Fresno is a bustling city located in the heart of California, offering plenty of things to do and see. However, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city and explore the surrounding areas. Fortunately, Fresno is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, historic sites, and quaint towns, making it a great starting point for a variety of day trips. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best day trips you can take from Fresno. Whether you rent an apartment in Fresno or own a home in Fresno, taking a day trip from the city is a great way to explore the region and experience all that California has to offer.

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1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in the United States and is located about three hours east of Fresno. This park is known for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoia trees, making it a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

One of the most popular attractions in Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Valley, a 7-mile-long valley that is surrounded by towering granite cliffs, including El Capitan and Half Dome. Visitors can take a scenic drive through the valley, or explore it on foot by hiking one of the many trails that wind through the area.

Another must-see attraction in Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in North America. Visitors can view the falls from various vantage points throughout the park, including from the Yosemite Falls Trail, which takes hikers to the top of the falls.

For those interested in camping, Yosemite National Park offers a variety of campgrounds, from primitive backcountry sites to more developed campsites with amenities like showers and laundry facilities.

2. Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park is a stunning natural destination located about 90 miles east of Fresno. This national park is known for its deep canyons, towering granite cliffs, and scenic vistas.

One of the most popular attractions in Kings Canyon National Park is the General Grant Tree, which is the third-largest tree in the world. Visitors can take a short hike to reach this giant sequoia tree and marvel at its massive size.

There are many other hiking trails in Kings Canyon National Park that offer spectacular views of the surrounding wilderness. Some of the popular hikes include the Mist Falls Trail, the Zumwalt Meadow Trail, and the Rae Lakes Loop Trail.

If you’re interested in camping, Kings Canyon National Park offers several campgrounds where you can spend the night surrounded by nature. The park also has picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal while taking in the scenic views.

3. Shaver Lake

Shaver Lake is a beautiful mountain lake located about an hour and a half northeast of Fresno. It’s a popular destination for day trips, offering a range of outdoor activities and scenic beauty.

One of the main attractions at Shaver Lake is, of course, the lake itself. The clear blue waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, fishing, and boating. There are also several beaches and picnic areas along the shoreline, providing the perfect spot for a relaxing day by the water.

There are also plenty of hiking and biking trails in the area, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests. Popular trails include the Shaver Lake Loop Trail and the Dinkey Creek Trail. For those looking for a bit of adventure, Shaver Lake also offers opportunities for zip lining, rock climbing, and ATV riding.

If you’re feeling hungry after a day of outdoor activities, be sure to check out Shaver Lake Pizza, a local favorite known for its delicious pies and laid-back atmosphere.

4. Sequoia National Forest & Park

If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest. Both located about two hours from Fresno, these destinations offer stunning landscapes, hiking trails, and camping opportunities. 

In Sequoia National Park, you can see some of the world’s largest trees, while Sequoia National Forest features towering mountains, rushing rivers, and dense forests. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, these parks have something for everyone.

5. Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a charming town located in San Luis Obispo County, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Fresno. It’s a popular day trip destination, offering a range of activities and attractions.

One of the main draws of Paso Robles is its wine country. The town is home to over 200 wineries, producing a variety of award-winning wines. You can take a tour of the wineries, sample some of the local vintages, and learn about the winemaking process.

In addition to wine tasting, there are also several other activities in Paso Robles. You can visit the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum, which showcases the history of the town and the surrounding area. The Ravine Water Park is a popular spot for families, offering water slides, a lazy river, and other attractions.

When it comes to dining, Paso Robles offers a range of options, from casual cafes to upscale restaurants. Some of the local favorites include Artisan, Il Cortile Ristorante, and Thomas Hill Organics.

6. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a popular destination for a day trip from Fresno, especially for those who enjoy amusement park rides and beach activities. The boardwalk, located about 2.5 hours west of Fresno, boasts classic rides like the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, the Cave Train Adventure, and the Sea Swings. In addition to the rides, there are plenty of games, food options, and shops to explore.

After a day of rides and games, visitors can relax on the beach or take a stroll along the Santa Cruz Wharf, which features restaurants, fishing opportunities, and scenic views of the ocean. For those interested in surfing, there are several surf schools and rental shops in the area.

7. Merced 

Merced National Wildlife Refuge is a great destination for nature lovers looking for a day trip from Fresno. Located about an hour northwest of Fresno, the refuge encompasses over 10,000 acres of wetlands and grasslands that are home to over 300 bird species and a variety of other wildlife.

Visitors to the refuge can take a driving tour or hike along the many trails to observe birds and wildlife in their natural habitats. Some of the most commonly seen birds at the refuge include sandhill cranes, Canadian geese, and ducks, especially during the winter months when they migrate to the area. There are also several observation platforms and blinds located throughout the refuge that provide excellent views of the wildlife.

8. Pinnacles National Park

Located about two hours south of Fresno, Pinnacles National Park is a fascinating destination for a day trip. The park is known for its unique rock formations, diverse wildlife, and scenic hiking trails.

One of the most popular things to do at Pinnacles National Park is hiking. The park offers a variety of trails that range from easy strolls to challenging treks, all with breathtaking views of the park’s unique landscape. One of the most popular hikes is the Bear Gulch Cave Trail, which takes hikers through a series of talus caves and past towering rock formations.

Pinnacles National Park is also a great place for wildlife watching. The park is home to over 30 species of mammals, including coyotes, bobcats, and California condors. Visitors can also spot a variety of birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

For those interested in rock climbing, Pinnacles National Park offers challenging routes that are popular among experienced climbers. There are also several campgrounds and picnic areas within the park, making it a great destination for a day trip or overnight stay.

9. Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is a picturesque coastal town located about two hours west of Fresno. It’s a popular day trip destination, offering a range of attractions and activities.

One of the main draws of Monterey Bay is its stunning coastline. You can stroll along the beach, watch the waves crash against the rocks, and even spot some marine life like sea otters and harbor seals. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also go kayaking or paddleboarding in the bay.

In addition to the coastline, Monterey Bay is also known for its historic attractions. The town was once the capital of Alta California, and you can visit several museums and historic sites to learn about its rich history. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is another must-visit attraction, featuring a range of marine life exhibits and interactive experiences.

When it comes to dining, Monterey Bay offers a range of options, from fresh seafood to international cuisine. Some of the local favorites include The Fish Hopper, Cannery Row Brewing Company, and Bistro Moulin.

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10. Castle Air Museum

Castle Air Museum is a must-visit destination for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Located about 20 minutes north of Merced and an hour and a half southeast of Fresno, the museum houses over 70 aircraft and other historical artifacts related to aviation and aerospace technology.

Visitors to the museum can explore the indoor exhibits, which showcase a variety of aircraft, engines, and other aviation-related artifacts. Highlights of the indoor exhibit include the SR-71 Blackbird, the B-29 Superfortress, and the B-52 Stratofortress.

In addition to the indoor exhibits, visitors can also explore the outdoor air park, which features a variety of military aircraft, from World War II-era planes to modern fighter jets. Visitors can even climb into some of the aircraft and experience what it was like to be a pilot.

Learn more about Fresno

Fresno Attractions: Top Sights and Activities to Experience as a Local or New Resident

Is Fresno a Good Place to Live? Exploring the Pros and Cons

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