. 7 Fall weekend getaways in northern California : Budget Travel Adventures

7 Fall weekend getaways in northern California

weekend getaways in northern California Lake Tahoe California Autumn Fall travelSummer vacation may be over but with the weather turning cooler, it’s time for weekend getaways in northern California.

School has started. The leaves are changing. Temperatures are finally starting to cool off in Sacramento. However, there just isn’t the time or money for a trip right? Wrong.

7 Fall weekend getaways in northern California

Here are some great, inexpensive getaways a short drive from Sacramento:

Weekend trip to Tahoe

The leaves are changing, temperatures are cool, and the crowds are long gone. While average high temperatures in September and October are in the low 60s and 70s, it’s a nice play to go hiking, hang out at the lake, or just relax for the weekend before the winter snow and ski season arrive.

Those expensive hotels you couldn’t book during the summer may now be available in the Fall at much lower prices. And as long as the central valley remains hot, temperatures in the 70s and 80s in Tahoe makes this one of the best weekend getaways in northern California!

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park weekend getaways in northern California

A sunny October day in San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden

San Francisco

This is the perfect time of year to go to San Francisco. While many people visit during the summer, they understand what Mark Twain meant in the phrase attributed to him “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

On average, September and October are the hottest months of the year in San Francisco, with average highs around 70 degrees. And while it is not as dry as the summer months, there tends to be a little more sunshine and very little rain. So whether it’s a weekend trip or just a day trip, take that trip to Alcatraz, wind your way down Lombard street, wander along Pier 39, stroll through beautiful Golden Gate Park, or learn something new at the Exploratorium. San Francisco’s indian summers (late September and October) are the best time of year to visit the city by the bay.

weekend getaways in northern California Apple Ridge Farm in Apple Hill California Fall destinations

Apple Hill

There is no better quick day trip which is made even better with this Apple Hill travel guide. Late September through October is the peak time to visit as many of the orchards go all out with food, crafts, and fun things for kids. Oh yeah, and apples too!

You can get apple pie, apple donuts, apple cider, apple butter, and many other apple delights! Located just north of downtown Placerville on Hwy 50, there are numerous orchards to visit offering a variety of different things regardless of your tastes. Even if you don’t like apples, visit for the people watching or fun times being had by all. Get a map of the orchards, a calendar of events, guides to each of the orchards, and directions on how to get there at Apple Hill.

Muir Woods

There are a number hiking trails if you want an outdoor weekend getaway in northern California.  However, it’s difficult to find a better place to explore than the Redwoods in Muir Woods National Park (check out this Muir Woods hiking guide).  You can enjoy the gigantic Redwoods with the crowds or enjoy hiking among the trees and on the beaches in Mt Tamalpais state park.  Muir Woods is a spectacular area of California for outdoor lovers and curious visitors for these giant trees – just a few miles from San Francisco.

Halloween pumpkin patches

In Sacramento, there are a number of events for Halloween.  Outside of Christmas, this may be the most popular time of year for shows, events, and activities in the area.  While Apple Hill offers some great family fun for Halloween, there are a number of pumpkin patches and carnivals for kids and families throughout northern California.  One of these is the Amador Flower Farm Pumpkin Patch.  Located a little over an hour from Sacramento, this pumpkin patch and maze in Plymouth, CA offers a free getaway for kids and families looking for some Halloween fun.

weekend getaways in northern California Fall colors mountains Hope Valley California

The changing of the leaves

While California isn’t well known for its four seasons, you can see some stunning Fall colors in northern California.

For the best day or weekend trips, take a drive up 80 or 50 and explore highways 89, 88, 49, and 395 like the beautiful Fall colors of Hope Valley.  Go for a hike, enjoy the scenery, or even make a few stops in some of these smaller towns. It’s a perfect time of year to feel the cool air and enjoy the beautiful colors. Make a weekend of the trip and find some great places to stay along the way. For more information on fall foliage guides, visit Plumas County Fall Colors Guide, Nevada City Fall Colors Guide, CA State Parks Fall Colors Guide.

Hiking and golf

It’s a beautiful time of year to get out and hike along the many trails in northern California like a hike to Round Top near Lake Tahoe.   If you enjoy hiking, enjoy some of the best hiking trails in northern California.  Visit one of the many state parks in the area (CA State Parks). Or just get out and enjoy the reduced Fall rates at many popular northern California golf courses (Northern CA Golf Courses).

A perfect weekend in northern California

Fall is a perfect time of year to visit northern California.  As the warm summer temps give way to crisp, cool days, enjoy the variety of places to visit in northern California.  Hiking, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, sporting events, or family fun events with the kids – there is plenty to do and see in northern California in the Fall!

What places or activities would you add to this list of weekend getaways in northern California?

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Filed Under: CaliforniaDestinationsEuropeExplore Sacramento!northern CaliforniaUSA


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  1. Great ideas! I really want to visit the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate park. Every time I’ve been to San Francisco I can’t get my friends to stop the car. Seeing the leaves change in Hope Valley looks awesome too.

    • Michael, this the the perfect time of year to visit San Francisco! Golden Gate Park is HUGE and there is so much to do there for free. Just walking around is an incredible experience. The Japanese Tea Gardens cost money but there is a botanical garden you walk through for free. Also, the de Young museum is there as well.

  2. Erik says:

    Love, Love, Love San Francisco.

    Found Muir Woods beautiful, but too crowded to really enjoy it.

    • Erik, my sentiments exactly. I just realized when I posted this that I never did a post on my Mt Tamalpais hike and visit to Muir Woods. The hike took most of my day, Muir Woods took about 30 minutes. Parking is awful and it is incredibly crowded.

  3. Amanda says:

    I need to get to Northern California! The fall foliage looks so pretty, and I am dying to finally visit San Francisco!

    • Amanda, you were just out this way and I told you should visit on your road trip. But nope, you wanted to do Utah and Arizona instead. And now you are headed to Europe during your free time next summer. It might be a while before you get here but it’s worth it when you do! :)

  4. I so miss pumpkin patches.

  5. I live in Northern CA (Sonoma County) & we all know when the pumpkin patch opens because traffic on the freeways backs up for over a mile! Everyone just wants to get a peek of the kids picking out their pumpkins.

    • I honestly think this is the busiest season of the year here in northern California outside of Christmas! So many things to do for Halloween and the Fall! Since you live in the area, do you have something you would add to the list?

  6. Christopher says:

    I’m so glad you mentioned the changing of the leaves in California. The Germans are under the impression this happens only in New England. :)

    • We don’t have a lot of places to see the leaves change in California but there are some beautiful locations in the mountains where the views and colors are stunning! Quite a different look than New England.

  7. Excellent tips, Jeremy. I’m especially familiar with Lake Tahoe and San Francisco as being great places to visit in the fall (or any time of year)! Apple Hill sounds like fun, too.

    • I was supposed to go to Apple Hill on Monday but the rain canceled my plans. I will be heading there this weekend instead. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the Fall and I make sure I go every year. Do you have a favorite thing to do in this area?

  8. Mark Wiens says:

    The area of northern California is really a hiker’s paradise, especially when the weather starts to cool off and there are less crowds now. I might choose Apple Hill to get my fill of those delicious sounding treats!

  9. Abby says:

    These are some great ones! Living in the desert, I’m always up for a getaway around this time of year to see the seasons in other parts of the country. And I love California!

  10. Jessica says:

    Sounds like a wonderful time to be in California! Like another poster, I am somewhat surprised to know that you have colorful leaf changing in the fall. I just don’t think of California as really having ‘fall.’ Thanks for teaching me something new today.

    • Most the places where you see the leaves change are in the Sierras – from Yosemite to the Tahoe area. California doesn’t have a lot of places but the areas we do have are beautiful! I hope to go again this year.

  11. Coral says:

    Hi, will be in SF on 16 October, for 3 nights, driving to LA to leave on 31 October. So excited this is the beginning of a RTW for two 50 somethings. Any hint and tips, to visit and where to stay, on a budget, seriously this is our gap year, we have rucksacks and everything! Loving all the information I am getting from travelling blogs.

    • How exciting!! Spending time in San Francisco and LA will be exciting! Where else are you going on your gap year adventure?

      As for your trip, what is your budget, what types of activities do you enjoy, what type of accommodations are you looking for? Lots of great info on so cal and San Francisco out there. I have a little information on those places but it really depends on what you are looking for. If you give me some ideas, I may be able to help or point you to other bloggers who can assist you.

      • Coral says:

        Hi we have three nights in Sf, staying at San Remo, we need to stay at budget hotels hostels, prefer independents to chains. Not planning to spen a lot of time in La, flying to NZ from there. Want to visit Yosemite and maybe some vineyards. Picking up a car in SF but no route planned, but want to do classic West Coast, Big Sur etc. not a night owl, scenery and good food and experiencing Californa is our thing.

  12. Laurel says:

    Great list, I love Muir Woods, even the smell of the redwoods is intoxicating.

    • I have to admit – it was a bit disappointing. Maybe it was late in the day, I had to park in the next county, and there were just too many people. My expectations were a little high and the trees were beautiful. However, I loved my hike in Mount Tamalpais much better where you can get a lot of the same scenery with less crowds. Still a place people have to visit though!

  13. Ooh this is a fantastic list! There are always some kind of festival going on in San Francisco. Last weekend we spent Sunday with the Italians celebrating Columbus Day in North Beach! Fun, fun, fun! Apple Hill and Hope Valley are always fun.

    Love exploring during the Fall!

    • Ironically, I was supposed to spend Columbus Day at Apple Hill but it poured rain all day. Hope the North Beach was fun hanging out with the Italians! I take it you have been to Apple Hill and Hope Valley? Apple Hill is my favorite Fall activity. Any others you would add to this list being a northern Californian yourself? :)

  14. Fall is also a great time to go wine tasting in Napa Valley! :)

  15. Coral says:

    Will be in San Francisco tomorrow, so excited. So much to do and so little time!

  16. Ruth says:

    I am guilty of not knowing anything about Northen California. Your list helped me to discover some great places. Oh and I went this weekend to Lone Pine and Bishop (around the Eastern Sierra area) and the tree colors were incredible. It is true, the trees in California does not change a lot during fall but the ones which change add additional beauty to an almost perfect landscape.

  17. Ruth, I check for the updates on the leaves every day. Right now, Bishop has the most beautiful colors of anywhere in the area so you picked a perfect place to go! I would love to go there but it’s a bit of a drive for me. I try to stick to places closer to Tahoe but I’ve seen some of the photos – Bishop is spectacular!

    Glad you got to enjoy a little of northern California. You should come back up this way. There’s more to California than just so Cal! :)

  18. Charlotte says:

    Great list! I love Tahoe and Muir Woods. I’m really glad you included the latter, as it often gets overlooked by people heading to Yosemite and other national parks.

  19. That’s a awesome list. I like to visit the California Golf clubs. it is one of my favorite game.

    • I love golf in northern California. However, I don’t get to play as much as I used to play. Golf courses here are beautiful! Fingers crossed that I get to play at a couple of great courses this summer!

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