5 Day Trips to Take from San Francisco, USA

Ellie Swain

Senior Contributor

With the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the humming Fisherman’s Wharf, and plenty of buzzy bars there’s certainly enough to keep you occupied in San Francisco. But while you’re in the city, you can’t miss exploring the rest of what the area has to offer. If you’re short on time in California, San Francisco proves to be an ideal base for outdoor adventuring outside the city. From sprawling sandy coastlines to world-class wineries, the state is packed with must-visit spots close by to San Francisco.

World-Class Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

Any wine lover will recognise Napa Valley as one of the world’s premier wine destinations and a visit to the region is a must-do. Just over an hour’s drive away from the centre of San Francisco, Napa Valley is home to over 400 sun-soaked wineries where you can sample award-winning local wines from a range of grape varietals. We recommend the Beaulieu Vineyard, one of the oldest producers in the valley with an impressive portfolio of fine wines.

On a day trip to the region, you’ll visit quality boutique wineries, gourmet restaurants, and artisan shops to pick up plenty of delicious locally crafted goodies such as cheese and chocolate.

Not just a treat for the taste buds, you’ll be taken aback by the sublime landscapes, with the verdant vineyards stretching far back into the horizon. Don’t forget to pose for a photo against the vineyards, wine glass in hand – it’ll be perfect for Instagram. 

Majestic Views in Yosemite National Park

One of the most famous national parks in the world, let alone the country, no visit to California is complete without a trip to Yosemite National Park. While we’d recommend spending more than a day in the expansive park if you’re short on time a day trip from San Francisco is definitely doable.

Home to looming mountains, ancient forests, and raging rivers, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to pristine natural landscapes that look like they’re straight out of a blockbuster movie.

On a day trip, you’ll have the chance to amble past the famous giant sequoia trees, explore the quaint centre of Yosemite Village, and admire the postcard-perfect alpine views of the Tunnel View and the granite cliffs of Half Dome and El Captain. In Yosemite Village, keep an eye out for wandering mule deer that make themselves home in the area.

The Infamous Alcatraz Island Prison

Only two km and a 20-minute ferry ride from San Francisco’s Pier 33, a visit to Alcatraz Island is an easy day trip from the city. Whether you’re a history buff or not, Alcatraz Island isn’t to be missed when visiting San Francisco and anyone will find the colourful true-life tales of the world’s most infamous prison fascinating to learn.

Home to notorious criminals including the Birdman, Robert Stroud, and Al Capone from 1934 to 1963, today the eerie old prison is used as a museum where visitors can take a walk-around audio tour of the crumbling building.

On your way back to the shoreline, admire sprawling views of San Francisco city – if you can see through the fog, that is.

The Rugged Coastline of Big Sur

Home to beaches that are considered some of the best in the world, the 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline of Big Sur is certainly worth a day trip from San Francisco.

While the drive there is pushing three hours, the winding mountainside roads, remote beaches, and sparkling sea views make the journey worth it. Pack a picnic, pop some beers in the cooler, and head off at the crack of dawn to make the most of your day out by the wild ocean.

Climb to the vantage point of McWay Falls to appreciate the tropical-like views, where the famous waterfall joins the sand of the beach and the frothy waves of the ocean.

At Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the coastline meets dense redwood forest, offering the perfect chance for a mid-afternoon stroll following a filling beachside picnic. If you stick around for sunset, at Pfeiffer beach you can sit on the sand to watch the sun melt into the horizon through the arched rock in the water, creating a lustrous light tunnel that streams through the opening.

Connecting with Nature at Muir Woods National Monument

Should the buzzy bright lights of San Francisco be too much for you, escape to the verdant forest of Muir Woods. Although only a 40-minute drive away, you’ll feel worlds away from city life as you stroll through past the towering redwood trees.

Offering six miles of versatile hiking trails, take a deep breath and reconnect with the earth as you meander through mysterious crannies, past charming waterfalls, and along mossy paths that could be straight out of a fairy tale.

If you’re after coastal views, hike the Ben Johnson and Dipsea trails and you’ll be rewarded with glittering ocean vistas. Keep an eye out for prowling creatures that call the forest home – from bobcats and deer to coyotes and barn owls. 

Become a member to join the conversation!

Become part of the world's leading travel & lifestyle community!