Guest Post by Frankie from A Popsicle Stand
Although we aren’t able to do any traveling right now, there’s no reason you can’t start planning your next vacation so you are ready to hit the road once things go back to normal! One of the beauties of San Francisco as a vacation destination is its proximity to so many wonderful spots along the California coast. Quite apart from its own charms, San Francisco is a perfect base for exploring some of the most picturesque and attractive locations up and down the Pacific coast. There are loads of charming little towns, hidden beaches, and stunning scenery to explore within an easy day trip of San Francisco, and exploring the best of NorCal is a great option for an exciting vacation. So if you’ve rolled into town on a Bay Area cruise, are planning on spending a bit of time in the city, or just want to plan a day trip, take a look below at some of the best trips you can take with just a short drive from San Francisco.
A short drive south of San Francisco, Pescadero is the ultimate day out at the seaside. This charming, laid-back town has a gorgeous beach, and its cooler temperatures and refreshing breezes can be a godsend in the heat of the summer.
The countryside around Pescadero is pretty exciting too. Butano State Park offers some stunning hiking trails through the majestic redwood forests, and there are some superb camping opportunities to be had, as well as some slightly more luxurious options like Costanoa Lodge.
One thing not to miss on a day trip to Pescadero is the iconic Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest lighthouses in the country, which has been a feature of the coastal landscape here since 1872!
A real hidden gem, the tiny beach community of Bolinas values their privacy so fiercely that for years they used to tear down road signs leading to the town, until county officials agreed to stop putting them back up.
The long stretch of beach here offers some gentle yet enjoyable waves, and is perfect for anyone learning how to surf. Swimming off the beach is a treat too, although it comes with the added adrenaline rush of knowing that Great White sightings here are quite a regular occurrence!
For more active travelers, the beautiful cascades of Alamere Falls are a pleasant 13-mile round trip hike away.
Although it is nearly three hours drive away, getting to Carmel-by-the-Sea from San Francisco is an incredible experience, and potentially even more breathtaking than the destination itself!
Highway 1 is arguably the most beautiful stretch of road in the United States, and the route from San Fran to Carmel is blessed with some of the best vistas it has to offer. Wind your windows down, smell the salt in the air and let the gorgeous sea breezes blow your cares away.
Once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll find Carmel-by-the-Sea to be an exquisite little spot. Spread out across a spray of cliffs overlooking the beach, the town has a wonderfully old-fashioned, old-world feel to it, and conjures up an ambiance of Golden Age glamour and small-town California living.
One quirky factoid about this delightful spot is that long-time resident Clint Eastwood used to own a tavern here, the famous Hog’s Breath Inn, and even served as mayor of the city from 1986 to 1988.
Williams is defined by its amazing natural hot springs and geysers, and heading for a day trip here means a day of relaxation and pampering. The Wilbur Hot Springs Resort offers natural mineral spring baths at a range of temperatures, as well as saunas, steam rooms, yoga and massages. For an even more enlivening experience, there are even cold plunge pools which offer a shocking contrast to the gentle warmth of the springs, and make you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before!
Williams is also one of the few places in the world where you can see a fully functioning geyser outside of Yellowstone National Park. The Fountain of Life geyser is a short walk away from town, and erupts with remarkable regularity every 45 minutes. It’s definitely worth adding some time into your itinerary to catch a glimpse of this exciting, bizarre natural wonder.
Yosemite National Park
The vast sequoia forests of Yosemite National Park are world-famous, and a trip to this stunning expanse of natural beauty is high on the bucket list of almost every American traveler.
Yosemite is a bit further away from San Francisco but is still easily reachable for a day trip. That said, there is so much to discover here that you may well want to extend your trip with an overnight stay, camping or bunking down in a lodge amongst the trees.
The big-ticket items of Yosemite – El Capitan, Half Dome, the Tunnel View and the majestic Bridalveil Falls – are well known, and are must-visit attractions for any trip to the park. But despite its worldwide fame, there are still plenty of pockets of this incredible landscape that fly a little under the radar. It is not hard to find yourself alone in this vast wilderness, trekking past thundering rivers in the shadow of majestic peaks, or to come face to face with deer or even bears!
Muir Woods National Monument
The final recommendation for a trip out of San Francisco is much closer to home, around 12 miles north of the city. Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect place to leave the faster pace of the city behind and reconnect with nature.
The park was founded in 1908, and has been a protected site for the stunning redwoods ever since. Miles of trails wind their way beneath the canopy of these gigantic trees, and hiking through the densely packed trunks is an almost indescribable, even humbling experience.
As well as shaded forests, Muir Woods does a nice line in coastal views as well, and a short trek up the Ben Johnson or Dipsea trails will give you delightful panoramas of the California coastline.
Muir Woods’ location is part of its charm, as you can spend as much time as you want soaking up the awe-inspiring ambiance of the peaceful forest, and still be back in the city for dinner with no problems at all!