The Bay Area is known for its scenery. There are many
scenic routes. The most famous is Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway, from
Big Sur to the Oregon boder. That's a no-brainer. The scenery along that
route is world-class. Of course, 17-Mile Drive in Carmel is world-famous
for its scenery also, as well as its golf courses. But there are many other
lesser-known scenic routes. Here are some of my favorite:
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Grizzly Peak Blvd, Berkeley
Skyline Blvd, San Mateo County
Canada Road, San Mateo County
Junipero Serra Freeway (I-280) from Cupertino to Daly City
Lincoln Avenue, San Francisco
View of Golden Gate Bridge from Lincoln Park Golf
Conzelman Road, near Sausalito
Golden Gate Bridge from Conzelman Road, Marin County
Hwy 9, Santa Cruz Mountains
Carmel Valley Road
Hecker Pass, between Gilroy and Watsonville
Pacheco Pass, east of Gilroy
Mount Hamilton Road, east of San Jose
Niles Canyon Road, Fremont
Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Rafael to Point Reyes
River Road, Russian River near Guerneville.
Scenic backroads route from San Jose to Napa and back (this
can theoretically be done in a day, but is best done as a multi-day trip):
Take Hwy 9 through Los Gatos, Saratoga, and climb up into
the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Turn right on Skyline Blvd. Follow Skyline along the crest
of the Santa Cruz Mountains as it passes by many open space parks.
Where Skyline ends at Hwy 92, either turn left and take Hwy
1 up the coast or turn right and take Skyline Blvd. down towards Crystal
Springs Reservoir. Turn left at the reservoir and follow Skyline north
along Crystal Springs Reservoir and the Crystal Springs Golf Course.
At the golf course, the road jogs inland of Hwy 280. It parallels
Hwy 280 and sometimes requires driving on 280 for short distances.
Skyline (Hwy 35) finally breaks away from 280, and follows
San Andreas Reservoir. Take it all the way to Daly City, where it joins
up with Hwy 1 coming in from the coast. Continue on Skyline Blvd into San
Note: my secret scenic shortcut through San Francisco involves
going up Hwy 280, exiting at the Pacifica exit in Daly City and taking
Skyline Blvd. north, following the directions below.
At Fort Funstion and Lake Merced, turn left onto the Great
Highway. Follow the Great Highway along the coast past the San Francisco
Zoo and the end of Golden Gate Park.
Follow the road as it turns inland past the Cliff House and
becomes Point Lobos Avenue.
Point Lobos turns into Geary Blvd.
Turn left on 34th Avenue into Lincoln Park, where the road
becomes the Legion of Honor Drive.
Past the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, turn right
onto Camino Del Mar. The view along this stretch is spectacular, so stop
Camino Del Mar runs through the wealthy Seacliff district,
then becomes Lincoln Blvd.
Follow Lincoln Blvd through the Presidio, past Baker Beach.
(Baker Beach is worth a side trip, but it can get crowded on warm, sunny
days.) The road goes under the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Turn left immediately after going under the bridge approach,
get onto Hwy 101, and cross the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take the Sausalito exit. In Sausalito, follow surface streets
along the Sausalito waterfront until you get to the Hwy 1 turnoff.
Take Hwy 1 past Muir Woods to the coast (this is a really
scenic route, but you better not be in a hurry).
Follow Hwy 1 past Muir Beach, Mt. Tamalpais, Stinson Beach,
Audubon Canyon Ranch, Bolinas, Olema, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Point
Reyes National Seashore, Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Sonoma Coast
State Beaches. (Any of these places are primary destinations worthy of
Cross the Russian River near Jenner and turn right onto Hwy
116. (You can continue up Hwy 1 a short distance to see Fort Ross State
Historic Park or even farther to Salt Point State Park and Kruse Rhododendron
Follow Hwy 116 east along the Russian River past the little
river towns like Duncan Mills, Monte Rio, and Guerneville. At Guerneville,
you can make a side trip to see the giant redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods
At Guerneville, you can continue to follow the Russian up
River Road to Westside Road to Healdsburg or take Hwy 116 south to Sebastopol.
For this route, continue on River Road, which cuts away from
the Russian River at Mirabel and heads east to cross Hwy 101.
After crossing 101, the road becomes Mark West Springs Road,
then Porter Creek Road.
After the intersection with Calistoga Road, turn left onto
Petrified Forest Road, which passes the Petrified Forest (worth a visit).
The road ends at Hwy 128. You can take 128 north a short
distance, then turn right on Tubbs Lane to see the Old Faithful Geyser.
Continuing north to Hwy 29 would take you to Robert Louis Stevenson State
Heading south on Hwy 128 takes you through Calistoga, Bothe-Napa
Valley State Park, Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, and St. Helena.
Hwy 128 turns into Hwy 29. Continue on Hwy 29 south past
many wineries to the city of Napa.
To return, take Hwy 29 south to Vallejo, cross the Carquinez
Bridge on I-80.
Take I-80 south and get off on San Pablo Avenue in San Pablo.
Follow San Pablo to Appian Way. Follow Appian Way south.
Turn left on San Pablo Dam Road. This passes San Pablo Reservoir
and becomes Camino Pablo, then Moraga Way.
Turn right on Canyon Road, then left on Pinehurst Road, then
left on Redwood Road, which leads past Upper San Leandro Reservoir into
Take 238 to Hwy 84. Take Hwy 84 across the Dumbarton Bridge
back to Silicon Valley.
Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 10/6/97. Last update: 4/23/01