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The 9 Best Day Trips From San Francisco

Get out of the city for the day with these incredible spots for California adventure.

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

1. Big Sur - 3 hrs

The crown jewel of the California coast, Big Sur's dramatic coastlines hold a bevy of adventures. Popular spots include the Bixby Canyon Bridge (I'm sure you've seen photos) and Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. Even if you don't have a ton of time for side-hikes, it's one of the most scenic drives in the country. Don't miss McWay Falls!

2. Santa Cruz - 1.5 hrs

This laid-back beach town has got it all. Just pop over the Santa Cruz mountains and spend your day exploring one of Northern California's best surf towns. Take a walk on the boardwalk, go mountain biking in nearby Wilder Ranch State Park, hit a hiking trail, and end it all with a classic California sunset.

3. Salt Point State Park - 2.2 hrs

A hidden gem of the Northern California coast, Salt Point often gets overlooked due to it's more popular and more accessible neighbors down south. You won't be disappointed with the variety of coastal meadows and wildflowers as they meet windswept cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There's plenty of hiking and views to be had.

4. Pinnacles National Park - 2 hrs

That California National Park you didn't know existed. Newly designated as a National Park in January 2013, Pinnacles National Park is hidden just south of San Jose in the Gabilan Mountains, and is a short drive for anyone in the Bay Area.

5. Monterey - 2hrs

Monterey provides a veritable feast for any outdoor adventure enthusiast. From mountain biking, to whale watching, trail running, to staggering sunsets (check out Garrapata State Park), this beautiful place has it all; not to mention some of the best food and wine selection anywhere in the world. Don't forget a stop at the world famous Monterey Aquarium!

6. Point Reyes - 1.5 hrs

Point Reyes is one of the most amazing locations along the California Coast, especially considering it's accessibility from the bustling Bay Area. Drive the winding roads towards away from the city, you start to feel worlds away from the sprawl behind you. The Tomales Point trail and the Sky Trail are a favorite of ours.

7. Bodega Bay - 1.5 hrs

A bit north of Point Reyes, here you'll findn gorgeous views of Bay and the California Coast including migrating grey whales, sea lions, and other coastal wildlife.

8. Big Basin Redwoods State Park - 1.5 hrs

If you've never seen a California Redwood, it should definitely be on your to-do list. Some of the trees can be as tall as the Statue of Liberty and nearly 50ft around at the base!

9. Yosemite National Park - 3.25 hrs

I know what you're thinking -- isn't Yosemite a bit far for a day trip? NO. Not if you're committed, and plan it right (I've done it more than once). You'll want to leave early, like 4am-ish and make the drive. Now, with the time you have there are a couple things I recommend. The 4-mile trail to Panorama Trail "loop" is the best single day hike in the Valley. If that's a bit much for you, you can hit some of the shorter hikes, like Sentinel Dome, Vernal Falls, and Yosemite Falls. Grab some dinner at the pizza deck in Curry Village, and head on home.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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