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9 Best California Road Trips: Your Ultimate Guide

9 Best California Road Trips: Your Ultimate Guide

Looking for the best California road trips? Here are the top places to visit in the state

Road tripping is a fun activity to do with your family and friends. There are many sites and stories to see on the way that will make your journey an unforgettable experience.

We have created the perfect guide for the best California road trips in the region.

The Best California Road Trips to Take This Year

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 on a potentially active volcano plate located at the edge of the Cascade Range.

The journey from San Francisco to Mount Shasta averages 290 miles. The journey to Mt. Shasta is a 5-hour road trip north of San Francisco.

Summer is the best time to make a 3-5 day trip to Mt. Shasta.

How to get there?

To drive from San Francisco to Mount Shasta, you will have to use 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 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?

The trails to hike up Black Butte in Mount Shasta may look intimidating, but with the right gear, it is an easy hike.

However, you will have to be cautious for large boulders as you cross the region.

Another infamous trail on Mt. Shasta is the Horse Camp trail which a shirt 3.5 mike hike to the Sierra Club stone cabin with a dynamic view of Mt. Shasta from the top.

Mount Shasta is converted into a ski park with fun snow sports during the winter months. This is one of the best California road trips to take.

2. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley – NorCal Road trip

Vineyard in Napa Valley

This road trip is perfect for all wine lovers, a visual experience of the wine-making process will make you more appreciative of its art form.

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

The small towns that you can visit on this day trip are home to 600 wineries in the state. 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 on 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 tun north to drive through the Silverado Trail.

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

What to do?

RVs are a fantastic option to get around these small winery towns. Most wineries in Napa offer a flat rate of $10- $25 for their wines.

The vineyards can double as camping grounds so what better way to spend your evening than sipping on some homemade wine as you watch the sunset from the comfort of your own RV.

However, you must always make certain that you have a designated driver for this specific road trip as driving under the influence is not advised.

See Related: 9 Best Travel Cooler for Road Trips

3. 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. However, you will need 4- 5 days to explore the region.

How to get there?

The Lone Pine is situated between Sequoia 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 close 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.

The Manzanar National Historic Site was built to honor the Japanese Americans who were forced to live in camps during World War II.

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

Cut through to Highway 89 and finish the day by soaking up some sun at the shores of South Lake Tahoe.

See Related: 15 Best Things to do in Northern California

4. Sacramento to Eureka

Redwoods National Park

The road trip from Sacramento to Eureka has many RV pet-friendly stops.

The campgrounds will allow you to spend quality time with your furry companions. Some RV parks will also have hiking amenities to walk your pets to get their daily dose of exercise.

There are some hidden hiking spots along the 400-mile drive to Eureka which will take anywhere from 3-10 days depending on how many spots you would like to visit.

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 Redwoods or backpack across the Lost Coast Trail.

If you want to avoid the harsh winter, the best time to take this road trip would be from April- November.

What to see?

Once you reach Clear Lake, take a long stroll on the Indian Nature Trail to see sites from the Pomo tribe. End your walk with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon produced from the luscious vine species on the hills.

A walk through the Redwoods National Park will allow you to explore one of the most majestic ecosystems in the world.

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 if you like to explore nature.

Looking to go on a California vacation? Grab our free travel guide to help you explore California.

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

5. Los Angeles to Palm Springs – SoCal Road Trip

Palm Springs, California

While making the road trip from Los Angeles don’t miss out on the hidden gems on your way to Palm Springs. 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. The desert rarely sees the sight of rain, so it is a great place to hike with your friends and family.

How to get there?

The entire distance from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is 110 miles without any stops. It would take you a total of 3-4 hours on the road, depending on the traffic.

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

What to see?

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

Watch more videos like these on the ViaTravelers YouTube channel.

If you love museums and history check out the Richard Nixon Library and Museum on the way to Palm Springs. It is a network of libraries with scripts from President Nixon that date back to the 1800s.

Palm Springs is famous for its music entertainment, restaurants and architecture.

Palm Canyon Road is home to luxurious brands and décor in Downtown Palm Springs.

For those looking for a good hike, Palm Springs is famous for the Joshua Tree National Park and Mt. San Jacinto state park which will give you a panoramic view of the city.

There is something for everyone in Palm Springs which is what makes it an enjoyable experience.

Check out all these amazing things to do in Palm Springs.

6. San Diego to Coachella Valley

Joshua Tree National Park

If you want to get away from the daily bustle of San Diego, take a chill trip down to Coachella Valley. The road trip is a total of 600 miles and over 4-7 days of fun-filled 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?

If you head north from San Diego, you can make a pit stop at Slab City to admire the artwork made from concrete slabs. Get onto Highway 111 to reach Palm Spring and switch to Highway 10 to reach Joshua Tree National Park.

Take a therapeutic hike to explore the surrounding canyons of Joshua Tree National Park.

See Related: Joshua Tree Itinerary

What to do?

Desert X in Coachella Valley is a contemporary art exhibition that showcases the beauty of desert landscapes.

The exhibit is a worthwhile experience as it conveys a strong message on climate change and social culture through its art. The best part is that the exhibit is free, and the installations are present throughout the year.

See Related: Best Vacations in the Southwestern United States

7. 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. Taking a road trip by an RV cabin is a great way to get to Big Bear.

There are some micro-cabin RV prototypes that will help save money and will allow you to bring your home anywhere.

How to get there?

Make sure to detour on Highway 18, so that you don’t miss out on some scenic landscapes in the region. The journey begins at Cajon Pass on Highway 18 which heads east towards the San Bernardino Mountains.

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

A warm cabin in the center of Big Bear after a long day of hiking will be the perfect way to end the day. Make sure you carry the best cooler bag available to preserve your food during your stay there.

Also, you might want to take a look at the best travel coolers we researched in the market right now.

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

8. Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

The road trip from Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the best California road trips to take during the Spring. The is one of the best California road trips and is a total of 188 miles and a 3-hour drive from Redding.

To make the most out of your trip, you can spend 3 days exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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 cut through to Highway 89 which will lead you directly to the foothills of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

What to do?

Lassen Volcanic National Park is heaven on Earth for all-mountain trekkers as it showcases vibrant meadows and creeks on the hike to the top.

You should allow 3 days for this trek to get the full benefit of its scenic views and surreal volcanoes.

It is one of the least visited parks making it a unique trekking experience. If you love to hike when going on some of the best California road trips, you can rent out an RV to tour all the National Parks in the country.

See Related: 67 Most Beautiful Places in the World

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

Pacific Coast Highway

The entire distance from Dana Point to Leggett is 656 miles. To make the most out of your trip make a detour at the Pismo Grove and the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

This road trip is more relaxing so make sure to wine and dine at the restaurants near the Point Reyes National Seashore.

How to get there?

Dana Point is at the Highway 1 intersection which is 650 miles north of the US Route 101 heading towards Leggett. Highway 1 is often referred to as Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

What to see there?

If you plan your rod trip in October and February, make sure to stop at the Pismo Beach 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.

The best California road trips include outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, and fishing. Most people are looking to travel in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Road trips are currently the safest option to visit new places. Make sure to plan ahead by taking all the precautions to have a safe enjoyable road trip across California.

Not only interested in traveling in California? Why not check out our guide for the best travel spots around the U.S.?

Or try exploring Midwest road trips with family and friends.

The Route 100 Vermont road trip is also a good choice.

Read the article so you can have more ideas for enjoyable road trips not only for you but also for your friends and family.

Also, if you have plans on bringing your kids to your adventure, there are books available for kids to keep them busy while on the road.

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