Anxiety about planning a solo long weekend in and around San Francisco
October 26, 2016 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I'll be traveling to SF for business in mid November, and I booked my flight so I'll have a long weekend before the obligatory part of the trip starts. I'd like to spend at least two days seeing the nearby parks, but I'm worried about weather and accommodations.

I'd like to rent a car as soon as I land and then go out exploring, but I'd like to leave my itinerary as open as possible. For example, if it's snowing in Yosemite, I'd like to be able to go in a different direction and stay somewhere indoors for the night. My first question is: are there any parks that are worth seeing in mid November, either because the conditions are just right or at least I'm not likely to get rained on? I'd be willing to drive two to three hours away from SFO. Second question, if I book my hotel for the last part of the trip in the city, am I safe not having any reservations for my three day weekend before hand? I know November isn't exactly peak season for California tourism, but I'm a little worried about it being the weekend. Thanks in advance!
posted by ayerarcturus to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (8 answers total)
Best answer: For what it's worth, you're not very likely to get rained on anywhere in Northern California at the moment. When rain is forecast in my Bay Area hometown, that's a newsworthy event.

Given that it's November, I think you should be fine not having accommodations ahead of time, except perhaps for Yosemite.
posted by mekily at 4:53 PM on October 26, 2016

Best answer: Flexibility-wise, Yosemite is the biggest limiting factor if you want to stay in the park. Should be easier in November than in summer, but I'd say needs to be booked in advance regardless.

Consider visiting the brand-new Pinnacles National Park, which is lovely, close to the city, and unlikely to be too crowded.
posted by eugenen at 4:53 PM on October 26, 2016

Best answer: FYI about Pinnacles, there is only camping inside the park. There is great day hiking there though!

Consider Sequoia Natl Park. It is a little more driving time but it is another option if you aren't able to get to Yosemite.

You could also go down the coast to Hearst Castle or north to Muir Woods.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 5:27 PM on October 26, 2016

I suggest you check out likely drive times via Google Maps from SF to the parks you want to visit. For instance, if you want to go from SFO to Yosemite Valley and arrive by 1pm on a Saturday, Google Maps indicates a 3:40 to 4:20 drive time which is outside the parameters you indicated.

On the other hand, Muir Woods and Point Reyes are a lot closer. The parking lot at Muir Woods can get backed up on a weekend. Armstrong Redwoods State Park has lots of redwoods too :) and is less crowded. Big Basin (redwoods) and Monterey Bay (sea otters!) are an option in the other direction.
posted by elmay at 7:23 PM on October 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would just book a hotel room you can cancel. I always do that thinking I'll cancel it if I find something cheaper and I never do. Sometimes they let you cancel pretty close to the date, and maybe you'll change your mind about your plans and having a hotel room lined up would be good.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:03 PM on October 26, 2016

Best answer: If your idea of a park is mostly a single long hike the closer options are absolutely wonderful, with far more available in trails than you can cover in a day. Not quite Yosemite level but there are a lot great options. (Those mentioned so far are all great but I would put Muir Woods & Point Reyes at the top of my list. Point Reyes has some nice local communities to overnight in as well.) It's actually a great time of year too--some risk of rain or low visibility but you should have actual green things growing and even flowing water in creeks and streams.

Monterey is a nice option in medicore weather with indoor & outdoor choices.
posted by mark k at 6:49 AM on October 27, 2016

Muir Woods/Point Reyes would be a great trip. You can even duck into Sonoma for some wine if that's your thing.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:41 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

definitely point reyes! lots of hiking / beaches / cute places to stay and eat
posted by burgerrr at 11:41 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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