is best experienced by car. California’s coastal and mountainous borders make it one of the most biodiverse places on the planet—and it’s worth covering lots of ground if you’ll be spending vacation time in The Golden State.
California’s Highway 1—also known as the Pacific Coast Highway ("PCH")—is one of the state’s most alluring drives in the United States. Highway 1 borders the Californian coast, so you’ll have coastal views nearly your entire drive.
South to LA
Start: San Francisco
End: Los Angeles
Length: Approx. 450 miles
Kick off your trip in San Francisco with a Snowy Plover from
Highway 395 is a spectacular way to get a glimpse of California’s eastern mountain topography. Kick off your trip in Los Angeles and head to Mammoth Lakes in Inyo National Forest. You’ll find a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy nearby:
, where you can bask in the snow-capped mountains and palm oases and access the backcountry trails for all your hiking desires.
After passing through Palm Springs—with mid-century modern architecture and swimming pools to spare—you’ll finish your trip in Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree—a great destination for those who want to hike but don’t want to deal with any intense elevation—will prove to keep you entertained with Jumbo Rocks or Skull Rock, local art galleries, or the
If you’re traveling between the months of May and November, you can take Highway 395 south from Lake Tahoe toward Yosemite National Park, turning onto Highway 120 (or "Tioga Pass") to enter the park. Yosemite is California’s most renowned national park and is home to some of the world’s most unique and breathtaking rock formations.
Give yourself a few days in the park to enjoy some hikes, like
, where you’ll see some intense jagged rock formations. Stick around here for as long as you want for some great hiking and camping before heading home (or on to your next national park).
The key to any successful state parks trip? A National Parks pass. The cost of a national park pass is around the price for 2 days of admission to any national park—and the pass gets you into any national park in the U.S. for a year. Worth it. Plus, it means you’ll be able to venture into any park you spontaneously come across on your expansive trip!
Key Takeaway A national parks pass is a great investment for your California road trip.
How to prepare for a California road trip
If you’re going on any sort of road trip, you need a reliable vehicle and good car insurance coverage. If you’ll be using a rental car for your excursion, make sure your
Roadside assistance is key to a stress-free road trip. You don’t want to find yourself walking 5 miles to the nearest gas station in the scorching Californian summer heat if you happen to run out of gas on a long stretch of highway.
will be your saving grace if you have some unexpected turbulence on your road trip—whether it’s running out of gas on the 395 or blowing out your old tires on Highway 1.
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Get adequate car insurance
If you’re taking a road trip, you’ll need a car—and some
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Jerry makes your life easy (and more fun) by doing all the comparison shopping for you—so you can spend your time planning your next road trip, not looking around for cheap car insurance policies.
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Highway 1 will give you some of the best coastal views from the road and it will take you through an array of great Californian sites and cities.
If you really want a taste of what California has to offer (as far as the outdoors are concerned), consider a national parks road trip—and definitely don’t miss out on Yosemite National Park.
What is the most scenic drive in California?
The stretch of Highway 1 running from San Francisco to Los Angeles will give you great coastal views, while Rim of the World Scenic Byway will give you some of the best mountainous views.
How long do you need for a road trip in California?
The great thing about road-tripping in California is your freedom in making the trip as long or as short as you need it to be.
You really only need one day to travel from a major city (like Sacramento or San Diego) to a scenic, trip-worthy site. If you’re wanting to do some hiking and camping, you’ll want at least 3-4 days for a solid California road trip—the longer you have, the more time you’ll be able to spend in each location, and the more areas of California you’ll be able to see.
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