Best Road Trips from San Francisco

on June 16, 2020
Big Sur Bridge

No matter what city you live in, you are bound to find yourself itching for a quick getaway at some point, even if that city happens to be San Francisco. San Francisco may be full of all things food, culture, and entertainment, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other places worth visiting within driving distance. Whether you’re looking for a beachside getaway, some fresh mountain air, or a glass of some world-class Napa Valley wine, there is a destination to fit your desires.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley

Drive Time: 1 Hour

Napa, California is known to be one of America’s best vacation destinations, and it just so happens to be a hop, skip, and a jump away from San Francisco. Home to several hundred wineries, you may have to make the road trip to Napa Valley more than once, but would that really be so bad?

Not sure where to start? Calistoga is located at the northernmost tip of the Napa Valley and is an ideal retreat from the stresses of everyday life. With it’s relaxed and easygoing vibe, numerous wineries, natural geothermal hot spring pools, and other outdoor attractions, this destination is perfect for a vacation with the whole family or a quiet getaway with your significant other.

Where to stay: Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa was fully renovated in 2013, featuring guestrooms in a retro-modern design with bright orange, black and white color schemes. With three outdoor mineral pools naturally heated by local hot springs, this home away from home offers the ultimate relaxation after a day of enjoying fine wine and the great outdoors. Travelers with pets rejoice, Calistoga Motor Lodge is a pet-friendly establishment and partners with a local pet-sitting service to provide group play, private walks and more, for free!


Yosemite National Park

Drive Time: 3 Hours

Yosemite National Park is 1,200 square miles of breathtaking views of waterfalls, meadows, deep valleys, giant sequoias, wildlife and last but not least, places to eat and grab a refreshing cocktail. If your road trip takes you to Yosemite, you won’t want to forget your camera! Aside from the unforgettable view, you can partake in activities ranging from guided backpacking trips, overnight camping and horseback and mule riding. If you love hiking, make sure to enter the lottery for Half Dome cable permits in March for a chance to ascend to the top. Afterwards, enjoy a meal or drink in the Ahwahnee Dining Room, featuring ceilings over 30 feet high to accommodate massive windows showcasing the views of Yosemite National Park.

Where to Stay: AutoCamp

Experience a luxury Airstream outdoor experience while reconnecting to nature during your stay at Yosemite with AutoCamp. Each AutoCamp Airstream Suite is equipped with everything you’ll need and more, from a bed and flat-screen tv, to your bathroom essentials such as a toilet, shower and hairdryer. The kitchen comes equipped with an electric kettle, microwave, mini refrigerator, basic eating utensils and dishes, and the option to purchase a fire starter kit that can be used to cook dinner. Each Airstream Suite is accompanied by its own private outdoor area with an outdoor table and chairs and a fire pit.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Drive Time: 3.5 Hours

Straddling the California and Nevada border, Lake Tahoe offers a multitude of outdoor activities for any season of the year, from biking and ziplining to boating or a relaxing day on the beach, you will not be bored during your road trip to Lake Tahoe. If you happen to visit during the winter, there is no shortage of skiing, sleigh rides, snowshoeing and more.

Emerald Bay State Park, one of Lake Tahoe’s most popular attractions, has two campsite locations, the Boat-In Camp, which is only accessible by boat or foot, and the Eagle Point Campground, which is right by the lake and has its own secluded beach. Visit Inspiration Point for an astounding birds-eye view 600 feet about Emerald Bay.

Where to stay: Hotel Becket

This dog-friendly hotel is centrally located in Lake Tahoe and only about 25 minutes away from Emerald Bay State Park by car. When you need to take a little time to rest and rejuvenate from all of your outdoor activities, come back to Hotel Becket and relax in the outdoor hot tub, on one of two outdoor terraces, or enjoy an evening by an outdoor fire pit or pool.

Big Sur

Big Sur

Drive Time: 2.5 Hours

One of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in the world, Big Sur, California is the ultimate road trip destination, offering plenty of photo ops. The Pacific Coast Highway traverses 90 miles through a set of cliffs that plunge straight into the Pacific. The entire drive takes about two and a half hours, but with a plethora of things to do in Big Sur, you’ll want to stay there for a few days to experience as much as you can. Big Sur, California offers endless hiking opportunities and stunning beaches. Pfeiffer Beach is known for its purple-tinged sand and huge waves that crash through the sea caves. Stop and enjoy the relaxing sound of the ocean waves or climb around and explore the caves to get yourself out of your car and enjoy the fresh air.

Where to stay: Glen Oaks Big Sur

Forbes Travel named Glen Oaks Big Sur “California’s best Boutique Motel.” Located just minutes from Pfeiffer Beach, this rustic-modern atmosphere will have you feeling one with nature in no time. With walk-in showers reminiscent of showering in the forest and natural adobe walls, Glen Oaks Big Sur offers a cozy and stylish stay, all while maintaining Green sensibility.

Photo Credit: Frank Schulenburg CC BY-SA 4.0

Pescadero, California

Drive Time: 1 Hour

About 46 miles south of San Francisco, Pescadero, California is a historic farming and ranching community right on the coast. From rolling green hills and fields of wildflowers to run-down barns and rusty tractors, this picturesque town is home to about 650 people and a tiny downtown square of shops and eateries. The real charm of Pescadero lies in the beaches. Stroll along the cliffs above the sea and enjoy the fields of green grass and colorful wildflowers all while enjoying the fresh ocean air. Don’t forget to check out Pescadero’s most famous landmark, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which was built back in 1872.

Where to stay: Costanoa

This eco-adventure resort is the perfect getaway from everyday life. From rustic to luxury, you’ve got your choice of anything from an RV campground to a luxury suite. Surrounded by wilderness, secluded beaches and coastal hills, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery while you relax during your stay at Costanoa.