and an elevated restaurant scene. The destination also serves as the gateway to Yosemite, which means this itinerary includes time spent hiking and soaking in stunning vantage points along the way. To help relax after adventuring, brews and a spa treatment await as your reward after an invigorating day. In true California style, this trip is anything but monotonous as you explore the more urban areas of San Francisco and Oakland too.

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Trip Highlight

Ferry Building Marketplace

When in San Francisco, stopping by the Ferry Building Marketplace is a must. Whether you head there to eat, sip, shop, or peruse the farmers’ market, this historic site offers multiple experiences all under one roof.
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Trip Designer

Visit California

Visit California’s goal is to remind travelers of the vast experiences that await in California. The Golden State boasts a variety of trip options, from laid-back luxury to outdoor adventures, and Visit California is the ultimate resource to guide the way.
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The Iron Door Saloon in Groveland

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Day 1Encounter History in Groveland

After flying into San Francisco, travel to Groveland and check into the Groveland Hotel, which offers pet-friendly rooms, grand suites, and everything in between. Stop by the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum to acclimate yourself to the area through the various exhibits inside and out. Reading the displays is an excellent way to prepare for visiting Yosemite tomorrow.

After your history lesson, chat about your findings during a wine tasting at Yosemite Cellars. Sip on sweet 2021 Rosé or challenge your tastebuds to a 2020 Fireball Red wine sampling. The first day is also a fabulous opportunity to rent a canoe and spend time on the lake at Stanislaus National Forest. If the weather is warm, add a dip in the water at one of the sandy beaches to your agenda.

To find souvenirs for friends and family, shop at The Grove Mercantile. Not only do they carry various goods in their boutique but having ice cream—they even have dairy-free options—while you’re there is a must. Nearby is the oldest saloon in California, the Iron Door Saloon, where you can sip a cocktail while you listen to live music.

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Glacier Point, Yosemite

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Day 2Find Beauty at Yosemite National Park

One of the United States’ most famous parks, Yosemite National Park has an abundance of awe-inspiring sights, so plan to hit some of the highlights if you’re only here for a day or two. Purchase a 7-day pass to enter the park, and get ready to explore. Head to Hetch Hetchy Valley and trek the five-mile Wapama Falls while you’re there. Bonus: this trail also takes you by the lovely Tueeulala Falls.

Another stunning option, currently only reachable by hike, Glacier Point offers an exquisite view of the mountains if you’re willing to go on foot. No matter the season, there are activities to enjoy, like stargazing and snowshoeing, if you bring your own equipment. Coupled with yesterday’s museum, dive deeper by visiting the Yosemite History Center to see reenactments of forging metal and take a horse-drawn wagon ride.

Or, for multiple moderate hiking routes, Sentinel Dome and Taft Point are both popular with travelers. Either select one trail to hike—each will take about two hours—or spend four hours traversing the almost five-mile loop. One perk about Yosemite is that there are many eateries within the park, and The Ahwahnee Dining Room, where you can look at the landscape through tall windows as you dine, is a must.

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Whitewater rafting on the Toulomne River

Zachary Collier/Flickr

Day 3Adventures Near Yosemite

The thrill-seeking set will appreciate an invigorating day of whitewater rafting on the Tuolumne River. Listen to your guide’s instructions as you navigate the bustling rapids and make your way down the river, which will take a good part of the day. Pack an alcohol-free picnic and spend time at the Rainbow Pool Day Use Area for a more relaxing water-centric activity. Note: there is a nominal per-car fee. The area is within the nearly 900,000-acre Stanislaus National Forest, which is ideal for hiking and outdoor exploration.

If you skipped packing a lunch, grab a bite at Priest Station Cafe. Not only has it been family-owned for six generations, but the property has served as a restaurant, hotel, and stagecoach stop. For the ultimate in post-rafting unwinding, book treatment services at Rush Creek Spa, where they will treat you to massages and facials, all within a serene setting. You can also choose to eat at one of the on-site dining options.

Perhaps just as rejuvenating as a spa session, a cold beer can have the same effect. Around the Horn Brewing Company is a craft brewery with area-themed names for their beers, such as Hetch Hetchy Haze and Wapama Mama. If beer isn’t your go-to drink, Around the Horn also brews a tongue-tingling Extra Crisp Apple Cider to quench your thirst.

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The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

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Days 4 and 5Revel in Oakland and San Francisco

Ending your time in the area would be incomplete without soaking in the culture of the Bay Area, including San Francisco and Oakland, which are separated by a bridge with impressive views. Book your stay at Hotel Griffon, and request a room overlooking the Ferry Building Marketplace and the San Francisco Bay.

While in town, eat at Delancey Street Restaurant. Although it’s a training school, it consistently receives rave reviews for its delectable cuisine. When the mood for Italian food strikes, check out Cotogna. The restaurant serves house-made pasta and changes its menu based on what’s available locally that day. Finally, book a Black Food Tour in Oakland, where you can sample the city’s finest local food and get your fill of distinctive dishes in progressive style.

No matter your interest, this duo of cities offers something to add to your itinerary. Stroll through Oakland’s Morcom Rose Garden, where the first rose was planted in 1932, and the legacy of serenity continues to this day. If you spend hours watching movies and can recite every line, experience a movie location tour in San Francisco, where you can also take an iconic cable car ride. Of course, before heading out of town, make time to eat, drink, and shop at the Ferry Building Marketplace.