With one week in California, it takes careful planning to fit in the many attractions that the Golden State has to offer. From famous Highway 1 with its scenic views of the Pacific to the sheer cliffs of Yosemite National Park, California's open roads form the perfect canvass for unforgettable road trips. Beyond these highlights, there are many lesser-known attractions that are equally worthwhile and largely undiscovered by the masses. Discover boiling mud pots in Lassen Volcanic National Park, go sea kayaking off the Channel Islands, or see the tufa towers of Mono Lake. History and culture play a role in each itinerary as well, from hearing stories of the Gold Rush in Old Sacramento to sampling exquisite varietals in the Napa and Paso Robles wine regions. Below are five itineraries that showcase the best seven-day long road trips in California.
Best of California
Escape the San Francisco Bay Area with one of these long weekend trips along the coast, into the wine valleys, or up to the Sierras. Enjoy days of hiking coastal trails along windswept bluffs, tasting world-renowned wines, discovering the historical past of California, or hiking up to granite cliffs or among the world's largest trees. Here are five great ways to get out of town this summer and explore more of your extended backyard.
Jump in your car and explore the incredible natural landscapes the American Southwest has to offer. With one week to spend, get away from it all with visits to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks. Admire expansive views of the Grand Canyon and the unique Antelope Canyon. Hike your way through the incomparable Zion National Park and enjoy the sunset in Bryce Canyon. Reinvigorate your traveling spirit by taking advantage of these week-long trips close to home. These trips are designed from Los Angeles and Las Vegas but can be adapted to other starting points within the area as well.
From long stretches of sandy coastlines to sprawling desert landscapes, Southern California has so much to explore for those seeking a weekend getaway. Sip wine amongst the vineyards of Temecula, soak up the sun in Santa Barbara, travel back to the Old West in Joshua Tree, or head down to Baja California's up-and-coming wine country.
Outside of the expansive metropolis of Los Angeles, there is plenty to see and do in Southern California. From sunny beaches to quaint small towns, the natural beauty and coveted climate make this region a delight to explore. This list of day trips details some of the best options for spending a day experiencing all of what SoCal has to offer.
This weeklong road trip will take you along the stunning, uncrowded coastline of Northern California from Bodega Bay north to Mendocino, before heading back through some of California's top wine regions. After taking it slow in The Sea Ranch and kayaking through sea caves near the charming village of Mendocino, you'll make your way via the Anderson Valley wine region to the famous Napa Valley for hot springs and more vineyard hopping before returning to San Francisco.
This loop through Central California offers a delightful sampler of the best of the Golden State: dramatic coastline, charming towns, captivating history and, of course, plenty of wine. Following the coast south from the Monterey Peninsula to Santa Barbara and Channel Islands National Park, before heading back north through some of the state's best wine regions, makes for an unforgettable week.
Take a trip to the interior of Southern California and its unique desert landscapes, best enjoyed in spring, winter and fall. Travel back in time to the Old West with a visit to Pioneertown and hike through the aptly named Joshua Tree National Park to see its incredible desert fauna and rock formations. Climb the desert dunes of the Mojave Natural Preserve and peer out the window of your car to enjoy vast desert landscapes. Finish up in Death Valley, immersing yourself in the unique natural beauty of this area before heading home.
Venture up the Pacific Coast Highway and take in the incredible ocean views on this road trip through California's central coast. Starting in Los Angeles, you'll explore the beach town of Santa Barbara and its charming neighbors, sip on a glass of red in California's wine region, and discover famed lookout points along Big Sur.
This multi-day adventure takes you to some of the natural highlights of Northern California, featuring sparkling lakes, wondrous waterfalls, and the weird and exquisite landscapes left behind by volcanoes. After hiking up awe-inspiring mountain peaks and swimming in sun-warmed lakes, you'll make your way to the famous Napa Valley for some wine tasting before returning to San Francisco.
Bring the whole family to two of the most fun and scenic spots in the East Bay: Mt. Diablo State Park and Tilden Regional Park, wrapping up with a delicious (yet kid-friendly) local favorite restaurant for dinner.
John Muir called the Sierra Nevada the Range of Light. With this itinerary, you will experience the full majesty of this mountain range, and come to understand and appreciate his sentiment. You'll start from the less-visited Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite and move to the wonder that is Mono Lake on the east side of the mountain range. You'll continue on to explore the alpine lakes in the Mammoth and June Lakes areas. Then, you'll make your way further south to Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, before looping back to the Western Sierras with a stop in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
Take a long weekend to experience the classics of Central California: the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur. After a beautiful bike ride along the coast of Monterey and Pacific Grove, you'll explore the artist's colony of Carmel-by-the-Sea, get your fill of photo opportunities along the Big Sur coast, and wrap up with a relaxing outdoor spa day before heading home.
This multi-day adventure takes you through the mist-shrouded Northern California coast, featuring the world's tallest redwood trees and verdant fern-covered gullies. Three national parks, Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, and Whiskeytown Lake, showcase Northern California's diverse landscape and geological history. Numerous state parks, awe-inspiring mountain peaks, and wondrous waterfalls all wait to greet you along the way. Whether it's volcano, lake, or towering tree, the sheer and immense beauty of what you encounter along this journey will inspire reverence for the region.
Today your destination is Point Reyes National Seashore, located about 1.5 hrs north of San Francisco. We selected the best spots in this large geographic area to give you an immersive experience in just one day.
This six-day biking itinerary is perfect for any adventurous cyclist looking to experience California's Big Sur coastline. You will start in Monterey, cycle the 17-Mile Drive, and continue south along the Pacific Coast Highway before turning inland through wine country to Paso Robles.
Along the sunny central coast of California, you'll find Santa Barbara. Known for its laidback beach town atmosphere, this city has plenty more for visitors than just sandy shorelines. From charming neighboring towns to celebrated local wine, Santa Barbara offers the perfect getaway to unwind while exploring its natural beauty.
Just over an hour from the South Bay, the cypress trees and cool ocean breezes of the Monterey Peninsula feel a world away. Here's how to make the most of a day trip to this scenic stretch of coast.
Forget the wineries in Napa or Sonoma: for those that live in the South Bay, the Santa Cruz mountain wine region is much closer and gives its better-known cousins to the north a run for their money. With its mountainous terrain and marine influences, the Santa Cruz Mountains offer ideal soil and growing conditions for world-class distinctive wines.
The rugged, isolated coastline of Northern California is perfect to explore over a long weekend. This route showcases the best of this remote feeling, yet accessible, stretch of shore, from Bodega Bay north to Mendocino. Say goodbye to cell service and hello to spectacular natural beauty and incredible modernist architecture as you explore The Sea Ranch, then make your way north via Point Arena Lighthouse to the charming village of Mendocino. Stop off for a tasting of pinot noir in the Anderson Valley as you make your way back to San Francisco.
This is the ultimate indulgence weekend. Start by tasting the spectacular Napa varietals as you drive and cycle through beautiful wine country. Relax your muscles with a soak in Calistoga's geothermal hot spring pools, and stroll through its Main Street, visiting the quaint stores and cafes downtown. Savor the flavors and fresh ingredients at some top-notch wine country restaurants.Head home full of good food and good vibes.
Take a full day to explore Santa Barbara and its neighboring areas. Taste fresh Danish pastries in Solvang and sip on local wine in Los Olivos. Explore the modern artistic neighborhoods of Santa Barbara and take in the views of its beautiful beaches.
Get out into nature and soak up some history with this family-friendly itinerary. Start in Old Sacramento, where you can learn more about the Gold Rush through an underground tour with the Sacramento History Museum. Then, it's on to Lake Tahoe, nature's playground, where the options are endless. You'll mix exertion and relaxation, powering your way up Donner Peak and Mount Judah, and taking a lazy float down the Truckee River. For a more casual outdoor encounter, you'll soak up some culture under the stars with an open-air performance in Sand Harbor.
Explore southeastern California's Mojave Desert by bike and experience its arid desert landscapes. You'll ride through Joshua Tree National Park, the Anza-Borrego Desert, and Yaqui Pass, rewarding yourself with breathtaking views of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains, and the Yucca Valley.
Explore history, adventure, and beautiful nature with this itinerary highlighting California's incredibly diverse landscapes. Start in Old Sacramento, where you can learn more about the Gold Rush through an underground tour with the Sacramento History Museum. Then, it is on to the South Fork of the American River for a whitewater rafting adventure. Next, mix exertion and relaxation in Lake Tahoe, where you will power your way up Donner Peak and Mount Judah, and take a lazy float down the Truckee River. For a more casual outdoor encounter, you'll soak up some culture under the stars with an open-air performance in Sand Harbor, and finish the trip with a visit to the jewel of the lake - Emerald Bay and Eagle Falls.
Explore history, adventure, and nature with this itinerary highlighting California's diverse landscapes. Start in Old Sacramento, where you can learn more about the Gold Rush through an underground tour with the Sacramento History Museum before heading to the South Fork of the American River for a whitewater rafting adventure. Next, mix exertion and relaxation in Lake Tahoe, where you will power your way up Donner Peak and Mount Judah, and take a lazy float down the Truckee River.
Leave the city behind and spend the day getting a feel for the countryside. With berries in summer and apples in fall, pick some fresh produce, fill up on a home-cooked meal, and soak up the natural scenery of this peaceful setting.
Get away from the city for the day and unwind in this quintessential SoCal town. Dip your toes in the water of its sandy beaches, marvel at the artisanal products crafted by local artists, and sip on award-winning local wines.
Just a short drive away from the city of Los Angeles, Temecula offers the perfect escape for a long weekend. Nestled in a valley surrounded by sprawling vineyards and mountainous backdrops, this area offers a scenic spot to spend a few nights recharging. Explore the historic Old Town, taste award-winning wines, and enjoy the incredible natural beauty of the area.
This day trip takes you into the small-town life of Ojai. Wander through the local mom-and-pop shops, relax at the outdoor meditation center, and end your day with a wine tasting at a local cellar.
Experience Northern California's wine country and the Pacific coast on this six-day cycling itinerary of Sonoma County. Ride through world-class vineyards, redwood forests, and along the captivating California coast.
No stranger to visitors, the sunny city of San Diego has plenty to explore for locals as well. Spend the day hiking through the beautiful scenery of Torrey Pines State Reserve, unwinding with boutique shopping in Del Mar, and enjoying the misty sea breeze at La Jolla Cove.
This multi-day adventure takes you through three national parks, Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, and Crater Lake, showcase Northern California and Oregon's diverse landscape and geological history. Numerous state parks, awe-inspiring mountain peaks, and wondrous waterfalls all wait to greet you along the way. Whether it's a volcano, lake, or towering tree, the sheer and immense beauty of what you encounter along this journey will inspire reverence for the region.
Leaving from Las Vegas, this 8-day getaway will give you a grand tour of the natural wonders of the US Southwest. Immerse yourself in the extreme and unique landscapes of Death Valley. Then, make your way to Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. Finally, stop in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks before looping down to visit the unique desert flora of Joshua Tree.
This multi-day adventure takes you through the mist-shrouded Northern California coast, featuring the world's tallest redwood trees and verdant fern-covered gullies. Three national parks, Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, and Crater Lake, showcase this area's diverse landscape and geological history. Numerous state parks, awe-inspiring mountain peaks, and wondrous waterfalls all wait to greet you along the way. Whether it's a volcano, lake, or towering tree, the sheer and immense beauty of what you encounter along this journey will inspire reverence for the region.
Explore the diverse sights of Death Valley National Park in the company of an expert guide with this active and educational week in the desert. In addition to visiting the park's canyons and viewpoints, you’ll learn about the area's geology and remarkably hardy flora and fauna. After each day’s exploration, take advantage of Death Valley's designation as an "International Dark Sky Park" with some of the world's best conditions for stargazing.
This road trip from LA to Las Vegas showcases some of the best that the desert has to offer. Experience the Old West with a visit to Pioneertown, where you'll feel like you've stepped back in time. Then, take in the desert flora and rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park on a hike, and climb the desert dunes of the Mojave Natural Preserve for a thrilling adventure. Immerse yourself in the extreme and unique beauty of Death Valley, and round out your journey by admiring the vibrant colors of Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. Just be sure to avoid taking this trip in the peak summer months, when the oppressive heat can be dangerous.
Sojourn to the California and Nevada desert landscapes, best enjoyed in spring, winter and fall. Travel back in time to the Old West with a visit to Pioneertown, and hike through the aptly named Joshua Tree National Park to see its incredible desert fauna and rock formations. Climb the desert dunes of the Mojave Natural Preserve and peer out the window of your car to enjoy vast desert landscapes. Immerse yourself in the extreme and unique beauty of Death Valley before discovering the colorful Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.
This weeklong adventure will take you through some of the highlights of the Desert Southwest. Setting out from Los Angeles, travel back in time to the Old West with a visit to Pioneertown. Then, hike through the aptly named Joshua Tree National Park to see its incredible desert flora and rock formations. From there, make your way to the Grand Canyon, one of the top national parks in the country. Take in the stunning views and hike your way around the South Rim before heading back to Los Angeles along the iconic Route 66.
This multi-day adventure takes you from San Francisco through stunning lakes, snow-capped mountains, and amazing waterfalls that showcase Northern California and Oregon's diverse landscape and geological history. From the boating paradise of Lake Shasta to the awe-inspiring Crater Lake, to Waldo Lake, the world's clearest alpine lake, the sheer beauty of what you will encounter will inspire reverence for this region. Finish your trip in the foodie paradise of Portland, explore the many unique restaurants there, and enjoy a day exploring Willamette Valley for some wine tasting.
No visit to the US Southwest is complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the most frequented National Parks in the country. Take in the stunning views and hike your way around the South Rim before heading to Page, Arizona to admire the picturesque canyon walls of Antelope Canyon and lookout point of Horseshoe Bend. Bookend your trip with nights in Las Vegas, visiting the Red Rock Canyon National Reserve and getting a peek at the famous nightlife.