The route from San Francisco to Sacramento makes for a dream road trip. Since these cities are less than 100 miles apart, the trip is very doable, even if you make lots of stops, and you’ll certainly want to! There’s so much to explore in the area from nature excursions like Pinnacles National Park and Stone Lake State Park to attractions like Alcatraz Island and the Napa Valley. Read on to discover the perfect road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Sacramento that includes these fun stops and more.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Before you take off on your San Francisco to Sacramento road trip, stop by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The park, with its Maritime Museum and fleet of authentic ships, allows you to take a step back in time to the 19th century when San Francisco was a major port city. It’s conveniently located beside Fisherman’s Wharf, so you won’t have to stray far before leaving the beautiful city of San Francisco behind and getting on the road to Sacramento.
Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park will be about two hours off your route, but it’s totally worth the extra drive time. This destination southeast of Monterey Bay has the distinction of being the newest national park in California. With its fascinating landscape formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, the designation is deserved. Expect craggy peaks emerging from lush greenery. Rock climbing and stargazing are two of the most popular activities in the park.
Yosemite National Park
Don't mind going a few hours out of your way to visit one of the most famous national parks in the country? You should definitely add Yosemite National Park on your road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Sacramento. Located near Mariposa, this park boasts nearly 1,200 square miles of high cliffs and outcroppings, waterfalls, ancient sequoias, and wilderness. Some of the most popular features include Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Since there's a bus system in the park, it's easy to get to the different points of interest.
Angel Island State Park
Angel Island State Park encompasses the largest natural island in the Bay Area. Once a seasonal hunting ground for native tribes, the island eventually became a processing center for immigrants from China and elsewhere. The island is also steeped in military history and was at one point a cattle ranch. Today, it’s the perfect place to glimpse fantastic views of the San Francisco Bay or to enjoy the perks of the island itself, which include tram tours and a cafe.
China Camp State Park
Nestled on the shore of the San Pablo Bay, China Camp State Park is a peaceful retreat from life in the surrounding cities. The park is so beloved by the local community that they began an organization called Friends of China Camp to save it when the park nearly shut down because of funding problems. Part of the reason the park is considered so special is due to its history. In the 1800s, Chinese immigrants erected more than two dozen shrimping villages in the area. China Camp Village is the only one that still survives to this day; you will be able to visit some of the original buildings during your time in the park.
Mount Diablo State Park
If you don't mind taking a short detour east during your San Francisco to Sacramento RV road trip, stop by Mount Diablo State Park. This park near Walnut Creek is a popular spot for outdoor adventures. The eponymous peak, along with various subsidiary peaks, makes for excellent hiking terrain. The views are incredible; on a clear day, you can see the Sierra Nevada and, if you’re lucky, Mount Lassen far to the north.
Stone Lake State Park
Don’t miss Stone Lake State Park, a park just slightly south of the primary route for your road trip from San Francisco to Sacramento. This park in Sacramento County was established to preserve two rare lakes as well as the surrounding grassland habitat. Here, you can find the wintering grounds for migratory birds and endangered species alike. Look out for Swainson's hawks, longhorn elderberry beetles, and giant garter snakes.
Along with the federal prison of storybook infamy, Alcatraz Island was once home to military facilities, including a fortification and lighthouse. The Alcatraz prison opened in the 1850s, shortly after the beginning of the California Gold Rush in the 1840s. Long before that, however, the island was home to native peoples. Now, over 1.3 million visitors come each year to experience all the fascinating history packed onto a small piece of land.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
This award-winning animal theme park takes center stage in Vallejo. It’s conveniently located just off Interstate 80 between San Francisco and Sacramento, so you won’t have to stray far from your route. Once called Marine World, the park has expanded to include many thrilling rides, with new ones opening constantly. Some of the most popular roller coasters include Kingda Ka, El Toro, Nitro, and Bizarro. Besides these whimsically named thrill coasters, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has plenty of themed rides, like Skull Mountain, The Dark Knight Coaster, Runaway Mine Train, Houdini’s Great Escape, Harley Quinn Crazy Train, and Green Lantern.
Oxbow Public Market
Napa Valley is famous the world over for its hillside vineyards and Michelin-starred restaurants. Fewer are familiar with Napa itself, however, which is a shame because it is a delightful city resplendent with late 19th-century and early 20th-century architecture. In addition to its aesthetically pleasing downtown, Napa boasts the Oxbow Public Market, which showcases the region’s produce. The sprawling market is open daily and features a wide range of food vendors as well as a riverside deck.
Named for the forest that once occupied the territory on which it now sits, Oakland is home to the largest currently operating port in the Bay Area. It’s a bustling metropolis of nearly half a million people with connections to neighboring cities such as Berkeley, the large college town next door. Oakland boasts lots of interesting outdoor areas like Jack London Square and the shores of Lake Merritt. There are many campgrounds in the Oakland/Berkeley area, including Novato RV Park in northwest Berkeley, which has a dump site for registered guests. You may also want to consider Pillar Point RV Park, which is near a stunning geological formation, and Half Moon Bay RV Park, which is on the beach.
As you near the farthest reaches of the bustling Bay Area, you will find Vallejo. This Solano County city boasts many natural areas from which you can take in the beauty of the bay one last time. In addition to being home to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo also features Children’s Wonderland. As in Oakland, there are many places to catch a breath of fresh air while taking in the views of the surrounding scrub-covered hills. Dumping at the Vallejo Flood and Wastewater District is free, and local campsites include the Tradewinds RV Park.
One of the fastest-growing population centers in the country, Vacaville is a hub for life-science businesses. With the recent influx of young families that come for the job opportunities located here, Vacaville has gained a reputation as a family-friendly town. This means that there’s plenty to do, and it will make for a lovely stop on your San Francisco to Sacramento road trip. There is a dump station in nearby Davis on the way to Sacramento as well as several campgrounds such as the Vineyard RV Park, the Midway RV Park, and Camping World of Vacaville.
We’re so excited that you’ve decided to include a road trip from San Francisco to Sacramento in your travel itinerary. To avoid the hassle that comes with squeezing the family into a regular vehicle, not to mention the inconvenience of transporting your vehicle to your destination, consider renting an RV in either San Francisco or Sacramento. With a recreational vehicle, you'll be able to decide on when and where to stop. It's much easier to make a road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Sacramento when you don't have to worry about finding hotel lodging. Plus, many of the best outdoor recreation areas in the region offer RV campgrounds.