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9 Must-Take Road Trips From Sacramento

9 Must-Take Road Trips From Sacramento

Pack up and hit the road! Here are the 9 must-take road trips from Sacramento to take now.

Gil and Saara Torres, REALTORS®


9 min read

October 12, 2022

Disclaimer: is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

Planning a vacation out of Sacramento is one of the easier things to do in life, especially if you’re looking for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. Thanks to its ideal location between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, Sacramento is the perfect launching pad for some of the best weekend road trips in California. Whether you plan on going towards the majestic state parks to its east, the coastal towns to its west, or the vineyard-filled cities to its north, you’ll never experience a dull moment during your road trips from Sacramento. All you need to do is pack your road trip essentials, get in the car, and start driving. If you’re not sure which direction to drive in, just assess what kind of mood you’re in, write down your interests, and check which of the awesome road trips from Sacramento below check all your boxes.

Best Day Trips From Sacramento

Apple Hill is perfect for a quick, affordable, and happiness-inducing road trip to take from the Capital city.

1. Apple Hill

Distance from Sacramento: 50 minutes.
The Apple Hill Growers Association is the happiest, most colorful, and most delicious place in Placerville and beyond. It also is one of the quickest and most affordable getaways near Sacramento. The agricultural community guarantees a family-fun time, especially between the months of June and December when flowers, fruits, and trees bloom (each at its own time) to give you the best produce. Founded in 1964, Apple Hill today has over 50 family farms, each of which offers fresh produce and fun activities for the whole family.

At this El Dorado County gem, you can find farms offering the best apples, berries, peaches, pumpkins, and even Christmas trees. Besides having some of the best U-pick farms in California, Apple Hill also has some of the best entertainment in California. So bring your kids along and enjoy mind-boggling mazes, puppet theaters, giant bubbles, pony rides, nature trails, picnics, and even gem mining. The best part is, your trip to Apple Hill doesn’t need to be a one-day affair. You can spend the night at the Best Western Stagecoach Inn or the North Canyon Inn and continue your adventures the next day.

For all thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, Vallejo is a can’t-miss stop on your road trip.

2. Vallejo

Distance from Sacramento: 58 minutes.
As one of Solano County’s best waterfront towns, Vallejo is a destination many people dream of, but find hard to reach. But not you, dear Sacramentan, as the beautiful town is just a short trip away. With a rich history engraved in every corner and a plethora of recreational activities, this is a road trip from Sacramento you need to take ASAP.

On top of every Vallejo itinerary is a day-long visit to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, one of the best amusement parks in California. Riding the thrilling ‘coasters, enjoying the live entertainment, dining at the awesome eateries, and petting the adorable animals at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom remain some of the most fun things to do in Vallejo. Once you’ve crossed the amusement park off your list, continue to enjoy the rest of what the city has to offer. Ride a bike at the Vallejo Waterfront Park, take Fido to the Wardlaw Dog Park, and enjoy a romantic dinner at Zio Fraedos.

From Downtown Napa to St. Helena and back, the Napa Valley Wine Train takes you on a 36-mile journey of vineyards and gorgeous landscapes.

3. Napa

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour and 2 minutes.
The fact that Wine Country is just an hour away from Sacramento is a joy in itself. With over 350 vineyards, breathtaking landscapes, cultural sites, and at least a dozen Napa attractions you might’ve not even heard about, this is a region worth exploring until it’s fully covered — and we tell you, that doesn’t happen in a day or even a weekend.  This is a vacation near Sacramento that will keep you busy and entertained at all times.

Once you make it to Napa, you’ll have an array of activities to choose from, but there are a few that need to be prioritized - especially for first-timers. For starters, a balloon ride with Balloons Above the Valley is a must-have adventure. Once the balloon ride is off the list, go for a bike ride on the Bike Napa Valley Vine Trail to best experience Wine Country up close and personal. While still in the region, hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. The three-hour, 36-mile round-trip from Downtown Napa to St. Helena is one of the best Napa Valley tours. Best yet, dining in Napa can be as elegant of an experience as you want it to be. The city is home to two Micheline-starred restaurants;  Kenzo and La Toque. Pick your diner of choice, reserve ahead of time, and enjoy.

4. San Francisco

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour and 24 minutes.
We can’t talk about the best road trips from Sacramento and skip San Francisco. The City by the Bay is where culture meets art and good cuisine to give you a weekend unlike any other. If it’s your first visit to S.F. you will want to cover all the not-so-basic basics. These include a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, a stroll through Golden Gate Park, a descent down the crooked Lombard Street, a tour of Alcatraz Island, Photo ops on and around the Golden Gate Bridge, and a visit to some of the most famous San Francisco neighborhoods and streets. Haight-Ashbury, Mission District, The Castro, Chinatown, and Japantown make it to the long list of bustling areas.

If you’ve already covered the basics before, then opt for the unique things to do in S.F. Discover the city’s murals, enjoy a day at Baker Beach, search for the Wave Organ, and climb up the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps. Road-tripping to San Francisco is an adventure that will keep calling you back, time and time again.

Work on the Pioneer Monument at Donner Memorial State Park began in 1901 near the site of cabins that provided shelter to the Donner Party.

5. Donner Memorial State Park

Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour and 44 minutes.
Located in the scenic Sierra Nevada mountain range with an elevation of 6,000 feet, Donner Memorial State Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit within two hours of Sacramento. The Alpine park offers a long list of activities that can appeal to all types of personalities and interests. From camping, picnicking, boating, and hiking in the summer, to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, you’ll find something fun to do in the park all year long.

As you enjoy all the fun in the state park, don’t forget to visit the famous Pioneer Monument. The National Historic Landmark in this California state park is dedicated to the ill-fated Donner party, a group of American pioneers who were trapped in the area in the mid-1800s resulting in the entire party starving to death. It is also dedicated to the emigrants traveling west during that time. As sad as the story might be, it is one that is engraved in the history of this beautiful park, and paying respect to the lives lost is a must.

Best Weekend Getaways From Sacramento

6. Lake Tahoe

Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours and 2 minutes.
Hiking, biking, rock climbing, parasailing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, paddleboarding, snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, and boating. Is there a fun activity you can’t do in Lake Tahoe?  The answer is no, and the list doesn’t even include the awesome eateries, cozy cabins, and mind-blowing vistas you get to enjoy while in the area. Accordingly, it’s only normal to consider this one of the best day trips from Sacramento, if not the best.

If you’re one who’s constantly hungry for more adventure, a visit to Treetop Adventure Park in the Tahoe National Forest should be at the top of your itinerary. Climb walls and zipline from tree to tree as you try to beat a few obstacles along the way, all while being 50 feet above the ground. After all the excitement, don’t forget to take a minute to pamper yourself at one of the world-renowned spas in the region — after all, taking a step back and relaxing is one of the top things to do in Lake Tahoe.

When life gives you a thousand reasons to stress, Yosemite National Park is here to give you a thousand and one reasons to chill.

7. Yosemite National Park

Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours and 42 minutes.
Looking for an awesome place to visit within three hours of Sacramento? It’s time to pack your camping gear and head to the famous Yosemite National Park. Here you’ll witness the serenity of the High Sierra, calm your head, and recharge your batteries in the midst of California’s breathtaking nature. Even if you prefer not to stay at one of the 13 popular campsites in the park, you’ll have dozens of hotels, motels, and cabin rentals to choose from.

The long list of fun things to do at Yosemite National Park includes rock climbing at Half Dome and El Capitan, admiring the beauty of Yosemite Falls, hiking as many of the 280 trails available, and visiting the Yosemite Museum and Indian Village. There’s no need to worry about food either. Even if you haven’t brought your own food, you can buy delicious dishes from the restaurants in and around the park. 

8. Mendocino

Distance from Sacramento: 3 hours and 46 minutes.
Nothing beats a coastal vacation in the sleepy town of Mendocino where the noise subsides and gives way to peace and tranquility. With beautiful beaches on one side, towering redwood trees on the other, and beautiful Victorian mansions in the middle, this Northern California paradise has proven to be one of the best road trips from Sacramento. With all the fun things to do in Mendocino, you know you won’t be spending a dull moment.

Hikers, backpackers, and bird watchers find a natural playground in all 330,000 acres of Mendocino National Forest. With dozens of different ecosystems, the forest is a green paradise for people of all ages to enjoy. The captivating nature of Mendocino isn’t limited to its forest; it spreads toward its rivers and beaches as well. For a fun family activity, canoe down the Big River and enjoy a peaceful paddle while admiring the redwood forest lining its banks. From there, head to the Mendocino Bay Viewpoint, where you’ll be treated to unmatched views of the Pacific and you might even spot a migrating whale or two in the distance.

California’s natural skyscrapers, the giant redwoods will transport you into a magical world of beauty and power.

9. Avenue of the Giants

Distance from Sacramento: 4 hours and 20 minutes.
You’ll truly understand the beauty of road trips once you take the trip down the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County. Surrounded by the towering redwood trees (some standing at 350 feet tall) at Humboldt Redwood State Park, the Avenue of the Giants gives fairytale-like vibes to those traveling down its path. The 31-mile highway runs parallel to U.S. Route 101 with its southern end located in Garberville and its northern end in Scotia. If you’re just passing through, you can cover the length of the avenue in an hour, but if you want to appreciate every inch of the road, you might even want to stay in the area overnight.

While you’re traveling down the Avenue of the Giants, stop at the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association Visitor Center to get a better understanding of the landscapes you’re visiting and to get the brochures that will make your trip easier. Along the way, check out the Living Chimney Tree, which was hallowed by a fire in 1914. Enter the tree and look up into the clear California sky. Another tree that shouldn’t be missed is the Shrine Drive Thru Tree. With a small fee, you can drive underneath the giant. At every corner, you’ll find inviting hiking trails, which you should definitely explore, lots of picnic areas, restaurants in the surrounding towns, and campgrounds that are ready to welcome you overnight. If camping is not your thing, you’ll find a dozen lodging options along the way and in the surrounding cities as well. We assure you, this will be the best day trip from Sacramento you’ll ever take. 

So, no matter what kind of adventure-seeker you are, there is something for everyone who is looking to take a road trip from Sacramento. But for an extra wild ride, try picking a route that’s out of your comfort zone and discover yourself while you discover California.

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