When you’ve had enough of San Francisco’s city scene, why not venture outside of the Bay Area for a day? With so many day trips from San Francisco to choose from, you can embark on an outdoor adventure through dense forests or kick back and relax with a glass of vino in wine country. Your choice!
Consider adding any of these day trip ideas to your San Francisco vacation.
1. Muir Woods National Monument
Distance from San Francisco: 35 minutes, 16.4 miles.
If you’re searching for day trips from San Francisco that aren’t too far away, spend your day at Muir Woods National Monument. Just 35 minutes outside of the downtown area, Muir Woods is home to the towering Redwood trees and six miles of fascinating hiking trails.
It’s easy to spend a great deal of your day exploring the National Park’s trails, natural areas, and learning about its history. To maximize your day and time inside the park, consider booking a Muir Woods tour.
Please also note, parking reservations are required due to the popularity of the park. An entrance fee is also required.
2. Yosemite National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours and 4 minutes, 167 miles.
For a full day in the wild, make the 3-hour trek east to Yosemite National Park. This iconic National Park is on almost everyone’s travel bucket list and for a good reason!
Here you’ll have the opportunity to go hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and so much more. Plus, the park offers auto tours for those looking for a quick overview of the area. Of course, since the park is known for its jaw-dropping waterfalls, you’ll want to make it a point to see at least one during your visit. You’ll also have the chance to see the giant Sequoia trees here.
Since you’ll have limited time at the park, it’s in your best interest to plan ahead. Have a list of trails or activities you’d like to do prior to your trip. In addition, parking passes and entrance fees are also required by the park.
3. Sausalito, California
Distance from San Francisco: 23 minutes, 10.6 miles.
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, you’ll find Sausalito, California. The tiny seaside town is a perfect escape from San Francisco’s bustling downtown area.
In addition to exploring the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, visitors can take advantage of ample things to do in Sausalito including:
- Strolling along the Boardwalk
- Fort Baker National Park
- Visit the Marine Mammal Center
- Learn more at the Sausalito Visitors Center and Historical Society
The quaint town exudes charm with houseboats lining the docks and historic architecture throughout.
4. Big Sur, California
Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours and 53 minutes, 146 miles.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, a trip to Big Sur is for you. This stretch of California Coast is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Santa Lucia Mountains, leading to endless outdoor adventures for visitors. You’ll travel the iconic State Route 1 to access Big Sur, so be prepared for the cliffs, winding turns, and incredible coastline views.
Among the top things to do in Big Sur include going to the beach, hiking through the mountains, surfing, and driving over the Bixby Bridge. While in Big Sur, also make time to visit the Point Lobos Natural Reserve. It’s known as the most beautiful state park in California!
5. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 4 hours and 7 minutes, 262 miles.
With a bit of advanced planning, an early morning, and a giant mug of coffee, you can conquer one of the most breathtaking day trips from San Francisco to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
Within both parks, you’ll find gorgeous campgrounds, caves, hiking trails, flowing rivers, ample rock climbing opportunities, and so much more. In fact, you can turn your day trip into an entire weekend visit with all there is to do and see at the parks.
If you choose to do so, reserve your campsite or lodging options far in advance to guarantee you have a place to stay. Reservations fill up months ahead of time, so hurry!
6. Monterey, California
Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours, 116 miles.
Also situated along California’s coast, Monterey offers visitors a wealth of things to do and sights to see. The seaside area boasts top attractions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Carmel-by-the-Sea village, and the renowned Pebble Beach Golf Club.
In Monterey, you’ll also find Cannery Row. This area of the town is filled with tiny boutique hotels, restaurants, shops, and more. Many recall the John Steinbeck novel of the same name!
On top of shopping and strolling through the touristy areas, many travelers prefer to explore the Monterey Bay via kayak. Keep an eye out for seals and sea otters during your bayside exploration, too! Remember to leave them be and only observe.
7. Napa Valley
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour and 14 minutes, 58.8 miles.
If you know what Napa Valley is famous for (and you do), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this destination is among the most popular day trips from San Francisco. Some of the area’s top wineries include:
- William Hill Estate Winery
- Chimney Rock Winery
- Madonna Estate
- Sutter Home Winery
- Pine Ridge Vineyards
- Napa Cellars
And that list only scratches the surface!
For a behind-the-scenes look and expertly curated day in Napa Valley, reserve your spot on a wine tour. These tours bring you to some of Napa’s finest wineries and vineyards and provide an up-close and personal look at the industry, winemaking process, and beverages themselves.
8. Santa Cruz, California
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour and 25 minutes, 75.8 miles.
This coastal city is known for its picturesque beaches, boardwalk, and excellent surfing conditions. Make the quick hour and a half drive south from San Francisco to discover all that Santa Cruz has to offer!
For those traveling with visitors of all ages, Santa Cruz is one of the best day trips from San Francisco. The area has everything from outdoor adventures like hiking and mountain biking to arcade games and quaint shopping along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
Those spending the day in Santa Cruz typically prefer to hit the beach, but if you’re looking for something more interesting, check out the Roaring Camp Railroads. The 19th century steam trains bring passengers up Bear Mountain and through dense forests of Sequoias!
9. Mendocino, California
Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours and 11 minutes, 155 miles.
While most of our day trips from San Francisco have taken us south of the city, this last trip brings you approximately 3 hours north.
Known for its beaches and cliffs at Mendocino Headlands State Park, Mendocino, California is a gem you can’t pass up. While there, take advantage of the natural area and visit destinations such as Russian Gulch State Park, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, and Van Damme State Park.
The area also boasts a variety of historic sites such as the Point Cabrillo Light Station.
Go On An Adventure with 9 Quick Day Trips from San Francisco
Sometimes you need to escape your initial destination for a bit. When you want to venture outside of San Francisco’s city limits, take advantage of any of these nearby destinations!