15 Off The Beaten Path Experiences to Have in San Francisco

Living in San Francisco has opened my eyes to how unique this city is compared to any other metropolis.

Previously known for its counterculture roots, San Francisco and the Bay Area are now better known for being the epicenter of the tech boom.

I’m here to tell you that even though San Francisco is developing at an ever rapid pace, it is still full of charm, character, and unique experiences.

Many locals are determined to preserve the quirks and institutions that make San Francisco a cultural touchstone in America. So skip the trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, and take a look at some of the experiences that truly make San Francisco memorable.

15 Off the Beaten Path San Francisco Experiences

Go museum hopping at the De Young & Legion of Honor

Museums might be a staple of any tourist experience in a booming metropolis, but San Francisco is blessed with museums that cater to anybody’s tastes.

If you really want to go off the beaten path of downtown San Francisco, venture further west to visit the De Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.

The De Young and Legion of Honor are both members of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and homes to stunning art collections from around the globe.

While the Legion of Honor has a strong emphasis on European art, the De Young has a more global emphasis with pieces and artifacts from as far back as the Ancient Egyptians.

Both museums collaborate with famous institutions like the Louvre to host exhibits focusing on important themes or artists, such as Contemporary Muslim Fashion, Monet, and more.

Pro Tip: go to one museum in the morning, and one museum in the afternoon! If you buy a ticket at either one, it will be valid for entrance at its sister museum.

You only have to pay $25 for an adult ticket to two world-class museums, so you definitely get a bang for your buck. If you’re feeling really ambitious, start your morning off with a stroll in Golden Gate Park, explore the De Young, head up to Legion of Honor, and hike to Sutro Baths to watch the sunset.

Picnic to your heart’s content at Dolores Park

For the rare warm days in San Francisco, there’s only one thing on everybody’s mind: catching some rays at Dolores Park.

Located in the Mission District, Dolores Park’s sloping hills and palm trees are surrounded by beautiful architecture and a stellar view of San Francisco’s skyline. The park features a playground, tennis courts, and plenty of space for you, your friends, and dog to run and toss a frisbee around.

If you’re looking for something more low-key, Dolores Park is also great for lounging around on a picnic blanket with your friends and enjoying a glass of wine.

Since the park is just a few blocks away from some of the best eats and drinks in the city, make sure to pick up some pastries from Tartine Bakery or a quart of ice cream from the Bi-rite Creamery beforehand.

After you’ve finished relaxing at Dolores for the afternoon, you can either head off to the Castro for dinner or check out the cute shops on Valencia Street in the Mission!  

Climb the Steps of Coit Tower

If you wander around the North Beach neighborhood long enough, it’s impossible to ignore the white columnar tower perched on top of Telegraph Hill. Coit Tower is a hallmark of San Francisco’s skyline, having stood watch over the city since the 1930s.

Once you climb up the hill (and work out your glutes), you’ll be greeted by Coit Tower and 360 views of the city and the Bay.

The tower is most famous for the beautiful murals decorating its interior, depicting contemporary life in San Francisco. The muralists were students of famed artist Diego Rivera, so you will be able to detect strong influences as you gaze upon the frescos.

Entrance to Coit Tower is only open during the morning and afternoon, but the night views from its base and Pioneer Park aren’t anything to sniff at either. After all, you’re sitting front row to the best views of the lit-up Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge glittering over the dark waters.

Pose at the 16th Avenue tiled steps

Has there ever been a prettier set of stairs? Nestled in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are a 163-step marvel of astronomy and sea-themed mosaics.

Completed in 2005, these steps were the passion of neighborhood residents Jessie Audette and Alice Yee Xavier, who wanted to bring the community together to beautify Golden Gate Heights.

The community crafted handmade tiles at mosaic workshops led by local artists to form a beautiful swirling pattern of moons, fish, and seashells.

These steps are a prime photo location if you’re looking to commemorate the beauty of San Francisco. Plus, if you climb all the way to the top, you can catch a great view of the city from a tranquil, little park.

Listen to the song of the sea at the Wave Organ

San Francisco is home to many unique artworks by local artists, and the Wave Organ at the Marina is no exception.

A two-mile hike away from Crissy Fields, the Wave Organ was built in 1986 by Peter Richards and constructed out of 25 PVC and concrete pipes.

This massive sculpture captures the sounds of the waves and acts as a oceanic soundboard. You can hear the sloshing of the waves bounce around and the low humming of the currents through the pipes.

Since the wave activity is highly dependent on what time of day it is, the Wave Organ is best visited during high tide. There are plenty of sitting areas on the organ’s jetty, lovingly crafted with granite and marble from a nearby cemetery.

The Wave Organ is perfect for visiting if you want to relax to some beautiful sounds and watch the tide ebb and flow.

Watch the sunset from Sutro Baths

San Francisco sunsets are hard to beat, and watching them from the Sutro Baths is an otherworldly experience.

A former beacon of the city’s historical wealth, Sutro Baths was a large, privately owned swimming pool complex that was open to the public.

Adolph Sutro, its patron, wanted to provide a relaxing and affordable experience to San Francisco’s working class, so he built a monumental structure of glass with seven saltwater pools for the local residents to enjoy while keeping entrance fees extremely affordable.

Unfortunately, due to the low fees, Sutro Baths was never able to make a profit and became increasingly expensive to maintain over time.

The decision was made to demolish Sutro Baths, and in the middle of said demolishment, the bath house was destroyed by a fire. Now, all that’s left are the eerily beautiful ruins by the seaside.

Once you descend into the ruins, watch your step! There aren’t any handrails available as you hop your way from one ledge to another. Once you find your footing, the ruins are an absolute wonder to explore.

Take a trip through Little Italy

Little Italy, otherwise known as North Beach, is a treasure trove of culinary and architectural delight!

The epicenter of Little Italy is Washington Square Park, where you’re blinded by the stunning twin spires of the Saints Peter and Paul Church (famously known for where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got hitched).

Once you’re done taking in the sights of the church, you can wander in any direction and be surrounded by small mom-and-pop shops. Dessert shops, bakeries, and restaurants all beckon to you with a warm and gracious invitation.

My recommendation? Head to Little Italy for lunch. You can either get huge portions of customizable pasta made right on the spot at the Italian Homemade Company or the world-famous cioppino at Sotto Mare. Then, grab a scoop of gelato and make your way over to Washington Square Park to relax with the other picnickers (or the grandmas practicing tai-chi!)

Feast on delicious pastries at Tartine Bakery & Manufactory

It’s fair to say that Tartine Bakery has become a household name in San Francisco ever since its owners, Elisabeth Pruiett and Chad Robertson, brought their flour-wielding magic to the city from Point Reyes. They found a bakery that was on the brink of closing down because its owner wanted to retire, and everything fell into place.

Now, this pastry mecca is slowly but surely making a name for itself across the world, with locations in Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea. What Tartine Bakery is best known for are their standout pastries, including delightfully flaky croissants, sumptuous morning buns, and pain au chocolat straight out of a dream.

Rest assured, you will always find a line out the door for these delicious baked goods. But, also rest assured that each single bite is worth it!

If you’ve ever dreamed of pairing dinner or weekend brunch with dessert, Tartine Bakery has also opened a sister restaurant, Tartine Manufactory. The Manufactory now serves savory dishes with locally sourced ingredients, craft cocktails, and Tartine’s famous country loaves.

If you came to San Francisco wanting to indulge in delicious carbs, Tartine is the perfect place to do just that.

Celebrate LGBTQ+ pride in the Castro

When people think “Pride,” the Castro District in San Francisco automatically comes to mind. After all, who can ignore the rainbow flags proudly flying in the wind as you wander through one of the world’s largest LGBTQ+ communities?

Those who live in the Castro pride themselves on creating an inclusive and accepting community where people are free to be themselves. Leaders in the LGBTQ+ culture often congregate here, the most famous of them being Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay elected official in the history of California.

The plethora of cafes, LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, and the Castro Theater attract plenty of visitors every year. But if you really want to see the District come alive, visit during community-held events such as the Castro Street Fair or San Francisco Pride.

This is when the Castro really goes all out, with drag queen shows, DJs, and gay bars that always promise an exhilarating time.

Find your way through the Infinite Mirror Maze

The great thing about San Francisco is that when you feel like you’ve seen it all… another SF hidden gem pops up. Literally.

Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is hidden in San Francisco’s Pier 39. You have to enter an unassuming building, just to be greeted by a gigantic maze of Corinthian columns and mirrors. To further add to the confusion, you have to navigate said maze through flashing neon lights, blacklight, and thumping EDM.

The Infinite Mirror Maze is an exciting place to visit for people of all ages, so feel free to bring your kids or your friends as you stumble your way through this psychedelic experience! Admission is $5 for the entire day, and kids under 5 are admitted for free.

Visit California’s most famous prison on Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is where some of the most notorious criminals were imprisoned at one point in history. Big names like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and more were held in this now-abandoned maximum security prison.

Escape attempts were far-and-in-between, and it is unknown if the few individuals who did make it off the island ever survived the ocean.

Now that its operations as a prison has been shut down, Alcatraz Island is a historical landmark that houses many traveling exhibits. Most famously, Chinese activist Ai Weiwei has hosted large-scale exhibits such as @Large to make a provocative and political statement.

Alcatraz is only accessible by ferry, so you’ll get to share the same experience of crossing over chilly waters as some of the country’s most dangerous felons.

Pro Tip: Buy tickets early! Tickets to Alcatraz Island are wildly popular and sell out like hotcakes, so people buy tickets as far in advance as two months.

Run in your favorite costume at Bay to Breakers

If anything can match San Francisco’s love for dogs (seriously, there’s a stat that says there are more dogs than children in the city), it’s the residents’ love of running. Marathons and races are a dime-a-plenty in the Bay Area, but one of the most famous (and fun) races is Bay to Breakers.

The 12km-long Bay to Breakers occurs every May, which is when San Francisco finally starts to get its fair share of California sunshine. To match fair conditions, you start off downtown near the Embarcadero and make your way through the city until you finish at Ocean Beach near the Great Highway.

One of the best quirks of Bay to Breakers is that the runners love to dress in costumes (or nude), so it’s always a blast to run with the Power Rangers or human-sized wine bottles by your side. Even the people who aren’t racing will throw parties on their front steps, so there’s always an opportunity to join in the camaraderie.

Frolic through the flowers of Golden Gate Park

Did you know that Golden Gate Park is actually bigger than New York’s Central Park? 20% larger too! Which means that there’s approximately 20% more land for you to explore. So why not start off at the Queen Wilhelmina Garden?

The Queen Wilhelmina Garden is truly an example of botanical splendor, with a lush array of tulips and Icelandic poppies surrounding the iconic Dutch Windmill.

After you’re done admiring the flowers, you can continue your botanical adventures with a quaint stroll in the nearby Japanese Tea Garden. Or if you want a taste of the rare and exotic, visit the SF Conservatory of Flowers where you can observe gorgeous aquatic and tropical plants.

The best time to visit the Queen Wilhelmina Garden is in March and April. But honestly, any time of year is a great time to visit Golden Gate Park.

Get cultured at the Fort Mason Center

While you might first be attracted to the many other offerings of the Marina District (I’m looking at you – wine bars, Crissy Field, and Palace of Fine Arts), don’t pass over Fort Mason Center of Arts & Culture. This set of unassuming buildings is actually home to some of the best collections of art, books, and food in the city.

Not only can you admire the works of local artists at the Museo Italo Americano, San Francisco Art Institute, and SFMOMA Artist’s Gallery, but you can also check out exhibits of world-famous artists such as Andy Warhol.

Plus, you can buy practically new books for the city’s cheapest prices at the Readers Bookstore. The Readers Bookstore, founded by nonprofit Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, boasts an amazing collection of used and vintage books, prints, records, and more.

And don’t even get me started on the food. Radhaus is a great place to enjoy happy hour with German fare and a sleek, airy aesthetic.

If you want a little sample of everything, the city’s famous Off-the-Grid food truck festival is hosted in Fort Mason’s parking lots every Friday night from March to October. Where else are you going to get Texas-style BBQ, lobster rolls, and Filipino tacos within a 500 ft radius of each other?

Find the “treasures” of Treasure Island

While most San Francisco residents are most familiar with Treasure Island because of Treasure Island Music Festival (kind of like Outside Lands’ little brother), there’s another very important reason to visit Treasure Island! Namely, Treasure Fest.

Treasure Fest is every thrift-shopper or vintage-lover’s dream. This flea market hosts a bevy of craftsman, designers, vintage collectors, and more who sell everything from dog bandanas to rare prints to adorable furniture. Even better, each month follows a different theme which all the vendors love to curate their products around.

Once you’re tired of shopping, you can head over to the food trucks for a quick lunch and enjoy the live musical performances. Or you can explore the island’s wineries or abandoned buildings by hopping on a beach cruiser and taking it out for a spin!  

Entry tickets are really cheap, with $4 tickets if you purchase online or $7 at the gate. Admission for kids under 12 is free.

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Even though this post only covers only 15 experiences in San Francisco, this city is home to so many local quirks that it’s hard to keep track of all of them!

Check out my recommendations for 101 of the top things to do in California, including some more Bay Area must-see spots, for more Golden State travel inspiration.

Author’s Bio: Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her sipping on a pint of craft beer, chasing waterfalls, or planning her next adventure in a foreign land.

After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.

Looking for a Unique Place to Stay in San Francisco?

If you want to up the offbeat factor on your trip to San Francisco, check out one of these funky options!

Hotel Vertigo (From $170+ USD/night): Are you a film buff? Alfred Hitchcock filmed many of his movies around the Bay Area, and his masterpiece Vertigo was filmed in this very hotel! The movie plays on repeat in the lobby, so you can get super meta and watch the movie where it was filmed. Prior to being used as the set of Vertigo, this hotel was a speakeasy during the Prohibition era — a hell of a lot of history. Plus, it’s beautifully decorated with a retro flair and boasts a fantastic location in Lower Nob Hill. Check prices, rates, photos, and availability here.

Hotel Triton (From $160+USD/night): Fan of Jack Kerouac and the Beat movement? This hotel is dedicated to the writer, who called this city home, and appeals to those who “burnburnburn like fabulous yellow roman candles!”. With bold features and dramatic furniture, the décor of this hotel is anything but standard. Some celebrities have even designed some of the suites here! You’ll adore everything about this fantastic hotel in the heart of San Francisco, just a five-minute walk from Union Square. Check prices, rates, and availability here.

The Phoenix (From $160 USD+/night): This rock’n’roll-themed hotel feels like a 50s motel in the heart of San Francisco, just a short walk to the most landmarks in the city and close to the BART Station for easy access to the rest of the Bay Area. The décor is unusual and irreverent, the vibe is chilled out yet social, and there are so many unique twists that show an incredible level of attention to detail. It reminds me of Palm Springs in the middle of San Francisco! Do note that it is located in the Tenderloin, one of the grittier neighborhoods of San Francisco. Personally, I feel reasonably safe even at night in the Tenderloin, but it is a little rough around the edges, with homelessness and litter being bigger issues here than in other SF neighborhoods. If that will bother you, it’s probably not the best place to stay in San Francisco. If it doesn’t, this is a fantastic and unique place to stay. Check prices, rates, and availability here.

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Wondering what to do in San Francisco off the beaten path? This list of alternative and unusual things to do in San Francisco is the perfect way to plan an offbeat SF city break. From unique photography & IG spots to authentic restaurants to funky neighborhoods to other unique SF must-see’s, this unusual San Francisco travel guide will get you away from Union Square and Pier 39 and where the SF locals love!
Wondering what to do in San Francisco off the beaten path? This list of alternative and unusual things to do in San Francisco is the perfect way to plan an offbeat SF city break. From unique photography & IG spots to authentic restaurants to funky neighborhoods to other unique SF must-see’s, this unusual San Francisco travel guide will get you away from Union Square and Pier 39 and where the SF locals love!

7 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of Southern California’s iconic parks, known for its trails and hikes. Its dreamy terrain expands over 800,000 acres providing 114 hiking trails, running tracks, viewing trails, and much more.

The stunning views and rewarding hikes attract thousands of visitors to Joshua Tree each year.

If you are planning to visit the park, you can go for the best hikes in Joshua Tree for a good workout. It will be unjust to the magnificent setting if you won’t lace up your hiking boots once you are there.

While it is not easy to pick a favorite, here are seven best hikes in Joshua Tree that will make your trip worthwhile.

All About Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree National Park gets its name from the Yucca brevifolia or Joshua tree. With about 800,000 acres of park, Joshua Tree provides dozens of experiences for people from around the world.

Apart from the park’s namesake trees, you will find other exotic flora, whimsical rocks, and dozens of trails waiting to be explored. The amazing hiking, biking, and horse riding trails make Joshua Tree one of America’s most attractive rock climbing places.

In spring, the place is laden with wildflowers so tourists can enjoy wildflower viewing and appreciate the exotic wilderness.

When the night comes, the desert sky clears out, revealing thousands of stars worth gazing at. The park is an ideal site for photography as every design looks like an artist sketched it.

It makes for a great fit for any type of trip whether that’s family, solo or as a couple. Use the awesome family travel hacks if you plan to go as a family to ensure you have everything prepared to make for an amazing trip.

7 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree

One of the best experiences of Joshua Tree is hiking along the magnificent trails of the park. If you are seeking a steep hike, you’ve got ten mountain peaks rising to the skies with an elevation of 5,000 ft.

Or, you can explore Joshua Tree’s five fan oases that display the most splendid sights.

Lace-up your shoes and bring your favorite travel backpack because we have listed down seven best hikes in Joshua Tree that are too tempting to resist.

Hidden Valley Trail

The Hidden Valley Trail lies in the heart of Joshua Tree Park, right after Park Blvd. While you hike around the 1-mile loop, you can experience a little piece of history in the Hidden Valley, which was once popular with castle thieves who would hide their loot there.

Natives strongly believe that the entrance of the Hidden Valley — the beginning of the trail — was created by Keys, who wanted to make a larger entrance for his castle.

The Hidden Valley Trail is an easy hike through giant rocks and boulders adorned by different trees and cacti varieties. You will also find picnic tables and BBQ grills along the trail to stop and have lunch. It is a great hike for people of all ages looking for an easy and fun hiking adventure.

Barker Dam Nature Trail

Barker Dam Nature Trail is another short 1.4 miles hike located east of the Hidden Valley. The trail is almost like a stroll through splendid scenery with giant rock formations. There is also a wide variety of flora along the trail as you enter into the open valley where you will find the dam.

The Barker Dam was built a long time back to collect water for livestock. There is also an old stone horse trough by the dam, and the water collected there attracts all kinds of birds.

When the dam is filled up, you are likely to find wildlife along the hike too. It’s a good hike when the dam is full, but make sure to look out for the bighorn sheep.

Ryan Mountain Trail

One of the most popular and best hikes in Joshua Tree is the Ryan Mountain Trail. It is a 3-mile hike to reach the summit of the mountain. While it’s a short trail, you will have to climb over a 1000 ft for 1.5 miles from the desert sands to the summit.

The hike is nowhere near a stroll. But, once you get to the top, it will be well worth the effort.  From the top, you can have a panoramic view of Joshua Tree Park and even enjoy a snack while watching the sunset.

Boy Scout Trail

A classic hike in Joshua Tree Park, Boy Scout Trail is a seven-mile trip that lets you discover the Wonderland of Rocks. If you hike deeper into the rocks, you will find the secret haven of dense willow trees.

With only 400 ft of elevation, the hike is a favorite of photographers and backpackers who are looking for some solitude and, of course, wildflowers.

About 3.5 miles in, your turn-around spot will be Willow Hole. It is a water source circled by lush green vegetation and desert wildlife. If you see some water there, you might want to stick around the area as you might encounter the bighorn sheep too.

Cholla Cactus Garden Loop

One of the shortest and best hikes in Joshua Tree, Cholla Cactus Garden Loop, is a hike through the Colorado Desert cactus garden. The view of thousands of natural cholla cactus makes the trail a must-see for every park visitor.

If you walk too close to the Cholla Cactus, it might jump onto your skin or clothes, which is why it is also known as Jumping Cactus.

The area is great for photography throughout the day. But, watch out for the cactus needles in the dark as they are a bit hard to get off.

Warren Peak Trail

If you are looking for a longer hiking experience, the six-mile Warren Peak Trail is the one for you. Although the last few miles are very steep, the trail is moderate for the most part.

The route is unique because you will find fewer Joshua trees and more pinyon, oak, and juniper trees along the way. You will also come across the Black Rock Spring, a source of water for the wildlife.

At the end of the trail, you will have a view of the western part of Joshua Tree. You will also be able to admire the Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, and San Bernardino Mountains.

Before hiking the Warren Peak Trail, you want to plan out a few things.

As the trail is exposed to the sun, you have to stay prepared with enough water and sunscreen. Some parts of the trail are more sandy, which might affect your pace. Therefore, pick your timings wisely.

Wall Street Mine Trail

All the history lovers out there will love the 2.8 mile Wall Street Mine Trail. It is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree for learning the history of the park. In the 1900s, Bill Keys processed gold ore in the Wall Street Mine.

The miners carted the ore to the top of the hill, where they crushed it into the sand. They mixed the sand with water and mercury to wash away the useless gravel with water.

If you hike the trail, you can explore the ruins of the gold past. These include the preserved gold mine area and a gravestone. On your way to the mine, you’ll come across the ruins of Wonderland Ranch and an old windmill that pumped water from the mill.

Make sure you have at least two hours to fully explore all the colorful ancient history.

Know Before You Go

Before you go hiking in Joshua Tree, you should know a few things about the location and climate.

Since the park consists of two deserts, the temperature can soar up pretty quickly during summer, early fall, and late spring. The high temperature and dry air can make hiking extremely difficult for some people. So, try to apart yourself to the climate before going for longer or tougher hikes.

If you are visiting Joshua Tree in summer, you can also eliminate any potential risks by an early start, carrying plenty of water, and wearing enough sunscreen to stay protected.

We recommend that you visit the park in spring when the temperature is mild, and the flowers are blooming everywhere. Fall is also a good time to visit the park, but the air can be dry during this time, so stay prepared. In winters, the area gets cold enough to force you to put on layers of clothing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are no services in the park. So, you will have to carry everything you will need during the day, including water, food, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit. Since the area is pretty rocky, you also want to carry your best hiking boots for a tension-free adventure.

Conclusion

Joshua Tree is a great place for nature lovers seeking adventure, beauty, and some action in their hiking boots. The park provides its visitors with endless opportunities to explore the history of the region to its depths.

No matter which hike you pick from our list of best hikes in Joshua Tree, you will fall in love with the scenic views, unique flora, and impressive wildlife in the park.

Author Bio: Via Travelers is a modern travel blog providing the best tips, hacks, and itineraries to ensure you have an amazing adventure! Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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13 Dreamy Desert Joshua Tree Airbnbs: Pools, Hot Tubs & Amazing Design!

For people looking for a unique place to stay in Joshua Tree, you’re in for a treat.

This National Park and the adorable small town of Joshua Tree are the perfect escape for those wanting to leave the Los Angeles metropolitan area for a change of scenery.

There are so many incredible Joshua Tree Airbnbs perfect for a desert escape — from airy, design-focused boutique Joshua Tree Airbnbs to unique Airbnbs in Joshua Tree like Airstream trailers, there’s so many to choose from!

To help in your search, we’ve curated the absolute best Joshua Tree Airbnbs. All of the listings below are highly reviewed and hosted by Superhosts and some are even Airbnb Plus listings which meet a higher caliber of stay.

The Best 13 Joshua Tree Airbnbs

Best for the Budget-Savvy: The Phoenix House

Price: From $75 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: The Phoenix House

The Phoenix House is a beautifully constructed oasis in the High Desert of California, and it’s a great fit for those who appreciate ‘less-is-more’ house design with minimalist touches.

The defining features of the interior are the cloud-white walls and furniture in every room of the house, from the dining and living rooms to the two spacious bedrooms, as well as the occasional wooden shelf and wooden flooring that serve as beautiful design counterpoints.

Further adding to the relaxing atmosphere of the house is the abundance of natural light coming in from every angle, the distinctive artwork that captures the local spirit of the desert, and the indoor fireplace, ideal for a cozy night in.

The exterior of the house perfectly matches the tone of the rooms – the predominance of white and wooden surfaces makes the entrance feel like a natural extension of the interior.

On top of that, the grill and the abundance of outdoor seating make this area ideal for gatherings with friends and family, which are made all the cozier thanks to the outdoor fire pit. Guests seeking some private R&R will appreciate the inclusion of a hammock, as well as additional seating by the entrance of the house.

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Check availability and book it today on Airbnb
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Guests say:

“We stayed here with our infant and dog and it was the perfect desert getaway. It’s steps to town and a short drive to the National Park. The house was designed so beautifully and the space really made us feel like we were in an oasis. We would definitely stay here again!”

Best Indoor/Outdoor Aesthetic: Cactus Jax Cottage

Price: From $156 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: Cactus Jax Cottage

With its one-of-a-kind design and emphasis on absolute comfort, Cactus Jax Cottage is the definitive desert retreat resort: the perfect Joshua Tree Airbnb for those looking for a cozy getaway.

Built in the mid-20th century, the cottage has since evolved into a luxurious home that offers everything you could possibly wish for – the house can accommodate up to four people between its two bedrooms, the kitchen and dining areas are stacked with everything you might need, and the ample seating options make the cottage an ideal place for large congregations.

On top of that, the camera on the back patio offers a layer of security seldom found in other relatively remote places, so you’ll feel safe and secure in this desert oasis!

While the interior design is in keeping with the ambient of the desert, where Cactus Jax Cottage really shines is in its spacious exterior.

The fire pit in the rather open outdoor area makes the experience of staying at the cottage feel like camping, and it provides a great incentive to spend as much time outside as possible.

 In addition, although this resort offers absolute peace and serenity, guests needn’t feel as though they’re completely isolated – Joshua Tree Village is just a hop and a skip away, so you’d be able to run errands in town and mingle with the locals at any given time.

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Check availability and book it today on Airbnb
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Guests say:

Best place I’ve ever stayed at! Every inch of the place is so unique and artsy. If you get an air bnb in Joshua Tree this is the place to stay. The campfire at night was amazing & the hammock was very relaxing. Great view of the comfy cozy rooms to sleep in too! A++

Best Interior Design: The Joshua Tree House

Price: From $300 USD per night and up
Guests:
6
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: The Joshua Tree House

While the unique beauty of deserts is often understated, The Joshua Tree House comes with a view that visitors, and especially early risers, will not soon forget.

Surrounded by dozens of Joshua trees, some of them older than the property itself, The Joshua Tree House is an ideal pick for people looking to wake up to a beautiful view. On top of that, the size of the yard and the house’s proximity to Joshua Tree Village make outdoor activities and exploration easy.

As far as the interior is concerned, the house has an elegant dichromatic design, and all basic necessities are accounted for.  Personalized details like a vinyl record player and a large record collection add to the house’s character and are a great complement to the property’s distinctive features.

Beyond the aesthetics, a practical perk of the house is the capacity to accommodate parties of up to six people – the house itself has two bedrooms (one of which is separate from the main house, allowing for maximum privacy), and the hosts are willing to provide additional bedding for up to two more.

Other features of interest include the always-welcome hot tub, as well as a hammock room for daytime relaxation!


>>>
Check availability and book your Joshua Tree Airbnb today!
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Guests say:

“The Joshua Tree House is a little slice of heaven in JT. It is centrally located, minutes from downtown and very convenient to everything you’ll need for your stay. There is a great cowboy tub to soak in on the hot summer days and a hot tub for those cool desert nights. The house is immaculately styled – just as shown in the photos. The little details are thought out perfectly – even wires are hidden in a stylish way. We have stayed at many airbnbs, but this one sits near the very top of our list. We hope to be back soon.”

Best Joshua Tree Airbnb with Pool: Desert Wild

Price: From $440 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: Desert Wild

Conveniently located near Joshua Tree National Park and other places of interest within Joshua Tree, Desert Wild is the perfect property for couples and families in the market for a quiet vacation among people.

With its luminous interior and wood-based furniture, the house perfectly captures the spirit of the desert, all while maintaining a high standard of luxury.

Desert Wild comes equipped with a swimming pool, hot tub, projector, and gas adobe fireplace.

The real selling point of this property, however, is the emphasis on maintaining respectful neighborly relations. Guests are advised to remain civil and quiet so as to not disturb the neighbors.

While this might alienate those who are looking to have a good time in large groups, it makes Desert Wild a perfect getaway from the stress and noise of the big city for people who simply want to unwind with their loved ones in peace and are willing to offer their neighbors what they expect to get in return.

This particular feature of Desert Wild doubles as safety assurance for guests who might not want to feel too isolated – while you will be able to enjoy complete privacy, you can rest easy knowing there’s always another person nearby.

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Guests say:

“If you’re visiting Joshua Tree National Park or just looking for a get away outside the city this is the perfect place. We relaxed in the pool during the day, sat in the hot tub in the evening and watch movies at night. You won’t want to leave everything is so cozy and beautifully designed!”

Best for Spiritualists: White Cactus House

Price: From $150 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: White Cactus House

White Cactus House is a dream resort for spiritually inclined visitors and lovers of the outdoors.

On top of being within walking distance of all the major landmarks in Joshua Tree, White Cactus allows its visitors to connect with nature like few other places do, thanks to its all-natural wooden design, an outdoor shower, as well as an indoor shower with a skylight. 

Guests who are admirers of Scandinavian design will feel right at home in this house, and aside from having all the rooms and features one would expect, the house comes with a designated meditation area that connects the inside and outside.

The spiritual theme extends over into the yard, but more typical vacation resort commodities are also provided. The yard is nicely shaded, and allows for fire pit sing-alongs, picnics, relaxing in a cowboy pool, and even indulging in some spiritual activities, as this area is home to 5 elemental statues.

In addition, drink carts are provided to all guests free of charge, and given the property’s proximity to the Joshua Tree Saloon,  there are plenty of options for enjoying the night in the desert in more conventional ways.

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Guests say:

“This spot is so stinkin’ cute! The backyard and all of the decor is very boho, they definitely nailed the vibe they are going for. Great location, very communicative hosts, clean and stylish space. We’ll be back!”

Best for Large Groups: JT Springs

Price: From $148 USD per night and up
Guests:
10
Bedrooms:
3
Find it on Airbnb: JT Springs

JT Springs is a beautiful three-bedroom resort with a stylish wood-and-ceramic design that gives it its unique homey atmosphere.

The property is quite large (around  1800 square feet), and it’s a fair distance from the more congested areas in Joshua Tree.

On top of that, the little details like the local decorative pieces, the popcorn machine in the kitchen, and the wide assortment of board games go a long way in making guests feel they’re in their home away from home. There’s an indoor area for every activity and every time of day, from a breakfast bar and a dining room to a game room for fun group activities.

The view from the yard is beautiful – guests can expect to see a lot of indigenous vegetation and wildlife as soon as they step out into the backyard.

This area is also beautifully furnished and is equipped with a hot tub, a spacious outdoor eating area, and even a swimming pool for a relaxing dip after a long day of exploring the desert.

Visitors can fully immerse themselves in the beauty of the area’s striking greenery and starry night sky by huddling around the large fire pit.

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Guests say:

“Leah’s place was absolutely beautiful! Such a gorgeous location and view outside as well as being stylish, spacious, and cozy on the inside. Leah was very quick with responding and all instructions were clear and easy. I would definitely recommend staying here!”

Best for Being Close to Town: Casita Bonita

Price: From $100 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
1
Find it on Airbnb: Cozy Desert Escape – Casa Bonita

Casita Bonita is a very inviting Joshua Tree Airbnb with a lot of personality and a practical layout, making it the perfect holiday retreat for up to two couples or a small family.

Do note that one bedroom is in the shared space, so it does involve compromising on privacy a bit — but for the price, it’s fantastic.

Those who love the tone of the desert will appreciate the warm colors of the interior and the occasional black tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, giving the house both a modern and rustic feel – every detail in every room is simple, yet purposeful.

The living room is equipped with a pellet stove for the sometimes unpredictable desert nights, and there’s plenty of sunlight coming into every room.

The backyard is quite spacious and is great for outdoor get-togethers. The minimalist layout of the yard leaves visitors with plenty of room to get creative with their outdoor activities, and the inclusion of a fire pit allows one to relish in the beauty of the starry desert sky whatever the temperature.

The yard is also surrounded by Joshua trees from virtually every direction – this, along with the massive mountains in the distance, makes the view from the yard quite impressive. Furthermore, conveniently for those who want to explore, the resort is very close to Joshua Tree Village.

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Guests say:

“This place is amazing. The hosts are wonderfully accommodating and check in was a breeze. Very close to the national park and had all the amenities needed for a trip. The mattress was especially comfortable, the water pressure in the shower was great, and the decor was beautifully thought out to fit the desert aesthetic. Will be staying here again!!”

Best for Instagram: Magical Airstream

Price: From $227 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
1
Find it on Airbnb: Magical Airstream

Campouts and luxury seldom go hand in hand, but the Magical Airstream will subvert all your expectations of how a night spent camping in the desert could look.

Located near the very entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, and even closer to downtown Joshua Tree, this RV manages to fit every amenity guests could possibly need, including a fully-stocked kitchen, two sinks, and convertible seating, allowing for up to 4 people to sleep inside.

Given its proportions and quiet location, it makes for an amazing solo retreat spot as well! The interior is exceptionally cozy for its size, and what the RV lacks in indoor space, it makes up for with its spacious deck and dipping pool.

Chances are that if you’re considering Magical Airstream, you’re not looking to spend much time indoors anyway – you’d likely be interested in taking in the beautiful desert scenery and exploring the desert canyons, and you’ll find no shortage of that in this area.

Magical Airstream also has a gas grill, allowing you to round off your long day of exploration with a delicious evening meal under the stars, and the conveniently placed picnic table will help turn the surrounding desert area into your very own dining room.

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Guests say:

“It truly was magical. The best experience that I have had with an Airbnb. The hosts were so great and the place had all the amenities and then some! I’m so glad we were able to get away from the craziness and have a few days of leisure and nature!”

Best for Artists & Color Lovers: Beavertail Loft

Price: From $187 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
1
Find it on Airbnb: Beavertail Loft

A beautiful, artsy resort located just a few minutes from Joshua Tree Village & JT National Park, Beavertail is a dream come true for those wishing to take full advantage of the peace and quiet of the desert.

The wall of the spacious loft room is decorated by a beautiful mural in a kaleidoscope of different colors, making it an ideal place to lie back and set your mind at ease, all while basking in natural light.

A turntable and record collection are provided, adding to the retro, hippie-like aesthetic of the loft. The sleeping loft contains 2 twin beds, so Beavertail is a great option for parties of up to two couples.

The relaxation options don’t end there – the exterior is equipped with a yoga patio and a hammock circle, ideal for nighttime relaxation with friends and family. 

Beavertail even comes with its an outdoor spa, perfect after a day of exploration. For those who enjoy the company of strangers, there’s even a communal fire pit and plenty of room to just sit back and look at the scenery, as well as a grill for an old-fashioned American cookout. The hosts recommend taking full advantage of this arrangement, as you’re bound to catch some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

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Guests say:

“Our stay was wonderful! Jonathan and Patty were so helpful and responsive – they even checked in the 2nd morning to make sure our stay was going smoothly. The space is artistic and beautiful – perfect for a romantic getaway! I loved our private patio with the grill, outdoor dining area, and hammock. BBQing while watching the sun set against a backdrop of Joshua trees was such a dream! The location is also super convenient and close to downtown JT and the park entrance.”

Best for Minimalists: The Joshua Tree Tiny House

Price: From $187 USD per night and up
Guests:
4
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: Joshua Tree Tiny House

If you’re interested in vacationing at an environmentally friendly house where everything you need is within reach (literally!) The Joshua Tree Tiny House was made just for you.  

Despite the not-so-spacious interior, every section of the house looks great – the house’s wood-and-beige color style is beautifully accentuated by an abundance of dark blue-green furniture, and there’s essentially a second bedroom which is elevated above the living room area and accessible via ladder, making productive use of the compact space.

Needless to say, the window from this ‘second floor’ overlooks the mountains and the vast expanse of desert land, which is a beautiful view to start your day with.

The large wooden deck (larger than the house itself) is likely where you would be spending most of your downtime, as this cozy area has a hot tub and a barbecue grill.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the immediate surroundings of the house – the area is very rich in flora and fauna you can only encounter in the desert, and Joshua Tree & its National Park are mere minutes away. After you’ve had your share of exploring for the day, you can light a fire and stargaze for the rest of the night.

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Guests say:

“We stayed one night in the tiny house and got a beautiful view of the sunset over the desert. With the new moon, we were able to see lots of stars from the deck too. The house feels spacious and we had everything we needed for a quick stay. It was a bit too hot for us to need the hot tub in July, but we were happy to have the option! Overall, the home is exactly as pictured and we are glad to recommend.”

Best for Design Heads: Casa Joshua Tree

Price: From $134 USD per night and up
Guests:
5
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: Casa Joshua Tree

Casa Joshua Tree is an elegant property that ticks all the boxes –    the predominance of white, the constant exposure to sunshine, and the tasteful, modern furniture selection make the interior beautiful to look at. It was even featured on Design*Sponge and Apartment Therapy!

On top of that, the house has two luxurious bedrooms (one even comes with an en suite bathroom) and two full bathrooms for the ultimate group vacation experience.

There’s virtually no wrong time of year to visit Casa Joshua Tree, as the living room has both air conditioning and a beautiful stone fireplace – taken together with the smart TV and Netflix access, this room is the perfect hangout hub for friends, couples, and families.

What’s more, the open floor design gives the interior a lot of room to breathe, and there’s plenty of space for everyone to move around.

The exterior of the house includes a patio that has ample seating and a swing, and the greenery in the yard area only adds to the relaxation effect produced by the climate and the barrage of white.

Most importantly, Casa Joshua Tree is very close to town and the JT National Park, so there are plenty of sights to see if you can get yourself to leave this lavish desert haven for a few hours.

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Guests say:

“A beautiful home for a nice getaway. If you’re looking to cook a lot during your trip this is the perfect place. She has an abundance of supplies ready for cooking! The back patio was also great for looking up at stars at night and relaxing.”

Best for Groups of Couples: The Caravan House

Price: From $151 USD per night and up
Guests:
6
Bedrooms:
3
Find it on Airbnb: The Caravan House

The Caravan House is a beautiful resort in the heart of Joshua Tree Village, and its unique configuration makes it a great place for large groups of up to 6 guests, like 3 couples or families with grown kids.

The house’s main selling point is its undeniable character – the placement of every single feature and decorative piece feels thoughtful and deliberate.  The vintage furniture complements the walls and flooring beautifully and was obviously chosen primarily to accommodate and not to impress, making the Caravan House feel so much like a proper home (with a retro twist). 

Several parts of the house bear a resemblance to North African design — think Morocco — and there are even an old record player and a variety of records to choose from.

The beautifully lit outdoor dining area screams also character; for example, the dining table is surrounded by makeshift log-chairs, and different types of desert flora are planted at equal intervals.

The pyramid-shaped fire pit and the nearby jacuzzi make for a great nighttime combo, but even just walking around the property and taking in the intricacies of the layout can be a great way to kill time.

Also worth noting are the mid-20th century mechanics trailer and camper van, which serve as decoration, as well as the motor home (a.k.a. bedroom #3) with a skylight.

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Guests say:

“5/5 for me! Jason and Ella have a beautiful home, very chic/boho/desert feel. I loved the special touches they had and the backyard was so open and fun to be in! Already recommended this bnb to two of my friends!”

Best for Close Access to the National Park: Casa Linda

Price: From $145 USD per night and up
Guests:
5
Bedrooms:
2
Find it on Airbnb: Casa Linda Near National Park

Joshua Tree National Park offers some beautiful sights, and Casa Linda is a great Joshua Tree Airbnb for people looking for accommodation only a few minutes from the park. 

The house is very cozy, so whenever you’re not exploring Joshua Tree and the JT National Park, you can spend time playing some of the provided board games with your loved ones or relaxing in the extremely comfortable bedding in one of the two bedrooms.

The house is very colorful for a property in this area (thanks to the carpeting and decorative cushions), which is bound to make visitors from more urban areas feel more at home.

The kitchen has been thoughtfully stocked with a variety of condiments, beverages, and other amenities, including a popcorn machine in case you decide to browse Netflix for a movie or to pop one into the DVD player.

Relaxing on the lawn chairs on the back patio and watching the sunset is a great way to unwind after a day of exploring the area, as the view from the property is mesmerizing.

The wide-open area surrounding Casa Linda is perfect for a barbecue and a gathering of family and friends, and the back patio comes equipped with a propane grill.

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Guests say:

We loved our stay – the place was right next to the park, very adorable, and super clean. Would highly recommend to anyone looking to stay near the park.

Pin this Guide to Joshua Tree Airbnbs!

7 Best Day Hikes Near Los Angeles: Hiking Trails You Can’t Miss!

Los Angeles is a mecca for many things: the entertainment business and celebrity sightings, all the green juice and avocado toast your heart could fancy, and miles of sandy beaches, just to name a few.

Sunny nearly year-round, in LA you can head west and hit the beach or head inland and get your fill of mountains all in one day. It’s just one of the many things to love about La La Land (the traffic being on the list of things not to love).

You won’t be lacking for great hikes in LA, which offers everything from breathtaking views of Malibu to trails through film shoots from bygone days.

All of these LA hiking trails can be used as a jumping-off point to explore other trails in the area, and range from well-known to lesser-known. Either way, you’ll get to soak up the LA sunshine one way or another.

And the best thing? LA is so dog-friendly, so many of these hikes can be done with your favorite four-legged friend.

Note: Please make sure to practice social distancing during this current context of Covid-19. All of the below trails are open, but please take proper precautions such as wearing your mask and keeping 6 feet distance between yourself/your group and other hikers on the trails.

Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook, Malibu

Distance: 7.3 miles

Time Required: 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Free, available on Los Liones Drive

Directions: At the end of the cul-de-sac of Los Liones Drive, follow the Los Liones Trail. At the overlook, make a left at the East Topanga Fire Road junction, continue to Parker Mesa Overlook

With sweeping ocean views and the Malibu breeze against your face, this is a classic LA hike for those looking to admire the Pacific coastline.

The trail goes through some of the best scenery of the Santa Monica Mountains: you’ll wind your way through vegetation in the canyon and then into the chaparral.

As you climb the trail upward, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Santa Monica Bay and Pacific Palisades. On a clear day, you can see out to Catalina Island.

Once you’re on the trail to Parker Mesa Overlook, the path will be mostly unshaded and goes up at a steady incline, so pack your hat and sunglasses and lots of water. The LA sunshine is great, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing! At the end of the hike, you’ll get more endless views of the Pacific.

Plan B: This trail is only moderately difficult, but it does take time – especially if you’re going to stop to soak in the views. If you want to take it easy or are pressed for time, skip the hike to Parker Mesa and just do the Los Liones Trail, which is a 2.6-mile loop.

This is also a great place to watch the sunset in LA as it sinks into the Pacific! Be sure to bring a headlamp if doing a sunset hike to make the hike back safe.

Insider Tip: Malibu may be synonymous in many people’s heads with the rich and the famous, but did you know it’s also home to one of the US’s best RV parks?

Bronson Caves to the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park

Distance: 6.6 miles

Time Required: 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Free, two parking areas on Canyon Drive

Directions: Turn right off Canyon Drive to follow Bronson Caves Access Road to Brush Canyon Trail and continue left on Mulholland Trail. Make a left onto Mt. Lee Drive Viewpoint for a view of the sign (which will add 0.5 miles onto the trail), or make a right to climb to the back of the sign

The start of this hike is more a walk to the Bronson Caves, famously known as the Bat Cave in the 1960’s Batman TV series. From there, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, your destination for this quintessential Los Angeles hike.

As you continue onward, you will climb upward through brush canyon, but from Mulholland Trail onward, the trail levels off more. Once you get to the back of the Hollywood sign, the closest you can get is from behind the gate. There is a little hill behind the sign as well, which has panoramic views all the way to downtown.

This LA hiking trail is quite popular with locals and out-of-towners, or locals bringing out-of-towners, but it’s hard to resist getting such an epic dose of LA, what with the iconic Hollywood sign before you and the LA skyline beyond.

Bridge to Nowhere, Angeles National Forest, Azusa

Distance: 10 miles

Time Required: 7 hours

Difficulty: Difficult

Parking: $5, available at the end of East Fork Road. If the lot is full, park on the street. This hike can be crowded, especially on the weekends, and the trailhead can be especially crowded with picnicking groups.

Other: You’ll need a wilderness permit to access the trail. You can self-register for one at the trailhead or get one at any ranger center or visitor center in Angeles National Forest.

Directions: Start at Coyote Flat and down to the Heaton Flats Campground. Stay on the main trail; do not go on the Heaton Flats Trail. Follow the trail to the East Fork Trail. The trail is not always well-marked, so stick to the eastern right side of the valley and the remnants of the old road and spot returning hikers to stay oriented.

Further inland in the Los Angeles metro area are the San Gabriel Mountains, the mountainous backdrop to LA’s beaches and city sprawl.

The Bridge to Nowhere was originally supposed to be just a bridge, constructed in the 1930s over the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. A massive flood washed out the road leading to the bridge and construction was ultimately abandoned.

Nowadays, it makes for quite the hiking destination and on the weekends, bungee jumpers go to the bridge for a bit of thrill-seeking ($120 if you’re interested). Full of river crossings (some waist-deep) and swimming opportunities, this challenging hike to reach the bridge isn’t for the faint of heart.

Note: Bring water shoes for river crossings and a change of socks. If you are going in the winter and there have been heavy rains, the river may be flooded and there is also the potential for flash flooding, which are particularly dangerous. Postponing your hike is the best bet.

Portuguese Canyon Trail, Portuguese Bend Reserve, Palos Verdes

Distance: 5 miles

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Street parking available on Crenshaw Blvd., check the signs for parking restrictions.

Directions:  At the end of Crenshaw Blvd, the park entrance is at Burma Road and make a left onto Eagle’s Nest Trail

About 30 minutes south of downtown, Palos Verdes is a hidden coastal gem of LA.

Often overlooked and slightly out of the usual way for most LA destinations, Palos Verdes refers to both the peninsula and a cluster of neighborhoods.

Along with some pretty amazing scenic drives, there are some great LA hiking trails with views of the bluffs and coves. This particular trail is inverse, meaning it goes downhill towards the ocean and you’ll get most of your workout as you make the trek back up.

In the spring, the hills are covered in a blanket of bright yellow flowers. Plenty of side trails mean you can take detours along the way if you want to log in a few more steps or explore other paths.

City View and Walnut Forest Trail, Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, Arroyo Seco

Distance: 2.5 miles

Time Required: 1 hour

Difficulty: Easy

Parking: Free parking in the lot by Audubon Center, enter on Griffin Ave.

Directions: From the parking lot, follow onto the Scrub Jay Trail. Take a right to connect to City View Trail. Make a left on Summit Ridge Trail, make a left on Walnut Forest Trail. Make a right to connect back to Scrub Jay and back down.

Just a short drive from downtown, Ernest E. Debs Regional Park sits on what used to be ranch land in the Arroyo Seco neighborhood.

Most Angelenos have driven by this park going to and from downtown LA without realizing this park is full of hiking trails and views!

This loop is ideal for a quick hike or late afternoon walk if you’re looking for some views of downtown LA, but be prepared for some uphill climbs.

Bird watchers, from seasoned to amateur, love this park for the variety of birdsong you can hear as you’re hiking. If you’re looking for a longer LA hike, feel free to hop onto any of the trails crisscrossing the park. Not only will you get views of different cities within LA from different sides of the park, but there are areas throughout the park that are great for a picnic.

The Audubon Center is currently closed because of Covid-19; otherwise, it’s worth checking out, especially if you’re going with kids.

Ferndell Trail to West Observatory Trail, Griffith Observatory

Distance: 2.5 miles

Time Required: 1 hour

Difficulty: Easy

Parking: Free street parking on Fern Dell Drive.

Directions: Trailhead at Fern Dell Drive

This small gem of a LA hike is right on the border of the famous Griffith Park and Observatory.

While most trails in LA are dry – the city is located in a desert, after all – the short and relatively easy trail through Ferndell doesn’t fit the mold. Even when other parts of Griffith Park are dry and dusty, especially during a drought or the scorching summer months, Ferndell stays lush and cool.

Enjoy the many varieties of both native and non-native fern, which form a shaded canopy for some respite from the sun. Along with its diverse plants, Ferndell also has many insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals to spy. Once you get to the West Observatory Trail, the hike will start to go uphill. This trail is great for a short hike, or as an oasis-like starting point to jump onto Griffith’s more challenging hikes.

Note: Fern Dell Museum, which is located at the start of the hike, is temporarily closed because of Covid-19.

Pin These LA Hikes for Later!

21 Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

One of the best things about California is the diversity of landscapes you can find within a short drive.

Even from the heart of a metropolis like Los Angeles, you can easily drive to the desert, the mountains, or the beach in a matter of just a few hours.

Some of California’s best hiking is at your doorstep, not to mention a handful of national parks, wine country, cute beachside towns, places to kayak, and cities, and even islands!

Here are the best weekend getaways from Los Angeles, perfect for an overnight trip or even a long weekend!

The Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

Catalina

Contributed by Megan Indoe of Bobo & Chichi

One of the best overnight trips from Los Angeles is off the coast of Southern California. Catalina Island is one of my favorite Southern California getaways that is a popular day trip and cruise stop for tourists. 

Even though most visitors are day-trippers, the best of the island can be enjoyed by an extended overnight stay and in our opinion is when the island comes to life.

The tiny town of Avalon is only 1 square mile and packed full of things to do for an overnight trip from food tours, kayaking through the harbor, ziplining with ocean views, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and an unforgettable movie theater in the beautifully restored historic island Casino. 

You can also bathe in the sun at Descanso Beach Club where you can have drinks and food delivered to you right on the beach looking over the Pacific Ocean or take a stroll to the botanical gardens and play a game of mini-golf.

Besides being full of activities there’s also a great food and drink scene here, if you’re anything like us you won’t want to leave.

San Diego

Contributed by Whitney of the travel blog Designs For Travel

The best overnight trip from Los Angeles is the beautiful coastal city of San Diego.  One of the most popular destinations in California, San Diego is located at the south end of California, just north of the Mexico border. 

Because of its location, you can take advantage of year-round outdoor activities in the sun. One of the best activities in San Diego is to go to the beach at Mission Beach or Pacific beach or to walk or ride a bike on the boardwalk along this stretch of the sea. 

The world-famous Balboa Park is 1200 acres and full of pleasant gardens, open space, and home to 17 museums!  The San Diego Zoo is one of the most popular activities in San Diego, and considered to be one of the top zoos in the world.  In the evening, you won’t want to miss the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from Sunset Cliffs- the colors are unbelievable!  

There are endless eating options in San Diego. Due to its proximity to Mexico, San Diego has some of the best Mexican food anywhere.  For some of the best tacos in San Diego, eat at one of the Taco Stand locations (there are three.) 

Another stand out Mexican food eatery is the Las Cuatro Milpas, with an open kitchen and only a few specialty items on the menu. For a delicious burger and fries, Hodad’s is the place to go. San Diego is well worth the 2-hour drive for a fantastic weekend getaway from Los Angeles.

Ventura

Contributed by Jenn and Ed Coleman of Coleman Concierge

Ventura is a  beautiful southern California beach city with not one, but two state beaches: San Buenaventura and McGraff for surfing and sunbathing delights. If you’re looking for something deeper, dive boats leave out of Ventura Harbor for the Channel Islands.

The Channel Islands are one of the least visited National Parks and the best places in the world to dive with sea lions, who are so playful that they earned the nickname the puppies of the sea. Ventura is also next door to the artsy and spiritual village of Ojai.

Going to Ventura is a lot like a weekend in Santa Barbara without the pretense. One could even argue that mile for mile, Main Street Ventura has more to do than State Street up the coast. The wine and tapas at Paradise Pantry delight the palate in a rustic-chic setting. If you’re looking just to chill, there’s a groovy vibe and delicious sourdough pizza at the Fluid State Beer Garden.

Of course, you can always stroll Main Street from the clock tower at Mission Park to the landmark giant fig on Chestnut Street reading the menus until something strikes your fancy. Whether you’re looking for a weekend adventure or a romantic southern California getaway, be sure to look into Ventura.

Solvang

Contributed by Ivan of Mind the Travel

If you are looking to really escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, consider taking a weekend getaway to Solvang.

This is a tiny and picturesque Danish village some 35 miles north of Santa Barbara offers up more than 18 different places to stay ranging from luxury guest ranch resorts to full-service hotels, to B&Bs.

Founded by Danes in 1911 by Danish immigrants, Solvang is home to a number of Danish shops and restaurants serving Danish food. In addition, this beautiful wine country getaway features unique architecture, historic attractions, and wedding venues.

Dubbed “California’s Denmark,” Solvang is a go-to place if you are fond of Danish culture. With plenty of windmills and similar European designs, visitors can also admire documents and a collection of Hans Christaian Andersen’s paper cuttings in his eponymous museum.

Aside from a museum dedicated to a famous Danish writer in Solvang you’ll find the Elverhoj Museum of Danish History, the Mission Santa Inés, the Solvang Festival Theater, and, of course, a cool Vintage Motorcycle Museum.

Situated in the Santa Ynez Valley, the city has more than 20 wine tasting rooms, which can easily keep you busy for a day or more. Solvang also has some attractive eating establishments including Mortenson’s Danish Bakery, Bit O’ Denmark, and Hadsten House Attachments area.

Temecula Valley

Contributed by Laura Lynch of Savored Sips

The Temecula Valley, just an hour and 45 minutes from Los Angeles, has many of the best features of California – rolling hills, beautiful valleys, vineyards, and a lovely old town center. All of these things make Temecula the perfect overnight getaway from Los Angeles.

The biggest reason to visit Temecula is to leave the city behind and immerse yourself in the spectacular outdoors. There’s unlimited hiking, biking, and walking trails, plus some of the best wine country in California. Fancy a hot air balloon ride over the valley?

Another reason to visit is the farm-to-table cuisine being made at creative restaurants like E.A.T Marketplace and Cork Fire Kitchen. There are also craft breweries and local products, like olive oil and lavender bath soaps.

Visit the De Portola Wine Trail along the rural roads of the countryside. Cougar Vineyards & Winery is family owned and operated. They specialize in 100% Estate Italian varietals like Primitivo and Montepulciano. A little way down the road is the Italian-countryside inspired Danza del Sol Winery that’s very dog-friendly. Fazeli Cellars has an amazing view of the valley and their Shiraz is outstanding.

The Temecula Creek Inn is a great place to stay with a view of the Santa Ana Mountains. It’s close to the wineries, but not too far from Old Town Temecula, with its frontier-style storefronts that will make you feel like you’re shopping in an old Western film. If you’re wondering why, visit the Temecula Valley Museum to learn the town’s history.

Santa Barbara

Contributed by Maggie Turansky of The World Was Here First

One of the best (and most popular) overnight trips from Los Angeles is to the charming city of Santa Barbara. Located about two hours north of LA, this beautiful coastal city makes for the perfect weekend getaway from LA and is filled with fun and interesting things to do.

Known for its laid-back atmosphere and vibrant nightlife, Santa Barbara is home to a University of California campus and, therefore it is a thriving student town. However, the city isn’t all about nightlife. Spending a day or two in Santa Barbara can include taking in the iconic Stearns Wharf, walking along the lovely beach, browsing the shops on State Street and enjoying some of the fantastic restaurants the city has to offer.

If you’re looking to get a bit more active, Santa Barbara is the perfect destination to try your hand at surfing, paddle boarding, or kayaking. If you’d rather stay dry but still get your heart rate up, there are also countless hiking trails within easy reach of the city. 

And finally, one of the best things about Santa Barbara is its proximity to the incredible wineries in the nearby Santa Inez Valley and, because of this, there are countless tasting rooms throughout the city where you can sample local vintages. Make sure to look into the Urban Wine Trails, where you can walk from wine bar to wine bar and sample some local reds, whites and roses without having to worry about driving!

All in all, a weekend getaway to Santa Barbara is never a bad idea!

Mount Whitney

Contributed by Allison of She Dreams of Alpine

If you’re looking for an overnight trip from Los Angeles that includes a huge outdoor adventure, then make the 3-hour drive north to Lone Pine in the Eastern Sierras. From there, you can attempt to day-hike Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet, or visit one of the many other great hiking trails in the Sierras.

As the crown jewel of California, Mount Whitney is an extremely popular hike, and a permit is required. It’s also no small feat, so training and advanced preparation are an absolute must. If you’re making a more spur-of-the-moment trip, the Lone Pine Lake hike follows the beginning of the Mt. Whitney Trail but ends at an alpine lake which is perfect for a picnic with a backdrop of amazing views of the Sierras. This hike is much easier than the full Mt. Whitney summit hike, and you don’t need a permit.

To fuel up for whichever hike you choose, the Mt. Whitney Portal store offers cheap yet delicious breakfasts and excellent burgers and beer. If you prefer pizza after an outdoor adventure, Pizza Factory in Lone Pine is a great option. And for a fun diversion before heading back to LA, drive along “Movie Road” for a self-guided tour of the Alabama Hills locations where over 400 films have been shot.

San Luis Obispo

Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Located on California’s beautiful central coast, San Luis Obispo is a charming and very popular getaway destination from Los Angeles, and one of the nicest places to stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

Wandering the streets of charming downtown SLO is great fun, with lots of small unique stores to browse. You can stock up on artisanal olive oils, wine, and cheeses, and admire the antiques and handmade crafts on display. On Thursday evenings, a downtown SLO farmers’ market featuring fresh flowers and produce, street music, and lots of prepared foods is a huge draw.

While in the downtown area, don’t miss the 18th century Spanish Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa built by Father Junipero Serra. The local art museum showcases works by Californian and other American artists. And there are lots of art galleries in town to browse as well.

Just outside town, the vineyards of Edna Valley offer picturesque views along with tastings of world-class wines. And just 10 minutes from town is the fabulous Montana de Oro State Park, which offers lots of great hiking. Suitable for most visitors, the Bluff Trail is an easy walk that offers spectacular water views and opportunities to spot aquatic life in season.

There are numerous great restaurants in SLO. Big Sky Cafe is a super popular casual eatery offering international choices. Weekend breakfast or brunch at Big Sky Cafe is very popular. Novo Restaurant, by the creek in downtown SLO, is a highly-rated fine dining place offering global fare with California flair. If you enjoy seafood, head to Ciopinot Seafood Grille: it has a delicious cioppino on the menu!

Big Bear

Contributed by Skye Class of Skye Travels

One of my favorite overnight excursions from Los Angeles, when I don’t want to drive as far as Mammoth or Yosemite, is Big Bear. There’s nothing better than hitting the ski slopes at Bear Mountain – one of the closest ski resorts to Los Angeles. In the summer, the slopes turn into hiking and mountain biking trails.

Bear Mountain isn’t the only place to hike. In fact, there are dozens of trails starting from the highway that rings the lake. There’s not one I would recommend over another; they’ll all take you in the trees and mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest. Seeing a bit of green can be a luxury when you’re visiting or live in Los Angeles.

Although you can take the highways directly through San Bernardino to Big Bear, I prefer to take the 15 up to Victorville and then the 16 down to Big Bear. This way I get to traverse the High Desert, and possibly even catch the sunrise over the mountains.

Although there are some really nice restaurants in Big Bear, I have to recommend a picnic on the shores of Bear Lake instead… at least in the summer. In the winter, my meal of choice was usually nachos at the ski lodge.

Salton Sea

Contributed by Lisa of TheHotFlashPacker

The Salton Sea is an accidentally created lake about 227 feet under sea level in the Sonoran Desert. The east side of the Salton Sea makes for a great overnight trip from Los Angeles. 

There are several attractions off of Highway 111.  n the south end of the lake, you can go birding at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge and see the natural mud volcanoes.  f you’re into art and Instagram, you must visit the surreal art installations at Slab City named Salvation Mountain and East Jesus. 

At mid-sea, you should stop into the town of Bombay Beach to see the permanent art installations from the Bombay Beach Biennale art festival.  They have a very unique drive-in movie theater. Visit the beach in Bombay Beach, or at the state’s Salton Sea Recreation area. The crunching under your feet as you walk the beach is dead fish bones! 

And don’t miss the sunset – the Salton Sea has gorgeous sunsets. For food, you should stop at the Ski Inn in Bombay Beach. It’s the lowest bar in the Western Hemisphere and they serve bar food, or head over to the American Legion where they serve different meals several days a week.

For dessert, head north to have a Banana Shake at the International Banana Museum in North Shore or a Date Shake at Oasis Date Gardens. The best time to visit the Salton Sea is fall, winter, or spring. Summer can be unbearably hot, at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day!

Idyllwild

Contributed by Masha from Fingertip Travels

Idyllwild is a little mountain town deep within the San Jacinto Mountains. It’s hard to believe that it’s only a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles: surrounded by national forest and at a mile-high elevation, it’s a secluded mountain retreat that feels worlds away from the largest metropolis in California. 

Idyllwild is the perfect weekend getaway from Los Angeles for nature-lovers. There’s heaps of hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing, and biking. The hiking ranges from easy nature walks to the advanced summit of Mount San Jacinto (20-mile round trip). A good moderate hike is Suicide Rock via the Deer Springs Trail (6.5-mile round trip).

Suicide Rock and Tahquitz Peak are two granite peaks just outside of Idyllwild. Both are popular rock climbing destinations, attracting multitudes of rock climbers every weekend. Tahquitz especially has a lot of California rock climbing history attached to it, as much of the sport was advanced here in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. 

For a break from outdoor adventures, the town of Idyllwild is a great place to relax. It has a decidedly ‘artsy’ vibe, with a couple of gift shops and galleries that are fun to browse. There are great restaurants and cafes for nourishment. I’m a fan of Cafe Aroma, I love coming into town straight from a climb and stuffing my face with their delicious bread and garlic olive oil dip. 

Paso Robles

Contributed by Francesca from Homeroom Travel

Paso Robles, located about 3 hours from Los Angeles, is a fantastic destination for an overnight trip from Los Angeles. It is the perfect destination for wine lovers, as wine tasting in Paso Robles is the major attraction.

There are over 200 wineries in the region and the backdrop provides gorgeous scenery. Some of the best wineries include Sculpterra, Halter Ranch, and Tablas Creek. Sculpterra is the perfect stop to bring a picnic lunch. You can even buy a bottle of wine to drink there! Halter Ranch has some of the prettiest views in the area. Tablas Creek produces many highly rated Rhone-style wines.

Besides going wine tasting, visitors can also visit the Firestone Brewery, take a stroll through the adorable downtown area, visit one of several museums in the area, or take a dip in the Franklin Hot Springs. Museums of the area include a children’s museum, an art museum, and a history museum.

Grab a bite to eat at Basil Thai Restaurant, which has delicious Thai food and Boba. Another great spot is Pony Club Wine Bar, which serves more pub fare and has a wide assortment of wine. Many of the wineries also offer small bites to eat or have an on-site restaurant. Overall, Paso Robles makes for a fun getaway from Los Angeles.

Montecito

Contributed by Priya Vin from Outside Suburbia

Not too far from Santa Barbara in Southern California sits the exclusive Montecito community.  With Santa Ynez mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, it enjoys a Mediterranean-like climate. For decades it has drawn celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Rob Lowe, Oprah, and Ellen DeGeneres.

This part of SoCal which is an easy California road trip from LA is ultra-luxurious and a well-kept secret. You can stay at the fabulous Rosewood resort at Miramar Beach. The resort takes its name from its stunning location on one of the most pristine and sandy beaches in California.

The resort has beautiful Bungalows and Lanai House guestrooms with views of the Santa Ynez mountains or the ocean.  Montecito is only about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles but feels worlds away.

We spent a week there and fell in love with the area.  There is so much to do – from visiting the eclectic gardens of Madam Ganna, wine tasting in one of the many tasting rooms in Santa Barbara, checking out the historic pier at Stearns Wharf and riding a surrey or bikes by the coast. 

Don’t miss a meal at Bouchon, one of the best places for dinner in Santa Barbara. And Tre Lune Ristorante is another must, located on Coast Village Rd in Montecito, is serves authentic Italian fare. You will see a wall with tiny chairs of the people (including Oprah!) who frequent the place and are never refused a seat at the table.

Torrance

Contributed by Ayngelina Brogan of Bacon is Magic

Torrance is part of Los Angeles County, it’s only 16 miles from LAX and it’s an absolute gem that more people should know about.

If you’re looking to visit an uncrowded beach, Torrance Beach is small 1.5 mile stretch of oasis. The area was original developed for the Hollywood Riviera residents but is now a public area. If you have a bike it is part of the 22 mile coastal bike path that heads to Santa Monica. If you want to get away from it all, this is the place to be.

While Torrance is home to the large Del Amo Fashion Center one of the most popular reasons to visit are the Torrance restaurants, which are known for their diversity and authenticity.

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen is sister restaurant of a famous ramen restaurant in Japan. But what makes it special is that they use the same recipe as the restaurant in Japan. They haven’t adapted it for western tastes. You are able to eat the same ramen they make in Japan.

Madre! Oaxacan Restaurant and Mezcaleria specializes in food from Oaxaca. It’s also a mezcaleria with 350 kinds of mezcal as well as tequila.

King’s Hawaiian Bakery is famous on the Hawaiian islands for its its Portuguese sweet bread. Its mainland office became a restaurant and is a local favourite serving hearty breakfasts like loco moco.

Save room for dessert because the paradise cake is a tropical fruit layered cake made with guava, passionfruit and lime chiffon. It’s beautiful, light and the perfect size for sharing

Conejo Valley

Contributed by Charles McCool of McCool Travel

Conejo Valley is a fun 45-minute escape northwest from downtown Los Angeles (easy directions, take highway 101 between both). In Conejo Valley, you can find amazing hiking and natural scenery, movie and TV filming locations, a US Presidential library, and fun scenic drives to the glorious Malibu beaches and Hollywood.

Highway 101 splits Conejo Valley like a hamburger roll. On the north side, be sure to visit a surprise waterfall—hike to Paradise Falls in the Arroyo Conejo Open Space, accessed through Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, walk through his Air Force One airplane, see a portion of the Berlin Wall, and absorb breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

South of 101, see where Westworld and hundreds of other Hollywood movies and shows were filmed at Paramount Ranch. The village of Cornell is very funky and Cornell Winery is a fun stop. Across the street, the Peter Strauss Ranch hosts concerts and other events during the summer but is also a great spot for a stroll or picnic. Explore the canyon roads while heading south on 23 or Las Virgenes Road, and end up on the gorgeous beaches of Malibu. The classic Mulholland Highway is a must-do drive at least once in your life.

Wonderful places to eat in Conejo Valley include Stella’s in Newbury Park, Jink’s in Agoura Hills, and Ladyface for craft beer and good food (and perhaps cast and crew sightings from Paramount Ranch filmings). When in Malibu, do not miss the oceanfront setting of places like Moonshadow and Gladstones.

Carlsbad

Contributed by Gina Tarnacki of Evergreen & Salt

Carlsbad is a coastal city in North Country San Diego that is about two hours from LA (depending on traffic of course).

Carlsbad is known for its surfer lifestyle vibe, lovely state beach, and lively downtown area called Carlsbad Village. You’ll want to spend a large majority of your time in Carlsbad Village doing some shopping, stopping for an al fresco pint of local craft beer (check out Park 101 or Barrel Republic) or a wine tasting (Paon and Witch Creek both do tastings).

For beaches, Carlsbad State Beach is located right off of the western edge of Carlsbad Village. Those planning to do some surfing while in Carlsbad will want to head a bit farther south to Tamarack Beach for the best waves.

For more water sports, the Carlsbad Lagoon is a fun place to spend a few hours. You can rent kayaks and paddleboards to go on for a leisurely ride around the lagoon, rent a boat and try some waterskiing, or get your adrenaline racing by zipping around the water on a Jet Ski.

If you’re looking for things to do in Carlsbad with kids — or you’re a kid at heart — you can’t miss Carlsbad’s most famous attraction: Legoland California. Located in southern Carlsbad just a couple miles from the coast, Legoland California is a Lego-themed amusement park with rides and games plus an onsite aquarium and water park.

For dinner, head to family-friendly Pizza Port, gather with friends at Compass, or opt for a more romantic meal at Paon. After dinner, head back to the beach to take in one of Carlsbad’s stunning sunsets. 

Anza Borrego State Park

Contributed by Kay from The Awkward Traveller

About 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles lies the Anza-Borrego State Park. The state park is a sprawling desert filled with wildflowers and massive boulders on the edge of the Coachella valley. If Joshua Tree and the Badlands National Parks had a baby, Anza-Borrego would be the result.

For an overnight trip, consider embracing nature and sleep beneath the stars at once of the campsites. Or there are many small rooms and hip trailers in the nearby town of Borrego Springs, the only California town completely surrounded by a state park AND the only California town that is a dedicated International Dark Sky Community, dedicated to protecting the night sky from light pollution.

While in the park, Split Mountain is a fun short hike that leads to an easily accessible (but narrow!) slot canyon conveniently named The Slot. If you are inclined to eat among the wildflowers, pack a lunch to picnic at Coyote Canyon! Otherwise, head back into Borrego Springs for a bit at Carlee’s Place or Kendall’s Cafe!

Then explore the many giant sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda located randomly throughout the town, about 130 in total! They are fantastic iron pieces, reminiscent of the pop art show “Desert X” that takes place every other year in Coachella Valley. You can also view art from the comfort of an air-conditioned building at the Borrego Art Institute!

Eat dinner at Coyote Steakhouse then settle into your accommodations to stargaze with a happy stomach and a clear head. In the morning before you head home, grab breakfast at Red Ocotillo then squeeze in one more hike at Borrego Palm Canyon! This short hike will lead you to an oasis of palms and wildlife such as golden eagles and bighorn sheep (borrego in Spanish). 

Lake Arrowhead

Contributed by Jenifer Byington of The Evolista

A weekend in Lake Arrowhead is a total escape from Los Angeles. In less than 2 hours, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the tall trees of the San Bernardino National Forest taking in views of a sparkling blue lake. It’s the perfect spot to rejuvenate in the fresh mountain air and enjoy lake life.

Since the lake is private, you need to coordinate with a company to take you out on the water. McKenzie ski school is the go-to for waterskiing. The Lake Arrowhead Queen offers a one hour cruise around the perimeter where you can see some of the homes used for filming Hollywood movies. Adventurers can also walk the 10-mile path around the lake but the 2.5-mile hike to nearby Aztec Falls is a lot more fun.

A trip to Lake Arrowhead Village for breakfast at Belgian Waffle Works is a decadent treat. Later, a little shopping, drinks and tacos on El Papagayo’s outdoor lake-view deck and the village free Summer Concert Series are great ways to wind up the day. Kids will enjoy the rides at Lollipop park, while bigger kids love the arcade at Village Pizza.

Some of the best restaurants in the area are outside of the village. No trip to Arrowhead would be complete without a meal at scrumptious Lou Eddie’s Pizza, in a setting so pretty, they have weddings there. Fine dining at The Grill at Antler’s Inn and Stone Creek Bistro are also truly delicious. 

By the time you are ready to head home, you will feel like you really went away on vacation, which is what makes Lake Arrowhead so special.

Long Beach

Contributed by Heather Trimm of Trimm Travels

One of the things I loved about living in Los Angeles is that there are so many cool places to get out of the city for an easy overnight trip. A favorite of mine is the port town of Long Beach, California.


Located only 30 minutes (without traffic) from downtown LA, Long Beach is a coastal community packed full of things to do. Among my favorites are spending the night on the Queen Mary, a former ocean liner-turned-museum ship that is rumored to be haunted.

Take advantage of daily tours, nightly ghost tours, murder mystery dinners shows, Sunday brunches, and even dog festivals. At night, the colorful view of Long Beach from the Queen Mary can’t be topped!

I also love visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific where they have a shark lagoon, penguin habitat, animal encounters, sea otter habitat, and many educational programs. After a visit to the aquarium, make the short walk over to Shoreline Aquatic Park and see the Lions Lighthouse. It is actually a ten-story faux lighthouse built by the Lions Club and dedicated to ending blindness in the world.


Additionally, visit the beaches, take in the beautiful sunsets Long Beach has to offer, go on whale-watching cruises, and check out the nightlife. 


Be sure to grab dinner at Parker’s Lighthouse, an upscale restaurant featuring Southern California seafood dishes, steaks, and sushi. Its views of Long Beach Harbor are amazing! For more casual eats, try Long Beach Cafe offering all-day breakfast or Vibes Beach Cafe that literally has a little of everything on its menu. 


Whatever you choose to do, Long Beach is a fantastic way to get out of the big city into a quiet, more intimate setting providing a much needed overnight getaway from LA!

Palm Springs

Contributed by Wendy Lee of Empty Nesters Hit the Road

If you’re looking for a great overnight trip from Los Angeles, you can’t go wrong with Palm Springs. In under two hours you’ll arrive in this desert oasis where you’ll find a wide selection of sightseeing, shopping and dining. This retro-chic city was once the playground of Hollywood stars, but today is a much loved destination for Angelenos looking for a fun and relaxing getaway.

If hiking is your passion, head to Indian Canyons where you’ll find eight trails ranging in distance from one to twelve miles. Home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, this area is full of natural and human history. If you’d prefer to explore a local museum, check out the Palm Springs Art Museum. This expansive institution is home to 28 galleries and two sculpture gardens. One of the most unique things to do in the area is the Palm Springs Windmill Tour. Over the course of two hours you’ll learn about the importance of wind power and why it’s so popular in this region.

After all that activity it’s time to eat. If you enjoy Vietnamese fare, then try the local favorite, Rooster & Pig on Indian Canyon Drive. Regulars recommend crunchy Jasmine tea leaf salad, pork belly fried rice, or the chicken-stuffed rice ball served atop yellow curry. For really good Mexican food head to El Jeffe in The Saguaro Hotel. If you’re here on Tuesdays you’ll enjoy cheap margaritas and tacos. Sandfish by Engin onural offers really fresh sushi along with international dishes and a great selection of Japanese whiskeys.

Laguna Beach

Contributed by Christina Grance from Live a Wilder Life

After having lived in Los Angeles for 15 years, I did my fair share of road trips to escape for a weekend. Whenever I needed an easy one night getaway from the city of angels, I loved hopping in my car and driving to nearby Laguna Beach.

Its picture-perfect cliffs, the small beach community, and the lively art scene offer just enough for the casual overnight trip from Los Angles. If visiting for the first time, one of the best things to do is is to check out Main Beach and spend a few hours strolling through the boutique shops within walking distance from the beach.

Another fabulous beach to check out is Aliso Beach, with its aquamarine water and powder-soft sand. If you visit in the morning, you’ll be able to splash around and explore the tide pools.

A popular, as well as a delicious place to eat, is fan-favorite Nick’s Laguna Beach. It’s classic American fare at affordable prices. If you want to splurge on something nice, then a visit to Top Chef contender Broadway by Amar Santana is a must-do.

If you’ve been to Laguna Beach before and are wanting to explore beyond the main drag, a great option is to do a whale watching tour. The Pacific Ocean is home to migrating whales that make their way down to Mexico. Depending on when you visit, you can see grey whales, humpback whales, and the best of all…. blue whales. The last time I went, I was able to see four blue whales. It’s a sight you’ll never forget.

La Jolla

Contributed by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery

One of the best places to explore and also enjoy sunset views for a nice overnight trip from LA has to be in La Jolla, just north of San Diego.

An easy trip to this colorful coastal community, late May to summer is a great time with all the wild flowers coming up in the coastal areas and the cliffs dotting the shorelines are filled with stunning color on all the flowers in bloom, it’s a perfect photo op moment.

One of the best experiences in visiting the city outside of the fabulous beaches is to see the sunset along the coastline and viewing the end of the day while taking a nice long walk on the paved promenades there. There are also many coastal trails that are paved and easy to walk on so finding a spot along the way to enjoy the stunning views and orange to reddish hues popping up in the sky is an amazing experience.  

What’s also fun in visiting this lovely city is to explore the town itself with the main shopping venues filled with local art galleries, designer boutique stores, bakery shops and other artisanal food places along with a bevy of bars, cafes and fine dining establishments to enjoy in town. It’s fun just strolling the fashionable streets and window shopping in La Jolla and there are ample parking areas to allow you to park easily around the city.

You’ll love visiting this wonderful part of the city and experiencing sunset on the cliffs of La Jolla, the gorgeous coastlines, wildlife and also beautiful wildflowers in bloom.. For more inspiration check out this post on the top things you can do in La Jolla here for more images and ideas of what to do and see around the area. You’ll enjoy exploring this truly scenic area just north of San Diego for that magical overnight trip from LA.

17 Wonderful Weekend Getaways from San Francisco

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one thing that blew me away even growing up was the shocking diversity of day trips and weekend getaways from San Francisco. In just a 3-hour drive of the city, I could be in mountains, by pristine lakes, in historic towns, in a hippie beach town… all of that just within arm’s reach.

With the current state of the world, many people are thinking of traveling closer to home, and so I’ve gathered this list of amazing weekend and overnight trips from San Francisco, from Santa Cruz to Mendocino, that will surely scratch your travel itch while keeping you close to home.

Here are just a few phenomenal suggestions for where to go on a weekend getaway from San Francisco.

Best Weekend Getaways from San Francisco Bay Area

Napa Valley

Contributed by Priya Vin from Outside Suburbia

Napa is the quintessential weekend getaway from SF. With over 500 wineries in the region, the wine country of Napa is a lovely place for an overnight or weekend trip from San Francisco.  It makes for a nice California road trip with views of rolling hills, farms and wineries.

The Wine Country is not just about wineries, there are many upscale restaurants to try – don’t miss brunch at Auberge.  Plan to stop a few tasting rooms: Benziger Family Winery, Stags Leap, and Francis Ford Coppola Winery are three that I highly recommend visiting. Benziger Family Winery is a little further away but worth the drive. 

The winery has cute animals and practices biodynamic farming, and they have third party certification for their green farming practices. Their award-winning tour is considered one of the top 10 in the nation. Book one of their 45 minutes Biodynamic Tram Tour. After the tour, you get to taste some of the delicious wines and buy olive oils in the Tasting Room. 

Allocate some time to wander around downtown Napa or Yountville to admire all the art. Or take the Napa Valley Wine Train! The route takes you on 36-mile round trip journey that lasts three hours. You will be treated to a scrumptious meal and spectacular scenery of the famed agricultural preserve of Napa Valley. 

Even if you don’t drink wine, Napa is the perfect place to relax and unwind in the country, go on hikes and road trips. There is a lot to do in Napa Valley during your weekend getaway from San Francisco.

Half Moon Bay

Contributed by Kay of PCH1 Road Trip

For a perfect weekend trip from San Francisco or elsewhere in the Bay Area, consider a visit to Half Moon Bay. This charming city by the coast is just about 32 miles south of San Francisco and makes a perfect scenic drive down California’s Highway 1.

From San Francisco city proper, set aside an hour to reach Half Moon Bay. Along the way, you are treated to beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and orchards full of citrus trees. 

There are many things to do in Half Moon Bay and the city is perfect to spend a relaxing day. Take a stroll along Main Street and check out the historic buildings, Northeast style Victorian houses, and boutique stores. Shop for one of a kind clothes and antiques.

Half Moon Bay also has many excellent restaurants; our favorite is Sam’s Chowder House. They have delicious chowder soup and fresh buttery lobster rolls. Another great stop is the Half Moon Bay Distillery which has great craft liquors. The photogenic Pigeon Point Lighthouse is also a must-visit attraction. 

Then it is time to enjoy Half Moon Bay’s outdoor attractions. The city is famous for its soft sand beaches and the surf. The beaches are spread out over a four-mile area and form the famous crescent shape, which gives the community its name. The most popular beaches include Half Moon Bay State Beach, Miramar Beach, Naples Beach, and Francis Beach. All the beaches can be easily accessed via Highway 1.

Apart from swimming and sunning, other outdoor activities in Half Moon Bay include beachcombing, looking for tide pool creatures, hiking along the coastal trail, and whale watching cruises.

Santa Rosa

Contributed by Daria of The Discovery Nut

Located in the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country, Santa Rosa is a perfect weekend getaway from San Francisco. While Sonoma might not be as popular with tourists as the famous Napa Valley, it offers top-notch wineries and delicious local produce minus all the crowds.

If you are looking for local restaurants and shops, there’s no better place to start your trip than the historic Railroad Square, which is considered Santa Rosa’s Old Town. The city sits along the California railway which played a significant part in its history. To this day, downtown Santa Rosa has any historic buildings, bars, and pubs where locals like to hang out.

One of the best things to do in Santa Rosa is zip-lining among the coastal Redwoods. Sonoma County is home to the tallest trees in the world, which can grow as tall as 250 feet! Head to the redwood forest of the Pacific Coast not far from Santa Rosa for some zip-lining experience.

And finally, check out one of many wineries in Sonoma County! The area offers a good mix of wineries that cater to adults and families, where you can even bring your own picnic, and enjoy the nice atmosphere. Some of the best wineries near Santa Rosa are Paradise Ridge that overlooks the Russian River Valley from atop the rolling hills; Pellegrini that is accessible via a gorgeous drive through 70 acres of vineyards; and St. Francis, located in Sonoma Valley.

After spending your day in the Santa Rosa area, it’s time to grab a bite. Head to Cozy Plum at 1899 Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa that offers mouth-watering vegan food. If you ever thought that plant-based food is boring, this place will prove you wrong with its delicious options!

Santa Rosa is just one of many cool weekend trips from San Francisco. If you have more time, take a day trip to South Lake Tahoe for some fun kayaking, camping, and hiking.

Yosemite National Park

Contributed by Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular national parks to visit as a weekend trip from San Francisco due to its close distance from San Francisco, its amazing granite rock formations, and gushing waterfalls. You can easily spend a day in Yosemite National Park seeing all of those things! 

Start by exploring Yosemite Valley, from here you’ll get beautiful views all around of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. There is a short 1 mile loop that gets you to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls however if you’re in for a longer hike you can hike to the top of the Lower Yosemite Falls or even all the way up to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. 

If you’re down for a more strenuous hike, take the Mist Trail up to the base of Half Dome, or you can also climb up Half Dome (if you get a permit). The Mist Trail takes you up a climb of 4,800 feet in elevation on a well-trod but potentially slippery granite trail passing by Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls on the way. If you are able to climb Half Dome, be sure to bring climbing gloves, you’ll need the grip to hold onto the cables that traverse the side of the rock!

For snacks to take on your hike, check out the Village Store. The shop has ready-to-eat food great for the trail such as granola bars, sandwiches, and more. If you’re aching to sit down for some grub, the Village Grill offers casual American fare with open outdoor seating if the weather permits. 

The Yosemite Valley is absolutely gorgeous and it’s well worth the visit, especially when you’re visiting San Francisco.

Santa Cruz

Contributed by Hannah of Getting Stamped

Just over an hour’s drive from San Francisco, Santa Cruz is an ideal overnight trip. Santa Cruz is said to be one of the most beautiful beach towns in California, full of the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. 

One of the first stops to make in Santa Cruz is Natural Bridges State Beach. Best known for its unique and incredible rock formation on the coast, the state beach is also home to tide pools full of wildlife, like sea stars and crabs. Lighthouse Field State Beach is another great spot to check out. 

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is another attraction to check out. Explore California’s oldest amusement park with thrilling rides or step down to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation and water sports. 

Santa Cruz is also home to over 70 different wineries and taste rooms, so wine tasting is a must on your weekend getaway. For vineyard views, Ridge Vineyards or Beauregard Vineyards are great options. 

When looking for the best eats in Santa Cruz, make sure to check out the Santa Cruz Wharf. Choose from dozens of fun bars and gourmet restaurants with amazing views of the ocean. Another great place to check out is Abbott Square Market, which is filled with restaurants and cute cafes.

Tuolomne County (Gold Country)

Contributed by Teresa of Brogan Abroad

Located two and half hours from San Francisco, Tuolumne County offers something for everyone, making it the perfect getaway from San Francisco.

Over half of Yosemite National Park is within Tuolumne County, and together with the High Sierra they offer plenty of outdoor activities. Gold Country has a lot to offer too, and is the perfect place to learn about the history of the Gold Rush era.

Columbia is the best-preserved Gold Rush town in California, and it’s the perfect place to start exploring the area. It’s now a State Historic Park and here you can find the state’s largest collection of structures of the period. Don’t miss Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen for some homemade marshmallows, and St Charles Saloon for their famous pickle pizza – yes, you read that right… pickle pizza!

Another town worth a visit is Jamestown, the very first spot where gold was found in 1849. Several of the buildings here date back to the 1870s and 1880s, including The Historic National Hotel. The hotel was once a speakeasy, a brothel, and a gambling parlor and it is famously haunted.

Jamestown is also famous for being the filming location of countless Wild West films such as Unforgiven, Back To The Future III, and Lassie. You can see some of the props used for these films at the Railroad 1897 State Historic Park, in the edge of town, where you can also take a ride on an original steam locomotive.

If you enjoy a glass (or three) of wine, Jamestown has two fantastic places where you can enjoy a tasting. Gianelli Vineyards Tasting Room specializes in Italian grapes, and Inner Sanctum Cellars has award-winning wines produced with locally grown grapes. You may need to stay with the ghost at The National Hotel after you finish the tastings though!

Livermore Valley

Contributed by Lori of Travlinmad

Just 35 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area is the Livermore Valley, a relatively undiscovered wine country gem with outstanding restaurants, outdoor activities like cycling, hiking Mt. Diablo, horseback riding, and of course tasting the famous Livermore Valley wines.

The Livermore Valley has over 50 wineries, 23 craft breweries, and a small craft distillery called Sidewinder Spirits that specializes in vintage cocktails and crafting excellent spirits — definitely worth a visit and tasting. For amazing (and award-winning) wines, two of our favorites were Retzlaff Vineyards and Murietta’s Well. Most of the local wineries are small and family-owned, allowing visitors the opportunity to chat with many of the winemakers.

But what’s truly unique about the Livermore Valley when it comes to wine tasting is how close the wineries are in proximity — close enough that biking or walking will easily bring you to up to 8 local wineries. Pedego, the local electric bike rental company, runs wine-tasting tours by bike, or you can rent one on your own for your own leisurely winery tour. If you’d rather not bike or drive, take the Livermore Wine Trolley to get around.

History lovers will enjoy exploring one of the area’s historical landmarks and earliest vineyards — Ravenswood Historical Site, which offers free public tours. Also worth a visit is the Duarte Garage & Lincoln Highway Museum built in 1915, which feature unique antique automobiles and vintage firetrucks.

With over 150 restaurants in the area, finding dining choices for everyone is never a problem. Movies lovers should check out Bridges in Danville, the restaurant made famous in Robin Williams’ comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. For next-level tasting menus and wine pairings, don’t miss Sabio on Main in nearby Pleasanton.

Plan a trip around the Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration held on Labor Day Sunday or the Livermore Downtown Street Fest, the area’s premier annual festival. 

Carmel-By-The-Sea

Contributed by Gwen of Healthy Travel Mom

Located on the coast just two hours south of San Francisco is the little town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint, European-style village nestled above a beautiful beach where everything is within walking distance. With its cobblestone streets, whimsical architecture, hidden courtyards. and ubiquitous flowers and cypress trees, the best word to describe Carmel is charming.

But that does not mean there isn’t plenty to do! Carmel is home to numerous art galleries, boutiques, spas, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and even several theaters.

But perhaps the most popular activity in Carmel is the beach! With its soft white sand and crashing waves, Carmel Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of California, and you can walk there from just about anywhere is Carmel. Plus, it’s a beautiful dog-friendly beach!

There is also a Scenic Bluff Path that meanders through cypress trees and landscaped gardens to Carmel Point. Walk along the jagged coastline from Carmel Beach to Carmel River Beach with views from famed Pebble Beach to Point Lobos.

Speaking of incredible views, one thing you absolutely must do when visiting Carmel is the 17-Mile Drive. For a $10 entrance fee (worth every penny and refundable if you stop for lunch!) you can spend an hour or hour driving the most beautiful coastline in the world and stopping at more than a dozen photo opps and points of interest between Carmel and Monterey.

The 17-Mile Drive is home to the Lone Cypress, a beautiful Cypress tree that has braved the elements for more than 250 years from its spot jutting from the rocks against the Pacific Ocean.

Avila Beach

Contributed by Gina of Evergreen and Salt

Avila Beach is an off-the-radar central coast California beach town that often gets overlooked for more well-known locales like Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach.

But if you’re both a beach lover and wine connoisseur, you don’t want to miss out on all the beautiful and fun things to do in Avila Beach!

Located just 15 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach is right on the perimeter of Central Coast California wine country and it shows; numerous wine tasting rooms are located in the small downtown area of Avila Beach, just steps from the ocean.

Sip a glass of wine before taking a walk down the wide expanse of sand before heading to a local cafe for some ice cream or a seafood restaurant for local delicacies. Peloton Cellars is a charming tasting room that is airy and bright, serving up some excellent Cabernets and Pinots from the nearby wine region.

A quick walk away Alapay Cellars Tasting Room, another fun place to wine taste at thanks to its beachy decor. For dinner, check out the seafood entrees at Custom House, which also has gorgeous views.

A quick drive from the downtown area will take you to Avila Beach’s Port San Luis Pier, where more eateries worth checking out await, such as Mersea’s Seafood Restaurant located right on the pier and Fat Cats Cafe across from the pier that has a delicious breakfast.

The pier itself is lovely to walk around, with the chance to see sea lions frolicking around below. A short drive past the pier is Point San Luis Lighthouse, which is open to visitors who wish to take a guided tour of the unique lighthouse. 

San Luis Obispo

Contributed by Megan of Bobo & Chichi

One of the best places to visit in Central California on an overnight trip from San Francisco is San Luis Obispo, also known by its nickname SLO.
San Luis Obispo offers some gorgeous California coastal views from your car with tons of places to pull over and stop off and enjoy some of the most dramatic California coastline all to yourself as well as being located in the heart of Central California’s wine country.

One attraction not to be missed is touring the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon. This former home to media mogul William Hearst was a playground for Hollywood stars in the 1920s. 

The home itself is incredible to tour but what makes it even more interesting are the stories of celebrity guests from yesteryear to go along with this lavish home.

Other cool attractions include wine tasting through Paso Robles and SLO Valley, the Guadalupe Nipomo San Dunes, the small beach town of Pismo Beach, and the dramatic coastline at Morro Bay.

And the most iconic place to stay is the eclectic Madonna Inn with its over the top themed rooms from pink glitter to a caveman room built around rocks and boulders!

Lake Tahoe

Contributed by Meg Atteberry of Fox in the Forest

If you’re looking for an adventure-filled city-break from San Francisco, look no further than Lake Tahoe. Straddling the state line between Nevada and California, this gem-colored mountain lake offers up epic mountain beauty. Located just over 3 hours from downtown San Francisco, you’ll find yourself in another world.

One incredible way to enjoy the scenery is to head out on one of the best hiking trails in Lake Tahoe. Hikes in the Desolation Wilderness, along with the simple, 20-minute hike to Cave Rock are a few local favorites. Avid hikers can take on the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile thru-hike that skirts the rim of the lake.

If you don’t like to hike there’s still plenty to do, from scenic drives, to casino nights! Those who need to be in the heart of the action stay in the bustling South Lake. Complete with high-rise casinos and a solid nightlife, you’ll have plenty of entertainment right at your fingertips.

If you’re seeking solitude, stay at the more local Tahoe City or Incline Village, along the northern shore. Here you’ll find much more of a small mountain town feel, perfect for relaxing in nature. Either way, no stop to Lake Tahoe is complete without snagging a delicious rotisserie style burrito at T’s. This cash-only hot spot is perfect for a satisfying post-hike snack, or grab one to-go for a day at the beach.

You’ll love Lake Tahoe so much, you might want to stay more than just one night. However, if you’re just looking for a quick San Francisco getaway, you can’t beat the glittering shores of Lake Tahoe.

Mount Shasta and Lassen National Forest

Contributed by Skye Class of Skye Travels

When asked about National Parks around San Francisco, most people think of Yosemite or the Sierras, but another option is to head up north to the Shasta and Lassen National Forests. These national parks span over 4,000 square miles, so there’s plenty to do.

In Lassen, I’d highly recommend the Lassen Volcanic National Park with its sulfur flats (plug your nose) and plethra of geysers. These are one of the few sulfur springs in the US (along with Yellowstone) and are really fun to explore…if you can get over the smell of million-year-old eggs.

Another great option is the Lake Shasta Caverns. After a cruise across the lake, delve into the limestone caves to see just creative and beautiful nature can be. The cruise might be a little dated, but the 250 million-year-old caves only get better with age.

Finally, there’s Mt. Shasta, the fifth-highest peak in California – over 14,000 feet. There are dozens of hikes to choose from, ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to 4 hours (depending on your pace). For those more adventurous, hit the slopes at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park on the southern side of the mountain for skiing in the winter or mountain biking in the summer.

If you’re looking for a bite to eat, you’ll probably end up in Redding. As a lover of Thai food, I’d recommend Janya’s Thai Cuisine, a hole-in-the-wall serving some mean curries.

Healdsburg

Contributed by Jenifer of The Evolista

Healdsburg is a quaint and charming small town in Sonoma that makes a perfect weekend getaway. A 90-minute drive from San Francisco puts you front and center for the best Northern California has to offer, making it an excellent weekend getaway from San Francisco.

One of the biggest draws to the area is definitely the wine. You could spend multiple days wine tasting and visiting vineyards. Seghesio Family Vineyards, Gustafson Family Vineyards, and Jordan Vineyard & Winery are three of the best. But there really are so many to choose from, you can’t go wrong.

If you love outdoor adventure, take a half or full-day, self-guided rafting trip through vineyards and redwoods. This part of the Russian River has incredible wildlife and you can pack a picnic lunch into your inflatable canoe.

If you want to stick closer to the historic Healdsburg square, rent bikes and enjoy a leisurely cruise around town. It’s a great chance to sneak in a little shopping at one of the many boutiques. 

A trip to Healdsburg wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the culinary genius of chef Charlie Palmer at Dry Creek Kitchen. The farm to table gourmet fare is paired with delicious wines for a most memorable evening. Breakfast at The Parish Cafe is straight out of Louisiana with Beignets and Breakfast Po’ Boys.

If you can make time for a picnic during your weekend in Healdsburg, grab sandwiches from super popular Dry Creek General Store, but get there early to avoid the long line.

Healdsburg is a great place to get outside of San Francisco to enjoy the fresh air and wine country vistas. Enjoy!

Paso Robles

Contributed by Stefania of Every Steph

Paso Robles is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway from San Francisco if you’re looking for peace, stunning landscapes, hip restaurants and boutiques, and of course, plenty of wineries. In fact, Paso Robles is a wonderful alternative to the wine country of Napa and Sonoma.

Some of the best wineries in Paso Robles to check out are Eberle Winery, Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden and, if you’re looking for something super traditional, Tobin James that resembles an old saloon. You can go for wine tastings and a tour of the properties.

But what if you’re not into wine? No worries. I lived in Paso Robles in 2007 as an exchange student at the local high school, and of course, the wineries weren’t an option!

There are quite a few other things to do in Paso Robles, including walking around charming Paso Robles Downtown, visit an oil producer, and relax at the hot springs.  And if you have some extra time, there are plenty of great destinations on the Central Coast of California that are just 30 minutes to one hour away.

Looking for some restaurant suggestions? For sophisticated comfort food, head to The Hatch, while for a hearty, traditional small-town breakfast choose Joe’s Place.

Monterey

Contributed by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery

If you are considering an overnight getaway from San Francisco, check out the fabulous central coast region of Monterey County and Monterey city.

This historic Colonial Spanish city has wonderful historic attractions, the fantastic Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf to explore and close-by the famous Monterey Cannery Row district.

Adjoining the cannery is the world reknowned Monterey Aquarium, one of the best and leading aquariums and educational centers in the world.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the coastlines have connected trails that are fantastic for walking, running or biking and the waters are perfect for kayaking, sailing, surfing and even diving in the amazing kelp and coral beds undersea.

Monterey also has some lovely outdoor parks and areas to visit including Carmel, Carmel Valley wineries, Big Sur, and beautiful Point Lobos Reserve, a stunning state park worth visiting. You’ll enjoy visiting the Monterey area as an easy weekend getaway from San Francisco, and checking out all the fun things to do in the coastal areas of the county.

Muir Woods & Marin County

Contributed by Skye Class of SkyeTravels

You don’t have to drive far from San Francisco to find some truly fantastic scenery. Just across the Golden Gate Bridge is Marin County – the Beverly Hills of the Bay Area.

I was blessed to once have a house in Greenbrae, just south of San Rafael (Marin County’s capital). While my favorite pastime was walking along the Corte Madera Creek, I was just a stone’s throw away from the legendary Muir Woods. These woods are the closest redwoods to San Francisco (only about half an hour, depending on traffic).

If you’re into architecture, consider visiting the Marin County Civic Center just north of San Rafael. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright with his very unique and natural style.

For a more romantic option, head out to Stinton Beach on the coast for a sunset walk on the sand. The views in this area are comparable to what you’d find down south in Big Sur.

Finally, head up to Mount Tamalpais, the highest point in Marin County, for its panoramic views. While this might be a good overnight destination from San Francisco, you’ll be hard-pressed to scratch the surface of activities here within a day or two.

Marin County is the center of the nation’s organic farming movement, and you’ll find plenty of amazing farm-to-table restaurants. I’d recommend Farmshop in Larkspur Landing (where you can get a ferry down to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco). Go for one of their puffy, wood-fired pizzas, and don’t leave without trying their avocado hummus.

Marin County is a great choice for an overnight trip from San Francisco, and one of my favorite parts of the PCH too.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Contributed by Elaine & David of Show Them The Globe

Located just 3 hours north of San Francisco, the Humboldt Redwoods State Park is one of the best places in the USA to see the giant redwood trees in the world and is a perfect overnight trip from San Francisco.

The park is perfect for viewing the redwoods by car and the designated 32-mile drive known as the Avenue of the Giants is one of the most popular places to visit in the park. This stretch of road cuts through a dense portion of the forest and offers incredible views of the giant redwoods. 

The road trip through the grove is very peaceful with multiple pull-ins to stop and hike among the trees. One of the best stops on the avenue is the Founders Grove Nature Trail where the Dyerville Giant lies. The Dyerville Giant was a huge 200-year-old redwood that fell in 1991 and was believed to be the tallest tree in the park before its demise.

Two of the best places in the area to eat are located on the avenue itself. The Redwood Palace is fantastic seafood and steakhouse. For a quick-bite, visitors should check out the Chimney Tree Grill near the southern entrance to the Avenue of the Giants.

A trip to the Avenue of the Giants is not complete without seeing the famous Shine drive-thru tree in Myers Flat. For $10  visitors can drive their car through an old hollowed out redwood and pose for photos. 

Pin This Guide to San Francisco Weekend Getaways!

Want to plan a weekend getaway from San Francisco? These overnight trips from San Francisco are perfect for a 2 or 3 day trip. From Lake Tahoe to Yosemite to San Luis Obispo and beyond, these are all the best weekend trips from the SF Bay Area!

10 Jaw-Dropping California Hikes You Can’t Miss

Growing up in California, it’s easy to take how beautiful the state is for granted. But the longer I’ve been living away from home (11 years now, more than a third of my life), the more I’ve come to appreciate just how beautiful and diverse the state is.

With a land mass just about the size of Spain, California is home to a stunning variety of landscapes: from arid deserts to lush pine forests. It’s grand on a scale that can’t be believed, home to both the tallest tree in the world (Hyperion in Sequoia National Park) and the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevadas). It’s no surprise that California hikes are some of the most beautiful in the world as a result.

While I’d like to think I’m a California expert, sadly, it’s far from the case. More than a decade away from my home state has made California seem almost foreign and exotic when I go home. Though I know a lot about the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe, having grown up just outside San Francisco, so much of the state is still a mystery to me outside my one tiny area of awareness.

To help fill in the gaps, I got some travel bloggers to help me fill in my knowledge gaps of the top hikes in California that intrepid explorers simply can’t miss on their trip to the Golden State.

Southern California Hikes

Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park

By Michael of Time Travel Turtle

Most people, for obvious reasons, think of Joshua trees when they hear the name of Joshua Tree National Park. But in the south of the park, as the Mojave Desert turns into the Colorado Desert, the flora changes. In this part of the park, it’s all about the palms.

The best place to see the palms that grow in Joshua Tree National Park is at the Lost Palms Oasis. The hike to get there is a fantastic walk that is about 6 kilometers (3.5 miles) in each direction through some stunning desert landscapes with cacti, rock formations, and colorful flowers.

Even though it’s very dry here, palm trees are able to grow because of cracks in the ground that allow water to come up from subterranean reserves. It means you won’t see many of the palms until you get to the final destination – a large ravine where the tall trees are clumped together along the bed.

The hike begins from near the Cottonwood Spring Visitor Centre in the south of Joshua Tree National Park. There is a car park at the trailhead. It’s not one of the busiest hikes, which means the path isn’t too crowded. However, you will probably never be too far away from other hikers, which makes it nice and safe.

The return hike will probably take around 3 hours at a decent pace with a break at the oasis and is moderately difficult – there are some rough patches when you’ll need to scramble up and down rocky hills. It can be hot at any time of the year but especially in the summer. You should always carry sunscreen and lots of water. You may even want to reconsider hiking it on very hot summer days.

 

Willow Hole, Joshua Tree National Park

By Taryn of Happiest Outdoors

There are plenty of popular short hikes and nature trails in Joshua Tree National Park. But if you want to get off the beaten path, you have to hike to the Willow Hole. It’s an oasis in the middle of a remote part of the park. Most of Joshua Tree is open desert dotted with cactus, Joshua trees, and the odd rock outcropping.

But the Willow Hole is nestled in the middle of the Wonderland of Rocks, a huge labyrinth of strangely shaped rocks, boulders, and canyons. This watering hole attracts lots of wildlife so you might to be lucky enough to spot a coyote, jackrabbit or even the resident herd of bighorn sheep. I was thrilled to see a fox on my hike.

This moderate hike is about 7 miles round trip and will take most people 4-5 hours to complete. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen as it can get really hot out there. Start your hike at the southern trailhead of the Boy Scout Trail on Park Boulevard. The beginning of the hike is on a sandy trail through Joshua trees and cacti. After a few miles, you’ll reach the Wonderland of Rocks and leave the desert.

For the rest of the hike, you wind through the rocks following dry streambeds called washes. There are a few signs to keep you on track, but pay attention to make sure you stay in the main wash as it can be easy to get off course. After a mile of meandering through the rock formations, you’ll arrive at the treed oasis of the Willow Hole. Take a break in the shade and stay quiet to see if you can spot some animals. When you’re ready, turn around and retrace your steps to the car.

Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego

best hikes in California

By Mimi of The Atlas Heart

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the many spots where you can enjoy beautiful coastal hikes in San Diego. The park is located in north county and offers two easy and relaxing hikes with plenty of coastal breezes, and a little shade from the nearby eucalyptus trees (although I’d still recommend bringing a hat, sunscreen, and water for the desert environment). 

One aspect I love about the Torrey Pines hike is that although you still have desert fauna around you while you’re hiking, it’s not as dusty and hot as other hikes around San Diego – probably because of the proximity to the ocean. 

The park offers two hikes – the Razor Point Trail and the Yucca Point Trail – and you could easily complete both in a day. Between the views of the golden-tinged cliffs and the turquoise color of the breaking waves, they both make you sigh and remember just how pretty San Diego is. 

The Razor Point Trail is 1.3 miles and the Yucca Point Trail is 1.25 miles, and neither one of them have more than a 200-foot change in elevation. They each take about one hour to complete. Both offer great views of the coast, but if you actually want to go down to the beach, the Yucca Point Trail is the one to do. 

Torrey Pines Reserve is located between La Jolla and Del Mar, north of downtown San Diego. If you’re driving, you can use I-5 to take the Carmel Valley Road exit.

Keep in mind that the fee for parking in the South Beach entrance can be anywhere from $10-$20, depending on if it’s a weekend or not (hint: go during the week when possible). Try and avoid the times of 10 AM – 1 PM when the reserve is most crowded. 

If you don’t want to pay for parking, it’s free to simply walk into the reserve. Take the 101 bus or park along the beach. Alternatively, the North Beach entrance only costs $3-$6 for parking. 

Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson

By Patrick of German Backpacker

You might have seen the iconic picture of people standing on the thin “Potato Chip Rock“ somewhere on Instagram before. This fun picture opportunity is close to Poway at the Mt. Woodson summit, and therefore, it’s a nice day trip in southern California.

Make sure to start your day early, since the hike can get quite exhausting due to the heat and the elevation gain – there’s absolutely no shade on this trail. Another reason for an early start is to beat the queue to actually take a picture on the rock, which can get long especially on weekends. But it’s worth it!

The actual summit of the mountain isn’t very exciting and full of antennas blocking the view, so keep going a little bit further until you reach the famous rock. The whole trail takes about 4 miles one-way until you get there. Be careful when you actually climb on the rock – it’s not very high up in the air, but it’s still a little bit scary to climb over to the edge. I enjoyed the hike a lot and it’s a nice city escape for a day, just make sure to bring a lot of water and to get there as soon as possible in the morning.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

By Sofie of Wonderful Wanderings

The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles is a fun place to learn about our universe, but what makes it even better is the great views it offers and the fact that you can hike there! There are two trails at Griffith Park leading up to the observatory: the West Griffith Observatory Trail and the East Griffith Observatory Trail.

My friend and I drove up to the starting point of the West Trail and hiked the short 1 mile from there up to the observatory. Yes, the path goes uphill quite a bit, but it’s broad and flat so all-in-all it’s an easy hike.Just make sure to put on some sunscreen before you start if it’s a sunny day, because there’s no shade and it can get really hot over there.

The West Trail starts at the Greek Theatre, the East Trail at Ferndell Drive. There’s public parking by the start of both trails and if you want, you can take one trail up and the other one down, which results in a 2.1-mile hike. If you park by the start of the West Trail, make sure to use the free parking lot (watch out, it closes at sunset!) by the part of Ferndell Drive that has no street parking. If you go further up, there’s paid street parking. If you start your hike at the Greek Theatre, you can park there for free but only when there’s no event going on.

Mount Wilson, Pasadena

By Nancy of We Go With Kids

Located in Pasadena, California, Mount Wilson sits 5,710 feet above sea level and affords an amazing view of Downtown Los Angeles on a clear day. There are a number of trails you can take to the summit, but one of my favorites is to start at the Chantry Flat trailhead in Arcadia. Although the trailhead is quite popular and fills up quickly on the weekends, you will want to get an early start as the roundtrip journey of approximately 14 miles will take you a full 6-7 hours.

My favorite thing about the hike is the visually interesting things you see along the way. There’s a short one-mile detour to Sturtevant Falls, which I highly recommend, and numerous cabins and campgrounds along the way. And of course, when you reach the top, you’ll find Mount Wilson Observatory, where there is a handy water fountain that you can refill your bottles with. Although this is a hike that can be accomplished in one day, the availability of campgrounds makes this an easy introduction to backpacking, if you are so inclined.

The trail is popular among mountain bikers so it’s important to be on high alert. Although I personally love this hike, it is not one that I would recommend for new hikers or those that are not in physical shape. It is an arduous 6 miles to the top, a generous mile across the observatory grounds, and then another 6 or so miles back down. Instead of going back down the Chantry Flats trail, you can take the Observatory’s toll road to the Winter Creek trail which will lead you to about 1/2 mile from the Chantry Flats trailhead. My personal preference is always to avoid an out and back if possible, so I particularly like the availability of numerous options.

In general, the trail narrows at numerous points and is too steep to recommend for young children. Moreover, there is virtually no cell service (although there are pay phones at Mount Wilson Observatory), so you really are on your own once you embark.  If you don’t feel up to the complete hike, it is possible to drive up to the Observatory, so a one-way hike would be an option, if you are able to arrange transport ahead of time.

Northern California Hikes

Rodeo Beach, Marin Headlands

photo - Longest Bus Rides travel blog

By Jessica of Longest Bus Rides

Rodeo Beach lies in the Marin Headlands facing the vast Pacific Ocean. Arrive by car, bike, or bus just 20 minutes north of San Francisco. Take the first exit north after the Golden Gate Bridge. Both routes to the beach are really fun! The first route is flat and has a long 1-way tunnel through a hillside. Don’t go in if the stoplight is red!

The second route is hilly and phenomenal, especially at the golden hours just after sunrise and just before sunset. The whole world pulls off the road for photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from Hawk Hill. Be careful if you’re a photographer, as the area has become known for people getting their high-end cameras stolen at the sunrise hours.

The hiking is beautiful at all times of year, whether with a blue sky and turquoise waves crashing, or with the famous San Francisco fog rolling in. There’s a reason Instagram Meetups are held here! Your two hiking options both take you to cliff’s edges. The shorter, but less crowded option is accessed by first crossing the beach, then heading uphill.

Alternatively, head up the steep hill straight from the parking lot for a for a gorgeous view of the ocean and surfers below. Follow the cliffside trail high above the ocean. Or, keep inland and explore the old military bunkers used during World War II to triangulate the exact location of approaching enemy warships.

Hike for miles, stopping along the way for a picnic, if you like. Do an out-and-back hike, or a loop. Apart from the initial short steep uphill from the parking lot, the trail is flat. You can climb up steep hills to more bunkers for more views. This area is off leash dog friendly. Unlike other beaches, there aren’t many dogs, and all the owners are great about picking up after their dogs, so there’s no poop to step in.

Another hiking area in the Marin Headlands is Mt. Tamalpais, which has many trails, most of them with long steep sections.

 

Land’s End, San Francisco

By Jessica of Independent Travel Cats

Land’s End is a short coastal trail in San Francisco that offers great view fo the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the Land’s End hike you can see the ruins of Sutro baths, old shipwrecks, a war memorial, and small rocky beaches. I walked this trail a number of times when I lived in the SF Bay area and it was one of my favorite places to walk in the city.

Near the trailhead is a lookout point and a visitor center that you can visit before or after the hike. There is both parking available as well as a nearby bus stop near the trailhead.

The trail is less than 2 miles long and you can turn back whenever you wish. It is a relatively easy hike although there are steps and rough sections. The first section of the trail is ADA accessible. The trail is just a section of the California Coastal trail so you can keep going and make it into a much longer hike. You can keep going all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge but that is a much longer hike, about 4 miles. The Land’s End section of the trail also has small paths off of it at a few places where you can visit beaches, a war memorial, or even the Legion of Honor (a fine arts museum).

Popular places to visit nearby include Ocean Beach, the Camera Obscura, Golden Gate Park, Legion of Honor, the San Francisco Zoo, and Golden Gate Bridge.

Mount Whitney, Sierra Nevadas

By Jackie of Life of Doing

Hiking Mount Whitney is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s the highest mountain in California and the Sierra Nevadas at 14,505 feet/4,421 meters and over 7,100 feet/2,165 meters elevation gain. The strenuous day hike is 22 miles or 35 kilometers round trip and an out-and-back route. However, the hike is recommended over two days. Completion time varies based on altitude sickness, the number of breaks, weather, and training. Remember to stay hydrated, eat, and not overexert the body too hard.

Hikers will enjoy the various terrain along the route. Everyone starts at Whitney Portal which is a 15-minute drive from the main city, Lone Pine. Hikers go through waterfalls, forest areas, 99 switchbacks, potential snow, and jagged rocks. Along the Trail Crest, hikers may see the turquoise water from Guitar Lake in the distance. Reaching the summit is a huge milestone. Admire the surrounding mountainous views and take a photo with the Mount Whitney plaque.

Due to the trail’s popularity, all participants need to enter a lottery for a hiking date. Lottery occurs from February to mid-March, and hikers are notified of their date in April. Choosing a fall or winter date has a great chance of securing a date, albeit the weather will be unpredictable. Hikers must pick up their permit at the Visitor Center (at US-395 and CA-136) 1-2 days before the hike.

Visitors stay overnight in one of Lone Pine’s motels. The main street has a few restaurants, gas stations, a grocery store, and a Lone Pine Film History Museum. Camping is an option if hiking overnight. Reservations are required at the official Whitney Portal Campground. Reservations are not needed if camping along the trail at Outpost Camp (mile 4) or Trail Camp (mile 6). It’s an exhausting day, but we hope you enjoy this hike!

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

By Jill of Jack and Jill Travel

Half Dome is the highlight of Yosemite National Park and hiking to the top of the formation should be on the bucket list of any hiker. There are various ways to do the hike, but the shortest one is still a 14-mile roundtrip hike with major elevation gain (4,800 feet from the Yosemite Valley trailhead). The last section of the hike involves pulling yourself up a steel cable on the flank of the granite dome. Wooden steps have been laid on to help with footing, but it’s still an upper body workout for sure.

Because of its popularity, a permit system has been implemented. You can get a permit to Half Dome by entering a lottery held in March, or rely on the 50 or so first-come-first-serve daily permits. You can only do the hike when the cables are up (early summer), and I recommend an early start to get the hardest part of the hike out of the way before the heat sets in.

Even though getting to the top of Half Dome is the goal of this hike, the getting there part is also part of the attraction. If you take Mist Trail, you’ll pass 2 of Yosemite’s famous waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. There’s a reason this section of the hike is called Mist Trail. The trail takes you so close to these falls, there’s often a mist of water blowing in your face. So make sure you wear proper footwear and something quick-drying.

California is one of the most diverse and beautiful states in the US. These stunning California hikes are perfect for adventurers -- including Half Dome, Joshua Tree, and other gorgeous day hikes in California. Add these to your hiking bucket list!

San Francisco Hidden Gems: 7 Spots You Likely Don’t Know About (Yet)

From the regal red towers of the Golden Gate puncturing through a blanket of fog to the mysterious decay of Alcatraz, San Francisco is a city full of icons.

You can’t come to San Francisco and not photograph the antiquated but charming cable cars, the crazy steep hills on which cars seem to defy gravity, and the adorable Victorian architecture that makes up the famous “Painted Ladies.”

But there’s way more to the city than just that. I’ve teamed up with Expedia.com to suggest some slightly offbeat but beautiful San Francisco hidden gems, places that I wish more people knew about when they visit the city.

San Francisco is a geographically small city (a mere 46.1 square miles to LA’s 468.7 and NYC’s 302.6), but it packs so much in a tiny package. Still, despite its tiny size (or maybe because of it), people tend to go to the same places over and over again: Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown. Expedia has those covered in its San Francisco city guide.

Some things are iconic for a reason: it’d be a crying shame if you left San Francisco without trying out delicious dim sum (Yank Sing is my favorite) or snapping photos of the adorable cable cars. Still, I always suggest people balance the touristy with the offbeat, and to explore some of San Francisco’s hidden gems that not everyone knows about – at least not yet.

San Francisco holds a special place in my heart because I grew up 30 minutes outside the city until I was 17, and I still visit San Francisco at least once or twice a year. The city is changing fast — the victim of an unprecedentedly quick gentrification boom — but these places have stood the test of time. Whether you have a weekend, a quick layover in San Francisco, or a lifetime, you’ll doubtlessly keep exploring.

7 of My Favorite San Francisco Hidden Gems

The Palace of Fine Arts

Located in the Marina District, this 100-year-old monument is one of the last remaining buildings from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. It’s been kept up ever since, and today it houses some of the most intriguing art exhibits from around the world.

The Beaux-Arts design is one of San Francisco’s few examples of this style of architecture. Given its location, set around a gorgeous man-made lake with glassy reflections, it’s become a popular place for travelers in-the-know to stop in for pictures. The lagoons and walkways surrounding the palace are also quite a popular place for locals to walk, and it’s proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge make this a convenient stop for a quick slice of offbeat San Francisco before seeing the city’s most iconic piece of architecture.

It’s also close to another San Francisco hidden gem, the Wave Organ, which is a 30-year-old sculpture on the bay that uses acoustics to amplify the natural sounds of the San Francisco Bay.

Fort Point

All the tourists bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, but if you want a slightly off the beaten path experience and to see a hidden side of San Francisco, I recommend walking around the Presidio area and exploring some of the lesser-known spots in San Francisco just beneath the bridge.

One of the most worthwhile stops in the Presidio area is Fort Point, the best-situated military fort in the entire Bay Area. Dating back to the time of the Gold Rush, this fort was originally built to withstand naval attacks. Today, it is known for having survived the civil war, the building of the nearby bridge, and several earthquakes. You can take a tour of the fort or walk around it at your leisure.

Also close to Fort Point, I recommend seeing Crissy Field, with its scenic beach and marsh, and Baker Beach (if you don’t mind a bit of nudity!)

Land’s End Labyrinth

Created by a local artist named Eduardo Aguilera, this small labyrinth made of stones overlooks the part of the continental shelf known as Land’s End.

Although the labyrinth has been destroyed several times by crashing waves, Aguilera has re-built it each time, and he has even lit it aflame during Pagan holidays.

Dedicated to the idea of peace, love, and enlightenment, it’s a great place to sit and contemplate the mysteries of life while enjoying one of the best views of the Pacific Ocean.

While nearby, don’t miss the Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, which has some beautiful architecture – another one of my favorite places to explore in San Francisco.

Sutro Baths

A true blast from the past, the Sutro Baths were once one of the largest privately-owned saltwater swimming complexes in the entire USA in the 1890s.

However, today all that remains are impressive ruins that have been overtaken by local wildlife. Despite this, the walking paths between the bath areas that extend out into the sea are still intact and a favorite walking and photography spot among locals and in-the-know visitors alike.

Traveling along these pathways and seeing the once great ruins as they’ve been reclaimed by the earth is both is a serene and enjoyable experience, one of the best of San Francisco’s many hidden gems.

Muir Woods

While technically not in San Francisco proper, I can’t think of any city in the world that is so close to a gorgeous redwood forest.

Known for being the home of some of the tallest redwood trees in the world, this National Monument is a great place for hiking and relaxation just outside of San Francisco. Be sure to take the Dipsea trail for a view of all the treetops and to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean from this popular picnic site.

You can easily get there from the city by taking a ferry to Sausalito and then the 66F shuttle from the ferry terminal to Muir Woods, which will drop you off in the parking lot. Keep in mind this is seasonal (May through October) and weekends only. Be sure to make a reservation. There are also tours you can take.

Musée Mechanique

Image credit: Piotrus [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Slightly hidden in the super-touristy Fisherman’s Wharf and its hoard of sea lions is an antique coin-operated arcade full of games from the 20th century. It’s one part quirky, one part creepy, and several parts fun.

It’s one of the world’s largest collections of coin-operated vintage arcade machines, all lovingly restored to working order, but the best part is that you can actually still play them! Admission is free, although the games cost money to play. It’s a hidden away blast from the past right in the heart of San Francisco’s most touristed area.

Japanese Garden

A must-see part of Golden Gate Park, this almost 125-year-old garden houses a number of miniature displays originally used as part of the World Fair, which was hosted in San Francisco in 1894. The Japanese Garden has the distinction of being the oldest Japanese tea garden in the entire USA, and it is open to the public every day of the year.

Bonus: free admission is available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday if you arrive before 10 AM, so set your alarm clocks early to enjoy this great SF hidden gem.

Note: This post was produced in partnership with Expedia. All opinions are my own.