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The Best Day Trips From San Francisco

by Keith langston

Here are the five best day trips from San Francisco where you can experience the beauty of nature in Northern California. 

Image: jessica.kirsh

There’s no denying that San Francisco is one of the most famous cities on the planet. With a wealth of history and culture, and icons like cable cars and the Castro Theater, it’s no surprise that people from around the world flock to this metropolis to soak up all it has to offer.

And yet, everyone still needs to escape the city sometimes. They may want to feel the wind in their hair, experience the beauty of nature, and sometimes, just get a change of scenery. Here are the five best day trips from San Francisco.

Muir Woods & Mount Tamalpais

Muir Woods (Photo: Elsa Amsterdam)

Redwood forests grow surprisingly close to San Fransisco. In fact, the Muir Woods are actually just a stone’s throw away. Better yet, the woods are directly next to Mount Tamalpais State Park, and combined they form a huge nature preserve that covers beaches, oceanside cliffs, and forests filled with towering coastal redwood trees, which can grow up to 379 feet tall.

The dense fog that the San Fransisco region sees actually helps the redwoods grow here. During periods of drought, the redwood trees actually absorb moisture from the fog cover. The woods are also home to California’s famous banana slugs, as well as spotted owls and even salmon.


Wine Country

Napa Valley (Photo: Michael Warwick)

California’s Wine Country not only makes for a great day trip, but it’s also a wonderful road trip destination and weekend escape. The entire region (which encompasses places like Napa and Sonoma) is dotted with vineyards, restaurants, roadside stands, and everything from quaint B&Bs to luxury resorts.

And while the region is certainly known for its boozy delights, its also home to a number of state parks and preserves, perfect for hiking, biking, and paddling. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can even explore the landscape from above in a dreamy hot air balloon ride!


Point Reyes

Point Reyes (Photo: C Rolan)

Point Reyes is a giant preserve north of San Fransisco, and it’s filled with a diverse range of animals like elk, deer, and even black bears on land, and grey whales, elephant seals, and harbor seals in the sea.

There’s also the stunning Point Reyes Lighthouse which was built in 1870 to warn sailors of the headlands that protrude out into the ocean. Unfortunately, not every sailor heeded this warning. Throughout history, numerous boats have sunk after striking the rocks. In fact, the park even has the remains of a shipwreck, the S.S. Point Reyes, that’s still lodged into the rocks to this day. point Reyes is an excellent destination for spending a day outdoors, sightseeing, observing wildlife, and learning about history.


Santa Cruz

Giant Dipper roller coaster (Photo: Sundry Photography)

The beach town of Santa Cruz offers something for everyone. Because of UC Santa Cruz, the town has a vibrant, young population that paved the way for some excellent coffee shops and dining. The town’s beaches are also known to be great surf spots, so it’s perfect for anyone looking to hit the waves, or even those who want to spend a leisurely morning just watching the surfers. There’s even the famous and historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The wooden coaster, The Giant Dipper, dates all the way back to 1924 and is a designated Historic Landmark. The surrounding area is also loaded with forests, beaches, state parks, and tons of options for adventure travel.


Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo (Photo: yhelfman)

Mount Diablo is surrounded by rolling hills and lush, green valleys. From the top of the mountain, you can see both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The mountain is protected by a state park and even has a lookout tower at the top of the mount complete with telescopes and displays the teach the history of the mountain and its important use a survey point in pioneer times.

At the base of the mountain sits “Rock City”, a series of large boulders and rock formations with natural holes, wind caves, and crevasses that can be climbed through. There’s even a display of the ancient native American tools that have been found around the mountain. If you’re looking for the best views in the Bay Area, Mount Diablo is a must-visit.


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