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San Francisco by RV

by Tom Jones

We receive numerous questions from RVers planning to visit San Francisco. This guide is not intended to replace official tour guides, but is complementary, focusing on the visiting RVer, especially those unaccustomed to local geography and climate.

Driving a large RV in or around San Francisco is not recommended; The lanes are narrow, the streets are hilly, and you'll likely find yourself dodging cable cars. Parking for a large vehicle is limited, and virtually non-existent at the normal tourist attractions. There are no RV parks in the city.

Where to stay

We recommend that folks visiting by RV stay at an RV park outside the city and take one or more of the excellent public transport options to view the sites and other attractions. Although we do not endorse specific RV parks, our forum members have reported staying at one of the following:

Getting to the city

Marin Park is a 10-minute walk to the Bus and/or Ferry service into San Francisco.

If staying at Vallejo, take the Vallejo ferry into the city. It's an hour trip with excellent views of the city and many landmarks. The Vallejo ferry drops you off at the Ferry Building, on The Embarcadero, near the Bay Bridge. You can either take a (long) walk from here, or take one of the various public transport options that stop outside the building. A small number of Vallejo crossings will drop you at Fisherman's Wharf. Be sure to check the schedules on their web site.

The KOA in Petaluma is about 1/2 to 3/4 mile from the Route 74 Golden Gate Transit terminous at Stony Point Road and Hwy 101. Route 74 is also express commute service to and from the Financial District; The trip takes about 1:20 each way.

Candlestick RV Park has a shuttle that will drop you off in the city.

San Francisco climate

Visitors usually underestimate the San Francisco climate. Within an hour drive of the temperate Santa Clara Valley (aka Silicon Valley) and the Central Valley, where summer temperatures can be 105-110oF (41-43oC), San Francisco can be a chilly 65oF (18oC) and foggy or even rainy. Visitors should dress accordingly.

Places to see

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Bay Bridge
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Cable car museum
  • Coit Tower
  • Alcatraz state penitentiary, now a museum run by the state park system
  • Chinatown
  • Lombard Street, the windiest street in the world
  • Angel Island
  • Aquarium of The Bay, at Fisherman's Wharf

Transport within San Francisco

Some of the excellent choices for getting around San Francisco include cable car, Muni bus, electric tram, pedicab, and taxi.

San Francisco Muni's 39/Coit route runs from Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 to Coit Tower every 20 minutes from 9 AM - 5 PM. Muni's 28 line runs to the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza, and from there you can walk across the bridge to the Marin Vista Point overlook (about 1.7 miles each way). As you cross the bridge, you'll have a great view of Alcatraz, weather permitting.

The above was written largely from the experience of the author who has entertained visitors to the Bay area for over 30 years, with some additional inputs from the postings of RV Forum members and staff.