Things to do in Sierra Nevada, California

Our most recommended things to do in Sierra Nevada, California

South Lake Tahoe: Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay

1. South Lake Tahoe: Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay

Embark on a sightseeing cruise starting in South Lake Tahoe either at sunset or during the day. Take in the scenic beauty while cruising 11 kilometers across the lake to Emerald Bay, one of the top ten most photographed places in the world. Savor snacks and drinks as you sail. See the majestic mountains of South Lake Tahoe while onboard the world-class Tahoe Bleu Wave yacht. As you cruise, you will find indoor and outdoor seating with 360-degree panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, the snow-capped mountains, Fannette Island, Vikingsholm Castle, Eagle Waterfall, and the Rubicon. Navigate the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe while hearing your captain's narration about this lake. You may even get the chance to see a variety of wildlife such as the bald eagle, black bears, and wild geese. If you've chosen the sunset option, relax and watch the sun dip low below the sky.

San Francisco: Yosemite National Park & Giant Sequoias Hike

2. San Francisco: Yosemite National Park & Giant Sequoias Hike

Experience both the Yosemite Valley and the Giant Sequoia Walk on this day tour. See why artists and poets have been inspired for generations by the breathtaking sceneries at the national park. Since 1890, the beautiful Yosemite National Park has been the jewel of America's National Parks, possessing some of the best-known landmarks in the world, such as the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls. Have 5 to 6 hours to explore the stunning national park, and take in the majestic natural wonders, accompanied by a complimentary audio-guided tour. See the spectacular Half Dome and El Capitan, two of the most frequently climbed cliffs in the world. It is also home to several groves of stunning Giant Sequoia trees, the largest trees on earth. The Giant Sequoia Walk is along 1 mile (1.5 km) of paved trail with a 400 ft (120 m) incline, snow depth permitting. On a group tour, view stunning panoramas, go on walks, and even hike a little, before returning to San Francisco. Or if you prefer, upgrade to a private tour for your group only.

From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

3. From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

Escape the crowds of San Francisco on a full-day guided tour to Yosemite National Park. See highlights, including Yosemite Falls and Inspiration Point. Enjoy seamless travel in a bio-fueled mini-coach. Heading east across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge offers great views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. En route to the park the tour crosses through the Central Valley, where you will stop at a fruit stand for some local produce. Famous for its rich volcanic soil, the Central Valley is the largest agricultural region in the United States. The section the tour drives through is best known for specialty fruits and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cherries, and strawberries. After this quick rest stop, you will enter the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Continuing into the mountains brings you to California gold country and the gold rush town of Groveland before the tour winds its way into Yosemite National Park. On your 1.5-hour narrated coach tour of Yosemite's glaciated valley, you will see famous waterfalls and rock formations including Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. Continue on past El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome, and much more. During the tour you will see Yosemite Valley from a number of great vantage points, the best of which is perhaps Inspiration Point. After the tour, you will stop for the afternoon near the base of Yosemite Falls. If you have not already picked up picnic supplies, there are many options for getting lunch in the park. You will have 3-4 hours of free time to explore the valley as you choose. You can walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, check out the visitor center, visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, stop in at the Ahwahnee Hotel, rent a cruiser bike, or hike some of the trails that originate from the valley. Although you could easily spend 3 weeks in Yosemite, the 3 hours you get on your own is enough time to understand why Yosemite is one of America's most popular national parks.

From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park Full-Day Trip

4. From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park Full-Day Trip

Spend an active, fun-filled day learning why Yosemite is one of America’s most popular national parks. Hike through the park with an experienced guide and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature on this tour. Start off by making your way east from San Francisco and heading across the Bay Bridge. Continue toward the Sierras and into the mountains. Learn about California’s rich history as you pass through some of the first settlements built during the Gold Rush. Arrive in Yosemite National Park for a 2.5-mile round-trip hike to see the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, descending 400 feet into the grove, before turning around and trekking back up. Next, cruise into the famous Yosemite Valley to take in views of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and more. Capture breathtaking photos at Tunnel View and take in the eastern expanse of Yosemite Valley. Then, enjoy 1.5 hours of free time to explore on your own. You can meander down paved paths, hike around Yosemite Falls, engage further with the park’s history at the visitor’s center, or visit the Ansel Adams Gallery. In the late afternoon, you’ll depart for San Francisco, stopping for a short break before arriving back in the city. Arrive back at your hotel in the late evening to sleep off the day’s adventures.

From San Francisco: Yosemite Tour with Giant Sequoias Hike

5. From San Francisco: Yosemite Tour with Giant Sequoias Hike

Begin your Yosemite National Park day tour by getting picked up at select San Francisco hotels. Cross the Bay Bridge and drive through the Central Valley to the town of Oakdale where you will stop for a short break. Start your day in the park at Tunnel View. Then, go to Bridalveil Falls for a quick walk to the base of the roaring waterfall. Next, proceed onto Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. After, enjoy some free time where you will get a chance to picnic at the base of Yosemite Falls, by a river, or in a granite-enclosed meadow. Chances are high that you will see rock climbers in the spring or fall, bears in the summer, and spectacular ice formations in the winter. After regrouping, head to El Capitan, the center of the rock climbing universe. Depending on the season, you may see some climbers on the rock, but they will appear smaller than ants on the 3000-foot (914 meters) rock. Enjoy a photo stop at Valley View and then head to the Tuolumne Grove to take a one-mile (1.6 km) hike to see a grove of 1500-year-old giant sequoia trees. Please note that the hike to the sequoias may not be available during the snow season. After the hike, head back to San Francisco with a restroom stop along the way.

From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

6. From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

Travel through the Great Central Valley into the Sierra Foothills where Forty-Niners panned for Gold. Follow the beautiful Merced River to the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Glaciers cut through these mountains forming spectacular granite monuments you will see throughout the park. Spend a total of 4 hours within the Yosemite National Park: 1-hour on a guided tour and 3 hours to explore on your own. There is the option of selecting a Chinese-speaking guide on certain days. Take advantage of the photo opportunities at: • El Capitan • Bridalveil Falls • Vernal Falls • Yosemite Falls • Cathedral Spires • Half Dome

Lake Tahoe: Half-Day Photographic Scenic Tour

7. Lake Tahoe: Half-Day Photographic Scenic Tour

Visit some of Lake Tahoe's most famous locations, showcasing the best of its South and West Shores. Your journey begins at a beautiful secluded beach. Shadowed by Mt. Tallac, you will learn how the famous Snowcross forecasts the forthcoming winter conditions. The area is especially famous as a wonderful wildlife sanctuary, home to numerous species of birds. Look out for bears, especially in October, as you listen to the peaceful birdsong. In late spring and summer, wildflowers carpet the meadows of Taylor Creek. In October you will see the Kokanee Salmon run - when around 80,000 salmon start their journey to spawn. Pause at some local stores for snacks and beverages before moving on to Emerald Bay. One of the most photographed locations in North America, beautiful waterfalls await as you explore the glacier. The carved masterpiece can be seen from various perspectives. The tour offers myriad photo opportunities throughout. As the tour guides show you how to take optimal photographs, they will also capture magical shots to process and later deliver to you.

San Jose: Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Trip

8. San Jose: Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Trip

Towering granite cliffs and giant sequoias headline this full-day Yosemite tour from San Jose. Expert guides will make sure you don’t miss the history, geology, wildflowers, and wildlife, that have made this glacier-carved valley the jewel of America’s national park system. Your Yosemite Giant Sequoia Tour from San Jose begins with pickup from your hotel, then heads east crossing through California’s fertile San Joaquin (aka Central) Valley and into the craggy Sierra Nevada mountains. This is the only Yosemite Valley tour where you will also experience the solitude of the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias, the largest living things on earth. You’ll reconsider your place in the world, 2,000-year-old trees can make people do that. Your heart (and camera) will be racing as you enter Yosemite Valley, enjoying stops at Inspiration Point and El Capitan Meadow. You will stop for moments at Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Falls, with plenty of time allocated to "take some selfies". Yosemite is open year-round, and if you visit in the winter months, you can picture Yosemite Valley covered in soft white snow, with animal footprints scattered about in the meadows and the snow-capped Half Dome casting its long shadow.

South Lake Tahoe: Happy Hour Cruise

9. South Lake Tahoe: Happy Hour Cruise

Begin at South Lake Tahoe and embark on a 2-hour happy hour cruise. Experience a happy hour like no other on board the Tahoe Bleu Wave as it cruises on the gorgeous Lake Tahoe water. Enjoy your afternoon as you munch on delicious snacks and sip on signature drinks. Take in the scenic beauty across the lake to the pristine Emerald Bay, known as one of the top ten most photographed places in the world. Admire the mountains in the backdrop with 360-degree panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. Navigate the beautiful waters with your captain who will give a personal narration of the facts and figures of this lake. You’ll even get the chance to see a variety of wildlife such as the bald eagle, black bears, and wild geese.

Lake Tahoe: Self-Guided Driving Tour

10. Lake Tahoe: Self-Guided Driving Tour

Explore your way on this self-guided driving tour of Lake Tahoe. See the entire lake and all the best vistas, hikes, and swimming spots using an app that functions as a guide, audio tour, and map all in one. Enjoy a tour by local guides, creative writers, and professional voice artists. Begin your tour in Stateline on the southern shore. From there, take a clockwise loop around the lake. While driving, learn about the heated debate between California and Nevada over who technically owns the lake. Visit the summer home of a man who insisted people called his cabin the Vatican. Then, see a few more impressive homes along the shore, including some inspired by Viking longhouses. Next, visit Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe’s crown jewel. This bay offers stunning views of the water and the mountains beyond, as well as swimming, kayaking, scuba diving, and any other water activities you could want. If you’re in the mood for a waterfall, stop by the Eagle Falls trailhead to see the only waterfall that flows into the lake. Hear the spooky tale of how Lake Tahoe’s only island, Fannette, is supposedly haunted. As you continue, learn about the Washoe tribe who lived here long before any European explorers put it on a map. Next up, see Meeks Bay, a perfect white sand beach to catch some sun. Get the scoop on a presidential visit to the lake, famous residents who occupy the houses along the shore, and learn about the lake’s origins. Pay a visit to Carnelian Bay, where boat racing used to be a big deal in the '30s and '40s. Then, say hello to Kings Beach on the north shore, a perfect picnic spot with views that will make you feel like a royal yourself. Pass by the Cal Neva Casino next, which straddles the border between California and Nevada and was once owned by Frank Sinatra. See more stunning estates along the way. Then, learn about some of the area’s wildlife. Visit the Secret Cove, a perfect spot for those looking for some secluded serenity. Nearing the end of the tour, visit a 300-foot-high vista point for perfect photo opportunities. Conclude your tour by Cave Rock, a remnant of the lake’s most ancient history.

Frequently asked questions about Sierra Nevada, California

What top attractions are a must-see in Sierra Nevada, California?

Other Sightseeing Options in Sierra Nevada, California

Want to discover all there is to do in Sierra Nevada, California? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Sierra Nevada, California

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 1,349 reviews

Our tour guide Joseph was excellent, giving us information on the places we drove through as well as Yosemite. Mai our driver was also good, stopping at several view points. The views were amazing and it was well worth the time spent travelling. We were picked up and dropped off at our expected times. Only disappointment was the limited amount of water flowing over the waterfalls due to visiting in October, I would recommend travelling in Spring. Didn't see any bears although they are in the area we visited. Wear walking shoes to take full advantage of the time there. The restaurant at Yosemite was cash less so make sure you take a credit card.

The crew was friendly, attentive, and helpful. The dialogue provided by the captain on the sites we were approaching and the history of certain areas was perfect. I had a wonderful time.

Was an awesome day getting to see Yosemite. Rob was a great tour guide and was very knowledgeable and passionate about Yosemite and San Francisco.

Roman was awesome. An informative guide with top notch German humor

Our Guide was excellent very knowledgeable Awesome experience