More Great Road Trips From the Bay Area

May 17, 2019

In anticipation of the upcoming travel season and Memorial Day weekend, we’re expanding our short list of top road trips to add a few getaways that have plenty to offer those who are ready to hit the open road for adventure, rejuvenation and an incredible mix of amazing experiences. Whether you prefer to stay within a couple of hours from home, or you’re ready to go the distance, here are a few to plan now, or to add to your bucket list:

Explore the “Shasta Cascade Wonderland” in Siskiyou County: Approximately five plus hours from the Bay Area in the northernmost corner of California, you’ll find an unspoiled mix of historic towns, glistening alpine lakes, forests, rivers, farms and wide-open spaces. Spring is an ideal time to visit, as the Mercury News and East Bay Times note, the area is abundant with spectacular waterfalls in close proximity to the historic town of McCloud and city of Dunsmuir. With smoothly-paved back-country roads and scenic views, there is much to see and do by land or the area’s world-class waterways. Siskiyou County offers plenty of natural marvels including Mount Shasta, Castle Crags and Lava Beds National Monument. Popular activities including boating, swimming, rafting, fishing and hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail. Find help in planning your trip to the Shasta Cascade region here.

Take the Pacific Coast Highway down to Santa Barbara: While Santa Barbara is a wonderful destination in its own right, the drive down to this coastal city on Route 1 is an amazing part of the trip. Route 1 offers gorgeous scenery and a number of enticing stops along the way. It’s difficult to accurately describe the exhilaration one tends to feel while taking in clean salt air along stunning coastlines featuring staggering cliffs and resplendent views of the vast blue Pacific Ocean. After following the celebrated “17-Mile Drive” to Carmel-by-the-Sea, the highway climbs higher to reach Big Sur, the largest stretch of undeveloped waterfront in the Contiguous 48, according to “The Ultimate California Road Trip.” As you continue south towards San Simeon, consider a detour to see the illustrious Hearst Castle, before traveling along to Santa Barbara. Among the many attractions you’ll discover once you’re there are scenic hikes, distinctive wineries, nearby hot springs, a thriving arts scene, sun-drenched beaches and a wide variety of water recreation. To explore what else Santa Barbara has to offer, visit

Enjoy the redwoods, water sports and wine in the Russian River Valley: Ranking among Diablo magazine’s “Foolproof Family Road Trips in California,” this vacation spot located a few hours from the Bay Area has plenty to offer anyone seeking to get away from the bustle of city life. People come to the region to soak in some natural beauty, hike and picnic in the redwoods, and get out on the water, whether just to float in the river or engage in any number of water sports. Located in western Sonoma, the Russian River area also has a vibrant LGBT community and a number of notable wineries including Korbel Champagne Cellars, which offers complimentary year-round tours and tastings. In terms of accommodations, glamping is an excellent way to go in this area. AutoCamp, Russian River offers a luxury outdoor-lodging experience featuring custom-designed Airstream suites and luxury tents, along with amenities such as patios with fire pits and an open-air clubhouse.

Get to know the history of Nevada City, California: First settled during the Gold Rush in 1849, this once bustling mining town offers a wealth of historic landmarks, an abundance of outdoor recreation and beautiful scenery as the gateway to the Tahoe National Forest. Located about 3.5 hours from San Francisco by car, you’ll find this destination on Thrillist’s “16 Perfect Road Trips When You Need to Get Out of San Francisco,” which cites the Empire Mine as a must-do, as well the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Rail Museum, which includes a 35-minute trip on a railbus alongside part of the original route. When you want to cool off, you’ll find plenty of watering holes in the area, including Emerald Pools, a lovely section on the South Fork of the Yuba River. What’s also fantastic about this area—it’s budget-friendly. As KQED tells us, there are a multitude of lodges, hotels and Airbnb listings with affordable rooms.

Prefer to take in some authentic California history a bit closer to home? Consider a day trip to the unique village of San Juan Bautista, home to one of the most picturesque and well-preserved missions along the California mission trail. On the other hand, if you would rather branch out from the state, but still want affordable options and the flexibility to travel by car, check out Cheapism’s “14 Beautiful and Budget-Friendly Road Trips.” You’ll find a wide range of suggestions, from a scenic traverse of the Great Lakes region, to a ride though the wilderness of the Blue Ridge Parkway.


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