5 Weekend Trips and Getaways From San Francisco

Escape the city for the stunning wilderness of Yosemite National Park
Escape the city for the stunning wilderness of Yosemite National Park | © Samuel Gendron / Alamy Stock Photo
Chloe Byrne

San Francisco radiates a heady high that’s not entirely due to the fog of its legalized dispensaries or the miles of sloping streets. In addition, the cultural hub bewitches visitors with swirling murals, Prohibition-era speakeasies and – beyond that – outstanding areas of natural beauty. If you’re dreaming of a rural escape, perhaps now is the time to take advantage of the verdant wine country, fantastical redwood forests and untouched wilderness within driving distance of the Golden Gate City.

Yosemite

Yosemite is a wild landscape that looks as if it was painted by Bob Ross himself. The vast national park is notorious for its clusters of cloud-climbing sequoias including the Instagram-worthy California Tunnel Tree – a man-made tunnel is carved through the tiger-orange trunk like a portal into Eden. Hike down one of the many routes that criss-cross the dense forest to find Bridalveil Fall, bursting from the crown of colossal granite cliffs.

1. Family-Friendly Hike in Yosemite

Activities, Tours

Swap well-trodden city streets for the root-twisted forest floor on this half-day family hike that takes you deep into the untouched corners of Yosemite. Tailored to you and your family’s ability, the hike is a perfect chance to explore the natural beauty that flourishes throughout the national park. Follow the guide along trails that snake through the sun-dappled wilderness and capture the experience on camera, with shots of towering evergreens and the Half Dome’s fissured rock formation. Be sure to bring your own lunch to enjoy beside one of the sprawling lakes.

Calistoga

A rustic pocket of old Americana tucked away in the rolling hills of Napa Valley, Calistoga is like heaven incarnate with its wealth of natural spa treatments. Take a dip in the famous hot springs, submerge yourself in the hot volcanic ash of a mineral-rich mud bath or check out the man-made ‘Old Faithful’ geothermal geyser that erupted when a well was drilled in the 19th century. Living up to its location, the small city offers plenty of places to have a glass of vino, including an irresistibly retro 1930s gas-station-cum-winery.

2. Calistoga Wine Country Bike and Wine Tasting

Tours, Activities

Combining wine and wheels, this immersive bike tour around the idyllic landscape of Napa Valley is an ideal way to work up an appetite for some of the region’s finest wines. Setting off from characterful Calistoga, you’ll pedal past rows of manicured vineyards at a leisurely pace and stop at up to four wineries along the way. As you sip on several vintages, you’ll be regaled with insider tips and stories about the beloved beverage – before a picnic lunch to soak it all up.

Lake Tahoe

Thriving throughout the seasons with its popular ski resorts, wind-fueled watersports and network of hiking trails, Lake Tahoe attracts more than its fair share of day-trippers and sun-worshippers. The star of the show is the lake itself: a deep basin cloaked in a glassy cobalt veneer and backdropped by the lofty peaks of shrouded mountains. Its spellbinding setting is not without its own skeletons in the closet (or rather lake), as legend has it the chilly depths may hold the perfectly preserved bodies of mafia victims and lost divers.

3. Lake Tahoe Photography Tour

Activities, Tours

Capture the magic of Lake Tahoe on this photographic tour. It includes stops at a wildlife sanctuary to snap some native birds (plus a bear if you’re lucky, from afar that is) and – depending on your choice of itinerary – a drive through Incline Village, the site of the famous Western show Bonanza. When you arrive at Lake Tahoe, you can use the guide’s tips and tricks to shoot reflections of cloud-spearing mountains in its rippling waters before swinging by West Shore, one of the filming locations from The Godfather Part II.

Healdsburg

A pastoral paradise in Sonoma County, Healdsburg oozes country charm with its rustic farm-to-table fare and welcoming wineries. Strolling along streets that crunch underfoot with fallen leaves, you’ll come across the pinstriped signs of fashion boutiques and the creamy facades of buildings overrun by thickets of creeping ivy. There’s nightlife to be had, too – seek out Barndiva for a drink in its gallery-slash-bar setting.

4. Healdsburg Food and Wine Walking Tour

Tours, Activities

This jam-packed jaunt will take you around some of the best local eateries and wineries in Healdsburg. In a small group, you’ll wine and dine your way through the downtown area, meeting passionate culinary characters and learning all about sustainability along the way. One moment you might be salivating over tongue-tingling tapas, while the next you’ll be swirling a robust red wine and gushing about its earthy undertones. By the tour’s end, you’ll be brimming with newfound knowledge of this fabled wine country.

Sonoma

Famed for its sustainable farming and surrounding nature reserves, wine-soaked Sonoma is a dreamland for wine and nature lovers. Its technicolor tapestry of golden meadows, stripy emerald vineyards and peach-colored architecture creates a spectacular backdrop for visits to award-winning wineries.

5. Sonoma Horseback Riding Tour

Tours, Activities

Journey deep into California wine country the old-fashioned way – on horseback. Channeling classic cowboy swagger, hoist yourself up onto the saddle of a mare for the day to follow your guide down the dusty trails that creep into the wilderness of Sonoma County. As your horse trots over the rocky terrain, you’ll enjoy regular breathers to appreciate the electric-blue waters of Sonoma Lake, the bucolic views from Skaggs Vista and the sweet aromas of the many vineyards in Dry Creek Valley.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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