Ely, Minnesota Destination Guide – The Best of Boundary Waters
The City by the Bay is a magical place. The area’s natural beauty and proximity to outdoor activit ..Read more
The City by the Bay is a magical place. The area’s natural beauty and proximity to outdoor activities are just one of the reasons that it’s one of the most popular places to live in the country. If you are looking for adventure near the city, or some great road trip options from San Francisco – here’s our roundup of the best outdoor activities within 3.5 hours of San Francisco.
Before we move on to adventures within driving distance, we must highlight some of the fantastic outdoor adventures right in the city! San Francisco is the outdoorsy urbanite’s dream city (minus the rent). It’s one of the most walkable cities in the country, and you could spend a whole week walking and biking around the city’s diverse neighborhoods–from bustling Chinatown to sleepy, beachside Outer Sunset. Go for the delicious farm-to-table food, the lively park scene, and the breathtaking bay views.
San Francisco can be lovely all year long. September – November typically offers the warmest temperatures.
Exploring San Francisco by bike is a must! We recommend doing the 3.5-mile ride through Golden Gate Park–a lush oasis, strewn with Monterey cypress and Eucalyptus trees. Golden Gate Park dead ends at the Pacific Ocean. Once you reach the end, turn left on the Great Highway and bike the 3-mile stretch down Ocean Beach.
Biking over the Golden Gate Bridge has also got to be on your bucket list. Start at Fisherman’s Wharf and do the 8-mile bike ride to Sausalito. You can take the ferry back across the Bay, or go back the same way you came to complete the 16-mile round trip. If you’re really feeling it, bike the whole 18 miles to Tiburon! You can catch a ferry back to SF, or be a boss and ride the whole 36 miles round trip!
Rent a bike from $20 per day or take a guided tour from $45 per person with Unlimited Biking or Bay City Bikes.
Fancy paddling around the San Francisco Bay? This is one of the best places to view San Francisco’s expansive skyline. Or see the Golden Gate Bridge from an angle most people don’t get to witness.
City Kayak allows you to launch right from Pier 40 in San Francisco, and rent a kayak or stand-up paddle board, or book a lesson.
Or book a kayak tour along Sausalito’s waterfront with Incredible Adventures to view the local wildlife, paddle under the Golden Gate bridge, take in the San Francisco skyline and more.
Marin County is truly stunning. Lush green cliffs blanketed with redwood trees hang over the cool Pacific Ocean along Highway 1 north of the city –an iconic drive and bike ride. Visit Marin for hiking, biking, surfing, kayaking and windsurfing. It’s close proximity to San Francisco make Marin a fantastic option for a day trip or weekend away.
Marin can be lovely all year long. April – June tends to be mild and dry. September – November offers the warmest temperatures, however, this is becoming fire season.
Mount Tamalpais is considered the birthplace of mountain biking, so exploring this area on two wheels needs to be on your bucket list.
Mountain Bike SF is located in Fairfax, CA, next door to the Marin Museum of Bicycling. They rent three different tiers of mountain bikes at daily and weekly rates and offer various guided tours–from half-day private rides to multi-day trips.
Surfing in Marin is a magical experience. The water’s cold, for sure, but the surf community is friendly, the waves are frequent, and the views are unbeatable! We definitely recommend booking a surf lesson. Similar to Pacifica, taking a board out on your own with little experience can be dangerous – the waves can be big up here.
Book a surf lesson with Marin Outdoor Adventure. They’ll take you out at Bolinas, a chill, quirky longboarder spot, nestled under the Marin hills.
Tomales Bay is a long, narrow inlet of the Pacific Ocean that stretches from Point Reyes to Dillon Beach. It’s one of the best places to kayak in the entire Bay Area, and it’s the place to eat delicious oysters with a view, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Book a kayak or stand-up paddleboard with Bluewater Kayaks. They can drop off and pick up your rental at Miller Boat Launch in Marshall, or you can pick up your rental at their headquarters in Point Reyes Station, and take it where you please. They also offer guided tours around Tomales Bay.
Antioch is located in the East Bay, and is the gateway to the California Delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers join before flowing into the Pacific. It makes a great day trip from anywhere in the Bay Area, and the best way to explore the area is by paddling. The cool breezes of the Bay disappear when you head inland, so Antioch is a great place to escape the cold foggy days of San Francisco!
May, June and October for the best weather.
The San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta in Antioch is popular for its diverse paddling experiences and exceptional bird watching.
Book with Delta Kayak Adventures– they offer kayak and SUP rentals, tours, and classes and are located right at the Antioch Marina on the San Joaquin River.
Santa Cruz is an ocean and mountain lover’s paradise. It’s right on the coast and borders redwood forests, and is an easy and beautiful drive from San Francisco. Getting outdoors in Santa Cruz and exploring the waters, coastline and renowned trails is (in our opinion) the best way to enjoy this beautiful coastal town.
Beautiful all year. September – November gets the warmest weather, but this is starting to become fire season for the Bay Area.
Santa Cruz is arguably the best place to surf in Northern California. The water’s cold, for sure, but there are tons of breaks for all levels–from very challenging to very beginner.
We definitely recommend booking a surf lesson. Taking a board out on your own with little experience can be dangerous, especially in the Bay Area! Lean on the experience of Adventure Out. Their surf instructors are professional outdoor guides and are lifeguard and first-aid certified. They’ll get you out there catching waves in no time!
Taking a kayak or a stand-up paddle board out into the Pacific can be an exhilarating experience. With Santa Cruz’s stunning shoreline, sandy and pebble beaches, the protection of the Santa Cruz harbor, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, there’s something for everyone!
SUP Shack Santa Cruz is in an ideal location for paddling. Paddle back into the chill Woods Lagoon or get out into the ocean, right from the shop.
Santa Cruz is a favorite destination for Bay Area mountain bikers, with a variety of trails for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. Ride through the towering redwoods, along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, and through coastal prairies.
For rentals, head over to the highly rated Epicenter Cycling or Specialized Santa Cruz. Check out Ride the Redwoods for mountain bike lessons and tours.
A Bay Area trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop in wine country. The wine regions of Napa, Santa Rosa and Sonoma also have some of the best weather in the country, so it would be a shame not to take your wine with an outdoor adventure.
1 – 1.5 hr
Wine country can be lovely all year, but go between March and May to avoid crowds, the highest prices, and fire season.
If you like biking and you like wine, you’ve got to try a wine and bike tour while you’re in wine country. Sipping on top notch wine and exploring the vineyard-lined countryside via bicycle is the best way to wine taste.
Getaway Adventures offers bike tours around the gems of California wine country. Join their one-of-a-kind bike tour around Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Take in the views as you cycle the backcountry roads of wine country, visiting famous vineyards and trying world-renowned Napa wines.
Tours start at $200 per person.
Wine country is kayak and SUP friendly, too! Take a break from wine tasting and cool off on the Napa or Russian Rivers in a kayak or stand up paddle board.
Paddle the Napa River and learn about the valley’s history, wildlife, and wine with Enjoy Napa Valley. They offer kayak and SUP rentals as well as intimate tours for all experience levels. Or kayak the Russian River in Santa Rosa with Getaway Adventures!
Downieville is a charming adventure town along the Yuba River in the Tahoe National Forest. It began as a gold mining mecca in the 1800s, and has now transitioned into a hub for outdoor adventure. It is well known as a mountain biking mecca, and the renowned Downieville Downhill is the most popular (albeit advanced rated) trail.
July – September
Overall, Downieville is a more advanced trail system tailored to intermediate and advanced riders, with technical features, and a few hike-a-bike sections. One of the most famous trails in California is here – the Downieville Downhill–an exhilarating 13.8 mile downhill ride.
Downieville Outfitters, Downieville’s longest running bike shop, and (currently) the only bike shop and mountain bike shuttle service in the Sierra Buttes.
Rent a premium mountain bike starting at $120/day.
Lake Tahoe is a bucket list ski, snowboard and paddling destination and boasts some of the best mountain biking in California. It’s known for its stunning lake views and as a go-to winter weekend destination for Bay Area folks. The clear, cobalt blue water of the lake provides incredible clarity for kayaking and stand up paddleboarding in summer and makes a gorgeous backdrop from the ski runs in winter.
All year! December – March for skiing/snowboarding; mid-June to mid-October for mountain biking, paddling and hiking.
There’s no shortage of ski and snowboard options in Lake Tahoe, with 15 resorts to choose from! Premiere resorts like Northstar, Palisades Tahoe, and Heavenly are fantastic, but they tend to draw crowds, especially on the weekends. If you’re flexible, book a mid-week trip. If you’re looking to bypass the crowds, check out Sugar Bowl.
Skip the hot mess that is renting gear at the resort, and have your ski gear delivered right to your accommodation in the mountains with Black Tie Ski North Tahoe/Truckee or Black Tie Ski South Lake Tahoe.
Gear rentals start at $49/day.
Biking around Lake Tahoe is a dreamy experience. Whether you’re biking the infamous Flume Trail above the glistening blue lake, or the many trails surrounding the area, there are rad rides for every level.
Bike Truckee is located in gorgeous Truckee. Their staff is made up of experienced bikers who are excited to steer you toward the right trails for you!
Comfort bike rentals start at $30; mountain bike rentals start at $45.
Tahoe is one of the top paddling destinations in the world – the waters of Lake Tahoe are known for spectacular clarity, color and purity. Renting a kayak or SUP to paddle the lake is a bucket list adventure for most. The waters are usually calm, and there are many idyllic beaches, coves and islands to explore.
There are many shops that rent kayaks and paddle board around the lake shore on both the California and Nevada side of the lake. Highly rated shops include Lake Tahoe Kayak Rentals in South Lake Tahoe, and Tahoe Paddle and Oar in Kings Beach (north Tahoe).
Whether you have a day, a week, or a month, these are some of our favorite adventures from San Francisco. Did we miss your favorite spot? Leave it in the comments below!