13 California Street Journeys — Freeway 1 Street Journeys
The Golden State has all of it, from snow-covered mountains to majestic forests to metropolises and miles and miles of ocean views—and there is not any higher solution to see it than on a California street journey.
Dreaming of a California street journey? After all, you might be as a result of who wouldn’t wish to hit the open street to discover unbeatable seashores, matchless mountains, divine deserts, nationwide parks, bustling huge cities, quaint seaside villages, lush lakes, historic websites, artist colonies, and great wine international locations? Quite a few iconic drives begin or finish there, together with historic Route 66.
“The sheer number of experiences in California, together with our state’s numerous pure magnificence, makes it the perfect vacation spot for street journeys,” Caroline Beteta, Go to California president and CEO, says. “From iconic coastal drives to adventures that lead off the crushed path, there’s one thing for everybody to find.” To wit: The state’s one of many solely locations on the planet the place you’ll be able to spend time on the seashore, within the mountains, and within the desert within the span of some hours. It’s acquired street journeys excellent for surfers, hikers, bikers, day drinkers, eaters, museum lovers, kayakers, historical past hounds, birders, seashore bums, panorama photographers, and even banana fans. So what are you ready for? Peruse the next information to the very best 13 California street journeys, brush up on tips on how to price range for a street journey, double-check your street journey necessities guidelines, and provides the inexperienced gentle to an asphalt journey.
Freeway 1 AKA The Pacific Coast Freeway
Route distance: Roughly 650 miles
Instructed size of time: 2 weeks
That is hands-down essentially the most iconic California street journey and probably the nation’s most epic. It goes (nearly) from one finish of the state to the opposite beginning in Leggett and ending in Capistrano Seashore in Orange County. (It may be pushed in both course, however going north to south is most popular because the automobile will at all times be on the water’s edge.) There’s one thing new to see at with each flip together with Hearst Fortress, wildlife, Morro Rock and Pebble Seashore’s 17-Mile Drive, gorgeous sunsets, ethereal foggy mornings, dramatic sea cliffs, Monarch butterfly groves, quirky enclaves comparable to Large Sur and Mendocino, lighthouses, piers, faculty cities like San Luis Obispo, huge cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the Queen Mary (on which you’ll be able to spend the night time). There’s additionally loads to eat and drink: buttery clam chowders, Santa Maria-style BBQ, Tomales Bay oysters, craft breweries, scorching sourdough, avocados and olive oil, cheese, wine, and Santa Barbara spot prawns and uni. Lodging vary from campgrounds to lux lodging like The Ritz-Carlton, Bacara. There’s a lot to see—driving with out stopping even takes simply shy of a day—that in case you have something shorter than per week (or two), break up the drive into smaller extra digestible sections. You don’t wish to miss a factor relating to your California coastal street journey so proceed studying for shorter, extra manageable street journey concepts alongside the Freeway 1 route. These distinctive sights are must-sees on any Freeway 1 coastal street journey.
Freeway 1 Discovery Route & Large Sur
Frederick Thelen/Getty Photographs
Route distance: 250 miles
Instructed size of time: 2-3 days
If you happen to don’t have sufficient time to drive all of Freeway 1, decide a bit of it to your street journey or a weekend getaway. Not all components of the PCH had been created equal and San Luis Obispo County and Large Sur would argue that their sections pack essentially the most street journey punch, partially as a result of greater than half the rocky shoreline is protected right here which implies nearly all of the surroundings isn’t obstructed by developments. We’d counsel spending a day in SLO metropolis first, making stops in Bubblegum Alley, the Mission, and one of many scorching springs day spas. Sleep within the one-of-a-kind Madonna Inn, one of many extra uncommon motels you’ll ever see. As you drive the serpentine route, take your time to admire Mom Nature’s handiwork within the crashing waves, sprawling kelp forests, sculptural cypress timber, pristine miniature coves, ephemeral cascades, lush peaks, coastal forests with babbling brooks and vibrant yellow banana slugs, and snorting behemoth elephant seals alternating between preventing and loving in San Simeon (which can be house to man-made eye sweet, Hearst Fortress), and otters floating in Morro Bay harbor with Morro Rock (The “Gibraltar of the Pacific” shaped 23 million years in the past from an extinct volcano plug.) as their spectacular background. Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Space, a 3,500-acre peel-out playground, encourages you to remain behind the wheel slightly longer whereas charming cities like Cayucos and Cambria entice you to hit the brakes with buying, small-batch cheeses at creamery excursions, pier strolls, olallieberry pies, avocado farm excursions the place you’re free to take fallen fruit, seaweed foraging classes, and tender brown butter cookies. To be taught extra about what to do and the place to eat and sleep when you hit the Large Sur portion, learn this in-depth information to a Large Sur street journey.
Freeway 1: Monterey to San Francisco
Route distance: 122 miles
Instructed size of time: 2-3 days
One other part of Freeway 1 that we suggest breaking out is that this bay-to-bay snippet that is without doubt one of the finest weekend getaways or daytrips in California. Get lit in Steinbeck nation first. Monterey has Cannery Row, which options historic buildings talked about in his novel of the identical identify. Salinas has the Nationwide Steinbeck Heart and his boyhood house, a stately Victorian that’s now a restaurant. If you happen to favor fish to fiction, there’s the gold-standard Monterey Bay Aquarium and kayaking round Elkhorn Slough Estuary the place otters play mere toes out of your raft. Swing by Capitola to buy the charming downtown’s independently owned boutiques like Ethos which makes a speciality of low-waste dwelling merchandise and seize a slice at native establishment Pizza My Coronary heart earlier than bunking down on the surf-chic Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, house to the well-known Seashore Boardwalk seen in each The Misplaced Boys and Us. Feast on flaky pastries at The Buttery. Plan for a picnic and heavy petting on the Harley Farms Goat Dairy. Half Moon Bay is thought for its prize pumpkin competition and bustling predominant avenue with shops like house items haven Jupiter and Foremost and farm-to-table eateries housed in buildings from the 1800s. Sleep in “oceanic opulence” after roasting gourmand s’mores in your patio’s private fireplace at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2021. Between HMB and San Francisco, stretch your legs on the Satan’s Slide Path. Previously a landslide-prone a part of Freeway 1, it’s now a craggy cliffside car-free path hovering above the Pacific. Finish your coastal street journey in The Presidio in San Francisco, a former navy compound turned nationwide park with climbing, biking, a seashore, the Walt Disney Household Museum, a number of Andy Goldsworthy statues, and stylish rooms overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. In case you have PTO to spare, add further days to do and see extra like sipping Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons at one of many 70 wineries in Santa Cruz’s Mountains AVA or popping over the ridges to tour the wacky Winchester Thriller Home in San Jose or the Pc Historical past Museum within the coronary heart of Silicon Valley (naturally!).
Freeway 1: Marin to Mendocino
Route distance: 163 miles a method
Instructed size of time: 5 days
This itinerary is yet one more California coast street journey and one other part of Freeway 1, however it’s also value doing a minimum of as soon as in your life because it showcases a distinct kind of seaside California surroundings. It’s usually greener, wetter, cooler, extra rugged, and the nice type of moody when the fog rolls in and sits low on the mountainsides protecting grazing cows firm. You gained’t remorse looking for out motels or house leases with scorching tubs or fireplaces. Marin County, house of moneyed hippies, Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods Nationwide Monument, and Cowgirl Creamery, is simply throughout the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and is a good place to begin. Sausalito has plenty of artwork galleries and a throwback houseboat neighborhood. The japanese shore of Tomales Bay is a collection of small cities, B&Bs, and shellfish farms. You merely can’t move by the realm and never shuck their signature oysters. If you happen to’re bananas for bivalves, keep in a single day on the pearl of a property, Nick’s Cove. Proceed by Bodega Bay, the place Hitchcock filmed a lot of The Birds, and Jenner, which is an effective place to kayak because the Russian River meets the Pacific right here. Timber Cove Resort is one other good selection for overnighting with in-room document gamers, pour-over espresso setups, and ping pong. There are tons of locations to drag over to benefit from the ocean views or take a hike like Salt Level State Park, Horseshoe Cove, Stewarts Level State Marine Conservation Space, Inexperienced Cove seal rookery, Gualala, and Bowling Ball Seashore, and Level Area Gentle Home. Elk is sort of a Large Sur mini-me with its artwork galleries, rugged seashores, quirky locals, and effective eating together with decadent breakfasts at Queenies Roadhouse Café and the to-go bites discovered on the Elk Retailer. One other good detour, particularly for cheese and beer lovers, is Boonville, 30 miles inland on Freeway 128. As you drive into bluff-top Mendocino, you’ll get the postcard view of outdated Victorian buildings perched atop the windswept bluffs. In your Mendocino and Fort Bragg guidelines: sweet cap mushroom ice cream, Glass Seashore, discovering the Homicide She Wrote home, using the Skunk Prepare to Willits, climbing in myriad state parks, and making an attempt to identify sea creatures and birds whereas canoeing up the river. You may’t go fallacious with a lot of the locations to remain on the town, however we additionally extremely suggest The Stanford Inn in case you are plant-based and Brewery Gulch Inn for its included afternoon appetizer hour and knockout breakfasts.
Freeway 1: Malibu to San Diego
Route distance: 157 miles
Instructed size of time: 4 days
Among the finest issues about taking Southern California street journeys is that the year-round Mediterranean local weather is a silent welcome copilot and what higher solution to make hay within the sunshine than a whirlwind tour of Southern California’s seashores—this route is a favourite foodie street journey. There are loads to select from. Many are the place city facilities meet the ocean like Santa Monica, Carlsbad, Laguna Seashore, and Lengthy Seashore. Some like Torrey Pines State Pure Reserve provide extra pure panoramas, extra wildlife, and barely extra solitude as you stroll the lengthy stretches of sand. You may as well soak up all of the California surroundings from the air should you dare because it’s among the finest paragliding spots in america. Many provide superior surf breaks like The Wedge in Newport Seashore, Cardiff Reef in Encinitas, and Blacks Seashore close to La Jolla, the latter of which is just for skilled boarders and grownups because it’s fairly harmful and is the area’s greatest nude seashore. Huntington Seashore is the Surf Metropolis of Seashore Boys lore and is house to professional contests, the Worldwide Browsing Museum, a 1,850-foot historic pier, and the world’s largest surfboard. Go for nature walks in coastal preserves like Bolsa Chica. Kayak across the brackish Agua Hedionda Lagoon by Carlsbad’s California Watersports or La Jolla’s sea caves and shark neighborhood with On a regular basis California leases. Within the winter months, you may even rise up shut and private with migrating grey whales. A lot of the seashores are on or simply off Freeway 1. When you attain San Diego, the Craft Beer Capital of America, stomach as much as the bar at any of the 160 breweries like Trendy Occasions, Thorn Brewing, or Stone. Keep a minimum of one night time in Malibu at The Surfrider, a 1953 gem not too long ago saved by a genius redesign heavy on pure fibers and light-weight wooden, and align your roof deck dinner reservation with sundown. The resort may also help prepare wine outings, seashore days, and visits to The Getty Villa.
Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Focqus, LLC/Getty Photographs
Route distance: 132 miles
Instructed size of time: Three days
Providing 4 seasons of enjoyable is that this Southern California street journey concept that takes you winding by the San Bernardino Mountains from Cajon Go to San Gorgonio Go to see two widespread lake locations, Large Bear and Lake Arrowhead, alongside highways 138, 18, and 38. Winter, the excessive season, provides snowboarding, snowboarding, and tubing at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit resorts. (Don’t overlook tire chains. Right here’s what to do in scary driving conditions you may encounter on this street journey vacation spot together with a deer prancing onto the street or icy situations.) Spring and summer time are excellent for fishing, swimming, horseback using, climbing (Coronary heart Rock Path deposits hikers on the high of 20-foot Seeley Creek Falls close to Crestline), and mountain biking. Witness the colour change and Oktoberfest in Autumn. One other nice solution to leaf peep is aboard a fringe tour on the classic paddleboat, the Lake Arrowhead Queen. It is a good possibility for households because the villages on the lakes have bowling, go-karts, ropes programs, escape rooms, and Large Bear has one of many few alpine zoos in america. Bunk down in one of many many cabins that line the shorelines or at Midday Lodge, the models of which have Wes Anderson vibes and kitchenettes. When you’ve had your fill of this woodsy wonderland, drive down the mountain through Oak Glen Street. Come fall, the foothills, dotted with apple orchards like Willowbrook and Rileys, are alive with the sound of u-pick events and harvest festivals. Be sure you bask in Snow-Line Orchard’s cider donuts and fresh-pressed apple cider. This loop is designed to start and finish in San Bernardino, which is underneath 100 miles from main airports in Los Angeles and Orange County. A enjoyable detour on the way in which is a duplicate of the primary In-N-Out Burger, which grew to become California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand in 1948.
Route distance: 613 miles
Instructed size of time: 4 or six days
Of all of the superior California street journeys, navigating the state’s japanese backbone and an possibility for a border-to-border street journey might be essentially the most underrated regardless of being the gateway to a bunch of state superlatives, together with Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain; Badwater Basin, the bottom level in North America; hottest temperature recorded on Earth in Dying Valley Nationwide Park—decide up your Nationwide Park Go first; Mammoth Lakes, a spectacular ski city; Bodie, one of the well-preserved ghost cities, and Manzanar Nationwide Historic Website, a WWII Japanese internment camp. Different highlights embody Manzanar Nationwide Historic Website, the Joshua tree of U2 album cowl fame, distinctive geology and habitats (the gnarled limestone tufas of Mono Lake, basalt columns at Satan’s Postpile, Historical Bristlecone Pine Forest), and the Alabama Hills, a well-liked filming location seen in The Lone Ranger, Django Unchained, and a whole lot of different initiatives. Film buffs ought to pitstop in Lone Pine to be taught extra on the Museum of Western Movie Historical past. The desolation and lack of recognition work within the favor of anybody who decides to embark on this rewarding quest. There’s minimal site visitors on the freeway or climbing trails. it is going to be simpler to attain a primo room close to the spring-fed pool on the Inn at Dying Valley or with a view of the lake on the Tamarack Lodge in Mammoth. Additionally simpler to get a desk at what is perhaps the world’s finest bowling alley restaurant, the French-leaning brasserie at Mammoth Rock ‘N’ Bowl. Simply added to a Lake Tahoe go to or will be accessed from LA pretty simply as effectively. Additionally essential to notice that some components of this California street journey are affected by seasonal snow closures.
Napa Valley & Sonoma County Loop
Route distance: 110 miles
Instructed size of time: Three days
We all know you’ll have a grape time cruising by California’s premiere wine international locations. This street journey loops by each the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, collectively house to nearly 1000 wineries, lots of which have gotten artistic with the tasting room expertise so as to finest ship consummate Cabs and different excellent pours from the barrel to your amused bouche. HALL has a museum-level artwork assortment on show. Spherical Pond has quite a lot of meals pairings on a serene terrace warmed by a fire. Jordan provides picnic-vineyard hike combos, with among the meals being grown of their on-site chef’s backyard. Some even provide aerial trams, helicopter rides, and yoga lessons within the vines. Whereas ingesting is the area’s most popular pastime, it’s removed from the one cause to go to. Past the bucolic splendor of rolling hills, blooming mustard, and lazy rivers value tubing down, there’s the rejuvenating mud baths in Calistoga, splendid buying on Foremost Avenue in St. Helena, the walkability of Healdsburg’s city heart, lavish motels like Carneros Resort and Spa, h2hotel, and the model new Montage Healdsburg, and loads of locations to have the very best meal of your life each 4 hours like Single Thread, French Laundry, Valette, Bistro Jeanty, and Oenotri. Relying on site visitors, the described Northern California street journey loop is about an hour and a half (62 miles) from San Francisco Worldwide Airport.
Nationwide Park Trio
Route distance: Roughly 500 miles
Instructed size of time: Per week
The Golden State is awful with nationwide parks, three of that are in pretty shut proximity of one another—Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia—though in a roundabout way linked so the drive is kind of circuitous and requires doubling again by the Central Valley and Fresno. (Shiny aspect? It doubles the instances you’ll be able to eat within the Mexican meals mecca.) All provide a unending provide of photogenic panoramas, snow-capped mountains, alpine adventures, recent air, ice capades in winter, infinite tranquility, and attainable bear sightings. The Yosemite Valley is thought for its waterfalls (together with one that appears like a fireplace fall at sundown in February) and contributions to the sector of mountain climbing like Half Dome, but in addition options flowering meadows, churning rivers, and a grand classic lodge. Kings Canyon and Sequoia butt up to one another and are often introduced as a package deal deal linked by the Generals Freeway. They include Common Grant, the second largest Sequoia on the planet, and Common Sherman, the world’s largest dwelling tree and largest dwelling organism (by quantity) on the planet, respectively. The Majestic Mountain Loop is a newly organized three-day motoring itinerary that hits the main highlights of all three. If match sufficient, hike 11.5 miles to tough it within the Bearpaw Excessive Sierra tent camp. Elevate your weekend getaway in California.
High Of The State Trek
Route distance: 550 miles
Instructed size of time: 5 days
Drive again in geologic time with essentially the most northern of the very best California street journey locations. (In actual fact, it’s so distant and northern that it’s important to cross the border into Oregon for a bit of it.) Begin in Redding with a stroll throughout Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge, a cantilevered marvel fabricated from glass, metal, and cables. Spend time in dense forests (Six Rivers, Klamath, Shasta-Trinity) stuffed with historic timber, salmon runs, and roadside swimming holes. Lake Shasta, a well-liked alternative for houseboat holidays, incorporates a pure marvel, limestone caves, and a artifical marvel, the Shasta Dam. The jagged peaks of Lassen Volcanic Nationwide Park are a clue to its eruptive previous as are the steaming fumaroles, mud pots, and Butte Lake-adjacent cinder cones. There’s snow in winter, wildflowers in spring, and fishing and different lake actions in summer time and fall. Proceed your explosive expedition at Lava Beds Nationwide Monument the place you’ll be able to wind by a labyrinth of 800-plus caves and tunnels as soon as used as hideouts for the Modoc Nation throughout a warfare with the U.S. Military. You’ll want a flashlight. Be taught extra about Modoc artwork, the historical past of the Despair-era Civilian Conservation Corps, and bats on this lovely out of doors classroom. Add just a few further days to drive west to the coast to wander driftwood-littered seashores, redwood groves, and old-timey logging cities like Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Arcata, and Trinidad. It may be cost-prohibitive to fly right into a smaller regional airport just like the one in Redding. To economize, issue within the added drive time (two hours and a few change) from Sacramento Worldwide Airport. Be taught the very best automobiles to lease for a street journey.
San Diego to Joshua Tree Nationwide Park
Route distance: 225 miles
Instructed size of time: Weekend to 5 days
As biomes go, deserts get a usually unhealthy rap, however taking a spin from the sandy shores of San Diego to Joshua Tree Nationwide Park is something however dry. This Southern California street journey is religious, fashionable, and outdoorsy. The primary cease as you head east over the San Jacinto Vary is Julian, a nostalgic city with u-pick apple orchards and the well-known Julian Pie Firm the place you’ll be able to possible guess the specialty. Press on by vista-filled mountain passes to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest state park. Each spring it’s one of the dependable spots to peep a brilliant bloom. It has nice climbing with possibilities to see 2,000-year-old petroglyphs and pictographs or bighorn sheep. Close by Galleta Meadows incorporates 130 mammoth metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda. Borrego Springs, an artist colony, is an effective place to cease for lunch and gallery hopping. The Salton Sea’s acquired glorious birding because it sits within the Pacific Flyway and a kooky banana museum. Palm Springs reveres its mid-century fashionable structure (take a tour with Kurt Cyr at Mod Squad) and Rat Pack roots (eat a steak at Melvyn’s; hit a tiki bar like Bootlegger Tiki) however embraces the edginess and aptitude of Coachella, Desert X, and a big LGBTQ neighborhood (drag reveals are one other post-sunset exercise). Spend a day opting outdoors at JTNP, barely bigger than Rhode Island and stuffed with unusual Seussian timber, and don’t depart earlier than the celebrities come out because it’s a licensed darkish skies park. Take pleasure in reside music and chili at Pappy and Harriet’s after wandering across the outdated western film studio, Pioneertown, subsequent door. The area is plagued by boho Airbnbs, large resorts with water parks on website just like the Omni Rancho Las Palmas who added Splashtopia final yr, and design-forward motels, together with Kimpton’s Rowan and Parker).
Santa Barbara & The Santa Ynez Valley Sojourn
Damien VERRIER/Getty Photographs
Route distance: 110 miles
Instructed size of time: Three to 4 days
Wine down with a weekend getaway to Santa Barbara and Sideways nation, Southern California’s finest entry within the winemaking recreation and a day drinker’s paradise due to roughly 300 producers together with Jonata, Bien Nacido, Foxen, and Au Bon Climat bottling prized Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs in six AVAs. Begin on the American Riviera, so nicknamed for its copycat geography (it’s located between the glowing sea and near-vertical mountains.), Mediterranean climate, and appreciation of the finer issues in life together with seasonal meals and recent seafood, libations, and the humanities. Store State Avenue, bike alongside the wharf and beachfront promenade, sip alongside the SB City Wine Path, eat and grasp within the Funk Zone, after which calm down in an enormous soaking tub at Belmond El Encanto. As soon as recharged, drive up the 101 alongside the coast with the home windows down ’til you hit Buellton, one of many six small cities that make up the Santa Ynez Valley. Get there by lunchtime to smash house-butchered charcuterie at Industrial Eats earlier than spending the afternoon looking for retail remedy and hitting some tasting rooms in Los Olivos. Choose up Danish desserts and take selfies with windmills within the Scandinavian village of Solvang, one of the European-esque cities in America. Different points of interest embody lavender farms, Ostrich Land, and horseback using with Vino Vaqueros. The sheer variety of cool lodging—The Winston, Vinland Resort, Skyview Los Alamos, and a decked-out Airstream at Flying Flags RV Resort—and attractive eating places— Bob’s Effectively Bread Bakery, First & Oak, and Mad & Vin—will make you wish to prolong your journey. Talking of extensions, add Ojai, an agriculture- and art-powered foothills neighborhood turned hipster haven, and Ventura, a family-friendly seashore city with a taco path and Channel Islands excursions, to the itinerary in case you have a few further days.
Sacramento to Lake Tahoe
Route distance:185 miles
Instructed size of time: A weekend
Begin by spending a day in California’s capital—touring the Capitol, chugging by North America’s finest railroad museum, or strolling alongside the Outdated Sacramento Waterfront the place restored Gold Rush-era buildings now home eating places, comedy golf equipment, museums, and novelty retailers. Because it sits on the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, town additionally provides possibilities to get in and on the water, a grateful aid when the blistering summer time warmth reaches its zenith. Leap on the 80 and head deep into the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Foothills cities like Auburn, Truckee, and Columa, an 18-mile detour that deposits you to the website of the 1848 valuable metallic discovery that set off a mass migration and adjusted the course of the state, are steeped in mining and panning historical past. Shortly, the azure lake, gorgeous in its measurement and readability (the elevation and depth stop algae development), will unfold out earlier than you. Your time by the lake generally is a mixture of historical past (Donner Social gathering Memorial, the Thirties summer time mansion Vikingsholm, the location the place they filmed Bonanza), surroundings (boulder seashores, granite rock faces, huge pines, pristine seashores, blue skies in locations like D.L Bliss and Emerald Bay state parks), and journey (snow sports activities at Squaw Valley, Heavenly, Northstar, scorching air balloon rides, aerial trams, SUP). Finishing the total lake loop means you’ll dip briefly into Nevada, which opens up alternatives to hit a on line casino like Harrah’s and perchance win again the cash you spent on this jaunt or finance future California street journeys.
Whereas the Golden State provides among the most numerous street journey locations and California surroundings is tough to high, the opposite 49 states will not be with out advantage when it comes hitting the open street.
For extra on the place to go and what to see across the nation by automobile, take a look at our Final American Street Journey Information.