With stunning coastlines, majestic natural landscapes and some of America’s most treasured cities, California effortlessly upholds its title of The Golden State. California has some of the most iconic driving routes in the United States, including Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101. Planning a road trip in a state that is nearly 800 miles from north to south is no small task. Luckily, TripIt is here to help with our California road trip planner.
North Coast California Road Trip Planner
If you’re coming from the state of Oregon, you might want to dip your toes into California by taking a tour of the North Coast. Coastal towns like Eureka, Mendocino and Crescent City offer romantic luxuries such as wineries, art and even Victorian-era settings. The North Coast is also home to Redwood National and State Parks.
San Francisco Bay Area
Cable cars, cultured cuisine and a crimson bridge are just some of the many eccentricities San Francisco has to offer. Surrounding metropolitan areas like San Jose and the Silicon Valley are also worth exploring for their museums and state-of-the-art technology. Just beyond the “City by the Bay”are the Napa & Sonoma wine countries, boasting some of the finest wines in the world.
Explore the territory of pioneers past by heading east to California’s Gold County, where the discovery of gold in 1848 ignited the largest mass migration in American history. Empire Mine State Historic Park and The American River are perfect places for outdoor adventures and educational experiences. For modern-day excitement, visit Sacramento, which is the state capital as well as “America’s Farm-to-Fork”capital.
“California’s backbone”(otherwise known as the High Sierra region) is full of awe-inspiring nature for the classic outdoorsman. The Mark Twain-recommended Lake Tahoe features gorgeous overlooks and topaz water begging to be explored by kayak, paddleboard or just about anything that floats. Yosemite National Park attracts four million visitors each year with its geysers, glaciers and meadows. While lesser known than Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks possess just as much breathtaking natural beauty.
An elegant expanse of coastal hills and valleys spotted with idyllic towns makes the Central Coast a driving destination. Monterey’s award-winning aquarium and Carmel’s storybook setting are stops every driver should make on their tour of the Central Coast. Big Sur’s luxury lodging and photo-op pullovers like Bixby Bridge make for a stop-and-go (but mainly stop) drive. Sneak away to Santa Barbara, or what many A-listers call “The American Riviera,”for sensational shopping, a Mediterranean-style atmosphere and the city’s own International Film Festival.
Los Angeles County
The urban adventurer will love driving through the star-studded Los Angeles County. Those caught in LA’s allure should make sure to turn off the major highways for the minor side streets that hold rooftop pools, museums, galleries, beaches and boutiques. Enjoy the sexy nightlife of Hollywood or glam it up with shopping on Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills. Beyond the skyscrapers of the City of Angels is the fun-filled Santa Monica with its world-famous pier and edgy art scene. Take a break from the driver’s seat by hopping on a ferry to Catalina, an island getaway complete with water-sports, golf and gambling.
Orange & San Diego Counties
Nowhere in California has more family fun than the counties of Orange and San Diego. Anaheim, the second largest city in Orange County, holds the crown jewel of children’s entertainment: Disneyland Resort. But beyond that, Orange County has a prominent surfing culture that dates back more than 100 years, with Huntington Beach serving as Surf City, USA. The giant pandas and fuzzy koala bears alone are worth a visit to San Diego, which has a world-renowned zoo. If the zoo wasn’t enough to put a smile on your child’s face, then San Diego County’s LEGOLAND California might do the trick. A magical world created by about sixty million LEGO bricks, LEGOLAND in an imaginative playground with plenty of rides, shows and attractions to keep even the most restless road trip passengers entertained.
An oft forgotten area of California that never sees the crests of the Pacific Ocean is the southeastern desert region. For those that can stand the dry heat, outdoor activities like hiking and rock climbing await at Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. Stunning sand dunes and clear starlit skies are just some of the natural features of these national parks. Every desert has its oasis and Palm Springs is no exception. Fusing a mid-century vibe and a next-generation energy, Palm Springs has relaxing resorts, sleek estates and hot new restaurants for those looking to vacation like Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley once did.
Whether you glide on Sunset Boulevard or drive through the Redwood Forest, California has something to offer anyone with a license to drive and a lust for adventure.