The author McKenna Mobley posing while facing the famous Half Dome in the background, one of the best day trips from San Francisco

31 Best Day Trips from San Francisco (in 2023)

If you’re on an extended trip in SF, then you definitely want to consider taking day trips from San Francisco. The Bay Area has something for everyone, including beautiful national parks, sleepy coastal towns, and alpine excursions.

In this article, I picked out the best day trips from San Francisco to help make your San Francisco trip planning sail smoother.

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31 Best San Francisco Day Trips


A charming, sleepy bay-side town that’s only a hop, skip, and a jump away from SF.

A close-up look at the flowers with the small town in the background across the water

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 25 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Sausalito Website | 👉 Top Suggested Sausalito Tour

Sausalito is a Bay Area gem right outside of San Francisco. Tourists on a trip to the big city can take public transportation, rideshare, drive, or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to reach the Mediterranean-style seaside town.

Sausalito and San Francisco couldn’t resemble each other any less, although they are only minutes away from each other. Sausalito is one of the most romantic destinations in California and is a great way to experience some peace and quiet outside of the big city.

Shop from a local boutique, rent a kayak or boat to cruise around the bay, or sit waterfront on a bench eating a homemade ice cream cone during your fun day trip from SF.

Muir Woods National Monument

Hike through old-growth redwood groves on the outskirts of the big city.

Scenic view of the tall trees around the walking trails inside Muir Woods National Monument

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 35 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Muir Woods National Monument Website | 👉 Top Suggested Muir Woods National Monument Tour

You can view giant redwood trees only minutes outside of San Francisco. Muir Woods National Monument is a forested sanctuary that offers San Francisco visitors a unique Bay Area experience.

This is one of the best things to do in Northern California for a change of pace from the metropolitan city. The main activity to do at the Muir Woods National Monument is day hiking.

Cathedral and Bohemian Groves are easy interpretive trails, and the Ben Johnson and Dipsea paths offer some of the best views of the old-growth redwood treetops and the distant Pacific Ocean in the area.

🚗 How to Get There: Head toward Van Ness Ave then take the US-101 for 10 miles. Take exit 445B then continue on the CA-1N to Muir Woods Road. 

Angel Island State Park

Take a ferry to a Bay Area island with hilly hiking trails and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hikers admiring the overlooking view on the trail on Angel Island
Hiking Mt. Livermore on the island

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 10 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Angel Island State Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Angel Island State Park Tour

Take a short ferry ride from the mainland to arrive at this hiking and camping oasis. Angel Island State Park is one of the top places to go camping in California so don’t forget to bring your tent, sleeping bag, and warm pajamas.

Angel Island is also a great place to have a picnic with 360-degree views of the whole bay, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. In addition, there are multiple day-use trails throughout the hills of the state park. 

If you don’t feel like lugging all your food over from the mainland, there are also two eateries on the island. Don’t forget to check out the live music at Cove Cantina.


A coastal town with the best seafood in Northern California.

Aerial view of the rock formations and waterfalls near the coastline
A private Monterey cove

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Monterey Website | 👉 Top Suggested Monterey Tour

One of the top tourist destinations along the coast, Monterey is only a short commute from San Francisco but its beauty may entice you to stay the night. Try the delicious seafood in this coastal fishing town for the best Monterey experience.

This is also a popular destination if you’re traveling with children. The famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the top activities in the area and is a must-see with the whole family.

Enjoy your trip to this waterfront destination at a slow pace. Photograph the rugged coastline, hike in the coastal Santa Lucia Mountains or shop from the downtown boutiques of this colorful coastal town.

👉 Pro Tip: The Monterey Bay Aquarium is $49.95 for adults, $39.95 for children, and free for children under 4.

Yosemite National Park

One of the top national parks in the state with hundreds of alpine trails to choose from.

The author McKenna Mobley posing while facing the famous Half Dome in the background
Me, posing with the famous Half Dome in the background

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Yosemite National Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Yosemite National Park Tour

Yosemite National Park is easily one of the most famous national parks in California and is the best outdoorsy day trip from San Francisco. However, it’s not the closest day trip from the big city so I suggest camping or lodging overnight in the national park.

Yosemite National Park is a true hiking oasis. With hundreds of trails to choose from, you can hike new Yosemite hiking trails every day you’re at the park. My favorite hikes are the Mist Trail Falls hikes, North Dome, Clouds Rest, and the challenging Half Dome Cables hike.

You also don’t want to miss the best sightseeing spots in the park like Yosemite Valley and the Glacier Point lookout. If you’re planning on camping in the park, there are several campgrounds to choose from but they fill up fast. You can reserve a site up to 6 months in advance through

👉 Pro Tip: There is a large black bear population at Yosemite National Park. Be sure to keep your food in a bear box while camping at an established campground. If you have a permit to backcountry camp on a hiking trail, you will need a bear canister.


A college town with a historic spirit and many tourist-friendly activities.

Aerial view of the UC Berkeley cityscape in the early evening
A UC Berkeley evening landscape

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 25 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Berkeley Website | 👉 Top Suggested Berkeley Tour

One of the most famous college towns in California, Berkeley is only a short drive from San Francisco. There are many family-oriented things to do in Berkeley which makes it a fun day excursion.

Top activities include cruising around San Francisco Bay, admiring the art at the Berkeley Art Museum, strolling hand-in-hand with your loved ones down the Berkeley Marina, and exercising your brain at the Museum of Paleontology. 

There are also delicious eateries around town and cafes with perfectly-concocted latte art. Get in the historic spirit of Berkeley and pick up a poetry book while you relax at a cafe.

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Check out our guide to the best places to stay in Berkeley.

Half Moon Bay

Rugged cliffs meet the beach at this small beach oasis.

Landscape view of the red and green grass above Half Moon Bay

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 40 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Half Moon Bay Website | 👉 Top Suggested Half Moon Bay Tour

This small coastal city is a lesser-known Bay Area destination. Just south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is one of the most beautiful beach towns in California.

The stunning cliffside beach of Half Moon Bay resembles the rugged Irish coastline and is especially remarkable during the spring when cliff-dwelling wildflowers can be found.

The historic downtown area welcomes visitors with parks, live music, shops, galleries, eateries, and more. The Sunday Coastline Farmers Market is my favorite activity in town where you can find fresh produce and locally-made crafts.  

Redwood National Park

A top California national park with the tallest trees in the world and fun campgrounds.

A girl in winter clothes and a backpack walking around Sequoia National Park in winter season.

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 5 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Redwood National Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Redwood National Park Tour

Redwood National Park is one of the grandest parks in California and features both redwood and sequoia trees. Just north of Humboldt, CA, Redwood National Park offers a great diversity of flora and fauna and is one of the top day trips from San Francisco.

Hiking is the most popular activity in this national park. Other fun national park activities are horse riding in the backcountry, tent camping in the redwood forest, and biking among the tallest trees in the world.

There are lodges to stay in around the outskirts of the park but camping inside the park is the best option. There are many places to stay in Redwood National Park, including View Crest Lodge and Elk Meadow Cabins.

Santa Cruz

Go for a Ferris wheel ride or throw some darts at the beach boardwalk amusement park.

View of the people chilling on the sandy beach with the amusement park in the background at Santa Cruz beach
A photo I took of the amusement park from the sandy Santa Cruz beach

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Santa Cruz Website | 👉 Top Suggested Santa Cruz Tour

Santa Cruz is one of the top Northern California beach towns. The town is home to thousands of UC Santa Cruz college students and the downtown area is filled with bars and fun pastime shops.

Santa Cruz is one of the best day trips from San Francisco and is home to a fun California theme park. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk Amusement Park is a tourist favorite. Right on the sandy beach, you’ll find rides, games, and carnival food at this boardwalk soiree. 

The perfect Santa Cruz day consists of catching the sunrise at the beach then hitting the waves with your rented surfboard or bodyboard, followed by a ride on the boardwalk Ferris wheel before a delicious ice cream cone to end the perfect day. 

Napa Valley

The best spot for wine tasting in California, if not the entire U.S..

Overlooking view of the vineyard and hills from the outdoor alfresco on a wooden deck in Napa Valley

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Napa Valley Website | 👉 Top Suggested Napa Valley Tour

Welcome to wine country USA. Napa Valley is a wine lovers’ paradise. There are hundreds of wineries and vineyards in Napa, one of the most scenic destinations in California for wine tasting.

Try delicious cabernets or pinot noirs among the rolling Napa hills for an unforgettable experience right outside of San Francisco. Many visitors even opt for the fun Napa Valley Wine Train that takes guests on a 36-mile round-trip adventure throughout the valley, stopping at fun wineries along the way.

The wine-tasting excursions in Napa are exclusive to the adults in the group, but there are also family-friendly activities to do in Napa Valley. Don’t miss the top kid-friendly excursion in Napa, a hot air balloon ride over the rich vineyards and canyons of Napa Valley. 

Mount Shasta

A spiritual mountain town centered around a glaciated volcano.

Panoramic view of Mt. Shasta on a clear blue sky from a small town
The mountain towers over Shasta establishments

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 4 hours, 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Mount Shasta Website | 👉 Top Suggested Mount Shasta Tour

Mount Shasta is a day trip from San Francisco that every mountain fanatic and small-town lover needs to embark on. Known by locals as a spiritual oasis, the famous Mount Shasta stratovolcano looms over the entire city from its 14,179-foot summit.

This quaint California mountain town is nestled in the Cascade Mountain Range of Northern California close to the southern Oregon border. While hiking is the most popular activity in town, other activities include biking, camping, shopping, fishing, and grubbing at a downtown restaurant.

Besides hiking, one of my favorite things to do in Shasta is go for a swim in Lake Shasta. This lake is backdropped by the gorgeous Cascade giant and its glacier run-off water is chilling in every season. You can also kayak, paddleboard, or go for a boat ride if you don’t like being cold.

Lake Tahoe

A mountain town surrounding a huge alpine lake in the Sierra Mountains.

View of the snowy Sierra mountains from the marina in Lake Tahoe
A Tahoe marina with snowy Sierra mountains in the background

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours, 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Lake Tahoe Website | 👉 Top Suggested Lake Tahoe Tour

Lake Tahoe is one of the best lakes in California and the mountain town is one of the most inviting. This high-altitude town is an outdoor playground and many visitors are outdoor enthusiasts themselves.

The downtown area sports cabin-like shops, hipster cafes, and plenty of outdoor recreation rental equipment. The top activities to do in Lake Tahoe are mountain bike, hike, fish, swim, boat, and ski at one of the top ski resorts in CA like Heavenly Ski Resort and Palisades Tahoe.

There are many adorable cabin rentals in Lake Tahoe if you want to extend your SF day trip into a long weekend. I prefer to stay in a rental with a hot tub, like Lakeland Village, for ultimate relaxation after a full day of skiing or hiking.

Point Reyes National Seashore

A protected coastal area with many seaside attractions and photoshoot sites.

Twin waterfalls at the coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore during sunset
The falls at sunset

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | Point Reyes National Seashore Website | 👉 Top Suggested Point Reyes National Seashore Tour

Point Reyes National Seashore is a large area of protected coastline in Marin County. The 1870 lighthouse is the scenic draw to this area and is a great spot for spotting migrating whales.

There are many other fun things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore like the Alamere Falls hike. This 40-foot-tall waterfall crashes onto Wildcat Beach and is one of the most spectacular sites in the area. Be sure to get to this destination early because it can be overcrowded, especially on the weekends.

Another great spot in Point Reyes National Seashore is the Point Reyes Shipwreck. The eerie abandoned Inverness Shipwreck is a great place to take photos or simply admire the molding fishing boat. 


This adorable fairytale town is one of the most romantic places on the west coast.

View of the fountain at the courtyard of The Carmel Mission Basilica
The Carmel Mission Basilica

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Carmel-by-the-Sea Website | 👉 Top Suggested Carmel-by-the-Sea Tour

Carmel-by-the-Sea will always be a local California favorite destination. Most people who live in the golden state have either been to Carmel or it’s on their domestic travel itinerary.

Known as a fairytale cottage town, the romantic cobblestone streets invite visitors to stay a while. Carmel can be visited from San Francisco on an afternoon trip or you can stay the night in an adorable storybook rental right on Carmel Beach.

Try out the local cafes or explore the Carmel Mission Basilica, a Spanish-style historic establishment with a relaxing patio and gardens. An easy-going trip to this coastal dreamland is one of the best things to do in California.

Stinson Beach

Experience the beauty of both coastal beach and redwood forest ecosystems.

Aerial view of a cove beach surrounded by stunning red cliffs of Stinson Beach

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 50 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Stinson Beach Website | 👉 Top Suggested Stinson Beach Tour

Enjoy the stunning red cliffs of Stinson Beach, a Marin County gem. The soft white sand of this Northern California beach stretches for nearly 3 miles and offers beach-goers a quiet coastal experience.

With the Muir Woods redwoods in the background, Stinson Beach is easily one of the most beautiful NorCal beaches. Stinson Beach is close to Mount Tamalpais and Muir Beach and is the perfect excursion if you have an afternoon free while visiting San Francisco.

One of my favorite things to do in the area is the hike to Cataract Falls. This 3-mile hike takes you into the lush forest, passing by natural pools and picnic tables along the way. Brave hikers, make sure to bring your bathing suit and go for a dip in the chilled fresh water.

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Climb to the top of the highest peak in the park for surreal views of the whole Bay Area.

View of the fog over the hills of Mount Tamalpais

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 30 mins | 📍 Google Maps | Mount Tamalpais State Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Mount Tamalpais State Park Tour

One of the coolest California state parks, Mount Tamalpais comprises 25,000 acres of redwood and oak forest groves. Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the state park offers visitors a plethora of hiking trails and viewpoints.

The 2,579-foot Mount Tamalpais summit was a favorite view for famed Bay Area author, Jack Kerouac. This high state park peak offers 360-degree views of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding deep canyons of the park. You can even see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains 150 miles away on a clear day.

Stop by the East Peak Visitor Center for park information, snacks, or souvenirs. There are also great wildlife spotting opportunities in the park so pick up a California mammal guide and keep an eye out.

Castle Rock State Park

A nature oasis for outdoor lovers.

Huge rock formations at Castle Rock State Park in California

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Castle Rock State Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Castle Rock State Park Hotel

This giant state park encompasses over 5,000 acres and sits along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This park is known for its sculpted sandstone, beautiful vistas, and dense forests.

The main activities in the state park are hiking, camping, and horseback riding. The park also has caverns for adventurous hikers to explore but be sure to bring your headlamp if you don’t want a bat to creep up on you.

While you’re in the area, check out the park’s 34 miles of extensive trails throughout the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo valleys.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Enjoy the tidepools and natural rock arches at this state beach.

Huge stone formation with a hole in the middle near the shore of a beach during sunset

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Natural Bridges State Beach Website | 👉 Top Suggested Natural Bridges State Beach Hotels

This 65-acre state beach makes a great San Francisco day trip. Located in Santa Cruz, CA, the park features a natural bridge rock formation in the Pacific Ocean.

Similar to the formations of Cabo or Puerto Vallarta, this arched rock is the highlight of all Natural Bridges State Beach visits. Check out the park vantage point, a great place to spot migrating whales, shorebirds, playing otters, and seals.

There are also tidepools at the park, the coolest activity for young children. Before you head back to San Francisco, check out that park’s Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve, which houses over 8,000 butterflies.

Mount Diablo State Park

A state park with incredible 360-degree views just outside of SF.

An old dead tree on the meadow of Mount Diablo State Park

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour | 📍 Google Maps | Mount Diablo State Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Mount Diablo State Park Hotels

Mount Diablo State Park is one of the best places in the San Francisco Bay Area for hiking. There is a visitor center and informational museum on the summit of Mount Diablo, as well as picnic tables and an observation point.

This park is suited for the whole family although dogs aren’t allowed on any of the trails. While they are allowed in some designated areas of the park, you may be better off leaving them at home so you can fully explore the area’s hiking trails.


A major metropolitan California city that’s a cultural hub.

Aerial view of the clock tower and skyline of downtown Oakland, California
Downtown Oakland

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Oakland Website | 👉 Top Suggested Oakland Tour

One of the biggest metropolitan cities in California, Oakland is a cultural hub. You will find Victorian architecture in Old Oakland, the Oakland Museum of California in Chinatown, and great nightlife in Uptown Oakland.

Lake Merritt is one of the most noteworthy Oakland landmarks, a lake in the dead center of the city. Jack London Square is another location that’s worthy of a visit. Visit the giant statue dedicated to the late writer who frequented the area before you enjoy a local eatery.

I recommend attending a local sports game like the Oakland A’s or the Oakland Roots for a true California experience.

Morro Bay

Go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean at this quaint fishing town.

A man admiring the calm sea in Morro Bay on one sunny day
My friend admiring the sleepy sea otter

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 3 ½ hours | 📍 Google Maps | Morro Bay Website | 👉 Top Suggested Morro Bay Hotels

Morro Bay is one of my favorite California destinations. The number of fun things to do in Morro Bay is endless but the best activities usually center around the ocean. 

Halfway between Southern and Northern California, Morro Bay is also a great stopping point on an ultimate California road trip. The best thing to do in Morro Bay is to visit Morro Rock, a giant, protruding landmark on the ocean.

Morro Bay State Beach is also a fun place to spend your time in town. The easy walking trails, abundant wildlife, and beach lounging access in the park make this a top Morro Bay location.

There is also a sea otter nesting harbor right on the T-Pier in downtown Morro Bay. You don’t want to miss these adorable, sleepy creatures but be sure to keep your voice down so you don’t wake up the nesting sea mammals. 

San Luis Obispo

An old port town that’s now a top vacation spot along California’s central coast.

Scenic view of the hills and beach from the rocky cliff in San Luis Obispo

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 3 ½ hours | 📍 Google Maps | San Luis Obispo Website | 👉 Top Suggested San Luis Obispo Tour

San Luis Obispo is a seaside town that’s surrounded by mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Once a Spanish port, this coastal city is now a tourist hub just outside of San Francisco. 

San Luis Obispo, or SLO for short, offers a variety of activities from roaming the historic adobe settlements at Mission San Luis Obispo to lounging on the sandy beach, hiking in the surrounding hills, and wine tasting.

This vacation spot is popular among California locals and deserves at least two full days to explore. I recommend staying in a vacation rental in San Luis Obispo after you make the journey down from San Francisco to enjoy your trip at a more relaxing pace.

Sequoia and Kings National Park 

Two premiere national parks in Northern California with huge sequoia trees.

Amazing wood formation with a hole below in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 4 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Sequoia and Kings National Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Sequoia and Kings National Park Tour

These iconic California national parks are a great midway point between Southern and Northern California. This is the best place to view famous sequoia trees in the state. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are right next to each other but are actually two separate parks.

There’s no better natural combination than giant sequoia trees and snow-capped Sierra Mountains. The largest tree in the world, General Sherman, can also be found in Sequoia National Park.

The most popular activities in these parks are hiking, camping, rock climbing, fishing, scouting for wildlife, and bike riding. If you choose to visit in the winter months, be sure to layer up and check the road conditions beforehand, as some park roads are closed due to ice.

California State Railroad Museum

Enjoy vibrantly-reconstructed railcars in this huge museum.

A large train on a makeshift track displayed above the California State Railroad Museum
A large train on display at the museum (photo: Kit Leong / Shutterstock)

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 15 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | California State Railroad Museum Website | 👉 Top Suggested California State Railroad Museum Hotels

Located in Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the California State Railroad Museum is most visited by history lovers. It is one of the biggest museums in the area and houses intriguing exhibits as well as knowledgeable docents.

The beautifully-restored railroad cars and locomotives are a true work of art. General admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children, and free for children under 5.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

A Big Sur oasis engulfed by both mountains and ocean.

A keyhole arch on a huge rock formation in Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur State Park

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 2 ½ hours | 📍 Google Maps | Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Tour

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the coolest places to visit in Big Sur, CA. This Monterey County park covers 1,006 acres of land and is also known as “mini Yosemite” by locals. 

This state park towers high above the Big Sur River Gorge and is surrounded by the Santa Lucia Mountains. Take a stroll along the river bank and listen to the sweet serenade of the babbling redwood creeks in this magical state park.

There is a large campground in the park that accommodates hikers, bikers, car campers, and RVers. Keep your food stored in bear boxes and be on the lookout for local wildlife like bobcats, deer, raccoons, and different birds.


A huge historic estate with peaceful gardens to relax in.

A clock tower surrounded by greeneries in the Filoli garden

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 30 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Filoli Website | 👉 Top Suggested Fioli Hotels

Filoli is a unique day trip from San Francisco. This large country estate is located in Woodside, CA is a historic house and garden.

Stroll the Estate Trail through rose gardens and old European-style courtyards, stop for lunch at the Quail Cafe, or enjoy the estate’s crackling fire pits after sundown. This is the perfect San Francisco excursion for tea time with friends or holiday photos with Santa. 

Marin Headlands

A scenic area with hikes in the rolling hills and coastal lookout points.

A lighthouse located above a rock cliff with a white bridge at Point Bonita
The Point Bonita Lighthouse

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Marin Headlands Website | 👉 Top Suggested Marin Headlands Hotels

One of the most scenic places in the Bay Area, Marin Headlands is a hilly peninsula across from the Golden Gate Bridge. This beautiful area is known for its unique geology, coastal prairie ecosystem, and dramatic cliffs.

Hikers, surfers, birders, geologists, historians, and researchers can be found at Marin Headlands. Scenic places to visit in Marin Headlands are the Point Bonita Lighthouse, Nike Missile Site, Fort Cronkhite, Tennessee Valley, and Fort Baker.

The scenic San Francisco Bay can be seen from this area, making it one of the best viewpoints near SF. The downtown San Francisco skyline is best viewed from the Marin Headlands, making this spot a must.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

A NorCal national park with few crowds, 4 different types of volcanoes, and chaparral hiking trails.

View of Lake Helen beginning to thaw below the Lassen Peak during winter
The beautiful park in the winter

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours, 45 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Lassen Volcanic National Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Lassen Volcanic National Park Hotels

One of the lesser-known national parks, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a hidden California gem. With 4 types of different volcanoes in its boundaries, this unique park is unrivaled by any other CA national park.

Lassen Volcanic also boasts beautiful wildflower meadows, alpine lakes, and beautiful hiking trails. It is also home to the largest dome volcano in the world.

My favorite park activities include soaking in the natural hot springs and visiting the unique fumaroles. Ridge Lakes Trail is a quick and easy hike in the park at only 2 miles roundtrip. 

🛎️ Need a Hotel? Here are some top hotels near Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Pinnacles National Park

One of the least crowded national parks with great bird-watching opportunities.

A close-up view of a California Condor in the park
A California Condor spotted in the park

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours | 📍 Google Maps | Pinnacles National Park Website | 👉 Top Suggested Pinnacles National Park Tour

Pinnacles National Park is a less-traveled California national park. This is a top California location for spotting big birds of prey, so you will want to bring your binoculars on every hiking trail.

Enjoy the popular hiking trails like the 0.9-mile Prewett Point trail and the 4.3-mile Juniper Canyon Loop trail through chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon terrain. Pinnacles Campground is the best place to camp inside the park and allows both tents and RVs.


A wine lover’s paradise with a rich history.

A peaceful and colorful sidewalk of Sonoma during the autumn season

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 55 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Sonoma Website | Best Hotels in Sonoma

One of the best places to live in California, Sonoma is also home to some of the best wineries in the state. I love to explore Sonoma’s colonial-era plaza and shop among the Spanish-style boutiques.

Explore Mission San Francisco Solano next time you’re in Sonoma to learn about its past as a Mexican military post and other Sonoma history. 

There are over 475 wineries in the region, making this one of the top places in California for wine tasting. Along with Napa Valley, Sonoma is the ideal vacation spot for wine connoisseurs. 

For more, check out our guide to what to do in Sonoma.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

A cool park with hiking trails around an extinct volcano.

Aerial view of hikers visiting the  Mazzariello Labyrinth at Sibley Volcanic Regional Park
Hiking the Mazzariello Labyrinth

🗺️ Distance from San Francisco: 20 minutes | 📍 Google Maps | Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve Website | 👉 Top Suggested Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve Hotels

Located in the Oakland Hills, this park covers just under 1,000 acres and offers hikers rare trails and a 10-million-year-old extinct volcano.

Enjoy over 30 miles of hiking trails and be on the lookout for coyotes, deer, and owls, all Sibley locals. The coolest feature of the park is the lava tubes – lava caves that are open to the public to explore. Unleash your inner Indiana Jones with a journey through the lava tubes.

FAQs About Day Trips from San Francisco

What are the best day trips from San Francisco?

Monterey, Santa Cruz, Napa, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Sonoma, and San Jose are some of the best day trips from San Francisco. There are many more hot destinations just outside of the big city but these are the most visited.

What day trips from San Francisco are good for avoiding crowds?

Lassen Volcanic National Park, Pinnacles National Park, Morro Bay, and Mount Shasta are great day trips from San Francisco to avoid crowds. Although they are popular destinations, they don’t receive nearly as many visitors as other SF day trip locations.

How far is Yosemite from San Francisco?

Yosemite is about 170 miles from San Francisco. This usually takes about 4 hours one way. If Yosemite is your main destination, it is better accessed from the Fresno side.


Thanks for reading my complete guide to the best day trips from San Francisco. If you have more time left on your California itinerary, check out our day trips from Los Angeles guide for the best tips and tricks!

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