Experience the best of northern California in a short time, beginning in San Francisco, famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, a lively nightlife and, of course, Alcatraz island. Explore by bike, segway or on foot before continuing your journey to Yosemite National Park, where you can spend days hiking, cycling, nature watching or even climbing. Continue on to the snowy Sierra Nevada to enjoy spectacular mountain views and historic Gold Rush towns before stopping at Lake Tahoe for a few days of hiking or relaxation. Finally, your journey comes to an end back in San Francisco.

Key information

Destinations San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Sacramento
Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture
Physical Level Mild
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Explore San Francisco and Alcatraz island

Explore San Francisco and Alcatraz island

Day 1–3 in San Francisco

Crammed into less than 50 square miles and with a population of less than a million, small San Francisco packs a mighty punch. Its patchwork of different neighbourhoods -- Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown and many more -- all offer a different side to the city, while the big attractions -- Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf -- are all worth the visit.

This is also a city of culture. There are Michelin-starred restaurants. There are pop-up diners and incredible food trucks. There is a world-class music scene and plenty of outdoor adventures, from whale-watching at Land's End to hiking in Mount Diablo. Just watch out for the earth tremors -- San Francisco's proximity to the San Andreas faultline means it experiences several hundred tremors a year.

Don't miss

Enjoy the coastline of San Fran

Enjoy the coastline of San Fran

Take a stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf, explore the Marina District before experiencing the lively city at night. Stop at the spectacular Golden Gate bridge that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean to enjoy a classic view of the skyline. Perhaps even take a boat to the infamous Alcatraz.

Admire the wildlife and waterfalls of Yosemite

Admire the wildlife and waterfalls of Yosemite

Day 4–6 in Yosemite National Park

The most popular national park in California, Yosemite includes the world-renowned Yosemite Valley, which is beneath notable granite peaks including Half Dome and El Capitan – famous among rock climbers for their stunning views and difficult climbs.

Head to the 7,214ft Glacier Point for views over Yosemite Valley, or head inside the granite Geology Hut for vistas of Half Dome. Come at sunrise or sunset, when the giant granite peaks turn a rosy pink. There’s more than just towering peaks in Yosemite. Mariposa Grove showcases giant sequoia trees, while Yosemite Falls is North America’s highest waterfall at 2,425 feet (739 metres). It is possible to hike up to the upper fall’s crest, but be aware that the water’s spray can be very cold.

Kayak, cycle and cruise at Lake Tahoe

Kayak, cycle and cruise at Lake Tahoe

Day 7–9 in Lake Tahoe

Explore the surroundings of this clear mountain lake by bike, kayak or cruise, or relax on one of its beaches to enjoy the unique views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Carson Range. Secret Cove is the ideal secluded spot to relax in.

Learn about the gold rush at Sacramento

Learn about the gold rush at Sacramento

Day 10 in Sacramento

You can easily spend a few hours at the 28-acre Old Sacramento State Historic Park learning about The California Gold Rush, which took place in 1848–1855. Perhaps even try panning for gold in the river! You can even step back to those historic days by taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

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