This day trip covers approximately 60 miles of scenic, windy roads and leads you to charming small towns, impressive redwoods and Pacific beaches. You’ll also pass through many of the Bay Area's micro climates and see diverse vegetation. Total driving time is a little over 2 hours, but plan for half a day to a full day in order to relax and enjoy the various stops along the way.

Highlights

  • Stop in some of the Bay Area's quaint towns
  • Explore rugged Pacific beaches
  • Drive the Bay Area's most scenic roads through dense redwood forests

Make your way to the small town of Woodside (about 35 minutes from San Francisco, 30 minutes from San Jose), home to quirky restaurants as well as horse farms and mansions. Many are owned by technology industry millionaires and billionaires, including Oracle founder Larry Ellison with his Japanese-style mansion. 

Grab breakfast or coffee at the Village Bakery, and observe members of the local bicycling and tech scene discussing their training and next startup ideas.

When you've had your fill, head West on Woodside Road (Highway 84) towards La Honda. The scene for the day reveals itself here as the road winds through redwoods with the occasional sharp switchback turn. After 15 minutes, you’ll reach the top of the ridge where you’ll cross Skyline Boulevard. Notice the large numbers of motorcycles here. If you’re ready for a coffee refill, Alice’s Cafe, a famous biker's pit stop, will have you covered. 

Continue on highway 84 towards La Honda. The scenery varies between patches of old grove redwoods and open fields, featuring sweeping views of the coastal foothills and ocean. You’ll pass the villages of La Honda and San Gregorio (which has a general store) before reaching Highway 1 along the coast (approx 25 minutes from Alice’s, 40 minutes from Woodside). 

The entrance to San Gregorio Beach is just a few hundred feet to the South, so make a left on Highway 1 and immediately turn right to enter the San Gregorio Beach’s parking lot. There is an $8 entry fee per car. The beach has grills (near the parking lot), cliffs and a nice lagoon that makes a great playground for kids and adults alike. Bring a frisbee, ball, snacks and some towels to make the most of your beach time.

Tip: Pacific beaches can be windy and chilly even on sunny days, so a few extra layers or some beach blankets can be a lifesaver! 

Once you’re done with the beach, head south on Highway 1. Enjoy the curving road with dramatic views of cliffs and the Pacific. If you can't get enough of the sand, there are plenty of small beaches along the way (your entrance fee to San Gregorio gets you access to all paid beaches here). 

After about 10 minutes of driving, you’ll reach the turnoff to Pescadero. Before you turn, feel free to spend some more time exploring Pescadero Beach's cliffs and tide pools before bidding the Pacific farewell for the day. 

Looking for more day trip ideas? Check out kimkim's top 10 day trips in the Bay Area

Heading South on Highway 1 towards Pescadero
Heading South on Highway 1 towards Pescadero

You’ll reach Pescadero about 2 miles from the coast. Stop at Downtown Local for coffee, tea and pastries, or at Duarte’s Tavern for lunch. There are some quirky little shops here as well, worth a stop, which sell locally-made pottery. 

Then, continue up the road back into the foothills. The road winds through a green valley with farms and homes before entering a redwood forest and the tiny village of Loma Mar. A few minutes later, you’ll reach Memorial State Park, which we highly recommend. You can spend some time wading in the river, or take a hike through the redwoods. 

 Alpine Road cuts through a dense Redwood forest
 Alpine Road cuts through a dense Redwood forest

The final stretch of road before you’ll reach Alpine Inn at the Bay Side of the foothills will be one to remember. Head further up Pescadero Creek Road, and make sure to make a right at signs for Alpine Road. This narrow, winding path takes you straight through a dense redwood forest. It almost feels like you are driving on a hiking trail, the redwoods are so close on both sides of the road. 

Once you leave the forest, there are more amazing views. If you want to stretch your legs a bit, you can enter Russian Ridge at a few different points along the way and take a short (or long) hike.  At the top, you’ll cross Skyline Boulevard again and then wind down Page Mill Road towards Palo Alto. At the bottom of the hill, make a left at Arastradero Road to reach Alpine Inn Beer Garden, where you can enjoy a rewarding meal on the large patio before you make your way home.

See a detailed Route Map (click this link on your mobile device to get a route map in Google Maps).

Map