California’s spectacular coastline, national parks, wine trails, desert roads and natural beauty makes it one of the best places in the United States for road trips. There’s nothing like California weather – mild year round including parts of Northern California where snow is uncommon.
Get ready to discover Travelmath’s 5 road trips to take in California. It’s best to combine these road trips with a vacation in one of the major cities in California like San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego:
One: Coastal Road Trip
The Pacific Coast Highway One is the most talked about road trip in America. You can plan this scenic road trip from San Francisco to San Diego or from the opposite direction. This route may not be suitable if you are driving an oversized vehicle like an RV.
For a road trip from San Francisco to San Diego read A Road Trip on the Californian Coast.
Two: Wine Trail Road Trip
Most people fly into San Francisco to start a road trip to Napa and Sonoma. Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and Oakland International Airport (OAK) are two other airports that are within 60 miles from Napa Valley.
For this three day road trip we suggest driving from San Francisco to Calistoga for a two nights stay at a vineyard hotel. Pick two or three wineries to visit in Calistoga like the historic Chateau Montelena Winery and the classic Clos Pegase. Also include a shopping and wine tasting tour at downtown St. Helena.
Drive 17 miles from Calistoga to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County and visit another two or three wineries before heading back to San Francisco. Suggested wineries include DeLoach Vineyards in Santa Rosa, a pioneer of the Russian River Valley and Clos du Bois in Geyserville, Sonoma.
Three: Desert Road Trip
California is covered by millions of acres of desert land. One interesting desert road trip to take is from Los Angeles to the Death Valley National Park.
According to Los Angeles CBS Local, the trip takes about five hours and you need to take three highways – Highway 5, Highway 14 to Highway 395 north. Sand dunes, mountain landscapes, deep volcanic craters and sprawling salt flats are among the interesting sites to look out for on this road trip.
The Death Valley is the driest, lowest and hottest region in North America. Temperatures are in the triple digits in summer. February and March are the best times to take a desert road trip in California. Always check the road and weather conditions before traveling on these desert roads.
Four: National Park Road Trip
It takes about three hours 37 minutes to drive from San Francisco to El Portal, the town just before Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance, the west entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Make a short stop at the Merced River, a great place that caters to skilled whitewater rafting before heading to Yosemite National Park. The river runs through glacial-carved canyons, mountains to the foothills. Other activities include fishing and camping.
Another stop on this road trip is Mariposa, an important California Gold Rush settlement. You can find and shop for Gold Rush memorabilia and visit The California State Mining and Mineral Museum. Among the many exhibits include a 13.8 pound gold nugget found in 1865 and a 150-foot-long mock mine tunnel.
Information: Yosemite National Park
Five: Route 66 Road Trip
Start the trip from Los Angeles through Pasadena to Barstow, a remote desert town where you’ll visit the Route 66 Mother Road Museum. Here you’ll find period road signs, photos, and other mid-century memorabilia. Also check out Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch for the region’s folk art tradition.
According to California Historic Route 66 Association, the Route 66 that passes through California extends from Topock AZ (near Needles) to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica. It is around 320 miles through California’s deserts, mountains, metropolitan areas and beach communities.
Information: Visit California