Explore Trip Ideas

Destination San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city and a fantastic destination for tourism. The Bay Area has great scenery, fine museums and theaters, and is home to the world’s foremost innovators in technology. Did you know that the people who call the San Francisco Bay Area home love it because it is so close to fascinating cultural, natural, historic and recreational sites? Whichever way you go, the trip may start by the Bay, but the discovery begins on America's public lands. Plan your visit to San Francisco.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Anand Rane)

Up the Coast: North of San Francisco

Muir Woods

Opened in 1908, Muir Woods was the first National Monument created in an urban setting. Six miles of trails afford views of thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world. You can walk along Redwood Creek past spectacular wildlife and flowers. The park is open every day of the year including all holidays from 8 AM until sunset. Just 14 miles from Downtown.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes (Nick Chill)

From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and long beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges, Point Reyes offers visitors over 1,500 species of plants and animals to discover. Visitors can view elephant seals, migrating whales, raptors, herds of Tule elk, wildflowers, a self-guided Earthquake Trail and Kule Loklo, a recreated Coast Miwok village. Camping is available along Tomales Bay and in the interior of the park, click here for more information. Learn more about Point Reyes National Seashore. Located 45 miles north of Downtown.

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (FWS)

This refuge is a haven for wading birds and ducks, vast stretches of lush pickleweed marsh, and a sense of solitude in the midst of seven million people. Just a stone's throw away from San Francisco and California's famed Napa Valley, San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers a rare peek into how the San Francisco Bay Area once was with its expansive marshes and bay waters. Located 40 miles north of Downtown.

On the way to Tahoe: East of San Francisco

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Homefront National Historical Park

Explore and honor the efforts and sacrifices of American civilians on the World War II home front. Find out how the national home front effort changed America. Many faces, many stories, many truths weave a complex tapestry of realities from this time of rapid change, opportunity and loss. Visit the Rosie The Riverer/World War II Homefront website for more information. Located 17 miles northeast of Downtown.

John Muir National Historic Site

John Muir was many things: inventor, immigrant, botanist, glaciologist, writer, co-founder of the Sierra Club, fruit rancher and conservationist. Visit his home in Martinez to see where he worked, wrote and lived during his efforts to preserve and protect some of our greatest national treasures including Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as National Parks. For more information, visit the John Muir National Historic Site website. Located 40 miles east of Downtown.

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

Enjoy wildlife viewing and photography as you drive the three-mile, graveled auto tour through wetlands. Walk a one-mile trail along a lush riparian slough. Relax and enjoy the scenery on the viewing platform. Thousands of waterfowl are present from September through March. Many birds and mammals can be seen year-round. Plan your visit to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Located 125 miles northeast of Downtown.

Touring to Yosemite: East of San Francisco

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge (FWS)

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge consists of nearly 45,000 acres of wetlands, grasslands and riparian habitats for the protection and benefit of wildlife. The refuge is located within the Pacific Flyway, a major route for migrating birds. The extensive wetlands of the refuge and surrounding lands provide habitat for up to a million waterfowl each winter. The refuge along with other protected lands forms a part of the largest contiguous freshwater wetland in California. This area has been recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, an Audubon Important Bird Area, and as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. Located 125 miles southeast of Downtown.

Merced River Recreation Area

Merced River Recreation Area (Richard Albers/FWS)

Merced River Recreation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect the wild and scenic river. From high in Yosemite National Park, the Merced River rushes through glacially-carved canyons, rugged mountains and foothills to the San Joaquin Valley. Public access points and the many rafting outfitters allow whitewater enthusiasts to challenge the rapids at their own pace. Enjoy a day of fishing before gathering around the campfire to cook up the day's catch at one of the area’s campgrounds. Located 180 miles southeast of Downtown.

Down the Coast: South of San Francisco

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Charles TU/Share the Experience)

The refuge spans open bay, salt pond, salt marsh, mudflat, upland and vernal pool habitats of South San Francisco Bay. Millions of shorebirds and waterfowl stop to refuel at the refuge during the spring and fall migration. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the refuge each year to enjoy its diverse wildlife and habitats. For details, visit the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Refuge website. Located 40 miles southeast of Downtown.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Dominic Aversa/Share the Experience)

Considered by many the Serengeti of the Sea, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary contains one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world. The sanctuary includes one of the nation's largest kelp forests, underwater canyons and the closest-to-shore deep ocean environment; it also provides a home for a variety of "marine life" including marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, and numerous invertebrates and plants. This remarkably productive marine environment is fringed by spectacular coastal scenery making it an excellent destination to enjoy land and water recreation such as bird watching, tide pooling, diving and kayaking. Plan your trip to Monterey Bay. Located 75 miles south of Downtown.

Fort Ord Public Lands

Fort Ord Public Lands (Bob Wick/BLM)

Come out and enjoy some of the last undeveloped natural wildlands on the Monterey Peninsula. Located on the former Fort Ord military base, here the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protects and manages 35 species of rare plants and animals along with their native coastal habitats. In addition, there are also more than 86 miles of trails for visitors to explore on foot, bike or horseback. Visit the Fort Ord National Monument website to plan your next adventure. Located 120 miles south of Downtown.

The Pacific Ocean: West of San Francisco

Whale Watching

Farallon National Wildlife Refuge

Located within the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, these remote and rugged islands protect an incredible bounty of seabirds, sea lions and seals. Located 28 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, these islands are home to the largest seabird nesting colony south of Alaska. While closed to the public, many private boat tours bring visitors to the islands to observe the abundant wildlife visible by boat. Plan your visit. Just 32 miles west of Downtown.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Home to one of the most diverse and bountiful marine environments in the world, the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary covers 1,282 square miles off the northern and central California coast and surrounds the wind-swept peaks of the Farallones islands. The sanctuary contains open ocean, bays, tidal flats, rocky intertidal areas, wetlands, subtidal reefs and coastal beaches where marine life flourishes in the nutrient-rich waters. It is also home to many species of seabirds, including Tufted Puffins; marine mammals such as endangered blue and humpback whales; and one of the most significant white shark populations on the planet. Enjoy whale watching, tide pooling and kayaking in sanctuary water. Let us help you plan your next visit.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (NOAA)

Located north of the Gulf of the Farallones, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is entirely offshore and surrounds Cordell Bank, a large rocky undersea feature located 22 miles west of the Point Reyes headlands. Due to its depth, currents, and distance from the mainland, few people have seen this rich and diverse marine community along the California seafloor. Enjoy wildlife viewing, or visit various Cordell Bank “exhibits” on land, including an extensive immersive gallery all about Cordell Bank at the Oakland Museum of CA.