San Francisco is a city that has just about everything. From historic monuments to delicious food to the best museums in San Francisco, it's hard to imagine getting bored in this legendary location. But once you've seen the Golden Gate Bridge, been to Alcatraz, and ridden on a cable car through San Francisco, you may find yourself longing to see more of Northern California.
After all, San Francisco is absolutely surrounded by incredible scenery. It's not just San Francisco Bay itself, although there are many hiking trails you can pick up in the city. Beyond that, there are almost infinite places to explore. Whether you want to visit a charming artist colony on the shores of the Pacific Ocean or go hiking in ancient woodlands, the best day trips from San Francisco can show you everything that's great about California.
Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in San Francisco, and you'll be ready to enjoy these great San Francisco day trips.
How to get out of San Francisco
With cable cars, streetcars, a subway, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART system, San Francisco has some great ways of getting around the city. You can learn more about these transit options in our guide on how to get around San Francisco.
Outside the city, BART can take you to neighboring towns like Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, and Union City. If you want to go further, though, a rental car may be a better option. Hiring a car allows you to explore iconic locations like the Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite National Park. And while driving in San Francisco itself can be a bit of a nightmare, cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in your own set of wheels is a quintessential California experience not to be missed.
From San Francisco to Sausalito
This former fishing village is now a haven for artists, with galleries and studios nestled in the hillsides. You can explore the streets of Sausalito on foot or by bicycle, stopping to enjoy the views of San Francisco Bay and the San Francisco skyline. Don't miss a chance to sample the local seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants.
Sausalito offers a more laid-back vibe than the busy streets of San Francisco, so it's an excellent place to spend some time relaxing and recharging your batteries. And because it's so close and easy to reach, it's easily one of the best day trips from San Francisco.
How to get to Sausalito
Sausalito is probably the easiest day trip to make. All you need to do is cross the Golden Gate Bridge!
From San Francisco to Muir Woods National Monument
Just a short drive north of the city, you'll find Muir Woods National Monument. This ancient forest is one of the few remaining places where you can see California's iconic redwood trees. The Muir Woods National Monument is also home to many other types of plants and animals, making it a great place for hiking and nature photography.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, as the trails can be strenuous. And don't forget your camera to capture some of the incredible views. Wandering through the forest in the presence of these ancient trees is almost a spiritual experience, and you'll leave feeling completely recharged and rejuvenated after enjoying one of the best hikes in San Francisco. While you're there, don't forget to check out Muir Beach, one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the Bay Area.
How to get to Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument is in Mill Valley, which is best reached by car. The drive is only about 40 minutes from the center of San Francisco (depending on traffic, of course).
From San Francisco to Mount Tamalpais State Park
Another great option for nature lovers is Mount Tamalpais State Park. Just a short drive north of San Francisco, this state park offers miles and miles of hiking trails through redwood forests, wildflower meadows, and along the rocky coastline. You can also go mountain biking, horseback riding, or rock climbing in the park.
There are several different trailheads to choose from depending on your fitness level and how long you want to hike. But regardless of which trail you take, you're sure to be impressed by the stunning scenery. So if you're looking for a day trip that will get you out into nature, Mount Tamalpais State Park is a great option.
How to get to Mount Tamalpais State Park
This state park is super close to the Muir Woods National Monument, so these two options should be combined if possible. A car is an ideal way to get here, just north of the city.
From San Francisco to Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is one of the most scenic places in all of California. This national park is home to towering mountains, rushing rivers, and dense forests. There are also several hikes of varying difficulty levels, so you can find one that's right for you.
One of the best things about Kings Canyon National Park is that it's relatively untouched by humans. So when you're hiking through the woods or climbing up a mountain, you'll feel like you're completely alone in the world. It's an incredible feeling and one that you won't soon forget. In a state as populated as California, it's sometimes surprising that you can find such amazing opportunities for peace and quiet.
How to get to Kings Canyon National Park
The best (and really only) way to get to Kings Canyon National Park is by car. The drive will take you about 4 hours, so consider leaving very early or staying overnight near the park.
From San Francisco to Angel Island State Park
For a day trip that's a little closer to home, head to Angel Island State Park. This island in the San Francisco Bay is accessible by the Angel Island ferry from San Francisco or Tiburon. Once you're on the island, you can enjoy hiking, biking, or just relaxing on the beach.
There are also several historical sites on the island, including an old military fort and an Immigration Station where immigrants were processed before entering the United States. It's a fascinating place to explore, and you'll get some great views of San Francisco and the Bay Area while you're there.
How to get to Angel Island State Park
There are no roads onto the island, so the only way to get here is via the public ferry or by chartering a private boat.
From San Francisco to Napa Valley
Just an hour's drive from San Francisco, you'll find Napa Valley. This world-renowned wine region is home to hundreds of wineries, making it the perfect place to enjoy a day of wine tasting. There are also several great restaurants where you can enjoy a meal with your glass of wine.
And if you're looking for something to do besides tasting wine, Napa Valley also offers plenty of other activities. You can go hiking or biking through the vineyards, take a hot air balloon ride, or even go on a wine tour. No matter what you choose to do, you're sure to have a fantastic day in Napa Valley.
The Napa Valley wine train is one of the best and most unique ways to experience this world-famous location. Sit back and enjoy the scenery while you travel through the heart of California wine country.
How to get to Napa Valley
This is another destination best reached by car. But, if you don't have any wheels, consider joining a day trip by one of the tour companies. They leave from San Francisco every day and will have you back to your hotel before bedtime.
From San Francisco to Santa Cruz
For a beach day trip from San Francisco, Santa Cruz is the perfect destination. Just an hour and a half south of the city, Santa Cruz offers everything you could want in a beach town. There are several beaches to choose from, each with its own unique vibe. You can also go surfing, fishing, or kayaking in the Pacific Ocean. Or, if you'd rather stay on land, there's plenty of shopping and dining to enjoy in Santa Cruz.
And no visit to Santa Cruz would be complete without riding the world-famous Giant Dipper roller coaster. This historic wooden roller coaster has been thrilling riders since 1924 and is one of the most popular attractions in Santa Cruz. So whether you're looking to relax on the beach or get your adrenaline pumping, Santa Cruz is the perfect place for a day trip from San Francisco.
While you're there, don't forget to check out the famous Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, the perfect place to enjoy the atmosphere of this vacation hotspot. One of the best day trips from San Francisco to take with the family, Santa Cruz is great for keeping kids and adults occupied and having fun.
How to get to Santa Cruz
Technically you can reach this city by train and bus, but public transportation will at least double your travel time. This is another one to drive to.
From San Francisco to Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most beautiful places in California. Located just an hour's drive from San Francisco, this national park offers miles of hiking trails, stunning ocean views, and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife.
One of the best things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore is to go on a hike. There are several different trails to choose from, each with its own unique scenery. You can also go whale watching, bird watching, or tide-pooling. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can even go camping overnight.
No matter what you choose to do, you're sure to have a great time at Point Reyes National Seashore. It's truly one of the best day trips from San Francisco.
How to get to Point Reyes National Seashore
As you may have already guessed - by car.
From San Francisco to Carmel and Monterey
Carmel and Monterey are two of the most popular tourist destinations in California. And for good reason - there's so much to see and do in these beautiful coastal towns.
Carmel is known for its quaint shops and restaurants, as well as its stunning beaches. You can also visit the Carmel Mission or take a hike through one of the many parks in the area.
Nearby Monterey is home to several popular attractions, including the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can also go whale watching, golfing, or shopping in this picturesque town.
Both Carmel and Monterey offer various activities and attractions, making them perfect destinations for a day trip from San Francisco, especially if you're traveling with kids.
How to get to Carmel and Monterey
The drive to these scenic towns will take about two hours, and they are best combined to avoid going back and forth.
From San Francisco to Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in California. And for good reason - it's absolutely stunning. From its towering waterfalls to its massive sequoia trees, there's so much to see and do in Yosemite.
There are several different activities you can do in Yosemite. You can go hiking or rock climbing or take a scenic drive through the park. You can also go rafting or kayaking on the Merced River or visit the famous Tunnel View viewpoint.
Yosemite National Park is a good three-hour drive from San Francisco, so it may be a little far for a conventional day trip. But camping in the woods on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains is an unforgettable California experience, so if you have the time, you should definitely consider making the trip. Yosemite National Park is the kind of place that, once seen, you never forget.
How to get to Yosemite National Park
Definitely by car, unless you want to spend hours and hours on multiple buses.
Just a brief glance at this list of day trips should be enough to show you just how much there is to do around San Francisco. So much, in fact, that you could spend weeks in Northern California and still barely scratch the surface. Whether you want to see the majestic wilderness of Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park or would rather stay closer to the city and explore Muir Woods National Monument, you'll have your pick of outdoor activities. And with so many charming coastal towns in the area, there's plenty to visit outside San Francisco itself.
Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage and enjoy some of these incredible day trips. You'll get a whole new appreciation for what San Francisco has to offer.