California Road Trip Ideas

By Hayley Donigan

Many people marvel at California's vast and scenic landscape, and there's really no wonder why—it has beaches, mountains, deserts, and everything in between. This diverse state has also become famous for its inspiring, open roads that lead wanderlust travelers on endless adventures. The only way to get a true sense of the fabric of “The Golden State” is to hit the road and experience its beauty firsthand. Jot one of these incredible road trips down for your summer bucket list, and get ready for an increidlbe behind-the-wheel adventure.

Southern California

There is more to Southern California than Hollywood and Santa Monica Pier. This popular region is famous for its stunning beaches, but it also has breathtaking deserts that are rich with strange wilderness, jagged mountains, and dramatic valleys. To see all the wonders of the California desert, take a short road trip from Los Angeles to Mojave National Preserve where, in just under four hours, you can experience its breathtaking landscape of dunes and canyons. You will soak in the nostalgic culture of classic diners and cheap motels along the way, and Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park are also nearby.

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Glamping sites along the way:

Luxury Cabin in Rugged Joshua Tree Offers Stunning Desert Views

Luxury Tipis in Ancient Desert Hills of the Mojave Desert, Death Valley, California

Award-Winning, Eco-Villa in Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park, California

Northern California

In contrast to the endless desert landscapes of Southern California, the scenery of Northern California is dramatic in its own way. This region is known for its stunning national parks, which include the Redwood National and State parks, as well as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks. Another short road trip suggestion for your summer bucket list is to drive from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, which also takes just under four hours. Along the way, you can visit Sonoma and Napa wine countries, and the towering sequoias could not be a more perfect end point for your Northern California road trip.

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Glamping sites along the way:

Luxury Tented Camp in Sequoia National Monument, California

Sophisticated A-Frame Cabins Above Bass Lake, California

Comfortable Treehouse Nestled Inside Yosemite National Park, California

Pacific Coast Highway

Go on the ultimate California road trip and drive from Southern California to Northern California along the picturesque west coast. The Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1, is a road like no other—it weaves up the stunning California coast and is dotted with some incredible places along the way. It starts near Dana Point, Orange County, passes through historic Santa Barbara, and crosses the glorious Golden Gate Bridge. There are about 2,000 miles to cover, so guests might want to take this classic California road trip at a leisurely pace and simply soak up the stunning scenery of the golden coast.

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Glamping sites along the way:

Luxury Airstream Trailers Near Downtown Santa Barbara, California

Water Meets Land at a Tree House Cabin near Pebble Beach, California

Mongolian Yurt Tucked Away in Malibu Mountains, California

No summer would be complete without going on a road trip, and California road trips really can’t be beat. With Southern California, Northern California, and the entire coastline in between, there is no shortage of scenic drives.

Don't forget the East Coast or the Midwest, either! Short road trips are great for families, and with these fun ideas for road trips, the kids will be sure to enjoy the drive.