We just got home from a 4.5-day adventure in San Francisco, the California coast, and Yosemite and WOW, it was incredible! Neither of us had ever been to the CA coast or Yosemite and Adam had never been to San Francisco (I have only been there for work), so it was fun to show him a mix of things I like in SF and also experience brand new things together. We crammed a lot into everyday, so here is a recap of the places we went, the food we ate, and the hikes we did. WARNING: It’s super long!
Day 1: San Francisco
We kicked off our trip in San Francisco and after taking a 5 AM flight to Oakland and battling traffic to get into the city, coffee was definitely in order. We headed to Sightglass coffee and got some lattes to get our energy up.
Our next stop was to one of my favorite spots, the Ferry building. The Ferry building has so many cute little food stands and an amazing view outside. We walked around for a tiny bit before heading to get some lunch.
For lunch, we went to another one of my favorites, Super Duper Burger. Our bun-less burgers may not look super delicious, but they were awesome. As were the Parmesan garlic fries. 🙂
After lunch we walked all over to see some of the big sights, such as Lombard Street and Chinatown, and to check out some stores, like City Light Books. We got to experience some of the nice big San Francisco hills, which were a good warm up for Yosemite.
We then headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. There were a few spots we wanted to check out to see the bridge and we started with Baker Beach. This beach is located below the bridge on the city side and has an awesome view from the ground level of the bridge. It’s a nice big beach that we imagine gets packed on sunny weekend days. We also hear it’s clothing optional, but everyone was fully clothed when we went haha.
The next viewpoint for the Golden Gate Bridge was the Marin headlands. You actually cross the bridge to get there, which was a really cool experience. From there, you drive through the hills and can stop at different viewpoints to see the bridge, the city in the background, and the coastline.
We had tickets to the Giants game that evening, so we headed over to the stadium area for dinner and the game. We stopped at Garaje for a quick dinner, which is an order at the counter restaurant with tacos, zapatos (kind of like a panini and burrito), salads, and other mostly unhealthy things. 🙂 Adam got a steak zapato and I got the carne asada fries. Both were so good! We highly recommend this spot as a pre-Giants game dinner. FYI- they are cash only.
As we have mentioned before, we are trying to get a photo of Adam in front of every MLB stadium, but it’s even better when we can go to a game too (usually our timing sucks). We were super pumped to get to go to a Giants game while in SF and see one of our favorite players, Hunter Pence, play. The stadium has beautiful views and we had a blast watching the Giants beat the A’s.
Day 2: San Francisco
Our second day was also spent in San Francisco and was just as packed as the day before, but this time with mostly all firsts for me. We kicked off the morning with some acai bowls from Bowl’d Acai over in a cute little food truck park called Spark Social. We then went over to CoffeeShop to get some coffee. What is special about this coffee shop is that they make ice cubes out of coffee so your drink doesn’t get watered down. Genius! They also have bulletproof coffee (they call it Sherpa coffee), which is one of our favorite coffee drinks.
From there, we headed over to the 16th street tiled steps, which I randomly found on Pinterest before the trip and thought they looked cool. It’s funny how some tiled steps in a random residential area became a tourist attraction.
Although the weather was a bit gloomy/foggy, we headed to Twin Peaks to see the view of the city and bay. We initially wanted to hike up to the top, but we were short on time so we drove instead. Despite the weather, you could still see clearly all around and the views were amazing!
We then became even more mega-tourists and went to see the Painted Ladies. This has been on Adam’s SF to-do list for years and he may or may not have sung the Full House theme song out loud as we were walking up to Alamo Square. 🙂
From the Painted Ladies, we walked over to Nopalito for lunch. We watch Hunter Pence’s (from the SF Giants) wife Lexi’s YouTube channel and she recommended this spot on one of her episodes. We got the Topotos con Chile and Carnitas. The Topotos con Chile were chips with this awesome sauce on top with cheese and sour cream. The sauce coated the chips and they almost were like nacho cheese Doritos (but high end delicious Doritos).
After lunch we booked it to the Coit Tower to squeeze in a visit to the top before our Alcatraz tour. The line was pretty long, but by the time we were really aware of how long it was, we already paid and were halfway through the line, so we just crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. We ended up getting to the top a few minutes before we had to head to Alcatraz, so we quickly snapped some pictures and went back down. It’s pretty small at the top and kind of expensive, but the view of downtown is awesome and we are glad we were able to make it up there.
We sped walked to the Alcatraz pier and headed out onto the water to see the famous former prison. We were torn before the trip if it was worth the cost, but after hearing from some people that it was pretty cool, we decided to go for it. We are so glad we did! Right when we got off the boat we snuck away from the crowd and started exploring. Little did we know there was a crowd because they all were waiting for the audio tour equipment. So we ended up being the only ones without headphones on (oops), but we still feel like we learned a ton just from reading and walking around. It was our first time in prison and it’s safe to say we will keep being law-abiding citizens. 🙂
After we got back from Alcatraz, we quickly went over to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the sea lions. As touristy as Fisherman’s Wharf is, I LOVE the sea lions and had to show Adam. Thankfully he found them just as amusing as I did and we watched them for about 20 minutes. A few of them kept playing and fighting with each other and it was so entertaining!
From Fisherman’s Wharf, we rushed to make our dinner reservation at Limon Rotisserie (clearly the whole theme of our day was rushing to get somewhere else haha). I found this restaurant just by searching on Yelp and holy crap it was so good! We split the half chicken with the tacu-tacu and sweet potato fries as our sides and got the short rib and a side of green beans. It was so much food, but so delicious. We talked about the meal and how good it was many times during the rest of the trip.
Day 3: California Coast
On our third day, which happened to be my 25th birthday, we headed to the California coast on our way to Yosemite. It’s not on the way at all, but I really wanted to visit the coast so we woke up early, grabbed some Philz coffee and got on our way.
As soon as we left our airbnb, we noticed how it was significantly foggier than the previous days. We tried to stay positive since sometimes the fog takes a while to burn off, but as we drove, it just wasn’t letting up. There were times we couldn’t even see the ocean next to us. It was definitely a bummer, but we tried to make the best of it and towards the end of the day, it lightened up enough for us to see some scenery and we had a great time. Even on a cloudy/foggy day, nothing beats being on the coast.
We had to skip a few stops because of the fog, but as we were driving we realized we would be going through Santa Cruz, so we swung by there to see the beach, which has a ton of rides and volleyball courts.
After Santa Cruz, we made our way to Monterey, which actually had really beautiful weather. The sun was out and there was only fog off in the distance. We walked along the marina area and saw a few seals playing in the crystal clear water. We grabbed coffee at Water + Leaves in their Fisherman’s Wharf area and then headed back on the road to our next stop, the 17 mile drive.
Unfortunately, right as we left the area the fog was thick again. We could hardly see anything, but we still got to enjoy a few of the stops. We can only imagine how beautiful the drive is on a sunny day. The ocean water looked so blue and beautiful, even with the poor weather conditions. One highlight of this drive for Adam was getting to see Pebble Beach. We definitely plan to do this again next time we visit on a sunny day.
From the 17 mile drive we drove up the street to Carmel to grab lunch at the Carmel Belle, a little café. We were a little defeated at this point, but since it was my birthday, we were trying to be positive about the situation. Even though we knew the weather was not going to get better, we decided to head to the spot I was most excited about, Big Sur.
Big Sur has been on my travel list for years and it was one of the things I was most excited about for this trip. I found out a couple months before the trip that one of the things I wanted to see the most, McWay Falls, was inaccessible due to a landslide. I was bummed, but had months to accept it and figure out another plan. This plan included a stop at the Bixby Bridge, which is the other iconic Big Sur spot. Thankfully, the fog had cleared up enough for us to see more clearly and we were able to see the bridge and the coastline below it. Even in the fog, this stop was beautiful and it definitely turned our moods around.
After Bixby Bridge, we were on our way to Yosemite. However, we had seen some cool viewpoints on our way to the bridge, but didn’t stop in time, so we stopped by them on the way back. I don’t remember the names of these stops, but they were so pretty!
While the day didn’t go 100% as planned, we still had a great time on the coast and it was the perfect way to spend my birthday. The nice thing about living in Washington is that we have learned how to deal with unwanted weather and still have fun. We can’t wait to go back in the future though on a sunnier day!
Day 4: Yosemite
We arrived at Oakhurst, where we were renting a cottage for the Yosemite portion of the trip, late the night before. We met our host, who is the sweetest lady who gave us a thorough tour of the place and lots of info on the park and surrounding areas. If you ever go to Yosemite (which you should!) stay at the White Sage Cottage
. We loved it!For our first and only full day at Yosemite, we headed out around 5:00 AM to get to the park earlier than the crowds. The park was about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the cottage, so we arrived right around sunrise. When you first enter the park, you have about 30-45 minutes until you reach Yosemite Valley (where all of the iconic spots are). We were driving for a while through the park and then suddenly caught our first glimpse of Half Dome and El Capitan with a beautiful sunrise. It took us by surprise and took our breath away. We immediately pulled over to the Tunnel View overlook to soak it all in. We were exhausted, but that view energized us so much for the day.
Our plan for our first day at Yosemite was to hike the Four Mile trail to Glacier Point and then do the Panorama trail to the Mist trail. All together, this equals 14 miles, which makes it our longest hike ever. In order to make sure we got done early enough, we started on the Four Mile trail right away. This hike was pretty challenging, as you’re going from the bottom of the valley to the top of Glacier Point (about 3,200 ft in 4.6 miles). During the hike, you have views of El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, and Yosemite Falls almost the entire time. And then right at the end, Half Dome is right in your face. Best hiking reward ever!
There are some fires happening in Yosemite right now, so the sky was a bit hazy at first and we could hardly see Half Dome, but once we got to the top and rested a bit, it cleared up a lot more. Since you can drive to the top of Glacier Point, the top was much busier than the trail. We spent about an hour at the top and then made our way to the Panorama trail.
The Panorama trail is very exposed, which means you get incredible views the entire time, similar to the Four Mile trail. We stopped a bunch to take photos, especially since the sky kept getting clearer and clearer. The first stop on this trail is Illilouette Falls, where we stopped along the creek to eat lunch. The trail was quiet and peaceful during this portion and it was a nice break from the crowds at Glacier Point.
From Illilouette Falls, you then make your way to Nevada Falls. Once we arrived there, we took a little break and watched the fast moving water plunge over the edge. We were really surprised how much water these falls had for the summer. We then headed down the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls (the photo with the super wide waterfall) The Mist Trail is very appropriately named because as soon as you reach Vernal Falls, you get completely soaked by all of the mist from the waterfall. We were expecting to get a little wet, but not drenched and it was SO fun and refreshing after around 11 miles of hiking in the heat. The rest of the way down the trail after the waterfall is pretty steep downhill and we felt bad for those going up.
Once we finished the Mist Trail, we were officially done with our 14 mile hike. We were so proud of ourselves for hiking that much in one day. It ended up taking us about 8.5 hours, which included about 1.5 hours of breaks. Our feet were dead at this point and we took the shuttle back to near where we parked to give ourselves a little break. We then headed to the Valley View and Tunnel View overlooks before heading back to our cottage. While the 14 miles were long, it was worth it for the views we had from the trail. Yosemite is so magical and we were in awe the entire time. This was one of the best adventures we have ever had. We have now officially been to 7 of the US National Parks, only 52 left!
Day 5: Yosemite
Our final day in California only allotted us a few hours before we had to head to the airport, so we got up bright and early again to make our way back to Yosemite. As we entered the park, we got to experience another stunning sunrise near Tunnel View.
Once in the valley, we did the super quick 1 mile round trip walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls as a whole is one of the tallest waterfalls in the US. To get to the top of it is strenuous, so we settled for the lower part, which is a very impressive waterfall in itself!
After Lower Yosemite Falls, we swung by the Valley View overlook one more time and then headed to Tenaya Lake, which is outside of the valley. Our HomeAway host recommended this spot and we are so glad she did! It was nice to visit another part of the park that isn’t as well known as the valley. We got to view Half Dome from an overlook on the way and then made our way to the lake. The lake had such clear water and it surprisingly was not freezing. We walked around for a tiny bit and then unfortunately had to head to the airport.
If you made it to the end of this long blog post…CONGRATULATIONS! We had a blast on our trip and we are glad we can share our experiences with others. Being able to see the city, coast, and mountains all in one trip was very unique and made every day a new adventure. We WILL be back and next time we hope to hike Half Dome, visit the other three National Parks near Yosemite (Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Death Valley), and get a sunny day on the coast.