The Best Road Trip Stops In California

The Best Road Trip Stops In California
Photo: Graham Bargeron

California is a western US state that stretches nearly 900 miles along the Pacific coast, starting on the Mexican border. And thanks to the sheer size of the state, there are plenty of road trip stops for you to check out in California.

You have everything from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Redwood Forest and Central Valley Farmland. But you also have the city of Los Angeles, which is central to the Hollywood entertainment industry.

If you want to learn more, don’t go anywhere:

Where To Stop On Your Road Trip To California

If you’ve been planning your road trip to California, you’ve probably been wondering what places to add to your list.

And in this section, I’m going to introduce you to the best road trip stops in California so you know exactly where to stop:

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And while you might think you’ve seen it before in pictures, nothing really compares to seeing it in person.

The area is famed for its giant, ancient trees, Tunnel View, and the towering granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.

The National Park makes for exceptional hiking, climbing, biking, and camping, but it can get very crowded around the holidays.

Sequoia National Park

While most people dream about visiting Yosemite National Park, they don’t realize there’s another hidden gem found to the south.

Sequoia National Park lies a few hours south of Yosemite National Park, making for a one-of-a-kind trip.

When planning your trip, make sure it doesn’t coincide with the natural burn period. Once the fires have cleared out the brushes below, they allow nearby trees to sprout and fill the forest with spooky smoke.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park might not sound like a place you’d like to go; the name itself is pretty ominous.

But Death Valley National Park is a fantastic place to check out. It straddles eastern California and Nevada and is known for its Titus Canyon, colorful rocks, Badwater Basin’s salt flat, and much more.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, making for a beautiful trip. The lake straddles the California and Nevada border, although it sits more on the Californian side.

The area is well known for its epic ski resorts and stunning beaches along the lake's shore. On the southwest shore, Emerald Bay State Park houses a 1929 Nordic-style Mansion Vikingsholm, adding to the experience.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a vast protected area in Southern California that people can visit. The park is well known for its crazy rock formations and arid desert landscapes.

The park is named after the region's twisted and bristled Joshua Tree, which grows in expanse throughout the area.

You can find hiking trails that weave through boulders or head out to Keys View, which looks over Coachella Valley.

Redwood National Park

As most people know, Redwood is home to the tallest trees on earth, but this park is much more than that. The park protects many prairies, oak woodlands, stunning rivers, and 40 miles of coastline.

Every year, thousands of people escape the city to bask in the beauty of the Redwood National Park… and you could too!

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle was formerly known as La Cuesta Encantada, the historic estate of San Simeon. It’s located on the Central Coast of California and is a beautiful place to stop off on your road trip.

The castle was conceived by William Randolf Hearst and was built between 1919 and 1947 by his architect Julia Morgan.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

In northern California, you’ll find the Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s known for its hydrothermal sites like Bumpass Hell, which features acres of bubbling mud pots.

If you’re looking for a hiking opportunity, the summit of Lassen Peak Volcano offers a beautiful view of the surrounding wilderness.

Kings Canyon National Park

Adjacent to Sequoia National park in the Sierra Nevada mountains is Kings Canyon National Park. The National Park is well-known for its giant sequoia tree and the massive General Grant Tree.

The park is filled with dramatic landscapes of mountains, foothills, and deep canyons that roll through vast caverns.

Golden Gate Bridge

If one landscape stands out in San Francisco, it has to be the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge started construction in 1933 and was finished in 1937. It covers a one-mile-wide strait and connects San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Driving across the bridge is a must-do-experience, especially when you see the views across to Alcatraz, although the view might be obscured due to the city's signature fog.

Avenue Of The Giants

The Avenue of the Giants is a scenic highway drive that runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park and is named after the coastal redwoods that tower above the route.

The route winds 51 km and features 10 marked sites along the way, one of which being the 950-year-old “Immortal Tree.”

Venice Beach Boardwalk

The punk rock vibe of Venice Beach Boardwalk makes it one of the go-to places in LA for people-watching.

It features many attractions like Muscle Beach, the skate-dancing pavilion, drum circles, and the freak show on the boardwalk. If you’re looking for the best way to explore all this beauty, you can rent a bike or some rollerblades.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is another excellent experience if you’re looking for a good day out. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is recognized for having one of the best seaside parks in the world.

The vibrant park is bustling with people and full of excellent rides, remarkable history, and a beautiful beach setting.


You don’t need to have kids to go and enjoy a day at the original Disneyland. So, if you’re someone that’s always fancied a visit, don’t squander your opportunity while you’re in the area.

If you take a trip, make sure you pick up a Park Hopper Pass to get full access to Disney’s California Adventure.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The final place on our list is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s a nonprofit public aquarium that focuses on the region's marine habitats.

It was founded in 1984 and now has an annual attendance of 1.8 million visitors that come to admire over 623 separate named species.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

California is an exceptional place for a road trip; it’s filled with so much beauty and amazement that many people don’t even know it is there.

California beach
Photo: Graham Bargeron

And I hope this article has helped introduce you to some of the fantastic road trip stops you can find in California.

Road Trips > Cross Country Road Trip > California Road Trip Stops

About the Author

Jason Fox
Jason Fox

Jason Fox: Four years ago, I decided to quit my job as a chef to travel the world and see where life took me. The skills I learned while traveling led me to become a freelance writer so I could share my experiences with the world. Since then, I've been traveling the world working as a digital nomad. Find me on Instagram.