Top 10 Scenic Drives In And Around San Francisco, California

scenic drives in san francisco
Ruth Alexis
Ruth Alexis 
| 4 min read

To most people, San Francisco, California, is known as the bustling cultural and commercial centre of the United States. The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island come to mind immediately when one mentions San Francisco. However, San Francisco is also packed with breathtaking nature spots and scenic locales. Driving through and to these places is one of the best ways to let your adventurous side free and immerse yourself in nature. If you are planning a drive around San Francisco for your next holiday, below are 10 of the top scenic drives in and around San Francisco, California. Be sure to check them out before your next trip there!

For a place to stay in the city, have a look at the top Vrbos near Golden Gate Park or hotels with free parking for your convenience!

1. 49-Mile Scenic Drive Through San Francisco

Road to Twin Peaks
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nitesh Aggerwal used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The 49-Mile scenic drive through San Francisco is perfect for first-time visitors wanting to get a taste of San Francisco within two days. This route was created in the early 20th century and since then has been modified several times. It will take you through some of San Francisco’s most popular landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Transamerica Pyramid, Lombard Street and AT&T Park. You can also stop by the San Francisco Zoo, Asian Art Museum and Fisherman’s Wharf on your drive.

49 Mile Scenic Drive Through San Francisco

Address: 49-Mile Scenic Drive, San Francisco, California

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2. Skyline Boulevard (State Route 35)

San Francisco Bay Area Skyline Blvd
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jawed Karim used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Skyline Boulevard (Route 35) is roughly a forty-minute drive from San Francisco that takes you through a mountainous route that separates the San Mateo Peninsula from the Pacific Ocean. You will be treated to sweeping views of the vast blue ocean while being able to access lots of hiking and mountain biking spots, if that is your thing. Many roadside restaurants like Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside, Mountain House or the Bella Vista are perfect pit-stops to fuel up for your journey.

Skyline Boulevard (Route 35)

Address: California State Route 35 (Skyline Boulevard), West San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California.

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3. Shoreline Highway To Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach, houses along Shoreline Highway
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Frank Schulenburg used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Shoreline Highway To Stinson Beach drive will see you driving through small beach communities, vibrant green hills and rolling fog. Breathe in the fresh sea air while admiring the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Pass by key places of attraction, such as the Live Water Surf Shop, Stinson Beach Market, Village Green Park and finally, Stinson beach itself on your drive. Stop by Parkside Cafe for some hearty American grub in a picnic setting, on soft green grass.

Shoreline Highway To Stinson Beach

Address: Shoreline Hwy, Stinson Beach, CA, USA

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4. Muir Woods To Mt. Tam via Panoramic Highway

Muir Woods National Monument Road Trip
Source: Photo by Flickr user Matthew Dillon used under CC BY 2.0

Muir Woods To Mt. Tam via Panoramic Highway is the perfect drive for nature lovers. Take in the views of towering Redwood trees through your drive in Muir woods. Admire the diversity of ferns and other wildlife along the Fern Creek. As you ascend Mt. Tamalpais, admire some beautiful meadows along the way. Finally, end your journey at Muir Woods National Monument, a monument that pays homage to famous naturalist and explorer John Muir.

Muir Woods To Mt. Tam

Address: Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley, California

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5. Stage Road To Pescadero

Pescadero Main Street
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daniel J. Leivick used under CC BY 3.0

Stage Road To Pescadero is famed as a great biking route around San Francisco, but it is also a scenic driving route worth a try when you are on your holiday in San Francisco. Enjoy the beautiful vistas of the rolling hills and majestic forests as you pass by Memorial County Park and Sam McDonald County Park. This route tends to be less popular with tourists, but is a well-kept hidden gem among local driving enthusiasts.

Stage Road To Pescadero

Address: Stage Road, Pescadero, CA

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6. Pacifica To Santa Cruz (Highway 1)

Downtown santa cruz, cropped
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Aaronbrick used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Pacifica To Santa Cruz scenic drive via highway 1 is highly recommended as a leisurely nighttime drive. Admire an endless sea of stars in the sky as you cruise along the seemingly never-ending highway. Santa Cruz is a also a great destination for a drive. Bask in the sun while looking across the stretches of clear blue sea. Visit the iconic Santa Cruz Wharf and Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Adventurers make sure to pack your hiking boots as there are many trails on the way; Mori Point in Pacifica has beaches, bluffs and a myriad of hiking trails for all levels.

Pacifica To Santa Cruz

Address: Highway 1, California, USA

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7. Highway 128 To Healdsburg

California State Route 128
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Highway 128 To Healdsburg is a winding and scenic drive through the east border of the Sonoma County. Meander through countless vineyards and stop by for a wine tasting session at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Francis Ford Coppola Winery or the Locals Tasting Room. You can also stop for a splash or a bird-watching session at the Russian River.

Highway 128 To Healdsburg

Address: Highway 128, Alexander Valley Rd and Healdsburg Ave, California

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8. Marin To Point Reyes Lighthouse (Sir Francis Drake Blvd)

Point Reyes Lighthouse - California
Source: Photo by Flickr user m01229 used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Marin County is full of natural beauty - whether you are looking for a stroll along the beach or a hike through rivers and streams, there will be something fun in the outdoors to do with your friends and family there. Start your drive off in Marin County and head past jagged, rocky cliffs in a seaside drive towards Point Reyes Lighthouse. End off your trip with amazing snapshots of the famous Point Reyes Lighthouse, set against the dramatic background of crashing waves.

Marin To Point Reyes Lighthouse (Sir Francis Drake Blvd)

Address: Sir Francis Drake Blvd, California, USA

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9. Berkeley Hills (Wildcat Canyon Rd)

Berkeley Hills Orinda
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chevy111 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

There is a wide range of scenic drives around Berkeley Hills. However, the route through Wildcat Canyon Rd stands out for being not only easily accessible, relatively short but also very scenic. Admire towering redwood trees and gurgling streams on your drive through Tilden Regional Park. Stop to take a snapshot at Inspiration Point for the ‘gram.

Berkeley Hills (Wildcat Canyon Rd)

Address: Wildcat Canyon Rd, Berkeley, CA, USA

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10. The Bohemian Highway In Sonoma County

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

The Bohemian Highway In Sonoma County will bring you through stretches of redwood trees down to Freestone, California, and through some desert terrain. This is a unique, less-travelled stretch of road for tourists, but is nonetheless a great way to get a glimpse of California’s unique redwood trees.

The Bohemian Highway In Sonoma County

Address: Bohemian Hwy, California, USA

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Many great scenic drives in San Francisco

San Francisco is brimming with natural beauty which makes it a great spot for fun things to do like road trips and cruises. If you are looking to experience all that San Francisco has to offer while also bringing out your adventurous side, taking a drive through San Francisco is one of the perfect ways to do so. Spend time bonding with friends and family while taking an adventure of a lifetime. If you are looking for great route suggestions for your next driving trip around San Francisco, be sure to check out the above 10 best scenic drives in San Francisco before your next trip!

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Ruth is a freelance writer and novelist who loves snuggling, skating, and all things matcha.

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