Home Destinations 5 road trip destinations near San Joaquin County to satisfy your wanderlust

5 road trip destinations near San Joaquin County to satisfy your wanderlust

5 road trip destinations near San Joaquin County to satisfy your wanderlust


With COVID-19 peaking again in our communities, we’re thinking of short travels where we can sate our wanderlust, access Northern California’s scenery, avoid big crowds and enjoy the great outdoors.

I asked my spouse Susan for her favorite road trips that can be done in one or two days, emanating from San Joaquin County. Here are her five choices:

Lake Tahoe

We have long-loved Tahoe‘s western shore, from South Lake Tahoe headed north on Highway 89 to Tahoe city. This trip can be done in one day, but better to spend the night. A favorite place for overnights is either Camp Richardson, with a host of lake-shore rustic cabins, or the forest service campground nearby, Fallen Leaf Lake.

That 30-mile drive is always scenic; make special stops above Emerald Bay, and, arrive early and take the hike up to Eagle Lake just above Eagle Falls. In winter, stop at Sugar Pine Point State Park to find snowshoe and cross-country ski trails used in the 1960 Winter Olympics.

For nourishment, south to north, include the Beacon Restaurant, next door to Camp Richardson for lunches or dinners on the lake overlooking a lovely beach, or Rosie’s in Tahoe City for hearty breakfast or lunch, complete with huge collection of memorabilia including old skis, bikes and snow sleds.

San Francisco

San Francisco’s lovely Ferry Building features shops and restaurants.

While San Francisco will appear on many people’s favorite destination list, many will also shy away because of traffic and the challenge of parking in the city itself.

Our solution in recent years has been to drive to Oakland’s Jack London Square (or to Vallejo), park the car inexpensively and take the ferry into San Francisco’s Ferry Building. That 1910 historic portal for ferries coming and going is a marvelous destination in its own right. One can also either hop the trolleys along the Embarcadero, or walk, to Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason and the Marina district.

More:Exploring the West Coast’s ‘Ring of Fire’ and other western bucket list trips

Favorite restaurants including Hog Island Oyster Bar in the Ferry Building and The Franciscan at Fisherman’s Wharf, with a marvelous view of Alcatraz. If you want to spend the night, you can find a number of relatively inexpensive motels in both Oakland and Berkeley, and be sure to grab breakfast at the Oakland Grill in the old produce district blocks south of Jack London Square.

San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta and Grand Island

The Sacramento Delta is home to the lovely Grand Island Mansion.

This destination is just plain fun to drive, with Delta back roads around every corner, wonderful scenery along with sloughs and nifty, historic towns like Walnut Grove, Locke and Clarksburg.

A good lunch stop is the historic Al’s Place in Locke; then tour the intriguing, weathered facades of this town built by Chinese laborers and merchants. Cross the mighty Sacramento River on one of several historic steel drawbridges to Clarksburg and wander through the huge Sugar Mill, now home to shops and wine tasting outlets.

Consider a lunch stop nearby at Husick’s Taphouse, and then tour out to Grand Island and walk the lovely grounds of the historic Grand Island Mansion, where epic weekend brunches are served (with reservations). Until the 1920s, this area was served primarily by steamboats; ghostly foghorns can still be heard echoing throughout the deeply-forested sloughs.

Wine country

Fall foliage in the vineyards of the Shenandoah Valley.

While Lodi/Woodbridge has long been the go-to for wineries and showing-off to guests, our favorite in recent years is the Shenandoah Valley, just above Plymouth on Highway 49. It’s about an hours drive from central San Joaquin County, and features 30-some wineries in the rolling hills and glades of the lovely valley at 2,000 to 3,000 feet elevation.

Favorite stops include Villa Toscano Winery, with beautiful outdoor garden seating, and a special on a delicious pizza and bottle of wine, just $29.95; other favorites are Helwig Winery and Bella Piazza Winery. For historic exploration, visit the nearby Gold Rush town of Fiddletown, featuring a number of building dating to the 1850s, and for one of the best meals in the region, the lovely Taste Restaurant (reservations advised) in nearby Plymouth.

Gold country/Highway 49 tour

Sutter Creek’s handsome Main Street, shot from a balcony of Hotel Sutter.

This roadtrip can be done in one day or multiple days. Favorite stops, south to north, Tuolumne City, the old lumbering town complete with remnants of the shuttered Westside Lumber buildings and giant lumbering machinery spread around town; Sonora with a wonderful historical museum in the old jail; Columbia (preserved as it looked 150 years ago in the Columbia State Historical Park); Jackson, with its stately National Hotel; Murphys (spend the night or nosh at the Murphys Hotel); Sutter Creek (probably our favorite, with an eight block long Main Street featuring quaint shops, wine tasting stops, the old Sutter Creek Theatre; dine or stay at the Hotel Sutter); and Amador City.

Each of these old towns come complete with historic building stated to the heart of the gold rush, remnants of old gold mines, and the echoes of prospectors still reverberating in the lovely green Sierra foothills.

Before departing on these journeys, check the county of your destination for any additional COVID-19 requirements, take your KN95 or N95 masks, enjoy the trip and stay safe.

What’s your favorite nearby road trip? Send me a paragraph and a good photo to tviall@msn.com, and I will feature some in a future column.

Reach Tim at tviall@msn.com; happy travels in the West!


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