Best of California

Top itineraries and travel advice in and around California
With over 900 miles of coastline, towering redwood forests, beautiful vineyards, and the most national parks of any state, California is a destination with countless adventures to discover.

California Essentials

Point Arena Lighthouse
Map of One Week in Northern California - 5 Unique Road Trip Ideas
One Week in Northern California - 5 Unique Road Trip Ideas

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 7-day long road trips in California.

Northern California coast
Map of Northern California Long Weekend Trips: Coastal Drives, Wine Weekends, & Sierra Exploration
Northern California Long Weekend Trips: Coastal Drives, Wine Weekends, & Sierra Exploration

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.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley
Map of Long Weekend Trips in Southern California - 4 Unique Ideas
Long Weekend Trips in Southern California - 4 Unique Ideas

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.

Bluff at Torrey Pines State Reserve
Top Day Trips in Southern California

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.

Unique landscape of Bryce Canyon
Map of One Week in the US Southwest: Desert Road Trips, National Parks, and California Coastline
One Week in the US Southwest: Desert Road Trips, National Parks, and California Coastline

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.

California Itineraries

Big Sur Coast
Map of Central California Road Trip: Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, & More - 7 Days
Central California Road Trip: Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, & More - 7 Days

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.

Manzanita Lake in Lassen
Map of Northern California Road Trip: Volcanoes, Lakes and Waterfalls - 7 Days
Northern California Road Trip: Volcanoes, Lakes and Waterfalls - 7 Days

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. 

Mendocino Coast
Map of Northern California Coast and Wine Country Road Trip - 7 Days
Northern California Coast and Wine Country Road Trip - 7 Days

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.

Aerial views of Big Sur
Map of California Central Coast Road Trip - 6 Days
California Central Coast Road Trip - 6 Days

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.

Vineyards in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains
Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries Day Trip

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.

Desert views of joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park
Map of Mojave Desert Bike Tour - 6 Days
Mojave Desert Bike Tour - 6 Days

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.

Sunset over Big Sur's McWay Falls
Map of Big Sur Bike Tour - 6 Days
Big Sur Bike Tour - 6 Days

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.

Joshua Tree
Map of Joshua Tree and Death Valley Roadtrip - 5 Days
Joshua Tree and Death Valley Roadtrip - 5 Days

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.

Enjoy the mineral waters in Calistoga
Map of Wine Country & Hot Springs - 3 Days
Wine Country & Hot Springs - 3 Days

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.

View of Donner Lake from Donner Peak
Map of Family Fun in Gold Country & Lake Tahoe - 5 Days
Family Fun in Gold Country & Lake Tahoe - 5 Days

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.

Big Sur Coast
Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur - 3 Days

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.

Mount Whitney and the Alabama Hills in the Sunset
Map of Grand Tour of the Sierra Nevada - 9 Days
Grand Tour of the Sierra Nevada - 9 Days

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.

Lake Shasta Panorama
Map of Northern California Road Trip: Waterfalls, Volcanoes, and the Coast - 9 Days
Northern California Road Trip: Waterfalls, Volcanoes, and the Coast - 9 Days

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.

White water rafting on the American River
Map of Gold Country, Whitewater Rafting & Lake Tahoe - 6 Days
Gold Country, Whitewater Rafting & Lake Tahoe - 6 Days

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.

Sonoma Coast
Mendocino and Sonoma Coast Adventure - 3 Days

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.

Ride through the rolling hills of Sonoma County
Map of Sonoma Bike Tour - 6 Days
Sonoma Bike Tour - 6 Days

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.

Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara
Day Trip to Santa Barbara: Solvang & Los Olivos Wine Tasting

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.

Santa Barbara coastline
Map of Explore Santa Barbara - 4 Days
Explore Santa Barbara - 4 Days

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.

View of Donner Lake from Donner Peak
Map of Gold Country, Whitewater Rafting & Lake Tahoe - 7 Days
Gold Country, Whitewater Rafting & Lake Tahoe - 7 Days

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.

Fall foliage in Oak Glen
Oak Glen Day Trip

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.

Rolling vineyards of Temecula
Map of Temecula Wine Getaway - 3 Days
Temecula Wine Getaway - 3 Days

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.

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach Day Trip

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.

Ojai's surrounding mountains
Day Trip to Ojai

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.

Bluff at Torrey Pines State Reserve
San Diego Day Trip

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.

Boat dock on Crater Lake
California and Oregon Road Trip: Waterfalls, Lakes and Volcanoes - 10 Days

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.

Death Valley National Park
Map of Death Valley, Sequoia, & Joshua Tree National Parks - 8 Days
Death Valley, Sequoia, & Joshua Tree National Parks - 8 Days

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.

Boat dock on Crater Lake
Map of California and Oregon Road Trip: Waterfalls, Volcanoes, and the Coast - 12 Days
California and Oregon Road Trip: Waterfalls, Volcanoes, and the Coast - 12 Days

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.

Hiking along the sand dunes
Death Valley National Park Hiking Tour - 6 Days

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. 

Badwater Basin in Death Valley
Map of Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Red Rock Canyon - 8 Days
Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Red Rock Canyon - 8 Days

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.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley
Map of Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Red Rock Canyon - 7 Days
Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Red Rock Canyon - 7 Days

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.

Grand Canyon views
Map of Explore Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon - 7 Days
Explore Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon - 7 Days

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.

Mt. Hood Reflected on Trillium Lake
Map of San Francisco to Portland Road Trip: Lakes, Waterfalls and Mountains - 10 Days
San Francisco to Portland Road Trip: Lakes, Waterfalls and Mountains - 10 Days

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.

Grapes in local vineyard
Map of Mexico Wine Country Getaway - 5 Days
Mexico Wine Country Getaway - 5 Days

Looking for a new area on the West Coast for a wine weekend? Discover the up-and-coming wine region of Baja California in Guadalupe Valley. This area has begun to produce wine in the last couple of decades, capitalizing on its unique microclimate, and is now appearing on the radar of many wine lovers looking for a compelling new experience. Grab your passport, escape the city, taste an array of excellent local wines, and enjoy the incredible scenery of the Guadalupe Valley.

Grand Canyon views
Map of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon - 7 Days
Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon - 7 Days

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.

Other popular travel destinations in the United States
Florida & the Southeast · Alaska · New England · Colorado