Your only real options are less than an hour outside the park (gold country). After that it's an additional 3 hours of driving through the San Joaquin Valley, which is mostly agricultural and ranch land.
Is it only us Californians that don't see 4 hours as a long drive? ;)
If you leave Yosemite at 8 am you'll be in SF for lunch and have the whole afternoon for sightseeing. Unless you are willing to detour off the direct path for other sights and thus increasing your overall drive, you might simply want to take the direct route.
Another thought is how about a little detour to the wineries in the Livermore area?
Four hours sounds like an easy drive, but I'm a native Californian.
MrsMush ~ what kind of things do you enjoy? Do you have kids with you, or is the group just adults? Taking a walk through a big US grocery store is fun for some foreign visitors. How about a visit to the Hershey Chocolate Visitor Center (tours no longer offered) in Oakdale? Your four hour drive will become much longer if you add in a few stops/detours.
I drove from SF to Yosemite a few weeks ago, and I too was concerned about the "long" drives of 4-5 hours, especially as I had no-one to share the driving with.
However, I found the driving much easier than equivalent distances in the UK - maybe it was having a big new car with cruise control, maybe it was the wide open roads, maybe it was that even the simplest things are interesting and novel compared to another drive up the M6!!
I decided not to take the "usual" route from SF, but instead we went via Modesto and Coulterville.
In Modesto we stopped at the A&W Root Beer Drive-in - not really worth a detour but fun if you're passing by. It is a small fast-food chain where you can park up and get the waitresses to bring you your burger on rollerskates. Inside they had a jukebox playing doo-wop and old 1950's cars in the parking lot.
I loved the drive onwards from Modesto - mile after mile of empty roads curving through the golden plains.
Coulterville is a tiny and really cute Gold Rush era town - we were going to stop at the Hotel Jeffery for a drink in the Magnolia Saloon, but we were pushed for time. However, this is a charming place. From here it is upwards and onwards and lovely driving up into the forests.
A hidden gem, which will be about 2 hours outside the valley on Highway 120, a few minutes east of Oakdale, is Knights Ferry, a tiny town along the Stanislaus River. It has a riverside park with a true historic covered bridge. Get a soda and sandwiches in Oakdale and then make a picnic of it as you stretch your legs.
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