Have you ever dreamed of driving down a long, winding road with the ocean as your only backdrop? Or driving past rows and rows of vineyards as far as the eye can see?
Whether crossing over one of its largest bays or skirting around one of its largest lakes, driving in California offers many enchanting experiences. Maybe driving through a giant redwood forest in Northern California or seeing surfers ride thrilling waves as you drive south on Pacific Coast Highway appeals to your sense of adventure.
While there are myriad ways of enjoying California’s stunning landscapes and scenic byways, getting behind the wheel and traveling on one of its highways is surely the best way to experience the bountiful beauty that is the Golden State.
6. Wine Country Road Trip
California is known for its delectable wines, and there is no better way to visit its famous wineries than by driving north on Highway 29 through Napa Valley. Just an hour north of San Francisco, this two-lane road passes by some of the most idyllic vineyards in the state.
Start your wine-tasting tour in Carneros, home to some of the best Pinot Noirs in the area. Along the road there are little farm stands where you can buy delicious locally-grown fruit and roadside delis for farm-fresh sandwiches.
After lunch, head north to the little shopping town of St Helena and finally end your day in Calistoga. Driving in the late afternoon sun as it paints the vineyards golden is the most beautiful time to be on the road.
5. Redwood Forest Road Trip
The Redwood Highway, or the northern stretch of route 101 in California, travels through some of the tallest trees in the world. “The Avenue of the Giants” is a 31-mile scenic drive that meanders through the National Redwood Forest and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
As you travel deeper into the forest, the views keep getting better and bigger, and at over 17 feet in diameter, these trees are truly giants. The “Shine Drive Thru Tree” is a must-see for everyone as you pass right through the trunk of a massive redwood tree.
4. Lake Tahoe Road Trip
A drive around pristine Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains will take you across the border of Nevada into California. With 71 miles of shoreline, it is the largest alpine lake in North America.
Famous for its emerald green and blue waters, Lake Tahoe is home to 5-star ski resorts and 5-star fishing. Driving the north shore of the lake allows you to witness its beautiful, 180-degree panorama of tall alpine trees, radiant blue water and snowy, majestic peaks.
3. South PCH Road Trip
The Pacific Coast Highway is the most beautiful highway in the world. Running parallel to California’s scenic Pacific Coast, this southern drive takes you in and out of little beach towns filled with sun, surf and sand.
Start your trip in Laguna Beach, California – home of the toned and tanned locals that exhibit the true Southern California beach culture. Overhanging cliffs dip down into the golden sand where the ocean surf breaks and surfers ride their waves into the shore.
From Laguna Beach, drive north through Newport Beach with million-dollar homes stretching to the sand; stop to visit its attractive restaurants and high end shops. Next hit Huntington Beach, or “Surf City, CA”, home to the US Open of Surfing – the world’s largest surf competition where the best surfers in the world vie for the chance to be number one.
Hang out at the pier or at the downtown surf shops. From sunup to sundown, you will always find the locals playing on the beach. Cruising the South PCH is the best way to take it all in.
2. Golden Gate Bridge Road Trip
Crossing over California’s famous Golden Gate Bridge is a must-do in everyone’s lifetime. The tall, crimson towers that straddle the San Francisco bay might be the most photographed in the world.
Start in scenic San Francisco, then drive over the breathtaking bridge north to Sausalito. The view of the Pacific Ocean from this vantage point is a bucket-list staple.
After crossing over, stop at the rest area where you can look back and see the majestic bridge spanning the entrance to the bay. It is a beautiful scene even with the coastal fog soon enveloping the bridge.
1. Big Sur Road Trip
Everyone must experience the California Big Sur Road Trip on Route 1. Over 100 miles of pure coastal scenery connects the charming cities of Monterey, Carmel and San Simeon on California’s Pacific Coast.
Winding through Pebble Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea, Route 1 hugs the coast, allowing for short walking breaks and for viewing the California sea lions as they bask in the sun. At the end of the trip, Hearst Castle can be seen perched high on a hill.
As you head south on route 1, you’ll enjoy the view of the pounding Pacific Ocean to your right the entire drive. With hidden coves, steep cliffs and crashing waves, Big Sur is a gorgeous drive anytime of year.
What do you think? Are these the 6 California Road Trips that everyone must experience at least once in their life? Let us know in the comments!