17 Day Trips from San Francisco

This post provides information about the most popular day trips from San Francisco Bay Area, Yosemite National Park, Muir Woods National Monument, Silicon Valley, Napa Valley, and Sonoma Valley. 

 

 


Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a beautiful park spanning 747,956 acres and 800 miles of hiking trails just 3.5 hours from San Francisco.

Famed for its granite cliffs and giant sequoias, Yosemite also boasts the 5 highest waterfalls in North America.

In addition to hiking, visitors can also opt to go horseback riding, rock climbing, and skiing and so much more. Read our post on things to do in Yosemite

 

 

Though there is an Amtrak station somewhat near Yosemite, there are no trains that travel directly into the park.

Those looking for easy transportation must either drive there on their own or go with one of the many reputable tour companies providing day trips from San Francisco and Yosemite. 


Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is 560 acres of stunning forest located less than an hour north of San Francisco. 

Like at Yosemite National Park, Muir Woods is also home to the famed giant sequoias that populate much of Northern

California. Many of these trees are more than 200 (60 m) feet tall, 10 feet (3 m) wide, and over 600 years old.
 


 
Muir Woods is a great alternative for those who don’t want to make the long drive to Yosemite.

Though the number of visitors can sometimes be overwhelming, Muir Woods remains an oasis just outside of the city.

You can drive there on your own, but note that parking is limited. There is, however, a shuttle to Muir Woods from Sausalito (just across the bay from San Francisco) that you can take instead.

There are several different companies that offer tours from San Francisco to Muir Woods National Monument.

To learn more about what each company has to offer in terms of price, itinerary, and reputation, check out the following post: Reviews of the Best Muir Woods Tours


Silicon Valley

A trip through Silicon Valley is, for many, one of the best day trips to take from San Francisco.

Silicon Valley contains an incredible number of companies that made amazing innovations in the region that have completely changed the world. 

 

 

This post is about taking a tour of Silicon Valley, either a self-guided or a much more immersive guided experience. 

Silicon Valley contains an incredible number of companies that made amazing innovations in the region that have completely changed the world.


Napa Valley Wine Tours

In addition to its giant redwoods, Northern California is also famed for its incredible wineries.

Wine country spans a vast area around San Francisco, including both Napa and Sonoma Valley.

There are dozens of wineries in Napa, each offering its own unique flavors and history. 

 

 

Guests interested in visiting Napa can either do so on their own or with a group or private tour company.

The latter 2 options are often preferable for those hoping to make the most of their time at each winery, as a designated driver is otherwise required.

There are several different companies offering both group and private tours of the area.

To learn more about each, read our post comparing all of the best Napa tour companies: Reviews of the Best Napa Valley Wine Tours.


Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley is another famous wine region located very near to San Francisco.

Many visitors opt to spend at least one day in Sonoma or Napa to enjoy the famous wines of the area.

Like Napa, there are dozens of wineries in Sonoma, each offering its own unique flavors and history. 

 

 

Guests interested in visiting Sonoma can either do so on their own or with a group or private tour company.

The latter 2 options are often preferable for those hoping to make the most of their time at each winery, as a designated driver is otherwise required.

There are several different companies offering both group and private tours of the area.

To learn more about each, read our post comparing all of the best Sonoma tour companies. Reviews of the Best Sonoma Valley Wine Tours


Alcatraz Island

If you’ve ever wanted to visit this historic landmark, there are tours offered daily which include transportation to the island. 

In addition to their trips during the day, they also offer night tours which focus more on the creepy and mysterious side of Alcatraz.

 

 

It’s worth noting that this activity can sell out for months at a time, so you may want to consider purchasing your tickets well in advance.

Check our post covering Alcatraz tours for more details.


Whale Watching

San Francisco Bay is often an excellent spot to see whales in their natural habitat, and there are a lot of cruise companies that offer whale watching outings in the Bay Area.

 

 

Although these companies don’t typically guarantee that you will see a whale, they do know all the best places to look, and your chances will absolutely increase by going whale watching with a professional cruise company.

Read our post about Whale Watching in San Francisco to find the best service and pick the best time of year for this activity.


Sausalito

There are a lot of fun things to see and do in Sausalito, and given its close proximity to the Bay Area, it doesn’t even take long to get there and spend your day having fun.

 

 

Whether you want to enjoy excellent views at multiple locations, visit a museum, or enjoy some excellent food, this is a great place to relax with the family.

For more details on how to get here and fun activities to consider, check our post about things to do in Sausalito.


Carmel by the Sea

If you’re really interested in getting away from San Francisco, consider a trip to Carmel by the Sea for an excellent beach community experience just South of the city.

 

 

In addition to the great beaches, this is also a great place for bird watching and scuba diving, so there’s plenty to do while you’re here.

Check this list of Carmel by the Sea day trips to find an outing that fits your schedule.


Angel Island

Located directly behind Alcatraz, Angel Island is one of the more beautiful natural locations to spend a day in the Bay Area, and since they have readily available ferry access, it’s not difficult to enjoy a day trip here.

 

 

In addition to open-air trams that travel around the island, there are also several great places to camp and excellent views of the San Francisco skyline.

Take a look at this list of Angel Island day trips to find one which you will enjoy.


Redwood National Park

This park is pretty far North of San Francisco, but it’s worth visiting at least once, especially if you want to see some of the largest and oldest trees in the world.

 

 

If you’re interested in getting back to nature and seeing some of the most beautiful forests in California, consider a day trip to the Redwood National Park.


Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park 

This is another excellent and historic location you might want to visit if you’re interested in seeing some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world.

 

 

You may also want to consider a day trip if you’re interested in taking a hike or perhaps even camping in the area.

Check this list of Sequoia National Park day trips to find one that fits your schedule.


Monterey

Located right alongside the Monterey Bay, this beautiful little community is home to a historic wharf, an excellent aquarium, and a few beautiful beaches.

 

 

In addition to these attractions, Monterey is very close to Carmel by the Sea, which means you could easily visit both on the same day!

Take a look at this list of Monterey day trips to find a service you’ll enjoy.


Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

You’ll find this beautiful natural site just South of San Francisco along the Cabrillo Highway, which means that as you drive down, you’ll enjoy excellent views of the ocean as well.

 

 

In addition to the nature reserve where you can enjoy a nice hike and wildlife viewing, this is also the site of Pescadero State Beach, a beautiful place to relax and get away from it all. 

There isn’t much else to do in the area, so we recommend this spot specifically for relaxation. Check this post on the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve for more details.


Big Sur

If you’re planning to make a trip to Carmel by the Sea, it’s worth noting that Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is located just south of this community, and there is a lot of natural beauty to enjoy in the area.

 

 

All you have to do is take State Route 1 South from Carmel by the Sea and you’ll see one of the most beautiful areas in California, with plenty of hiking, camping, and more to enjoy.


Pfeiffer Beach

Also located in the area of Big Sur, this small and quiet beach is an excellent location to enjoy a nice experience surrounded by natural splendor.

 

 

Pfeiffer Beach is known for its purple sand and large rocks, which ensure a completely different kind of beach-going experience. 

This would be a great location for a day out or even just some great photo opportunities!


Santa Cruz

This getaway is located just about an hour south of San Francisco, and it’s a great location to take the family for a summer vacation or day trip.

 

 

One of its main attractions is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which includes vintage rides like a carousel and even a roller coaster. There are also a lot of great places to eat and shop in the area!


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