July 23, 2024

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Pride of the Travel

25 Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco

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San Francisco is one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities in the USA, and there is no shortage of things to do. However, sometimes it can be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and take a relaxing weekend getaway. In this travel guide, we will round up the best weekend trips from San Francisco to add to your California bucket list. 

25 Absolute Best Weekend Trips from San Francisco

Best weekend getaways from San Francisco

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There are many wonderful weekend getaways from San Francisco, no matter what your interests may be. Whether you want to relax in wine country, enjoy the great outdoors, or explore a new city, there’s a perfect destination for you just a short drive away. 

We have a full list of San Francisco road trips if you prefer that. In this post, we have included a mix of quick trips from SF in and around the Bay Area that are great to relax and unwind without spending a lot on gas. 

San Francisco in 4 days
Weekend trips from San Francisco USA

And if you wish to explore a new destination without driving, we have included a few options that are doable with a quick 1-3 hour flight within the United States.

So pack your bags and get ready for a fun-filled weekend getaway!

Read: Northern California road trips | Best USA weekend trips

Sausalito, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 16 km or 10 miles
  • Getting there: 25-minute drive. 40-minute train ride or by biking
  • Perfect for: A romantic weekend, art and culture

Sausalito is a beautiful small town located just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. This quaint little town is the perfect place to spend a romantic weekend away in the US with your significant other.

Walk hand in hand through the streets of Sausalito and pop into the many art galleries that line the town. Be sure to visit the Marinship Park, where you can view some of Sausalito’s historic WWII shipyards.

You can also take a short drive out of town to Muir Woods National Monument, where you can hike among the giant redwoods. There are regular shuttle buses leaving from the area if you are not driving. 

Or, head to the nearby city of Tiburon to take a ride on the ferry over to Angel Island State Park. 

Back in Sausalito, dine at one of the waterfront restaurants and enjoy stunning views of the San Francisco skyline across the bay.

For lodging, check out the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa, an elegant hotel located in the center of town. Or, for something a little more low-key, try the Inn Above Tide, which has rooms with private balconies and views of the bay.

San Rafael, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 28 km or 18 miles
  • Getting there: 40-minute drive
  • Perfect for: A weekend in Marin County

San Rafael is the largest city in Marin County and is a great base for exploring all that this beautiful region has to offer. Just a short drive from San Francisco, San Rafael is close to many of Marin’s most popular attractions, including Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, and Mount Tamalpais State Park (about a 20 to 40-minute drive).

Downtown San Rafael is worth exploring, with its lively art scene, great shops and restaurants, and historic buildings. The Mission San Rafael Arcangel, founded in 1817, is also located downtown and is worth a visit.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in San Rafael. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are all popular here. There are also several golf courses in the area if you’re looking to tee off.

If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the Marin County Fair. This annual event features live music, carnival rides, food and drink, and more. It’s a great way to experience the vibrant community spirit of San Rafael.

Half Moon Bay, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 48 km or 30 miles 
  • Getting there: 45-minute drive
  • Perfect for: A beach getaway

With its quaint shops and galleries, beautiful beaches, and stunning coastal scenery, Half Moon Bay makes for a great weekend getaway from San Francisco. This small town is located on the San Mateo Coast, about a half-hour drive south of the city.

Half Moon Bay State Beach is the main attraction here. With two miles of sandy beach, it’s a great place for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and picnicking. The beach is also popular for surfing, and there are several surf schools in town if you want to learn.

The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is held every October and is a must-attend event. This two-day festival features a massive pumpkin weigh-off (with some pumpkins weighing in at over 1,000 pounds!), live music, food and drink, arts and crafts, a parade, and more.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, the Mill Rose Inn is a charming bed and breakfast located in the heart of downtown Half Moon Bay. This Victorian-style inn offers beautiful accommodations, a delicious continental breakfast each morning, and a lovely garden to relax in.

Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 82 km or 51 miles 
  • Getting there: 90-minute drive
  • Perfect for: History buffs, nature lovers, photographer

Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park is a beautiful and unique place to visit for a weekend getaway. This working lighthouse, which was built in 1871, is the tallest on the West Coast of the USA.

In addition to the lighthouse, there are also hiking trails, a beach, and tide pools to explore. 

The light station is located on a cliff, so it’s also a great spot for whale watching (during whale migration season) or just enjoying the stunning ocean views.

There is no overnight accommodation at the light station, but there are several camping options nearby. One option is to stay at the HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

Sonoma, California

By Noel from The Mature Traveler

  • Distance from San Francisco: 81 km or 50 miles
  • Getting there: 1-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Vineyards, wine tasting, hikes, mountain climbing, horseback riding

There’s so much to see around Sonoma country, starting with visiting Healdsburg the trendy “It” city to the city of Sonoma, and then all the gorgeous landscape and vineyards and wineries in between.  

Sonoma is so much more than just vineyards and winery tasting rooms. There’s outdoor adventure and recreation with river and lake experiences from visiting small cool towns and going on road trips, exploring colorful gardens, going for outdoor hikes, biking, mountain climbing to horseback riding. 

There are so many choices here depending on what your interests and hobbies are. 

For foodies, every city and town hosts award-winning cafes and restaurants that excel in farm-to-table with local ingredients and are made just fresh for all picky eaters. You can even sign up for cooking, baking classes, and food tours if you are into food-oriented experiences. 

But the highlight here is the wine experience and Sonoma does excel in amazing wineries and tasting rooms in every area of the county including the cities. You’ll be impressed with all the venues and combined with an amazing culinary experience, Sonoma delivers above and beyond. 

Spring and summer are a great time to visit and if staying in Healdsburg consider a few nights at the H2 Hotel right at the main square and a beautiful place to enjoy and relax in the heart of the city.

Napa Valley, California

By Dhara from Roadtripping California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 84 km or 52 miles
  • Getting there: 1.25-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Wine tasting, culinary holiday, shopping

Napa Valley is one of the most popular destinations for weekend trips from San Francisco, and not just for wine lovers! Featuring great dining and shopping, and beautiful wineries to visit for their art and gardens, Napa Valley makes for a fabulous weekend getaway.

Napa Valley vineyards in fall
Napa Valley

One of the best things to do in Napa Valley is tour the many stunning wineries. Many area wineries offer wonderful art and architecture, while others offer gorgeous grounds and gardens. Beringer Vineyards, Domaine Carneros, Far Niente, and Castello di Amorosa are some must-visit Napa Valley wineries.

Napa Valley is also known for its farm-to-fork dining. From the famous French Laundry to Morimoto Napa, you can dine at many celebrity chef eateries here. But be sure to make reservations well ahead of your visit: popular restaurants tend to fill up weeks in advance.

Just driving through the valley is also a pleasant experience. With rolling hills and expansive vineyards, the area is scenic. And the towns of the valley have charming downtowns, perfect for strolling and browsing the shops and galleries.

Downtown Napa, in particular, offers a bustling shopping district, great architecture and public art, a scenic setting with the Napa River, and entertainment options such as music and theater.

You can visit Napa Valley any time of the year! While winter is “low” season, you can score lower prices on accommodations during this time. Fall is crush season, plus the vineyards change color, making it a great time to visit. 

In downtown Napa, the Archer Hotel is a fabulous place to stay, with a rooftop lounge and bar. It’s walking distance to shopping, dining, and wine tasting.

Santa Cruz, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 121 km or 75 miles
  • Getting there: 1.5-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Beach getaway, surfing, nature lover

Santa Cruz is a classic coastal city in California and a great weekend destination from San Francisco. The town is full of character, with a boardwalk, lively Main Street, and plenty of surf shops and beach bars.

The beaches in Santa Cruz are some of the best in the area. The main beach is called – Santa Cruz Main Beach, but Cowell’s Beach is much quieter, and it’s great for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. 

Nearby, you’ll find Natural Bridges State Park, which is known for its tide pools and monarch butterfly population.

For nature lovers, another must-visit spot is Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This park is home to some of the tallest trees in the world, and it’s a great place for hiking, bird watching, and picnicking.

No matter what time of year you visit Santa Cruz, there’s always something going on. In the summer, there’s the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is California’s oldest amusement park. 

And in the fall, the town hosts the Santa Cruz County Fair. Winter brings whale watching season, and spring is when the surf culture comes alive with competitions and festivals.

Where to stay in Santa Cruz? The Dream Inn is a beachfront property that’s within walking distance of all the best shops and restaurants in town.

Monterey, California

By Kenny from Knycx Journeying  

  • Distance from San Francisco: 191 km or 119 miles 
  • Getting there: 2-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Coastal city in California for a road trip, historic sites, hikes/outdoors

While there is an exciting number of attractions and scenic spots in San Francisco, the outskirt of the city has a lot more to offer, from the dramatic coastline, and national parks to rugged mountains. By the Pacific Ocean stands a coastal city, Monterey, with about 30,000 inhabitants. 


Located just 120 miles away from San Francisco, together with its historic sights and breathtaking sceneries, Monterey is a wonderful destination for a weekend trip. 

The best way to get to Monterey is by driving. For public transportation, take the bus line 20 or Caltrain, which will take about 3 to 4 hours for the ride. 

To truly experience the ocean view of Monterey, stay in the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa, which is built at the waterfront with excellent massage and spa facilities; or in the Old Monterey Inn, which is an intimate bed and breakfast that captures the countryside charm.  

Monterey was founded in 1770 and it was the capital of Alta California in the early 19th century. Therefore, the city still retains a lot of historic sites, including California’s first theatre, public library, and newspaper. 

Take a walk in the streets and explore these city’s historic locations, and then enjoy the beautiful sceneries in the pristine beaches, parks, and walking trails. You can start at the Monterey State Historic Park. 

There are a number of guided tours available in Monterey, a full-day Monterey guided tour takes tourists on a 17-Mile Drive, a scenic highway 1 that runs along the Pacific coastline. 

To fans of the hit TV Show Big Little Lies, the story was based on a group of lead actresses (starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Meryl Streep) who live in Monterey, with a number of scenic spots featured in the show including the stunning Bixby Bridge, Lover’s Point Park, Paluca Trattoria on Fisherman’s Wharf, Point Lobos Natural Reserves, and more.   

Carmel-by-the-sea, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 193 km or 120 miles 
  • Getting there: 2+ hour drive
  • Perfect for: A romantic getaway, golfing, shopping

Carmel-by-the-sea is a beautiful town located on the Monterey Peninsula. It’s well known as a destination for art lovers, as it’s home to many galleries, and was once the retreat for writers and artists such as Ansel Adams, Jack London, and Clint Eastwood.

The town is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Golfers will find many championship golf courses here, such as Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, and Tehama Golf Club. 

And there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and picnicking in the scenic Carmel Valley.

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, Carmel is the perfect destination. Stroll hand-in-hand through the quaint downtown area, enjoy a candlelit dinner, and spend some time relaxing at one of the town’s many spas.

There are plenty of great places to stay in Carmel from luxury resorts to cozy inns. For a truly luxurious experience, stay at Carmel Valley Ranch, which offers stunning views of the valley, golf and tennis facilities, and a full-service spa.

If you’re looking for something more affordable, the Quality Inn Carmel By The Sea is a great option. It’s centrally located and offers free breakfast and Wi-Fi.

Pinnacles National Park, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 207 km or 126 miles
  • Getting there: 3-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Hiking, camping, bird watching, rock climbing

Pinnacles National Park is one of the best places to go camping in California. The park features two campgrounds: the East and West sides. Both are open all year round, but the East side has more amenities (such as showers and flush toilets) and is thus more popular.

To get to the East side campground, you have to drive through the park (which takes about an hour). The West side can be accessed without driving through the park.

Pinnacles National Park is known for its unique rock formations, created by the erosion of an ancient volcano. The park is also home to many interesting plants and animals, such as the endangered California condor.

There are over 30 miles of hiking trails in Pinnacles National Park, ranging from easy to strenuous. Some of the most popular hikes include Balconies Cave Trail, North Chalone Peak Trail, and Bear Gulch Reservoir Trail.

For rock climbers, Pinnacles National Park is a paradise. There are over 500 established climbing routes, ranging from beginner to expert. If you’re looking for an adventurous weekend getaway from San Francisco, Pinnacles National Park is the perfect destination.

Mendocino, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 248 km or 154 miles
  • Getting there: 3+ hour drive
  • Perfect for: A romantic getaway, nature lovers, hiking

Mendocino is a charming town located on the northern coast of California. It’s perfect for a weekend getaway, especially if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

On the way to Mendocino, make sure to stop at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Here you can check out the iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse, and beautiful beaches, and enjoy hiking trails, and wildlife. This is also a great place for a picnic or to go for a swim.

The town itself is small, but there are plenty of things to do. You can stroll through quaint shops and art galleries, or enjoy the great outdoors with a hike through one of the many redwood forests.

For outdoors lovers, consider visiting the Van Damme State Park for hiking. 

Mendocino is also home to some great restaurants, so be sure to check out local favorites like Cafe Beaujolais, Patrona (Ukiah, Mendocino County), and Trillium Cafe.

And of course, no visit to Mendocino would be complete without a stop at the famous Mendocino Headlands State Park, where you can enjoy sweeping ocean views.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, the Little River Inn is a great option. This picturesque inn is located right on the water and offers a variety of amenities such as a spa, golf course, and restaurants.

Paso Robles, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 330 km or 205 miles
  • Getting there: 3 – 4 hour drive
  • Perfect for: Wine tasting, spa getaway, golfing

Paso Robles is a beautiful town in Central California wine country. With more than 200 wineries, Paso Robles is a great destination for wine lovers. The area is also known for its hot springs, making it a perfect spot for a spa getaway.

There are many things to do in Paso Robles wine country. You can visit some of the famous wineries, such as Eberle Winery, Tobin James Cellars, and J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. Or you can take a wine tour and learn about the wine-making process.

For those who want to relax, there are several day spas in Paso Robles. Or you can visit one of the hot springs resorts, such as River Oaks Hot Springs Spa or Franklin Hot Springs.

Paso Robles is also a great destination for golfers. There are several championship golf courses in the area, such as the Links at Paso Robles and Hunter Ranch Golf Course.

If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the California Mid-State Fair. This annual event features carnival rides, live music, food vendors, and more.

Where to stay in Paso Robles? The Allegretto Vineyard Resort is a beautiful property with its own vineyard. Or, for a more budget-friendly option, try the Wine Country Inn Paso Robles.

San Luis Obispo, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 372 km or 231 miles
  • Getting there: 3-4 hour drive
  • Perfect for: Adventure seekers, beach lovers

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that’s a little further from San Francisco, consider heading to the Central Coast to the city of San Luis Obispo. This vibrant college town is full of great shops and restaurants, plus it’s close to many outdoor activities and beautiful beaches.

San Luis Obispo Coastal towns in California
San Luis Obispo: SF Weekend Trips

San Luis Obispo is located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it a great stop if you’re driving up or down the coast. It’s also right on Highway 1, so it’s easy to get to.

There are plenty of things to do in San Luis Obispo, from exploring the downtown area to hiking in nearby state parks. The city is also home to many great shops and restaurants. 

Be sure to check out SLO Brew, a local brewery with a taproom downtown, and Firestone Walker Brewing Company, located just outside of town in Paso Robles.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in San Luis Obispo. Morro Bay State Park is great for hiking, biking, and bird watching, and Shell Beach is perfect for a day of relaxing by the water. Avila Beach is another popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and stand-up paddle boarding.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, the Madonna Inn is a popular choice. This one-of-a-kind hotel is known for its unique rooms, each with its own theme and decor.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

By Zack from Florida Man On The Run

  • Distance from San Francisco: 354 km or 220 miles
  • Getting there: 4-5 hour drive
  • Perfect for: Scenic road trips, hikes, camping

Humboldt Redwoods State Park makes for a fantastic weekend trip from San Francisco. Home to some of the best preserved old-growth redwoods, this state Park also features one of the best drives as well. 

Bull Creek inside the Rockefeller Forest Humbolt
Bull Creek inside the Rockefeller Forest in Humbolt

The Avenue of the Giants winds its way next to the South Fork Eel River. You’ll take this route, an older two lane version of US 101, to see these magnificent trees. 

There are a number of wonderful redwood groves inside Humboldt State Park. Many of these are situated right off the Avenue of the Giants. However, a few require short detours or hikes to reach. 

One of the best inside the park is Rockefeller Forest. In fact, this spot is one of the best places you can stop on the entire Pacific Coast Highway

Nearby is the Dyerville Giant inside of Founders Grove. This massive tree was once the largest known redwood. Sadly it has since fallen over. This gives you a chance to see one of these amazing trees up close and get to understand just how big they really are! 

Your options for staying in the area, besides camping, are limited. The best and closest option is the Miranda Gardens Resort just south of the start of the park right along the Avenue of Giants. The park is really nice to visit year-round, but spring brings the best combination of weather with pre-summer crowd sizes. 

Los Angeles, California

By Jenifer from The Evolista

  • Distance from San Francisco: 615 km or 382 miles
  • Getting there: 1.50-hour flight. Or a 6-hour scenic drive on the West Coast USA
  • Perfect for: Hollywood, shopping, beaches

Los Angeles is a city of many diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique attractions. For those looking to enjoy a weekend getaway without straying too far from the city, stay at the Santa Monica Proper a great hotel close to Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

Venice Beach is home to the iconic boardwalk with lots of interesting characters, the Venice Canals, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a terrific spot for restaurants and shopping. Santa Monica boasts the 3rd Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier, and the world-famous Bike Path. 

Hollywood is another great neighborhood to visit, with attractions like the Griffith Observatory, star-studded exercise spot Runyon Canyon, and the Magic Castle. While Los Angeles is a great place to visit year round, a summer trip will allow you to enjoy an evening at the Hollywood Bowl, a quintessential LA experience.

LA Hollywood Bowl: SF Weekend Getaways

For culture lovers, there are museums galore, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles, or The Getty Center. A trip to Pasadena for the Huntington Gardens or the Rose Bowl flea market is also a great choice.

And of course, no trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a scenic drive along Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu where you’ll find some of the best beaches in LA. Zuma beach, with a wide sandy expanse, is a great place to relax and catch some rays. 

You can also combine beach time with one of the best hikes in Malibu at Point Dume. The Pacific Ocean views will make you swoon! Before leaving Malibu stop by Malibu Country Mart for shopping and lunch at John’s Garden.

So whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure or city life, Los Angeles has something for everyone.

Big Sur, California

By Catherine from Nomadicated

  • Distance from San Francisco: 238 km or 148 miles
  • Getting there: 2.50 – 3 hour drive
  • Perfect for: Beaches, hiking, road tripping

Just a few hours south of San Francisco, take a drive down the iconic Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur, one of California’s most beautiful regions. Here, you can enjoy stunning coastal views, and hikes through beautiful state parks, and relax on gorgeous seasides.

Big Sur
Big Sur: One of the best weekend trips from San Francisco

A weekend is the perfect amount of time to explore Big Sur. Start your trip by driving down Highway 1 —admiring the views as you go! 

Make sure to stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for a short hike to see McWay Falls, one of the most popular attractions in Big Sur.

Next, head to Pfeiffer Beach, where you can relax or explore the nearby tide pools. If you’re looking for more hiking, there are plenty of trails to choose from in Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, or Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Note that each of these parks will have a separate entrance fee that will add to the cost of your road trip.

Finally, snap a picture as you drive across Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in California!

Traveling to Big Sur is amazing year-round, but the most popular time to visit is between April to October when the weather is nicest and businesses are operating for longer hours.

When it comes to food, save room for dessert – you can’t go wrong with a slice of pie from Big Sur Bakery.

Many places to stay in Big Sur offer more luxury experiences, like the popular choice Post Ranch Inn or Big Sur Lodge. Otherwise, consider camping at one of the many state parks in the area – just be sure to make your reservations early, as campsites can fill up quickly!

Lake Tahoe, California

By Gabriel Glasier of Chef Travel Guide

  • Distance from San Francisco: 328 km or 204 miles
  • Getting there: 3.50 – 4 hour drive
  • Perfect for: Beaches, hiking, winter activities like skiing

Lake Tahoe is the perfect place for a weekend getaway from San Francisco, and each season offers a new set of activities and adventures.

Lake Tahoe: Weeekend Trips from San Francisco

Lake Tahoe’s beaches are great to relax and get a little sun during the summer months. This is also the best time of year to hike the trails to stunning mountain tops like Maggies Peak, where you will be greeted with views of the entire lake. 

There is also fun to be had in South Lake Tahoe in the summer, where you can catch a concert or grab a craft beer at one of the lake’s amazing breweries.

The fall and the spring bring tranquility to the lake, where you can be at one with nature without the crowds. The shoulder season provides you access to the lake’s most popular attractions, like Eagle Falls and Emerald Bay, with easy parking and empty trails.

During the winter, Lake Tahoe is at its best as it is the snowsports capital of California. The Lake Tahoe basin is home to 15 ski and snowboard resorts, including Palisades, that once hosted the Winter Olympics. 

If you are not a big fan of the cold, this is the perfect season to cuddle with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the snow fall outside from the comfort of a wood cabin. 

The best part of Lake Tahoe for accommodations is on the southern side, as there are many options to choose from that are close to restaurants and entertainment. 

Basecamp South Hotel is a great option that offers the perfect combination of a boutique hotel along with the feel of a mountain lodge. They even have their own beer garden onsite, complete with live entertainment and a firepit.

Yosemite National Park, California

By Gabriel Glasier from Chef Travel Guide

  • Distance from San Francisco: 281 km or 175 miles
  • Getting there: 3.50-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Hikes, camping, backpacking, road trip, natural landmarks 

There is no better option for a weekend trip from San Francisco than the majestic Yosemite Valley. From its breathtaking waterfalls to its majestic rock faces, there is no place in California that offers the wow factor like this national park. 

View of Half Dome Yosemite National Park
Half Dome Yosemite National Park USA

Whether you are an adventure junkie and want to climb Half Dome, or you simply want to relax on the valley floor and take in Yosemite’s natural beauty, there is something for everyone. 

Yosemite is full of fun attractions that offer different levels of accessibility and adventure. If you are up for some serious hiking, the park offers over 750 miles of trails that will lead along streams and through groves of Giant Sequoias.  

Any trip to Yosemite must include stops at Glacier Point and Tunnel View, where you will get unparalleled vantage points of the entire valley, including Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome. The views from these locations are screensaver worthy and will be the highlight of your weekend getaway. 

The best time to visit Yosemite is in May when the park is most accessible. The crowds in early spring are minimal, and the waterfalls are at their peak flow from all the snow runoff. 

The alternative is to head to Yosemite in September after kids go back to school and the park visitors diminish for the season.

There are many options for accommodations in the park, including camping right on the valley floor. For those that prefer a real bed, the Yosemite Valley Lodge offers comfortable rooms where you can wake up to views of the valley walls. 

Resources: One day in Yosemite itinerary | Best Airbnbs in Yosemite

Mammoth Lakes, California

By Jessica from Uprooted Traveler

  • Distance from San Francisco: 423 km or 263 miles
  • Getting there: Less than 6 hour’s drive 
  • Perfect for: Hikes, winter activities 

Mammoth Lakes is a charming ski town, nestled in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes east of San Francisco. 

Mammoth Lakes: Best weekend trips from San Francisco

Thanks to its proximity to this impressive mountain range (which includes the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States!), there are endless outdoor adventures to be had here, from epic hiking and backpacking trips in the summer to world-class skiing in the winter. 

If you’re visiting during the summer and fall, the town is the perfect base camp for day hikes to explore the alpine lakes and rushing waterfalls hidden throughout the eastern Sierras, including in the nearby Inyo National Forest and Ansel Adams Wilderness. 

After a long day of hiking, the town of Mammoth Lakes is adorable, with streets lined with A-frame cabins and log cabin chalets, as well as plenty of craft breweries, bougie coffee shops, and cozy restaurants. 

Alternatively, if you visit in the winter, the town turns into a snowy alpine wonderland. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding, there are two incredible ski resorts, Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, which collectively offer almost 200 runs. 

Regardless if you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll find the perfect slope to enjoy the powder and take in the spectacular views of the surrounding Sierras. 

As the perfect apres-ski treat, there are several hot springs in Mammoth Lakes just waiting to soothe your aching muscles after a day playing in the snow. 

For example, Wild Willy’s offers both a thermal creek and a large heart-shaped natural pool for you to soak in, find just the right temperature, and take in the surrounding panoramic mountain views. 

For a home base for your adventures, consider the Juniper Springs Resort, which is a ski-in, ski-out resort with cozy suites, including kitchens and fireplaces, and two heated outdoor pools.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

By Priyadarshini from Glorious Sunrise

  • Distance from San Francisco: 433 km or 269 miles
  • Getting there: 5-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Hikes, natural attractions, road trips

Because its neighbor, Yosemite National Park receives so much attention, Kings Canyon National Park remains almost a hidden gem of the USA with its natural beauty. Kings Canyon is home to the largest grove of huge Sequoia trees in the entire world! 

Zumwalt Meadow
Zumwalt Meadow in Kings Canyon

The giant Sequoias in this park are unbelievable and a must-add to your list. Visit the Fallen Monarch and General Grant Grove to see some of the giant Sequoia trees.

Hume lake is a beautiful spot to have a picnic here. Don’t miss hiking to Roaring River Falls and stop by at the incredible Zumwalt Meadow. Kings River Canyon is a beautiful sight to behold. You will have to take the winding roads on the canyon side to stop at one of the gorgeous vista points to take in the beauty of the Kings Canyon. 

Grizzly Falls is another notable place in this park. Kings Canyon is connected to Sequoia National Park on one side, so you can add it to your schedule if you have a little more time on your hands. You can drive through the Tunnel Log, a huge sequoia tree that has fallen across the road, and a tunnel carved in to allow cars to pass. 

In terms of lodging, The Sequoia Hut, Sequoia Resort, and Rio Sierra Riverhouse are close by and great places to stay.

Kings Canyon is amazing all through the year with different activities to do in summers and winters. But the most wonderful time to visit would be from June to October. Winters do have some closures. Check the park website for closure alerts to plan your trip.

Santa Barbara, California

By Nathan from All About Glamping

  • Distance from San Francisco: 611 km or 380 miles
  • Getting there: 5+ hour drive 
  • Perfect for: Surfing, kayaking, golf, whale watching, hiking, city break

Santa Barbara California is something found out in a Hollywood movie. You have the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains on one side of town and the beautiful beach-lined coast on the other side. In between is a unique town of colonial Spanish architecture like the Santa Barbara Mission. 

Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Mission

In the streets, you will find top chef-run restaurants and luxury retail shops. People love visiting and living here as you have close access to outdoor recreation like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, and cycling both in the mountains and along the coastline.

Surfing, kayaking, golf, and whale watching are other popular activities to enjoy while visiting.

The town dubbed the “American Riviera” for its lovely climate and landscape is also known for various festivals including wine tasting, concerts, film premieres, and foodie faires. 

Santa Barbara Beach
Santa Barbara Beach

Spring or fall are the best times to visit as you will miss the huge crowds that folk to the area but will still enjoy the amazing weather. When looking for a place to base yourself as you discover the region, you can opt for a unique hotel in the city like The Eagle Inn. 

If you have a car, perhaps immerse yourself in one of the trendy glamping spots nearby which may give you easier access to some outdoor activities and can venture into town for shopping, food, and fun. 

Regardless, you will have a memorable time exploring this California gem. Make sure to plan and book ahead especially around festivals as things can get booked up far in advance. 

Catalina Island, California

By Ossama from Awesome Traveler Blog

  • Distance from San Francisco: 607 km or 377 miles
  • Getting there: 1.50-hour flight
  • Perfect for: Scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and many other water activities.

The weather in Catalina Island California is spectacular all throughout the year, so it is optimal to visit any time of the year. It is located southwest of Los Angeles and is one of the most beautiful destinations in the States. 

Parasailing at the Catalina Island
Catalina Island, one of the best weekend trips from San Francisco

Catalina Island is filled with mesmerizing sightseeing that is pleasing to the eyes. In addition, on the Island, water activities are extravagant in their numbers and verities. You can enjoy paddling in the ocean, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and many other water activities.

My favorite activity of them all is parasailing where you are being towed by a motorboat. The reason why is because you can enjoy the breeze of the ocean while contemplating Catalina’s breathtaking sceneries.  

Catalina Island
Catalina Island

You can only get to the island either by water or air. A direct flight from San Francisco to Catalina Island is 1.50 hours. There are many places around Los Angeles where you can rent a passenger ferry or a helicopter. However, the helicopter is faster while the passenger ferry is more enjoyable. It is up to you to decide.

There are many hotels on Catalina Island with different prices and accommodation experiences. However, the best two hotels are Atwater and Pavilion. Atwater Hotel is optimal for couples where they can spend their honeymoon and romantic evening.

The Pavilion Hotel is the most convenient because it is near the beach. Thus, you can take a walk on the beach or enjoy its abundant activities. Other nearby activities, such as ziplining, Catalina race, golf garden, and botanical gardens.

Big Bear, California

By Chelsey from chelseyexplores

  • Distance from San Francisco: 756 km or 470 miles
  • Getting there: 8 hours driving. Or 1.50 hours flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles and 2-hour drive
  • Perfect for: Winter getaways from skiing to snowboarding 

San Francisco residents and tours alike love the year-round comfortable weather. On the contrary, if you find you’re missing the snow, winter activities, and the cozy feeling that comes with it then Big Bear is a winter wonderland that could be your next perfect San Francisco weekend trip for something new!  

Big Bear in the winter
Big Bear in the winter

The average temperature in Big Bear, California is 34 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months.

From San Francisco, the town of Big Bear is located 8 hours driving or just an hour and a half by flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles plus another 2 hours driving.

If driving during the winter make sure to check the weather conditions to see if there are any road closures. Snow chains may be useful!

This cozy unincorporated town is landscaped with mountains and has an elevation of 6,752 ft the great thing about visiting here is that it’s unlikely to experience altitude sickness as you may with many popular ski towns. 

This means you can get right to activities without delay! So what is there to do in Big Bear? You can go skiing or snowboarding from two different mountains, hike through snowscapes and mountains, go snow tubing, and sledding, or even relax at a spa! 

There are places to eat on the slopes and in the town so you won’t need to leave until your weekend in Big Bear comes to an end. 

Renting a cabin here is the thing to do regardless of which activities you plan to partake in. Lenny’s Lodging Airbnb is an affordable accommodation that sits right on top of a restaurant (food credit included in stay). 

Coronado Island, California

By Maria from San Diego Explorer

  • Distance from San Francisco: 827 km or 514 miles
  • Getting there: 3-hour flight. 8+ hour drive
  • Perfect for: Beaches, shopping

Coronado Island is a perfect choice for a weekend getaway from San Francisco since it is a quick flight from San Francisco to San Diego and then a short transfer to Coronado. 

View of downtown Coronado Island
View of downtown Coronado Island

There are so many things to do on Coronado Island, you certainly won’t be bored.

As a San Diego local, I love taking the ferry over to Coronado and exploring Coronado Ferry Landing with all its cute shops and restaurants. It is also my favorite place to watch the sunset with a picture-perfect view of the San Diego skyline. 

Enjoying Coronado Beach should also be on your itinerary. This beach has been named among the top 10 best beaches in the US numerous times and there is little doubt why. Miles and miles of white sand invite you to spread out your towel and relax in the sun, or stroll along the Pacific for hours. 

Orange Avenue is the main drag on Coronado where you will find art galleries, restaurants, shops, and more to spend your time and money. There is always a fun new place to discover!

Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach

Whether you are splurging and staying there or are just taking a stroll around the grounds, don’t leave Coronado without visiting the famous Hotel del Coronado. Presidents and movie stars, celebrities, and wannabes have all stayed here at this historic hotel. 

Marilyn Monroe’s big hit “Some Like It Hot” was filmed there and there is even a ghost story to be shared if you go on one of the hotel’s tours.  

Coronado has something for everyone, whether you want a beach getaway, shopping, or glitz, and glam. 

San Diego, California

  • Distance from San Francisco: 817 km or 508 miles 
  • Getting there: 7-8 hour drive
  • Perfect for: Families, beach lovers, city slickers

San Diego is one of the most popular weekend getaways from San Francisco, and for good reason! This beautiful city has something for everyone, from the bustling downtown area to the gorgeous beaches.

San Diego skyline and waterfront and sailing boats

San Diego is also home to many family-friendly attractions, such as the world-famous San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. Balboa Park is another great option, with museums, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

For those looking for a more relaxing weekend, San Diego’s many beaches are sure to please. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are popular spots for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing, while La Jolla is perfect for a leisurely stroll along the water.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, the Hotel del Coronado is a historic and luxurious option. For something a little more budget-friendly, try the Pacific Beach Hotel.

These are just a few of the many great weekend getaways from San Francisco. So whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach trip or an adventure-filled weekend, there’s sure to be a perfect destination for you.

Pin: Best Weekend Getaways from San Francisco

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