If you live in San Francisco or the Bay Area, or if you visit the city of fog, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to driving. From snowy mountain peaks to the hottest desert in the world, from national parks to cultural excursions in the city, the variety of possibilities is truly unique.

Near destinations throughout California, there are options for where to go and where to return to neighboring states on the eve of long drives.

With the best wineries in the world, mountain views and incredible roads leading to them, here’s our list of the 30 best roadtours in San Francisco.

If you want to see the city first, don’t forget to check out our guide to the 50 best classes in San Francisco!

The best car trips from San Francisco range from short drives in California to weeks of adventure in the national parks, spectacular city trips and trips to neighboring states.

Daytime road travel from San Francisco

1. Silicon Valley and San Jose

Distance from San Francisco: 49 miles around San Jose (1 hour 20 minutes)

When: Perfect weather all year round

Beautiful buildings and palm trees in the Santana Row neighborhood of San Jose, California.

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Silicon Valley and the city of San Jose are a short drive from San Francisco. There are three routes from San Francisco to San Jose – the US-101 runs through most of Silicon Valley, the CA-82 is a slower parallel route and the I-280 goes further inland with a longer but more scenic route.

Places like Menlo Park, Redwood, Palo Alto, Cupertino and Mountain View have long been associated with the world’s largest technology companies. As you walk through the area, you’ll see the headquarters of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel and dozens of other technical giants.

Stanford University is located in the middle of Silicon Valley, on the border of the technical centres of Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

San Jose is often overlooked in favor of visiting San Francisco, but it is an interesting city with many sights. The in-depth exploration of technology and innovation continues all the way to San Jose – be sure to visit Tech Interactive, a fantastic museum of technology and scientific innovation.

If you have a lot of time, you can cut your trip to the Pacific coast in Pescadero and return to San Francisco after Half Moon Bay and some classic California beaches and cities (see no. 2 below).

2. Pescadero, California and Crescent Bay

Distance from San Francisco: 47 miles (1 hour 10 minutes)

When: The Pumpkin Crescent Festival in Pumpkin Bay takes place every year in October.

Pigeon Beacon on the coast in Pescadero, California.

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A trip south to Pescadero, along the Pacific coast, is filled with breathtaking views and offers the opportunity to see classic California with its smooth beaches and picturesque towns.

Highway 1 runs along the entire coast and can only be one of the most picturesque windows you can take from San Francisco. The road winds along the coast, twisting and turning, and you’ll reach Half Moon Bay in just under half an hour.

The traditional farming and fishing community is ideal for a relaxing walk or picnic on Francis Beach. After your stop, Pescadero is only 25 minutes away.

Pescadero is nature and exploration of the best of the north coast of California. Life is slow and you can visit one of the many national parks and reserves that surround the city. The relatively small Agno Nuevo Park, just a few kilometres to the south, is ideal for walking and offers fantastic views of the rugged coastline.

3. Sebastopol and Sonoma Vineyards

Distance from San Francisco: 73 miles (2 hours)

When: Enjoy the good weather from June to October.

Sonoma vineyards at sunset near Sevastopol, California.

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Sonoma is one of the most famous wine regions in California and the United States. The region is divided into two distinct areas, the Sonoma Valley, which runs parallel to its most famous cousin Napa (see no. 6 below), and the Sonoma Coast, which stretches from the bay of San Pablo to the Rancho de la Marine, on the border of Mendocino County to the north.

From San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and follow the signs to Sonoma City. From there, take Highway 12 through the Sonoma Valley, where there are numerous vineyards. Get off the main road and taste some of the best wines available in the United States.

The city of Sevastopol is technically located in the Russian wine region of the river, although it is still in the Sonoma district. The city is full of apple orchards and you can discover the unique nature around it – the Russian River Area is the largest freshwater wetland area in the United States.

You can reach the Sonoma Valley in one day, but to get the best out of the valley (and its wines!), you really need to spend a weekend in the hills. Wine tastings are organised in the vineyards and there are also some really great restaurants.

4. Bolinas, California

Distance from San Francisco: 30 miles (1 hour)

When: Visit us during the summer months on your day off to swim.

A walk on Stinson Beach near Bolinas in Marin County, California.


Bolinas is near San Francisco – the road is only 30 miles from downtown. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, follow Route 1 through the woods of Muir and drive around the Bolinas lagoon.

Marin County lies on the coast of Bolinas Bay and is surrounded by nature – Point Reyes, Muir Woods National Monument, Samuel P. Taylor State Park and Tomales Bay are all within easy reach.

It may sound strange, but Bolinas is mostly known as the place that wants to be less known. There are anecdotes about the inhabitants who remove the signs indicating the Bolinas exit of highway 1 and who do not like visitors. The exclusive location and small size make Bolinas a great place to visit. Because it’s so close to San Francisco, it’s in danger of becoming too popular all year round and flooded with tourists.

But don’t be discouraged. A short trip from San Francisco to Bolinas is definitely worthwhile to admire the breathtaking views of the coast, and the city feels incredibly well anchored despite the prices of a small cheap cabin starting at a few million dollars.

The beach café and the small Bolinas museum are two of the city’s attractions, but don’t forget to take a walk to the Alamer waterfalls. These waterfalls are one of the few in the world that flow directly into the sea – a unique sight not to be missed!

From Bolinas it is about 10 miles on foot, but you can walk and park 2/3 of the way. In addition, from the car park you should allow yourself enough time to drive back (and swim!).

5. San Juan Bautista, California

Distance from San Francisco: 97 miles (1 hour 40 minutes)

When: Perfect all year round.

A statue for the mission in San Juan Bautista, California.

Jeffrey M. Frank/Shutterstock.com

A road trip to San Juan Bautista gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of California and discover how people lived here at the beginning of the 19th century. They lived in the 19th century, when the state was first colonized.

The San Juan Bautista mission is one of the oldest and best preserved missions in the state. It is unusual that it never closed its doors and from 1812 onwards it functioned permanently as a religious mission.

Several other historic buildings and homes, including a hotel – all more than 100 years old – are located on the square and in the area directly opposite the mission building. The city’s appearance hasn’t changed much since the 1800s, and it’s very interesting to see what the rest of California looked like at that time.

When leaving San Francisco, take the I-280 to avoid Silicon Valley and San Jose. In Cupertino you take Highway 85 and come to the American Highway 101, which will take you all the way to the end. If you continue south towards Big Sur or Carmel Bai nu-mer, you should consider San Juan Bautista as a stop on your way.

6. Napa Valley Survey in Yantville, California

Distance from San Francisco: 70 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)

When: The weather is perfect in all seasons

Wine tasting room at the Priest Ranch in Yantville, Napa Valley, California.

Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock.com

Ask any wine lover for a glass of Californian wine, and Napa Valley will probably be the first person they will point to. In recent years, the Napa Valley has become world famous for its wines. Some of my favorites are the Napa Valley wines!

The next valley along Sonoma (see above) is the Napa Valley, only an hour away. The locals love the Zinfandel grape, mainly because of the large number of local vineyards where it is grown. As a relative of the Southern Italian primitive, Zinfandel is often the basis for strong red wines sold worldwide, although in the United States it is produced almost exclusively from roses.

Make sure you stop in Yantville. This small, modest town has several wine tasting rooms in wine cellars and has a record number of Michelin stars per capita in the United States, shared by French restaurants Laundromat and Boucheron.

We strongly advise you to stop for the night to enjoy the food and wine!

7. Sierra Nevada Promontory in Colombia, California

Distance from San Francisco: 136 miles (2 hours and 30 minutes)

When: May to October for warm weather – summer is not too hot here.

Traditional route in Colombia - the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Gold County, California.

Jakub Zajic/Shutterstock.com

You could visit Colombia in two and a half hours in one day, although it would be much better to take more time and add other destinations in the east, such as Yosemite National Park or Stanislav National Forest, to have a weekend away.

Colombia is a historic city that was created during the gold rush. When gold was found on the spot in the 19th century, a large number of people came to the city. Over the course of the century, thousands of people have come to the city.

Today, the Columbia State Historic Park covers the central part of the city. The main street is reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and horse-drawn carriages, and the buildings are not moved in a western movie. There are even several films recorded here, including classics such as High Noon.

At its peak, Colombia was the second largest city in California and was almost declared a state capital. Visit the historic city and take a picnic – tables can be found all over the city in the historic district.

8. Point Reyes and Tomales Bay

Distance from San Francisco: 52 miles (1 hour 45 minutes)

When: When you have a day off or a weekend off.

Coastline along the national coast of Point Reyes, California.

Jerry C/Shutterstock.com

Marin County is just past the Golden Gate Bridge, and if you go beyond Muir Woods before walking, you can follow Route 1 along the coast to Point Reyes and the beautiful Tomales Bay.

The Point Reyes National Coastline offers some of the most scenic promenades to be seen anywhere in the country. The steep slopes rise above spectacular cliffs, immersed in the waves of the sea. There are many species of trees and many animals, including moose, that you may notice.

The Point Reyes lighthouse, built in 1870, is located on the edge of Point Reyes and you need 308 steps down to get there before you can get on the road.

The Cypress Tunnel is an incredible track with huge trees forming a covered tunnel that overlaps on both sides. Unlike the graceful oaks that frame the entrances to the mansions in Georgia and Alabama, the cypresses are taller and seem wilder – you have to see that.

9. Visit to Sacramento, the capital of California

Distance from San Francisco: 88 miles (1 hour 30 minutes)

When: It’s great all year round, but go to the Farm to Fork festival in September.

The old Sacramento Bridge in Sacramento, California.

Adonis Villanueva/Shutterstock.com

The vibrant city of Sacramento, the capital of California since 1854, is the perfect place to visit and discover the combination of history, retro chic and casual life.

Start with a tour of Old Sacramento, a district dating back to 1848 with old buildings, promenades and amazing small independent shops.

Next to the State Capitol, which you have to visit, you will stop at the California Iron Road and the California Automobile Museum. Trains and Wagons presents the history of California’s railways, with trains and cars from the 1860s and a collection of cars inspired by early 19th century models. From the century to the classic muscle cars.

If you’re sneaking into Sacramento, don’t forget to drink your coffee at one of the increasingly independent coffee shops that roast their own beans. Later you can go to the cinema to watch a movie (yes, they still exist!) and have a drink in one of the eclectic bars.

If you have time, make a night stop to see more of Sacramento and enjoy the nightlife.

Weekend by car from San Francisco

10. Cayukos, California

Distance from San Francisco: 227 miles (4 hours)

When: From August to November, the clouds that cover the coast in June and July can be avoided.

Brown butter biscuit shop in Cayukos, California.

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Cayukos is one of the most beautiful cities on the Californian coast and the perfect weekend getaway from San Francisco.

The city dates back to the 1800s, with buildings along Ocean Avenue interspersed with classic wooden buildings and modern, casual cafes and surf shops.

The pace of life in Cayukos and nearby Morro Bay is low and everything revolves around the ocean. The main activities are those you can do on the water, and shops usually sell goods for or from the beach.

San Francisco can be reached in 4 hours, but we strongly advise you to stay another hour and take Highway 1, which runs along the coast. This is one of the most picturesque CDs out there, and it would be a shame to miss it. You will also want to return to the slow road when you arrive in Cayukos on Highway 1.

Don’t miss to visit Hearst Castle, a few minutes from Cayukos, this huge mansion that has been transformed into a Californian park, and take a tour to see the absolutely fantastic luxury and design that created the wealth and fame of Hollywood in the first half of the 20th century.

11. Leggett, California

Distance from San Francisco: 181 miles (3 hours 20 minutes)

When: Excellent weather and not too hot during the summer months from May to September.

Cross the chandelier tree in Leggett, California.

Zack Frank/Shutterstock.de

Leggett is a small town in Northern California, Mendocino County, known for some of the tallest trees in the world.

Nearby are two protected forests – the Smithe Redwoods State Nature Reserve and the Standish-Hickey Recreation Area, which are home to coastal redwoods that can grow for 2,000 years to reach their incredible height.

There is a Drive-Thru tree park where you can admire these trees without leaving your car. You can even cross the 315-foot tall Candle Tree, which has been around for 2400 years.

But exploring these beautiful giants on foot is the best way to relax and get in touch with nature. After more than 3 hours driving from San Francisco, stretch your legs and head down to the South Fork Eel River with its waterfall to explore the surrounding picnic areas.

Don’t forget to explore the surrounding towns – Piercey, further along Highway 101, has a bizarre hill of confusion with a mountain train and a gravity house that can confuse you with some optical illusions.

12. Lassena Volcano National Park, California

Distance from San Francisco: 236 miles (3 hours 45 minutes)

When: From June to September, when the weather is warm and the entrance to Lassen Peak is open.

Lassena Peak and his reflection in Lake Manzanita in Lassena Volcanic National Park, California.

H Peter Ji photographer/Shutterstock.com

Lassen Volcano National Park is one of the least known and least visited national parks in California, so you should visit it.

Of course – there are other parks you should visit – we have the much better known Death Valley, Yosemite Canyon and Royal Canyon National Parks on the list, but Lassen is one of the most beautiful, where even in high season there are no crowds.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is known for its 4 different types of volcanoes, and Lassen Peak lies at an altitude of 10,457 feet above sea level.

There are over 150 miles of footpaths in the park and you can hike to the top of Lassen Peak, but make sure you have the right clothes and equipment. It can get very cold up there, and even in the middle of summer you can see a few meters of snow – the most snowy place in California!

13. Carmel near the sea, California

Distance from San Francisco: 122 miles (2 hours and 30 minutes)

When: Early autumn for better temperatures and rain.

Sweets Cottage imports British candy from Carmel na Sea, California.


Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming village south of Monterrey and a short drive from the coast of San Francisco.

When you arrive, you will be forgiven if you think you have somehow arrived in Europe. The buildings and the layout of the city have a strong Central European accent with beautiful cabins overlooking Switzerland and unique shops and restaurants.

If you are a gourmet, Carmel is the perfect place to spend the weekend. Restaurants such as Grasing’s on Mission Street will surprise you with the quality of the meat and fish, and there are also several wine tasting rooms where you can taste the best products of the Carmel Valley. Due to the local climate and fog, local wines are highly sought after in the United States and beyond.

Don’t miss a visit to Carmel Beach – the white sand is pristine and it’s easy to watch the waves for an hour or two. Be careful if you want to swim or surf – the water is cool, there are tidal waves and dormant waves that can be dangerous.

14. Guala, California

Distance from San Francisco: 115 miles (3 hours)

When: From June to October for sunbathing.

An empty and wild beach in Guala, in the district of Mendocino, California.

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Guala is a small coastal town on the coast of San Francisco, just inside Mendocino County if you take Highway 1. This area is unusual because the coastal fog that affects a large part of Northern California does not occur here because of the prevailing ocean winds.

This means that the weather is ideal for outdoor recreation, with clear skies and year-round sunshine.

There’s a lot to do in Gualais: Hiking, fishing and golf, but don’t forget to visit the Salt Point State Park Pygmy Forest. There are a number of different tree species, including cypresses and sequoias, which are only a few meters high.

The soils at this high altitude are very inhospitable to very acidic plants and contain almost no nutrients, making the trees hungry and unable to grow higher. After seeing some of the tallest trees in the world on the way to the San Francisco coast, it’s surreal but interesting to see the same trees in miniature.

The Gualala River flows into the Pacific Ocean and you can take a long walk or see sand dunes in Gualala Point Regional Park. If you’re lucky and arrive at the right time of year, you might even see whales passing by.

You can visit the famous Gualala Arts Center for a mixed art exhibition which is one of the most famous in Northern California. In the small town and the surrounding area there are many places where you can spend your weekends, and even a long drive is worth it.

15. San Luis Obispo, California

Distance from San Francisco: 231 miles (3 hours 45 minutes)

When: From July to October, the water is warmest on the beach.

Morro Rock on the coast in San Luis Obispo, California.

Min C. Chiu/Shutterstock.com

A few kilometres from the beach and in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Santa Lucia Mountains lies the town of San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo and nearby Morro Bay are popular stops for those traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

If traffic permits, it takes 4 hours to get there. So the trip may take a little longer than a weekend, but you can easily combine it with other stops on the coast and visits to Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California.

San Luis Obispo is known for two things: the pure and infinite sun and the San Luis Obispo the Tolosa Mission.

The mission is one of the oldest in California since 1772 and is an amazing journey that goes back several centuries. You can visit the interior of the Mission with some of the rooms decorated as they were when it was established and explore the beautiful gardens.

As the weather is fantastic all year round, don’t miss the surroundings of San Luis Obispo. The Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley wine regions may not be among the best known, but they certainly deserve to try the different grape varieties grown there.

Pismo beach, 20 miles long, is just a 15 minute drive away and is the perfect place to relax and swim to the sound of the waves. You can also go to the Shell Beach ponds, where you’ll find everything from crabs to starfish and sea lions. Take something to wear and rent a kayak for fun.

16. Nevada City, California

Distance from San Francisco: 147 miles (2 hours 45 minutes)

When: June – September for better weather.



If you want to leave San Francisco for a weekend of forests, mountains and fresh air, Nevada City may be the best option, which you can reach on Friday evening and return on Sunday evening, giving you plenty of time to relax.

The city itself is a picturesque former mining center that was once California’s most famous center for gold mining and everything else in the rocks. Originally known as Nevada, the end of the city was added in 1864 to avoid confusion with the neighboring state of Nevada.

Walking along Broad Street and the rest of the historic city centre you’ll see a series of classic western buildings now housing shops, local dive bars, a theatre and a hotel. In the background you can see the hills covered with a lush pine forest.

Nevada City is a great place to explore the Sierra Nevada and the incredible natural areas in this part of California. The Tahoe, Plums and Eldorado National Forests are an hour’s drive away, as are the city of Downeyville (see below) and the state capital, Sacramento.

The Yuba River, a few kilometres to the north, offers many hiking trails and fresh, crystal clear water, ideal for swimming if you can endure the cold temperatures of melting ice and spring water that feeds the river from a bird’s eye view.

17. Discover Mendocino

Distance from San Francisco: 155 miles (3 hours and 15 minutes)

When: To avoid the tourist season, you should take a look at the beautiful autumn leaf, the Wine Song Festival and other events.

Cabrillo Point Lighthouse State Historical Park, Mendocino County, California

Lucky Photographer/Shutterstock.com

Mendocino is a small village in the district of Mendocino that can be reached in 3-4 hours (or 5 hours if you take the much more picturesque Route 1, which runs along the coast).

Despite its modest size, it has a lot to do. Start at the Cabrillo Lighthouse in Point Cabrillo National Historic Park. On the coast you can visit the beautiful 1909 lighthouse and explore the rocky beach, with a promenade that takes you to Frolic Cove with its shipwreck of 1850.

Other walks and nature experiences can be made in the Russian Gorge or in the Mendocino Headlands National Park, about 3 km from Mendocino.

In the north lies Fort Bragg, where Glass Beach is located. After the 20th century… After decades of dumping waste into the ocean in the 19th century, much of the discarded glass was broken and polished by the waves that threw it against the rocks. Today the beach is filled with round glass pebbles, which is a fascinating sight.

The spillage was stopped in 1967 and since then less glass has been mixed with the stones each year, so that visitors, seabirds and the sea itself slowly remove the glass from the beach.

Ten miles south of Mendocino, Route 128 leads inland from Route 1. There are dozens of beautiful vineyards, many of which can be visited and tasted. Some say that the wine here is the best that California has to offer, but at a much lower price than in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, which are much closer to San Francisco.

18. Big Sur

Distance from San Francisco: 146 miles (3 hours)

When: From September to November, when the weather’s good, but the summer fog is gone…

Waves hit the rugged coastline of Big Sur, California.

Songquan Deng/Shutterstock.com

Big Sur is one of the most symbolic coastal areas in the world. The dramatic rocks, the crashing waves against the cliffs and the harsh nature have led to a situation in which films, television and the advertising industry often come here to watch.

It’s easy to get to Big Sur from San Francisco. Follow Route 1 along the coast or join Santa Cruz if you take Route 280 to San Jose instead. The famous coastline starts after rounding off the bay of Monterey and crossing the Carmel by the sea (which you have to stop, by the way – see above).

The unique landscape offers many opportunities for relaxation and recreation. Walk to the Point Sur Lighthouse in Point Sur Historic Park and see the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach or walk through one of the many national parks along the way.

Occasionally you will see cars parked on the side of the road – usually this means you can see a picturesque bay, hot springs or a waterfall. Some do not allow you to get too close to them, but they are often worth seeing!

Further along the coast and just before Cajukos, which is higher on this list, is the Herzburg. This sumptuous European-style house offers excursions and a unique insight into the lives of the rich and famous of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Weekly trips from San Francisco and longer trips

19. Virginia City, Nevada

Distance from San Francisco: 245 miles (4 hours)

When: From May to October, when the mines and curiosities are open.

Showcases in a classic mining town in Virginia City, Nevada.

Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock.com

Virginia City is located outside Nevada on Lake Tahoe, between Carson City and Reno. Another city that grew rapidly during the Gold Rush is downtown Virginia, a historic wonder with a promenade and real classical buildings.

The discovery of Comstock Lod under Mount Davidson was a turning point in the development of the city. One of the largest silver deposits discovered at the time caused a stampede on the city and the development of large mine shafts.

You can visit the mine – both the Holar Mine and the Ponderosa Mine are open to the public and you can walk through the galleries, see the mining equipment and the pieces of silver ore in the rocks. The Komstok Gold Mill and the Marshall Mint are also open to visitors.

The V&T train journey takes you back in time to the 19th century. For centuries. Once upon a time Virginia City had a complex railway network with 45 trains a day transporting workers and ore to and from the city. The train journey from Gold Hill takes 35 minutes and costs $12.

It’s easy to get around in a small town – people haven’t spent too much time creating street names, so C Street is the place to go. It’s between B Street and D Street. Go to the Red Dog to see the bar where Janice Jocelyn was in the band!

20. King’s Canyon National Park

Distance from San Francisco: 240 miles (4 hours)

When: The weather is best from June to August, but the parks are open all year round and are ideal to visit.

The sun was shining through huge redwoods in Kings Canyon National Park in California.

Hans Debruyne/Shutterstock.com

The Royal Canyon National Park and the nearby Sequoia National Parks are located in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada California Ridge, a 4 hour drive from San Francisco.

These parks offer some of the most beautiful and relaxing places to hike and relax, with forests full of high red forests, picturesque mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers. Highway 180, which runs between the two lanes, offers a spectacular view, but doesn’t go all the way, so you have to go back.

The redwoods that grow here are among the tallest in the world, and most grow between the two branches of the Cavea River. The biggest tree in the world, General Sherman’s tree, is here, but wait for the picture.

Kings Canyon National Park is also a good stopover on the way from San Francisco to Las Vegas or Los Angeles, which is a perfect break between the two routes.

You can also participate in a week of nature exploration in Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks.

21. Yosemite National Park

Distance from San Francisco: 167 miles (3 hours 20 minutes)

When: At the end of May or September, to avoid crowds, but when the roads and paths are open and free of snow.

The beautifully preserved Stoneman Bridge across the Merced River in Yosemite National Park, California.

Sarah Fields Photography/Shutterstock.com

One of the most famous national parks in the United States, Yosemite National Park, is located near San Francisco. If you’re lucky with the traffic, you can be there in three hours.

At the height of summer, Yosemite can be very busy when people from all over the United States and other continents of Northern California arrive to join them on their travels.

Most people are on their way to the Yosemite Valley, where the Merced River flows. All the standard photos of Yosemite are taken here, and this is where the famous El Captain Mountain and Cathedral Rock are located.

You will find hotels, campsites and many tourist attractions. You should definitely see the sights for yourself and take a walk or two, but Yosemite is much bigger than this valley, and the rest is much quieter and less touristy, which is a big advantage for us.

From Highway 120 there are many possibilities for excursions and walks, which lead in both directions. The best way to explore Yosemite is to pack your bags and go for a long walk in the mountains. Some of these activities can last several days and you can camp in the wilderness, but you must obtain a permit in advance to stay.

Don’t forget to go to the other side of the park and visit the mammoth swamps on the edge of the Iño National Forest and the Devil’s National Monument after the ridge above it.

22. Lake Tahoe, California

Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours 20 minutes)

When: From July to September for the summer holidays or from January to March for the ski season.

Crystal clear, calm water and a pebble beach in Lake Tahoe, California.


Lake Tahoe lies on the border between California and Nevada and is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, making it one of the most unique and recognizable lakes in the world.

The best thing about Lake Tahoe is that you can go there all year round. The clear waters of the lake, surrounded by large rocks and pine trees, are ideal for summer vacations, while the surrounding mountains offer some of the best skiing in the United States for the winter season.

From San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, cross the Bay Bridge to Auckland and then, after the I-80, to Sacramento, which is an excellent stop on your way. From there you can take the I-80 to Trukka, which is a few kilometers from Lake Tahoe, or the 50 through the Eldorado National Forest, depending on where you go around the lake.

Residents often refer to the north and south of Lake Tahoe as two separate areas. South Lake Tahoe is where most people go in summer, with many beaches, water sports and a more relaxed and cooler atmosphere.

Lake Tahoe North is becoming increasingly popular during the winter season and offers some of the best skis on this side, although hotels and general prices are higher.

The lake is also an ideal place to explore other places. National parks and designated nature reserves surround the lake, so you can walk with the lake below you and explore nature.

You can also take a short trip to the Tahoe and Eldorado National Forests to get away from the hustle and bustle, where some peaks reach over 10,000 feet and you can see some truly breathtaking scenery.

23. Salt Lake City, Utah

Distance from San Francisco: 740 miles (10 hours and 30 minutes)

When: From September to October for better camping time and less crowds.

View of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, behind a reflecting pond.


Salt Lake City is the longest trip on our list from San Francisco, about 170 miles from Las Vegas (see below), but if you’ve explored all of California or have more time for an epic journey, a trip to Utah might be on the map.

Despite the very long distance, it couldn’t have been easier to get from San Francisco to Salt Lake City. Find the beginning of the I-80 around SoMa – South Beach in San Francisco and stay there until the intersection in the west.

The road takes you to the border of Nevada at Lake Tahoe and then crosses the entire width of Nevada before continuing to Utah. Crossing the desert in the north of Nevada doesn’t offer many possibilities to stop. The landscape hasn’t changed at all over a few hundred kilometres, and the deserted rocky plains are only occasionally interrupted by a small town.

If you don’t want to stay in a small motel somewhere in the middle, we advise you to spend the night (or three!) somewhere on the north coast of Lake Tahoe before you hit the road for the rest of the day. If you leave early, you’ll be here at noon and have time for drinks and dinner to relax.

Salt Lake City is known as the center of the Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns much of the land and some of the most famous buildings in the area. Less than half of the population is Mormon, but everywhere you look you see the importance of the church.

Unfortunately, you cannot enter the main temple or other Mormon facilities as they are for members only. It is also the fact that the temple will be restored until 2024! But you can still see the sights around the temple square, including the tabernacle, where you can attend a performance of the choir at any time of the day.

Depending on the time of day, you can travel through Idaho and Oregon via Boise or head south to Las Vegas instead of retiring via Nevada. The northern road is very picturesque: Idaho and Oregon have many lush forests, wildlife and excellent access roads. You can also pack at various stops in Northern California along the way.

24. Downeyville, California

Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours and 30 minutes)

When: End of June – beginning of September for better weather

The city of Downeyville on the Yuba River in the Golden Land of California.

Hank Schiffman/Shutterstock.com

Downeyville and his cousin on Sierra City Road were on the North Yuba River. The journey from Nevada City upstream on Highway 49 takes about an hour. The total distance to San Francisco is less than 200 miles, and you can spend a long weekend there.

For nature lovers – bird watching, hiking in the mountains and through the forests and valleys of the Tahoe National Forest. Then, mountain biking, horseback riding and even backyard rides for the more adventurous.

Besides this great trout fishing in the Yuba River there is the possibility to swim in pure (but cold) fresh water and a great whitewater holiday along the rapids and waterfalls of the river.

If you’re interested in picnics, peaks and fresh air, away from the busy streets of San Francisco, Downeyville is the place for you.

There are several large local snack bars and restaurants and even a large wine shop called 49 Wines, where you can talk to the owner for hours and even taste one or two wines.

25. Patrick Point State Park, California

Distance from San Francisco: 300 miles (5 hours 20 minutes)

When: From May to September, although the weather is very stable throughout the year.

Waves roll along Agat Beach on a foggy morning in Patrick Point State Park in California.

voluptuous andy/shutterstock.com

Patrick’s Point State Park is located in the far north of California, on a rocky spur off the coast of California.

The park itself is small and has a number of camping pitches and places where you can park your camper. Note, however, that many sites are not flat and the sites are not the best you can find. Choosing a motel in Trinidad or another accommodation nearby can be at the expense of well invested resources.

But spending the night isn’t why you’re visiting Patrick Point. The views and rolling forests along the coast are what attracts people here all year round, despite the distance to San Francisco and Portland.

From the park you can see the agate beach and it is the perfect place to spend the day watching the waves breaking on the sand.

Behind the beach are three large lagoons separated from the Pacific Ocean by narrow headlands. The Redwood Highway (Highway 101) runs through here on its way to the coast. If you travel inland from the lagoons you will find Redwood State Park or continue north to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (part of the same Redwood National Park System).

Among the huge mahogany trees that stretch for more than 300 miles, there are many places to discover if you come for a week or more. There are campsites everywhere where you can spend the night.

Make sure you bring the correct clothing and equipment. The weather here is very temperate, with temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees all year round. Rain can be frequent and can strike every day, and in summer the forests can become very misty.

26. Death Valley National Park

Distance from San Francisco: 460 miles (9 hours)

When: From March to April the wild flowers bloom in the desert.

Sunrise over the flat mesquite sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, California.


Death Valley is on the other side of San Francisco’s Sierra Nevada, and it’s a long way from there. The journey takes about 9 hours, which can be done in one day, but we strongly recommend dividing the trip into two stages to make it more comfortable. With incredible places to stop along the way, you’d be crazy not to!

The drive from San Francisco to the hottest place on earth (recorded in 1913 on the Creek Coven Ranch at 134° F (56.7° C)) leads east to Yellowstone and the picturesque 120, then to the 395th south to Inye Forest.

Ignore browsers that tell you to take the I-5 to Bakersfield if you don’t like a long drive between two states and don’t see anything along the way.

Death Valley is the largest U.S. national park outside of Alaska, with a mixed geography of rugged mountains, rugged blocks of ancient lakes and huge sand dunes. The infamous Apple Mac background was filmed in the middle of these dunes.

Although the park is open all year round, it is advisable to avoid the summer months, when temperatures can rise in the middle of the night. In winter you can camp in Death Valley and watch the stars at night for miles without light. There are an infinite number of pedestrian and off-road routes all over the world.

If you want a bit more luxury, there are several hotels within the boundaries of the park or you can stay in a motel near one of the entrances instead.

27. Los Angeles

Distance from San Francisco: 385 miles (6 hours)

When: From April to November, although it is really nice to visit all year round.

People and cars in the theater district of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

For those who want to visit the only city in California even more famous than San Francisco, Los Angeles is just a few hundred miles from the coast.

You can get to Los Angeles in just six hours if you take the I-5 straight ahead. However, if you want to make up for this trip, take Highway 1, which runs along the coast.

The total driving time will be about 3 hours more, but the scenic route is incredibly beautiful and offers many great places to stay, incredible sights and activities, and some of the best roads to get anywhere.

On your way from San Francisco to the City of Angels you will pass Carmel by the sea, cross Big Sur and arrive in San Luis Obispo. Continue on the road and the closer you get to Los Angeles, the closer Santa Barbara, Malibu and Santa Monica come together.

Compared to the older school concept in San Francisco, Los Angeles covers a large area that includes many different cities and districts.

From Hollywood Hills to Long Beach, Beverly Hills and Pasadena there is a lot to see. You can visit film studios, theme parks, amusement parks and some of the most famous beaches in the country. Take a mandatory photo with the star of your favourite actor on the Walk of Fame and make sure some people watch Rodeo Drive – trust us – it’s really entertaining!

28. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Distance from San Francisco: 400 miles (6 hours and 30 minutes)

When: From May to August, when the paths of the park are open and free of snow.

Lake Crater and Wizards Island in Lake Crater National Park, Oregon.


Crater Lake National Park is relatively easy to reach from San Francisco. Take the I-5, hook it up after passing through Sacramento and continue north until Highway 97 stops the grass. From there you will cross Oregon and reach the crater lake in about 2 hours.

Crater Lake National Park is surrounded by a beautiful deep blue lake, which is located in a volcano that dates back to 5700 BC. Chr. crack. With a depth of 1,900 feet, it is the deepest lake in the United States, which gives it a beautiful color.

The park and lake roads are only open from mid-May to September due to heavy snowfall and poor conditions – please contact us before your trip to see if you have access to them.

In general, Crater Lake National Park is incredibly isolated, even by the standards of the national park. There are very few accommodation options, so book as soon as possible. The same goes for food – you won’t find many options here, so bring what you need.

Finally, be very careful with petrol – a petrol station in the park only works in summer, so if you see a petrol station along the way, it’s best to fill up.

The main activity of the park is hiking. There are many routes, from simple walks to long walks in the mountains several thousand meters high. Its dense forests and high altitude make it a very valuable experience and an excellent way to breathe incredible fresh air, miles away from any city.

29. Rescue, California

Distance from San Francisco: 217 miles (3 hours and 30 minutes)

When: From April to June, until the weather warms up later in the summer.

Bridge from Sandial to Turtle Bay on the Sacramento River Trail in Redding, California.

Nail photography/Schutterstock.de

Redding is a city located in the foothills of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, a few hours north of San Francisco.

Rescue is located on the Sacramento River and near Lassana Volcano National Park. It’s a great place to explore Northern California and do a lot of things in the city itself.

A few kilometres north of Redding lies Shasta Lake, a large man-made lake that lies in four valleys above Shasta Dam and into which the Sacramento River, McCloud River, Squaw Creek and dozens of small streams flow from different sides.

Here you can visit the caves of Lake Shasta to see unique cave formations and explore the small roads leading through the national forest with waterfalls and picturesque mountains along the way.

Add to your list of day trips to Whiskitown and Lassena Volcanoes National Park for a week in Redding!

In the city itself, you can visit the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which combines a museum, interactive exhibits and outdoor attractions that will keep you busy for hours. Be sure to visit the famous Sun Bridge and take a boat trip on the Sacramento River.

To the west of the centre of Redding lies the ghost town of Shasta. Once it was a lively mining community, but after decades of neglect, many buildings collapsed. You can walk through the streets to see how the California Gold Rush was and visit various sites including the old courthouse and the prison.

Distance from San Francisco: 570 miles (9 hours)

When: All year round, although it can be very hot from June to August, especially in the Mojave Desert and the Valley of the Dead.

Signature. Welcome to fantastic Las Vegas, Nevada.


A trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas might not be such a good idea – many people prefer to fly, saving them time and money.

However, there are a few things that are worth a long drive. The flight does not allow you to visit some of the best national parks in the United States, visit the Mojave Desert and Death Valley or spend a few days in Los Angeles.

There are two ways to get from San Francisco to Las Vegas. So if you’re planning a trip, you should stop in Las Vegas and come back here via different routes to make your trip more interesting.

Half of the places on this list are directly in between. Route 120 along the highway takes you eastwards to Yosemite National Park, near Colombia and Sonora, then through the Iño National Forest and southeast through Nevada to Las Vegas.

The slightly faster but less beautiful route goes south along the I-5 to Bakersfield, and then crosses the I-15 to take you to Vegas.

Las Vegas needs no introduction and no reason to travel – the entertainment capital of the world has it all, from crazy hotels to endless gambling, clubs, bars and restaurants and dozens of shows every night.

If the weather permits, you’ll need to pack up a few times along the way and if you’re really in the mood for adventure, head to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and beyond!

READ MORE – Highway from San Francisco to Las Vegas

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