Sacramento is the capital city of the state of California. While California itself is a relatively new state, Sacramento’s history is tied with the state from before California’s beginning. As such, the area around Sacramento is filled with beautiful places to visit. Read on about my favorite day trips from Sacramento.
Sacramento itself is full of history and interesting tourist attractions. However, if you’re spending a few days in this area you may be asking yourself this question: Where can I drive around Sacramento? Here are my favorite places to visit within 2 hours of Sacramento. So, let’s explore my list of best day trips from Sacramento.
1. Lake Tahoe
Beautiful view of Emerald Bay in the summer seen from the trail leading down to Vikingsholm
See my photos from Emerald Bay
Lake Tahoe, located two hours from Sacramento, is situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its scenic beauty, clarity, and recreational activities attract visitors seeking picturesque day trips from Sacramento.
Emerald Bay, on Lake Tahoe’s west shore, offers some of the best scenic views, with hikeable forests on either side of the lake; swimming, kayaking, and scuba diving areas; and Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian designed mansion. Sand Harbor, on Lake Tahoe’s east shore, has beachfront rock formations extending to the water. In addition to swimming, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving, and hiking, Sand Harbor also hosts the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
Best Things to Do at Lake Tahoe in Summer
2. Napa Valley
Castello Di Amorosa winery in Calistoga, has opened in 2007. The main attraction is the medieval castle built using old world techniques.
See my photos from Castello di Amorosa
An hour and twenty-five minutes from Sacramento, Napa Valley is northern California’s best known winemaking center. With hundreds of scenic wineries, many of which are housed in impressive architectural estates, Napa Valley comes top on any list of classic day trips from Sacramento.
Napa Valley vintner Dario Sattui owns two wineries. The Castello di Amorosa winery in Calistoga resembles a 13th century medieval Tuscan castle, with five towers, a moat, courtyards, and an armory. The V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena is ideal for picnics, with shaded picnic grounds surrounded by vineyards, flowers, and trees. A deli sells charcuterie, fruits, cheeses, and winery-made sandwiches, paninis, salads, and desserts.
3. San Francisco
Downtown San Francisco and the Pier 39 area seen from the Golden Gate Bridge south vista point
See my photos from the Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco is filled with history, distinct neighborhoods, good restaurants, and scenic beauty. Just a 90 minute drive from Sacramento, San Francisco is well worth a place on your list of easy road trips from Sacramento.
San Francisco’s iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge, is best visible from Crissy Field, a former Army airfield turned natural dune and tidal marsh habitat. Nearby Pier 39 offers shops, restaurants, entertainment, street performers, and resident sea lions.
One San Francisco highlight is Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden. The Tea Garden has stone walkways, pagodas, statuary, native Japanese plants, koi ponds, an arched drum bridge, a bronze Buddha, cherry blossom trees, and a zen garden.
With easy access and lots of tourist attractions, San Francisco comes on top of any list of day trips from Sacramento.
4. Sausalito & the Marin Headlands
The Golden Gate Bridge seen from Battery Spencer in Marin Headlands
See my photos from Marin Headlands
Located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands’ scenic beauty and history make for a great day trip from Sacramento that’s ninety minutes away. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Marin Headlands include Muir Woods; Fort Baker; Fort Barry; Fort Cronkhite; the Point Bonita Lighthouse; and Rodeo and Muir Beaches. There are spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Located northeast of the Marin Headlands is Sausalito, a waterfront town with galleries, shops, and restaurants along its main street, Bridgeway. There are spectacular views of San Francisco Bay from the Bridgeway Promenade, a concrete and asphalt “boardwalk.”
Combining Sausalito and the nearby Marin Headlands makes it high on my list of day trips from Sacramento.
People tasting wine and relaxing in a wine tasting room on Matheson Street
See my photos from Healdsburg
A two-hour drive from Sacramento, Healdsburg, in northern Sonoma County, is part of the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River, and Alexander Valley wine growing regions. Its small town charm, wineries, and restaurants make Healdsburg a great addition to your list of day trips from Sacramento.
Healdsburg Plaza, an old-fashioned town square established by gold rush entrepreneur Harmon Heald in the 1850’s, is the cornerstone of Healdsburg. Within walking distance of the Plaza, there are over 20 winery tasting rooms, numerous restaurants, several galleries, quaint shops, and unique boutiques. The Plaza hosts many events during the year, including concerts, festivals, plays, art shows, and a farmer’s market.
Entrance to the old Folsom powerhouse
See my photos from Folsom
Folsom, a half hour from Sacramento, is the only destination from my day trips from Sacramento that’s accessible via light rail. Folsom, originally a gold mining town, was home to both the first railroad west of the Mississippi River and a Pony Express stop.
Folsom’s historic district is home to Pioneer Village, two museums, and Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park. The Folsom Powerhouse, overlooking Lake Natoma and the American River, was one of the first power plants to transmit electricity over long distances.
Folsom Lake, a state recreation area, was created from the rebuilding of Folsom Dam. Folsom Lake is open for fishing, biking, hiking, picnicking, and most water activities.
Bins of stock on the factory floor at the Fairfield Jelly Belly candy factory
Photo by Grendelkhan – CC BY-SA 3.0,
Anyone with a sweet tooth will appreciate a day trip from Sacramento to Fairfield. Located 45 minutes from Sacramento, Fairfield is the home of the Jelly Belly Candy Company, whose famous jelly beans come in fifty regular flavors and a multitude of themed flavors. Jelly Belly offers a factory tour where visitors can see the jelly beans being made and packaged.
Those seeking to taste something other than candy will find wineries, craft breweries, and olive oil tasting rooms scattered throughout Fairfield and neighboring Suisun City. Two museums, the American Armory Museum and the Western Railroad Museum, also welcome visitors. Visiting Fairfield should be on your list of fun day trips from Sacramento.
The historic Truckee Hotel
Truckee, established during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, and an hour forty-five minutes from Sacramento, is the gateway to North Lake Tahoe. Truckee’s downtown area contains many historic Old West architecturally designed buildings. The history, shops, restaurants, and galleries make a visit to Truckee’s downtown one of the ideal day trips from Sacramento.
The buildings on Truckee’s Commercial Row, dating back to 1871, originally housed shops, saloons, and businesses patronized by railroad workers. Today, the buildings feature locally-owned shops, restaurants, galleries, and bars. One block from Commercial Row, the Old Truckee Jail, built in 1875, serves as Truckee’s historical museum.
Bidwell Mansion is a three-story brick structure is built in an informally romantic version of the Italianate style.
Photo by Frank Schulenburg (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Chico, located 90 minutes north of Sacramento, is a historical, college, and recreational town, making it one of the ideal day trips from Sacramento. Founded by John Bidwell, he and his wife entertained politicians and other well-known individuals at their mansion and donated land for establishing Chico State University and Bidwell Park.
The Bidwell Mansion, now a State Historical Park, was where the Bidwells hosted Rutherford B Hayes, General William T. Sherman, and John Muir. Bidwell Park, located near the Mansion, is one of the largest municipal parks in the U.S. The park features trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, swimming areas, and fitness, golf, and disc golf courses.
10. Echo Lakes
Upper and Lower Echo Lakes
Photo by Tahoenathan (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Pacific Crest Trail is an hour forty-five minutes from Sacramento. While it is possible to hike the Trail from the Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha during a day trip from Sacramento, the Echo Lakes portion of the trail is easily traversed and allows hikers to take in some beautiful scenery.
From the trailhead, the Trail goes to the right of Lower Echo Lake. Follow the Trail, which has gorgeous lake views, for 2.5 miles to Upper Echo Lake.. At the 2.5 mile mark, a trail to the left leads to a pier at Upper Echo Lake providing swimming access. While the other day trips from Sacramento represent historical places, hiking Echo Lakes will relax and energize you.
Is it Worth Taking Day Trips from Sacramento?
Absolutely! The area around Sacramento is filled with natural beautiful, small historical towns and of course San Francisco. If you have visited the main tourist attractions in Sacramento, and have extra time, make sure you plan taking some day trips from Sacramento in order to complete your travel experience in this area of Northern California.