A driving tour of California

Plan your trip backward: Reserve lodging in YosemiteNational Park first; newly available listings can pop up on thepark’s website. Next book your bedsin Lee Vining ― it’s a fun base camp for Mono Lake, but roomsfill quickly. Then nail down accommodations for the rest of yourtrip.

May weather can vary wildly, from drizzly or breezy in SanFrancisco to sunny 70s or cold thunderstorms in Yosemite. Our routecrosses four mountain passes, two of which are closed untilsnowmelt; Yosemite’s 9,945-foot Tioga Pass usually opens byMemorial Day (May 31 this year), as does the road to Glacier Point,but call the park switchboard to check (209/372-0209). To avoid theworst of the crowds in Napa Valley and Yosemite, stop theremidweek.

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INFO: CaliforniaTravel & Tourism Commission (800/462-2543). For statewideroad reports, call the Caltrans Highway Information Network(916/445-1534). San Francisco | Top Admire the views on the CoastalTrail in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (415/561-4700) onyour way to the Legion of Honor (closed Mon; 415/863-3330). Andsoak up some seafaring history at the San Francisco Maritime N.H.P.(415/447-5000). INFO: S.F. Convention & Visitors Bureau(415/391-2000) LODGING AND DINING • Argonaut Hotel Historymeets luxury on the waterfront. 252 rooms from $169. 495 JeffersonSt.; 800/790-1415 or 415/563-0800. • Hotel Bohème ANorth Beach hideaway. 15 rooms from $164. 444 Columbus Ave.;415/433-9111. • Hog Island Oyster Company It’s owned by anoyster farm, so the main course is fresh. $$; call for hours. FerryBuilding, the Embarcadero at Market St.; 415/391-7117. •Molinari Delicatessen This classic deli is noted for Chiantis andimported cheeses. Closed Sun. 373 Columbus; 415/421-2337. •Taylor’s Automatic Refresher Burgers and shakes in a sleek dinersetting. $; lunch and dinner daily. Ferry Building, the Embarcaderoat Market St.; 415/318-3413. Napa Valley | Top State 29 cutsthrough the Napa Valley; on the east side, the Silverado Trailleads to some of the valley’s oldest wineries, like Regusci Winery(707/254-0403) and one of the newest, Darioush (707/257-2345). Alsocheck the schedule at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food& the Arts (closed Tue; 707/259-1600). INFO: Napa ValleyConference and Visitors Bureau (707/226-7459) LODGING AND DINING• El Bonita Motel An art deco deal. 41 rooms from $120 (from$135 after May 21). 195 Main St., St. Helena; 800/541-3284. •Villagio Inn & Spa Tuscany comes to Napa. 112 rooms from $210.6481 Washington St., Yountville; 707/944-8877. • Cindy’sBackstreet Kitchen Chef Cindy Pawlcyn offers comfort food with atwist (wild mushroom tamales). $$; lunch and dinner daily. 1327Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707/963-1200. • Père JeantyCountry French is spiced with flavors of Italy in dishes like lapinaux olives. $$$; lunch and dinner daily. 6725 Washington St.,Yountville; 707/945-1000. Gold Country | Top California’s bestbackroad drive ― State 49 ― bisects the region. InColoma, pause at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park(530/622-3470). And don’t miss Placerville Hardware (530/622-1151)or Boeger Winery (530/622-8094). INFO: El Dorado County Chamber ofCommerce (530/621-5885) Lake Tahoe | Top Water sports heat up inmidsummer. Hiking, boating, and fishing are highlights now. D.L.Bliss State Park (530/525-7277) offers the 4 1/2-mile RubiconTrail. INFO: For North Shore lodging, contact the North Lake TahoeResort Association (888/434-1262). For South Shore, contact theLake Tahoe Visitors Authority (530/544-5050). LODGING AND DINING• Camp Richardson Resort & Marina A Tahoe classic, with ashoreside location, campsites, and cottages. 61 units (75 after Jun18) from $75. 1900 Jameson Beach Rd., South Lake Tahoe;800/544-1801, or 530/541-1801. • Marriott’s Timber Lodge atLake Tahoe Spacious and family-friendly. 137 suites from $225. 4100Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe; www.marriott.com or800/845-5279. • Fire + Ice Improvisational Grill An upscalegrill in the new Heavenly Village at Lake Tahoe. $$$; lunch anddinner daily. 4100 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe;530/542-6650. Mono Lake | Top Mark Twain called Mono Lake a”silent, sailless sea,” but its shallow waters lure flocks ofbirds. Take a hike or a canoe tour led by the Mono Lake CommitteeInformation Center & Bookstore in Lee Vining (760/647-6595).INFO: Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center(760/873-2408) LODGING AND DINING IN LEE VINING • BestWestern Lakeview Lodge A pleasant motel convenient to Mono Lake. 44rooms from $100. 30 Main St. (U.S. 395); 760/647-6543. • TheMono Inn Dinner at this 1920s gem can include a tour of the AnselAdams Gallery. $$$; open for dinner May 5-Oct 31. On U.S. 395 4miles north of Lee Vining; 760/647-6581. • Nicely’sRestaurant A local favorite for big breakfasts. $; breakfast,lunch, and dinner daily. At U.S. 395 and Fourth St.; 760/647-6477.• Tioga Gas Mart/Tioga Toomey’s Whoa Nellie Deli Lobstertaquitos at the nicest gas station we’ve ever seen. $. Off State120 at U.S. 395; 760/647-1088. Yosemite | Top Spring is a greattime to visit, when waterfalls are gushing and wildflowers areblooming. Get oriented on a narrated tour (209/372-1240). INFO: Forcampground reservations, 800/436-7275. For general information,www.nps.gov/yose or 209/372-0200. For lodging and bus-tourreservations, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite (209/372-1240 or559/252-4848). LODGING AND DINING IN/NEAR YOSEMITE • TheAhwahnee Have an elegant meal in the dining room ($$$; note theevening dress code), or stay overnight. 99 rooms and 24 cottagesfrom $371. In Yosemite Valley; www.yosemitepark.com or559/252-4848. • Apple Tree Inn A resort by the park’ssouthern gate. 53 rooms from $129 ($159 after May 29). 1110 State41, Fish Camp; 888/683-5111. • Wawona Hotel A lovelyalternative to the Ahwahnee. 104 rooms from $116. In YosemiteNational Park near the south entrance; 559/252-4848.

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