11/12/16 UPDATE: added McIntyre's video ("NoCal Trip" below)
My family and I took a wonderful summer vacation to Northern California in early August. Below is the itinerary and some highlights but it was broken up in three main areas: San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, and Lake Tahoe.
It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it for families. I've been to San Francisco many times, so the real highlights were Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. But it was the kids first time to San Francisco, so they got a real good introduction. Yosemite really stood out for its stunning beauty. I'm happy to share the itinerary, more details, and/or answer questions any time if you're thinking of taking a similar trip.
Northern California from WaterTurtle Media on Vimeo.
Links to Pictorial Parts 1, 2, & 3 (you can click on any picture and scroll through for large images but you'll miss the captions if you do that):
Part 1 - Yosemite National Park
Part 2 - Lake Tahoe
Part 3 - San Francisco
- Early flight to San Francisco
- Rented bikes and rode from the Wharf area to the Golden Gate Bridge. Original plan was to ride all the way across to Sausalito then catch a ferry back to the San Francisco Wharf, but it was very windy and cold on the bay so we turned back when we got halfway across the bridge.
- Walked around the Wharf area (stayed in hotel there for one night) and took the kids to see the sea lions at Pier 39.
- Walked to dinner in North Beach (Little Italy). A lot of walking and biking in one afternoon/evening. Franchinos - great restaurant!
- Got up early and drove to Yosemite National Park
- Checked into Half Dome Village (in Yosemite Valley, and formerly called Curry Village). Large canvas tents with beds and wooden floors that has one light, but no outlets. Ours had 3 twins and 1 double bed....perfect for the 5 of us. Shared showers and bathrooms campground style.
- Started at Happy Isles trailhead in the Valley, and hiked the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and top of Nevada Falls, and back down the John Muir Trail, then back to Half Dome Village (~8 miles).
- Drove to Glacier Point (unbelievable views), and started our hike there. Saw two different bears very close to Glacier Point. Hiked up to Sentinel Dome for the 360 degree views, then on to The Fissures and Taft Point, then back to Glacier Point (~8 miles).
- Stopped at the world famous Tunnel View overlook lot for the views.
- Stopped and parked alongside the Merced River in front of El Capitan and went for a swim.
- Needed an active rest day from all the hiking, so we rented bikes and had a casual ride around the Valley floor on the bike paths. Had lunch at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. Then we rented rafts for an afternoon lazy float down the Merced River (3 miles).
- Checked out of Half Dome Village, and drove ~1hr to Tuolumne Meadows (which is on the way out towards Lake Tahoe anyway, Yosemite is a very large national park). Stopped there and hiked to Cathedral Lakes (~7 miles).
- Arrived in Lake Tahoe, stayed in a VRBO rental house in Kings Beach, CA.
- The family split up for the morning - I went mountain biking the Tahoe Rim & Flume Trails. Rented my bike at Flume Trails Bike Shop, took their shuttle up to Tahoe Meadows, and rode ~25 miles on both trails all the way back to the bike shop. Kris and the kids went to Squaw Valley while I was riding.
- Afternoon swim at Sand Harbor State Park.
- Didn't have a real plan except to drive around Lake Tahoe and do some exploring. Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe was very nice but we didn't stop there. Decided to go do another local hike - Horsetail Falls at the Pyramid Creek Trailhead (located on Hwy 50 south of South Lake Tahoe, hike was ~3 miles). Great swimming hole along the hike and another very large and beautiful waterfall.
- Had intended to go stand up paddling but it was windy, so we went for afternoon swim in Lake Tahoe between Sand Harbor and Hidden Beach. Found a nice spot blocked from the wind.
- Original plan was to go to Big Sur but there was a large wildfire in the area so we went with Plan B to explore Marin County north of San Francisco.
- Got up early and drove to San Francisco/Marin County. Went straight to Muir Woods National Monument but it was very crowded so we drove along Highway 1 near Muir Beach, and to Stinson Beach, then to Bolinas. Walked around the quaint little hippy surf town of Bolinas and its beach, then had late lunch there.
- Drove to the Golden Gate Bridge overlook.
- Dinner in Sausalito
- got up early and went to Muir Woods National Monument to beat the crowds.
- drove into San Francisco, rode the cable cars, lunch at Ghirardelli Square, walked around Chinatown.
- Turned in rental car and stayed in hotel close to the San Francisco airport, flew out very early the following morning (Day 10) back to NC.