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The 25 Best Day Trips from Sacramento California

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Sacramento, the sunny capital of California, is a fantastic base for exploring the diverse wonders of the Golden State. From rushing rivers to rolling vineyards to charming Gold Rush towns, an exciting day trip is always within reach. Having lived in Sacramento for years, I’ve had the chance to embark on countless adventures in every direction.

In this ultimate guide, I’ll share my top 25 recommendations for unforgettable day trips from Sacramento. Having lived in Sacramento for years, I’ve had the chance to go on countless adventures in every direction. You’ll find options for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, wine lovers, and everyone in between. So grab your sunglasses and get ready to hit the road – a perfect California day trip awaits.

The 25 Best Day Trips from Sacramento California

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  • Discover California’s wild beauty in South Yuba River State Park, Yosemite National Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Step back in time to the Gold Rush era in historic towns like Auburn, Placerville, and Nevada City
  • Sip world-class wines amidst rolling hills in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, and Amador County
  • Cool off in the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park, and Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Soak up iconic city vibes and stunning views in San Francisco, Sausalito, and Oakland

Want all the juicy details? Keep reading for my complete guide to the 25 best day trips from Sacramento.

The 25 Best Day Trips from Sacramento California 

Coastal Escapes day trips near sacramento

San Francisco

Photo of Golden Gate Bridge during Dawn

Distance from Sacramento to san francisco: 1.5 hours Iconic San Francisco always makes for an exciting day trip. Must-see sights include:

  • Walking or biking across the Golden Gate Bridge for breathtaking city and bay views
  • Exploring the eclectic neighborhoods like Chinatown, the Mission, and Haight-Ashbury
  • Taking the ferry to Alcatraz Island to tour the notorious former prison

Transportation Tip: Skip the headache of traffic and parking by taking the Capitol Corridor train to the Embarcadero. It’s scenic, comfy, and drops you right downtown.

Ready to Book a trip to San Francisco? Check out these day tours to San Francisco from Sacramento:

weekend trips from Sacramento

Point Reyes National Seashore

Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours Point Reyes is a spectacular stretch of protected coastline in Marin County. Things to do:

  • Hike through coastal forests and grasslands, watching for tule elk and birds
  • Stroll the wide sandy expanse of Drakes Beach and listen for barking elephant seals
  • Visit the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse perched on a rugged cliff over the ocean

RELATED: 21 Things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore

Local Tip: Don’t miss the Point Reyes Station Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to sample ultra-fresh oysters, artisan cheeses, breads and more.

Half Moon Bay

Bixby Creek Bridge - pont californie hihgway 1 - CA 1

Distance from Sacramento: 2.5 hours This laid-back coastal town is a great spot for beachcombing and wildlife-viewing. Highlights:

  • Strolling or cycling the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail along ocean bluffs
  • Touring Pigeon Point Light Station, one of the West Coast’s tallest lighthouses
  • Picking your own olallieberries (a blackberry hybrid) at Swanton Berry Farm

Helpful Tip: Aim to visit Half Moon Bay on a weekday and leave early to avoid beach traffic on Highway 92.

Weekend Getaways from Sacramento

 Muir Woods National Monument

View on an Empty Trail in the Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, California

Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours Walk among towering old-growth coast redwoods just north of San Francisco. Things to do in Muir Woods:

  • Hike the easy Main Trail or more challenging Hillside Trail through the redwoods
  • Look for Steller’s jays, banana slugs, and ladybugs on ferns and logs
  • Learn about the ecology of redwood forests at the visitor center

Ready to Book a trip to Muir Woods? Check out these day tours

Important Note: Parking and shuttle reservations are required to visit Muir Woods. Book online through GoMuirWoods.com.

Bodega Bay Closest beach to Sacramento

bodega bay

Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours This picturesque fishing village was the setting for Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” What to do in Bodega Bay:

  • Hike the windswept Bodega Head trail for dramatic bluff and ocean views
  • Feast on the catch of the day at waterfront seafood shacks along the bay
  • Paddle a kayak on the flat water of Bodega Harbor, watching for seals and pelicans

RELATED: Bodega Bay Best Things To Do

Good to Know: Highway 1 north of Bodega Bay is currently closed due to road damage. Check conditions before attempting to continue north.

Outdoor Adventure Day Trips Sacramento

 Yosemite National

Park Distance from Sacramento: 3 hours One of California’s top natural wonders, Yosemite is doable as a long day trip. Highlights include:

  • Gazing up at towering granite cliffs like Half Dome and El Capitan
  • Hiking through alpine meadows and forests to thundering waterfalls
  • Spotting black bears, mule deer, and over 250 bird species

Insider Tip: Yosemite Valley gets extremely congested, especially in summer. Consider visiting the quieter Hetch Hetchy or Wawona areas instead. Also phone reception is non existent.

Ready to Book a trip to Yosemite? Check out these day tours

Big Sur

Distance from Sacramento: 4 hours While far for a day trip, Big Sur’s dramatic beauty is worth the drive. Must-see spots include:

  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park with its 80-foot McWay Falls plunging to the beach
  • Bixby Creek Bridge, an engineering marvel and one of the world’s tallest single-span bridges
  • Pfeiffer Beach with its purple sand and natural rock arch

Helpful Tip: Fill your gas tank in Carmel or Big Sur Village, as gas stations are few and far between along the remote highway.

Ready to Book a trip to Big Sur? Check out these day tours

Lassen Volcanic National Park

A steamy area with blue water and rocks

Distance from Sacramento: 3 hours Often overshadowed by Yosemite, Lassen is a hidden gem for outdoor adventure. Highlights:

  • Marveling at bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and other geothermal wonders
  • Hiking through wildflower-filled meadows and to crystal-clear alpine lakes
  • Kayaking or swimming in Manzanita Lake with Lassen Peak reflected in its waters

Did You Know? Lassen Peak is one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes and last erupted in 1917.

Ready to Book a trip to Lassen National Park? Check out these day tours

South Yuba River State Park

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour Looking to escape into nature? Head to the scenic South Yuba River State Park, where you can:

  • Swim in clear, refreshing pools along the South Yuba River
  • Hike through forests and canyons on trails like the Independence Trail
  • Pan for gold and learn about the area’s mining history at Bridgeport

Local Tip: The incredibly popular Purdon Crossing swimming hole fills up fast on summer weekends. Aim to arrive by 10am to secure parking, or visit on a weekday for a mellower experience.

 Emerald Bay State Park

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 Lake Tahoe Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours Emerald Bay is Lake Tahoe’s crown jewel and a must-see on any trip to the area. This stunning state park offers:

  • Panoramic views over the vivid blue waters and surrounding peaks
  • Beautiful hiking trails, including the Rubicon Trail along the lakeshore
  • The historic Vikingsholm castle, a unique example of Scandinavian architecture

RELATED: The Perfect Weekend in Lake Tahoe Itinerary

Why Visit? There’s a reason Emerald Bay frequently graces postcards and computer backgrounds. Seeing the unreal color of the water in person is a California bucket list experience.

Ready to Book a trip to Lake Tahoe? Check out these day tours

Charming Towns & Cities places near sacramento

 Carmel-by-the-Sea

Lone Cypress Tree Growing on Top of a Rock, Carmel, California, USA

Distance from Sacramento: 3 hours This enchanting seaside village is known for its storybook cottages and white-sand beach. Top things to do:

  • Gallery-hop and shop along Ocean Avenue, lined with quaint storefronts
  • Walk the scenic Carmel Beach and watch dolphins play in the surf
  • Sip a flight in one of the dozen tasting rooms, many of which allow dogs

RELATED: Best Restaurants in Carmel

Fun Fact: Carmel has a quirky law on the books requiring a permit to wear high heels, originally meant to prevent lawsuits on the uneven pavements.

Ready to Book a trip to Carmel? Check out these day tours

Nevada City

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour Nevada City is a picturesque former mining town nestled in the Sierra foothills. Top reasons to visit:

  • Browse unique shops, galleries, and restaurants along the historic Broad Street
  • Tour the Empire Mine State Historic Park to explore the area’s gold mining past
  • Attend the Nevada City Film Festival or Constitution Day Parade

Hidden Gem: Check out Hirschman’s Pond just outside town for a peaceful spot to picnic, fish, and look for birds and turtles.

Sausalito

Sausalito City Skyline View from the Mountains

Distance from Sacramento: 1.5 hours Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is a Mediterranean-style seaside town with sweeping views. Highlights include:

  • Strolling the scenic waterfront promenade lined with houseboats and yacht harbors
  • Visiting the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a hands-on children’s museum with Golden Gate views
  • Biking over the Golden Gate Bridge and ferry back with your bike

Insider Tip: Have a drink or meal at The Trident, a historic waterfront restaurant that was once a hangout for rock legends like Janis Joplin and The Rolling Stones.

Oakland

Distance from Sacramento: 1.5 hours
Oakland is a vibrant and diverse city that’s more than just a San Francisco suburb. Must-dos include:

  • Walking around Lake Merritt, the nation’s largest saltwater tidal lake in an urban area
  • Eating your way through the Temescal and Fruitvale neighborhoods, hubs for global cuisine
  • Catching an A’s game or concert at the Oakland Coliseum

Local Tip: On Fridays after 5pm, streets in Uptown Oakland close for the popular First Fridays festival featuring food trucks, live music, and vendors.

Wine Country Fun day trips from sacramento

Lodi

Distance from Sacramento: 40 minutes Lodi is an up-and-coming wine region known for its old-vine Zinfandels. Things to do:

  • Bike between tasting rooms on the Lodi Wine Trail, many of which have picnic grounds
  • Kayak or paddleboard on the placid Mokelumne River as it winds through vineyards
  • Attend the Lodi Grape Festival and Harvest Fair in September

Helpful Tip: Lodi can get quite toasty in the summer, with temperatures often topping 90°F. Visit in the morning or choose a cooler time of year.

Ready to Book a trip to Lodi? Check out these day tours

Apple Hill

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour This collection of 50+ farmstands and orchards in Camino is a fall ritual for many Sacramentans. Top activities:

  • Picking your own apples, pears, berries, and pumpkins at a dozen orchards
  • Sampling fresh-pressed cider, apple doughnuts, and famous apple pies
  • Getting lost in a corn maze or taking a hay ride through the colorful orchards

When to Go: Apple Hill is open July-December, with peak crowds in October. Visit on a weekday to avoid long lines.

 Amador County

Distance from Sacramento: 45 minutes Just up Highway 50, Amador County is one of California’s oldest wine regions. What to do:

  • Tour small, unpretentious wineries specializing in full-bodied Zinfandels and Barberas
  • Stroll the Gold Rush-era main street in Sutter Creek lined with tasting rooms
  • Picnic along Lake Amador and look for bald eagles

Did You Know? Amador’s Shenandoah Valley has been growing grapes since the 1850s, with some Zinfandel vines over 100 years old.

Napa Valley Wine Region

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour California’s legendary Napa Valley is an easy day trip for wine lovers. Things to do in Napa include:

  • Tasting renowned Cabernet Sauvignon and other varietals at 400+ wineries
  • Dining at Michelin-starred restaurants like The French Laundry and Auberge du Soleil
  • Taking a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the vineyards

Planning Tip: Most Napa wineries require advance reservations for tastings and fill up early, especially on weekends. Book at least a few weeks ahead.

Ready to Book a trip to napa? Check out these day tours

 Sonoma County

Distance from Sacramento: 1-2 hours More laidback than Napa, Sonoma County is known for its charm and agricultural roots. Top activities:

  • Sampling wines at family-owned tasting rooms throughout Sonoma, Healdsburg, and Geyserville
  • Exploring the foodie haven of Healdsburg Plaza with its acclaimed restaurants
  • Enjoying fresh oysters and bay views in the quaint town of Bodega Bay

Insider Tip: Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is an ideal place to rent an e-bike and pedal between wineries. You’ll beat the crowds and discover under-the-radar gems.

Ready to Book a trip to Sanoma? Check out these day tours

Outdoor Adventure Day Trips Best places to visit near sacramento

 South Yuba River State Park

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour Looking to escape into nature? Head to the scenic South Yuba River State Park, where you can:

  • Swim in clear, refreshing pools along the South Yuba River
  • Hike through forests and canyons on trails like the Independence Trail
  • Pan for gold and learn about the area’s mining history at Bridgeport

Local Tip: The incredibly popular Purdon Crossing swimming hole fills up fast on summer weekends. Aim to arrive by 10am to secure parking, or visit on a weekday for a mellower experience.

 Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe National Forest

Distance from Sacramento to lake tahoe: 2 hours Emerald Bay is Lake Tahoe’s crown jewel and a must-see on any trip to the area. This stunning state park offers:

  • Panoramic views over the vivid blue waters and surrounding peaks
  • Beautiful hiking trails, including the Rubicon Trail along the lakeshore
  • The historic Vikingsholm castle, a unique example of Scandinavian architecture

Why Visit? There’s a reason Emerald Bay frequently graces postcards and computer backgrounds. Seeing the unreal color of the water in person is a California bucket list experience.

Historic Gold Rush Towns

 Auburn

Distance from Sacramento: 35 minutes The most accessible Gold Rush town from Sacramento, Auburn delights with its historical charm. A few key things to do:

  • Stroll past Old West buildings in the quaint downtown historic district
  • Hike the Auburn State Recreation Area along the American River
  • Visit the Placer County Courthouse Museum to learn local history

Fun Fact: Auburn was a major transportation hub during the Gold Rush, as the western terminus of the First Transcontinental Railroad.

Placerville

Distance from Sacramento: 45 minutes Also known as “Hangtown” due to its Wild West justice, Placerville is another charming Gold Country town worth a stop. Highlights include:

  • Exploring the historic Main Street lined with 19th-century buildings
  • Riding the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad along the American River
  • Wine tasting at dozens of El Dorado County wineries in the surrounding hillsides

Helpful Tip: Many Placerville shops and sights are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so plan your visit for later in the week.

Additional Sacramento Day Trip Ideas

  • Lodi Wine Country: Sip old-vine Zinfandels and Iberian varietals at 85+ wineries in this up-and-coming region just 40 minutes south.
  • American River Rafting: Get your adrenaline fix on a whitewater rafting trip down the south fork of the American River in Coloma, California’s top rafting spot.
  • Berkeley: Explore the beautiful UC Berkeley campus, peruse bookshops and boutiques along Telegraph Ave, and feast on global cuisines.
  • Old Sacramento: Step back to the 1800s in the state capital’s historic riverside district, complete with gold-rush era buildings, train rides, and underground tours.

Helpful Tips for Sacramento Day Trips

  • Get an early start to beat traffic and crowds, especially when going to popular spots like Lake Tahoe or San Francisco.
  • Bring layers as temperatures can vary widely from the valley to the mountains and coast. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat.
  • Avoid visiting the mountains on Fridays, the coast on Sundays, and wine country on Saturdays to dodge most of the crowds and traffic.
  • Make dining reservations ahead of time. Small towns have limited options that fill up early. Many require reservations even for lunch.
  • Have a backup plan if your destination is too crowded. Being flexible will minimize stress and maximize your fun.

With so many amazing day trips in every direction, it’s no wonder Sacramento is known as California’s gateway city. Whatever adventure you choose, you can look forward to sunshine, natural beauty, and memorable experiences. So pack a picnic, queue up your road trip playlist, and hit the highway – your perfect California day trip awaits!

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