We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

SFO to Yosemite

Eastbourne, United...
Level Contributor
1,119 posts
381 reviews
Save Topic
SFO to Yosemite

I will be picking up a hire car from SFO about 10am on a weekday and heading for Yosemite. It will be the first time I've driven in USA so I'm looking for the most straight-forward route from the airport that will put me on the right road for Yosemite. Advice will be much appreciated.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
15,712 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: SFO to Yosemite

Are you not planning to go into the city of San Francisco before Yosemite?

If that's the case, the most direct way is southbound Hwy 101 to eastbound 92. This goes across the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. Unfortunately, once off the bridge, you have to go through some city streets to the next freeway, 580, so pay attention to the signs.

Take 580 until it becomes 205 and follow the signs for 120, Sonora, and Yosemite. Be sure you are in the proper lanes for your exits, because they will vary. At the town of Oakdale, Hwys 120 and 108 begin to share the same space, so don't let that confuse you. The roads will be clearly signed.

From SFO to Yosemite will be about 4 hours (could vary, depending on traffic).

Eastbourne, United...
Level Contributor
1,119 posts
381 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: SFO to Yosemite

Thanks for your speedy reply. We have 4 days in San Francisco before picking up the car so your advice is spot on.

San Jose, California
Level Contributor
1,260 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: SFO to Yosemite

"once off the bridge, you have to go through some city streets to the next freeway, 580, so pay attention to the signs."

This is not correct, it's possible to take city streets, but it's not the fastest way and can be confusing. It's better to stay on freeways the entire way. Once over the San Mateo bridge, after a couple of miles, take hiway 880 north towards Oakland, Go about 3 miles then take 238 east, which merges onto 580 after 2 miles.

Then take 580, to 205 to 120. Follow 120 and signs all the way to YNP, take alook at Google maps for teh route.

Edited: 30 March 2011, 16:58
Stoke on Trent...
Level Contributor
709 posts
64 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: SFO to Yosemite

Make sure you get to the rental car centre at the airport in good time. We waited over an hour to get to the registration desk and from posts I've read since, that doesn't seem to be unusual. If you have booked your car to start at 10am I'd be there for 9am. Even if the queue isn't long, by the time you have gone through the registration process and walked through to where the vehicles are, time will be getting on. If you haven't driven in the States before and aren't familiar with the cars, you will need time to find out where everything is. Don't be afraid to ask, we have never been given a handover as we'd expect in the UK (and we've driven quite a few times in the States).

Another thing to watch for is the attempts at upselling your package when you get to the desk. We fell for it as we were exhausted from the flight. If you know you have booked what you need, stick to your guns.

You'll enjoy driving in the States once you have settled into it. When you are returning your car to the airport, it is very well signed for Rental car return. Do however be ready to leave your vehicle fairly quickly as you will end up in a queue of vehicles. Someone will come to you in the queue to quickly check the car over and scan it back in and you just leave it there in the queue. We got caught short on this a bit as we thought we would have plenty of time to sort ourselves out. It was the first time we'd experienced this kind of return. If my memory serves me correctly (and it doesn't always), it is about $3 for the luggage trolley so put that to one side if you think you will need one. How can you tell that we've made all these mistakes :-)

I'd go with sticking to the freeway too. We came back in that way over the San Mateo Bridge (amazing bridge). If you are planning on using GPS, be prepared for it not picking up the signal straightaway as you come out of the car park. There were a few people stopped waiting for the signals to pick up.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
64,661 posts
114 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: SFO to Yosemite

It sounds like you'll be in San Francisco for a few days, then need the rental car to get to Yosemite. Is that correct? Are you planning to go the airport to get the car or just to pick it up near your hotel in San Francisco? You'll pay airport car-rental fees & have a travel cost if you're picking it up at SFO.

Corona del Mar, CA
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
Level Contributor
55,604 posts
422 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: SFO to Yosemite

Part of what PNWFamily is saying, is that it would be much simpler to pick up a rental car from one of the locations in the City of San Francisco and leave from there for Yosemite, rather then going back out to the airport which then makes you take a different, somewhat more complex way to Yosemite.

Stoke on Trent...
Level Contributor
709 posts
64 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: SFO to Yosemite

Picking up the car in the city is a very valid option if Paul611 can do it. One of the issues we had was the times that the city offices were open. He could well pick up the car at 10am on a weekday, but if he is returning to SFO to fly home, the time of the flight may not be suitable for dropping the car back off again in the city. The rental companies seem to have limited opening hours in the city.

I don't know why, but we didn't have much success searching for cars from the city. They didn't seem to be available at the times we needed them. We've had the same issue for our September trip. We wanted to pick up in the city and drop off in Las Vegas. We've had to take an airport rental. For a separate one two day hire in Vegas we have been able to book from the Bellagio. We couldn't pick up or drop off after 4pm so have had to take two days instead of one so we can have an early start and late finish to our planned day trip.

Car rental research has been hubbys job and maybe he's missed something, he's normally pretty good though. I'd be very interested to know if anyone else has had this problem and how they got around it.

Edited: 30 March 2011, 20:01
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
15,712 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: SFO to Yosemite

Simbot, that's one reason I don't like taking the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. Too confusing. :) I sometimes take it, almost always westbound, and I hate the maze of streets in Hayward. So I'm glad you gave our guest a different way.

I agree that getting to 580 and the roads for Yosemite are far more straightforward from the Bay Bridge: you simply get in the 580 lane and from there, just make sure to always be in the correct lane for the turnoffs for Manteca, Sonora, etc.

9. Re: SFO to Yosemite

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 25 October 2012, 20:15