17 Best Weekend Trips From San Francisco (From a Local)

best weekend trips from san francisco, california

The best weekend trips from San Francisco! These are my favorite weekend getaways from the city as someone who grew up in the Bay Area.

One of the best parts of living in San Francisco is how centrally located it is in California.

There are endless opportunities to get out in nature, take a drive along the Central Coast, go wine tasting in some of the best wine regions in the state, and more. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to see within San Francisco too.

But part of what makes the Bay Area such a special place is how many stunning areas there are within a few hour’s drive. 

If you’re looking to get outside the city for the weekend, these are some of my favorite weekend trips from San Francisco – as someone who grew up in Santa Cruz and has lived in California for 24+ years. 

Whether you’re looking to explore a new city, go for a hike in the redwoods, or you simply want to spend a couple days taking in the best coastal views in the state, there’s a weekend destination for you on this list. 

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips. 

 

Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco (Under Three Hours) 

Napa Valley

Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour, 59 miles 

best weekend getaways from san francisco - napa valley

The Napa Valley is one of those places you should do as a weekend trip from San Francisco at least once, especially if you’re a fan of wine and rolling vineyards.

There are over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley, a region that is most famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Some people like to say that Napa is overrated, but there’s no doubt that it’s worth visiting at least once to make up your own mind.

Besides wine tasting, this is one of the most popular areas in California for hot air ballooning.

It makes sense with the miles of beautiful wine country scenery below.

Local tip: If you want to explore Napa’s wine scene to its fullest, go on a guided tour and have someone else do the driving. If you want to do it yourself, make reservations ahead of time as many wineries are by appointment only.

Things to do in the Napa Valley 

  • Napa Valley Wine Train
  • Castello di Amorosa Winery and Chateau Montelena Winery
  • Lunch at Oxbow Public Market
  • Explore Downtown Napa
  • Hot air balloon ride over the valley

 

Where to Stay in the Napa Valley

El Bonita Motel

The Bergson

Napa River Inn 

 

Santa Cruz

Distance from San Francisco: 1.25 hours, 71 miles  

best weekend trips from san francisco - santa cruz

I may be biased since I grew up in Santa Cruz, but Santa Cruz is one of my favorite weekend trips from the Bay Area.

The city is known as Surf City USA because of its quality waves and surf culture.

There are beautiful beaches, redwood forests, cute downtown shopping areas and boutiques, and plenty of delicious healthy food options.

Santa Cruz is also where you’ll find Monarch butterfly groves, cliffside views, the oldest amusement park in California, and abundant marine life around the Monterey Bay, including whales that pass close to the shore every year.

In other words, you would find it hard to be bored during a weekend away in Santa Cruz.

Local tip: One of the best things to do in Santa Cruz is to eat. Check out the many unique eateries around the city, from brunch to lunch at taquerias and dinner out on the Wharf. The city is also a lot chillier than most people think. Bring layers and expect fog in the mornings and cool nights.

Things to do in Santa Cruz 

  • Hike around Wilder Ranch
  • Natural Bridges Beach and Monarch Butterfly Grove
  • Drive West Cliff Drive
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
  • Eat Dinner at sunset on the Santa Cruz Wharf (Riva Fish House is my favorite spot) 
  • Grab lunch and shop along Pacific Avenue
  • Capitola Village
  • Watch the surfers at The Hook or Steamer Lane
  • Seabright Beach or Sunny Cove

 

Sacramento

Distance from San Francisco: 1.5 hours, 88 miles 

short trips from san francisco - sacramento

If you’re looking to get lost in California’s pioneer history, there’s no better city than Sacramento to take you back in time to the Gold Rush era.

And this historic city has a lot to offer besides just its gold panning history.

Sacramento is the state capital of California and nicknamed “The City of Trees” for its countless green parks and different types of trees you’ll find all over the city.

Although mostly known for its politics and agriculture, in recent years, Sacramento has become a trendy city in its own right.

It’s especially known for its bustling foodie scene, street art around every corner, and a decent craft beer culture.

The city is one of the best short trips from San Francisco if you’re looking for a quick city getaway. 

Local tip: Besides politics and Gold Rush history, Sacramento is America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. Take time to explore the foodie scene around the city.

Things to do in Sacramento

  • Free tour of the California State Capitol Building
  • Old Sacramento State Historic Park
  • Sutter’s Fort
  • Tower Bridge at sunset
  • Historic River Cruise with Hornblower
  • Leland Stanford Mansion
  • American River Bike Trail
  • Local murals, especially around Midtown and downtown

 

Where to Stay in Sacramento

Arden Star Hotel

Amber House Inn

Kimpton Sawyer Hotel 

 

Monterey 

Distance from San Francisco: 1.75 hours, 115 miles 

romantic getaways near san francisco - 17 mile drive in monterey

Just on the other side of the bay from Santa Cruz, you’ll find Monterey.

Although Monterey is only about 30 minutes away from Santa Cruz, they’re two very different cities.

Whereas Santa Cruz is a little rougher around the edges, has a large student population, and leans into its surfer hippie vibe, Monterey is more pristine, upper class, and has an older population. 

In Monterey, you’ll find the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, a lot of mouthwatering seafood, and a stunning coastal drive just south of the city called the 17-Mile Drive. 

This is the perfect spot for a luxe romantic getaway near San Francisco that’s laidback and full of sparkling seaside views. 

Local tip: Monterey has similar weather to Santa Cruz, expect fog in the mornings and cool evenings. In general, it’s always good to bring layers with you when you’re staying in the Monterey Bay.

Things to do in Monterey

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • 17-Mile Drive 
  • Cannery Row
  • Old Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Del Monte Beach 
  • Lover’s Point Park
  • Colton Hall Museum
  • Monterey Bay Coastal Trail 
  • Point Pinos Lighthouse
  • Robert Louis Stevenson House
  • Steinbeck House in Salinas 
  • Tide pools at Point Lobos 

 

Where to Stay in Monterey

Arbor Inn

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

Portola Hotel & Spa

 

Pinnacles National Park   

Distance from San Francisco: 2 hours, 123 miles 

best overnight trips from san francisco - pinnacles national park

Pinnacles National Park is one of the more unique weekend getaways near San Francisco, just inland from the Big Sur coastline.

Although this is California’s newest national park, having only been established in 2013, its volcanic landscape was formed 23 million years ago.

From rock spires to talus caves, canyons, and woodlands, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve arrived on another planet.

The park is especially good for day hikers, wildlife enthusiasts, and rock climbers who are looking for a weekend away from San Francisco. 

It’s also the place to see California condors in the wild (vultures with a nine-and-a-half-foot wingspan).

Local tip: Weather can change quickly at the park, pack layers, and bring plenty of water. If you park at the visitor center, there’s a free shuttle bus that runs on the weekends to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

Things to do in Pinnacles National Park 

  • Bear Gulch Caves Hike (1.5 miles)
  • Bring a flashlight and explore the talus caves
  • Balconies Cave Hike (9.4 miles)
  • High Peaks Trail (6.3 miles)
  • Moses Spring Trail (2.2 miles)
  • Stargazing if camping overnight
  • Rock climbing, if that’s your thing

 

Where to Stay Near Pinnacles National Park:

Soledad Motel 8

Valley Harvest Inn 

Click here for camping info at Pinnacles National Park

If you’re looking to purchase a tent, check out my post on the best 4-person tents or the best large camping tents if you’re camping with a bigger group.  

 

Big Sur 

Distance from San Francisco: 2.5 hours, 149 miles 

weekend trips from the bay area - big sur

Big Sur is easily one of my favorite weekend road trips from San Francisco.

The drive along the Big Sur coastline is the most breathtaking coastal drive you will ever take in California (and possibly the world).

No matter how many times I visit Big Sur, I’m still amazed at its natural beauty every single time.

The glittering crystal blue waters contrasted perfectly with golden-hued cliffs and rocky landscapes are truly one-of-a-kind.

Make sure to give yourself ample time to drive the coastline and hit the main scenic spots like McWay Falls, Bixby Canyon Bridge, and Pfeiffer Beach.

Once you’ve spent a day checking out the main sights, go on a hike or two at one of the many state parks in the area, enjoy a sunset picnic, and explore the local beaches.  

This is one of my favorite places to visit in California and an ideal weekend getaway near San Francisco for anyone craving coastal views. 

Local tip: There is limited cell service in Big Sur, so plan your route ahead of time. Book accommodation well in advance as well because campsites and hotels book up quickly. Lastly, check road conditions before you leave – there are sometimes landslides that close the highway.

Things to do in Big Sur 

  • Bixby Creek Bridge
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and McWay Falls
  • Pfeiffer Beach
  • Limekiln Falls Hike (1.5 miles)
  • Parington Cove Hike (1 mile)
  • Henry Miller Library
  • Sand Dollar Beach
  • Any of the turnout viewpoints along the drive – they’re all stunning

 

Where to Stay in Big Sur

Fernwood Resort

Big Sur Lodge

Ventana Big Sur

Click here for camping info at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park 

 

Mendocino & Fort Bragg

Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours, 155 miles 

best road trips from san francisco - mendocino

An often overlooked part of California, the Mendocino Coast has a rugged beauty that is more likely to be seen in Oregon than California. 

Unlike the pristine beaches and towns you’ll find in Southern California, this part of the California Coast is all about windswept vistas and down-to-earth local communities.

The cities of Mendocino and Fort Bragg are small enough to offer that small-town charm and offer a quiet escape from the big cities to the south of them. 

The change of pace and unique natural beauty of this area makes it one of the best weekend getaways from San Francisco.

If you want to be surrounded by nature, there’s the Mendocino Headlands, Russian Gulch State Park, and Van Damme State Park right there.

If you’re more interested in history, Fort Bragg used to be a military garrison and then a rough lumber town.

Exploring its downtown area and restored facades takes you back in time through its many eras.

If you’re more into the idea of a pampered weekend getaway, Mendocino is the place for luxe bed and breakfasts with ocean views and fuzzy bathrobes. 

Both Mendocino and Fort Bragg have a great farm-to-table foodie scene as well.

And there’s an underrated wine region just inland from the coast around Philo and Navarro.  

No matter what type of getaway you’re craving, the Mendocino Coast is one of the best overnight trips from San Francisco that appeals to a lot of different types of travelers. 

Local tip: You usually lose cell reception on Highway 128, once you pass Boonville. Make sure you have your route planned out ahead of time. This part of California is often foggy and windy, so also make sure to bring layers on a trip to the Mendocino Coast. 

Things to do in Mendocino & Fort Bragg

  • Ride the Skunk Train
  • Fort Bragg Coastal Trail (4.5 miles)
  • Noyo Harbor
  • Pomo Bluffs Beach
  • International Sea Glass Museum
  • Guest House Museum
  • Cowlicks Hand Made Ice Cream
  • Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
  • Point Cabrillo Light Station
  • Mendocino Headlands 
  • Russian Gulch State Park

 

Where to Stay in Mendocino & Fort Bragg

Ocean View Lodge

Agate Cove Inn

Brewery Gulch Inn – (Read my full review of the Brewery Gulch Inn here)

 

Lake Tahoe 

Distance from San Francisco: 3 hours, 188 miles 

long weekend trips from san francisco - lake tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, straddling the state line between California and Nevada.

And the best thing about Lake Tahoe, besides its natural beauty, is that it’s good to visit year-round.

It’s also one of the most popular weekend trips near San Francisco.

In the summer, people bask in the sun at high altitude beaches, swim in the freshwater lake, and go hiking.

In winter, they take to the ski resorts, go snowshoeing, and cozy up in warm cabins around the water.

Lake Tahoe is one of those places to be visited time and again because you will never run out of options for activities. 

Local tip: If you visit during summer weekends, make accommodation reservations far in advance and prepare to sit in traffic – this is Lake Tahoe’s busiest tourist season. Also, the lake is huge – it takes around three hours to drive around with no stops. Plan what you want to see and do ahead of time.

Things to do in Lake Tahoe

  • Emerald Bay State Park
  • Vikingsholm
  • Eagle Falls & Eagle Lake Trail (2 miles)
  • Squaw Valley Resort
  • The Heavenly Gondola
  • Sand Harbor
  • D. L. Bliss State Park
  • Rubicon Trail (9 miles)

 

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

7 Seas Inn at Tahoe

Hotel Azure

The Landing Resort & Spa 

 

Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco (Under Five Hours) 

Yosemite National Park   

Distance from San Francisco: 3.5 hours, 171 miles 

trips to yosemite from san francisco

With its accessible nature only a few hours from San Francisco, Yosemite is the most popular and famous national park in California.

It has attracted countless people to its high altitude wonderland for well over a century – the area was first protected in 1864.

Today, over four million people visit Yosemite every year to take in the awe-inspiring viewpoints, giant sequoias, deep valleys, hiking trails, and waterfalls.

A few of the must-see sights in the park include Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Valley View, Tunnel View, and Glacier Point.

Local tip: Yosemite is a busy park. If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite from San Francisco, book hotels and campsites well in advance and plan for traffic, especially in the summer. Once you’re in the park, there’s a free shuttle to take you around to major sights – you can pick it up from Yosemite Lodge.

NOTE: The Yosemite shuttle is currently paused due to COVID-19. They are also requiring all visitors to obtain a permit now, even for day trips to prevent too many people from overcrowding the park. You can apply for permits starting from the 1st of every month for the following month. Learn more about the new permit requirements here

Things to do in Yosemite National Park 

  • El Capitan
  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Glacier Point
  • Valley View and Tunnel View
  • Yosemite Falls
  • Half Dome Hike (16 miles) – need to secure a permit online beforehand, distributed by lottery
  • Panorama Trail (8.5 miles) – book the Hiker’s Bus online to get to the trailhead

 

Where to Stay Near Yosemite National Park

Miners Inn

Yosemite View

Rush Creek Lodge

Click here for camping info at Yosemite National Park 

 

Humboldt Redwoods State Park  

Distance from San Francisco: 3.75 miles, 218 miles 

weekend away from san francisco - humboldt redwoods state park

One of the best places to see California redwoods, Humboldt Redwoods State Park is a quintessential Northern California getaway that’s perfect for those who want to get out in nature for the weekend. 

With 77,000 acres of redwood trees, over 100 miles of hiking trails, and the largest contiguous old-growth redwood forest in the world, this is one of the best getaways from San Francisco if you want to spend the weekend hiking through redwoods.

It’s also where you’ll find one of California’s most famous drives – the Avenue of the Giants.

The Avenue of the Giants is one of the most popular drives in Northern California, so expect it to be somewhat touristy (by Northern California standards).

But even with the crowds, the scenery makes the drive well worth it.

The drive is 31 miles along old Hwy 101 and features some of the most impressive redwood trees along the California redwood belt.

And if you’ve ever wanted to drive through a tree, this is the spot to do it, assuming your car is small enough.

Local tip: For the Avenue of the Giants, pick up an auto tour map at the visitor center before the drive. There are brown auto tour signs along the route that give you clues on where to stop.

Things to do in Humboldt Redwoods State Park 

  • Avenue of the Giants
  • Founders Grove and Dyerville Giant Hike (1.3 miles)
  • Williams Grove
  • Giant Tree & Flat Iron Tree Hike (0.6 miles)
  • Rockefeller Loop Trail (0.6 miles) 
  • Shrine Drive-Thru Tree ($10 to drive through a tree)

 

Where to Stay Near Humboldt Redwoods State Park

The Northern Inn Motel

Myers Inn

Click here for camping info at Humboldt Redwoods State Park 

 

Morro Bay   

Distance from San Francisco: 3.75 hours, 232 miles 

weekend trips near san francisco - morro bay

Morro Bay is an unassuming small seaside city that is equal parts friendly and scenic.

The city’s most striking feature is Morro Rock, a 576-foot rock that was part of a volcanic peak called the Nine Sisters 23 million years ago.

The rock is not only an interesting piece of geological history to visit, but it has been used by sailors for navigational purposes for over 300 years.

In addition to Morro Rock, Morro Bay is a fun city to explore and one of the best road trips from San Francisco.

For the most scenic drive from San Francisco, you can head down Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, the whole way to Morro Bay. 

Once you get to Morro Bay, there’s an attractive embarcadero to walk along, fresh seafood restaurants with waterside views, beaches, hiking, and water activities.

It’s also a haven for bird watchers. 

If you’re looking for breezy coastal vistas and hikes near the ocean, Montana de Oro State Park is one of the prettiest parks in the area and right next to the city. 

And Morro Bay is an ideal spot for exploring nearby Central Coast sights as well, such as Hearst Castle and the Elephant Seal Rookery at Point Piedras Blancas in San Simeon.

There are also the seaside cities of Cayucos and Pismo Beach just a short drive away. 

Local tip: Morro Bay can be foggy and breezy so it’s good to wear layers. There are also quite a few interesting festivals that come to Morro Bay every year. Check the city’s event calendar ahead of time to see if you can hit one.

Things to do in Morro Bay 

  • Walk to Morro Rock
  • The Embarcadero
  • Shine Cafe for breakfast or lunch
  • Spot sea otters – a good place is near the boardwalk on the way to Morro Rock
  • Rent a kayak and explore the harbor and estuary
  • Go antique shopping and stop by the historic Bay Theatre in downtown
  • Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk
  • Siena’s View
  • Hiking and beaches at Montana de Oro State Park 
  • Cayucos Beach 
  • Tour Hearst Castle in San Simeon
  • Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon 

 

Where to Stay in Morro Bay

Morro Bay Sandpiper Inn

The Landing at Morro Bay

Estero Inn

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park  

Distance from San Francisco: 3.75 hours, 236 miles 

weekend road trips from san francisco - lassen volcanic national park

Yosemite and Joshua Tree might get most of the attention when it comes to California national parks, but Lassen Volcanic National Park is well worth the visit if you’re looking for a less busy park that has just as much of a “wow” factor.

Lassen is also one of the best places to visit in Northern California for geological wonders and formations. 

The park’s most famous features are Lassen Peak (its resident volcano), Bumpass Hell, and Subway Cave Lava Tubes.

Be prepared to see volcanic sights in the form of mud pots and sulfur vents, as well as plenty of hiking trails, dense forests, alpine lakes, and meadows full of wildflowers (in the right season).

Local tip: Park roads close down from Nov-May. Cell service is limited. Be wary of altitude sickness as elevation gets up to 10,457 feet. There’s only one gas station in the park (only open during the high season), so fill up your tank in Shingletown or Susanville ahead of time.

Things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park 

  • Bumpass Hell Trail (3 miles)
  • Mill Creek Falls hike (3.8 miles)
  • Manzanita Lake
  • Sulphur Works and Little Hot Springs Valley
  • Subway Cave Lava Tubes (15 min drive from Manzanita Lake)
  • Devil’s Kitchen Trail (4.2 miles)

 

Where to Stay Near Lassen Volcanic National Park

Charm Motel & Suites

Shasta Pines Motel

Highlands Ranch Resort

Click here for camping info at Lassen Volcanic National Park 

 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks  

Distance from San Francisco: 4.25 hours, 263 miles 

best getaways from san francisco - sequoia national park and kings canyon national park

Located right next to each other and administered together by the National Park Service, it’s easy to hit both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in one long weekend trip from San Francisco.

Kings Canyon is the place to explore deep canyons, meadows, wide-open vista points, waterfalls, and a fair share of sequoia trees.

It’s also home to the deepest canyon in the US – Kings Canyon is 8,200 feet deep.

The scenery is comparable to Yosemite National Park, so if you’re looking for a less touristy alternative to Yosemite, this is the park to visit.

Once you’re done exploring Kings Canyon, head to Sequoia National Park to be surrounded by more of the world’s tallest trees – giant sequoias.

At the park, don’t miss General Sherman, a giant sequoia that is the largest living thing in the world by volume.

Afterward, you can explore the trails in the Giant Forest to be fully immersed in a grove of these majestic trees.

And there are plenty of non-tree attractions around the park as well, including sights such as Moro Rock, Crystal Cave, Mineral King, and other natural features in the form of lakes, canyons, and waterfalls.

Local tip: If you’re traveling during the high season, take the park shuttle ($15 per person) that goes around both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, as well as nearby cities. Bears are common in both parks, so don’t leave food in your car and use bear lockers/canisters if you’re camping

NOTE: The public shuttle for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is currently not running due to COVID-19. This post will be updated once it’s running again, but until then, plan to drive around the parks in your own vehicle. 

Things to do in Sequoia National Park

  • Crystal Cove
  • General Sherman
  • Big Trees Trail (1.5 miles)
  • The Congress Trail (3 miles)
  • Moro Rock
  • Mineral King
  • Giant Forest Museum
  • Tunnel Log
  • Crescent Meadow Trail (1.8 miles)
  • Muir Grove
  • Tokopah Falls

 

Things to do in Kings Canyon National Park 

  • Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
  • Zumwalt Meadows Panoramic Point
  • General Grant Grove
  • North Grove Loop (1.5 miles)
  • Grizzly Falls and Roaring River Falls
  • Hume Lake
  • Buena Vista Peak Hike (2 miles)
  • Cedar Grove Overlook Hike (5 miles)
  • Mist Falls Trail (9 miles)

 

Where to Stay Near Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Lazy J Ranch

The Branded Calf

Montecito Sequoia Lodge 

Click here for camping info at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park 

 

Mount Shasta

Distance from San Francisco: 4.75 hours, 290 miles

unique bay area getaways - mount shasta

Mount Shasta is one of the most iconic landmarks in Northern California.

The Mount Shasta area has been a spiritual place for Native Americans for thousands of years.

And at over 14,000 feet high, summiting Mount Shasta’s peak is a popular challenge for skilled mountaineers around the world.

Even if you’re not a mountaineer, the Mount Shasta area is full of natural beauty and outdoor adventure activities, no matter what season you’re visiting. 

These range from tackling easy hiking trails filled with colorful wildflowers, forests, meadows, and waterfalls, to skiing or snowboarding at Mt Shasta Ski Park if you’re planning a winter weekend trip from San Francisco. 

Local tip: The best way to see Mt Shasta is by hiking and driving around it. Spend at least a couple of hours doing the scenic drive on Everitt Memorial Hwy and tackling a short hike or two to take in the mountain from different perspectives.

Things to do in Mount Shasta

  • Scenic Drive – Everitt Memorial Highway from Mt Shasta to Panther Meadows
  • Mt Shasta City
  • Faery Falls hike via the Spring Canyon Trail (2 miles)
  • John Everitt Vista Point
  • Mt Shasta Ski Park
  • Grey Butte Trail (3 miles)

 

Where to Stay in Mount Shasta

Shasta Inn

Inn at Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta Resort

 

Long Weekend Trips from San Francisco (More Than Five Hours)

Santa Barbara 

Distance from San Francisco: 5.25 hours, 325 miles 

quick getaways from san francisco - santa barbara

When you arrive in Santa Barbara, you’ll be met with white stucco buildings and red-tiled rooftops that give off a Mediterranean vibe.

Santa Barbara is one of the prettiest cities you’ll find on the Central Coast with a beautiful harbor, good beaches, and upscale boutiques and restaurants that line clean, open streets. 

The city is home to the Franciscan Mission Santa Barbara that was built in 1786 and is located near the Santa Ynez wine region and Channel Islands National Park.

Due to its natural beauty and relaxing atmosphere that caters to a more luxury-focused clientele, it’s also one of the best romantic getaways in California. 

While you’re in town, don’t miss out on Butterfly Beach, the view from Inspiration Point, or being near the coast at sunset.

Local tip: Santa Barbara has impressive multi-hued sunsets. During one of your nights in town, grab dinner near the water just before the sun goes down. This is where you’ll see the city’s beauty come to life on another level.

Things to do in Santa Barbara

  • Stearns Wharf
  • Mission Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
  • Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
  • El Presidio de Santa Barbara
  • Lotusland
  • Walk up and down State Street
  • Ice cream from McConnell’s
  • Ride bikes along Cabrillo Boulevard
  • East Beach, West Beach, or Butterfly Beach
  • Inspiration Point hike (4 miles)

 

Where to Stay in Santa Barbara

Castillo Inn

Bath Street Inn

Santa Barbara Inn 

 

Mammoth Lakes

Distance from San Francisco: 5.5 hours, 321 miles 

winter weekend trips from san francisco - mammoth lakes

If you’re looking to base yourself somewhere for a long weekend while you explore the Sierras, Mammoth Lakes is a great choice.

The town is situated smack dab in the middle of some of the best destinations that the Sierras has to offer.

And there’s a lot to do in and around Mammoth Lakes.

In the summer, hike around Mammoth Lakes Basin or Little Lakes Valley, taste the local craft beer, and go to a blues music festival.

In the colder months, go snowshoeing or tubing, find a hot spring, or hit Mammoth or June Mountain for skiing and snowboarding.

Since it’s a long journey, Mammoth Lakes is ideal for a 3 day trip from San Francisco to give you enough time to immerse yourself in the area.  

Local tip: Stop by the Mammoth Welcome Center when you first get into town to grab maps, check current trail conditions, and pick up permits if needed. If you need tire chains during the winter, you can find them in Bishop or any Mammoth gas station. Use the local transit system, it’s free!

Things to do in Mammoth Lakes 

  • Mammoth Mountain’s scenic gondola
  • Snowboarding or skiing at Mammoth Mountain
  • Devil’s Postpile & Rainbow Falls
  • Lake Mary and Skelton Lake
  • Crystal Lake Trail (1.8 miles)
  • Tour the local hot springs nearby (e.g. Hot Creek Geological Site, Wild Willy’s Hot Spring, and Hilltop Hot Spring)
  • Minaret Vista
  • Mammoth Museum at the Hayden Cabin Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center

 

Where to Stay in Mammoth Lakes

Quality Inn

Tamarack Lodge

Juniper Springs Resort

 

Channel Islands National Park 

Distance from San Francisco: 5.5 hours, 352 miles + ferry (usually 1-2 hours depending on which island you’re visiting) 

california getaways - channel islands national park

It might take some extra planning to get to, but Channel Islands National Park is a unique getaway from the Bay Area.

The national park includes five islands – Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel.

Each one features an array of ecological and historical wonders, such as sea caves, Torrey pines, seal hangouts, a 1932 lighthouse, and generous clifftop views.

To explore the islands, take a ferry from Ventura and plan to camp overnight on one or two islands depending on how much time you have.

Give yourself at least 2-3 days to take in the national park in all of its natural beauty.

And make sure to go on a couple of hikes and a local sailing or kayaking tour to explore the local diversity. 

This is a great weekend trip from San Francisco for anyone who is looking for a more adventurous and outdoorsy weekend away from the city. 

Local tip: There are a few different ways to get to the islands, but the most straightforward is by hopping on an Island Packers boat. Their boats run often and travel to every island. Note how long boat trips are ahead of time and plan accordingly. There is very little cell service on the islands.

Things to do in Channel Islands National Park 

  • Kayak the sea caves around Santa Cruz Island
  • Scorpion Beach, Cavern Point Loop (2 miles), and Scorpion Canyon Loop (4.5 miles) on Santa Cruz Island
  • Hike up to Inspiration Point and see the tide pools at Frenchy’s Cove on Anacapa Island
  • Water Canyon Beach and Torrey Pines Trail (5 miles) on Santa Rosa Island
  • Snorkeling at Anacapa’s Landing Cove and Santa Cruz’s Scorpion Beach

 

Where to Stay in Channel Islands National Park 

Click here for camping info at Channel Islands National Park

 


 

Looking for more San Francisco & Bay Area travel inspiration? Check out these related posts below! 

14 Best Hikes in San Francisco (From a Local)

Where to See the Redwoods Near San Francisco 

The Best Things to do at Night in San Francisco 

35 Best Things to do in San Jose California 

 

Mimi McFadden
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