Top 7 California Road Trip Destinations

People say that California is the best place to live for anyone who isn’t from there. Maybe that’s true because I was ready to pack a Uhaul the first time I visited. That was until I hopped on Zillow and discovered the property value to be sky high!

I completely understand why, though.

The weather is amazing, the landscape is incredibly diverse, and you will never, ever run out of something to do. California is, unfortunately, very far away from my home town, so I thought I would revamp my love for Cali and give you a list of the 7 best California road trip destinations!

The media portrays California as nothing more than Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. Of course, you shouldn’t miss these destinations, but California is multifaceted with hidden gems around every corner!

Okay, I know. I’ll stop gushing and get to the good stuff!

Crescent City, California

Crescent City has to be at the top of my list because it is my most favorite place in the entire world. If you have looked into any of my other blog posts, you may recognize the name. I got married in this sleepy little town in the middle of the Red Wood Forest!

This northern California city may not look like much at first, but once you start exploring you’ll be amazed! As an added bonus, you won’t find many tourists here since it’s off the beaten path!

What you will find are incredible views!

Crescent City sits at the foot of a mountain and right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. You can drive 10 miles and be at the beach or on the mountain among the biggest trees on Earth! The people are friendly and most of the businesses have been there for generations.

The biggest tourist trap near Crescent City is The Trees of Mystery. This park’s claim to fame is, of course, the huge trees. The regular admission price is $18.00. Truthfully, you can see bigger trees for free if you go to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It’s only 10-15 minutes from town. And did I mention it’s free?

If mountain wilderness isn’t your thing, then you’ll find yourself at home on Crescent Beach. The town got its name from this gorgeous beach nestled into a crescent-shaped cove along the mountain!

If you go in the cooler months, be prepared for some wind, especially on the beach. But don’t let that stop you from exploring! We found some really awesome rocks, shells, and a whole sand dollar while we were there!

California Road Trip

Monterey Zoo in Salinas, California

California Road Trip

I will admit that I am not the biggest advocate for zoos. There something about capturing animals or breeding them in captivity just to hold them captive for the rest of their lives that doesn’t sit well with me. The fact that Monterey Zoo is on this list is really saying something.

Most of the animals at the zoo were once in show business and can never be released into the wild. The founder of the Monterey Zoo was in law enforcement when he suddenly found himself with a young wild cat left behind after an arrest. The rest was history!

The Zoo sits on an obscene amount of land where wild animals roam free. These animals include elephants, bears, big cats, monkeys, and even camels!

They offer a variety of tours with the simplest being the daily tour! General admission is $20.00 per adults and less for children and seniors. You will be guided around the zoo with your own tour guide who works with the animals daily!

If you’re feeling adventurous you can choose between several other packages that allow you to get up close and personal with your favorite animals!

Fun fact about me: I. LOVE. ELEPHANTS. It was my number one ultimate bucket list wish to hang out with an elephant! That’s actually how we found this place… Well, how Joey found this place. He took me across the country to make my dream come true! Cue romantic music.

We did the Pachyderm Package which allowed us to tour the entire zoo and GIVE AN ELEPHANT A BATH! Butch was a male African Elephant who had more patience than anyone there! He truly enjoyed his bath and the snacks that came after.

The tour guide even took pictures throughout the entire interaction so that we could have something to take home!

If you’re in the area and have an afternoon to kill, stop by the Monterey Zoo. You won’t regret it!

Book your tour here.

Santa Monica in Los Angeles, California

California Road Trip

Every day is a party in Santa Monica! There is so much to do! Of course, you have to visit the pier. I won’t lie and tell you that this isn’t one of the most touristy destinations on this list, but it’s popular for a reason!

Santa Monica Pier is so much fun. There are tons of restaurants and food stands where you can find just about anything you want. We ate at Bubba Gump’s, and the food was incredible. Once you’re full you have to make your way through the shops and listen to the performers who set up daily!

Take a turn on the famous Ferris Wheel and see downtown LA from the top! There are tons of other rides to keep everyone busy! Once you’ve worn yourself out, you can take a nice walk along the beach to watch the sunset.

This was the highlight of our trip to Santa Monica. The sunset was the most vibrant I have ever seen. Despite the hustle and bustle of the pier, it was really peaceful.

If you prefer a more laid back scene, check out the numerous art galleries, museums, and parks that are scattered all across town. But don’t forget to check out LA. The traffic can be scary but there really is nothing like Los Angeles, California!

Definitely add Santa Monica to your list if you’re driving through, just to see what all the fuss is about! You can’t go wrong with the dining, activities, and the people watching!

Find out more about Santa Monica here!

San Francisco, California

You can’t visit Cali without hopping over to San Francisco! I loved our time in this beautiful city, but holy cow, the traffic is ridiculous. Worse than LA, Atlanta, OKC, and Vegas! It took major patience, but it was totally worth the frustration!

This city has so much culture. The first thing you want to do is head over to The Golden Gate Bridge. We hiked through Land’s End park to get an incredible view of the Golden Gate. There are quite a few stairs to reach the perfect spot, so bring some water.

The bridge itself is open to vehicles, bikes, and foot traffic. If you’re willing to brave the traffic, crossing the bridge is a really cool experience.

Golden Gate Park is also a must-see! This park is HUGE! There is space for almost anything that you want to do, except park your vehicle. You can hang out at the beach and wander through the numerous gardens there. Go ahead and visit one of the museums around the park while you’re at it. You won’t be disappointed!

If you’re a history buff, you have to go to Alcatraz! The only way to get there is by ferry, which is pretty fun on its own. This infamous prison was once home to Al Capone but has since been turned into a museum with audio tours!

The price is pretty steep at $74.00 per adult, but worth the price if you want to walk back in time!

If you’re looking for something less expensive, check out Fisherman’s Warf. You will get the true San Francisco experience here with a beautiful view of the bay, numerous shops, historic ship tours, and even sea lions basking in the sun!

The things I listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to San Francisco! There are more things to do there than time on your vacation!

Go here to learn more about visiting San Francisco!   

Big Sur

When you’re ready to head away from the fast pace of the city, make your way down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur. This is one of the most famous attractions in California, especially if you’re a surfer!

This beautiful stretch of coastline is defined by the Bixby Creek Bridge. This Bridge is one of the tallest concrete bridges in the world, and you can drive right over it to get to one of the best coastal views in the country!

There are tons of places to stay in this area, and I recommend you take your time passing through. There are so many amazing overlooks that it can be difficult to get any driving done! Make sure to take lots of pictures and enjoy this unique seaside adventure!

Plan your trip to Big Sur here!

Joshua Tree National Park

California Road Trip

Joshua Tree National Park is located where the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert meet. This rich natural landscape is filled with rock formations, wildlife, and of course Joshua Trees. The park got its name from the hundreds of thousands of Joshua Trees that define the area!

These are not your typical trees. They have incredibly sharp leaves and twisted branches. I like to think of them as cacti in tree form. They are shaped by the strong winds of the desert, which gives them the twisted look, and they are actually a member of the agave family.

Native Americans once used their tough leaves to make shoes and baskets. These trees were a very important aspect of the Native American lifestyle.

The park has a developed campground where you can rest and relax on your break from exploring among the trees! This area is especially popular with rock climbers since the rock formations are so abundant.

Unfortunately, they have strict rules for bringing dogs to visit the park. There are tons of trails to explore, but dogs are not allowed on all of them.

Joshua Tree National Park values it’s natural wildlife above all else and recognizes that pups can throw off the natural ecosystem. You can take your dogs on any trail that is equipt for vehicles. There are also plenty of boarding opportunities nearby!

Plan your trip to Joshua Tree here!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park in California is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains! This isn’t your typical national park. Yosemite has numerous sites, restaurants, and art galleries that could keep you busy for weeks.

Yosemite is the national park of all national parks! There are so many things that you don’t want to miss while you’re here, but we are going to start with the giant Sequoia trees.

I talked about these giants at the beginning of this post, but they’re so magical they’re worth mentioning another time! There are tons of them here! Some of them are the biggest in the world!

You will also find amazing scenery such as Half Dome and the cliffs of El Capitan. There are tons of places to camp, but I do recommend making a reservation for accommodations. More than 1 million people visit the park every year, so don’t be afraid to come early!

Whether you want to rough it in the wilderness or explore Yosemite village, you will find a unique experience waiting for you in this California national park!     

These destinations are the top places to visit in California, but don’t let that limit you. There are so many hidden gems in this state, and a big part of the fun is discovering them for yourself!

If you have visited any of these places, drop a line in the comments and tell us about your experiences! Or enlighten us on other amazing California destinations!

Happy travels, friends!

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Comments

  • 4 months agoReply

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  • 4 months agoReply

    It is actually a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you simply shared this useful
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  • Lauren

    3 months agoReply

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! I loved every moment of it!

    • Tasha

      3 months agoReply

      You’re so welcome! Thank you for reading!

  • Genny Gall

    2 months agoReply

    Undoubtedly CA has lovely places to visit, and I think you might add Lake Tahoe as well, and I recommend that one. I love that place is one of my favorites. By the way, I will like to hang out with an elephant as well.

    • Tasha

      2 months agoReply

      I’ve never been to Lake Tahoe before! Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Krysten Quiles

    2 months agoReply

    Sigh. Yes please. I’ve only ever been to San Diego, so I’d love the chance to explore more of California. This looks wonderful.

    • Tasha

      2 months agoReply

      California is really diverse. We can’t wait to visit again.

  • Lala

    2 months agoReply

    You took a lot of stunning photos! I really wish to go somewhere far from my place next time and I hope to be able to visit more places in this world.

    • Tasha

      2 months agoReply

      We live for travel! Cali is amazing! I recommend!

  • kristian

    2 months agoReply

    I LOVE ELEPHANTS!!! I visit my best friends in California every summer and have never done half these things! Thanks for the suggestions

    • Tasha

      2 months agoReply

      The elephant experience was unbelievable. You don’t realize how big they are until you’re up close. It was so cool!

  • Adriana

    2 months agoReply

    I cannot wait to travel there someday! I’ve heard so many great things. Thanks for this mini travel guide

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      You’re welcome!

  • Nelly|Explorewithnelly

    1 month agoReply

    Your CommentI have not been to California but I have been planning to. This post is perfect as I have a reference now. Thanks

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      I hope you enjoy your time there! You’re welcome!

  • maysz

    1 month agoReply

    Wedding in the forest such one of my dream! Such a wonderful places in California.

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      It was amazing! Thank you!

  • alison netzer

    1 month agoReply

    Your CommentI would love to do a road trip through California with my family. Living on the East coast, I rarely get a chance to go out west. However, I would mostly skip L.A. to see the more beautiful sites of California.

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      You would enjoy it. Cali is amazing!

  • Steph Social

    1 month agoReply

    California is on my list! All these stops look amazing!

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      They are! Thank you!

  • Melanie Frost

    1 month agoReply

    I’m originally from So Cal but there are so many things I never experienced while I lived there. I definitely want to go to Yosemite for sure!

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      Yes! It is amazing!

  • Laura

    1 month agoReply

    So many beautiful places to visit. I’ll try to visit some of these next time I’m in California x

    Laura
    https://pinkfrenzymissl.blogspot.com/

  • Sophia Damasceno

    1 month agoReply

    I have been wanting to go out West so badly lately. I will be referring back to this post!

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      We love the west!

  • HilLesha O'Nan

    1 month agoReply

    My best friend loves California, but I haven’t been there yet. It is my dream to visit there one day, though.

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      I can’t wait to go back!

  • Alexandra Cook

    1 month agoReply

    Your Comment
    Wow, such a detailed post that would be so helpful to plan a great road trip to California. Loving the pictures so much.

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      Thank you!

  • Amy

    1 month agoReply

    Such beautiful photos! This is completely and utterly spectacular!
    I would love to travel here so much. Thanks for sharing

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      You’re welcome!

  • David Elliott

    1 month agoReply

    Those are some pretty great places for sure. If I were to pick a place not on this list I would have to say Sequoia or possibly down to San Diego with the beautiful weather and great beaches. But this is a good list.

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      We want to visit San Diego!

  • Lavern Moore

    1 month agoReply

    I would love to visit Yosemite National Park in California first on this list and then make my way to the other destinations. I’ve been to California before but never seen these sights.

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      We can’t wait to visit Yosemite!

  • Christopher Mitchell

    1 month agoReply

    Great list here, and great timing, as I’m considering heading in that direction! Thanks for putting this together!

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      You’re welcome!

  • Nicole San Miguel

    1 month agoReply

    I love going on a roadtrip!! Will definitely add this on my bucketlist

    • Tasha

      1 month agoReply

      Road trips are the best!

  • 1 month agoReply

    […] Ella has a mission close to my heart. If you have read our California post, then you know how much I adore […]

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