San Francisco, CA, offers bountiful historical sites, architectural wonders, and outdoor adventure, but the surrounding region has tonnes to see as well, all just a road trip away. San Francisco is a beacon for wanderers and explorers with its expansive outdoors, thriving arts scene, coasts, and cliffs, but sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Luckily, there are plenty of spots to head somewhere a little quieter. You can go skiing at Lake Tahoe, brush up on your hippy history in Mendocino, or gaze up at Half Dome in Yosemite. If you like beachy towns, quaint boutiques, and local flair, look no further. Find out about the best road trips from San Francisco to plan your next adventure.

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    Point Reyes, CA

    Go capeside in California

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    Point Reyes, CA, is home to stunning capes, cliffs, and beaches, and it's only about 30 miles from San Francisco. The National Seashore is part of Tomales Bay, and it's surrounded by a collection of quaint villages. There are many ways to enjoy the coast, such as a hike on the Tomales Point Trail, with views of the Bay and local elk. For a crowd-free swimming spot, head to Heart’s Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park. While you're in Point Reyes, make a stop at Heidrun Meadery to try out some of their naturally sparkling, single-varietal mead. Following your wine tour, be sure to stop by Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. for a variety of local cheeses to taste.

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    2

    Santa Cruz, CA

    Cruise along the cliffs

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    Santa Cruz, CA, is about 75 miles south of San Francisco, on the northern edge of Monterey Bay, and renowned for its beautiful redwood forests and coastline. For a stroll outdoors with a view, head to West Cliff Drive and then take a walk to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for family-friendly amusement park rides. For an educational experience, visit the Seymour Marine Discovery Centre or explore local plant-life at the University of California at Santa Cruz Arboretum. You can wander down to the Santa Cruz Wharf to peek at the sea lions, and then grab a bite to eat from one of the numerous vendors while you’re there.

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    Big Sur, CA

    See big sights in Cali

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    Big Sur, CA, is perhaps best known for its steep cliffs and ocean vistas and is the perfect amalgamation of beaches and mountains, ideal for hiking and exploring. At various points in the year, you can behold creatures such as grey whales, elephant seals, and more here. On the eastern slope, you can catch views of the 3 million acres of the Los Padres National Forest, coupled with a sweeping view of the coast on the western slope. If you’re interested in some adventure, consider a horseback tour along the coast with a local tour group that features rides within Andrew Molera State Park. You could also head over to Pfeiffer Beach for some outstanding photos.

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    4

    Lake Tahoe, CA

    Dip a toe into Tahoe

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    Lake Tahoe, CA, is the nation’s second-deepest lake, is nestled within the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and is particularly renowned for its clear water and panoramic mountain views. Nearby forests are perfect for hiking, while the beaches are ideal for sunbathing. You can also hop on your skis at Squaw Valley or head to Emerald Bay State Park for stunning views from the hiking trails and an afternoon spent outdoors. The Rubicon Trail offers another popular hike that you might want to try. Sports enthusiasts can go parasailing, boating, paddleboarding, skiing, or kayaking. If you want to explore area history, you can visit the Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum or the Tallac Historic Site.

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    5

    Mendocino, CA

    Meander along the bluffs

    Mendocino, CA, houses a collection of Victorian villages along the coastline as well as vineyards, redwood forests, and a unique hippy history. Mendocino is a great spot for visitors interested in art, shopping, and simply strolling. The village is surrounded on 3 sides with bluffs known as the Mendocino Headlands—the perfect backdrop for a sunset or sunrise stroll on one of the many winding walking trails. If you’re a wine lover, Mendocino Wine Country is the place to be, since it’s home to varied terrain and numerous range of micro-climates that make it perfect for growing high-quality grapes. Within the 3 regions of Mendocino County, there are almost 40 wineries to choose from.

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    Mammoth Lakes, CA

    Try summertime skiing

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    Mammoth Lakes, CA, is home to snowy mountain tops, valleys, mountain lakes, and all sorts of outdoor activities that make it ideal for sightseeing, fishing, biking, snowshoeing, and more. For the artistically inclined, check out one of Mammoth Lakes’ 3 film festivals or catch a show at the Sierra Classic Theatre or the Mammoth Lakes Arts Centre. For some history, you can visit the former Mammoth Consolidated Mining Camp to learn more about the region’s past. You could also explore Bodie State Historic Park, an old California gold-mining ghost town that once had a population of 10,000, or Manzanar National Historic Site, a former Japanese American internment camp imposed after World War II.

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    Yosemite, CA

    Explore granite and glaciers

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    Yosemite, CA, is officially known as Yosemite National Park, a must-visit California destination with beautiful valleys, granite faces, glaciers, and waterfalls. Yosemite's numerous waterfalls are best viewed in the spring. Yosemite Falls, one of the larger waterfalls, typically flows from November through July, with peak flows in May at 2,425 feet. If you’re interested in a challenging all-day hike, you can travel up to the top of the falls. While you're in Yosemite, be sure to check out some of the infamous sequoias by heading to the Mariposa Grove of the Giant Sequoias. For scenic forests, meadows, lakes, granite, vistas, and domes, you can follow along the Tioga Road, a 47-mile drive between Crane Flat and Tioga Pass.

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    8

    San Luis Obispo, CA

    Bop around Bubblegum Alley

    San Luis Obispo, CA, has a rich history and a vibrant culture that offers lots to do, from the art scene to winery visits to hiking and beachside lounging. The city was founded in 1772 as the fifth of California’s 21 Spanish missions and is conveniently located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Downton San Luis Obispo has plenty to do in itself, such as the Thursday night Farmers Market, and the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum are popular stops, and Bubblegum Alley, a 70-foot-long alleyway filled with bubblegum graffiti, is one of the most unique tourist attractions around.

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    Nevada City, CA

    Get your fill of gold-rush gems

    Nevada City, CA, is a historic gold-rush town surrounded by forests, and Deer Creek flows through the centre of the town. Today, Nevada City is designated in the National Register of Historic Places, and there are plenty of spots throughout town that add to that designation. Alongside its historical merit, the town offers plenty else to see and do. If you’re a wine enthusiast, make sure to stop by Nevada City Winery to pick up a bottle of wine or to hang around for a tasting. If you're hungry, you'll find plenty of cute cafés around town for a cosy lunch, such as Three Forks Bakery & Brewery and Ike’s Quarter Cafe.

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    10

    Jenner, CA

    Savour the sights and tastes of the California coast

    Jenner, CA, is a tiny seaside town in Sonoma County on the Pacific coast near the mouth of the Russian River. Goat Rock Beach is nearby, and you can occasionally spot harbour seals, bald eagles, and river otters here. There are hiking trails, too, so don’t forget your comfy shoes. Stop by Mr. Trombly’s Tea Shop and Table afterwards for a hot cup of tea nd an expansive collection of tea varieties. For some eats to round out your day, check out River’s End Restaurant for local American cuisine and seafood. The restaurant rests upon a bluff overlooking the Russian River feeding into the Pacific Ocean, with a super view at sunset.

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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