California is an incredible place to visit, especially if you’re planning a road trip around the state! Arguably one of the most diverse states in the United States, California offers deserts, snowcapped mountains, vineyards, gorgeous cities and incredible hikes that will get even the most seasoned of travellers excited.

If you’re planning a road trip just on the west coast, or a bigger US Road trip across the country, make sure you take in some of these beautiful places to see. Its pretty much guaranteed that you’ll love them. 馃檪

Use the map below by swiping left to right

1.) Explore Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is one of the west coast’s most sprawling cities, with heaps to do outside of just seeing the Hollywood Sign and Beverley Hills. Take a wander to the Getty Centre and discover some incredible artistic stories, take a journey to the Griffith Observatory or dive right into聽IXLB for, arguably, the best Dim Sum in all of California.

2.) Enjoy a Balloon Ride over Riverside County

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore! (13)

This inland city is away from the hustle and bustle of LA but still has some great sites to see… and lots to drink! 馃槈

Famed for its delicious wine, this region has become well known for its award-winning varieties, including the delicious selection from Oak Mountain Winery. Book something extra special like a hot-air balloon ride and take in the view of the vineyard below.

3.) Discover the old town in San Diego

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore! (1)

Make sure you make a stop at the old town of San Diego, with its historic state park that dates back to a few hundred years. Don’t forget to visit the聽Cabrillo National Monument and watch a glorious sunset at (the aptly named) Sunset Cliffs.

For a great place to stay, make sure you check out The Horton Grand Hotel聽which has聽snuggly fireplaces in the bedrooms!

4.) Find Salvation Mountain

Have You Ever Heard Of Salvation Mountain in California? (4)

This incredible place has to be seen to be believed. Covering a hill within the dusty Colorado Desert, this unique place was created by Leonard Knight.

Take a look at our full post on visiting Salvation Mountain, right here.

5.) Spot Calico Ghost Town

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Visiting Calico Ghost Town is a great place to rest after a long drive. Wander around the town itself, take a short tour of the underground mine and small craft stores.

Created out of an old mine town, Calico Ghost town is a unique little attraction that’s worth a visit. See more our visit to Calico Ghost Town, right here.

6.) Drive across Route 66

The Ultimate Road Trip Map Of Places To See In California (1)

Although Route 66 isn’t shown on modern day maps, you can still easily follow the Route 66 route by travelling between Needles (in the east), to Amboy and on towards Barstow and finally Santa Monica. You can also follow parts of Route 66 through various states too, which is great if you’re planning a longer USA road trip like this one, here.

7.) Visit Death Valley

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore!

Perched in the east of California, Death Valley really does live up to its name… especially as it’s one of the hottest places in the whole world! Make sure to pack plenty of fluids, lots of supplies and to always act responsibly in this harsh environment. For those feeling brave, head out onto the dunes but always stay in sight of your car. No one wants a thirsty and sunburnt聽explorer!

8.) Explore the impressive Sequoia National Park

12 Of The Best Hiking Routes You Have To Experience In California (5)

Known for its incredibly huge聽sequoia trees, Sequoia National Park is one beautiful place to explore. Head over to Moro Rock for some beautiful views across the park and head to聽Ol’ Buckaroo for a simple, all-American burger!

9.) Hike in Yosemite

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore! (4)

Yosemite is, arguably, one of the USA’s most iconic National Parks. Head over to Glacier Point, Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley that offers some incredible views. If you’re considering hiking, make sure to plan well in advance and always listen to local advice. Take a look here at some of the best hiking routes in California.

10.) Drive the Big Sur

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore! (23)

Considered one of the prettiest coastal routes in the world, Big Sur is a beautiful area to discover California’s unspoilt coastline. What makes this place extra special is the towering mountains that start immediately from the coast, with the tallest being Cone Mountain that rises well above 5,000 feet (and only 3 miles from the ocean).

11.) Rent a boat in Monterey

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This relatively small coastal city is the perfect place to spend a day, or two, to give your eyes a rest from driving and experience a half day tour of the shoreline by boat. Don’t forget to visit Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Jazz Festival that happens every year!

12.) Explore the city life of San Francisco

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San Francisco is, in my opinion, one of the best cities to experience in the US! With so much history, an immersive cultural scene and beautiful landscapes, this city is a place that you must visit on your California Road Trip. Make sure to visit Alcatraz and these other free sites to see and don’t forget to visit some of these key sites that every first-time visitor must experience.

Check out our guide on how to spend the ultimate weekend in San Francisco

13.) Explore Muir Woods

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore! (5)

Just over Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco, Muir Woods is a great little stop to discover some of the natural beauty of the more northerly parts of the California coastline. Make sure you take your hiking boots and head out deeper into the park itself, I guarantee you’ll love it!

14.) Have a tipple in Napa Valley

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Napa Valley is considered as one of the best wine and foody regions in all the world. Take a drive to this beautiful region, stop off at some wineries and make sure you take a pit stop in one of the 400, or so, wineries. A favourite to visit has to be Freemark Abbey Winery, who also serve some delicious meals too!

For an indulgent stay, make sure to rest up at Meadowood which has two award winning restaurants. Check prices and availability, here.

15.) Ski around Lake Tahoe

The Ultimate California Road Trip: 19 Places To Stop, Eat, See and Explore! (2)

Lake Tahoe is a very special place. In the winter months, head over to ski and snow-shoe hike in and around Lake Tahoe, whilst in the summer make sure you rent a boat and discover the peaceful charm of this gorgeous place… just pack the sunscreen, I left looking like the colour of a tomato! 馃檪

16.) Enjoy Redwood National and State Parks

Perched in the north of California,聽Redwood National and State Parks is one gorgeous region to see. Spanning thousands of square hectares, this incredible place is a World Heritage Site that is now heavily protected for us and future generations.

Make sure to visit the coastline of the parks too, you might even spot some Pacific Grey Whales that frequent this area!

Thinking of a longer road trip across the USA? Check out our full map on the best places to visit, right here

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  • amelia

    Such a great post! Love the map, saving for later!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much, Amelia – California is so diverse isn’t it!

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Danielle Theriault

    Looks incredible, as usual! |

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Ah, thanks so much Danielle – seriously happy you like our maps! 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • great post!:)

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much, Tanja 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Holly

    Did almost all of this on our roadtrip in Cali but need to make it to the Red woods next time! Such an amazing state.

    Holly x

    • HandLuggageOnly

      It really is incredible isn’t it! We’re itching to go back this year and find even more 馃檪

      So glad you liked it too, Holly.

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Cathy Koos Breazeal

    Thanks for sharing my wonderful home state of California! Nowhere else can you be within a day’s drive of sophisticated urban San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean, rugged wild mountains, desert and cowboy country. Love it, thanks!

  • Oh now I miss my home state! I was surprised at how much I loved Salvation Mountain!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      California is such an amazing state isn’t it, Nicole – we LOVE it too! 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Great list of places to see. I want to drive the Big Sur for sure.

    Who Let the Mum Out?

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Yesssss! It’s such a cool drive! 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • I was just talking to my husband about a CA road trip the other day. This is a great list and thank you for also including a link to hiking suggestions!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Ah, no way! 馃檪

      You’re going to love it Sam… the hiking routes are so much fun too! 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya

  • It looks amazing – I love that you have included a map!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much, Holly. So happy you like it 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Laura

    This all looks amazing! How much time would you recommend to cover everything without rushing? I have an upcoming 3 week honeymoon to plan 馃槈

    • HandLuggageOnly

      You could definitely do it in 3 weeks, no problem at all. I’d typically give a few days for Yosemite and San Fran too 馃檪

      Ps – massive congrats on getting married, Laura! Have a lovely honeymoon! 馃檪

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Cal Mc

    This is so cool, love the map! Would October be a good time to road trip this route, I’m planning a USA road trip this year but wasn’t quite sure where to start but your guide has given me some great ideas!

    Cal Mc

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much! October would be great. The weather will be great in southern California and you might even catch some snow in the mountains. In fact, I would go as far as saying October would be a perfect road trip month!

      We drove from the Florida Keys to LA in October and the weather was sooooo good!

      Let us know if you need any advice, we’re always happy to help.

      Lloyd & Yaya 馃檪

      • Cal Mc

        Good weather and snow, I’m convinced! How long did the trip from the Keys take that sounds pretty epic! I have 25 days to do the trip so not sure if that route would be too long.

        • HandLuggageOnly

          Yeah, you can easily do it! It took us about 19 days. We drove about 4 hours a day, straight after breakfast so you’re at the destination by mid day. We also have a few nights on no driving in places like Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, Vegas, etc.

          Lloyd & Yaya 馃檪

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