Lassen Peak, also known as Mount Lassen, is the southernmost active volcano in the Shasta Cascade Range.

7 Ideal Destinations For A 3-Day Weekend In Northern California

Coastal charm, rugged wilderness, or urban exploration, Northern California has it all. Discover serene coastal lodges, like those near Mendocino, offering wellness-infused stays. Or escape to rustic retreats in the Trinity Alps or Shasta Cascade Region. Nature lovers can explore towering redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants, while road trippers can traverse scenic routes from San Francisco to Napa Valley. Nevada City awaits in the Sierra Nevada foothills for offbeat outdoor adventures. Wherever folks want to go for a 3-day weekend, Northern California promises unforgettable weekends of exploration and relaxation.

Mendocino Coast Lodge

View from Mendocino Coast Lodge
View from Mendocino Coast Lodge. Image credit

This charming coastal lodge is located near Mendocino but feels like a world away. Formerly known as the Albion River Inn, the lodge was acquired by Soul Community Planet Hotels in April of 2023. Inspired by the values of wellness (Soul), kindness (Community), and sustainability (Planet), the founders of Soul Community Planet offer a new way to travel—one that embraces the power of healthy living, kindness, and compassion for others and the planet. SCP doesn’t only talk the talk; they walk the walk by giving back to the community every time a visitor stays at one of their hotels. Their “Every Stay Does Good®” program plants trees, lights the homes of families caring for critically ill children, and provides wellness tools for adolescents to help them build mental health skills. 

The oceanfront lodge offers both guest rooms and cottages with private garden entrances and spectacular views overlooking the rugged coastline. The Albion Inn Restaurant, open for breakfast and dinner, offers a seasonal menu and features fresh seafood, locally-grown produce and proteins, wild mushrooms, and a cozy cocktail bar with over 450 wines and 150 single malt scotfrom. The lodge’s well-appointed fitness facilities include Peloton bikes, TRX gear, or on-demand fitness classes. Yoga and meditation rooms are also available. The lodge also offers community spaces that include private meeting rooms, free high-speed Wifi, and environmentally-friendly furniture if you need to work remotely during your stay. The lodge also sponsors four-day wellness retreats throughout the year. 

The lodge is located near the village of Mendocino—an 11-minute drive along the stunning California Highway 1 that borders most of the Pacific coastline of California. Mendocino is a picture-perfect town with charming Victorian architecture, art galleries, sprawling Anderson Valley vineyards, and impressive towering redwood forests.

Trinity Alps

The Canyon Creek Lakes of the Trinity Alps Wilderness
The Canyon Creek Lakes of the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

If roughing it in the great outdoors is more your style, immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of the Trinity Alps wilderness. This remote destination offers incredible hiking trails, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and breathtaking mountain scenery, perfect for backpacking and camping with 500,000 acres of surrounding wilderness. 

For a rustic, family-style vacation, the Trinity Alps Resort is the perfect spot for a 3-day getaway in North California. Founded in the 1920s, very little has changed in the ensuing 100 years, where fifty one- and two-bedroom private cabins with showers sit alongside the Stuart River. The cabins have verandas for sleeping under the stars on warm summer evenings, a kitchen stocked with plates, utensils, pots, and pans, and a stove and a refrigerator. Outside, there is an outdoor BBQ and a picnic table. Pack sleeping bags or linens, towels and soap, and any other supplies you’d need on a camping trip. 

The Bear’s Breath Bar & Grill Restaurant is onsite and claims to serve a“world-famous spaghetti buffet.” In the General Store, visitors will find all the necessities they need,  except fresh produce and meat. But there’s hot chocolate, milk, eggs, bread, snacks,  beer and wine, and an ice cream counter. Sporting equipment is available on loan from the store, and there’s a recreation area for darts, pool, ping-pong, football, and more. The Swimming Hole is the place to be during hot summer afternoons where resort visitors can fish, swim, or float away on an inflatable raft. 

Shasta Cascade Region

Lassen Peak, also known as Mount Lassen, is the southernmost active volcano in the Shasta Cascade Range.
Lassen Peak, also known as Mount Lassen, is the southernmost active volcano in the Shasta Cascade Range.

Tourists often overlook this vast region in the northeastern corner of California. Still, the Shasta Cascade Region, which covers 20 percent of the state, offers stunning landscapes, including volcanic peaks, waterfalls, and pristine lakes. Explore places like the Root Creek Trail in Castle Crags State Park, which offers incredible views of Mount Shasta and the ancient granite spires of Castle Crags. Or visit the Lava Beds National Monument for a unique outdoor adventure. The Lava Beds National Monument is a lesser-known national monument that features over 700 caves formed by ancient lava flows. Visitors can explore these lava tube caves, hike through otherworldly landscapes, and learn about the area's volcanic history. 

There are numerous lodging options in the Shasta Cascade Region, from quaint B&Bs to mountain retreats, lakefront cottages, dude ranches, and more. For a unique getaway in the region, you can’t beat sleeping in a train car at the Railroad Park Resort if sleeping in a caboose is on your bucket list. All the “rooms” at the resort were once fully operational caboose train cars, repurposed as hotel rooms with beds, TVs, and en-suite bathrooms with showers. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available in the dining car, of course, and there’s also a swimming pool and a fire pit that visitors can use. 

Avenue of the Giants

Foggy Straight Redwood Highway in Northern California, United States
Foggy Straight Redwood Highway in Northern California, United States

For nature lovers, a drive along the Avenue of the Giants offers an unforgettable experience among towering redwood trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Visitors can hike, picnic, and marvel at some of the world's tallest trees. Called the “finest forest drive in the world,” the Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile route through Humboldt County, passing quiet forest hamlets, camping spots, picnic areas, and the Eel River—an idyllic place for swimming, paddling, and fishing. Along the avenue, numerous trailheads lead visitors into the magnificent redwood forest. There is absolutely no shortage of outdoor activities for enthusiasts. 

After a day of adventure, staying at the relaxing Miranda Gardens Resort is an ideal retreat for family and friends. The resort is family-owned, surrounded by flowering gardens and giant, thousand-year-old redwood trees. The resort is on the Avenue of the Giants and adjacent to the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There are one and two-bedroom cottages for rent, equipped with fireplaces, kitchens, antique furniture, and a patio or deck—perfect for morning coffee or a late-night glass of wine. Linens and outdoor grills come with each unit. The resort hosts an evening campfire from May through October, and there is a heated swimming pool, a children’s play area, and basketball, ping pong, and horseshoes. 

Northern California Road Trip

Napa Valley Sign
Napa Valley sign.

If hiking and staying in one place isn’t your thing, Northern California still offers plenty of diverse activities for a 3-day trip. Start by exploring San Francisco with a visit to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, walking or cycling over the span for stunning views of the city and San Francisco Bay, and crossing your fingers that the fog doesn’t roll in. Explore the well-known neighborhoods of the city by hopping on and off a cable car, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf for seafood chowder served in a bread bowl, and touring Pier 39. Later, discover San Francisco’s nightlife in the evening in areas like the Mission District or North Beach. 

Drive to Napa Valley in the morning to visit one of the world’s premier wine regions. Take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards, then spend the afternoon wine tasting at some of Napa’s renowned wineries. Enjoy dinner at a restaurant offering farm-to-table cuisine before retiring for the night at the luxurious Churchill Manor–an 1890 mansion in downtown Napa–which features a 2-person soaking tub, cozy fireplaces, and king-sized beds. 

Spend the following day in Half Moon Bay, a picturesque town along the coast. Explore the downtown area's eclectic shops and art galleries before driving along scenic California Highway 1, stopping at viewpoints and beaches. Visit Pescadero State Beach or Ano Nuevo State Park, which is known for its elephant seal colony. 


Fall vineyards near Healdsburg, California.
Fall vineyards near Healdsburg, California.

Spending three days in Healdsburg can be a fun mix of wine tasting, outdoor adventures, and culinary delights. Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley are renowned for their world-class wineries, including several iconic wineries like Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, and Ridge Vineyards.

Downtown Healdsburg is home to many unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants that focus on farm-to-table cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. So indulge in a gourmet dinner at one of Healdsburg's top restaurants, such as SingleThread Farm Restaurant, which offers a 10-course tasting menu, or 2023 Michelin-starred Valette. End the day with a nightcap at a cozy wine bar or cocktail lounge.

For accommodations in Healdsburg, consider staying at one of the town's charming bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, or luxury resorts. Some highly-rated options include Hotel Healdsburg, h2hotel, and Harmon Guest House, all of which offer excellent accommodations and amenities for a comfortable stay in the heart of wine country.

Fuel up with breakfast and then spend the morning exploring the scenic countryside surrounding Healdsburg. Go for a hike or bike ride along the nearby trails in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve or Lake Sonoma.

Nevada City

Vacationers frolicking in the Yuba River in Nevada City, California. Editorial credit: Pascalipatou /
People in Yuba River, Nevada City. Image credit Pascalipatou via Shutterstock.

Nevada City is situated in the picturesque Sierra Nevada foothills of California and offers a charming blend of history, culture, outdoor recreation, and culinary delights. Spending a long weekend in Nevada City is easy as there are so many activities to do. View Nevada City's historic downtown area, filled with beautifully preserved Victorian buildings, art galleries, boutique shops, and cozy cafes. Tour the iconic National Hotel, the Miners Foundry Cultural Center, and the Nevada Theatre—California's oldest continuously operating theater.

There are plenty of hiking trails to explore in nearby South Yuba River State Park, with popular trails like the Independence Trail, Buttermilk Bend Trail, and Tribute Trail,  so pack up a tent and sleeping bags and head for the woods. For an unforgettable 3-day weekend experience, there are dozens of unique camping or glamping options within 12 miles of Nevada City. For the adventurous, book a private yurt in the woods just two miles from downtown Nevada City on the Yuba River. With dozens of hiking trails just outside your yurt’s door, visitors can experience the beauty of the Sierra foothills. Some yurts come with wood-fired stoves, small functional kitchens, and outdoor hot tubs. 

A 3-day weekend in Northern California offers visitors many experiences and benefits. Whether you're seeking coastal tranquility, rugged wilderness adventures, or urban exploration, the region has something to offer everyone. Enjoy serene stays in coastal lodges or rustic retreats nestled in nature. Immerse yourself in towering redwoods, embark on scenic drives, or indulge in activities like hiking and wine tasting. Experience the region's rich history and cultural charm while breathing deeply in picturesque surroundings. With its diverse landscapes and many activities, a 3-day weekend in Northern California promises rejuvenation, adventure, and unforgettable memories.

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