San Francisco/Bay area Distance: 195 mi / 314 km Time:4-5 hours Take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
Winter is least crowded -- but views with fresh snow and low clouds are truly memorable; summer is the most crowded, with traffic and people everywhere in the valley. The many waterfalls are most spectacular in the spring with the snowmelt -- but there is a chance the roads above the valley will be closed due to high snow. Book well ahead of planned arrival.
These are the Cathedral Rocks near the west end of Yosemite Valley, off the Northside Drive (Route 140), photographed last May shortly before sunset. Adams and Bierstadt discovered this location long before I did!