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5 best California road trip stops near San Francisco

Last year I went on a road trip with some friends through California near San Francisco. We hired an RV to travel and it was an amazing experience with this big vehicle. Unfortunately, it only took 2 weeks, but we saw so many beautiful places! If it were up to me, we would’ve stayed a few more weeks. Along our road trip we visited 5 beautiful places and I’ve described them for you.


Travel route

  1. San Francisco
  2. Silicon Valley
  3. Yosemite Valley
  4. Sequoia National Park
  5. Big Sur
  6. Half Moon Bay State Beach


#1 San Francisco: An amazing city with the famous Golden Gate Bridge view

San Francisco is known for its hilly landscape, cultural diversity, funiculars and the iconic bridge. You need to have some solid calves to walk the hilly streets for a day, but this effort is all worth it. I recommend cycling around the tour. This allowed us to visit many places, including Fisherman’s Wharf and get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge view.



Alcatraz Island

Almost possibly the most infamous prison in the world, Alcatraz Island should not be missed when you visit San Francisco.

From 1934 to 1963, having functioned as the federal penitentiary for notorious criminals such as the Birdman, Robert Stroud and even Al Capone, there is a spookiness about a day trip to Alcatraz. Lying just 2 km from the mainland a tour to the Alcatraz Island also offers incredible views of the city skyline of San Francisco!


Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular port area for tourists. This is partly due to the great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the prison of Alcatraz Island.

Pier 39 is primarily known for its colony of sea lions. The animals lie on decks along the pier and can be seen from the quay. They are an attraction in themselves, although you should be lucky. They are not always there. Pier 39 is also quite a commercial attraction. You will find several restaurants and gift shops.

Golden ­­Gate Bridge

Last but (definitely) not least, the Golden Gate Bridge. Dit is misschien wel hét symbool voor de stad. De brug is enorm en je hebt meerdere spots voor een adembenemend uitzicht. Een pittige tocht om de berg op te fietsen, om vervolgens over de brug te fietsen. Heerlijk om op deze machtige brug te staan met uitzichten over de stad!



#2 Silicon Valley: Famous tech companies

The Silicon Valley region is located in the south of San Francisco. It is known for the innovative technology companies of the United States, including Google and Facebook. Of course, all nice and cool, those big companies, but do you really see anything from inside? Yes and no. We drove past a number of companies with our RV and of course you don’t see much of the company itself. When we drove into the Facebook site, we were immediately guided to the exit… Google, on the other hand, was a lot more fun. Here we were allowed to drive through the campus where we saw people on a Google bicycle, sports fields and a Google self-driving car.

So, if you are a fan of technology or just enjoy seeing these world-famous companies, it is definitely a must to drive through this region.


#3 Yosemite Valley: Beautiful sights at Yosemite National Park

With a nice trip of about 4 hours you drive to Yosemite National Park. It is one of the most famous national parks in California. You can spend days or even weeks here, but unfortunately there is often no time for this. Most visitors therefore see only a fraction of the park, and usually confine themselves to Yosemite Valley, where you will also find most of the tourist infrastructure. That’s exactly what we did.

With a wonderful hike you can see beautiful waterfalls, lakes and large mountains. You will come across famous places such as El Capitan, Tunnel View and Mirror Lake. Especially this Mirror Lake is worth taking beautiful pictures.



#4 Sequoia National Park: The giant trees

From Yosemite Valley you drive to Sequoia National Park. This park is famous for its huge trees. These redwoods are thousands of years old and can grow up to 100 meters high! Very special to stand next to it. You feel very small for a moment.

One of the best-known places of this forest is the Tunnel Log. There is a fallen tree on this road. Can you imagine how much space this tree takes up to? It’s an incredible appearance. they did come up with something so they could leave the tree. They have cut a hole, so you can drive through it by car.

Note: because of the height differences in the mountains, you can be in the snow from one moment to the next. So, make sure you have warm clothes with you.



#5 Big Sur

This beautiful region, on the west coast of the United States, is a series of the most beautiful landscapes. Follow the route along the unspoilt coastline for the ride of a lifetime. The Big Sur is a compact area on the California coast with one of the most beautiful roads in the United States. It is a great route full of beautiful nature. So also regularly park your car along the road to admire the amazing views, take a walk through nature or to watch the breathtakingly beautiful sunset.


Highway 1

Highway 1 is a freeway that meanders along California’s breathtaking coastline, but the Big Sur, between San Simeon and Carmel, is without a doubt the most beautiful. Over a length of 145 kilometers, you will not come across any traffic lights or shopping centers, and you will often find yourself alone in the world. You drive through dense forests and rocky coastlines, driving high mountain peaks and deep valleys. And the great thing: to enjoy the Big Sur, you don’t even have to deviate very far from the route, because a lot of beauty passes by from the car. The Bixby Creek Bridge for example, this huge arch bridge is one of the largest of its kind. It’s great to see the concrete bridge wedged in between the rocks, so make sure to get out to enjoy the view.


You have enough areas here for a nice hike. We have made a trip through the Pfeiffer Falls. A challenging hike along the giant redwoods and the rocky waterfall. Once at the top of the mountain you have a nice view over the Big Sur. Again, a must to go out and take a brisk walk.


#6 Half Moon Bay State Beach

If you drive back from the Big Sur to San Francisco via Highway 1, you will pass Half Moon Bay. Here is a popular 4 miles long beach called the Half Moon Bay State Beach. The beach is spread over 4 areas: Francis Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach and Roosevelt Beach. Great for sunbathing, surfing, picnicking or camping.

We stood with our RV on a camping site. This way you will also come into contact with fellow travelers and you can relax for a day or 2. During our trip we have of course been on more different campsites with fellow travelers. Not only the different environments are fantastic, but also the company around you.



Want to read more about our (California) road trips?

Of course, this was just a small selection of the countless road trips you can do in California. We have chosen to stay near San Francisco, but you can make the trip as long as you want. Two weeks is a very short time when you look at the size of California… But we enjoyed our time to the fullest!

Are you enthusiastic about this road trip and want to read more about our experiences on the road? Feel free to sign up for our newsletter! We will keep you informed of new road trips and are happy to share our experiences with you. Therefore, my motto sounds: those who can’t share, can’t multiply!



Do you like this article and would you like to read more about road trips? Then read this post: “Go enywhere you want? I went on a road trip without a plan!

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