From the coast to the mountains, rural retreats to vibrant city centers, and wine country to towering redwood forests, there are just so many great weekend getaway destinations in California!
To help you choose, we’ve put together this list of the 14 best weekend getaways from San Francisco.
We’ve included everything you need to help plan your weekend away, including how to get there, what to do, and where to stay, with ideas for outdoor adventures, city explorations, wine country escapes, and more.
Planning a Trip to California? We’ve got plenty of California travel guides to help you plan an amazing trip.
- 3 Days in San Francisco: A Complete Long Weekend Itinerary
- 14 Incredible Day Trips from San Francisco
- How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Los Angeles (2 Day Itinerary)
- How to Spend One Amazing Day in Los Angeles (2 Ways!)
- The Best Places to Stay in Los Angeles (An L.A. Local’s Guide)
- A Perfect Weekend Itinerary For San Diego (2 Days)
- How to Spend One Amazing Day in San Diego
- Where to Stay in San Diego: A Complete Guide from a Local
- A Complete Joshua Tree Itinerary (Weekend Guide)
- A Complete Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide (SF to SD)
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
The Best Weekend Trips From San Francisco
Below, we’re going to cover 14 perfect destinations for a weekend trip, whether you’re looking to disconnect and connect with nature, explore a new town or city, or sip some world-class wine.
Yosemite National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 3.5 hours / 170 miles
How to Get There: I-80 east to I-580 east to CA-120 east
When to Go: Late spring (waterfalls at their fullest) and fall (fall colors)
Yosemite is known for its stunning vista points, granite monoliths, waterfalls, more than 200 miles of hiking trails, incredible rock climbing, pretty lakes, and wildlife. See what inspired John Muir and Ansel Adams for yourself.
If you’re interested in planning a trip to Yosemite, we’ve got a couple of guides you’re going to want to read. First, a guide to planning a perfect 2 day Yosemite itinerary. Second, a thorough guide to where to stay in Yosemite, which can get complicated fast (especially considering how competitive it is).
What to Do in Yosemite
Hike the Mist Trail – One of the most popular hikes in the park, this trail lets you get close to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. You might get wet if you go hiking in the spring. Start at the Happy Isles trailhead, then gain around 2,000 feet in elevation all the way to the top of Nevada Falls. Come down on the John Muir Trail instead.
Glacier Point at Sunset – At 3,214 feet above the valley floor, Glacier Point offers one of the most spectacular views of the park – an incredible panorama of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and three waterfalls. You can drive there from the valley in an hour (or take a shuttle bus), though for those that want to earn their views, the 4 Mile Trail from the valley is an option. Get there for golden hour and stay for sunset. Sunrise is also a good option to beat the crowds. Another great viewpoint that you can reach by driving is Tunnel View, also good for sunsets.
Waterfalls Galore – Yosemite is a waterfall lover’s dream, with a countless number of waterfalls in the park. The 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in the world (though it is technically three separate falls), and can be seen from many spots in the valley. Pretty Bridalveil Falls is known for its light flow that gets blown side to side by the wind. Horsetail Falls is the top attraction in late February for Firefall, when sunset lights the water aglow as if on fire.
Hiking and Climbing – There are so many great hikes in Yosemite. If you’re lucky enough to get a permit for Half Dome, definitely do that. Other great (though popular) options include Inspiration Point from Tunnel View, Yosemite Falls from the valley, Sentinel Dome near Glacier Point, and the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point. Yosemite also draws climbers from all over the world, who try their skills on El Capitan, Half Dome, and in Tuolumne Meadows. Beginners can take a course through the Yosemite Mountaineering School.
Where to Stay Near Yosemite
Yosemite is massive. To maximize your time, especially with just a weekend, stay as close to the valley as possible. There are a few hotels and campsite options, though you’ll want to plan and reserve well in advance.
Hotels in the Valley
Yosemite Valley Lodge – The rooms here are basic but you’re paying for the location, across from Yosemite Falls and close to many trails. There are food options, a pool, and a hot tub, and the Merced River is right behind the hotel.
The Ahwahnee – If you can afford it, splurge for a stay at this National Historic Landmark near the base of Half Dome and Glacier Point. Even if you don’t stay here, stop in for a peek into the Great Lounge (lobby), a bite in the dining room, or a drink at the bar.
Camping in the Valley
Camp 4 – Popular with climbers due to its proximity to El Capitan and onsite bouldering, Camp 4 is a walk-in, tent-only campground. 35 sites are split among 6 people per site and reservations are required—available one day in advance by lottery. It can get pretty rowdy here so avoid it if you are looking for peace and quiet.
Upper Pines – It’s the largest campground in the valley with 238 sites, including spots for RVs. There’s a decent amount of shade and you can enjoy filtered valley views and easy access to trails. You’ll be close to your neighbors so there won’t be much privacy, but its location and convenience make up for it. Reserve well in advance.
Lower Pines – Pretty packed in and lively, with part of it along the Merced River, it can be prone to flooding in the spring if the river is high. 60 sites, including RVs spots. Reserve well in advance.
Staying Outside the Park
AutoCamp Yosemite – Glamp in style with vintage airstreams, spacious luxury tents, and cute cabins. The site also offers a seasonal pool, freshwater pond, clubhouse, firepits, and free loaner bikes to ride around the property. The only downside is it’s located outside of the park, about an hour away from the valley.
Distance from San Francisco: 2.5 hours / 140 miles
How to Get There: US-101 south to CA-17 south to CA-1 south
When to Go: Spring (wildflowers) and early fall (smaller crowds)
Big Sur is known for its rugged cliffs by the ocean and one incredible view after another. The drive along Highway 1 through Big Sur is one of the most spectacular in the country, and you’ll want to make numerous stops and check out many of its highlights, including hidden waterfalls, secluded beaches, and towering forests.
Want to plan a trip to Big Sur? Make sure to read our Big Sur itinerary for exactly how to spend a weekend in Big Sur.
What to Do in Big Sur
Bixby Bridge – You’ve probably seen photos of this bridge, one of the highest single-span bridges in the world. It’s incredibly photogenic and an iconic image of Big Sur. There’s a pullout on the north side of the bridge. You can also walk across it, but be careful as there’s no sidewalk.
Andrew Molera State Park – Spanning 4,800 acres, this is the largest park along the Big Sur coast and offers beaches, meadows, redwood groves, and the Big Sur River. There are 20 miles of trails, many of which are also open to biking and horseback riding. Take the 8-mile Andrew Molera Loop. Afterwards, spend some time at the beach.
Pfeiffer Beach – Famous for Keyhole Arch, a rock with a large door-like hole that lets in crashing waves and beautiful light rays around golden hour and sunset. Also worth checking out are the purple sands (from manganese garnet deposits washing down from nearby hills). You’re more likely to see purple sand at the northern end, and after a storm (or try digging down into the sand a bit).
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and McWay Falls – Another iconic sight is the 80-foot McWay Falls that empties onto the beach or ocean, depending on the tide. There’s no safe way to get down to the beach, but an easy 1.1-mile trail takes you to an overlook. Additional trails on the east side of the highway take you to higher viewpoints where you can enjoy panoramic views of the coastline.
Nepenthe – A stop here is well worth it for the views alone (though get the Ambrosia burger). Sit outside on their terrace and enjoy one of the best views anywhere. Just keep an eye on your food as brazen seagulls won’t hesitate to snatch it from right in front of you.
Where to Stay Near Big Sur
Hotels in Big Sur
Treebones Resort – This unique resort offers a range of accommodations with incredible ocean views, including glamping yurts, autonomous tents, and bring-your-own-tent campsites. But the coolest option is their human-sized nest and twig hut.
Ragged Point Inn – Perched on a cliff top near the southern end of Big Sur, Ragged Point Inn offers comfortable rooms in a stunning location at a reasonable price. The grounds are lovely and there’s a trail that leads past a waterfall to the beach below.
Camping in Big Sur
Kirk Creek Campground – Located on a bluff, you can enjoy fantastic ocean views from this campground. There’s a trail leading down to the beach and trails into the Ventana Wilderness across the road. Bring water and reserve well in advance.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – Nearly 200 campsites tucked in among the redwoods make for easy camping with many amenities. The Big Sur Lodge is also here, and offers rooms and cabins. There’s lots of great hiking in the park, including an easy trail to Pfeiffer Falls, the Buzzard’s Roost Trail, and a long hike to Sykes Hot Springs.
Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins – Located along the Big Sur River, this year-round site offers tent sites, RV sites (with full hookups), and cabins. Plentiful amenities include inner tube rentals, store, laundry, and playgrounds.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 4 hours / 230 miles
How to Get There: I-80 east to I-505 north to I-5 north to CA-36 east
When to Go: Late summer and early fall (for open roads and trails)
Located in far northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is an under-rated hidden gem. It features all four kinds of volcanoes (shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome). Besides a surreal landscape and geothermal activity, the park is also home to beautiful alpine mountain scenery, forests, wildflower meadows, pristine lakes, waterfalls, and wildlife, along with more than 150 miles of trails, and a really scenic highway. Even better is the fact that the park is rarely crowded.
What to Do in Lassen
Bumpass Hell – This is one of the most active geothermal areas in the park. A 3-mile loop trail takes you past steam vents, fumaroles, mud pots, and boiling pools. The trail is easy other than starting at an elevation of 8,200 feet. You’ll want to stay on the trail for this one—the area was named after Kendall Bumpass, who had his leg amputated after that leg fell into a boiling mud pot.
Lassen Peak – The 5-mile round trip hike is difficult but well worth it. You’ll climb more than 2,000 feet to the 10,463-foot summit of the largest plug dome volcano in the world. It last erupted in 1917, and is classified as an active, but dormant, volcano. Enjoy stunning views all the way up. At the summit, you can see for 100 miles in all directions on a clear day.
Cinder Cone – For a surreal landscape that feels like a different planet, hike the 4-mile round trip Cinder Cone Trail. Don’t miss the views of the Fantastic Lava Beds, remnants of Cinder Cone’s last eruption and the scenic Painted Dunes. You can also extend your hike into the crater of Cinder Cone.
Explore the Lakes – Lassen is home to 20 scenic lakes, where you can sunbathe, swim, paddle, fish, or just enjoy their beauty. You can find campsites at several of them, including Manzanita Lake, Summit Lake, Butte Lake, and Juniper Lake. Glacial Lake Helen and nearby Emerald Lake are both incredibly scenic. The 10.8-mile Cluster Lakes Trail will take you past 10 lakes near Summit Lake.
Where to Stay in Lassen
Drakesbad Guest Ranch – Located in Warner Valley, the historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch is the only lodging option inside the park, and offers rustic lodge rooms and cabins, with all meals included. Massages and guided horseback rides are also available.
There are seven campgrounds inside the park. Here are the best of the bunch.
- The Southwest walk-in campground is the only one open year-round. The rest are usually open between June and September or October.
- Manzanita Lake is the most popular and offers the most amenities, including a store with kayak rentals, showers, and camping cabins.
- For a more remote and quieter experience, try the Butte Lake or Juniper Lake campgrounds.
Highlands Ranch Resort – Located 10 miles from the park’s southwest entrance, the resort features seven newly built rustic bungalows set in a stunning alpine meadow. It’s pricey but you can expect a luxurious stay with fire pits and hot tubs.
Distance from San Francisco: 3.5 hours / 190 miles
How to Get There: I-80 east to Sacramento, then either I-80 to North Shore or US-50 to South Lake Tahoe
When to Go: Summer (hiking, lake) and winter (skiing and snowboarding) are the two peak seasons; visit in the spring or fall shoulder to avoid crowds
The largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe attracts visitors with her beautiful clear waters, framed by snow-capped peaks and towering pine forests.
It’s a popular weekend destination from the Bay Area, with activities that include hiking, biking, camping, and water play in the summer, and skiing, snowboarding, and other snow play in the winter.
What to Do in Tahoe
Hiking – With hundreds of miles of trails, it’s not surprising that hiking is one of the top activities in Tahoe. Eagle Lake and the Rubicon Trail are both fairly easy and offer great views. Other great hiking options include Five Lakes, Echo Lakes, and Lake Winnemucca. For more of a challenge, hike up Mount Tallac, and enjoy the stunning panoramic views.
Enjoy the Lake – You almost can’t visit Tahoe and not visit the lake itself. Spend some time at one of more than 40 beaches around the lake, like Sand Harbor, Nevada Beach, or King’s Beach. But to truly appreciate the lake you should get on it. Boat cruises make it easy to explore, especially scenic Emerald Bay. The M.S. Dixie II paddle wheeler offers both daytime sightseeing cruises and sunset dinner cruises. Kayaking and standup paddleboarding are also great options and allow you to explore the many hidden coves around the lake. You can find rentals at most beaches. Clearly Tahoe offers awesome, transparent kayaks. Go out in the morning before the winds pick up.
Hit the Slopes – If you’re visiting Tahoe in the winter, take advantage of the fact that there are 15 ski resorts around the lake. The largest resorts, both in terms of terrain and amenities, are Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (accessible with one pass), and Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood (all Vail Resorts, accessible with one pass). Most resorts offer a range of terrain, amenities, and lake views from the slopes. Some resorts also offer other activities, such as cross-country skiing or snow tubing.
Where to Stay in Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is huge. At 20 miles long by 12 miles wide, it can take an hour to drive from side to side. The main areas to stay are North Shore, West Shore, or near South Lake Tahoe.
D.L. Bliss – Pick from five campgrounds at this scenic west shore park. Pine Camp is the largest, but Beach Camp has the best location, closest to the lake and right by two beaches.
Eagle Point – Enjoy stunning lake views at this campground located on a promontory at the entrance to Emerald Bay State Park.
Nevada Beach – Located in Stateline, this great campground offers easy beach access, and mostly shaded sites with filtered lake views through the trees.
Basecamp Tahoe South – Located minutes from Heavenly Village and the lake, this affordable boutique hotel is stylish and eco-friendly. Amenities include a rooftop hot tub, outdoor beer garden, fire pits, and nightly live music.
Basecamp Tahoe City – The north shore version is located in the heart of Tahoe City, and just minutes from the lake. Enjoy stylish rooms (including some with bunk beds), a cozy lobby bar, and a sun terrace.
Updated A-frame – This adorable cabin with room for eight in South Lake Tahoe is located just blocks from the lake and Ski Run Marina, and a short drive from Heavenly. A spacious deck with a fenced in yard allows you to relax after a day of adventures.
Lake View Cabin – Located steps from the lake and a private beach, and close to the amenities of Tahoma on the west shore, this cozy cabin offers lake views, a deck, fenced in yard, hot tub, and two bedrooms with space for six.
Enchanted Bear Log Cabin – This charming cabin on the north shore is walking distance to the beach and amenities of King’s Beach. Two decks, and a large fenced in yard offers plenty of space to relax and soak in the hot tub, while three bedrooms comfortably sleep seven.
Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours / 150 miles
How to Get There: US-101 north to CA-128 west
When to Go: Spring (wildflowers) and winter (whale watching)
Perched on a rugged bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Mendocino is a picturesque village with New England aesthetics, a nod to its founding by transplanted New Englanders in the 1850s. The charming town is known for a bohemian vibe and a rich art scene, and is surrounded by coastal bluffs, beaches, and redwood forests.
What to Do in Mendocino
Hike the Headlands – From the Ford House Visitor Center, an easy 4-mile out and back headlands trail offers stunning oceans vistas and views of sea stacks, rocky islands, and beaches, including Big River Beach. Nearby parks provide additional areas to explore, including waterfalls, ferns, and redwoods at Russian Gulch State Park, and a pygmy forest, diving, and kayaking at Van Damme State Park.
Fort Bragg and Glass Beach – Located 10 miles north of Mendocino, Fort Bragg offers an authentic taste of the North Coast. A scenic coastal trail extends the length of the town. Just north, find Glass Beach, a former dumpsite famous for all the waste glass that got polished by the sea. Take photos, not souvenirs.
Mendocino Art Center – The town has had a vibrant art scene since the 1950s. The center takes up an entire block, and offers art classes, workshops, resident artists, galleries, exhibitions, and a sculpture garden. Drop by the open studios to create your own piece of art.
Café Beaujolais – A standout in an area known for great restaurants. Located in a historic Victorian farmhouse surrounded by beautiful gardens, their locally sourced menu changes seasonally but is always delicious. Other good options include Trillium and Wild Fish for seafood.
Where to Stay in Mendocino
Mendocino Grove – Glamp in total comfort, just minutes from Mendocino. Choose from comfy beds in spacious platform tents or retro Airstream. Hot showers with high-end toiletries, gas grills, fire pits, hammocks, and lawn games add to the lux experience.
Headlands Inn Bed and Breakfast – Located in the heart of the village, in a Victorian style saltbox, enjoy uniquely decorated rooms with period furniture, feather beds, and a lovely English garden. Deluxe rooms include fireplace and ocean views.
Blue Door Inns – Centrally located, the historic Blue Door Inns include the Blue Door Inn (with a lovely garden), Packard House (for its peaceful setting), and JD House (offering ocean views and a garden), all offering a comfortable stay.
Zendo Redwood Getaway – This eclectic cabin with lots of windows offers a peaceful retreat among the redwoods. A short drive from Mendocino, there’s also a private hiking trail that takes you to Big River.
Artists Private Forest Suite – Cozy studio suite above an artist studio (not in use during your stay) is the perfect private and romantic escape for a couple. Enjoy treetop views from the spacious deck or walks along private hiking trails.
Jade’s Tower – Stay in a converted redwood water tower, with a spiral staircase, massive windows, and stunning ocean views. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the location in town can’t be beat.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour 20 minutes / 75 miles
How to Get There: US-101 north
When to Go: Fall (smaller crowds)
Located in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, the charming and quirky town of Guerneville offers a laid-back and chill wine country experience. It’s a popular LGBTQ destination that’s welcoming to all. Nature lovers can explore the coast redwoods at Armstrong Redwood State Reserve and enjoy the cool waters of the Russian River.
What to Do in Guerneville
Korbel Cellars – If you’re a champagne fan, a stop at Korbel, who have been making ‘California champagne’ since 1982, is a must. Enjoy tastings (including a complimentary one!) or tours of the winery and gardens. An on-site gourmet deli has everything you need for a picnic. There are also 50 wineries nearby if bubbly isn’t your thing. Notable wineries include Guy Farrell Winery (known for chardonnay and pinot noir), DeLoach Vineyards (known for wines made from organic and biodynamic grapes), and Arista Winery (known for pinot noir and viognier).
Float the Russian River – One of the best activities to do in the summer is to float the Russian River, which cuts through town. Canoeing and kayaking are good options for those who want to be a little more active. Johnson’s Beach, in town, offers rentals and a snack bar.
Armstrong Redwoods – Explore redwoods without the crowds. Spanning 805 acres, the reserve is full of towering old-growth redwoods, including Colonel Armstrong, the oldest at 1,400 years old, and Parson Jones, the tallest at 310 feet tall. A 6.1-mile loop trail along the ridges that surround the redwood groves offer great views.
The Coast and Jenner Beach – Jenner is where the Russian River meets the coast, less than 15 miles away. Find the main Jenner Beach on the north side of the mouth of the Russian River and Goat Rock Beach on the south. Look for harbor seals and sea lions, and whales in season, or continue exploring the 17-mile long Sonoma Coast State Park. Grab a meal with a view at River’s End.
Where to Stay in Guerneville
AutoCamp Russian River – AutoCamp offers elevated camping experiences just outside Guerneville – choose from retro Airstreams, luxury glamping tents, and sleeping campers, all with deluxe bedding. They also offer a general store, clubhouse, a hammock grove, and free loaner bikes.
Boon Hotel + Spa – This adults-only hotel downtown offers cottage rooms with fireplaces and record player with vinyl. Glamping tents and camper also available. There’s also a swimming pool, hot tub, honor bar, fire pit, and on-site spa. The family also runs the excellent boon eat + drink restaurant.
Cottages on River Road – Stay in cozy studios and cottages with a kitchenette and porch just outside town. There’s also a seasonal pool, fire pit, lawn, massages, and plenty of activities.
Grateful Days – Enjoy a peaceful escape at this secluded cabin in the woods, which includes a lovely deck with hammock, hot tub, and wood burning stove. Animal lovers will love all the rescue and wild animals.
Redwood Retreat – This cute and cozy cabin offers space for six. Relax on the wraparound deck, soak in the hot tub, or play in the spacious yard. The Russian River is walking distance and downtown Guerneville is a short drive away.
Treehouse Hideaway – You’ll feel as if you’re staying at a spacious treehouse at this multi-level property, with space for nine. Guests love the expansive decks with redwoods all around, comfy beds, and well-stocked kitchen.
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour 45 minutes / 115 miles
How to Get There: Head south on US-101
When to Go: Winter (whale watching season) and spring (wildflowers)
Monterey was formerly a fishing hub. Today, it’s known for its world-class aquarium, a massive wildlife preserve in the bay, a city filled with history, and plenty of stunning scenery nearby.
What to Do in Monterey
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Considered the “crown jewel” of the California state park system (which is saying a lot!), Point Lobos offers stunning natural beauty, unique geological features, and abundant wildlife. The 6.7-mile Point Lobos Loop Trail is a great option for exploring the headlands, coves, beaches, and inland areas. Bring binoculars for wildlife spotting (birds, otters, seals, sea lions, and whales). There’s also excellent diving and snorkeling among the 70-foot tall kelp forests underwater.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium – One of the top aquariums in the country, highlights include the massive Open Sea exhibit, jellyfish exhibit, and adorable sea otters. Time your visit during a feeding for a real treat, or book an insider tour to get a chance to feed them yourself. The rest of Cannery Row isn’t worth spending time in, as it’s now a tourist trap, with few traces of what Steinbeck wrote about. Ditto for Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
17-mile Drive – Hugging the rugged coastline, this scenic drive is chock full of jaw-dropping vistas. Plan a few hours to do it justice. Highlights include the Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay, Fanshell Overlook (look for harbor seals) and the gorgeous Pebble Beach Golf Links. There is a charge to drive the route, though bicycles can enter for free from Pacific Grove. Alternatively, drive along Ocean View Boulevard and Sunset Drive for free.
Alvarado Street Brewery – You can satisfy both your hunger and thirst at this solid gastropub with a nice outdoor garden. The beer selection is varied and excellent and the food is better than your usual bar fare.
Phil’s Fish Market – It’s a little outside of Monterey in Moss Landing, but the fresh seafood is worth the detour to this no-frills institution. Get the cioppino. Sit at the bar for shorter lines. Outdoor seating is also available.
Where to Stay in Monterey
The Jabberwock Bed & Breakfast – This unique B&B with an Alice in Wonderland vibe is walking distance from many attractions. Some rooms have an ocean view, plus there’s a lovely garden and a bocce ball court. Enjoy breakfast, tea, and wine with hors d’oeuvres in the evening.
Monterey Bay Inn – Located along the waterfront, at the quieter end of Cannery Row, this is a great option for couples. Every room has a balcony and some have views of the bay. Enjoy in-room continental breakfast, massages, and a rooftop hot tub.
Stage Coach Lodge – Located in a quiet area in town away from the action, Stage Coach Lodge offers a great value stay. Spacious rooms are comfortable and include extras like fridge and microwave. There’s also a pool, garden, and diver’s quarters.
San Luis Obispo
Distance from San Francisco: 3.5 hours / 230 miles
How to Get There: US-101 south
When to Go: Spring (wildflower)
Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Luisa Mountains of the Central Coast, San Luis Obispo (or SLO, as the locals call it), has been called “The Happiest City in America.” It’s easy to see why in this laid-back yet vibrant city, close to rich farmland, vineyards, mountains, beaches, and beautiful parks.
What to Do in San Luis Obispo
Morro Bay and Montaña de Oro – Morro Bay is known for Morro Rock, one of the ancient volcanic peaks called the Nine Sisters that stretches all the way to SLO. You can’t climb it, but you can paddle around it. There’s a small beach nearby and great wildlife spotting. Whale watching excursions also depart from here. Nearby Montaña de Oro is a scenic coastal state park. Visit in the spring to see why it’s named the mountain of gold, when the area is blanketed in poppies. The Bluff Trail is an easy stroll with incredible views. For more of a challenge, hike up to Valencia Peak or Hazard Peak.
Hike – One of the most popular hikes is Bishop Peak, the tallest of the Nine Sisters. It’s a moderate 3.4-mile hike with stellar views of the city and surrounding area. Cerro San Luis Obispo (Madonna Mountain) is another good 4-mile option. Or take the Tri-tip challenge and summit Bishop, Madonna, and Cal Poly ”P” in one day before rewarding yourself with a tri-tip sandwich at the Firestone Grill.
Farmers Market – Every Thursday night, find an awesome Farmer’s Market in downtown SLO. The region is known for its excellent farmland, and this is one of the best ways to experience it. Find more than 120 stalls of produce, prepared food, and other vendors, along with live music and entertainment.
Hit the Beach – Located just a short distance from SLO are several excellent beaches. Enjoy a fun day in the sun at Avila Beach and its lively beachfront area. Go surfing at Pismo Beach, trying your hand at clamming, or enjoy a long stroll along its scenic coastline. And with nine beaches under the bluffs of Shell Beach, you’re bound to find at least one to your liking (note that the Pirate’s Cove Beach is clothing-optional).
Where to Stay in SLO
San Luis Creek Lodge – Located near Downtown and Cal Poly, contemporary farmhouse meets boho beach vibes at this charming bed and breakfast. Renovated rooms are stylish and comfortable.
The Kinney – This fun hotel located near Cal Poly offers campus-inspired decoration, bold colors and patterns, a bar with fun games, free WiFi, and a year-round heated pool.
Granada Hotel – Located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, this boutique hotel is historic and stylish. Enjoy well-appointed rooms, a bistro, library, rooftop terrace with a fireplace, and free loaner bikers.
Little Red Farmhouse – This turn-of-the-century remodeled farmhouse on 400 secluded acres north of SLO is the perfect peaceful escape to the country. There’s a vast network of trails to explore. Relax at the end of the day on the cute patio or wraparound porch.
The Down Town House – This cute and historic bungalow is walking distance to the shops and restaurants of downtown SLO. Fully renovated yet with plenty of original charm, this well-appointed space includes AC and plenty of parking.
The Quailhouse – This charming cottage offers everything a couple, including locally sourced, eco-friendly amenities, and a cute patio overlooking a wildlife-filled canyon. Ideally located in Avila Valley on a rural working ranch, SLO and the coast are a short drive away.
Wine Country Weekend Getaways from San Francisco
San Francisco is also close to several world-class wine-growing regions, making an escape to wine country one of the best weekend trips from San Francisco. We’ve included our favorite ones below. You’ll notice that we didn’t include Napa. That’s not an oversight.
While Napa is great, it is very pricey. We think these wine country getaways offer a much better value, and are just as, if not more, enjoyable.
Note that many tastings require a charge (often reimbursed with a bottle purchase), which you can often share. Reservations are often required as well.
Distance from San Francisco: 75 minutes / 65 miles
How to Get There: Head north on US-101
When to Go: Fall (for harvest and smaller crowds)
Ideally situated where the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley wine growing areas all intersect, Healdsburg offers one of the best all-around wine country experiences. There’s also an excellent culinary and arts scene.
What to Do in Healdsburg
Go Wine Tasting: There are more than 100 wineries within 10 miles, and more than 20 tasting rooms walking distance of downtown.
- For a unique experience in an underground wine cave, and great Zinfandel, check out Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Enjoy the views from the top of Lily Hill, or go on a self-guided hike, then enjoy their delicious wines paired with charcuterie or cheese.
- For an elegant wine tasting experience, head to Jordan Vineyard & Winery, which has a beautiful chateau and views. Their three-hour wine and food pairing is amazing. If you’re short on time, you should at least try their chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
- For a laid-back experience that’s right in town, head over to Banshee Wines, usually open until 6 or 7pm.
- If you love sparkling wines, J Vineyards is a great option.
- Locals Tasting Room is a great way to sample several small-production wineries at the same time, plus the tastings are free.
Rent Bikes and Explore Dry Creek Road – The windy Dry Creek Road and West Dry Creek Road are fun to explore on a bike. The 12-mile loop over Lambert Bridge and the 20-mile loop over Yoakim Bridge are good options. You’ll also pass by several wineries along the way, including Martorana (with a wine cave and bocce court) and Chateau Diana (they have wine slushies!). The Dry Creek General Store is a great spot to refuel.
Float or Paddle the Russian River – The Russian River also runs through Healdsburg. Spend a few hours on a lazy float, or more ambitious paddle on a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board. Many rental shops also offer guided tours or a one-way shuttle back.
Eat Well – Healdsburg is known for its excellent restaurants. One of the best is the seasonal tasting menu at SingleThread. Barndiva is a solid option for modern, farm-to-table cuisine. Chalkboard offers ambitious small plates and a great pasta flight. For more casual small plates, head to Bravas Bar de Tapas and sit on the outdoor patio. Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar is a great option for seafood. For sandwiches and everything you need for a nice picnic to take with you wine tasting, head to Oakville Grocery. Be sure to grab a slice and ice cream at Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar. And for pick-me-up, grab some coffee from Flying Goat Coffee.
Where to Stay in Healdsburg
Hotel Healdsburg – It’s pricey, but splurge-worthy. Located right off the historic main plaza, enjoy spacious rooms, a pool, hot tub, spa, fitness center, complimentary wine tastings, complimentary loaner bikes, live music on weekends, and a good restaurant.
Cottages at Healdsburg – Tucked away on a quiet side street, three modern one-bedroom farm cottages are clustered around a private pool and gardens. Bright and airy, each offers a comfortable bed, gas fireplace, and porches, while some include a kitchenette.
H2 Hotel – This LEED-certified hotel is hip and modern. Enjoy rooms with patio or balcony, minimalist décor, curated art, water stations offering flat and sparkling water, pool, restaurant, complimentary loaner bikes, and free weekend yoga classes.
The Anderson Valley
Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours 30 minutes / 125 miles
How to Get There: US-101 north to CA-128 west
When to Go: Summer (uncrowded compared to other areas in wine country) and fall (harvest)
Located in southwestern Mendocino county, Anderson Valley encompasses the small towns of Yorkville, Boonville (with its own language, Boontling), Philo, and Navarro. A former logging, apple farming, and sheepherding community, it’s now known for a growing wine industry with a focus on cooler climate wines such as pinot noir. The region has lots of unspoiled charm and more than 25 tasting rooms.
What to Do in the Anderson Valley
Navarro Farm & Vineyards – Established in 1974, this small family-owned winery is a valley pioneer and produces more than 20 different small batch wines, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, rose, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon. Tours are offered twice a day. Bring a picnic or they have a deli case.
Roederer Estate – Famed French champagne house Louis Roederer (makers of Cristal) established an estate here in 1982, which helped spark the growth of the nascent wine industry here. Visit the winery to take a tour, sample their 100% estate-bottled sparkling wines, and enjoy the views from their patio.
Pennyroyal Farm – What could be better than a winery and creamery at the same location? A sustainable farm, Pennyroyal (and sister estate to Navarro), you can taste sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs and handcrafted, small batch cheeses from their own herd of goat and sheep. They also grow the vegetables used in their wine and food pairings. Tours available daily.
Anderson Valley Brewing Co. – When Anderson started in 1987, they were one of only 20 craft breweries in the country. Today they operate a sustainable 100-barrel brewhouse (try their gose and barrel-aged beers), and offer a tasting room and beer park with outdoor seating, picnic area, food options, music stage, bocce court, and 18-hole disc golf course.
Apple Farm & Gowan’s Heirloom Cider – It’s not surprising that cider is also big here. At Apple Farm, the rustic-style farmhouse cider is dry and sparkling, and available at their farm stand (which also offers small batch jams, juice, chutneys, and vinegars, all made from their heirloom trees). At Gowan’s tasting room, try the premium cider from their orchard with more than 80 different heirloom varieties, which they have been farming since 1876.
Where to Stay in the Anderson Valley
The Madrones – For a unique and intimate stay in a rural setting, the Madrones offers several well-appointed guest quarters in their Mediterranean style compound. Also onsite are three tasting rooms, a restaurant, and shop.
Apple Farm – The Apple Farm also offers a guest room and three cute cottages, each with a gas fireplace and porch to look out at the trees. Breakfast includes items from the farm. Cooking demonstrations are also available.
The Boonville Hotel – Located in the heart of Mendocino County along Hwy 128, this modern roadhouse offers 15 unique rooms, including hotel rooms, cottages, roadhouse rooms and water tower rooms. There’s also a nice restaurant.
Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours / 200 miles
How to Get There: US-101 south
When to Go: Spring (wildflowers) and fall (harvest season)
Located on the central coast, between the Santa Lucia Range and the Salinas River, Paso Robles (or Paso to locals) is a world-class wine growing region. Described by some as “what Napa was like 30 years ago,” there are nearly 300 wineries in the area, though there’s more flavors to sample than just wine. This laid-back town also offers hot springs, art installations, and plenty of natural beauty.
What to Do in Paso Robles
Go Wine Tasting – There are nearly 300 wineries around Paso Robles. Here are some of our favorites:
- Eberle Winery – Tucked away on the east side, Eberle offers a great tasting experience. Don’t miss tours of the wine cave. There’s also a lively tasting room, spacious deck, and a bocce court.
- DAOU Vineyards – One of the most scenic wineries, they are known for their cabernet sauvignons and bordeaux. Enjoy a flight, or better yet a food pairing, from their beautiful hilltop patio as you take in the views.
- Tobin James Cellars – Built at the site of an old stagecoach stop, you’ll feel like you’re in a Wild West saloon. The knowledgeable staff can tell you all about their extensive selection of wines, and they have an excellent wine club.
- Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden – In addition to excellent bordeaux blends, the winery is known for their beautifully landscaped garden, with sculptures from different artists.
- LXV – This small boutique winery has a tasting room right downtown. Enjoy wines paired with an assortment of spices on cheese for a unique tasting experience.
If you don’t want to worry about drinking and driving, the Wine Line and Wine Wrangler wine tours will shuttle you around to four to six different wineries of your choice.
Tin City Cider – Located in an industrial area just south of Paso Robles, Tin City packs a lot into a small area. There are around 20 tasting rooms for wine. Beer lovers should head to Barrelhouse Brewing, while cider fans will enjoy Tin City Cider, who make delicious dry ciders from California apples, along with wine-infused ciders and ciders aged in bourbon casks. Afterwards, grab some sheep’s milk ice cream from Negranti Creamery, which is also lactose intolerant-friendly and gluten free. There are also restaurants, food trucks, lawn games, and live music.
Hot Springs – Paso Robles has a long history of hot springs. Today, there are three public hot springs. At River Oaks, enjoy wine while soaking in a private tub, with add on spa and massage packages. Franklin Hot Springs offers a more rustic experience, with a public outdoor spring in a lake. And at the historic Paso Robles Inn, stay in a room with your own mineral hot tub on the balcony.
Light at Sensorio – For an incredible visual treat, visit Sensorio to see two installations by artist Bruce Munro: the Field of Lights, which features 58,800 fiber-optic-it stemmed spheres spread over a 15-acre field; and Light Towers, which features 69 towers made from more than 17,000 wine bottles filled with fiber optic lights.
Where to Stay in Paso Robles
Westside Vineyard Guesthouse – Stay at a working vineyard. This charming and well-appointed guest house boasts multiple outdoor spaces and a cute pond. Many of the westside wineries are within walking distance.
Wine Whimsey – This adorable cottage with private patio and wine inspired décor is the perfect getaway for a couple, though it’s part of a cluster of rentals if you’re with a big group. It’s ideally located near the westside downtown area.
Unwind on Vine – Located walking distance to downtown Paso Robles, this charming house has everything a group of four would want, including comfortable beds, soaking tub, chef’s kitchen, and two patios.
Adelaide Inn – Ideally located near Hwy 101 and Paso Robles, this family-run inn offers great value with their comfortable rooms and amenities, including pool, hot tub, BBQ/picnic area, and miniature putting green.
Hotel Siri Downtown – Located in the heart of Paso Robles, you can easily walk to downtown restaurants and tasting rooms. This modern hotel offers comfortable rooms, a fitness center, and outdoor patio.
Geneseo Inn – What better way to experience wine country than to stay at a vineyard? Well-appointed rooms are built out of shipping containers and feature luxury amenities, including spa, massage, and yoga experiences.
Long Weekend Trips from San Francisco
If you have an extra day or two, you can expand your reach to destinations that are around a six to eight hour drive from San Francisco.
Distance from San Francisco: 5 hours / 325 miles
How to Get There: US-101 south to CA-154 east
When to Go: Spring and fall (smaller crowds)
Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, and nicknamed the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is known for its beautiful beaches, sunny weather, and a lifestyle to match.
We have an entire guide dedicated to planning an amazing weekend trip to Santa Barbara, with exactly what to do, eat, and drink.
What to Do in Santa Barbara
Wine Tasting in the Funk Zone – A formerly industrial area, the Funk Zone is now one of Santa Barbara’s most popular and hopping neighborhoods. Converted warehouses hold upscale wine tasting rooms, breweries, art galleries, boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Go on the Urban Wine Trail and explore more than 20 tasting rooms and wineries, most of which are in the Funk Zone. Highlights include Santa Barbara Winery (the oldest winery in the country), The Valley Project (for their small batch wines and awesome chalk map), and Deep Sea Tasting Room (with gorgeous ocean views, it’s a great spot at sunset).
Beaches – Enjoy sun, sand, and surf at one of Santa Barbara’s many beaches. Popular East Beach is the largest and offers lots of amenities, while West Beach on the other side of Stearns Wharf is the spot for big events. Leadbetter Beach is great for surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. To escape the tourist crowds, head to Arroyo Burro Beach (Hendry’s Beach), a popular local surf and tide pooling spot with a wide and flat stretch of sand that’s dog-friendly.
Eat Tacos and Seafood – Lily’s Taqueria only serves tacos, but they are authentic and delicious. The adobada (marinated pork) and cachet (beef cheek) are highly recommended. See for yourself why Julia Child loved La Super-Rica Taqueria. There’s often a line, but it’s worth it. Get the Super-Rica Especial and the chili relleno, and bring cash. Santa Barbara also has fantastic seafood. Grab some chowder and crab at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company at the end of Stearns Wharf, and enjoy it outside on their picnic tables to enjoy the ocean view.
Where to Stay in Santa Barbara
Agave Inn – Located uptown, this small hotel offers a great value stay, with clean and comfortable rooms with microwave, fridge, and ipod docking station, while a family suite offers a full kitchen.
Kimpton Goodland – Located in nearby Goleta, this boutique surf hotel offers great amenities, like an outdoor pool, spa, fitness center, restaurant, bar, movie nights, and live music. Rooms also include a record player and they have a vinyl library.
Hotel Indigo – Located close to the Amtrak station, the Funk Zone, and the waterfront, this European-style hotel offers stylish micro rooms with private gardens and wet bathrooms. There’s an art library, outdoor lounge, fitness center and free loaner bikes.
The Waterman – Formerly the Wayfarer, this eclectic hotel is conveniently located in the Funk Zone. Rooms are small but comfortable, and the property offers colorful décor, free WiFi, communal kitchen, library, patio with games, and outdoor pool.
Distance from San Francisco: 6 hours / 380 miles
How to Get There: I-80 east to I-580 east to I-5 south
When to Go: Late spring, early summer, and early fall (great weather, smaller crowds).
Sprawling and vibrant Los Angeles needs more than a weekend to do it justice. From beaches and parks to museums and shops to all the glitz of Hollywood, the City of Angels offers a lot for visitors, whatever they’re looking for.
What to Do in Los Angeles
Explore Santa Monica and Venice – These two beachside neighborhoods are right next to each other, and connected by the Ocean Front Walk, which you should walk or bike. In Venice Beach, check out what’s happening at Windward Plaza and the murals at the Public Art Walls, then stroll along the Venice Canals and Abbot Kinney Boulevard with all its cool boutiques and galleries. Enjoy beach time at Santa Monica and maybe some rides at the iconic Pacific Park amusement park on Santa Monica Pier. There are numerous beachfront and rooftop bars and restaurants where you can enjoy some food and drinks while watching the sunset.
Griffith Park – This massive park is home to the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles Zoo, museums, and hiking trails. Take the 2.5-mile loop Ferndell Trail to Griffith Observatory, where you can enjoy exhibits, shows, and a planetarium at this art deco icon. You can also see the iconic Hollywood sign and enjoy panoramic city views from here.
Museum Hopping – LA is home to some incredible museums. Art lovers should check out the Getty Center and the Getty Villa, contemporary art The Broad, and the massive collection at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Other interesting museums include the La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Studio Tours – If you’re a television or movie fan, then you’ll want to do a studio tour. The Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank offers a great tour, which involves walking and riding around in a cart. Sony Pictures Studios offers a good value walking tour. Universal Studios offers a tour that is a part of their theme park, so you can do a studio tour, then go on some rides.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles
Sunset Tower Hotel – Get a taste of old Hollywood glamour at this historic art deco landmark in West Hollywood. It was a favorite of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Elizabeth Taylor in its heyday. Amenities include a pool, spa, fitness center, bar, and several dining options.
Shutters on the Beach – Stay right on the beach in Santa Monica in this Cape Cod-inspired boutique hotel with stylish rooms and luxury furnishings. Amenities include an outdoor pool and hot tub, spa, gym, and several excellent restaurants.
Ace Hotel – Located downtown in the historic United Artists Building, some rooms include a private terrace, guitar, or turntable with vinyl. Enjoy a swim at the rooftop pool, drinks from the rooftop bar, a workout in the fitness center, or a bike ride with a free loaner bike.
The Culver Hotel – Located in Culver City, this elegant hotel in a classic flatiron building from the 1920s is a good value. Rooms and interiors are stylish with artistic accents. Enjoy complimentary breakfast, multiple indoor and outdoor dining options, and an afternoon tea service.
Redwood National and State Parks
Distance from San Francisco: 5 hours 30 minutes / 320 miles
How to Get There: US-101 north
When to Go: Summer (for hiking and outdoor activities)
Redwood National Park and three state parks (Prairie Creek, Del Corte Coast and Jedediah Smith) in this region of far northwestern California are home to the coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world – some are more than 350 feet tall and more than 2,000 years old. Stretching for 50 miles, this is a remote and lush area of wild coastline, secluded beaches, abundant wildlife, and half of the world’s coast redwoods.
What to Do in Redwood National and State Parks
Howland Hill Road and Stout Grove – The 6-mile Howland Hill Road is an excellent way to see the redwoods of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. An easy 0.7-mile trail then takes you to beautiful Stout Grove. Look for Stout Tree, with its rippled bark. Afterwards, cool off in Smith River.
Fern Canyon – You’ll feel as if you’ve traveled to an ancient forest, or even another planet, which could explain why both Star Wars and Jurassic Park filmed scenes here. In this spectacular canyon, 50-foot tall canyon walls are covered by seven different types of fern – some can trace their history back 325 million years. Follow the easy 1-mile loop trail, but prepare to get your feet wet.
Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway – The paved 10-mile scenic drive through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is well worth the drive. There are also lots of pullouts with easy side trails to explore, such as Big Tree and Ah Pah.
Tall Trees – Only a limited number of free permits are issued daily, so grab one from a Visitor Center early or online. It’s a steep drive to the trailhead, then a 3.3-mile loop trail. Although the grove no longer contains the tallest tree in the world – that title now belongs to 380-foot Hyperion discovered elsewhere in the park in 2006 – it’s still an impressive sight.
Where to Stay near Redwood National and State Parks
Lodges and Cabins
If you don’t want to camp, then the town of Trinidad will be your best bet for hotels.
View Crest Lodge – Located within walking distance of Patrick’s Point State Park, View Crest offers a number of cute cottages, with kitchenettes or full kitchens, hot tubs, fireplaces, private decks, and ocean views.
Emerald Forest Cabins – Located in the woods near a creek just north of Trinidad, Emerald Forest offers a range of rustic but clean and comfortable cabins with kitchens and patios. RV and tent camping sites are also available.
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground – This small campground offers 26 first-come first-serve sites at the base of a cliff right behind a secluded beach. The views are sublime, but it can get windy and you’re pretty exposed. Fern Canyon is also really close.
Elk Prairie Campground – Located next to an open field where Roosevelt elks and black tailed deer like to hang out, there are 75 sites with full facilities and cabins. There’s also easy access to hiking trails, ranger-led programs, and wildlife spotting.
Jedediah Smith State Park Campground – Located at the northern end of the park system, in an old-growth redwood grove along the Smith River, this campground offers nearly 86 sites with full facilities and cabins.
Plan an Unforgettable California Adventure
Heading to California? We’ve got all sorts of super detailed, in-depth California travel guides written by locals to help you plan an amazing trip.
- San Francisco: We’ve got a guide to spending 3 days in SF, one day in San Francisco for planning a shorter trip, and a complete guide to finding the perfect place to stay in San Francisco. We also have guides to 14 perfect weekend getaways from San Francisco and the best day trips in the Bay Area. Oh, we almost forgot, here are the 15 best hikes near San Francisco, written by two Bay Area locals.
- Los Angeles: Read our perfect 2 Day L.A. itinerary, our guide to spending one amazing day in L.A. (with two versions!), and a guide to helping you figure out where to stay.
- San Diego: Learn how to spend a day in San Diego, a weekend in San Diego, and where you should stay.
- Lake Tahoe: Plan the perfect summertime adventure with our 3 day Tahoe itinerary, guide to the best hikes, and our guide to the best things to do in Tahoe.
- Santa Barbara: We have a guide to planning a weekend in Santa Barbara, and a guide to a day trip to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles if you’re pressed for time.
- Mammoth Lakes: To plan a perfect getaway in the Eastern Sierra, read our guide to the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the summer. Plus, our guide to the best hikes in Mammoth, featuring the epic climb to the top of Duck Pass.
- Big Sur: Plan the perfect weekend away with our complete Big Sur itinerary.
- Yosemite National Park: Plan an amazing trip with our guide to planning an amazing Yosemite itinerary, and our guide to choosing where to stay at Yosemite.
- Joshua Tree National Park: Plan the perfect trip with our perfect weekend itinerary (or a day trip, if you have less time), a guide to the best hikes, and some cool places to stay in Joshua Tree.
- Death Valley National Park: We have a SUPER detailed guide to planning the perfect Death Valley itinerary, and a guide to the best hikes in Death Valley National Park.
- California Road Trips: See the best of the Pacific Coast Highway on our San Francisco to San Diego road trip, or make the trip up Highway from on a Los Angeles to SanFrancisco road trip. If you’re more into mountains than beaches, a Highway 395 road trip from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe might be more your speed.