15 Best San Francisco Road Trips: Weekend Getaways & Day Trips

San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in the states. You’ve got the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz island, and that’s just to name a few tourist spots and attractions.

So, where can you head in the area for the best weekend getaways, day trips and road trips? That’s what this guide is all about. If you’re looking for somewhere different to visit, or a fun day trip that all can enjoy, then you’re in the right place. We’ve got 15 best San Fran road trips for you to choose from!

Yosemite National Park

One of the most beautiful places to visit when in the San Francisco area has gotta be Yosemite Park. If you’re ever in distance to Yosemite, then it would be a shame to miss it. Yosemite National Park is an iconic natural beauty in itself, filled to the brim with a dense forest of giant sequoia trees. 

You’ve also got the stunning lakes and breathtaking Sierra Nevada mountains, which is what makes the Yosemite National Park one of the most amazing places to visit to get a feel for nature, and the American wilderness. 

Yosemite actually spans about 3,027 km2, with exceptional views, waterfalls, lakes, cliffs and an abundance of wildlife. If you have an interest in photography, you’ll take some of the most incredible photographs of your life in this location. 

Yosemite is about a 4 hour drive from San Francisco, so it’s possible to do a day trip, but if you’re planning on doing some hiking, then it could be better to go for a weekend getaway instead.

Big Sur

One of the very popular destinations near San Francisco is Big Sur. It’s only about 2 and a half hours away, so a short road trip or day trip from the city. This location is very close to Hearst Castle and Carmel-By-Sea, and offers a 90 mile stretch of coastline for you to enjoy. 

You can walk along the Pacific, hike amongst the wildlife, or photograph the stunning and picturesque scenery of Big Sur. It comes as no surprise that Big Sur served as some of the inspiration for Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller, as this place is a divine oasis of natural beauty. 

You’ll love hiking amongst the California coastline, photographing the local wildlife, or welcoming the sea breeze on your face. There’s Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to try, Point Lobos Natural Reserve, Ragged Point, Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, Keyhole Rock and so much more to see at Big Sur, that makes this a great getaway from San Francisco. 

Carmel-By-Sea

If you feel like heading to a beautiful seaside town, then you’ll want to try Carmel-By-Sea. If you’re looking for a calming day trip from San Francisco, then this place is the one for you! It’s almost like a dream, with soft, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and crashing waves. 

You’ll adore the sunsets here, and taking a stroll across the sands with someone special. Carmel-By-Sea is best summarized as a slow, beachy town with a lot of charm, just off the Monterey Peninsula. 

What we love about this California beach town is that it is stunningly designed to seem like a European style village, with lots of art galleries, shops, stores, restaurants, and just so much to see and do. You’ll love a day trip or a weekend getaway at Carmel-By-Sea.

Alcatraz Island 

Alcatraz island is a must see when in San Francisco. It’s probably one of the most notorious and iconic prisons, becoming a part of history and popular culture, too. Alcatraz is not that far from the mainland of San Francisco, sitting just 2km off the shore, but it’s well worth a visit or a day trip. 

Alcatraz prison has been known to house some of the most infamous prisoners including the likes of Al Capone and Robert Stroud. You can take a boat to the island, or have a tour inside of the prison itself. 

The tours offer an insight into prison life and the conditions of the interior, with tales, stories and fun facts about the people who once lived and worked there. It’s an exciting day trip, and one that you’ll definitely remember. 

The bonus for visiting Alcatraz is that you get amazing views of the cityscape of San Francisco, which makes for some incredible shots of your visit. 

Muir Woods National Monument

If you need some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life in the heart of San Francisco, then you’ll love visiting the Muir Woods National Monument. With amazing redwood trees, creeks and groves, this place can truly help you reconnect with nature. 

There’s countless trails through the woodland, so that you can be surrounded by greenery, forestry and nature at all times. You can try the Redwood Creek, Bohemian Grove, or Cathedral Grove to get a taste of the wildlife here.

Alternatively, you can head up to the Dipsea trail or Ben Johnson trail, and once you reach the top, you’ll be greeted with exceptional views of the Pacific Ocean. This day trip is the perfect place to stop, and take a breath, or escape the humdrums of everyday life.

Sonoma Valley 

Sonoma Valley is the perfect location for a quiet, cozy weekend getaway. You can make use of the local farmer’s markets, purchasing handmade crafts, local produce and wines, or enjoy the shops and colonial style buildings of the city plaza with friends.

You’ve also got wineries and a great selection of fine wines to sample and enjoy. It’s not quite as rife with wineries as Napa Valley, but there’s lots to enjoy and do in Sonoma Valley if you want a quiet weekend getaway to reset and unwind.

Napa Valley

Are you a wine lover? Then you’ll have already heard of the countless vineyards, restaurants, wineries and stunning views of Napa Valley. Napa Valley is the place to be for sommeliers, with over 400 wineries to visit and taste from.

At some of the Napa Valley wineries, you’ll learn how the wines are made from picking the grapes from the vine, to having the bottle filling up your glass. You will be able to taste some of the finest wines, and enjoy them with food as they were intended.

Napa Valley is the perfect getaway for couples or adults hoping to enjoy the scenery and the flavors of their favorite beverage. It’s only about an hour away, so you can either enjoy a relaxed weekend, or head up to the wineries for a tour and a day trip! 

North Beach & Little Italy

What we know about San Francisco is that the place is filled with restaurants and different types of cuisine. If you head down to North Beach in the northeast neighborhood of San Fran, you’ll find places like Little Italy, Chinatown and so much more.

Here, you can sample the beautiful cuisines of restaurants and cafes, with some of the most authentic Italian food you’ll find in the states. 

Monterey 

Monterey is another perfect getaway location on the California coastline. It’s only about 2 hours from San Francisco, so great for a weekend getaway. If you love a day by the beach, dipping your toes into the water and trailing along the sand, then Monterey is a must see for you. It’s a great day trip from San Francisco, and is one of the most beloved coastal areas in California. 

There is a 17 mile drive that curves along the coast winding around stately homes, landscapes and offering sublime views for those travelling along. The place is also teeming with wildlife, such as seals and otters, making it perfect for enjoying the outdoors, or you can simply sit back and relax and have a long weekend by the sea. 

Angel Island

Angel Island has long been described as a hidden gem in the Bay Area. The island was once a cattle ranch, and has even been a part of military history during the Civil War. It’s a great day trip from San Francisco if you’re looking for a little bit of American history, mixed with fun and adventure. 

You will also have exceptional views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and San Francisco itself. All you need to do is ride the ferry from San Francisco, and enjoy breathtaking 360 degree views of the bay area. You can ride the open air trams and learn about the Civil War buildings, or take part in a fun Segway guided tour. 

For fun, and the most beautiful views on the bay, you’ll want to discover Angel Island. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Looking for somewhere to explore and adventure all day? You’ll love Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. This place is the optimal location for exploring a forest, with wildflowers, wildlife and lots of hiking spots to enjoy. If you’re not an avid hiker, then you can have a guided walk or even head out on the trails solo. 

Lake Tahoe

If you’re looking for somewhere to unwind, enjoy water activities and relax with a loved one, then you cannot go wrong with a trip to Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is a little bit of a drive, and is about 3 and a half hours from San Francisco, but it’s oh so worth it. The lake simply glistens and sparkles in the sun, and is just so inviting. On the water, you can swim, kayak or boat, or just relax on the sandy beach shore.

In addition, you can head out for a hike. Our favorites are the Rubicon Trail and Mt.Tallac Trail with beautiful views and stunning scenery. We also recommend that you ride the gondola at Heavenly Valley or try the sunset boat cruise. 

There’s an observation deck to really enjoy the environment, making Lake Tahoe one of the sweetest and loveliest places for couples to getaway from the busy San Francisco city. 

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz offers visitors 29 miles of sun-covered coastline, with some of the best California beaches great for swimming, surfing or playing volleyball. You can enjoy the museums, art galleries, or ride the steam trains! 

We recommend going to a beach boardwalk, enjoying the surf culture or taking in the arts and culture of the local community. It’s a classic California beach town with a vibrant, funky downtown to enjoy. 

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is kind of one of those places you have to go to or visit in your lifetime. It’s known as the startup haven, as so many major software companies, internet companies and tech giants have found their feet there. 

It’s called Silicon Valley due to the vast amounts of companies making semiconductors and computer products in the area. The place is a hub of technological advancement, and it got its name due to the silicon used to make computers. As a result, it’s one of the wealthiest and upmarket regions in the world, with amazing real estate, shopping opportunities and lots of money to be spent there! 

You can also head to the Computer History Museum to see how much technology has advanced in just the last hundred years to where we are today. You can also find the Google Campus here, with an amazing gift shop, statues and even self-driving cars. It’s a great place to visit if you’re a techie or Google enthusiast!  

The best part is that Silicon Valley is only about 40 minutes away from San Francisco, so you can go there for a unique day out experience, and if you want to try something new and exciting. 

Bolinas

Bolinas is only about an hour away, being just 30 miles away from downtown, and a great spot for swimming, and exploring the Bolinas Lagoon. There’s wonderful trails and roads to walk along, for a breath of fresh air.