6 Day Trips From San Francisco Worth Your Visit

As home of some of the most iconic landmarks, San Francisco offers a great experience for tourists with its rich history, diverse culture and balmy weather all year long for everyone to enjoy outdoors. But attractions and rich experiences are not confined within the city. There are also day trips from San Francisco that’s worth visiting.

For those who have tried the trams, took a photo around the Golden Gate Bridge and explored the neighborhoods such as the Mission District, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s more to explore beyond on a day trip from downtown SFO.

For a full Californian experience — especially if you are arriving from a road trip from nearby cities — here is a list of day trips from San Francisco you can experience without taking so much of your time.

Yosemite National Park

A great contrast to the modern city with an old-town feel that’s San Francisco is the Yosemite National Park. Adorned with stunning vistas of El Capitan and Half Dome, and dense forest of giant sequoia trees, some of which are more than 3,000 years old.

This sprawling 3,207 sq kilometer vast landscape is a prototype American wilderness: countless waterfalls, granite cliffs and wide variety of wildlife, making it a must-visit attraction on a day trip from San Francisco.

How to get there:
There are tours that serve visitors from San Francisco. These services include full-day trip to and from San Francisco (pickup from your hotel available), entrance fee to park as well as guided tours from drivers or specialist tour guides. Driving from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park usually takes around 4 hours so an early pickup helps you make the most of your visit.

Muir Woods National Monument

If ever you need to take a break from the San Francisco crowd, a day trip to the Muir Woods is a retreat you might want to consider. It is a perfect site for nature lovers to enjoy.

It is home to the awe-inspiring Redwood trees and has trails suitable to both seasoned hikers and those who require less stressful pathways. Along the way, you’ll pass Cathedral Grove via the Redwood Creek and onto Bohemian Grove.

For sea views of the Pacific, take the march up the incline of the Ben Johnson and Dipsea trails of the towering Mount Tamalpais.

How to get there:
A reservation is required for personal vehicles and shuttle riders to visit Muir Woods National Monument. Visit gomuirwoods.com to register.

Additional notes:

  • Parking Reservation: $8.00 per privately owned vehicle
  • Shuttle Reservation:  $3.00 per adult round trip ticket (16 years and older)
    Free – child round trip ticket (15 years and younger)
  • Park Entrance Fee: $10.00 per adult (16 years and older)
    Free – child (15 years and younger)
  • Entrance fees may be purchased in advance with your reservation or upon arrival to the park. A list of national park fee free days can be found at nps.gov.
  • Operating Hours:
    Park Hours: 8:00 am to sunset 365 days a year
    Visitor Center Hours: 8:00 am to 30 minutes before the park closes
  • Muir Woods Trading Company and Cafe Hours: 9:00 am to an hour before the park closes
  • There is NO cell phone service or WiFi at or around Muir Woods National Monument. Download your parking reservation or shuttle ticket in advance.

Alcatraz Island

Having shared its prominence on silver screen, Alcatraz is one of the attractions close by, and you should not miss it. It operated as a federal penitentiary for notorious criminals like Al Capone, John and Clarence Anglin, George Kelly and Roy Gardner. No wonder it has an eerie appeal associated to it.

There are guided tours inside the island compound, allowing visitors to get a first-hand experience and better understanding of its infamous background. Such knowledge includes the struggles and trials of its prisoners and prison authorities managing the Alcatraz.

And because it is only two kilometers away from San Francisco, Alcatraz offers incredible views of San Francisco’s cityscape.

How to get there:
Tours are available based on different times of the day. Booking via Alcatraz Cruises. Departures at Pier 33 and ferry ride to and from Alcatraz is 20 minutes.

Early Bird Tour (Daily, 8:45 am)

AgeTicket Price
Adult (18-61)$37.25
Junior (12-17)$37.25 (accompanied by adult)
Senior (62+)$35.25
Child (5-11)$23.00 (accompanied by adult)
Family Tickets$112.75 (includes 2 Adult + 2 Children)
Toddlers (0-4)Free

Day Tour (Daily, 9:10 AM – 3:50 PM)
Departure Times:

9:10 AM9:30 AM10:00 AM
10:30 AM11:00 AM11:30 AM
12:00 PM12:30 PM1:00 PM
1:30 PM2:10 PM2:40 PM
3:20 PM3:50 PM

AgeTicket Price
Adult (18-61)$37.25
Junior (12-17)$37.25 (accompanied by adult)
Senior (62+)$35.25
Child (5-11)$23.00 (accompanied by adult)
Family Tickets$112.75 (includes 2 Adult + 2 Children)
Toddlers (0-4)Free

Behind the Scenes Tour (Thurs-Mon, 4:20 PM & 4:50 PM)

Departure Times:
4:20 pm & 4:50 pm from mid-March until mid-November
2:10 pm & 2:40 pm from mid-November until mid-March

Age Ticket Price
Adult (18-61)$87.50
Junior (12-17)$83.50 (must be supervised by an Adult)
Senior (62+)$81.50
Children (under 12)Not applicable. This tour has a minimum age of 12.

You can also combine Alcatraz with a standard San Francisco hop-on sightseeing option if you wish to combine both experiences, in a short stay in the city to save time and effort.

Napa Valley

The world-renowned Napa valley is a must-visit for those who love wine, fine food, gourmet dining, and picturesque views of rolling hills. Napa Valley features hundreds of vineyards and over 400 wineries. It is proud to produce the world-famous and prized Cabernet Sauvignon.

On your day trip to Napa Valley, you’ll learn how wines are processed from selection of fine grapes to the wine glass for you to taste. Whether you’re an avid wine fan or just a casual curious visitor, wineries open their doors to everyone from all walks of life.

There is also the Napa Valley Wine Train which helps visitors explore the landscape as it passes through a variety of wineries and vineyards.

Visitors who wish to stay longer can stay charming bed & breakfasts, and hot spring resorts in nearby Calistoga, or shop for wines and stay at swanky hotels in St Helena.

How to get there:
Visitors may take the San Francisco Bay Ferry from San Francisco Ferry Bldg to Vallejo to get to Napa Valley. Travel time is around an hour and ten minutes.

Age Fare
Adult$14.60
Adult Clipper Card$11.00
Youth (5-18 years)$7.30
Seniors (65+ yrs), Disabled$7.30
Children under 5**Free
Short Hop***$1.70
Short Hop Youth, Senior, Disabled***$0.80

**Up to 2 children under 5 years of age may ride FREE with each fare paying adult.
***One-way between Mare Island and Vallejo or between the SF Ferry Building and Pier 41.

Within its vicinity are attractions like the Computer History Museum (very close to Googleplex), Fry’s Electronics in Sunnyvale for those looking to shop for large selections of big-box electronics or historic ones like Apple’s original garage in Los Altos.

Road trip to Monterey

This is a classic example of “journey is the destination” as California’s coastline offers sublime views over a stretch of over 100 kilometers of stunning coastal views, seaside villages, untouched forest and sunny wine-making towns. An easily accessible day trip from San Francisco features impressive coastal vistas along the 17 Mile Drive highlight.

This picturesque drive stretches along the coast with ease winding between solitary mansions and verdant golf courses as well.

Getting an early headstart is always recommended as it not only avoids traffic congestion but it also allows you to stop and experience more scenic viewpoints along the way.

How to get there:
If you want to maximize the coastline views, take the Highway One. From the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway One becomes Park Presidio, and then crosses Golden Gate Park to become 19th Avenue. You’ll merge with I-280 for a few miles to Daly City; then Highway One splits off to the breathtakingly scenic west.

Silicon Valley

For technology and innovation fans, San Francisco isn’t far away from Silicon Valley, home to Facebook, Apple and Google.

The attraction isn’t limited to getting photos in front of logos and swanky offices of the most famous technology companies in the world. It also allows visitors to experience what’s the latest innovations before they get adopted elsewhere: robots, drones, driverless cars, Oculus lens and more.

How to get there:
Visitors can take the CalTrain, a double-decker diesel-powered commuter train that runs on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley).

Fares vary based on the zones you want to visit. A map is provided at each station showing you the zones. For example, a trip between Mountain View to San Francisco covers 6 zones (max zones) and will cost around $12.

A day pass ($30 for 6 zones) should give you unlimited transits across different stations for the entire day.

Sonoma Valley

Did you plan to go to Napa Valley but found it a bit pricey? Perhaps you won’t mind a less fancy venue but with similar experience? Another alternative to Napa Valley is Sonoma Valley, which offers similar experience but on generally more affordable price, from accommodation to food and drinks.

Like Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley is also home to boutique wineries and has superb selection of wines to sample and great landscape to enjoy.

If you enjoy Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs, Sparkling Wines, Red Blends, and Unoaked zesty Chardonnays, then go to Sonoma Valley, as opposed to Napa’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot.

How to get there:
Since Sonoma Valley is kinda rural area so it is not well-served by public transport — it is, but frequency of travel is long so you’ll end up spending more time waiting. You can rent a car to get there.

You can also join the wine tours from San Francisco which covers both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Along the way, you might pass by other landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge for a quick photo.

Conclusion

Spending time in San Francisco is even more worthwhile as it is surrounded by different attractions that offer great experience for people of varying interests. Whether you are into technology and innovation, history and culture or nature and relaxation, San Francisco day trips have something for you to enjoy.

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