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California Road Trip

Updated on January 16, 2015

An Unforgettable West Coast Road Trip!

California has some of the most famous, scenic and fun places to visit in the USA. The proximity of the destinations in California make sense for a road trip getaway across the state...but don't let the number of destinations fool you! It's still the 3rd biggest state in the country, and could fit the entire country of England in its borders 3 times! If California were a country, it would be the 8th largest money making country in the world!

Whether you're planning a southern CA road trip to places like Palm Springs, LA or San Diego, or a northern California road trip to San Francisco or Yosemite, this guide will walk you through what the state has to offer.

The Road Trip Lens Series:

Southern California

California's National Parks

California has a huge amount of popular national parks that you'll recognize. All are different, as the climate ranges from uninhabitable desert regions like Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley, to the High Sierras of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. A trip to California wouldn't be complete without a visit to the unmatched beauty of Yosemite National Park.

Panda at the San Diego Zoo

Panda at the San Diego Zoo
Panda at the San Diego Zoo

San Diego --> Los Angeles

San Diego and Los Angeles might look close together on a map, but they're about 2-3 hours apart, even more if you encounter traffic (which happens a lot!)...speaking of which, you can find out the latest traffic reports for California here.

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach Pier

The Massive Urban Sprawl of Los Angeles

The Massive Urban Sprawl of Los Angeles
The Massive Urban Sprawl of Los Angeles

Northern California

Big Sur

Big Sur
Big Sur

Pacific Coast Highway

Most of the best things to do and see on California's coast revolve around the Pacific Coast Highway, or are very close by! You can pretty much guarantee that at any given point on Hwy 1 that there's only excellent hotels to stay at, along with some of the best views.

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco
The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

California Poll

Would you want to live in California if you live somewhere else?

See results

The Big Three

San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles define the entire culture of the state.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park

Love Road Trips?

You should read more about road trips here, including what to pack, what to bring, how to plan it, what to see, what not to see, where to stay, and tons more.


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    • profile image

      Tequan 3 years ago

      I simply want to say I'm niebwe to weblog and certainly loved your blog. Probably I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You surely have perfect articles. Many thanks for revealing your blog site.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      @MissMalaprop: Sounds like a great trip. We did a similar trip by car in 2005. We were stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains for hours, almost overnight in the wilderness which was unexpected to say the least. Luckily, we got out okay. I can't wait to get back there!

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 5 years ago

      My boyfriend and I did a motorcycle roadtrip through 1,600 miles of Nevada & California in July 2006. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced! We rented a motorcycle in Las Vegas and headed west, through Death Valley and hit the Pacific Coast Highway near San Luis Obispo. We headed north from there, marveling in the beauty along the coast, especially through Big Sur! We stayed for a few days in Carmel & Monterrey to watch the MotoGP races there. Then we went up through San Francisco, over through wine country, and back down the Sierra Nevada mountains. We ran out of gas in the middle of the desert, but luckily the nicest German couple stopped and gave us a lift into the next town and back for gas! It was an adventure of a lifetime!

    • SayGuddaycom profile image

      SayGuddaycom 5 years ago

      I'm going on a road trip from LA to SF so I came to this lens to help me plan it. Much thanks, great resource.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      Perhaps a long weekend is in order sometime soon... I live so close to Big Sur, but haven't spent more than drivin-through time there in at least a decade!

    • Cinnamonbite profile image

      Cinnamonbite 5 years ago

      Look for me! I'll be there in just a couple of days! LOL

    • orangerubberduc profile image

      orangerubberduc 6 years ago

      Live here and always want good ideas for things to do! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Jules_Smith 6 years ago

      Just loved visiting Death Valley. One of my favorite places. The drive from LA was breathtaking too. Some of the scenery and colors in the rocks there were fantastic! Don't go in peak summer though, unless you like being cooked alive!

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I am heading over to California from Australia in less than 3 weeks. We are visiting LA, Anaheim, driving up the coast to Monterey and San Francisco, across to Yosemite and Tahoe, then down to Death Valley before leaving the state to see Vegas and the Grand canyon. It is going to be an awesome trip. :-)

    • ernieplotter profile image

      ernieplotter 6 years ago

      Thanks for your lens! It gave me great ideas!

    • mannasugar profile image

      mannasugar 6 years ago

      I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pismo beach California. I never should have left. Great Lens

    • sarahrk lm profile image

      sarahrk lm 6 years ago

      I have taken the road trip through California many times. It is so beautiful!

    • profile image

      A_D_Solutions 6 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      ThomasJ4 LM 6 years ago

      Monterey Bay Aquarium would be a great place to visit as well (especially during the times when they have a great white shark on exhibit). About 100 miles south of San Francisco.

    • profile image

      Shadrosky 6 years ago

      I love California!

    • profile image

      TheDeeperWell 6 years ago

      Don't forget Sequoia National Park, where the largest living things on earth are--the Giant Sequoia's!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I love driving the Pacific Coast highway...blessed and added to my United States Travel Angel lens.

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 7 years ago

      I live in California, but I love learning more about my state. Lassen is one of my favorite places... maybe we could keep it a secret? smile....

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 7 years ago

      Love your lens! I live in California but I am always looking for new places to explore. Adding to my favorites and ***Blessed by an Angel***.

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 7 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      Excellent lens! Squidoo Angel blessed :)

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 7 years ago from So Cal

      Saved this as a favorite a while back but came back to bless this lens. I am a Californian and have been all my life. I appreciate it when people portray it well and you did. Great lens!

    • profile image

      MobyD 7 years ago

      A great lens for visitors to California. I've lensrolled it to my DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer Series lens. You've done some excellent travel lenses.

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 7 years ago

      This lens sparks many ideas and inspirations as I plan my California parks tour.

    • profile image

      winelove 7 years ago

      Informative lens and you can't talk about visiting California without mentioning some of the different wine regions - LOL.

    • profile image

      SandyPeaks 7 years ago

      I made this trip in 1989 - saw most of these places and more - one terrific trip over three weeks! I envy you folks who live there!

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 7 years ago

      I added this to the featured list at my California_ lens--great job. I enjoyed the trip immensely!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 7 years ago from So Cal

      Nice lens that I am adding to my California Destinations since it is mostly Southern California at this point. Lots of great stuff here!

    • profile image

      aishu19 8 years ago

      wow nice lens that tells it all.. would certainly remember this site the next time we r planning a road trip... anyway i lenrolled this site for my 2 Irvine Lens.. great job

    • profile image

      California_Dreamin 8 years ago

      Nice lens. I'm lensrolling this to my Santa Barbara California lens.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 8 years ago from California

      Well next time I want to travel across State I know where to come for all my resources :) Blessed by an Angel.

    • PsyQuin profile image

      PsyQuin 8 years ago

      Cool lens. I voted I would like to live in California :)

    • Merlinx profile image

      Merlinx 8 years ago from Southern California

      Wonderful lens! Good design and lots of useful information. I've added this to the lensroll on my California Vacation Bucket List lens.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      There's so much to do and see here in California . . . you did choose some great destinations.

    • Webcodes LM profile image

      Webcodes LM 9 years ago

      Ahh.. I gotta get to some of these places. 5*.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 9 years ago from Templeton, CA

      [in reply to CCGAL] WE also camped at Jedidiah Smith Sate Park and it was lovely. But the park in this area we loved most was Prairie Creek, which in in the midst of the redwoods. We were entertained by raccoons around our campfire every night.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      You did a very nice job; California is huge! I live near Monterey. I will include this lens as a great California lens.

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 9 years ago

      I'm on the east coast. I guess I'll stay here away from the earthquakes, although it is cold here in winter!

    • Nancy S Oram profile image

      Nancy Oram 9 years ago

      Thanks for the lensroll to my Colma lens. I'm going to lensroll this to my hometown lens about Pleasant Hill. I mention all the wonderful places close by, but don't go into detail. This lens will do the trick. Nice job.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      CCGAL- I will definitely remember that for the next time we go on a CA road trip! We've been to Redwood National Park, but not to Crescent City, so we'll definitely be going there next time we visit. Thanks for stopping by and for the lensroll!

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 9 years ago

      I am just a *teensy* bit disappointed that my part of California wasn't included in your lens, but we ARE a little on the HIDDEN SECRET side of things. I live in Crescent City, in Del Norte County right smack dab in the middle of the Redwood National Park, the Smith River National Recreation Area, and right next to Jedidiah Smith State Park. We are 21 miles south of the Oregon border, and have the ONLY natural harbor in California north of San Francisco. I hope you will consider including us on your next road trip -- I could show you lots of stuff that only the natives here know how to find.

      Other than that, it's a GREAT lens on California and I am going to add it to my featured lenses on my Crescent City, CA lens. Nice job!

    • profile image

      harryfielder 9 years ago

      Good information,, Thank you


    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      I am lucky enough to have visited many of the places you have featured here.

      You have been Blessed by a Squid Angel

    • profile image

      flowski lm 9 years ago

      Great ideas for a California road trip, there's so much to do in CA!

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 9 years ago from Canada

      Another great lens - you must be great to travel with!

    • GlobalOpps profile image

      Steve & Carol 9 years ago from San Marcos, CA

      Good job Kiwi! Welcome to the "Best Places to Visit in California" Group. Glad to have you aboard.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      What a fantastic resource! Thanks for submitting it to Travelmania Group.

      Tapir Travel

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Wow... Thanks for featuring my Eagle Rock lens (on historic Route 66). I'll lensroll this to my Livermore wine lenses too. Welcome to All Things Travel. Blessings to you!