Planning a California Road Trip Tip to Tip - Where to Stop and What to Do

Road trip in California

Are you planning a California road trip, tip to tip? You’re going to want to know where to stop and what to do. Well, consider this guide your guide! Here, you will find the very best that the Golden State has to offer, ensuring that you’ll get to see the most notable locations and all that they have to offer.

From Big Sur to the Sierras, your road trip will be a memorable experience that you’ll want to do over and over. 

San Francisco
California Road Trip

To start your California road trip, you'll begin on Highway 1, also called the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). This historic highway travels along California’s coastline, providing you with more than 650 miles of oceanic view. Here, you will see plenty of nature’s best offerings along the way, such as elephant seals.

Since you’re starting in San Francisco, you’ll only be traveling about 440 miles (it actually starts in Leggett and end just south of Los Angeles, hence the 650+ miles of ocean). It’s here in San Fran that you’ll want to fill up your tank to prepare for the road ahead. 

Once you get on Highway 1, drive until you reach Santa Cruz. You’ll want to explore the sand and surf while you’re here, as it has much to offer and serves as a nice break along the winding roadway.

In another 18 miles or so, you’ll hit Moss Landing. There are plenty of eateries here, so be sure to grab a bite if you haven’t already. The fish is fantastic, so don’t leave without trying it.


Planning a California Road Trip

This next section of the road, which connects Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur, is absolutely breathtaking. As such, you should take it slow so that you get a chance to soak it all in. Also, be sure to stop at the Carmel Valley Ranch for the night, as it’s the perfect temporary getaway before you get back on the road.

If you don’t have any kids with you, instead book a stay at the Ventana Big Sur. For adults only, you’ll be able to kick back and relax before you head to Los Angeles in the morning. On your way there, make a pit stop once you hit Santa Barbara. Its beaches are a worthwhile distraction before arriving in LA. 


Eastern Sierra Mountains
Road trip in California

Most people who take California road trips begin their journeys in Los Angeles. From here, you will take Highway 395 for roughly 430 miles. You have a lot of ground to cover, but there are numerous things to do and see along the way.

Highway 395 will ultimately lead you into the Eastern Sierra Mountains, ensuring that you’ll find many attractions en route. Stop by the Alabama Hills to view a fascinating rounded-rock formation.

Travel north until you see Copper Top BBQ. It’s an excellent place to refuel your bodies before hitting Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. If you’re itching to go skiing, the Mammoth Mountain ski resort is along the way and sure to satisfy your craving for snow.

Feel free to book a night and continue your travels in the morning. If you’d like to see some hot springs on your way into Mammoth Lakes, be sure to stop at Bridgeport’s Travertine Hot Springs.

This is a fine place to take it easy before you get back on the move. It’s relaxing yet full of intrigue and just what your tired mind needs for a night.


Lost Sierra

If you’re up for traversing nearly 1,200 miles, this road trip offers much to see, including many of California’s best attractions. It begins in Carlsbad, giving you a chance to spend some time on its sandy beaches.

When you’re ready to get on the road, travel north until you hit Malibu. You’ll want to consider staying at the Malibu Beach Inn, as it is truly an experience you’ll relish. The next day, it’s time to move on, this time going to Solvang. 

This Danish village is renowned for its wine and food. You can easily spend an entire day here, so feel free to do so. Your next stop is Monterey, where you’ll likely want to spend a few days relaxing before hitting the open road.

The Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa is just the ticket for some extended downtime. Upon leaving Monterey, you’ll drive until you reach Napa Valley. You’ll find plenty of winery action here, making for a great place to cool your heels.

Next up, you’ll enter Alston Park. This is an excellent destination for hiking, so don’t miss it. Your time spent here is worth every minute, as there is much to take in.

Lastly, you’re going to drive through Sacramento. This is your last major stop before reaching the Lost Sierra. If you’d like to see all that Sacramento has to offer, you’ll appreciate its attractions.

When ready, travel to the Lost Sierra, which sits north of Tahoe. From here, you should take the opportunity to enjoy some camping at Nakoma Resort. While you’re here, you’ll want to spend plenty of time exploring the many scenic trails. 

What’s more, there are beautiful waters among the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Located in Plumas National Forest, this sprawling forest is made up of more than 1 million acres, so you will have lots to see and do while here.

As the end of your road trip, this massive forest offers the respite you’ve earned in making such a long drive. So be sure to book several days here, as you’ll never be able to do and see all that it has to offer. 

It’s the ultimate relaxation point. After traveling the reaches of California, it’s the perfect place to reflect on all that you’ve seen and done.


Planning a California Road Trip

Even if you traveled the roadways of California 100 times in a row, you would still have more left to see. But that’s the joy in taking a road trip like this, and it’s worth every second.