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The drive from San Francisco to Napa Valley is beautiful. As you leave SF, you will cross one of our two gorgeous bridges. You will then make your way north and east until you reach this famous Northern California wine region.
The most popular option is to drive when you want to go there. You can also visit the valley with a guided tour, use public transit, or take an airporter from San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
The drive usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic. It's about the same with the guided tour. Public transit takes about two hours and will drop you off in the city of Napa. The airporters take about an hour and a half to two hours depending on traffic and the necessary stops in between.
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You have two options for driving from San Francisco to Napa Valley. The first option is to head north out of the city across the Golden Gate Bridge. The second is to head east first across the Bay Bridge and then head north.
My favorite option to get from San Francisco to Napa Valley is to take Highway 101 North, which takes you across the Golden Gate Bridge. This route offers wonderful views as you cross the bridge.
You will then continue north through San Rafael. You will head east at Highway 37. The sign on 101 to Highway 37 will tell you to take that route for both Sonoma and Napa.
You will be on Highway 37 for about 10 minutes. You will then head north on Highway 121. After you pass Sonoma Raceway, you will start to see rolling hills with wineries and vineyards.
Continue on Highway 121 for about 10 minutes. You will then turn right to stay on 121. The sign will read "State Route 121/Napa/Sonoma."
You will continue on this Highway until it dead ends. Here you will turn left to head toward the Napa wineries on 121. The sign will read "121 Napa/Calistoga."
You are now on the southern edge of Napa Valley. You can follow this road for wine tasting or head to the city of Napa, which is about 10 minutes north on 121.
The entire trip takes about an hour and a fifteen minutes.
This route is about 10 to 15 minutes longer than the second option, but I just love crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on my way.
The second option is to head across the Bay Bridge. Do your best to make your way over to one of the left hand lanes. You will be heading north shortly after you exit the Oakland side of the bridge.
It's easier to slowly switch lanes as you cross over the bridge, so you are in the right position when you need to head north.
Follow the signs for Interstate 80 - Berkeley/Sacramento. You can be in either of the two left hand lanes to stay on track. An HOV lane will open on the far left hand side. You are welcome to use this too if you have enough people in the car.
More lanes will open up as the freeway meets with Interstate 580 north. Try to work your way into one of the center lanes so you don't have to move around too much. Continue to follow the signs for Interstate 80 Sacramento.
Continue on with your drive on Interstate 80, over a second bridge, and through Vallejo.
Just as you are leaving Vallejo, you will see a sign for Exit 33 which is for Highway 37. It exits on the right and the sign reads "37 Napa/Novato - Auto Mall Columbus Parkway." Both right hand lanes allow you to head north to Napa.
You will be on this for about a minute, where you will see a sign for Highway 29 to Napa. Take a right and stay on Highway 29/12 for about 10 minutes.
You are then going to see a sign with two options for Napa. Highway 221 Napa will take you along the eastern end of the valley. This turns into Silverado Trail with wineries such as Clos du Val, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and Silverado Vineyards.
The other option is to stay on Highway 29 which will take you on the western side of the region. The second one is a more traveled route as everyone taking the route from San Francisco to Napa Valley over the Golden Gate Bridge will end up on this road.
These two highways run parallel to each other and are only a few miles apart. Both run through the city of Napa and both offer wine tasting on both sides of the Highway.
This trip takes about an hour. It might take a bit longer with traffic or if there is an accident, so check ahead before you leave.If you plan to go wine tasting, make sure to bring along a designated driver.
The second option is to head from San Francisco to Napa Valley on a guided tour. These tours leave daily from Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf. Many will pick you up at select hotels or offer a meeting place in a central location in one of these two districts.
You have a few options for your tours. You can head up for a half day or full day tour. You can also combine a trip with a tour of Muir Woods in the morning and wine tasting in the afternoon.
There are more than a dozen options if you choose this route. Here are some of the highest rated.
These tours last anywhere from 5 to 9 hours with visits to between one and four wineries. Some will take you on a tour while others focus just on the tasting.
You can learn more about my top picks here.
The next option is public transportation from San Francisco to Napa Valley.
BART + Bus (Weekdays Only): This option takes about two hours with one transfer. You will first pick up the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train heading east to Richmond. You will exit BART at El Cerrito del Norte Station (10 stops and it takes about 30 minutes). Here, you will transfer to the #29 Redwood Park & Ride Vine Bus. This will take you all the way to the western side of the city of Napa.
Ferry + Bus: If you have plenty of time and want to combine this trip with a bay cruise, then I recommend taking the ferry from the Ferry Building in San Francisco to Vallejo. From here, you will hop on the Vine from Vallejo to Napa (bus #11). The bus will drop you off on the western side of the city of Napa.
The second option might be a little more fun, but it will take nearly 3 hours. It's also your only option on the weekends.
The ferry ride is an hour and then the bus ride is another hour and 45 minutes to two hours. Both the ferry schedule and the Vine offer limited schedules, so you will want to plan ahead on this one. You can also stop off in Vallejo for lunch on your way.
Your final option is to take an airporter from San Francisco to Napa Valley. It picks up at the San Francisco International Airport.
The Napa Airporter offers both shared and private rides. They will pick you up at SFO and take you to the Napa Valley. Stops include the city of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
The shared rides start at around $75 to $130 per person depending on your destination. Their private service is $135 to $195 per person depending on your final stop.
The airporter takes people from San Francisco to Napa Valley daily. Make sure to call ahead to book your seat. Visit their website for more details.
>> More great wine regions in Northern CA to explore
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
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