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. 🙂
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1.) Explore Los Angeles
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 IXLB for, arguably, the best Dim Sum in all of California.
2.) Enjoy a Balloon Ride over Riverside County
This inland city is away from the hustle and bustle of LA but still has some great sites to see… and lots to drink! 😉
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
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 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 which has snuggly fireplaces in the bedrooms!
4.) Find Salvation Mountain
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
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
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
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 explorer!
8.) Explore the impressive Sequoia National Park
Known for its incredibly huge 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 Ol’ Buckaroo for a simple, all-American burger!
9.) Hike in Yosemite
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
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
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
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.
13.) Explore Muir Woods
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
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!
15.) Ski around Lake Tahoe
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! 🙂
16.) Enjoy Redwood National and State Parks
Perched in the north of California, 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!