There are so many wonderful road trips from San Francisco you can do with the city as a base to explore the fantastic destinations and places of interests within a short drive from the city. If your interest is in wine country, gorgeous coastal landscape or unique and cool towns, you’ll enjoy these 10 best road trips from San Francisco. Hopefully this will inspire you to spend a day or two outside of the city and explore these fun road trips from San Francisco or do these as a day trip from the city.
Top 10 San Francisco day trips
1. Monterey and Carmel
The Central Coastal area is full of fun and stunning landscape, beautiful little towns and the coastal cities of Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove. This is an easy trip from San Francisco that you can do in one day, but I would recommend staying a few days to enjoy all the wonderful attractions and activities visiting this beautiful region. You can visit the historic Monterey Fisherman’s wharf area, Cannery row, Carmel by the Sea and even the beautiful 17 mile drive around the coastal areas of the city. There’s a lot to pack in a quick day trip, but it’s easy enough to decide to stay and extend your trip for a nice getaway to explore more areas in this central coastal region.
For more inspiration on visiting, check out my recent Monterey post here, or if your traveling with a dog check out this dog friendly Carmel guide for more details visiting the area. Also, if you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews here for current rates and more details or availability.
2. Explore wine country at Napa Valley
Napa, well known for all the remarkable wines and prestige wineries along Highway 29 and the various areas around the valley is a magnet for wine and foodie lovers from around the world. Outside of exploring some of the worlds most famous wineries you can also visit the colorful communities of St. Helena, Napa, Calistoga and Yountville along with visiting some gorgeous state parks, indulge in mineral springs or go shopping around popular shopping venues. This is a very popular road trip from San Francisco that you can easily do in one day or stay overnight if you want to visit more wineries and enjoy a stay in wine country.
For more inspiration on what to do in Napa, check out this recent Napa post here about a weekend getaway to the area. Also, if you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews and current rates for more details and an availability.
3. Short day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore
A very easy day trip from San Francisco is to drive up 101 highway and cut west to Highway one to the Point Reyes National Seashore. This scenic drive passes through rolling grassy hills, placid lakes and farms and then into the rugged terrain of the national park. Take some time to check out the visitors center before you head out on a healthy hike or see some of the popular attractions in the park area including the beautiful estero area, the sand dunes and beaches or the gorgeous landscape surrounding the light house.
Maybe you might be inspired to take this easy drive here to Drakes bay and the ocean from the visitors center and covering different environments from forested to sunny meadow areas and then to the stunning coastlines all the way to the tip where the lighthouse sits. Also, if you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews and current rates here for more details and an availability.
4. Fun things to do in Sonoma county
Just a short drive from San Francisco, Sonoma county is filled with exciting cities, beautiful road trips through scenic areas, wine country and exploring hidden areas off the tourist map. Sonoma county is one of those San Francisco getaways that you can take more than a few days to explore or visit on an ongoing basis.
Sonoma county offers everything from ocean and gorgeous coastal communities, redwood forests to exploring wine country like the Dry Creek area with gorgeous vineyards and delicious wine tasting. Check out more of what to do in Sonoma county here for more details and imagery and visiting the trendy spots at Sonoma City and Healdsburg.
Also, if you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews and current rates here for more details and an availability.
5. Check out the beautiful San Juan Bautista
San Juan Bautista is one of the prettiest missions to visit on a road trip from San Francisco and also visiting Monterey or Carmel in the Central California. The mission sits next to the old historic district which is also fun to explore, but the main square of the mission and mission grounds are a real tribute to the missionary layout and lifestyle that is well-preserved and presented in your visit to this beautiful mission and area.
If you want to check more images and details of visiting the mission, check out the San Juan Bautista post here for updates. If you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews and current rates here for more details and an availability.
6. Cheese trail around Marin to Sonoma county
The beautiful agricultural landscape around Marin to Sonoma is a fantastic road trip to explore the culinary cheese trail that is a wonderful way to experience and taste the region. You can do your own DIY tour and visit many sweet villages and communities along the way in both these counties that keep the agricultural heritage and artisanal food produced locally for visitors to experience.
Check out this post on the Northern California Cheese trail here for more details and images.
7. 4th Street area of Berkeley
The dilapidated section of Berkeley’s railroad area has been transformed to a hip and funky area mostly along 4th and 5th street with trendy galleries, stores, markets and cafes worth exploring. This gentrified area is now a cool area to shop and hang out with late night spots for dining, beer pubs and tasting rooms, some cool bars and even a sake manufacturing plant and tasting room.
Check out the details and more images of 4th Street here for more information on visiting the area.
8. Visiting Russian colony at Fort Ross
Along with Spain’s California expansion to Alta California up to Sonoma, Russia was also expanding from the fur trade from Alaska on down to Northern California and made Fort Ross in Sonoma one of its largest trading areas with natives and some Spaniards that were open to trading various goods in exchange. The drive up the coast or along the Russian River to Fort Ross is stunning and almost unspoiled landscape that maintains its agricultural presence.
I would recommend spending a few days exploring this gorgeous area to enjoy the Sonoma coastal areas. Check out this current post about visiting Fort Ross and its history here for more details. If you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews and current rates here for more details and an availability.
9. Hiking around Pinnacles National Park
Most visitors to San Francisco and Northern California have never heard of Pinnacles National Park and it truly is one of the hidden gems in the park system. Located in central California about a two hour drive south of the city, the park is not very busy and worth a visit especially if you want to see how California looks and feels like the past and even up to present day almost untouched.
Check out the gorgeous landscapes and a fantastic hike to see a beautiful section of Pinnacles here for more images and inspiration to visiting this amazing national park. If you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews here and current rates here for more details and an availability.
10. Yosemite National Park
A doable day trip from San Francisco but better if you can stay a few days, Yosemite is definitely one of the jewels of the National parks. With everything within an easy drive within Yosemite canyon, you can view the magnificent iconic sites of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point along with the many other impressive attractions around the historic area. But it’s easy enough to just take the regular shuttles to visit many of these monuments and do some short or longer hikes in the area or to other places of interest.
You can check out more details of visiting the main Yosemite attractions here, including a visit to the historic Awhanee hotel or a hike and sunset viewing up at Glacier Point here. For those with extra time, the visit to nearby Hetch Hetchy dam here is also impressive with its historic connection to Yosemite National Park.
If you are considering staying overnight or a few days to explore the area, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews here and current rates here for more details and an availability.
Where to stay in San Francisco as your base
The city is a great base to take some day trips close to the city, here are some popular hotels with great reviews from Tripadviser and details on updated prices and availability.
Loews Regency San Francisco – A real luxury experience with amazing views, spectacular service and easy walking location in the downtown district.
The Palace Hotel – an elegant hotel with classic features and history in the city, located downtown on Market street with exceptional service.
Omni Hotel – centrally located and walking distance to many attractions, this classic hotel is well priced, has good service, well appointed rooms and elegant details
If you are staying in San Franciso as a base to explore the region, check out these Trip Advisor hotel reviews here and current rates here for more details and an availability.
Car rental for your day trips from San Francisco
If you plan on driving and doing some of these road trips from San Francisco, check out these car rental agencies below to give you an idea about prices and availability when you visit the area.
Hertz car rentals – check out their current rates here for their calendar and availability
Expedia – check out the best car rental rates here for your day trips from San Francisco
Cheapair.com – check out their best car rental prices here for availability and rates.
Don’t want to drive on your own, try these popular tours instead
For those that don’t want to drive, check out some of these popular tours of the attractions and monuments mentioned above.
Monterey to Carmel day tour – Pacific coastal tour of the area to see the highlights of Monterey and Carmel by the Sea on this full day trip from San Francisco
Yosemite day tour – Travel to the famous Yosemite valley to see the main attractions, monuments and other scenic highlights to this spectacular day tour of the national park.
Napa/Sonoma wine country tour – check out this spectacular wine tour to two of the best wine counties and sampling some
Two day tour through Muir woods and wine country – a visit to spectacular redwoods at Muir woods and visit to Sonoma and Napa wineries and tastings with an overnight stay.
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