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Best Summer Day Trips to escape the Fresno Heat

Are you dreading the next heat wave in Fresno? Not to worry, Fresno happens to be a short drive from some of the most beautiful destinations in the United States that don’t break the 100-degree mark. This article will show you all the fantastic day trips you can take to escape the dry, Fresno heat.

Sierra National Forest


Shaver Lake

Shaver Lake – 1-hour drive from Fresno

Shaver lake is located right off the 168, if you drive from Fresno, you will drive past the town of Shaver, and shortly after the lake is to your right.

If you’re looking to cool off on the lake, there are a few rental services at the lake that offer fun watersport activities! Shaver lake watersports & Shaver lake Marina both offer rental services for pontoon boats, fishing boats, jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards. 

If you don’t feel like spending time out on the lake, there are plenty of hikes that start at or nearby shaver lake. 

Don’t forget to stop by the Hungry Hut for a juicy bacon burger and their classic Oreo milkshake.


Bass lake, California

Bass lake – 1-hour drive from Fresno

This lake is located off of Highway 41 after the town of Oakhurst: you will turn right on road 222 to arrive at the lake.

Bass lake sits at about the same elevation as Shaver lake, so cooling off in the higher elevation of the Sierra Nevada won’t be an issue at all. There is a boat rental service at Bass Lake that offers all the equipment you need to get out on the lake to have some fun! It is also only 25 minutes from the Yosemite South Gate Entrance.


Huntington Lake

Huntington Lake – 1 ½ hour drive from Fresno

Huntington Lake is also located off the 168. To get here, you have to drive past Shaver Lake on the 168 to the town of Lakeshore. 

There is a main parking lot to get access to the lake shore, but they do charge a small fee at the toll booth. Make sure to bring cash just in case you use the main parking area.


Rancheria Falls, Sierra National Forest

Rancheria Falls Trail 

Just 5 minutes from the town of Lakeshore/Huntington Lake is a beautiful waterfall trail.

The hike is 4 miles roundtrip from the official trailhead. This hike is family and dog friendly. To see the heaviest water flow, make sure to arrive during early spring when the snow is just starting to melt. During the latter half of summer, Rancheria Falls slows down, since most of the snow has melted in the Sierra Nevada. 


3 National Parks

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park – 2-hour drive from Fresno

Can you believe we have our country’s most famous national park right in our backyard? Yosemite National Park is only 2 hours away from Fresno. Coming from Fresno, you would take Highway 41 all the way into the park.

Visiting Yosemite Valley can still get toasty because it only sits at 2-3 thousand feet elevation, but if you go stand next to one of the park’s amazing waterfalls like Yosemite falls, Vernal falls, or Nevada Falls you will surely cool down very quickly.

Also, you could easily jump in the Merced River at Cathedral beach, which is fed straight from the High Sierra snowmelt. 

If planning on visiting Yosemite National Park, they are on a permit system from May 20th through September 30th. You can book a reservation at Recreation.gov.


Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park – 1-hour drive from Fresno

Located right on Highway 180, this park is definitely a hidden gem out of the 3 national parks. It doesn’t see as many visitors as the others, but it still packs a punch with stellar views.

If your want a quick day trip to escape the heat in Fresno, this might be the golden ticket of places to travel to. You can see the 2nd largest tree in the world, General Grant, hang out at Hume Lake, or drive down to the bottom of the deepest canyon in the United States. 

This park is also connected to Sequoia National Park if you wanted to make it a long day trip.


Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park – 1 ½ hour drive from Fresno

You can get to this park in 2 different ways driving from Fresno. The first is to take Highway 99 South to Highway 198 East towards Sequoia, or drive East on Highway 180 and take the connecting Generals Highway to Sequoia. The more scenic route is the General’s Highway, but in the winter it is closed, giving one choice to the people from Fresno – to drive Highway 99. 

If you want to say “wow!” a thousand times on your day trip, then this is the place for you. The giant sequoias are massive and make you feel tiny! These trees live between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation. It’s worth it to take a trip when it’s 105 degrees down in the valley. General Sherman resides in Sequoia National Park & it is the largest tree in the world!


Central Coast

If you’re not a mountain person, don’t worry, we got you covered with all these great spots to visit on the beautiful central coast of California.

Pismo Beach – 2 ½ hour drive from Fresno

Getting to Pismo beach is a bit further than the mountains, but nonetheless still worth the visit. You will take Highway 41 south to Highway 46 to Highway 101 to arrive at your destination. 

The town of Pismo has had a lot of remodeling done in the past 2 years, making it a hotspot to eat out, shop, play volleyball, walk the pier, or rent a boogieboard/surfboard. 

Moreover, if you’re interested in cool caves and coastal bluffs, you might want to check out Dinosaur Caves Park located just north of proper Pismo Town.

Lastly, don’t forget to make a stop at the underrated Pismo Sand Dunes. They are some of the biggest sand dunes the west coast has to offer!


Morro Bay

Morro Bay – 2 ½ hour drive from Fresno

Just 30 minutes north of Pismo is a slow, quiet beach town called Morro Bay. You might have seen photos of a large rock right on the shores of the ocean. That is Morro Rock, a volcanic plug, at the entrance of Morro Bay harbor.

While spending time there, you can walk Morro Rock Beach or rent a kayak from Central Coast Outdoors to adventure through the bay. Once you’re done adventuring out on the coast,  walk through the town to look through the shops & sit down to eat some seafood. The House of JuJu restaurant in Clovis also has a location right on the main street of Morro Bay.


Montana De Oro State Park

Montana De Oro State Park  – 2 ½ hour drive from Fresno

This hidden gem lies between Morro Bay and Pismo beach. This might be one of the most under-visited beaches/parks in the state of California. There are hiking trails that go alongside the coastal bluffs, coves & tidepools, beaches, and a peak to hike. Fortunately, it is about 15-20 Minutes from Morro Bay if you want to pair the two locations on your trip from escaping the heat from Fresno.


Big Sur California

Big Sur – 3-hour drive from Fresno

Don’t let the distance scare you away from making this a day trip. Visiting the epic rugged coast, Big Sur sure is worth the drive. There are 6 state parks in the Big Sur area.

Driving this part of the coast can be completed in 2 different ways. You can start from the southside entering from San Simeon to drive north towards Monterey. Or you can start at Monterey and drive south. Driving north to south will take you to the main state parks first. 

Lastly, don’t forget to fuel up before going, the gas station in the middle of the proper Big Sur is very expensive compared to gas stations in other towns.


Final Words

When the next heat wave hits Fresno, at least you know you have options to escape it in just a few hours drive to some of the most beautiful destinations in the world!