Yosemite one-day private tour from San Francisco
Yosemite Tour Highlights
Overview: Drive over the Oakland Bay Bridge on the way to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. See Altamont Pass, Wind Farm and drive through the Central Valley – ‘The Fruit Basket of North America.’ Travel via Gold Country, Lake Don Pedro, or Mariposa on the way to Yosemite Valley. Take an optional walking tour to the Tuolumne or Merced Grove of giant sequoias, and much more.
Tour Description: Our one-day Yosemite adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Make the most of your visit with a private tour in our comfortable and spacious 4x4 SUVs or luxury vans, which are ideal for small groups. You will have your own personal tour guide and driver who will give you his or her undivided attention throughout this unique adventure. Book a private SUV custom tour and visit wonderful places with unique sights, which the majority of tour buses cannot access due to their large vehicles. You will have many opportunities to see all that Yosemite has to offer in this jam-packed trip. Sites include, but are not limited to: spectacular gushing waterfalls, granite domes and giant sequoia trees that tower over the landscape. You may even see wildlife, including bears, deer, and coyotes!
Golden Horizon Travel is the only tour company that provides daily private customizable SUV tours to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco (or any location along the way). Our five-star reviews on TripAdvisor are a testament to the outstanding customer service we provide to our customers. Our private tour of Yosemite will be an adventure of a lifetime, and you will return home with wonderful memories. Though bus and large van tours offered by other companies may be less expensive, there is no comparison to the quality and comfort of our custom tours. Our private SUV tours are worth every cent, because you get to experience the best that Yosemite has to offer, in a spacious luxury vehicle, without the hassle of dealing with large groups of people. You also have the flexibility to change the tour depending on your interests. You will also get a highly-experienced personal driver-guide, who is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about their tours.
You’ll find detailed information on our website about the sites and activities you will see and do on our tours, so you know exactly the kind of fun and experience you are signing up for. No other tour company offers this much transparency. We believe it is important for you to know exactly what we will be covering and you will be seeing on your Yosemite adventure.
While other tour companies will charge you for overtime hours, we often add additional time, at no extra charge, when needed. Our five star reviews on TripAdvisor are a clear indicator of how satisfied customers are with our private custom tours. We pride ourselves on the reviews we have received from our real customers; they are a true and genuine testament to our hard work and dedication.
We highly recommend our overnight private tours and travel packages (hotel accommodations included) as the one-day (12-hour tour) requires nine hours driving round trip from San Francisco, which leaves you with little time to visit and see just 1% of Yosemite National Park. We may discontinue our one-day trips as we believe it is hard on our customers and guides to carry out such a long day-trip, with the majority of the day in the car.
If you have more than a day, we highly recommend that you consider signing up for our two or three-day custom tours so you have more time to explore majestic Yosemite National Park and its jaw-dropping wonders. Rather than leaving the valley floor at 3:00 p.m., you can witness the changing colors and lights against Half Dome during the evening sunset, which is sure to make for a breathtaking photo opportunity!
Your guide can take you to one of the most spectacular vistas in all of Yosemite … Glacier Point, where Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir stood as they made the decision to turn Yosemite into a National Park. Access to Glacier Point is seasonal and available on our overnight tours only (unfortunately not offered on our one-day trip). While most tour companies leave Yosemite in the afternoon, you can enjoy the peace and tranquility of the valley floor after the crowds have left. We highly recommend our two, three, four, or even five-day, overnight adventures (hotel accommodation included).
Please note that due to peak season (from May through September), Yosemite hotels may be fully reserved far in advance. Please book your tour on our reservation page as soon as possible, and we will book your hotel promptly to secure the best available hotel and rate for you.
Please note that Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias is closed for the next couple of years (until late 2017) for renovations and improvements. The work includes restoring ecological processes for the giant sequoia habitat and wetlands, and increasing the resiliency of the Mariposa Grove, while improving the overall experience for visitors.
-The hike to the sequoias is optional as it takes about 10 hours to drive from and to San Francisco, which leaves you only two hours to sightsee in the Yosemite Valley. We don’t recommend the one-day tour unless you have limited time, because we don’t want you to spend all day in a vehicle. You may also add overtime to see the sequoias on this day tour, but again, it may be a very long day. Also, if the tour guide manages to make time to hike to the sequoias, please bear in mind that the hike requires about 90 minutes round trip, and is rather challenging for non-hikers.
- Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, which is not included on this one-day trip, will be closed for the next couple of years (until late 2017) for renovation and improvement to restore ecological processes, including the giant sequoia habitat and wetlands, and increase the resiliency of the Mariposa Grove while improving the overall experience for visitors.
Important: Due to this closure, we created a new tailor-made adventure combining Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks in an all-in-one custom discovery tour. The only remaining small groves of giant sequoias in Yosemite require challenging hikes and will be extremely crowded due to this closure. Therefore, we highly recommend this new adventure to discover hundreds of giant Sequoias instead. There are 3,000-year-old giant sequoias in Sequoia National Park, which cannot be found in Yosemite. You can see as many as you want without even hiking, as your 4X4 SUV will take you right up to each grove.
Yosemite 1-day tour itinerary
- Complimentary pick-up at your hotel in San Francisco or in / around Yosemite
- Drive to Yosemite via Central Valley
- Rest break in Central Valley: ‘The Fruit Basket of the World’
- Second Half: Drive to Yosemite Valley via the Sierra Nevada Mountains
- The Sierra Nevada –Yosemite Valley Floor and wonders
- Explore Yosemite Valley wonders and sights
- Lunch Break by Yosemite Falls: The Highest waterfall in North America or at the Ahwahnee
- Optional Hike to the Yosemite giant sequoias in Tuolumne or Merced Groves (time permittingli>
- Back in San Francisco – All’s well that ends well!
Complimentary pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in downtown San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf, Oakland, Dublin, Pleasanton, Groveland or in Merced (private tours only).
Your trip to Yosemite begins with a drive through San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge and along the East Bay. As you pass through Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore on your way out to the San Joaquin Valley, you will notice numerous high-tech companies such as SAP, Oracle, and the Lawrence Livermore Lab.
Drive to Yosemite via Central ValleyBack to Top
The Yosemite tour departs from San Francisco on Highway 580 to the San Joaquin Valley and drives through what is locally known as the Tri Valley, which includes Amador, Livermore and the San Ramon valleys. We pass through the Altamont Pass, which has one of the oldest and largest concentrations of wind turbines in the world, due to the extreme winds that race through the narrow opening in the Diablo Mountain Range. You will also see Mt. Diablo, also known as Devil Mountain. The name of this mountain comes from the 1805 escape of several Chupcan Native Americans from the Spanish in a nearby willow thicket. The Native Americans seemed to have disappeared and the Spanish soldiers thus gave the area the name ‘Monte del Diablo’, meaning ‘thicket of the devil’. As we continue through the San Joaquin Valley, also known as the Central Valley, we pass over the California Aqueduct, a system of canals, tunnels, and pipelines that house water collected from the Sierra Nevada mountains and valleys of Northern and Central California to Southern California.
View the sharp contrast between the geology of the flat Central Valley and the surrounding rugged foothills. We will continue east to the city of Manteca, located at a major crossroad of Highways and railways in northern California, where the famous American author, John Steinbeck, worked a season at the Spreckels Sugar processing plant.Coffee Break in Central Valley: ‘The Fruit Basket of the World’Back to Top
We will continue driving through Central Valley, one of the largest and most productive agricultural regions in the world. Central Valley is commonly referred to as the ‘fruit basket of the world.’ It is home to large livestock farms, making California the highest cheese and milk producing state behind Wisconsin. It also makes California produce the largest amount of oranges (more than the state of Florida) and cotton (more than the state of Texas).
Traveling along Highway 120 through endless agricultural fields and ranch lands, we will then stop for a coffee break at a local farmer's market in Oakdale where you will have an opportunity to purchase pastries, snacks and coffee and use the restrooms. The cowboy town of Oakdale is located about 98 miles west of Yosemite Valley.
Oakdale, also known as the ‘Cowboy Capitol of the World’ was the first town in the Western United States to host a professional outdoor rodeo. Oakdale was also the origin where Hershey Chocolate housed its satellite plant (which later closed in 2008).Second Half: Drive to Yosemite Valley via the Sierra NevadaBack to Top
We continue on Highway 140 or 120 through the Gold Country where gold nuggets were once discovered during the Gold Rush Era. We will then pass through the Chinese Camp, an old mining town, where at one time over 5,000 Chinese lived in hopes of finding gold during the gold rush. Your tour guide will give you an in-depth presentation about the Gold Rush as you drive through this area. We offer an optional photo stop at Don Pedro Lake, located 75 miles away from the Yosemite National Park. It is a huge man-made lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills offering 160 miles of shoreline.
Lake Don Pedro is a popular destination for vacations and brings over 400,000 visitors interested in water sports, houseboat rentals, fishing, swimming, and water-skiing, jet skiing and windsurfing (except during the dry season). As you wind around the Sierra Nevada Mountain, your tour guide will point out the Moccasin Powerhouse, which was strategically built along the Hetch Hetchy valley dam, which pumps water and provides electricity for the San Francisco Bay Area. You will be taken through the historic Town of Groveland, which was once home to many settlers, later known as the Forty-Niners, who came to this area in 1949 seeking fortune during the gold rush era. Groveland is the gateway to Yosemite National Park and home to the historic Iron Door Saloon, which is considered to be the oldest drinking establishment in California still operating since 1852. You will be taken through the historic Town of Groveland which was once home to many settlers, later known as the Forty-Niners, who came to this area in 1949 seeking fortune during the gold rush era. Groveland is the gateway to Yosemite National Park and home to the historic Iron Door Saloon which is considered to be the oldest drinking establishment in California still operating today and has been since 1852.The Sierra Nevada –Yosemite ValleyBack to Top
You will then be driven through the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range that stretches over 400 miles and provides a natural frontier between the states of Nevada and California. The Sierra Nevada mountain ranges are home to some of the world’s most amazing natural wonders including Yosemite National Park and the giant sequoias that tower over the landscape in the western slope of the Sierra Mountains. You will have the opportunity to explore both while on the tour – time permitting.
You will arrive in Yosemite National Park from the western side of Yosemite known as the Big Oak Flat entrance (32 miles from Yosemite Valley). Or, depending on weather and road conditions, you might enter Yosemite via the El Portal or even Oakhurst There are many opportunities to take breathtaking photos along the way, beginning with the first tunnel we drive through located on the Big Oak Flat Road. When exiting the tunnel you will be awed by the breathtaking views of the Yosemite Valley stretching out in front of you.
Take advantage of the several spectacular stops overlooking Yosemite Valley, including the Merced River and Canyon, Yosemite Tunnel view and Yosemite Falls.Explore Yosemite Valley wonders and sightsBack to Top
Traveling down into the valley you will have plenty of opportunities and quality time to explore Yosemite Falls and other landmarks like El Capitan and Half Dome, which dominates the valley floor. You will notice that Yosemite Valley is carved into the mountains like a ‘U’ shape. While on this riveting walk, you will see spectacular views of Yosemite’s upper and lower falls, Bridal Veil Falls and so many more natural waterfalls. Marvel at the granite monoliths towering over you as you explore the valley floor with your personal, knowledgeable tour guide.
You will take a short hike to Bridalveil Falls, where you may get misted by the water flowing over the towering cliffs, and then drive to the location known as Tunnel View where you will be able to take breathtaking photos of El Capitan, Half Dome, and the valley floor. While in the valley floor, you will have numerous opportunities to take photos of Half Dome from various angles, as well as photos of the Merced River and Sentinel Bridge.Lunch Break by Yosemite Falls: The highest waterfall in North AmericaBack to Top
Enjoy a well-deserved lunch break at the Yosemite lodge restaurant and recreational area in the heart of Yosemite Valley, located near Yosemite Falls. You can enjoy shopping at one of the gift shops or opt to grab lunch to enjoy outdoors.
While enjoying your picnic, observe the beauty and variety of the giant granite rocks that contrast against the greenery of the valley floor. View the Yosemite Royal Arches rocks where the Yosemite Falls emerge before dropping 2,400 feet down into the valley. Yosemite Falls consist of three waterfalls: Yosemite Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. As one entire waterfall, Yosemite Falls is the 6th highest waterfall in the world, rising at a whopping 2,400 ft.Optional Hike to the Yosemite giant sequoias in Tuolumne or Merced GrovesBack to Top
Heading back to San Francisco, you could choose to stop in the valley to take photos of El Capitan, one of the premiere rock climbing areas in the world, and even spot a few climbers. Our last stop will include a hike to stop at Tuolumne Grove, where we will walk among some of the largest giant sequoias in the world. There are 75 groves of giant sequoias nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but only three groves are found in Yosemite National Park; The Mariposa, Merced & Tuolumne Groves. The Yosemite giant sequoias are the largest and fastest growing trees in the world. Mariposa Grove is the largest sequoia grove in the Yosemite and not available on the one day tour. Due to a long day of driving, the hike to the sequoias is indeed optional and not recommended due to the limited amount of time and the challenging hike to these giant trees. We highly recommend booking the overnight adventure!Back in San Francisco – All’s well that ends well!All’s Well that Ends Well!Back to Top
Your tour guide will drive you back to your hotel via Central Valley where you will stop for a break. There are few tour guides who are as passionate, committed, and willing to carry out such long day driving and guiding. We are incredibly fortunate here at Golden Horizon to have such dedicated tour guides. Gratuity for these hard working tour guides is highly recommended. They ensure your safety, share their knowledge of Yosemite National Park and show you every bit of history along the way. Thank you for choosing Golden Horizon Tours.
This SUV tour is totally private and the price is per person.
Price per person
|Totally Private Tour |
Price per person
This VAN tour is totally private and not available for public
or individual reservations. The price is per party and not per person.
The price is
Van Tour Tax,
|1 - 5 Guests||$1,649.00|
|6 - 7 Guests||$1,699.00|
|8 - 10 Guests||$1,759.00|
|11 - 12 Guests||$1,829.00|
|13 - 14 Guests||$1,899.00|
Included: Pick-up and drop off in San Francisco downtown or Fisherman’ Wharf, all applicable taxes, Yosemite National Park entrance fees (up to $125 included in the tour price), a private 12-hour roundtrip and guided tour from 7 am to 7 pm approximately.
Not included: The price does not include meals, driver’s gratuity, overtime, and the hike to the sequoias is optional due to lack of time.
Notes:-By the end of summer (early July) until next spring, all Yosemite falls and other waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley are only a trickle or have completely dried up because these are “seasonal falls”.
-The hike to the sequoias is not included on our one-day tour as it takes about 10 hours to drive from San Francisco to Yosemite and vice versa, which leaves you only two hours to sightsee in the Yosemite Valley.
We don’t recommend the one-day tour unless you have limited time, because we don’t want you to spend all day in a vehicle. You may also add overtime to see the sequoias on this day tour, or choose our overnight custom adventures to see hidden waterfalls and giant sequoias not included on the 1-day tour.