Road trips are a staple of travel culture, full of wonders, mysteries, and eccentricities just waiting to be unwrapped. Ready to break out the travel snacks and journey down a fantastically unconventional path? Get set for a ride down the bandit’s paradise—the awe-inspiring Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

Let the Road Trip Adventure Begin

Cutting a path from Southern California to Oregon, the PCH is not your cookie-cutter highway run. The road is flanked with spellbindingly beautiful vistas. The ocean looks like an azure sheet meeting a lavender horizon, and the foliage is a different sort of artist—it paints a mondegreen, where reality blends with the otherworldly.

The immediate allure will probably be the beaches, the hairpin bends, and the balmy California sunshine. Yet, the route extends beyond what ordinary eyes seek. It’s these off-the-beat curiosities that transform the trip from a mere visual feast to a veritable carnival of mysteries.

Unique Sights along the PCH

At first glance, the PCH showcases an abundance of mostly seaside attractions. But dig a bit deeper and you find yourself at the quirky heart of the highway. You can’t possibly overlook the gargantuan stone of Morro Bay, standing tall in loner grandeur.

In fabled San Luis Obispo, you might stumble upon the bubblegum-strewn madness of Bubblegum Alley. A 15-foot high and 70-foot long spectacle, it’s a chewy concoction of eccentricity. Seriously, who knew the humble bubble-gum could be an artist’s tool?

The Endless Stretch of Something New

Nestled amidst the Redwoods, the Avenue of the Giants whispers tales of prehistoric times. As twilight peeks through the trees, this sanctuary of ancient Redwoods turns into a labryinth of towering guardians, firmly sealing its spot on the list of unusual spectacles along the PCH.

Nicely blending the ridiculous with the sublime, creatures of Prehistoric Gardens in the coastal town of Gold Beach, Oregon, is the cherry on this sundae of eccentricities. With life-sized replicas of paleolithic creatures tucked amidst rainforest flora, it’s an ideal spot to get lost in an age long forsaken.

PCH in a MiniVan? Yes Please!

First things first, the mini van gets a reputation that isn’t quite in line with James Bond. Nevertheless, things aren’t always what they appear on the surface. Beneath its boxy build lies surprising spaciousness and comfort, allowing you to max and relax and have room for a spare tire or two. Its generous proportions make it an ideal ride for families or group of friends, giving everyone adequate space to keep their road trip blues at bay.

The interior is not just about people; it’s also about cargo. A minivan is all about flexibility. The seats can be rearranged, removed, folded – you name it. This flexibility gives way to abundant luggage space just screaming to be filled with camping gear, suitcases, beach patrol and picnic hamper.

The Roving Entertainment Center

But a minivan is not just about space. Enter, 21st-century van accessories. What if the road trip doesn’t require you to ditch your tech addictions? Mini vans these days may be equipped with Wi-Fi enabling you to connect with the world when you don’t wish to completely heed to the call of the wild. Multiple charging ports mean, the horror of seeing low battery is kept miles away. Some even have built-in screens to watch your favorite movies, making travel seem less like an endless chore and more like a comfortable vacation.

Mini vans are loved for their drivability as well. They handle better and are easier to park than full-sized vans. The driving position is more upright– think sitting in a roomy chair as opposed to your regular car seat.

There’s no better way to explore life than through the lens of the odd and unexpected. Shake the dust from your shoes, fuel up, and ride into the horizon on the Pacific Coast Highway. Embark on a journey where the weird invites you in, and shuns the idea of exit.

There are many reasons to visit San Diego. Some people are vacationing with family while others are traveling for business. Some are specifically seeking famous landmarks, while others are looking for secret places in California. Whatever your reason for visiting, San Diego does not disappoint. Nevertheless, there are some things you should know while planning your trip.

Best Beaches to Visit in SD

San Diego has 70 miles of coastline, so not only are there plenty of beaches, there are many beaches with different vibes. You can find party beaches, family-friendly beaches, beaches for surfing, and beaches for hiking, to name a few. Here are a few beaches that may appeal to you, depending on your situation and what you are looking for.

  • Mission Bay is one of the best beaches for families with little kids. There are plenty of grassy areas in the shade, and the water is warm and shallow with practically no waves.
  • La Jolla Cove is a small beach that is popular with snorkelers.
  • Torrey Pines State Beach is one of the best nature spots in San Diego. Hike to the top of the cliff and get a great view of the ocean; you could even see some spouts from passing whales.
  • Mission Beach, not to be confused with Mission Bay, is a beach where you can go to just relax on the sand. It is also a beach where you could learn to surf, or just hang out at a waterfront bar.

Activities such as corporate event charters San Diego may start on the beach and then move out onto the water.

Where To Shop & Dine

If your idea of relaxing involves browsing boutiques rather than stretching out on the sand, there is plenty of shopping to be found in San Diego. The good news is that you do not necessarily have to sacrifice the sun to investigate the hottest trends because many shopping centers in the area are open air.

San Diego’s mild-to-warm temperatures make it possible to visit outdoor shopping districts throughout most of the year. Among the many great shopping destinations in the city is Fashion Valley, located about 10 minutes from downtown San Diego by car and is considered the place to go for upscale merchandise.

However you spend the day in San Diego, you will probably be ready for a satisfying meal in the evening. Because of San Diego’s proximity to the ocean, fresh seafood is a major draw. Nevertheless, there are popular restaurants featuring a wide array of ethnic foods, including Italian, Mexican, and Korean.

For example, Zama is a new restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter that features a fusion of Latin American and Asian cuisine. Of course, if you just want a good, old-fashioned steak or hamburger, there are places in San Diego where you can find those dishes as well. For example, nearby LAVO serves chops, steaks, and even a one-pound Meatball, while Lapper Kitchen and Tap serves hot dogs.

Many unforgettable experiences await you in and around San Diego. Start planning your trip today. If you’re traveling from afar, don’t forget to check Wanderu, which provides options to reach San Diego by train, which is much more affordable than flying!

Whether you are looking for outdoor adventure or a relaxing getaway, there is something for everyone just outside Sacramento’s city limits. Here are 17 incredible day trips from Sacramento that will give you an unforgettable experience!

Sacramento is an amazing starting point for a variety of day trips in Northern California. From the state capital, you can explore everything from the beaches of Bodega Bay to the wine country of Napa Valley and all points in between.

Grab some road trip essentials and get started on your day trip from Sacramento!


Folsom, California

Folsom, California

Time to travel: 28 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Just a 28-minute drive away, Folson is an easy day trip from Sacramento with plenty of activities to explore. Spend the day shopping at the Folsom Premium Outlets or simply stroll through Historic Folsom and take some photos of its iconic landmarks like the Rainbow Bridge.

Or check out one of the many trails in the area, like the Johnny Cash Trail or Lake Natoma Loop Trail. And don’t forget to stop by the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary for some animal encounters.


Time to travel: 33 minutes

Best time to visit: Summer, Fall

Another short drive away from Sacramento is the small town of Auburn. Located in Placer County, it’s known for its rushing rivers, majestic mountains, and endless outdoor activities.

Take a day trip from Sacramento to Auburn to start a hike at the Hidden Falls near the American River or Lake Clementine Trail. If you’re up for swimming, head on over to a gem of a swimming hole, the Auburn Confluence.

You can also walk the historic downtown of Auburn for cute boutique shops and restaurants. Check out The Pour for local coffee, go for wine tasting, or grab something more substantial at the Auburn Thai Garden Restaurant.


Time to travel: 38 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer

With it being such a short drive away, Lodi makes an awesome day trip from Sacramento. Lodi is located right in the center of the San Joaquin Valley with sunny days and fields of greenery!

Today, Lodi is coming up in the wine industry and is recognized for its Zinfandel grapes. Besides wine country, there are also other adventurous things to do in Lodi.

Head to Lodi Lake for a swim or check out the unique animals found at the Micke Grove Zoo where zoologists are doing their best to take care of some endangered species hosted there.

You’ll also want to check out the local farmer’s market that the town has on Thursday evenings or head to the Double Dip Gallery for both ice cream and local art.


Placerville, California

Placerville, California

Time to travel: 42 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Another great day trip from Sacramento is to the town of Placerville. Located in El Dorado County, this place has a lot of history to it. It was the first large settlement in California and one time had the name “Hangtown” due to 5 men who were hung on the same day on the same tree!

Today, you can still walk around the historic downtown of Placerville and check out some of the oldest buildings in town. Visit local shops like The Bookery for books, head to the Lava Cap Winery as well for wine-tasting in Placerville, or visit the Larson Apple Barn for some of the most delicious apples!

For more outdoor activities, head over to Eldorado National Forest for hiking through trails like The Potholes, Bassi Falls, or Shealor Lake Trail.

Sutter Creek

Sutter Creek, California

Sutter Creek, California

Time to travel: 55 minutes

Best time to visit: all year round

Sutter Creek is a charming city in the heart of California’s Gold Country, located less than an hour from Sacramento. Explore its colorful downtown with historic buildings that date back to the 19th century and find a variety of unique shops and galleries along Main Street.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a panning tour at the Kennedy Gold Mine and test your luck at finding some gold! You can also take a self-guided tour through the Black Cavern Chasm filled with crystals.

For fuel, grab a drink from Chocolatte, and head over to Cavana’s Pub & Grub for a delicious sandwich!

Nevada City

Broad Street in Nevada City, California

Broad Street in Nevada City, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

You don’t have to go too far from Sacramento to visit some of California’s oldest towns. Nevada City is located in the Sierra Foothills and is known for its well-preserved gold rush history.

Take a self-guided tour of the town’s historic sites, including the Nevada City Firehouse Museum or the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. You’ll also find some great restaurants, shops, galleries, and wine-tasting rooms in downtown Nevada City on Broad Street.

For food, head to the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, grab an almond croissant at the Three Forks Bakery & Brewery Co., or Lefty’s Grill.

Napa Valley

Vineyards in Napa Valley

Vineyards in Napa Valley

Time to travel: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer

Napa Valley is a great day trip from Sacramento for those wanting to experience world-class wineries and gorgeous vineyards. From tasting rooms offering samples of locally crafted wines to the many restaurants that feature local flavors, there are so many delicious adventures to be had!

There are dozens of wineries in Napa Valley, and each one offers something unique. To make the most out of your day trip, we recommend visiting a few of the top-rated places like Robert Mondavi Winery, Frog’s Leap, and V. Sattui Winery.

Sonoma Valley

Time to travel: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer, Fall

If you’re looking for a day trip from Sacramento that’s close by, try Sonoma Valley! The sister to Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley is laid back and filled with wine tours, food, and outdoor activities!

Take a hike on the beautiful Sonoma Overlook Trail or visit Quarryhill Botanical Garden, a home for Asian plants and known for its impressive collection of rare and endangered plants.

You can also experience the unique sights and smells of California’s wine country by touring vineyards like Medlock Ames or taking part in some amazing culinary experiences by walking the Cheese Trail.


Petaluma, California

Petaluma, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Best time to visit: Fall, Winter, Spring

Another wonderful day trip from Sacramento (and a short drive south of Santa Rosa) lies Petaluma. This charming small town has plenty of unique attractions to explore, from the Petaluma antique stores to the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park.

If you’re an avid bird watcher, take a trip to Shollenberger Park or visit the Petaluma wetlands for some wildlife sightings. For a little bit of history, visit the Petaluma Museum, where you can learn about the town’s past.

For a bite to eat, head over to the Historic Downtown area for some of the best local restaurants like Central Market or the Petaluma Pie Company. Petaluma is also known for its creameries, so make sure to grab some locally-made ice cream at Lala’s Creamery.


Time to travel: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Just an hour and a half away from Sacramento is the coastal town of Sausalito. With its stunning coastal views and beautiful bay, it’s no wonder why it’s one of the best day trips from Sacramento!

Take a stroll along the Sausalito boardwalk or go kayaking in Richardson Bay. You can also walk along the docks and view the houseboats lining the marina.

Not only can you walk around Sausalito, but you can also head to Marin Headlands for hiking the trails such as Hawk Hill, Kirby Cove, or Rodeo Beach.

For your meals, grab a coffee at Cibo or head on over to the Fish restaurant for local seafood. You’ll also want to check out Lapert’s for its quirky flavors of ice cream!

Santa Rosa

Time to travel: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

One of the best day trips from Sacramento is Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County with so much to do and explore! Home to the world-famous Charles M. Schulz Museum, it’s an excellent destination for art and history lovers. The vibrant and historic downtown area is known as Railroad Square and has plenty of local shops and restaurants to explore.

Be sure to stop at Nimble and Finn’s for an ice cream cone or eat some traditional Thai food at Khoom Lanna Thai Cuisine.

Not only are there small-town activities, but you can also find plenty to do outdoors. Santa Rosa offers scenic trails at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and a wealth of parks like the Jack London Historic State Park or the Trione-Annadel State Park. You can even experience a safari in the middle of California by visiting  Safari West.


Sonora, California

Sonora, California

Time to travel: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

Travel just short of 2 hours from Sacramento and you’ll find yourself in Sonora, a former gold mining town located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

If you love being outdoors, Sonora is the perfect place for you! Take a scenic hike at Dragoon Gulch Trail to see the city of Sonora at the summit or go swimming in a cave at the Natural Bridges Trail.

For those looking to explore more of the town’s history, check out Sonora’s Historic Downtown District where you can visit some of the old buildings that were built during the Gold Rush days in the 1860s.

You won’t want to miss out on the farm-to-table restaurant of Emberz or scouring through all the cute antique shops lining the street.

Bodega Bay

Bodega Head Beach, a perfect day trip from Sacramento

Bodega Head Beach

Time to travel: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Best time to visit: Fall, Winter, Spring

On a 2-hour drive from Sacramento is Bodega Bay, a picturesque fishing community and popular tourist destination known for being the setting of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, Birds. From the waterfront views to nature hikes, there’s plenty of seafood to enjoy and nature to explore.

Explore Bodega Head which has breathtaking views of the bay or visit Doran Beach for swimming, paddleboarding, or kayaking. You can also hike on the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail to catch sight of birds like pelicans.

Stop by the famous Spud Point Crab Company for some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste and then take a stroll along the beach and watch for migrating whales.

Half Moon Bay

View of the coastal cliffs in Half Moon Bay, California an amazing day trip from Sacramento

View of the coastal cliffs in Half Moon Bay, California

Time to travel: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Best time to visit: Fall, Spring, Summer

Just an hour away from Sacramento is Half Moon Bay, a stunning coastal town with some of the best beaches in Northern California. From the harbor to the cliffside trails, you can experience breathtaking views and outdoor activities like surfing or fishing. You’ll quickly discover that Half Moon Bay is one of the best day trips from Sacramento.

Some of the beaches to visit in Half Moon Bay are Pillar Point Harbor and Mavericks, a world-renowned surfing beach. For those looking to explore nature, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a great spot for tide-pooling and birdwatching.

A visit to Half Moon Bay wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Barbara’s Fish Trip for seafood or tasting some of the delicious local wine from Half Moon Bay Winery.

Lake Tahoe

Clear Waters, Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Clear Waters, Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Time to travel: 2 hours, 12 minutes

Best time to visit: Spring, Summer, Fall

A scenic 2-hour drive will take you on a day trip from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe. This gorgeous glacial lake is the perfect destination for outdoor activities like camping, fishing, swimming, and biking. Lake Tahoe is open in the winter for outdoor activities, but be sure you’d like to be there for the cold weather!

Start with a hike on the trails of Emerald Bay State Park or grab some gear and go kayaking on Lake Tahoe. You can also take a boat cruise directly on Lake Tahoe from the Zephyr Cove Marina during the daytime or take a sunset dinner cruise.

For a great breakfast spot, check out the Getaway Cafe for their coconut-crusted french toast. You’ll also want to the Base Camp Pizza Co. for some unique flavors of pizza!

San Francisco

Time to travel: 2 hours, 16 minutes

Best time to visit: All year round

San Francisco is a must-see for any day trip from Sacramento. With its iconic Golden Gate Bridge and beautiful coastal drives, this city is a must-see!  You can choose to visit the world-renown Alcatraz, or just view it from shore, walk through Pier 39 to watch the sea lions, or take a stroll through Chinatown.

Other well-known places to explore in San Francisco are Golden Gate Park, Ghiradelli Square, and seeing Lombard Street. For a unique experience, take a ride on the vintage San Francisco cable cars or visit the Ferry Building Marketplace to sample some of the city’s best local flavors.

To really get the full San Francisco experience, you can’t miss out on its amazing food scene. From seafood dishes at Fisherman’s Wharf to traditional Italian cuisine in North Beach and Mexican favorites in Mission District—you’ll be sure to find your new favorite!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley from Wawona Tunnel Vista Point, an amazing day trip from Sacramento

Yosemite Valley from Wawona Tunnel Vista Point

Time to travel: 2 hours, 44 minutes

Best time to visit: Late spring-early fall

If you’re looking for a more adventurous day trip from Sacramento, Yosemite National Park is the perfect destination! From majestic waterfalls to lush meadows and valleys, this national park has it all.

Take a moderate hike on the Mist Trail to see Nevada Falls, or stroll around Mirror Lake Trail and catch sight of Half Dome. There are also other iconic points to explore like Glacier Point, El Capitan, and Mariposa Grove.

No matter where you go in Yosemite National Park, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time. Don’t forget to bring your camera for some great shots!

Final Thoughts: Day Trips from Sacramento

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day by the coast or an adventure in a national park, Sacramento has plenty of great day trip options. From Bodega Bay to Yosemite National Park, these spots offer a variety of landscapes and activities to enjoy!

Which day trip from Sacramento is on your list? Share it with us below!

What’s better than a road trip? A road trip with the promise of hiking along the way. With its spectacular landscapes, diverse terrain, and a plethora of outdoor activities, the United States is a hiker’s paradise. From exploring some of the tallest peaks in North America to trekking down stunning coastal trails, there are countless hiking road trips here that can provide an unforgettable experience for any intrepid adventurer. From Oregon’s Pacific Coast to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, these are some of the best road trips in the USA for hikers. So get your car ready and hit the road!

Oregon Loop

Embark on an unforgettable hiking adventure with the Oregon Loop, a road trip perfect for outdoor enthusiasts! The Oregon loop is a popular hiking road trip that takes you from Portland, through the Willamette Valley, and down to the rugged coast of this beautiful state.

Rolling Hills of the Willamette Valley, best road trips in the USA for hikers

Rolling Hills of the Willamette Valley

Set against the backdrop of unspoiled beaches, volcanic mountains, and idyllic valleys, this majestic tour stretches over 1,400 miles of Oregon’s natural beauty. Along the way, hikers can venture onto some of Oregon’s most iconic trails, including the epic Mt Hood, Timberline Trail, or the Three Sisters Loop.

Hikers can also explore stunning coastal trails like the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Yaquina Head Natural Area, or the world-famous Columbia River Gorge. With stunning views, lush forests, and plenty of wildlife, this hiking road trip is sure to provide a memorable experience.

Arizona Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world and it deserves a spot on any hiker’s road trip list.  With its dazzling array of colors and breathtaking views, there’s no better way to explore this iconic landscape than with a hiking road trip through Arizona. From Flagstaff, explore the vast terrain and take in views of the canyon’s red-rock walls, winding rivers, and lush forests.

The Always-Impressive Grand Canyon

The Always-Impressive Grand Canyon

Hikers can explore the many trails that wind through this stunning natural wonder, from easy day hikes to challenging backpacking treks. Popular trails we recommend include the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and the Rim Trail.

The South Rim provides a great introduction to the area, with an array of trails for all levels. For the more adventurous, venture further into the canyon to find even more secluded trails and unique views.  Road-tripping around the Arizona Grand Canyon is sure to have you returning home with some incredible memories.

Yellowstone to Glacier National Park

Double rainbow and Lower Falls from Uncle Tom's Trail, best road trips in the USA for hikers

Double rainbow and Lower Falls from Uncle Tom’s Trail

For the ultimate hiking road trip, embark on a journey from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. This epic adventure will take you through some of the United States’ most spectacular scenery. Starting in Wyoming, take a scenic drive through the sprawling tundra of Yellowstone National Park and marvel at the geysers, wildlife, and stunning vistas.

From here, cross the border into Montana and drive through the awe-inspiring landscape of Glacier National Park. With over 700 miles of trails and countless opportunities for exploration, hikers can take in views of pristine alpine wilderness, cascading waterfalls, and glacial-carved valleys. Popular trails include the Grinnell Glacier Trail, Highline Trail, and the St Mary’s Lake.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

No matter what trail you choose, hikers are sure to leave with unforgettable memories from this incredible road trip.

Colorado Rocky Mountains

Colorado’s Rocky Mountains provide the perfect getaway for any hiker looking to explore America’s national parks and trails. With over 600 miles of breathtaking scenery, hikers of all skill levels can find a trail that’s just right for them.

Stunning landscape in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Stunning landscape in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

From Denver, traverse the Rocky Mountains and take in views of snow-capped peaks, shimmering lakes, and jagged canyons. With hundreds of miles of trails, you can spend days exploring the area’s stunning vistas. Popular hikes include the Maroon Bells and Longs Peak, or for a more relaxed experience, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

With roads that lead from the state’s high mountain passes through alpine forests, winding rivers and past wildflower-covered meadows, road-tripping around Colorado’s Rocky Mountains will leave visitors with plenty of memories to cherish.

California’s Yosemite National Park to John Muir Trail

For the ultimate hiking road trip, take a journey from Yosemite National Park to John Muir Trail. This spectacular journey will take you through some of California’s most breathtaking landscapes, from the soaring cliffs of Yosemite to the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Yosemite National Park, best road trips in the USA for hikers

Yosemite National Park

Starting in Yosemite National Park, explore the vast terrain, take in views of towering granite cliffs and trek through ancient forests. Popular trails include Half Dome, Mist Trail, and the John Muir Trail.

From here, venture further into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and explore the majestic wilderness of John Muir Trail. This stunning trail stretches over 200 miles, taking hikers through a variety of stunning landscapes and providing unparalleled views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

This hiking road trip is sure to provide an unforgettable experience and leave you with incredible memories.

The Pacific Northwest Coast

For a road trip full of stunning views and incredible hikes, head to the Pacific Northwest Coast. This stunning region of the United States is home to some of the most scenic landscapes in the world. From sea stacks to emerald forests, there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore and take in on this hiking road trip.

Unique Landscape of the Pacific Northwest

Unique Landscape of the Pacific Northwest

Start in Seattle, Washington and explore the city’s waterfront and famous attractions such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. From here, take a hiking road trip up the coast and explore the stunning natural beauty of Washington’s Olympic National Park. Take in views of pristine lakes, rugged coastlines, and lush forests.

Continue your road trip up the coast and explore Oregon’s stunning landscapes. Popular places to visit in Oregon include the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Mount Hood, and Crater Lake.

No matter which trail you take, you’re sure to leave with incredible memories from your journey along the Pacific Northwest Coast.

The Appalachian Trail

For adventurous hikers looking for an epic road trip, take a journey along the iconic Appalachian Trail. Stretching over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, this legendary trail will take you through some of the United States’ most stunning landscapes.

Appalachian Trail Heading to Double Springs Gap from Clingmans Dome

Appalachian Trail Heading to Double Springs Gap from Clingmans Dome

Starting in Georgia, take a hiking road trip up the eastern seaboard and explore the diverse terrain of the Appalachian Trail. From towering mountain peaks to lush forests, this trail takes hikers through a variety of stunning landscapes and provides unparalleled views of the Appalachian Mountains. Popular places to visit along the Appalachian Trail include Mount Katahdin, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Shenandoah National Park.

The Best Hiking Road Trips in the USA – Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the best road trips in the USA for hikers. No matter which one you choose, these incredible journeys are sure to provide an unforgettable experience and leave you with lasting memories.

To ensure you have a great hiking experience, be sure to get the AllTrails app before you go. The app has an extensive list of the best hiking trails all over the world, with reviews from other hikers to keep you up to date on the latest trail conditions. You can filter by trail difficulty, length, and suitability and download trail maps to help keep you on track even when you’re offline.

If it’s sun-filled days you seek, head to the East Bay. The region is home to California’s Bay Area’s driest microclimate, with a mixed landscape of oak-dotted hills, grassy ridgelines, forested valleys, and rock-studded peaks.

The East Bay Area Regional Park District’s 65 parks and preserves contain a whopping 1,150 miles of trails, nearly a dozen freshwater lakes, 40 miles of shoreline, two islands, and hundreds of acres of undeveloped inland hills and valleys, some of which offer panoramic views over the Bay Area.

Many of the trails in the East Bay Area are off-limits to dogs, due to wildlife considerations, but not to worry, there are still plenty of dog-friendly hikes in the East Bay. Some trails even explicitly allow for dogs off the leash. Just be sure to pay attention to posted signs, and always bring bags, so that you can pack your animal’s waste out of the hike.

To ensure you have a great hiking experience with your dog in the East Bay, check out the AllTrails app. The app has reviews from other hikers to keep you up to date on the latest trail conditions. You can filter by trail difficulty, length, and whether the trail is dog friendly. You can also download trail maps to help keep you on track even when you’re offline.

Bay View Loop

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Pinole

Level: Easy, 5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: Negligible

Easy walking not far from East Bay Area cities leads to close-up bay views and a glimpse at Point Pinole’s varied history.

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline is a little park with a big heart, a place of tranquility not far from the urban bustle of the East Bay. Few visitors other than avid anglers and dog walkers make the trip to the tip of Point Pinole, but those who do are surprised at this small park’s varied offerings. 

In addition to inspiring bay views, a fascinating history, and good pier fishing, the park has volleyball courts, picnic areas, and more than 12 miles of winding dirt trails that offer dog-friendly hikes in the East Bay Area.

Two Trails and Carquinez Strait

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, between Crockett and Martinez

Level: Easy, 1-3 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Two appealing trail segments explore the grassland bluffs bordering the narrow waterway between San Pablo and Suisun Bays.

Although San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay are as familiar as the local freeways to most Bay Area residents, the waterway at Carquinez Strait is far less known. Even the name ‘Carquinez Strait’ sounds foreign and exotic.

The northeastern arm of the conglomeration of waterways that constitute the bay and river delta, Carquinez Strait forms the narrow passageway between San Pablo and Suisun Bays. 

The bluffs above Carquinez Strait are a wonderful place for an easy, dog-friendly hike in the East Bay Area. Part of the joy of this walk is watching the ships, large and small, journey in and out of the strait. You might see anything from a windsurfer to a freighter.

San Pablo Ridge and Wildcat Creek Loop

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, Berkeley

Level: Moderate, 6.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet

Enjoy rolling hills, waving grasslands, and wide-angle views of the bay.

Never judge a trail by its trailhead, sage hikers say. When you park your car at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park’s Alvarado staging area, you might think you’re in for a forested hike through eucalyptus and oaks.

But looks are deceiving at Wildcat Canyon. What begins as a tree-shaded paved trail quickly becomes a dirt path through the grasslands that takes you up 1,000 feet for wide views of the San Francisco Bay Area. If you’re looking for a satisfying hike that is also dog-friendly, Wildcat Creek Loop is one of our favorites.

Briones Loop Tour

Briones Regional Park, Martinez

Level: Moderate, 7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet

This pastoral loop hike in Briones’ less-visited northern section leads past a miniature waterfall, two duck ponds, and miles of cow-populated grasslands.

Briones Regional Park is more than 6,000 acres of grasslands and oaks that were once part of the Rancho San Felipe, a Spanish land grant. In the mid-1800s, this was an important fruit-growing region. Today it’s the grassy home of grazing cows and is frequently visited by hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and horseback riders.

The large expanse of open grasslands is perhaps better suited to bikers and equestrians than to hikers. But on a breezy spring day when the wildflowers are blooming and the grasslands are glowing green, it wouldn’t be hard to wax poetic about the place. 

Stream, Fern, and West Ridge Trail Loop

The inviting dog-friendly trails in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland

Redwood Regional Park, Oakland

Level: Easy/Moderate 4.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 700 feet

The East Bay Area’s answer to Muir Woods and Big Basin is the prized redwoods of Redwood Regional Park.

They don’t call this place Redwood Regional Park for nothing. The dark, shaggy-barked trees grow more than 100 feet tall, and their shady canopy covers a vast expanse of the park. A walk among these lofty trees is the perfect antidote to too much time spent in Emeryville office buildings or on East Bay freeways.

Rocky Ridge and Devil’s Hole Loop

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, San Ramon

Level: Moderate, 6.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet

A hidden canyon tucked amid burgeoning development offers surprising tranquility and a healthy hill climb.

If you are looking for a dog-friendly hike in the East Bay Area and have some energy to burn, Las Trampas is a great place to tromp around. Quite simply, all trails at Las Trampas go up.

The park is composed of two parallel ridges – rock Ridge and Las Trampas Ridge – bisected by Bollinger Creek. The park road and its many trailheads lie along the creek canyon, which means that no matter where you start hiking, sooner or later you have to climb one of the ridges.

But no matter what, the rewards for doing so are great.

Stewartville and Ridge Trail Loop

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Antioch

Level: Moderate, 7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet

Some steep ups and downs lead to an 1860s mining tunnel and big views of the Carquinez Strait.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is a strange mix of elements – human history combined with natural history, wild green hills juxtaposed with industrial complexes north of the park, and rare species of plants commingled with nonnative flora planted by settlers in the late 1800s.

The 3,700-acre park has many moods and puts on different faces in changing seasons and weather conditions. Not only is it a great dog-friendly hike in the East Bay Area, but this 7-mile loop also reveals some of its highlights and adds some good exercise to the bargain.

Morgan Territory Loop

Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, between Livermore and Walnut Creek

Level: Moderate, 7 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 1.200 feet

A varied loop in the green hills of Morgan Territory offers expansive views, a walk through oak woodland, and myriad spring wildflowers.

Morgan Territory – even the name sounds wild, like a holdover from the Old West. If you’re wondering whether anything wild could still exist in Contra Costa County, wonder no more. Come to Morgan Territory and rediscover the wild East Bay Area with your canine companion.

Bay View and Red Hill Loop

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Newark

Level: Easy, 4.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

The home of the Ohlone people for more than 2,000 years, Coyote Hills is now a place to enjoy bay and marsh views and abundant bird sightings.

If you ever have occasion to drive across the Dumbarton Bridge from the South Bay to the East Bay, a few things catch your attention – such as the huge electrical towers that straddle the water and the dismantled, decaying railroad bridge that parallels Dumbarton.

But urban-weary eyes come to rest on the soft green knolls of Coyote Hills Regional Park. Situated on your left as you head east across the bay, the park’s tule marshes, creeks, and acres of grassland hills beckon you to pull off the freeway and explore its dog-friendly trails.

A 1,000-acre patch of open space along the edge of San Francisco Bay Coyote Hills was the homeland of the Ohlone tribe for more than 2,000 years. The Ohlone fished bay waters for food and cut willow branches along the creeks to build their homes.

Today the park is a wildlife sanctuary, both a permanent home and a temporary rest stop for thousands of residents and migratory birds.

Sunol Loop Tour

One of many dog-friendly hikes in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

One of many dog-friendly hikes in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

Sunol Regional Wilderness, near Pleasanton

Level: Strenuous, 7.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain. 1,800 feet

Wildflowers abound in the spring and Alameda Creek flows year-round on this scenic loop in the Sunol countryside.

A trip to Sunol is a trip to the country. Unlike many other East Bay parks, Sunol Regional Wilderness isn’t bordered by neighborhoods or major thoroughfares. You can’t reach it any other way than by driving slowly on a narrow, country road.

When you hike the grassy, oak-studded hills of Sunol, all you see are more grassy, oak-studded hills, and an occasional glimpse at the shimmering Calaveras Reservoir. It is protected land that is surrounded by more protected land, and that is what makes it a great place to go hiking in the East Bay Area on dog-friendly trails.

Maguire Peaks Loop

Sunol Regional Wilderness, near Pleasanton

Level: Moderate, 5.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Explore the wilder side of Sunol Regional Wilderness on this moderate loop off Welch Creek Road

As you drive south on I-680 near Pleasanton, you can’t help but notice the oddly-shaped Maguire Peaks slanting outward from the round, grassy hills. The two side-by-side peaks aren’t conical, like most peaks, or even rounded. Instead, they’re fin-shaped, like two obtuse triangles. 

Their summits point sideways, then upward. After you spend a little while staring at these odd little mountains, you may find yourself longing to explore them.

Murietta Falls

Del Valle Regional Park and Ohlone Regional Wilderness, near Livermore

Level: Butt-Kicker, 12 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 3,500 feet

Hoping to spot a 100-foot-tall ephemeral waterfall, hikers endure a supremely challenging climb and descent in Ohlone Regional Wilderness.

Everybody loves a waterfall, but do you love waterfalls enough to grunt out a 3,500-foot elevation change? Think it over. If your answer is yes, you’re heading to find adventure in Ohlone Regional Wilderness, culminating in a visit to 100-foot Murietta Falls.

Ohlone Regional Wilderness is one of the Bay Area’s special places. No public roads lead through its nearly 10,000 acres. You have to hike just to reach its boundary, starting either from Sunol Regional Wilderness to the west or Del Valle Regional Park to the north. To be more specific, you have to hike uphill. 

Similarly, Murietta Falls is one of the Bay Area’s most special waterfalls. That’s partly because it’s much taller than other local falls and partly because it’s hard enough to reach that most people never make the trip. 

March is often the best month to see the fall flowing, but it depends on the current year’s rain pattern. One thing to remember, this trail is not suitable for a warm or hot day. It offers very little shade coupled with a ton of climbing.