7 places to escape the Bay Area's bad air quality this weekend

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Many Bay Area residents are hitting the roads and airports Friday, not because they're traveling home for Thanksgiving week, but because they want to escape the horrendous air quality we're seeing in Northern California.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES: Current Bay Area air quality levels

If you are willing to put up with some getaway traffic for cleaner air and clearer skies, these are some ideas to give your lungs a break from the hazardous smoke caused by the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County.


The southern end of Monterey Bay has managed to escape the worst of the smoke, and is seeing some of the cleanest air on the Central Coast.

The further south you drive, the cleaner the air will be in the region. Maybe this weekend is a good time to revisit the Monterey Bay Aquarium (open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.) or take in the serenity Big Sur.

Average drive time: 2-3 hours

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Fort Bragg & Mendocino County

The North Coast has always been a favorite escape for Bay Area residents, and if you don't mind the drive, it will also provide relief from the pollution. We found a number of Fort Bragg Inns, B&Bs, and vacation rentals still available for the weekend of Nov. 17-18, and they're not outrageously priced - less than $150 per night.

Average drive time: 3-4 hours

Lake Tahoe

Some of the cleanest air to be found right now is at Lake Tahoe. The region has the benefit of being "upwind" of the smoke.

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Several Tahoe-area ski resorts are opening for the season Friday, just in time to accommodate visitors looking to escape the smoke. Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Heavenly Mountain and Northstar California all opened Friday. Boreal Mountain Resort opened Nov. 9, and Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe opened Oct. 26.

Average drive time: 4-5 hours


If winter resorts aren't your thing, maybe you'll find relief in Reno. Air quality readings for the third-largest city in Nevada are excellent compared to Northern California cities, and the copious number of hotel rooms available at the various Reno casinos can provide an affordable escape for Bay Area families.

Average drive time: 4-5 hours

Tuolumne County & the Sierra Foothills

The air is clearer in the rolling foothills of the Sierra Mountains in Tuolumne County. The elevation makes it a good choice to escape the poor air since smoke is less dense the higher you go. If you're willing to fight the holiday congestion on Highways 4, 120 or 132, this is a nice alternative.

Inns, B&Bs, hotels and motels are dotted all throughout the area, and we found many still have rooms available for about $100 a night.

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Average drive time: 4-5 hours

San Luis Obispo & Morro Bay

For a longer drive, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and nearby coastal community have largely escaped the effects from the Camp and Woolsey Fires. These cities are showing some of the best air quality in the entire state, according to Friday morning's air quality index readings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's meters.

The region boasts some world class wineries, spas and resorts, and you can also take in the California coast - mask free.

Average drive time: 4-5 hours

Fly to Southern California

All three Bay Area airports say Friday will be the busiest travel day of the year, but if you can wait until Saturday to escape, that may be the day to jet off for a short trip away from the Bay Area until air quality improves.

JetBlue Airways will get you to Long Beach from San Jose Saturday morning and get you back home in time for Thanksgiving for less than $300.

The air in Southern California is a dramatic improvement over the air in the Bay Area, so it's a good alternative if you don't want to deal with highway traffic.

Flight time: 1 hour

See more stories, photos and videos on the Camp Fire in Butte County.
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