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Northern California Trip Itineraries

Tennessee Valley Day Trip

Destination(s): Mill Valley

Tennessee Valley is a diverse recreation, hiking and outdoor area that's just a 20-minute car ride from San Francisco. You'll need a car for this day trip, so rent one for the day or look into ZipCar to go on an excursion that will show you some of the most beautiful vistas the Bay Area has to offer and give you some respite from the hustle bustle of urban life.

From San Francisco, drive north on route 101 over the awe-inspiring Golden Gate Bridge. You'll take the Stinson Beach exit to get to Tennessee Valley Road, which will lead you directly to the parking lot and start of the Coastal Trail, part of the Marin Headlands Loop. The trail will take you up a steep incline for sweeping views of the ocean, and when you curl around the ridge you can hike down to Muir Beach for a dip in the Pacific - the water may be chilly, but it's fully worth it.

When you've worked up a healthy appetitive from the hike, swing by Hotei for lunch. The authentic Japanese restaurant in the Sunset has the best noodle bowls around, and it's reasonably priced. From there, spend a leisurely afternoon in the Mission's Dolores Park and people watch to your heart's content while sprawling out in the grass and soaking up the sun.

For cocktails and dinner, walk just one short block to Pizzeria Delfina. They have some of the best gourmet, thin-crust pizzas in the city, and their wine selection is excellent.

If you're still hungry after dinner, stroll across the street to the Bi-Rite Creamery for an ice cream. This is locally-made ice cream with all local ingredients. You can't beat it. Perfect way to top off and active day. read more about Tennessee Valley Day Trip

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

  • Lincoln Blvd & Hwy 1
  • Hwy. 101 N
  • tel:(415) 921-5858
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94129

Perhaps the most iconic bridge in the country, if not in the world, the rusted-orange expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge is a not-to-miss sight while in San Francisco. Connecting the city and neighboring Marin County to the north, the Golden Gate Bridge also serves as a gateway between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Although you'll be treated to glimpses of the bridge throughout the city, the best way to experience it is to walk or bike across, starting in the Presidio. You can then spend a serene afternoon strolling around the quaint Marin seaside city of Sausalito. If you prefer a gentler route, you can take a ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building or from Fisherman's Wharf to Sausalito or Tiburon (another beautiful Marin town full of great restaurants and nearby walking paths), gazing at the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, plus sailboats, kite-surfers, and the gorgeous Bay views along the way. read more about Golden Gate Bridge

Marin Headlands Loop

Marin Headlands Loop

  • Lincoln Blvd & Hwy 1
  • Hwy. 101 N
  • tel:(415) 561-4700
  • Visit website
  • Mill Valley, 94965

Accessible via a long bike ride from the city over the Golden Gate, but starting from Tennessee Valley Rd. cuts to the chase. This mega-loop (which can be broken up into two separate loops, one with two variations) is the definitive Marin Headlands experience, containing two of the only legal singletrack sections left in the area (one uphill only). Ride up from the east edge of the parking lot at the end of Tennessee Valley Rd. to a height of land, then descend to the bottom of Miwok Trail. An aerobic switchbacking fire road ascent puts you at the top of an ocean-view vista. Slightly past this point, veer to the left onto singletrack for your high-speed reward all the way back to the parking lot. If you still have some energy to burn, continue on the Mega Loop by veering west out of the parking lot along the Tennessee Valley Trail. Climb up the Coastal Trail (painfully steep) and begin following the ascending ridgeline. From here, you again must ask "Am I feeling lucky today?" If yes, bomb down the steep Coastal Fire Road to Muir Beach and follow it up with a great singletrack ascent (bikes allowed uphill only) back to the ridgeline. Then it's a meandering downhill down the Miwok Trail back to by now your favorite parking lot. read more about Marin Headlands Loop

Muir Beach

Muir Beach

Heading north on Highway 101, from the Golden Gate Bridge, the small southern Marin "town" of Muir Beach is just 6 miles from the Highway 1 exit but feel a world away. It's comprised of around 150 homes of mainly full-time occupants, who are lucky enough to enjoy the 2 beaches, the surrounding Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Mt. Tamalpais, nearby Muir Woods National Monument, Green Gulch Farm/Zen Center, Slide Ranch and the "old" English Pub---The Pelican Inn. This beautiful area is full of wildlife: Monarch butterflies in the pine trees, salmon in Redwood Creek, frogs in the pasture, fox, birds, deer, coyote. Horses and dogs are usually allowed on the beaches and some trails (but be sure to check with the rangers for updates or changes), the waves are great for boogie boarders and kayakers, the fishing is plentiful, and the star gazing is endless. read more about Muir Beach

Hotei

Hotei

  • 1290 9th Avenue
  • tel:(415) 753-6045
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94122
Dolores Park

Dolores Park

  • 18th and Guerrero
  • Corner of 18th Street & Dolores Street
  • tel:+1 415 391 2000(Tourist Information)
  • San Francisco, 94114

Dolores Park, in the Mission District, is very popular with young hipsters. On sunny weekends, virtually every inch of grass is covered with sunbathers and picnicers. The park also houses tennis courts and a playground, and has sweeping views of the San Francisco skyline. read more about Dolores Park

Pizzeria Delfina

Pizzeria Delfina

  • 3611 18th Street
  • Between Dolores and Guerrero Streets
  • tel:(415) 437-6800
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94110