One of the best parts about living in the Bay Area is the fact that you can easily jump in the car (or tour bus) and take a San Francisco day trip.

If you want to escape the city or the peninsula there are so many great options! From delightful small towns to wander though, to stunning Californian beaches to watch the Pacific Ocean from, hiking spots with gorgeous views, and historic estates to gawk at.

If you’ve polished off your San Francisco bucket list, it’s time to tackle some of the best day trips from San Francisco!

Best San Francisco Day Trips

If you’re visiting San Francisco for the first time (as opposed to living here), you might want to spend your time exploring the city itself.

But if you’ve got a longer stay (more than a week) or you’ve seen and done it all before, and want to escape the city crowds, there is still plenty to see and do!

This list of San Francisco and Bay Area day trips has something for everyone, including the wine enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, shopper, beach lover, and explorer.

We’ve broken them down by direction from San Francisco, so you can easily find a day trip closest to your Bay Area location. Or search in a spot that you haven’t explored yet.

Happy travels!

Day Trips North of San Francisco

You’ll find some of the most beautiful spots in the San Francisco Bay Area, north of the city.

Head over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy some of the most incredible views the Bay Area has to offer!

Day trip to Marin Headlands

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 10 miles (16km)

The view from Golden Gate viewpoint is not one you’ll forget quickly.

On your drive from San Francisco to Marin Headlands, you’ll encounter some of the best views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge at both Battery Spencer, Hawk Hill, and the aptly named Golden Gate viewpoint.

One of my favourite things to do in Marin Headlands is to enjoy the coastline by going for a hike.

San Francisco Day Trips
The coastline is behind me in this photo, but the hills are gorgeous as well.

There are more hiking trails here than you can poke a (walking) stick at, but be sure to bring lots of water and your own snacks, because there isn’t anywhere to buy them here.

You can hike:

  • Fort Cronkite
  • Rodeo Beach (Coastal Trail)
  • The Marine Mammal Center
  • Point Bonita Lighthouse (Chimney Rock)

Visiting and/or hiking Rodeo Beach is a must since it couples gorgeous coastline with the history of World War II forts and some defense guns pointed out to sea from the same era.

It feels like there are a million photo opportunities on the walk to Point Bonita Lighthouse.

Check out the Point Bonita Lighthouse for even more views of the San Francisco Bay, or just to see the third lighthouse built on the west coast (check if it’s open first).

Day trip to Sausalito

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 11 miles (17km)

Sausalito is a great place to spend the day relaxing on the waterfront.

If you don’t have a car, a day trip to Sausalito is a great option because you can hop on a ferry (from the San Francisco Ferry Building) or rent a bicycle and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to get there.

Sausalito has a coastal town vibe that make it a highly popular spot, so be prepared for crowds, especially during the summer months.

This is a great spot to do some shopping in the cute boutiques that line the waterfront of historic downtown Sausalito. Or just stroll the wooden boardwalks and marvel at the many houseboats docked.

Head to Fort Baker National Park if you want a little World War II history, or the Bay Area Discovery Museum for a great spot for children to play.

Don’t forget to stop at Lappert’s for some of the best ice cream in the Bay Area.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 17 miles (27km)

It’s hard to capture the feeling of standing amongst the giant redwoods in Muir Woods.

If you want to see California’s famous giant redwood trees, Muir Woods is the closest spot to San Francisco to find them in.

The old-growth towering redwoods are a huge drawcard for tourists and locals alike, which means that you now have to reserve a parking space before you visit. If you’re not keen on that prospect, book a tour for the day or one that will stop at Muir Woods on it’s way to Napa.

San Francisco Day Trips
Even if you only spend a few hours in Muir Woods, you’ll leave feeling like a different person.

Redwoods grow in “family” groups and are some of the tallest living trees in the world. There are plenty of trails for all levels of fitness and ability, or just stay on the wooden boardwalk and admire the trees.

My favourite hike is the 5-mile (8km) Canopy View to Redwood to Sun Trail to Dipsea Loop. Which is a mouthful, but you can find it here.

Day trip to Mount Tamalpais State Park

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 23 miles (37km)

The views from Mount Tamalpais are spectacular as long as it’s not foggy. Picture: Michael Pujals.

Known to locals as Mount Tam, the road to the state park is a scenic one. You’ll get ocean and bay views on your way to and from Mount Tamalpais State Park.

You can drive to the east peak of Mount Tam (about 39 miles from SF) and hike around the peak before climbing further for more beautiful views.

Bring your bike and enjoy the 60-miles of trails, or just strap on your walking shoes and check out the wildflowers in March and April. You’re bound to wander across a horse and it’s rider taking advantage of the trails as well.

Don’t expect to be alone at Mount Tam, it’s a popular spot for San Franciscans. Picture: Matthew Ronder Seid.

The East Peak Visitor Center has a little museum to find out about “the crookedest railroad in the world” that used to run on the mountain.

Great trails include:

  • Verna Dunshee Trail
  • Fire Lookout
  • Old Stage Road
  • Mount Tam summit to Stinson Beach

Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy, and expect lots of other outdoor enthusiasts in the popular park.

Day trip to Stinson Beach

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 24 miles (38km)

Don’t forget to bring layers if you’re visiting Stinson Beach in the early morning or late evening.

Head up Highway 1 for a day at Stinson Beach in Bolinas Bay. You’ll see lots of mentions of Stinson Beach if you visit Muir Woods or Mount Tam.

The 3 mile (5km) long beach acts as a gateway to Bolinas Lagoon, so if you set up in the right spot you’ll have the lagoon at your back, and the ocean in front of you.

The beach sits on a strip of land, with Bolinas Lagoon at it’s back.

The white sandy beach is a perfect spot to while the day away building sandcastles and enjoying the water. Bring layers because the fog can make for chilly mornings on the beach.

If you tire of laying on the beach, you can always take advantage of the shops and restaurants in Bolinas.

Day trip to Point Reyes

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 43 miles (69km)

San Francisco Day Trips
The walk down to Point Reyes Lighthouse is a little easier than the climb back up. Picture: Casey Horner.

The town of Point Reyes Station is the gateway to a beautiful spot just north of San Francisco.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a massive preserve where you can experience rocky headlands, sandy beaches, and forests all in the one place. It also has some spectacular wildflowers in the spring time, which you can find out more about in our guide to finding Northern California wildflowers.

Earthquake-aficionados and geology buffs might like to know that the San Andreas Fault Zone separates the Pacific plate from the North American plate right here. You can check out the fault zone on the Earthquake Trail.

Children, and people like me, will love the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Head to the Bear Valley Visitor Center to learn about the native animals and get tips from rangers. We hiked out to Arch Rock from the visitor center (11.6 miles) on a wide trail that becomes sandy as you get closer to the beach.

It’s not the easiest spot to find, but the Point Reyes shipwreck is one of the more photographed landlocked boats.

You can also visit the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, spend the day relaxing on Drake’s Beach (don’t miss the Cypress tree tunnel on the way there), check out the Inverness shipwreck, or head to the cute town of Point Reyes Station to shop and gorge on local cheese from Cowgirl Creamery!

Day trip to Sonoma

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 44 miles (70km)

San Francisco Day Trips
While wine is the main drawcard to Sonoma, there’s plenty more to see and do.

Sister to wine behemoth Napa, Sonoma holds it’s own as a wine tasting destination that offers so much more. See the region from a bike, kayak, the wine trolley, or even through the window of a limousine.

Foodies will be in heaven at the farmer’s market, run in the spring and summer, or at one of the many acclaimed restaurants. There are even cooking classes.

Tour the historic home of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, built in the early 1850, or check out the Depot Park Museum for Sonoma history and railroad cars. There’s also the Sonoma TrainTown Railroad, where you can ride on steam trains that are a quarter of their usual size.

Visit in March for the Sonoma International Film Festival, which shows independent films from around the world over five days.

Day trip to Napa

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 53 miles (85km)

There are plenty of wineries that give awesome views of vineyards in Napa.

If you’re visiting San Francisco, the most obvious day trip you can take is to the Napa wine region. It’s obvious because it’s popular, and it’s popular because some of the best wine in the world is made right here.

Unless you’re visiting Napa with a tour (ie you’re not driving), or have an appointed designated driver, I’d recommend staying the night in the area if you’re here for wine tasting.

San Francisco Day Trips
The food in Napa is amazing as well as the wine. Check out Annette’s Chocolates for delicious truffles and wine brittle.

There are so many wineries and cellar doors to choose from in Napa, but if you have your heart set on a few particular ones it pays to make reservations ahead of time.

If a charcuterie board is more your jam, Fatted Calf Charcuterie has you covered!

I also did an awesome “Gourmet Walk” in Napa, which started at the Oxbow Market (a great spot for foodies), and sampled some delicious cheese, deli meats, chocolate, and wine along the way.

Day Trips South of San Francisco

This section includes the San Francisco Peninsula, as well as spots further south that are great for day and weekend trips away.

Drive down 280 or the scenic Highway 1 and find out what the Peninsula has to offer.

Day trip to Pacifica

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 15 miles (24km)

The hike to Mori Point is a popular one because of the coastal views. Picture: Saira.

Pacifica is one of the many Californian beachside towns that attracts surfers and hikers alike. The beaches of Gray Whale Cove and Pacifica State beaches are flanked by beautiful headlands that are great for hiking. And Rockaway Beach is known as the Bay Area’s cleanest beach.

Bring your fishing poles to the Pacifica Municipal Pier for some ocean fishing.

If you’re a history and graffiti fan, start at Nike Missile Site SF-51 – one of California’s Cold War defense sites that has fallen into disrepair and become a favourite with graffiti artists.

Mr M says our first date was on this hike of the Sweeney Ridge Trail. I’m so clueless that I didn’t count it as a date.

Hike to the very tip of Mori Point to get views of the peninsula coastline, or choose a trail that follows the wetlands full of small ponds.

Other great Pacifica hiking spots:

  • Devil’s Slide Trail
  • San Pedro Valley Park
  • Sweeney Ridge Trail
  • Milagra Ridge

Take your children out to Frontierland Park’s playground and enjoy a barbecue picnic while you’re there.

You can also take a tour of Sam’s Castle, built in 1908 by an attorney who wanted a refuge that wouldn’t collapse in an earthquake. It has been a brothel, party palace, speakeasy, and a Coast Guard post over the years.

Day trip to Woodside

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 29 miles (47km)

Visit Woodside’s Filoli in spring for the gorgeous gardens.

This one is close to my heart because it’s also close to my home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Start at Filoli Historic House and Garden, a family estate modelled on one in Ireland called Muckross. The main house has 43 rooms, including an elaborately decorated grand ballroom, a beautiful wood paneled study, and the kitchen of your dreams.

Even when if don’t have someone to take photos of you, sometimes you want to remember being there!

If you’re not impressed by the house, wander the formal gardens for hedges, balconies, water features, and pools that are reminiscent of an English country estate.

Filoli is worth a visit at any time of year, but my favourite seasons are during the spring for all the gorgeous blooms, or at Christmas, when the house and gardens are decorated for the holiday season.

San Francisco Day Trips
The Pulgas Water Temple is a quick stop on your way to Filoli.

Stop in next door at the Pulgas Water Temple – a beaux-arts style “temple” that’s an Instagrammable spot if I ever saw one.

There are also quite a few beautiful parks to visit for hikes or picnics in the area:

  • Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve
  • Huddart Park
  • Wunderlich County Park
  • Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve

Round it all off with a stop in at Alice’s Restaurant, a little cabin in the middle of a densely wooded area, that is a beloved pit stop for many motorcyclists.

Day Trip to Half Moon Bay

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 30 miles (50km)

If you get a spot on the patio at Sam’s Chowder House you’ll be treated to this view.

Half Moon Bay holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the spots we were going to get married in. It’s also been my beach getaway of choice since I moved to San Francisco in 2015.

During the weekends of warmer months, the roads into Half Moon Bay can fill up pretty quickly with locals escaping to the beach. Try to stay away from Highway 92 or leave as early as possible in the morning to beat the traffic.

San Francisco Day Trips
There are so many great spots to enjoy the Pacific Coast in California. Picture: Albijona Fejzullahu.

Head to Mavericks, Miramar, or Poplar beaches and enjoy some time soaking up the sun (you’ll need a wetsuit if you want to go into the water).

Grab a bite to eat at the renowned Sam’s Chowder House or sample the beer at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

Half Moon Bay’s downtown area has some cute shops to enjoy.

You can go horse riding or rent a bike to enjoy the Coastal Trail, or do some window shopping on Main Street.

Visit in October to be swept up in the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.

Day Trip to Palo Alto & Stanford University

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 35 miles (56km)

You can climb Hoover Tower if you’re feeling energetic, or take one of the two elevators.

Stanford University is the kind of place I could only dream of studying at. But even if you’re not particularly educationally-focused, the grounds are well worth a visit.

The campus is bursting with beautiful old buildings, gardens, and a few interesting bits and pieces. Find the Arizona Garden for more than 500 species of cacti and succulents, the quad featuring Stanford Memorial Church, and the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery.

Head to the B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden to see 200 works by French artist Auguste Rodin. Most notably, The Gates of Hell, with more than 180 figures meticulously sculpted into it, including The Thinker.

Downtown Palo Alto’s University Avenue has a great UK “High Street” feel, lined with cute boutiques and restaurants. Keen shoppers might want to visit Stanford Shopping Center – an outdoor mall featuring lots of upper class stores.

Day Trip to San Jose

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 48 miles (77km)

You’ll find some stellar street art in San Jose’s Japantown.

I like to think of the Bay Area as being bookended by San Francisco in the north, and San Jose in the south. While not as large as San Francisco, San Jose is a city in it’s own right, and has some amazing things to do.

I won’t get up on my soap box to wax lyrical about how great San Jose is. There’s so much to do, it’s hard for me to keep this short and sweet.

But you can visit the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, see ancient Egyptian artifacts at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, spend hours in the city’s Japantown looking at street art, learning about the Japanese migrant experience at the Japanese American Museum, or visiting the Buddhist temple and garden.

You could easily spend half a day at Winchester Mystery House.

Visit Winchester Mystery House, which is said to have undergone a decades-long building process to appease the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns.

Watching the San Jose Sharks play at the SAP Center is such a great experience.

Shop (or people-watch) at the swanky Santana Row, and finish it all off by watching the San Jose Sharks ice hockey team play in the “Shark Tank”, as the SAP Center is affectionately known by fans.

I’ve written a few posts about San Jose that you can look at for more detail.

Day Trip to Los Gatos

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 51 miles (82km)

Since it’s housed in caves, Testarossa Winery is nice and cool in the summer.

Don’t be fooled by Los Gatos’ small town charm, there are some seriously cashed-up people living here.

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We actually got married in Los Gatos, which translates to “The Cats”, at the beautiful Testarossa Winery. The winery’s cellars are hewn from caves, and it law enforcement turned a blind eye during the prohibition era, allowing them to continue producing wine.

San Francisco Day Trips

Spend the day shopping on S Santa Cruz Avenue and E Main Street. Stop in for a sweet treat at Icing on the Cake bakery, or for a meal at the Wine Cellar Restaurant.

If you want to enjoy nature a bit more, you can visit Vasona Lake County Park. Or hike part of the Los Gatos Creek Trail.

Day Trip to Santa Cruz

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 73 miles (118km)

Did I mention that the Pacific Coast is beautiful?

Santa Cruz is an amalgam of all the great things about the San Francisco Bay Area – cellar doors with amazing wine, restaurants and cafes with delicious food, the beautiful California coastline, and state parks and natural wonders that will have you visiting again and again.

I’d honestly recommend spending at least a weekend in Santa Cruz, but if you only have a day, there is plenty to choose from!

San Francisco Day Trips
The chairs are my favourite ride because it feels like you’re flying. Picture: Stephanie Guarini.

Start at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where you can take advantage of the more than 40 rides, attractions, midway games, mini golf, and restaurants. If you visit in the summertime you can catch one of the free concerts held here.

Next take a short stroll to the Santa Cruz Wharf to visit the sea lions and harbor seals that like to sun themselves on wooden platforms below the wharf.

Surfers can try the waves at Steamer Lane, close to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, and wine lovers can check out the many cellar doors in the area. Swift Street Courtyard is one of my favourite spots because it combines great food with cellar doors in one spot!

Nature lovers should visit the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve in the autumn and winter months, and spend some time hiking Natural Bridges State Beach. You can also hike amongst the coastal redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

And if you have kids or like a quirky tourist spot, try The Mystery Spot, for a gravitational oddity.

Day Trip to Gilroy

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 79 miles (127km)

The famous pyro chefs always put on a great display at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

I’ve visited Gilroy three times in the past few years – twice to enjoy the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and once more to take advantage of the outlet shopping. And I was not disappointed on any of my trips.

Gilroy is widely known as the “garlic capital of the world” because it is home to the largest garlic grower in the country (it grows more than 50 per cent of garlic in the US!).

They are proud of that mantle here, and you’ll find stores like Garlic World and The Garlic Shoppe that sell every permutation of garlic (and other local produce) that you can think of! Or for a garlic history lesson, put the Gilroy Museum on your bucket list.

San Francisco Day Trips
Garlic fries – so simple and so delicious.

If you visit for the Garlic Festival, do not pass up your free sample of garlic ice cream. I was skeptical, but trust me it works. The festival includes cooking competitions and demonstrations, lots of great booths to peruse, and a few live music stages. A great day out!

Shopaholics should take advantage of the deals at the 145 stores that make up the Gilroy Premium Outlets. But if food or shopping aren’t really your cup of tea, head to Gilroy Gardens for trees grafted into living sculptures and a family-friendly theme park, have lunch at a winery on the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail, or hike the Mummy Mountain Trail.

Day Trip to Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 113 miles (182 km)

The seaside town of Monterey is the perfect spot to spend a weekend.

I’d also recommend spending at least a weekend in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea if you can spare the time. Otherwise you’ll just find yourself planning another trip.

This trip is for the early risers who don’t mind packing a lot into the day before heading back home. What’s the point of a day trip if you’re not going to squeeze every last bit of fun out of it?

San Francisco Day Trips
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has so many interactive displays that it’s fun for everyone.

In terms of local wildlife – don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium, easily one of the best in the world and a place you could spend the whole day at – butterflies at Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary (October to February), whale and dolphin watching year-round, and the sea lions and harbor seals at Fisherman’s Wharf and Point Lobos Nature Reserve.

Enjoy the seaside town feel and learn about local fishing history on Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf, or hop in the car and drive the beautiful rugged coastline of 17-mile Drive (there’s an entry fee).

Check out the Point Pinos Lightstation, which has been running since 1855 making it the oldest operational station on the west coast. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Salvador Dali Museum, the Spanish artist lived in Monterey for a time in the 1940s.

Nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea is the closest you’ll get to a European village in Northern California. It’s main streets are filled with charming art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and cellar doors.

The Mission is a nice quiet place to wander.

For a bit more history, visit the Mission San Carlos Borromeo Del Rio Carmelo to see the basilica. The whole compound, which includes a school and museum, is a National Historic Landmark.

Day Trip to Pinnacles National Park

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 123 miles (198km)

Pinnacles National Park is known for the distinctive red rocks.

I know we’re stretching the friendship with the definition of a day trip with this one since it’s about two and a half hours of driving time, but it’s so worth it!

Plan your Pinnacles National Park day trip in early spring or late autumn to avoid the heat (temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit aren’t uncommon in summer).

The park is a natural wonder, formed on an ancient volcanic field that has spawned interesting landscape and red rocks that draw nature lovers and climbers from all over.

Visit in the spring months to enjoy the wildflowers at the park, bring your hiking boots to explore Bear Gulch Caves and the reservoir, and then relax at the picnic and campgrounds for a barbecue afterwards.

Day Trips East of San Francisco

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve neglected the San Francisco East Bay, when you compare it to the number of day trips I’ve done in other places.

But there is plenty to do in the East Bay, if you’re ready to do some exploring!

Day Trip to Oakland

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 13 miles (21km)

San Francisco Day Trips
Walk the Lake Merritt loop for a taste of Oakland outdoor life. Picture: Priyanka Sethy.

Much like San Jose, Oakland has it’s own distinct “city” feel, and although it gets a bad rap from some, there are plenty of awesome spots across the city to spend your day.

Visit Lake Merritt and walk the 3.2 mile (5km) loop around the lagoon or bring some cash to rent a boat (pedal boats, kayak, canoes, and rowboats available). Bring the kids to visit the rides, live entertainment, and gardens at Children’s Fairyland.

See a movie at the Grand Lake Theatre, which opened way back in 1926, or visit Camron-Stanford House on a Sunday to tour the 19th century mansion.

Head to the Jack London district to step onto Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht (known as the floating White House), take a stand-up paddleboard lesson, go kayaking, or enjoy a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in the area.

San Francisco Day Trips
There are even redwoods in the East Bay. Head to Redwood Regional Park to find them. Picture: Chris Briggs.

Take a walking tour of Chinatown to see the dragon murals. You can also spend the day at Oakland Zoo, or visit the Morcom Garden of Roses.

Drive along Skyline Boulevard to see San Francisco and the Peninsula from an entirely different angle.

Day Trip to Berkeley

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 14 miles (23km)

UC Berkeley’s beautiful campus has it’s own tower – Sather Tower.

Known as the home of the University of California, Berkeley, this college town has some quirks that will have you coming back again and again.

If you love architecture, or just enjoy looking at old buildings, don’t miss Berkeley City Hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and was built back in 1909.

Other notable landmarks include the 1905 Golden Sheaf Bakery (now home to the Aurora Theatre Company), the art deco Berkeley Public Library (1930), and the whimsical Tupper and Reed Building (1925).

Of course you’ll want to visit UC Berkeley – make sure you don’t miss the art museum & Pacific film archive, botanical garden, the neoclassical Doe Memorial Library, and climb Sather Tower for the view.

See a show at the Hearst Greek Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater (bring a blanket), that has hosted legends like Bob Dylan, John Legend, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Adele, and The Talking Heads.

Head to Monterey Market for a taste of Berkeley’s foodie scene, or wander Telegraph Avenue for restaurants and shopping options.

No trip to Berkeley would be complete without a stop at Tilden Park for hiking, wildflowers, and its own cathedral of coastal redwood trees.

Day Trip to Pleasanton

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 40 miles (64km)

Don’t miss the rides at the Alameda County Fair.

Pleasanton gets a spot on my list of San Francisco day trips because of all the fun events it hosts. Although there are lots of shops, bars, and restaurants in Pleasanton’s downtown to take advantage of too.

The Alameda County Fair is a must for people in the Bay Area who want to experience a “traditional” fair. It’s got everything from art, craft, and cooking competitions, fair food that will make your eyes pop out of your head, and rides. The fair is held Friday to Sunday in the summer months, usually in June and July.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m all about the hiking opportunities. And Pleasanton’s hiking spots are in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park where you can walk trails like the Thermalito Ridge Oak Tree Trail, or the Cordet and Schuhart trails.

Head back to the Alameda County Fairgrounds over the Labor Day weekend for the Scottish Games. Held in the tradition of sporting competitions in Scotland, the games includes rugby, the caber toss, as well as traditional music.

Day Trip to Mt Diablo State Park

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 44 miles (70km)

On a clear day, you can see California laid out like a carpet from the Mt Diablo Observation Deck.

If you want panoramic views, you really can’t go past Mt Diablo State Park. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not a hiker, you can drive almost to the top of Mt Diablo to take in far-reaching views if that’s your jam.

At a towering elevation of 3,848 feet (1172 metres) above sea level, the Mt Diablo summit will give you at least a glimpse of 40 of California’s 58 counties on a clear day. Visit after rain washes away the haze in winter or spring for the best views.

That means you can see Yosemite National Park, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, Lassen Peak, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Farallon Islands, Livermore, and Pleasanton. Climb up to the observation deck and take advantage of the telescopes to pinpoint some of these.

As part of the Diablo Range, Mt Diablo State Park has lots of green space to take advantage of. I hiked the Rock City, Wind Caves, and Sentinel Rock trail for a bit of rock scrambling. Just remember that it gets hot here in the summer months so visit in spring or autumn, or arrive early.

You can also take advantage of these trails:

  • Donner Creek Loop
  • Waterfalls of Mt Diablo
  • Eagle Peak Loop

Keen hikers can try the Mt Diablo Grand Loop trail, a 6.8 mile (11km) trek that takes you to aptly named spots like Devil’s Pulpit and Devil’s Elbow. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks with you, no matter which trail you plan to take.

Day Trip to Livermore

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 45 miles (72km)

Spend some time with the wildflowers at Del Valle Regional Park. Picture: Rajasri Janakiraman

Livermore is the home of another Premium Outlet mall, and my favourite if I’m honest, with 180 stores. I tend to spend the most time staring at the beautiful things in Burberry, Ted Baker London, and All Saints, to relive my London shopping days.

There’s so much more to Livermore than just shopping though. Head to Del Valle Regional Park for hiking, camping, and fishing, or the whopping Sycamore Grove Regional Park, which is a great spot to see leaves changes colour in autumn.

Ravenswood Historic Site is a beautiful home that is more than a century old. It was a summer home of Christopher Buckley Sr, who was known as the “blind boss” of San Francisco politics in the 1870s. Take a free tour of the estate, which includes orchards, gardens, the summer home, and a cottage.

Feeling thirsty? Livermore has about 40 boutique wineries and five breweries to choose from.

Day Trip to Sacramento

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 87 miles (140km)

California’s capital city is just an hour-and-a-half’s drive away from San Francisco, which makes it an easy day trip to fit in. And if some jaded local tells you that Sacramento isn’t worth the trip, don’t listen to them.

Start at Old Sacramento State Historic Park, which is made up of more than 50 historic buildings from the 1850s and 1860s Gold Rush era.

Train enthusiasts can check out the California State Railroad Museum’s restored locomotives and railroad cars, and art lovers shouldn’t miss the Crocker Art Museum, which has remained open since 1871.

San Francisco Day Trips
The Sacramento Zoo is home to about 500 animals, including this gorgeous flamingo.

If you’ve checked the San Francisco and Oakland zoos off your bucket list, why not add Sacramento Zoo to it? The impressive California State Capitol Museum is worth a visit even if you only want to see the beautiful building.

We all know that it can get pretty hot in California, so why not cool down at Raging Water – a water park with more than 25 rides, slides, and pools?

San Francisco Day Trips
The Tower Bridge is one of the most striking features of the Sacramento landscape.

If you’re collecting bridge crossings, you should also drive over Tower Bridge (AKA The Sacramento River Bridge). It was painted a yellowy-orange colour back in 1976 to match the State Capitol building’s cupola.

Day Trip to Sonora

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 132 miles (212km)

New Melones Lake, Sonora
The view across New Melones Lake was nice enough that we pulled over for a photo opp.

Honestly, I’d want to spend at least two days in Sonora if I was driving out there. But people take day trips to Yosemite National Park all the time and that’s even further away, so it made the list

The historic Gold Rush town of Sonora is close enough to Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest that it’s a great jumping-off point for a visit to either park.

Legend's books, Sonora
I wanted to spend hours inside Legends Books, Antiques & Soda Fountain.

Spend your morning exploring the quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants on S Washington Street. My favourites are Legends Books, Antiques & Soda Fountain, and the Candy Vault.

Head over to neighbouring Jamestown to visit Railtown 1897 to ride a steam train and learn about all the films and TV shows made here. Cider lovers should fit in a stop at Indigeny Reserve to taste the delicious apple cider and explore the orchards.

We went for a hike in Tuttletown Recreation Area, that is a local favourite for swimming, boating, and barbecuing. We also stopped in at the town of Columbia, just a few miles north of Sonora, to wander through an authentic Gold Rush town.

Day Trip to Yosemite National Park

Distance from Market Street, San Francisco: 167 miles (268km)

Half Dome truly is a must-see feature of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park is one of the brightest jewel’s in California’s crown, so it really deserves more than a few hours’ visit.

But if you’re short on time and only have a day to spare, I highly recommend visiting with a tour group so that you can sleep on the way there and back again. They’ll take you to the famous spots that you’ll want to see, and you can always plan another trip to Yosemite later on.

San Francisco Day Trips
I highly recommend camping at Yosemite so you can spend more time there.

I’ve spent two days in Yosemite National Park on two separate occasions, but I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to see and do.

A lot of the main Yosemite attractions can be seen from Glacier Point: Tunnel View, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls.

There are so many hikes that you can do, watch out for wildlife like deer and bears, both of which we encountered on our trips to Yosemite.

San Francisco Day Trips Map

Not quite sure where all these awesome-sounding places are? I’ve got your back! Here’s a handy map to help you plan your next San Francisco day trip!

Like this post? Pin it for later! And let me know where you’re heading on your next day trip.

Day Trips from San Francisco

 

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