20 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of San Francisco

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San Francisco needs no introduction as one of the country’s, and indeed the world’s, most famous and beautiful cities. You can spend an entire vacation there and not come close to seeing it all, but what if you wanted to branch out?

Check out these great places you can get to in half a day’s drive or less. They’re roughly clockwise in order, starting by going north. Note that by “half a day’s drive,” I’m talking without traffic, which can be horrible if you leave SF at the wrong time!

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument
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Redwood National Park is the best place to see the world’s tallest trees, but it’s a long drive from San Francisco. Fortunately, this site has redwoods and it’s less than an hour from the city.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore, California
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“So close but so far away” definitely applies to this majestic area not far from the city but a world away. Enjoy a pristine coastline as the Pacific crashes against shores beneath massive cliffs.

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

Sonoma Wine Country
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California produces world-class wines, and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys have earned international fame. The setting is beautiful, and the wines you’ll taste during a tour will be even better.

The Mendocino Coast

California Coast in Mendocino
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Few argue that the Big Sur region in Southern California isn’t the most spectacular part of the Pacific Coast, but the drive up CA 1 in Mendocino County is no slouch. Bonus: Mendocino produces a lot of excellent wines, so you can savor some great offerings after a day of jaw-dropping scenery.

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta
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Because of its classic shape, Shasta is one of the most beautiful mountains in the country and maybe the world as well. It absolutely dominates the surroundings, and there’s so much else to do in the area as well.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
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Mt. Lassen, like Shasta, is a volcano, but unlike Shasta, it has blown its top in recent geological history. Between 1914 and 1917, Lassen erupted multiple times. Today, it’s the centerpiece of a national park and a steep trail leads to the top and amazing views.

Donner Pass

Donner Pass Road
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Unless you’re a trivia buff and one of those people people want on their team for Trivia Night, this place might mean nothing to you. Look it up; it was the site of an infamous case of cannibalism when everything went wrong for a party trying to get through the pass.

Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness California
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The crest of the Sierra Nevada marches through this area just west of Lake Tahoe. To appreciate it, you have to get out on your own feet, and that’s the whole point.

Lake Tahoe

woman at lake tahoe
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Arguably, it’s the most beautiful large mountain lake in America. Tahoe is a prime destination in all seasons, and if you want a taste of Vegas without driving there, try the Nevada side.

Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge
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They’re not the tallest or most spectacular sand dunes in the country, but that’s okay. They provide critical habitat for endangered plant and insect species.

Lodi

Lodi, California, USA
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I’m throwing this in here for you CCR fans. You know the song and the line. Stop by and pay tribute; you won’t regret it!

Yosemite National Park

Mist Trail– Yosemite National Park, CA
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If traffic isn’t an issue, you can actually get from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley in under 4 hours. Do it to see the world-famous waterfalls and rock walls like El Capitan and Half Dome.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park, West Coast, California
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Long a national monument, this site recently received more protection (and visitation) by being upgraded to a national park. If you visit, you’ll love the wild landscapes that aren’t so far from so many large population centers.

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park
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On a good day, if you leave at the right time, you can reach the western side of this park in a little under four hours. Then, you have the option to just check out the Giant Sequoias or gear up and head out into some of the most amazing wilderness you’ll ever see.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia national park in California, USA
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If you’ve gone all the way to Kings Canyon’s west side, you might as well continue south to adjacent Sequoia National Park. The trees there are even bigger and older, and you can also hike out on Moro Rock for epic views of the High Sierra.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles
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Napa and Sonoma get most of the attention, but discerning wine enthusiasts have been paying a lot of attention to Paso Robles. They make wines that are comparable to Napa in quality but far below Napa prices.

McWay Falls

McWay Falls
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A waterfall spills 80+ feet over a cliff onto a sandy beach just yards from the Pacific Ocean. It sounds made-up, but it’s not. It’s a fairy-tale setting that’s actually real.

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California
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If you can take your gaze away from the Pacific Ocean pounding against the rocks here, including one with a “window” through it, you’ll see something just as amazing. The sand here is purple due to manganese washed down from the mountains above.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle
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The legendary journalist-tycoon built this massive residence in Big Sur. Now, you can tour it within hearing distance of the Pacific smashing against the rugged shores here.

Cannery Row

Cannery Row
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It’s not what it was in the John Steinbeck classic, and it’s touristy, but it’s still fun to visit. You can still close your eyes and then try to see it as Doc and Mac and the Boys did.

20 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of Austin

man and woman cowboy Texas
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These destinations provide a perfect getaway for travelers looking to uncover the authentic adventures that lie just outside Austin’s city buzz. Let’s look at some you won’t want to miss.

20 Incredible Places To Visit Within a Few Hours of Austin

We Spent Three Days on Mackinac Island and This is What it Was Like

horse drawn carriage
Image Credit: Karee Blunt | Our Woven Journey

Stepping onto Mackinac Island feels like entering a storybook setting. It has a Norman Rockwell meets Disneyland’s Main Street type of feel, which had us immediately enchanted, soaking in the nostalgic charm and timeless beauty around every corner.

Recently, my family and I were invited to come and experience what Mission Point Resort has to offer on Mackinac Island. Not having been before, we weren’t sure what to expect of an island where cars weren’t allowed, but we were (very!) pleasantly surprised by the charm and quaintness the island offers.

Here’s what it was like to spend a few days in this laid-back Michigan town.

We Spent Three Days on Mackinac Island and This is What it Was Like

Featured Image Credit: Ivanova Ksenia/Shutterstock

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Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.