Making travel plans to San Fran.
April 15, 2011 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Trip planning to SF/Yosemite help!

A friend and I are planning a trip for one week in July to visit San Francisco, CA. We will probably spend 1 day around SF area and then looking to head to Yosemite, Redwood, etc.

Looking for some travel ideas and advice. Where do you recommend flying into for cheap? We were thinking Las Vegas, renting a car, driving through Death Valley and eventually making our way up to San Fran or direct to Yosemite to hit SF on the way back.

Also, we are under 25 so renting a car seems pretty expensive through enterprise.. any other options or car rentals for those under 25?

We both love the outdoors so primarily would like to spend hiking and exploring.

Both on relatively low budgets. Looking to keep the trip under $1,000.
posted by melizabeth to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Even though I suspect you're going to go "screw that" when I say "youth hostel"....there actually is a really decent youth hostel near Yosemite.

The Yosemite Bug is actually a mish-mosh of both traditional "Youth Hostel" and a bunch of private cabins. And the private cabins are actually really damn decently priced. I stayed there (in the youth-hostel part) about ten years ago, and it was well-run, clean, had a pretty good restaurant on the premises, was cheap, and was a very easy drive to Yosemite (a half hour from the parking lot of the hostel to the parking lot in Yosemite proper -- only about a twenty-minute drive to the border of Yosemite itself).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Death Valley in July? It may well be too hot to spend much or any time outside.

Where are you coming from? You may be able to find less expensive tickets into Oakland or San Jose, but airplane tickets in the summer are always going to cost more.
posted by rtha at 7:59 PM on April 15, 2011

You can drive through death valley in the heat of summer. Evaporative cooling (I.e. sweat) works great as long as you can keep your fluids up. However, this will not be long outside the car - your fucking *eyeballs* sweat, I swear. You can feel your brain desiccating the instant you get out of the car.
posted by notsnot at 9:13 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Death Valley may be too much in July, but I like the idea of driving from Vegas and coming into Yosemite from Lee Vining and the whole Mono Lake thing. A car might be tough for your budget, it might be safer to come into SF (or the area) and take a bus to Yosemite or wherever. There's lots of Grayhound in Northern California. Plus I'm sure you'll want to spend one day hiking up Mt. Tamalpais, so the Bay Area might be a more practical home base than getting a car.
posted by rhizome at 9:34 PM on April 15, 2011

If you decide to skip SF and just visit Yosemite, you can fly into Fresno or Sacramento and drive from there. I think Sac is cheaper for flights, between the two.
posted by fiercekitten at 12:22 AM on April 16, 2011

Are you interested in Amtrak at all? My grandparents live in Merced ("the Gateway to Yosemite") and it's a shit-hole of a town, but here's what I would do:

Fly into Oakland (usually cheaper than SFO) and then cross the Bay (public transpo or cabs both work) and spend a day or two in the City. BRING PANTS and SWEATERS. Seriously - cannot be said enough how chilly San Francisco gets in July.

Then cross back over to Oakland and take Amtrak eastward. If you take a day-time train there's lots of cool scenery as you go away from the coast and into the Valley. You will meet tons of people and it's a little nicer than Greyhound (I've done both, for almost every summer of my childhood.)

Rent the car in Merced (?) and then you won't have to put that many miles on it. Yosemite is AMAZING, you are going to have so much fun!
posted by polly_dactyl at 6:03 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Plus one for polly_dactlyl. It might be possible to get a throughway bus from Merced to Yosemite. Once you're in Yosemite you can take the free bus everywhere in the valley. The catch -- the big redwoods aren't in the valley. Redwoods = rental car, but you already knew that.
posted by notned at 7:55 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Polly_dactyl said almost exactly what I was going to say, right down to the sweaters. Note that Amtrak will actually take you *all the way* into Yosemite Valley!
posted by aniola at 9:01 AM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm planning on visiting Yosemite in July as well (I'm a former NolCal kid who now lives in Austin, I'm sharing old stomping grounds with my bf).

Seconding rhizome's recommend to checking out Mono Lake - it's amazing. Also, while you're up there in the high plains, I'd suggest a visit to Bodie (it's an incredible Ghost Town).

Inyo National Forest is also worth considering - you can hike up to the ancient bristlecone pine forests.

You don't mention camping in Yosemite, but if you were thinking about camping, you should make reservations now (if there are any available - we had to reserve camp sites in the valley back in February.). Worth mentioning that Yosemite is Black Bear Country, so if you're planning on camping (or even leaving your car parked outside over night), there are some definite precautions to follow.

You might want to check out vacation rental options near Yosemite. Airbnb has a few - search for stuff near Yosemite or Mammoth Lakes.

You mention "looking to head to Yosemite, Redwood, etc." - do you mean Redwood City? or just visiting redwood forests in general? Mariposa Grove is the redwood forest in Yosemite. There are also redwood forests in the Santa Cruz mountains (south of SF).

Amtrak looks like a pretty decent option for getting from the Bay Area to Yosemite - you can take BART to Richmond and catch a train and then bus that'll get you to the park.

If you guys do decide to rent a car, avoid renting at the airport if possibly. It's more convenient, but they tend to charge more for that convenience. Getting to Merced and renting a car there sounds like a pretty good idea.

Message me if you'd like - we can see if our travel plans line up. Maybe we can meet for a hot cocoa at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
posted by leastlikelycowgirl at 3:50 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you DO make it to SF, there's a small grove of redwoods in the garden at the back of the TransAmerica Pyramid. It's not as good as being out in the forest, but it's a really special (hidden) part of the city. SF and Yosemite already seems like a LOT for one trip, especially on your budget.

I love this question!
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:03 PM on April 16, 2011

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