Best Road Trips From San Jose

From the dramatic cliffs and ocean views of Big Sur to the foodie haven of Napa Valley and glamorous Los Angeles, discover the stunning landscapes and amazing cities that make the Bay Area and beyond such a gem for adventurers heading out of San Jose.

Top Road Trip Destinations From San Jose

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Our rankings are based only on editorial opinion, not any commercial consideration.
2 people on a morning Surf in Santa Cruz, CA

🚗 30 miles ⏱️ 50 minutes

Santa Cruz is a surfer's paradise and a beautiful coastal city just a short drive from San Jose. This laid-back beachside escape is home to the Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and beautiful sandy beaches.

On this short drive, you can also visit John Steinbeck House and see a quirky gravitational anomaly at The Mystery Spot.

Red Golden Gate Bridge over the waters in San Francisco

🚗 60 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 15 minutes

There is so much to do in San Francisco that you will want to allow yourself a few days here. Take a stroll along the Fisherman's Wharf and admire the stunning views from the Golden Gate Bridge, and don't forget to take a photo of Alcatraz.

On your way, why not extend your road trip to also visit Redwood City and Filoli Historic House and Garden?

Yosemite National Park Valley from Tunnel View, bright views surrounded by Yosemite peaks

🚗 180 miles ⏱️ 5 hours, 20 minutes

If you are looking for the ultimate outdoor adventure, head to stunning Yosemite. You will find a new wonder at every turn, from the rugged granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome to the breathtaking waterfalls and giant sequoias.

Just before you enter Yosemite, we recommend taking a little extra time to visit the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum.

Small stores along the sidewalk in Carmel, California, USA.

🚗 70 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 30 minutes

For some of the best Pacific Coast views, Monterey is the place to visit. This city is known for its historic Cannery Row, the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, and its whale-watching opportunities. Don't forget to visit the neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea while here.

En route to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can also visit San Juan Bautista and Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

Downtown LA night Los Angeles sunset colorful skyline California

🚗 390 miles ⏱️ 5 hours, 20 minutes

Unleash your urban explorer in Los Angeles, where you can visit the famous Hollywood Sign, stroll along the Walk of Fame, spend some time at the Griffith Observatory, enjoy retail therapy on Rodeo Drive, or relax on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice.

On the way, you can visit the garlic capital of Gilroy, make a detour to Bakersfield and spend some time in Santa Clarita.

Beautiful Sunset Sky in Napa Valley Wine Country on Spring Vineyards , Mountains.

🚗 90 miles ⏱️ 2 hours

Napa Valley is famous for its wineries, picturesque vineyards, and Michelin-starred dining experiences. Explore the pretty countryside, visit award-winning wineries for tastings and tours, and enjoy a hot air balloon ride for panoramic views.

To make the best of this road trip, you can also visit Walnut Creek and make a detour to Mount Diablo State Park en route.

Lake Tahoe, showing off it's crystal blue waters

🚗 230 miles ⏱️ 4 hours, 20 minutes

Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular getaway destinations on the West Coast and it is easy to understand why. You can enjoy outdoor activities year-round here, including skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking and beach-going in the summer.

As you make your way to Lake Tahoe, you can stop at Placerville to learn more about the area's Gold Rush history.

Palm trees by the shore in Santa Barbara, California

🚗 300 miles ⏱️ 5 hours

Welcome to the Mediterranean right in the heart of California! Santa Barbara is a pretty city known for its Spanish colonial architecture and beautiful beaches. Here, you can enjoy a stroll along Stearns Wharf, and relax on the sandy shores of East Beach.

A few amazing places you can discover on this drive include San Luis Obispo and the pretty coastal town of Pismo Beach.

wide angle view of Crater Lake form the top of Watchman's Peak, beautiful landscape in Oregon

🚗 450 miles ⏱️ 7 hours, 20 minutes

Crater Lake is known for its stunning deep blue color and clarity. Make sure to enjoy the scenic Rim Drive if you are visiting during the warmer months and hike the several trails offering breathtaking vistas, or take a boat tour to Wizard Island.

You will pass through beautiful towns surrounded by gorgeous scenery on this drive, such as Mount Shasta and Klamath Falls.

Sunset over a Sonoma County Vineyard, CA


🚗 100 miles ⏱️ 2 hours

Sonoma is home to fantastic wineries and has a rich history. The city is famous for its picturesque vineyards and amazing restaurants. Make sure to visit Jack London State Historic Park nearby.

If you want to go on the ultimate California Wine County road trip, you can also make a detour on this drive to visit Napa Valley.

Big Sur, California, USA with a view of Bixby Bridge surrounded by green cliffs over the Pacific Ocean on a sunny clear day.

Big Sur

🚗 100 miles ⏱️ 2 hours

Big Sur is a breathtaking stretch of coastline with dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy a scenic drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at iconic landmarks such as Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls.

Don't forget to add Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea to your itinerary on this epic coastal drive on Pacific Coast Highway.

Panoramic view of the Strip at night with the neon lights on

Las Vegas

🚗 560 miles ⏱️ 8 hours, 50 minutes

The part never stops in Sin City! Las Vegas, famously known as the "Entertainment Capital of the World," is home to incredible nightlife, iconic casino hotels, and star-studded entertainment bathed in the famous neon lights of the Strip.

Venture beyond the Strip to discover the nearby natural wonders of Red Rock Canyon and the Hoover Dam.

sunset in palm springs, california

🚗 480 miles ⏱️ 7 hours, 50 minutes

Treat yourself to a luxurious stay at Palm Springs. This desert resort city is known for its stylish hotels, golf courses, and pampering spas. Don't forget to take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for panoramic views of the Coachella Valley.

While here, you can also enjoy scenic hikes on the trails of nearby Joshua Tree National Park.

View of Portland, Oregon overlooking the willamette river on a Fall Afternoon


🚗 670 miles ⏱️ 8 hours, 50 minutes

For a city escape, Portland offers a unique mix of urban cool and beautiful scenery. This city is known for its friendly community, buzzing craft beer scene, and lively neighborhoods like the Pearl District and Hawthorne.

On the way, we recommend also stopping at Redwood National and State Parks before heading inland through Eugene and Salem.

Beach and seaside cliffs at Half Moon Bay

🚗 80 miles ⏱️ 2 hours, 10 minutes

Pacifica is a hidden gem and a local favorite known for its pretty beaches and excellent surfing conditions. Nearby, you will also find Half Moon Bay, home to a picturesque harbor and some of the freshest seafood you will taste, and Pescadero, a quaint farming community.

Before you reach the coast, you can also visit the Filoli Historic House and Garden en route.

Rock Formations Tower in the High Peaks Area of Pinnacles National Park

🚗 80 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 30 minutes

For a different experience, you can visit Pinnacles National Park and admire its unique scenery with rugged terrain, the iconic Pinnacles rock formations, and expansive views from high peaks and overlooks.

On the way, you can also visit Gilroy, the "Garlic Capital of the World," and San Juan Bautista if you have some extra time.

Panoramic view from Grizzly Peak in Berkeley Hills onto Berkley, Oakland and San Francisco


🚗 50 miles ⏱️ 45 minutes

Berkeley is a lively and welcoming place with a little bit of everything. Walk around the UC Berkeley campus, enjoy the amazing dining options (as one of the birthplaces of the farm-to-table movement), and explore the independent shops on Telegraph Avenue.

This drive would make the perfect day trip and on your way to Berkeley, we recommend also visiting Fremont.

Dawn over the landmarks and brightly colored nature of West Sacramento

🚗 120 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 50 minutes

Sacramento is the capital city of California and a great place to visit for any history buff or urban explorer. While here, you can visit the historic Old Sacramento district and spend some time at the California State Capitol Museum.

On the way, you can stretch your legs or have a scenic picnic at Del Valle Regional Park and spend some time in Stockton.

Beachwood, white sands and blue sea at Bodega Bay

🚗 120 miles ⏱️ 2 hours, 20 minutes

Bodega Bay is a lovely coastal town known for its beauty, fresh seafood, and relaxed atmosphere. Explore the picturesque harbor, enjoy fishing or whale-watching excursions, or simply relax on the sandy shores of Doran Beach.

Driving north, you will get to visit San Francisco, drive on the Golden Gate Bridge, and explore the stunning Point Reyes National Seashore.

Stinson Beach landscape. Pride of Madeira (Echinum fastuosum) shrub.

🚗 70 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 30 minutes

Muir Woods National Monument is a pristine redwood forest located just north of San Francisco. Here, you can wander amidst towering redwoods and be amazed by the cathedral-like groves. Nearby, Mill Valley is home to boutiques and art galleries.

This is a relatively short drive, which will allow you to spend some time in San Francisco and enjoy a bite while in the city.

The annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in July is the highlight of the year for the Garlic Capital of the World


🚗 40 miles ⏱️ 55 minutes

Gilroy is your go-to destination for all things garlic and family-friendly fun. The "Garlic Capital of the World" is home to the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park and the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. Nearby you can also visit Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park.

If you have time, you can also make detours to Calero County Park and Anderson Lake County Park on the way to Gilroy.

Oakland Skyline from Above during Sunset

🚗 45 miles ⏱️ 1 hour

Oakland and Alameda are full of cool things to do, and only a short drive away. Discover Oakland's art scene, enjoy tasty bites, and take a stroll around Jack London Square. Alameda is also home to shops, lovely beaches, and unbeatable views of the San Francisco skyline.

As you drive to Oakland, you can also visit Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, located directly en route.

Aerial view of Angel Island at sunset off the coast of San Francisco

🚗 70 miles ⏱️ 1 hour, 25 minutes

Tiburon and Angel Island make for a perfect day trip. Hop on a ferry to Angel Island for some hiking and stunning Bay Area views, then wander the lovely waterfront town of Tiburon. Enjoy delicious food, boutique shopping, and gorgeous scenery all around.

Before you reach Tiburon, you can visit San Francisco and take a drive down the twisty Lombard Street.

The vines grow on steeply terraced terrain in the Sierra Foothills.

🚗 140 miles ⏱️ 2 hours, 40 minutes

Jamestown and Angels Camp are historic Gold Rush towns located in the heart of California's Gold Country. Enjoy a ride on Railtown 1897's historic trains in Jamestown and dive into the rich history of Angels Camp, famous for its annual frog-jumping contest and charming Main Street.

On the way, you can take breaks and visit Livermore and Stockton if you have some extra time.

Longer road trips from San Jose

San Diego, California, USA downtown city skyline during a beautiful sunset.

🚗 560 miles ⏱️ 10 hours

San Diego is the perfect beach destination. Make sure to also visit the historic Gaslamp Quarter and world-famous San Diego Zoo while here.

The futuristic Space Needle dominates the Seattle skyline on a cloudy day

🚗 850 miles ⏱️ 14 hours, 15 minutes

Seattle is a great urban getaway, home to the iconic Space Needle and the busy Pike Place Market, surrounded by the views of Puget Sound.

Grand prismatic pool at Yellowstone National Park bright colors

🚗 1,020 miles ⏱️ 15 hours, 40 minutes

Yellowstone National Park is America's first national park and is famous for its stunning geothermal features, including the Old Faithful geyser.

Panoramic view of The Grand Canyon

🚗 1,050 miles ⏱️ 19 hours

The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is a breathtaking sight to behold with stunning panoramic views along the rim.