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14 Best California Road Trips | Your Ultimate Guide

14 Best California Road Trips | Your Ultimate Guide

Looking for the best California road trips? In this article, we’ll be talking about the top places to visit in the state on a road trip.

Road tripping is a fun activity to do with your family and friends and a great way of exploring a new destination. California is a truly majestic place to tour by road. There are many sites and stories to see on the way that will make your journey an unforgettable experience.

So, let us help you come up with the best California road trip itinerary. We have created the perfect guide for the best California road trips in the region.

Northern California Road Trip

If you’re looking to take in the stunning, natural diversity that California is known for, a Northern California road trip is the right way to do it.

From beautiful beaches to redwood forests, to vineyards, to mountains, to natural parks, there are a multitude of natural views one can have when they take to the roads of Northern California.

This part of California state is much different from the city-centric, glamorous vibes you’ll find in Hollywood. Not many people realize just how huge California is, and the natural diversity that comes with it.

Let’s break down some of the stunning things you can see and do during a Northern California road trip:

1. San Francisco to Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

San Francisco is famous for its astounding views and alpine scenic beauty. The Mt. Shasta peak is famous for being a California 14er peak (a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet) on a potentially active volcanic plate located at the edge of the Cascade Range.

Traveling from San Francisco to Mount Shasta is a 5-hour journey north, averaging around 290 miles. This road trip is a great one to take over 3-5 days in the summer, to take advantage of the sun and stunning views you’ll encounter along the way.

How to get there?

To drive from San Francisco to Mount Shasta, take Highway 8 towards Sacramento; this will fast-track you to Highway 5 if you use the 505.

This lane will lead you directly on route to Month Shasta. The best California road trips from San Francisco come from renting a recreational vehicle (RV). You might also want to check out the guide we created for you before renting one.

Not only is it good for groups due to its space efficiency, but it also provides bed space accommodation which saves money from renting out expensive hotel rooms.

What to do?

Once you arrive at Mount Shasta, there’s plenty to see and do during your stay!

Many visitors like to hike the Black Butte trail, a 5.2 mile trail that will lead you to a summit with stunning, 360 degree vista views. There are also other trails, including the McCloud River trail (where you’ll see three waterfalls!) Heart Lake Trail, Spring Hill Trail, Horse Camp Trail, and Panther Meadows Trail.

If you’re feeling adventurous, Mount Shasta also has dedicated areas for sports like mountain biking, river rafting, and rock climbing, as well as off-roading, boating, and fishing. There are areas dedicated to games like tennis and golf in the summer, and in the winter, you can go skiing or snowboarding. The surrounding areas also feature great areas for camping.

While summer is the best time to take advantage of these outdoor adventures, there’s plenty to do in both the summer and winter. This is why this is one of the more ideal roadtrips one can take in California, no matter the time of year. 

2. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley – NorCal Road trip

Vineyard in Napa Valley

This road trip is perfect for all wine lovers. It’s a visual experience of the wine-making process from vine to bottle which will help you be more appreciative of what goes into pouring every glass.

The entire road trip borders San Francisco, starting from Napa Valley and circulating through the Sonoma Valley.

The small towns you can visit on this day trip are home to 600 wineries. The best California road trips to these wineries would be during the fall harvest season.

How to get there?

You can start your journey from San Francisco towards the north of Highway 121. The route will lead you to the quaint town of Napa.

Towards the northeast end of Highway 121, you can either choose to travel past the hot springs or turn north to drive through the Silverado Trail.

The Silverado Trail cuts off in Calistoga. You can return to Sonoma on the connection highway between Calistoga Road and Highway 12.

What to do?

Both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley have plenty of things to see and do, especially for wine lovers.

Napa Valley is a gorgeous area in Northern California, with many visitors touring popular winery estates such as Hess Persson Estates or Pine Ridge Vineyards. If wine isn’t your thing, though, there are other activities! Napa Valley has self-guided art walks, spas, hiking, a thriving nightlife scene, shopping, and much more.

The same can be said for Sonoma Valley as well. Sonoma is also known for its wineries, with two popular ones being Jacuzzi Family Vineyards and Cline Cellars. Sonoma also has a number of stunning beaches, hiking trails, rivers, state parks, and restaurants. Plenty of options for those looking for an outdoorsy adventure.

In both Napa and Sonoma valley, traveling by RV is an ideal choice! Many wineries double as camping grounds, meaning you can hit the winery during the day and stay comfortable in your RV at night.

See Related: 9 Best Travel Cooler for Road Trips

3. The Best of Northern California: Highway 128

Highway 138

When you take a California road trip along Highway 128, you run east to west from the Sacramento Valley to the Mendocino coast. This means you can explore some of the more iconic locations Northern California has to offer. From giant redwood forests to delicious seafood in Michelin-starred restaurants, there is plenty to discover.

How to get there?

This Northern California road trip will take you from Winters to Elk, traveling along Highway 128. This is a 3-4 day journey, taking you from Yolo County west into the gorgeous Vaca Mountains.

You’ll begin on Highway 128, following it as it guides you into Napa Valley and through the towns of St. Helena and Calistoga. Eventually, you’ll meet a two-way roadway that connects Highway 128 to 101 for the rest of the journey.

What to do?

You’ll find plenty of amazing scenery and exciting attractions along this 140-mile route!

You start your trip in the agricultural town of Winters, which has plenty of breweries to visit like Berryessa, a local favorite. As you keep driving you’ll also encounter some other cool food and drink spots like Nichelini Family Winery, one of the oldest family wineries in Napa.

Then, when you’re ready to stretch your legs, you can have some adventures in the great outdoors! Take some time to explore and hike through Hendy Woods State Park. This is an amazing hike, especially for those who want to take in California’s redwood trees. You’ll get to pass through an 11-mile-long tunnel of redwood forest growth, offering some stunning scenery to take in.

California National Parks Road Trip

Yoshmite National Park in California

Another great way to take in the natural wonders of California is by visiting the wide range of National Parks found across the state. By visiting California national parks, you can take in all kinds of wildlife, foliage, and different kinds of terrain. From the rocky terrain of Joshua Tree to the redwoods in Sequoia, there are plenty of great options!

There are 9 different national parks in California. These include:

  • Yosemite National Park: Stunning, northern California park with waterfalls, forest hikes, and rock climbing.
  • Death Valley National Park: Near the California-Nevada border, this park has flat sand dunes, and a distinct desert feel.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: East of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree is known for its hiking with views of massive boulders and mountains.
  • Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park: These two parks are very close to one another in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, known for their tall sequoia trees, redwoods, meadows and rivers.
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park: Found in northeast California, this park features lava rock, hot springs, and unique kinds of volcanoes.
  • Pinnacles National Park: This park is east of the Salinas valley, characterized by unique rock formations, wildflowers, caverns, and canyons.
  • Redwood National Park: Located in the north, this park is known for its old-growth redwood trees, home to some of the tallest, oldest redwoods in the world. It also has rivers, waterfalls, and sprawling grass areas.
  • Channel Islands National Park: Found on the Pacific coast, this park has some stunning ocean views and a collection of eight islands teeming with wildlife. Come for hiking, kayaking, and whale watching!

It’s not just national parks that make California great, though. There are some other smaller state parks worth mentioning, including the gorgeous Crystal Cove State Park, or Castle Crags State Park.

4. Eastern Sierras Road Trip

Sierra Mountains California

The trip from Lone Pine to South Lake Tahoe is one of the best California road trips. The journey to Lake Tahoe is a 4-hour road trip and 232 miles long from Lone Pine. You will need 4-5 days to explore the region.

How to get there?

The Lone Pine is situated between Sequoia National Park and Death Valley National Park. For most of your journey, you will have to stick to Highway 395 towards the Sierra Nevadas.

The connection from Highway 395 to Topaz Lake is Highway 89, which will take you directly to South Lake Tahoe.

What to do?

The best part about this road trip is that there are many sites to explore with rich historical significance. You can detour onto Highway 168 to see the pre-historic sites of Sierra Nevadas.

One of the more popular sites to visit is the Manzanar National Historic Site, which features a monument built to honor Japanese Americans who were forced to live in camps there during World War II.

In the 40s, Manzanar confined over 10,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants, an act fuelled by anti-Asian sentiment formed during the war. This camp was closed after the war ended, but an official apology wasn’t issued until the 80s. Today, Manzanar hosts this national historic site, so visitors can learn about this piece of history. 

Further onto Highway 395, you will come across beautiful ski resorts on Mammoth Mountain and Mono Lake, which is popular for its mud-like rock appearance.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort has some of the best skiing in the state, with 150 different runs, 25 lifts, and 3500 ac of skiable terrain. The resort also has non-skiing activities, such as going on gondola rides, mountain hikes, snowmobile rides, bowling, full spas, and more.  

Cut through Highway 89 and finish the day by soaking up some sun at the shores of South Lake Tahoe. Here you can explore Lake Tahoe on private cruises, go for a sunset hike along the Rubicon trail, swim at Lake Tahoe beach, or enjoy local restaurants for a relaxing evening.

See Related: 15 Best Things to do in Northern California

5. Sacramento to Eureka

Redwoods National Park

The road trip from Sacramento to Eureka is a great one, especially for those who like to spend time outdoors! There are a ton of campgrounds and RV spots along this route, and many of them are pet friendly.

There are also plenty of hidden hiking spots along the way, scattered throughout this 400-mile drive. Depending on how many stops you make along the way, this drive should take you 3-10 days.

How to get there?

Head northwest from Sacramento to start your road trip towards Clear Lake. Once you finish touring the vibrant views of Clear Lake, head northwest towards Eureka, where you can sightsee the classic California Redwoods or backpack across the Lost Coast Trail.

As much of the activities to see and do are outdoors, we highly recommend taking this road trip between April-November to avoid the harsh winter.

What to do?

Once you reach Clear Lake, take a long stroll on the Indian Nature Trail. On this hike you can follow a self guided discovery trail, to learn all about the natural resources used by the Pomo Indians.

It’s a great way to learn more about local plant life, and see some stunning valley views. Once you’re done, you can end your walk with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the luscious vine species on the hills.

Another hike you can try is one though Redwoods National Park! A walk through the Redwoods National Park will allow you to explore one of the most majestic ecosystems in the world.

There will be plenty to do once you arrive. There are tons of campgrounds to be found throughout the park, as well as hiking trails that will take you to protected tree groves. You could also spend time by the water at Gold Bluffs Beach, or take a picnic to Elk Meadow.

There are some non-nature activities, too. Get a glimpse into the past through the Victorian houses in Eureka county, which date back to the 18th Century. This is one of the best California road trips to explore nature.

See Related: 12 Best Things to Do in Calabasas, California

6. LA to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley

If you only have time for a short road trip, try out this LA to Yosemite National Park route. Between these two locations, there is plenty to do and see.

The most direct route will take slightly more than five hours, while the more scenic route up the coast can take about ten hours, and this doesn’t count all the stops you undoubtedly will make along the way.

How to get there?

The fastest route will be the I-5 freeway. Take it north for two hours and connect with CA-99 north after going over the Grapevine. CA-99 will then take you to Fresno, where you can connect to CA-411.

The more scenic route takes you up the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway. This takes you through Malibu, Oxnard, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. You will go up through the Santa Maria Valley and Pismo Beach before exploring Monterey and Carmel.

What to do?

There’s a reason Los Angeles is one of the USA’s top tourist destinations! Before you begin your road trip you’ll find plenty of famous attractions to explore in LA.

Like theme parks? Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain are two amazing parks waiting for you! Or you could even visit the Santa Monica Pier to ride a ferris wheel while taking in some ocean views.

You could also explore the glamorous look and feel of Hollyoowd! You can walk to see the Hollywood sign, before doing some celebrity sighting with a Studio Tour at Warner Brothers or Universal Studios. (Or, if you don’t see any stars there, see the literal stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame!)

There are other tourist attractions in LA too, like the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Griffith Observatory, Sunset Boulevard, and much more.

Once you’ve had enough of the city, your road trip will take you on some more natural adventures. Death Valley National Park is a great stop if you want to do some hiking and see some gorgeous sand dunes and salt flats.

Then you’ll finally make it to Yosemite! Here you can take in the gorgeous Yosemite falls, and do plenty of hiking and rock climbing. There are also a ton of different campsites and dedicated RV spots in the park, the Yosemite museum, Ansel Adams Gallery, and more.

7. The Majestic Mountain Loop

Majestic Mountain Loop

If you want to visit three national parks in three days, you want to take the Majestic Mountain Loop road trip. You can visit Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite on this adventure-filled route.

How to get there?

The Majestic Mountain Loop is an iconic California road trip. To begin, start your journey in Visalia, near Sequoia, to visit Sequoia National Park. You can stay the day and camp there~ Next, depart and travel to Kings Canyon National Park, spending the night in the Oakhurst area. Finally, depart for Yosemite, to take in your last National Park.

What to do?

Once in Sequoia, you can climb Moro Rock. It is a quarter-mile steep climb that offers stunning views. That checked off just hop back into the car and take a drive through Sequoia’s Tunnel Log. It is an iconic road where a 2,000 year-old tree fell. It is now a tunnel you can drive through.

Next up, see the world’s largest tree! The General Sherman Tree is 275 feet tall and can be found by way of the half-mile Main Trail in Sequoia National Park. This is a giant sequoia tree, named after Civil War General Willam Tecumseh Sherman.

Next, go underground at Boyden Cavern near Kings Canyon. You can take a 50-minute walking tour to see the inside of this marble cavern, going underground to  view stalagmites and stalactites.  The cavern is open from late May through early November.

When moving from Kings Canyon to Yosemite you can go on other outdoor adventures, like hiking Zumwalt Meadow to see green meadors and giant granite walls. You can also try bike rentals closer to Yosemite, biking through Curry Village.

Other things to do while exploring the Majestic Mountain Loop include hiking the Mist Trail in Yosemite, hiking Kings Canyon in Zumwalt Meadow, and watching the sunset at Yosemite’s Glacier Point.

Interested? Take a guided tour through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

8. Cajon Pass to Big Bear

Big Bear California

The entire journey from Cajon Pass to Big Bear is 117 miles and is approximately a 5-hour drive. It’s a gorgeous drive, taking you past green forests and different towering mountains.

We highly recommend the drive for those in RVs or micro-cabin RV cars. It’s a great way to take it all in, and always feel at home right where you are. You can easily rent an RV with RVShare or Outdoorsy.

How to get there?

The journey begins at Cajon Pass on Highway 18, which heads east towards the San Bernardino Mountains.

Make sure to detour Highway 18 so that you don’t miss out on some scenic landscapes in the region.

Once you have seen the sites, continue onto Highway 18, which leads to the town of Big Bear.

What to do?

San Bernardino Mountains is often referred to as the Alps of Southern California due to its tremendous views and abundance of skiing and snowboarding opportunities. One popular place to stay is the Big Bear Mountain Resort, known for its skiing and snowboarding in the winter, as well as golfing, hiking, biking, zip lines, and more. 

You can also trek the Pacific Coast Trail if you make a detour on route 173. The trail amasses a total distance of 76 miles, and you will get to see views of Big Bear Lake.

If resorts aren’t for you, a nice, warm cabin in the center of Big Bear after a long day of hiking will be the perfect way to end the day. This Big Bear Retreat is a great cabin, just 15 minutes away from Snow Summit at Metcalf Bay. 

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Los Angeles?

9. Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

A road trip from Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park is a very popular California road trip, especially in the spring. This trip will have you driving through some impressive mountains, with plenty of campground stops along the way.

This is a 188 mile journey, and can be as fast as 3-hours with few stops along the way.

How to get there?

The journey begins in Redding, a small city in the Sacramento region. You will have to travel north on the 1-5 past Mount Shasta.

You will have to cross Highway 89, which will lead you directly to the foothills of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

What to do?

Lassen Volcanic National Park is an underrated California park, with a lot to see and do every season! You can take a scenic drive along the 30-mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway to see views like Emerald Lake, Lake Helen, and the mountains.  Or you can go into the park, to do things like hiking, fishing, boating, and camping.

Of course, the most popular thing to do here is take in the surreal volcanoes. This park is home to all four kinds of volcanoes (shield, cinder cone, plug dome, composite) situated among the lakes and meadows.

To get the most out of this park, we recommend planning a stay for several days, camping or in an RV! That way you can take in everything there is to see here.

See Related: 67 Most Beautiful Places in the World

More to Do on a California Road Trip

We have a few more California road trips to add to your bucket list! The trips we outline here connect various iconic locations found throughout California. If you take any of these trips, you’ll be able to see some of the best places California has to offer!

From Big Sur to Palm Springs, the road trips we outline here reflect equal parts of nature and city living. It truly speaks to the diversity of California, with its many different kinds of lifestyles. 

10. Los Angeles to Palm Springs – SoCal Road Trip

Palm Springs, California

While making this road trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, don’t miss out on the hidden gems along your way. If you love sports and other fun-filled activities, this is the road trip for you.

Palm Springs is known to host sporting events like golf, tennis, and horse riding throughout the year, making it a great destination for those who are more active. Ruth Hardy Park is a great spot to play a game of basketball or tennis and then relax with a picnic.

It’s also a great place to explore if you have ever wanted to explore the desert! The desert rarely sees the sight of rain, so it is a great place to hike with your friends and family. And there are some fun excursions to be had out there, hiking, biking, or offroad desert Jeep tours.

How to get there?

The entire distance from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is 110 miles without any stops. Depending on the traffic, it can take you a total of 2-4 hours on the road.

After leaving Los Angeles, make a beeline toward Idyllwild to the San Jacinto Mountains. Continue to I-10 East to reach Palm Springs.

What to do?

There are a ton of amazing things people can see and do in Palm Springs, offering equal parts city living, and outdoor adventuring.

If you like the outdoors, take in cool places like Joshua Tree National Park! Here you can see the Cholla Cactus Garden, or take a hike to places like Keys View to take in a stunning view of the Coachella Valley. You could also visit the Coachella Valley Preserve for hiking trails through desert wetlands.

If you’re less inclined to outdoor adventuring, visit some tourist attractions like The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the Palm Spring Art Museum, the Richard Nixon Library & Museum, or the Moorten Botanical Garden. You can also head into the city for some great nightlife, take in some live music, entertainment, and eat at delicious restaurants in Palm Springs.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, just check out this video we made on YouTube!

Palm Springs, California: Things to Do and See [4K HD]
Watch this video on YouTube.

11. San Diego to Coachella Valley

Joshua Tree National Park

The road trip between San Diego and Coachella Valley is another fun journey. This road trip will take you away from the city and into the desert, covering 600-miles for 4-7 days of driving and exploring.

The best time to take this trip is in spring, when the weather is tolerable for outdoor activities.

This is one of the best California road trips to see Southern California deserts.

How to get there?

To start this journey, we begin in San Diego. You can drive from here to Carlsbad, California, and spend a day taking in beach views, or tourist attractions like Legoland California!

From there we continue to drive through Southern California, hittin up towns like Perris, Oak Glen, and Palm Spring before finally making it to Coachella Valley.

Along the way there will be plenty of stops you can make. You can pull off to take a picnic by Lake Miramar, visit Black Mountain Open Space Park, visit wineries like Bella Maria Winery, or hit up Big Horn Canyon Ranch. They are all stops along the way!

See RelatedJoshua Tree Itinerary

What to do?

As we touched on above, there are a lot of great stops to be made on this road trip, and even more to do once you arrive at Coachella Valley from San Diego.

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is a great idea! Here you can do some hiking, or take a self-guided audio tour as you explore the park!

If you like art, you could also visit the increasingly popular art exhibit Desert X. This installation is totally free to visit, and presents a strong message on climate change and social culture.

If you’re there in the summer, you could try to make your way to the Coachella music festival! Or you can take in attractions like Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, or even go on a hot air balloon ride.

See Related: Best Vacations in the Southwestern United States

California Coast Road Trip

If you are looking for one of the most spectacular shorelines, you will find it in California. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best ways to see stunning coastal views of the Pacific Ocean.

Along the California coast, you will find amazing cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, while viewing inspiring landscapes like Big Sur and other historic settlements. This means you won’t only have the benefit of seeing stunning views on this drive, you’ll also be able to pull off and explore some of California’s most exciting places.

To drive the entire California coast line you will need at least a week, maybe two if you want to spend a lot of time in the cities and parks along the way. Of course, you don’t have to do the entire coast line. There are plenty of smaller, more manageable trips one can take that will still be a ton of fun.

12. Dana Point to Leggett (The Pacific Coast Highway Road trip)

Pacific Coast Highway

The drive between Danna Point and Leggett is a 656 mile trip! Dana Point is considered the “start” of the Pacific Coast highway, making it a great place to begin a road trip.

To make the most of the drive, we recommend making a detour at Pismo Grove, and finding time to see the Point Reyes Lighthouse. There are also some great restaurants to visit along the way, including Point Reyes National Seashore restaurants.

How to get there?

To start this journey, you’ll begin in Dana Point. All you’ll need to do is get onto the Pacific Coast Highway. You’ll take this road for most of the journey, before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to get on the 101.

From there, you can keep heading north towards Legget! The whole journey with no stops is over 10 hours, meaning with stops along the way, it could take you 2-3 days.

What to do?

This long drive will take you through a lot of California, meaning there are a ton of different tourist attractions to hit up along the way.

If you plan your road trip in October and February, stop at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove on route to the PCH. There are over 10,000 butterflies that migrate to the beach every year.

Another must-see on the PCH is the Hearst Castle estate in San Simeon. You rent out rooms that are decorated to complement the lavish surroundings.

You can also stop to explore San Francisco, which comes up about halfway through the journey. You’ll get to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to get there! And while there you can stop at places like Union Square, the San Francisco Museum of Art, or visit Ocean Beach.

Once in Legget, it’s time to explore the great outdoors. Many people like to plan a route to drive under the Chandelier Drive-Through Tree, a popular road trip landmark. You can also visit the Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area for camping and hiking.

13. Big Sur Road Trip

Big Sur Road

On this Big Sur road trip, you will experience the many wonders the California coast offers. Here we will start at legendary Highway 1, which runs over 93 miles. It runs between Hearst Castle and the town of Carmel. Along this route, you will see the famous cliffs that are part of the Big Sur region.

Big Sur extends about 20 miles inland, and here you will find nature parks and other protected areas. You can also explore the beaches and forests while enjoying the picturesque views. If you love hiking trails and want to stretch your legs, this is the place to do that.

How to get there?

To get to Big Sur from San Francisco or Los Angeles, take Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Highway 1 can be taken if you are coming from the north or south. You can take Highway 1 past Santa Monica and Malibu for a more scenic route.

To get to Big Sur from Los Angeles, the drive is around 6 hours driving nonstop. San Francisco is a bit closer, with the drive only taking around 3 hours.

What to do?

The drive from Los Angeles to Big Sur will take you past some fun things to do! If you need a break from the car, you can take a stop at Ventura Beach, or even spend an afternoon in nature at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area.

If you want to take a break along the way, there are also some great places to stay. Santa Barbara is a great place to stop halfway through the trip.

We recommend the Santa Barbara Inn if you’re a fan of luxurious hotels with great amenities, close enough to the city to visit attractions like Santa Barbara Beach, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.

We also love the Marina Beach Motel! This accommodation is just 3 minutes away from the water and gives a great view of the bay.

Once in Big Sur, there are lots to do and see. The Bixby Creek Bridge is the most popular bridge in the region. It sits 279 feet above the water and offers amazing views. Another place to visit is the Point Sur Lighthouse. Here you will see one of the most famous lighthouses in the state.

There are also over 80 hiking trails to choose from and panoramic ocean views to take in. McWay Falls Overlook Trail and Partington Cove Trail are just two of the more popular trails.

14. The Perfect Coastal Road Trip

Historic Route California 101

If you are feeling adventurous and have some time, consider going on a 10-day California coastal road trip. Here are a few of the stops you can expect along the way:

How to get there?

The Pacific Coast Highway or California US Route 1 is the best route to take because it runs directly along the Pacific Ocean for almost 800 miles. It stretches from San Diego to the Oregon border, providing views of California that are unlike any other drive in the state

What to do?

Here is just a small list of places to hit up and things you can do along the way:

  • San Francisco to Santa Rosa: Take a quick detour through the wine country and enjoy your drive after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Jump on Highway 101, have some wine and delicious food in Santa Rosa, and enjoy the views of all the vineyards.
  • Santa Cruz: You want to make your way to Santa Cruz earlier in the day since the traffic from San Francisco can be pretty bad. Pass through Pacifica, go for a stroll along the beach, and visit Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero.
  • Carmel by the Sea: On your way to Carmel by the Sea, stop over in Monterey and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. Next, take a trip down 17 Mile Drive, hugging the coast. Go for a wine tasting at Blair Estates Winery and enjoy the small-town vibes.
  • Carmel to Big Sur: Stop by Point Lobos State Park for a hike and start the 60-minute drive to Big Sur. Take your time on this route and enjoy the scenery.

These routes don’t even cover everything you can do when taking a California coastal road trip. It is just a small sampling of the amazing sights you can explore and things you can do.

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