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The Golden Coast of Southern California

The Golden Coast of Southern California

The land of movie stars, celebrities, walks of fame and the golden coast, Southern California is known the world around as a premier destination, but Southern California is so much more than just the golden coast, and in this itinerary we are going to take you inland as well to experience everything SoCal has to offer.

golden-coast


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
california

Start/End:
los angeles

Total miles:
1,800

Suggested days:
At least 16

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers,

Suggested season: 
year round

Overview

From the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the stunning Eastern Desert, this route is perfect for those who want to experience the beauty of the open road and some of America’s most untamed areas. In other words, you will get to experience a true American road trip that includes the sun-soaked beaches, nightlife and celebrity-infused attractions of the land of Hollywood, intriguing desert towns and unimaginable scenery. You will begin by arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. We have no doubt that you are going to want to spend a few days in this city of 4 million. But…save it for the end of the trip, when you have a chance to unwind and relax after your epic SoCal road trip. On this trip many of the drives between towns will be relatively short, but when you get to the eastern part of the state, the drives will stretch out a bit, so be prepared for this. Through the course of this trip you be traveling through two distinct geographical climates.  This will be a trip of a lifetime, so get in, buckle up and shift that car into drive. You are about to experience some of the best the United States has to offer.

How to Prepare

We recommend approximately 16 days for this trip in order to experience each town and activity without feeling too rushed. You have a lot of miles to cover, so we suggest spending at minimum a day at each stop.  This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to fully experience the area, with overnight stops in the towns along the way. Plan your trip accordingly so that you experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, you are more likely to run into wet weather and many of the outdoor experiences that you have in the nicer weather will not be available.. On the other hand, summertime temps in these places can often exceed 100 degrees, so take that into account as you decide your travel dates. The majority of this trip will be short drives between stops, but this is to allow you the most time at all the amazing places that you have traveled so far to see. Though this itinerary is a day to day guide, it is only a guide and you should feel free to adapt it however you want, taking as much time as you need to fully experience this wonderful part of the world.

DAY 1: land in los angeles, head to Santa Barbara

golden-coast

1.5 hours/95 miles

This is a shorter day for a good reason. We suggest arriving early into LA and renting your car from the airport and setting out north toward your first stop, Santa Barbara. It is the perfect town to get prepared and excited to start your road trip. With the Santa Ynez Mountains as dramatic backdrop, Santa Barbara has a great Downtown, with Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings that reflect the city’s Spanish colonial heritage. Upscale boutiques and restaurants offering local wines and seasonal fare line State Street. On a nearby hill, Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1786, houses Franciscan friars and a museum. The best place to start your Santa Barbara Tour would of course be the Santa Barbara Visitor Center.

Best way to see Santa Barbara:

Self-Guided Wine Tour

Best place for a swim:

Arroyo Burro Beach

Best place to watch the sunset:

Stearns Wharf

Best place to shop local:

The Funk Zone

Best selfie:

Moreton Bay Fig Tree

Best place for dinner:

The Boathouse

DAY 2: san luis obispo

1 hour 39 minutes/94 miles

From Santa Barbara you are going to head north on the 101 to one of California’s hidden gems, San Luis Opisbo. Nestled in the heart of the Central Coast Wine Country, SLO is the unofficial headquarters for the region, with towns like Los Osos, Morro Beach and Oceano within striking distance and well worth a visit. The Los Padres National Forest is juts outside of town and have numerous trails to explore the region. One can’t miss stop once you get into town is Bubblegum Alley. Yep, its an entire alley lined with chewed bubblegum.

Best hike:

Bishop Peak

Can’t miss it:

Mission Plaza

Visit a waterfall:

Reservoir Canyon

Best place to get a little history:

Dallidet Adobe and Gardens

Best place to see wildlife:

The Whale Trail

Best place for dinner:

NoVo Restaurant

DAY 3: Salinas and Monterey Bay

1.5 hours/67 miles

As you continue north on Highway 1 toward Salinas, you have two stops that you have to make. The first stop is in the town of  Cayucos for breakfast at Bill and Carol’s Sea Shanty. The breakfasts here are as amazing at the name suggests. Your second stop will be in San Simeon and Hearst Castle. Built between 1919 and 1947, Hearst Castle was the joint concept of William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon, and his architect Julia Morgan. Listed as a a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark, the castle is well worth a visit.

Best hike:

Fort Ord National Monument

Best place for wildlife watching: 

Salinas River Wildlife Refuge

Can’t miss it:

The Steinbeck Center

Most eclectic shopping:

Cannery Row

Best place for a stroll:

Fisherman’s Wharf

Best place for seafood:

Sea Harbor Fish Market

DAY 4: Fresno

golden-coast

2.5 hour/132 miles

Fresno is located in the beautiful San Joaquin Valley, near the golden coast, and is the jewel of California’s agricultural heartland, the Central Valley. Originally founded in 1872 as a stop on the Central Pacific Railroad, today Fresno is a metropolitan city with a population of around 500,000. Home to California State University, Fresno is a fun college town with a sophisticated air. One point of interest and a must visit is the Forestiere Underground Gardens. Created in the early 1900s, the gardens consist of Roman-catacombs-inspired subterranean passages and courtyards. Fresno is a multi-cultural city with a number of distinct neighborhoods that highlight its diversity.  One can’t miss park is the sprawling, trail-lined Woodward Park is home to the Shinzen Japanese Garden. Its a great place to stretch your legs.

Best place for a stroll:

The Blossom Trail

Must see:

St George Greek Orthodox Church

Best place to shop local:

Vineyard Farmers Market

Best historical selfie:

Fresno Water Tower

Can’t miss food:

Mediterranean Grill and Cafe

Best Local Beer:

Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company

DAY 5: The Bakersfield Sound

golden-coast

2 hours/110 miles

Located on the banks of the Kern River, Bakersfield has an important place in the annals of American music. It all started in 1954 with Wynn Stewart. Known as the Bakersfield Sound, it was the first genre of country music to be significantly influenced by rock and roll, and as a result, the first to rely heavily on electric instrumentation and a defined backbeat The Bakersfield sound became one of the most popular and influential country genres of the 1960s, initiating a revival of honky-tonk music and influencing musical icons like Merle HaggardCreedence Clearwater Revival and the Grateful Dead. Bakersfield keeps that tradition close today with numerous honky-tonk bars and music festivals. In addition to the fantastic music scene, Bakersfield is a great outdoor town with numerous recreation opportunities located right outside of town in the Sequoia National Forest.

Best place for a hike:

Badger Gap

Can’t miss it:

Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Best place to shop or farm local:

Murray Family Farms

Best place to see some wildlife:

California Living Museum

Eat some Basque cuisine:

Wool Growers

Go honky-tonkin:

Rustic Rail

DAY 6: barstow and the inland empire

2 hours 20 minutes/130 miles

Once a small mining center and railroad town in California’s Mojave Desert, Barstow today is known as the commercial, cultural and economic hub of the Inland Empire. Barstow is a great starting point when touring the western Mojave Desert. Outdoor explorers, amateur geologists and hikers enjoy nearby Rainbow Basin and Owl Canyon CampgroundAfton Canyon, and the beautiful Kelso Dunes. Fancy a trip into the past? Check out the Calico Early Man Site,the historic Harvey House Depot, or the Calico Ghost Town, a restored silver mining town. Ever thought about exploring an abandoned and haunted water park in the middle of the desert? Then check out, Lake Dolores.  After all your outdoor adventures, head to Barstow Station. Family owned and operated since 1973, it’s a great place to stock up on supplies.

Best place for a hike:

Castle Mountains

Best photo op:

The Giant Fire Helmet

Best museum:

Route 66 Museum

Best Americana throwback:

Skyline Drive-In Movie Theater

Can’t miss it:

Main Street Murals

Best taco in town:

Lola’s Kitchen

DAY 7: needles

2 hours/117 miles

Named for the nearby pointed mountain peaks, Needles was founded in 1883 to support the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The city’s location along the Western bank of the Colorado River, which serves as the California/Arizona border, was once its major draw. As in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, it was an important stopping point for travelers entering the golden coast of California in search of opportunity during the Dust Bowl era. Today, Needles is an eclectic little desert town straddling the gap between history and the future. The first thing we would recommend doing when you get into Needles is to the Pirate Cove Resort. It’s a great place to cool off after your road trip through the desert.

Best place for wildlife:

Havasu Wildlife Refuge

Can’t miss it:

Mystic Maze

Best place to get some jerky:

Gus’ Really Good Jerky

Best way to experience the desert:

Dead Mountains Wilderness Area

Best historical experience:

El Garces Train Station

Can’t miss dinner:

The Riverfront Cafe

DAY 8 and 9: Joshua Tree National Park and the Coachella Valley

3 hours/160 miles

You may have heard the Coachella because of the international music festival that takes place here every year, but there is so much more to this remarkable area. The first is of course Joshua Tree National Park. Named for the region’s twisted, bristled Joshua trees, the park straddles the cactus-dotted Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, this is a one-of-a-kind place that is well worth a full day’s visit. When you get to Coachella, get a room at the Turtle Back Mesa.  After that, head to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It’s well worth a visit to this golden coast location.

Best outdoor experience:

Tahquitz Canyon

Can’t miss it:

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Best place for a stroll:

Old Town La Quinta

Best photo op:

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Best chance to see a ghost:

Palm Springs Ghost Tour

Best dining experience:

Birba

DAY 10: Through the Salton Sea to San diego

3 hours 15 minutes/153 miles

Today you heading to the Pacific Ocean, but before you do, there is one body of water that you need to see. The Salton Sea was formed between 1905 and 1907 when the Colorado River burst through poorly built irrigation controls south of Yuma, Arizona. Almost the entire flow of the river filled the Salton Basin for more than a year, inundating communities, farms and the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In its heyday, the Salton Sea was a getaway for celebrities and the wealthy, but as the lake started to dry up, the crowds left and it now exists as a ghost town. The best place to stop to understand this geographical history would be the Salton Sea Visitor’s Center. If you are interested in touring a winery in southern California’s golden coast, you should stop in Temecula, the only known winery area in Southern California. Once you arrive in San Diego, we recommend staying overnight near the Gaslamp district or right by the Pacific Ocean.

Best place for breakfast:

Farm of Palm Spings

Best kept secret:

Temecula Vineyards

Best ghostly experience:

The Whaley House

Go for an ocean swim:

La Jolla Beach

Can’t miss it:

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Treat yourself in San Diego:

The Gaslamp Quarter

DAY 11: San Diego

2.5 hours/140 miles

Welcome to San Diego. There is so much to do in this town, that it would hard to cover here, so what we would recommend is to start your day at the San Diego Visitor’s Center. They will have everything you need to get the most out of your stay on the golden coast.

Best place for breakfast:

Breakfast Republic

Can’t Miss it

San Diego Zoo

Best beach town:

Carlsbad

Tour an aircraft Carrier

USS Midway Museum

Best Fish Taco:

Taco Surf Taco Shop

Best kept secret:

The seals at La Jolla Cove

DAY 12: san Diego to Santa Monica

3 hours/150 miles

 Today’s priority? Just enjoy the beautiful southern California coast. With charming, golden coast, beach towns to visit like Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica, this won’t be difficult.  The first thing you are going to need to do though is get breakfast. Head to Swami’s Cafe in Carlsbad for the best breakfast west of the Mississippi. Then, take Interstate 5 north along the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Los Angeles. This scenic drive will give you the feeling and vibe of Southern California, with the lush vegetation along the coast and the crazy traffic on the freeways: two things that definitely characterize it.  Stop in Oceanside for a quick walk along the coast, then take Hwy 1 past San Clemente, to your stop for the night in Santa Monica.

Best viewpoints on the coast:

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Best place to shop:

Fashion Island-Newport Beach

Can’t Miss it:

Venice Beach

Best place for a stroll:

Santa Monica Pier

Best Taco:

Casa Martin

Best place to stay:

Casa Del Mar

DAY 13: Los angeles and Fabulous Hollywood

1.5 hours/50 miles

In the morning, you might consider a quick run along the golden coast before heading to Los Angeles to see the world famous Universal Studios, where classic films and television shows are brought to vivid life around you, and you might even run into some movie stars. In the evening, check out some iconic Hollywood locations, such as the Kodak Theater and the Walk of Fame, where celebrities have been honored for decades with their names imprinted on glossy stone stars embedded in the sidewalk. During the evening, take Sunset Boulevard into Beverly Hills, then follow this scenic drive head back to Santa Monica.

Best photo op:

The Hollywood Sign from Canyon Lake Drive

Best place to see a celebrity:

The Hollywood Roosevelt

Can’t Miss it:

Rodeo Drive

Best place for a stroll:

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

Best local tradition:

In-n-Out Burger

Best place to shop:

The Grove



The Hidden Treasures of the West Coast

The Hidden Treasures of the West Coast

The Northwest is one of the United States’ great hidden treasures. From rocky coastlines to fog shrouded mountains, desert basins and world-class cities, this trip will give you an experience of some of the best this country has to offer.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
Matt

States:
Washington, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California

Start:
Seattle, Washington
End:
San Francisco, California

Total miles:
3,300

Suggested days:
At least 14

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Spring through Fall

Overview

This route highlights the unparalleled hidden treasures of the Western United States, supplemented by trips to the region’s fantastic cities. In other words, this trip has it all: majestic coastlines, stunning mountain landscapes, beautiful farmland, incredible geologic features and cosmopolitan urban centers. You will begin in Seattle, the largest city in the Northwest region, and then head north, checking out the wonders of North Cascades National Park, then crossing the border to Canada. There you will enjoy all that the cities of Vancouver and Victoria have to offer before heading back down into Washington again. You will explore the incredible coastline and rainforests of Olympic National Park and then drive east, passing towering Mount Rainier, pristine Yakima and lovely Coeur D’Alene on the way to the great majesty of Glacier National Park. After your time in the park, you will head southwest into the vistas of Hells Canyon, followed by the plains and deserts of Eastern Oregon. You will then begin your traverse of Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge, one of the most beautiful drives on the West Coast, with many charming towns worth a quick stop. Portland is the next destination, with a side trip to the immense Mount Hood en route. After spending time in this hip and tasteful city, you will begin to work your way down the rugged Oregon coast, before cutting over to the magnificent Crater Lake National Park. You will then wind your way down into California, stopping to check out the geologic splendor around Lassen Volcanic National Park. After that, you will treat yourself in the wine country and rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma, before ending your trip in the world-class city of San Francisco.

How to Prepare

We recommend at least two-and-a-half weeks to encompass all of the possible hidden treasures that are suggested in this itinerary. A lot of distance is covered here, so it would be ideal to spend a couple of days in, say, Glacier National Park after driving many hours to and from there. (Of course, the drives themselves are wonderfully scenic, so it won’t feel long at all! The journey is the destination, as they say.) Many of the drives are relatively short – many are only around three road hours between stops – while at least two of the drives will take a good portion of your day, so plan accordingly. (These longer drives could be broken up into segments, too.) The weather in the region is generally predictable: somewhat chilly in the early spring, quite hot in the peak summer months, crisp and cool in the fall. In Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, it can occasionally snow in the later fall months, so pack intelligently. This trip could be done almost any time of year, but possible heavy snow in November through February can make driving in those more mountainous areas rather dangerous. Aside from frequent rain in the winter, the coastal regions would be fine at any time.

DAY 1: arrival in seattle

Hidden Treasures

1.5 hours/72 miles

Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and pick up your rental car. The city is relatively easy to navigate by car, though it may be best to avoid driving in the late afternoon, as the freeways and roads can be horribly gridlocked around rush hour. (There is a decent bus system, as well.) Like many West Coast cities, Seattle is fairly spread apart, so it’s best to pick a few neighborhoods and explore from there. Downtown has the iconic Pike Place Market, as well as the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Aquarium and the first ever Starbucks Coffee, all within easy walking distance. Other great walkable neighborhoods worth checking out include Ballard, Fremont and Capitol Hill.

Best place for a stroll:

The Seattle Waterfront

Can’t Miss It:

Pike Place Market

Best architectural wonder:

Seattle Space Needle

Best city view:

Kerry Park

Best place for seafood:

Elliot’s Oyster House

Best place to stay:

Inn at the Market

DAY 2: North Cascades national park

2 hours

In the morning, grab a coffee at Storyville Coffee Company, Victrola Coffee Roasters or any other number of excellent coffee roasters in this renowned coffee-loving city. Your next destination is Bellingham, Washington en route to North Cascades National Park. Bellingham is an easy 90-minute drive north from Seattle, so you’ll be able to ease into your road trip. Stop for your first adventure and some unbeatable local food, then head into the fantastic wilderness of North Cascades National Park, just 30 minutes away.

The park boasts 300 glaciers, 9000 feet of vertical relief and over 1600 species of plant species, much of it explorable through a wide network of backcountry trails. Highway 20 cuts through the width of the park, which makes for a beautiful drive. Much of the territory expands far to the north and south of the road, so one can gauge how much time they want to devote to exploring the park accordingly.

Best short hike:

Thornton Trail

Best long Hike:

Sourdough Mountain

Grab a bite on the road:

5b’s Bakery in Concrete

Pedal your way around the valley:

Stehekin Discovery Bikes

Best place to grab some dinner:

Marblemount Diner

Best place to stay:

North Cascades Lodge

DAY 3: North to Vancouver

2.5 hours

Your next segment will take you over the Canadian border and into the lovely cities of Vancouver and Victoria. The most populous city in the province of British Columbia and the third most populous in all of Canada, Vancouver is a fantastic city with no shortage of things to do. As a major metropolitan area nestled between ocean, mountains and forest, Vancouver has enough nature and culture to occupy visitors for many days. The best way to experience the city would be to do a little bit from each of those categories, whether that would be shopping at the Granville Island Public Market or on Robson Street, going to the world-class Museum of Anthropology or the Vancouver Aquarium, and wandering around the lush woods of Stanley Park.

Best urban island to explore:

Granville Island

Best place for a swim: 

Kitsilano Beach

Can’t miss it:

Clayoquat Sound

Best place for a stroll:

Butchart Gardens

Best place for dinner:

The Flying Pig

Best district to spend some time:

The Olympic Village

DAY 4: Ferry into Victoria

3.5 hours

Try to grab breakfast at the popular Medina Café in downtown Vancouver before hitting the road again. You’ll next be taking the BC Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. (The scenic ride over the Strait of Georgia takes about an hour and a half.) Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the southernmost city in Western Canada and is ranked as one of top cities in the world for high quality of life standards. Though the metropolitan region only has around 350,000 residents, this diverse city has the second oldest Chinatown in North American (after San Francisco’s), a thriving Coast Salish First Nations community and a large student presence due to several universities and colleges in the city. Due to this wide-ranging population, “The Garden City” has numerous offerings for tourists.

Best museum:

The Royal B.C. Museum

Must see:

Craigdarroch Castle

Best city park:

Beacon Hill Park

Most unique attraction:

Miniature World

Best place for dinner:

Brasserie L’ecole

Best way to see the town:

Vancouver Brewery Tours

DAY 5: down the olympic peninsula

2.5 hours

You will take another ferry to get back down to Washington, this time a trip from Victoria to Port Angeles. (This ride, also quite scenic, takes just over two hours.) In Port Angeles, there are a number of charming shops and cafes where you can while away a part of the afternoon. Your primary destination on the Olympic Peninsula, though, should be the Olympic National Park, a stunning mountainous rainforest in the corner of the United States. The main visitor center is in Port Angeles, so be sure to check in there before you head into the park proper. The Olympic National Park, which contains nearly a million acres of wilderness, has a huge diversity of ecosystems: wild coastlines, old-growth rainforests and snow-capped mountains. At the visitor center, plot which of these regions appeals most to you and plan your time accordingly.

Read more about the Olympic Peninsula here.

Recommended side trip:

Port Townsend

Best place to stock up on gear:

Brown’s Outdoor

Best hike:

Sol Duc Falls

Best scenic drive:

Hurricane Ridge

Can’t miss it:

Lake Quinault

Best place to stay:

Lake Quinault Lodge

DAY 6: East to Mount Rainier National Park and Yakima

4.5 hours

Over the next three days, with Glacier National Park in Montana as your eventual destination, you will start driving east, a huge portion of it along scenic Interstate 90. Your first leg of this journey is to Mount Rainier National Park, which, at 14,410 feet is an iconic feature of the Washington landscape. This active volcano is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States and spawns six major rivers. Visit the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center to get some orientation around the park and decide if you want to spend a full afternoon here or even longer. (As with all of the national parks, you could spend a day or a week at Rainier, so it’s largely up to you to figure this out.) Aim to spend the night in Yakima after your time at Rainier. Yakima is a small city famous for its fertile agricultural productivity, specializing in hops (over 70% of the nation’s hops come from the Yakima Valley), apples and wine. As for the latter, there are numerous wineries in town; touring some of them would be a great way to spend an afternoon. As a whole, the town makes an excellent stopping point on your drive east.

Best road for photo ops:

Circle Mount Rainier Drive

Best hike:

Shadow Lakes Trail

Can’t miss it:

Narada Falls

Best place to try some Yakima Wine:

Bonair Winery

Best place for dinner:

Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Icehouse

Best place to stay:

Hotel Maison

DAY 7: Beautiful Coeur D’Alene

hidden treasures

Your next stop as you head east is the lovely Idaho town of Coeur D’Alene, nestled on the banks of the massive 25-mile-long lake of the same name. The town’s proximity to two major ski resorts and generally tranquil natural setting has made it a destination for outdoor-oriented travelers. Camping, hiking, kayaking and skiing are all within a short trip from the center of town. As this is still the Pacific Northwest, there are the usual quality-of-life perks, even in this relatively small town: fine coffee, plenty of microbrews and a wide array of stellar places to eat.

Best place to shop local:

Kootenai County Farmers’ Market

Best place for a swim:

Couer D’Alene City Park

Best secret trip:

Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch

Best place to stretch your legs:

Tubbs Hill Nature Trails

Best place for dinner:

Crafted Tap House

Best Night Out:

Downtown Coeur d’Alene

DAY 8: Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake Trail, Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, Wildflowers glacier national Park

4 hours

Get a coffee at local favorite Grumpy Monkey and hit the road towards Glacier National Park, a stunning four-hour drive from Coeur D’Alene. As this is your furthest point east, and separated by long drives on either end, it is recommended that you plan on spending at least a few days in the park. There is more than plenty to do and the landscape is absolutely like no other, so it’s definitely worth devoting enough time to experience Glacier. Considered the “Crown of the Continent,” the park is set just beneath the Canadian border and encompasses over 1 million acres of wilderness, including two mountain ranges, over 1,000 plant species, and hundreds of animal species. A 700-mile network of trails runs through the park – hiking and backpacking are some of Glacier’s primary attractions – and this is undoubtedly the ideal way to take in the otherworldly mountain views.

Can’t miss it:

Going to the sun road

Best hike to see the glaciers: 

Garden Wall Trail

Best short hike:

Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail

Best picnic spot:

Avalance Creek Picnic Area

Classic National Park eatery:

Ptarmigan Dining Room

Best hike in for an overnight stay:

Granite Park Chalet

Best place to take a selfie:

Logan Pass

Quick stroll to a waterfall:

Running Eagle Falls

Best overlook:

Goat Haunt

Best place for home-made huckleberry pie:

Nell’s at Swiftcurrent

DAY 9: South to Missoula

2.5 hours

After your stay in Glacier, you will begin to work your way down towards the eastern edge of Oregon. It’s a long ten-hour drive, though, so you probably should do it in two parts. The best place to stop for an afternoon and evening would be Missoula, home to the University of Montana and considered to be the cultural hub of the state. At the confluence of the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers, Missoula is, like many smaller Western cities, also home to many outdoor enthusiasts; you can find hiking trails and river fun within a short drive. It’s also likely your last chance to enjoy find excellent dining options and possible shopping opportunities until you get to Portland, a few days away yet.

Great place for a hike:

Blue Mountain Recreation Area

Best Missoula thing ever:

A Carousel For Missoula

Best place to grab a quick bite:

Five on Black Brazilian Cafe

Can’t miss it:

Brennan’s Wave-a man made kayaking wave in the heart of downtown Missoula

Best place for a picnic:

Caras Park

Where the locals eat:

The Depot

Drink local:

TAke your Pick-Missoula has 10 breweries, 2 distilleries and one cider house

Best place to catch a show:

The Top Hat

DAY 10: East to Oregon

hidden treasures

6.5 hours

Your drive to Oregon is fairly long – nearly eight hours until your next destination – but it is also unparalleled in its natural beauty, as you traverse through several wilderness areas and national forests. Right on the border between Idaho and Oregon is the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, one of the more incredible wilderness areas in the state. You can get amazing bird’s-eye views of the region’s mountain valleys from the Hells Canyon Overlook, so make sure you at least stop there. If you want a more extended time to stretch your legs, there are numerous trails for hiking in the area. Plan on spending the night in Joseph, a quaint town in the northeastern corner of Oregon. Joseph was once a booming lumber town, but the region hit a long lull when many of the mills went out of business in the 1980s. Today, however, it is home to thriving bronze foundries and many ex-pat artists from Portland who are creating a niche in the town. Joseph would make a great base for exploring the natural wonders in this part of Oregon. The Wallowa Mountains, the Zumwalt Prairie and Wallowa Lake are all relatively close and worthy of your time.

Take a canoe trip:

Wallowa Lake State Park

Best outdoor recreation:

Zulmwalt Prairie

Best place to get a little history:

Wallowa Nez Perce Interpretive Center

Get a bird’s eye view:

Wallowa Lake Tramway

Best place to get a steak:

The Stubborn Mule

Best place for coffee and breakfast:

Red Horse Coffee Traders

DAY 11: Along the mighty columbia Gorge

4.5 hours

your time there. Much of your scenic drive will be along the Columbia Gorge, but on the way there, you will pass through a handful of charming towns that are worth at least a quick stop. The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest and the fourth largest river in the United States. The scenery along this drive is simply majestic, so don’t be shy about pulling over to snap some photos. You should also take some time to stop at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area. It’s a great little park and will give you a chance to stretch your legs at the confluence of the Columbia and Deschutes River. Once you get to The Dalles, one recommendation we have is to head over the Columbia for a quick jaunt into Washington and the Yakima Reservation.

Best Drive:

Old Hwy 30 Scenic Drive

Grab a quick bite:

Petite Provence

Best place to watch the sunset:

Sorosis Park

Best place to catch a little history:

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

Best pace to grab dinner:

Spooky’s

Best place for a local brew:

Rivertap

Where the locals get breakfast:

Momma Jane’s Pancake House

DAY 12: portland

hidden treasures

1 hour

Ahh, Portland. The city of Roses. This is truly one of America’s great cities. With a population of around 650,000, Portland is a big city with a small town feel. The cultural experiences here are not to be missed. From the Downtown area to the eclectic neighborhoods and districts, there is nothing but fun to be had. But Portland is also on outdoor town, with places like Forest Park, Tyron Creek State Natural Area and Mount Tabor Park. The easiest way to get around is the city’s centerpiece, the MAX Light Rail. Our recommendation is start your adventure off by heading to the Portland Visitor’s Center. Located in the heart of downtown, it’s a great way to begin your stay.

Best way to learn about Portland:

Best Of Portland Sightseeing Tour

Best way to have a beer and see a ghost:

Haunted Pub Tour

Best place for a stroll:

Downtown Portland

Best way to keep Portland Weird:

Old Town

Best place for a picnic:

Washington Park

Best place to find dinner:

Pine Street Market

Can’t miss it:

Portland Japanese Gardens

Best place for a selfie:

Mill’s End Park, the world’s smallest park

DAY 13: Down the Oregon Coast

2.5 hours

Before you leave Portland, the coffee capital of the country, try to grab a cup at the famous Stumptown Roasters. Next, you will begin to wind your way down the coast of the state. Unlike the summery beaches of California, the coastline in Oregon is windswept, rugged and often quite chilly, even in the summer. The effect, though, is incredibly dramatic and picturesque. You will see strange geologic formations poking through the water, tree-lined hills descending into waves and, if you’re lucky, teams of sea lions lounging on the sand. Start your coastal drive by driving west from Portland to Tillamook (home of the eponymous cheese) and drive south from there. You’ll drive through a number of towns, some of which are worth stopping in and some of which are not. A place to spend the night would be Newport, home to the Sylvia Beach Hotel, which has rooms decorated according to the styles of famous authors.

Best photo opportunity:

Haystack Rock-Cannon Beach

Best seafood straight from the ocean:

The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster-Bay City

Best forest stroll:

Tillamook Forest Center

Best lighthouse stroll:

Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge

Best place to watch the sunset:

Netarts Bay

Best local brew on the beach:

Pelican Brewery and Tap Room

DAY 14: From the Pacific to the Crater

hidden treasures

4 hours

You will continue your drive down the coast – make sure to check out the towns of Yachats, Heceta Beach and Florence – until you get to Coos Bay. This will be a good place to grab lunch before you drive inland again. Your next destination is the majestic Crater Lake National Park, about four hours east of Coos Bay. Once you arrive, you will be stunned by Crater Lake. It is unbelievably picturesque. A magnificent body of water within a the crown of a defunct volcano, the lake is the deepest in the United States and one of the most pristine on the planet. There is hiking to be found around the perimeter, but the best activity to do is to drive around the circumference of the crater and take in the views.

Can’t miss it:

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Best place to people watch:

Newport Historic Bayfront

Best place for seafood:

Local Ocean

Best scenic drive:

Rim Drive

Can’t miss it:

Sinnott Memorial Observation Station

Best place to swim/cliff jump into Crater Lake:

Cleetwood Cove

DAY 15: To the Golden Coast of California

4.5 hours

From Crater Lake, you will work your way south into California, with San Francisco as your eventual destination. There is a lot of ground between here and there, though, with plenty of fantastic sights to take in. The first of these is Lassen Volcanic National Park, home to the largest “plug dome” volcano in the world and the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Range. There is a lot of neat geologic activity to look at while you’re here: hot springs, mud pots and stinking fumaroles are all around. There are also many hikes to be found, as while as boating and scenic day drives. From Lassen, head west to Crescent City, California to stay for the night. Take some time to visit Redwood National Park as well. This is a smaller park, but there are miles of trails to hike in the splendor of these cathedral-like trees and the spectacular coast. A great place to start your visit would be the Hiouchi Visitor Center. This will give you all the maps and brochures, as well as some friendly advice from the park’s rangers that you need to make the most of your visit.

Best place to watch sea lions:

Crescent City Harbor

Best hike:

Simpson-Reed Trail

Best tide pools:

Damnation Creek

Best spot for a picnic:

Pebble Beach

Seafood right off the boat:

Crescent City Crab Shack

Best breakfast burrito:

Gordi Bros.

DAY 16: a tour of Wine country

hidden treasures

3.5 hours

No trip to Northern California is complete without visits to the wine country of Napa Valley and the rolling hills of Sonoma County. Though only a short drive from the bustle of San Francisco, these regions feel genuinely rural, with their beautiful farmlands, forested hillsides and charming towns. Begin in the Napa and do any shopping that you’ve been missing over the past few days. The town attracts many luxury travelers, so you will be able to find whatever you’re looking for, from designer furniture to sleek new clothes. The main attraction of the region, however, is the surrounding world-famous wine country. There are many vineyards to be found around the town, so you can follow your nose to whichever ones look interesting. Your next stop for the day is Sonoma and you will see many vineyards between the two towns. (You have more driving to do today, though, so don’t visit too many in one afternoon…) Wandering around the idyllic country roads in a car is one of the main draws of the area, so feel free to get a little lost on purpose.

Best of Napa:

Napa Wine Train

Best hike:

Find a waterfall

Can’t miss it:

Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

Best place for a stroll:

Sonoma State Historical Park

Best place for dinner:

The Girl and The Fig

Best breakfast burrito:

Los Arcos

DAY 17: San Francisco

1.5 hours

Your final segment of this road trip will begin by your driving down the 101 and over the landmark Golden Gate Bridge. (It is a wise idea to park in the lot at the north end of the bridge before crossing into the city, so that you can take a leisurely stroll and take photos at the bridge before getting sucked into the stream of traffic just on the other side of the bay.) You will end your time on the West Coast in San Francisco, one of the region’s truly world-class cities. There are an unbelievable amount of activities to fill your time in this famously photogenic hilly city. Many of them you likely already know: the Painted Lady houses, Alcatraz Prison, Lombard Street, North Beach, Chinatown, the Embarcadero. Those are all great and worth your time, but make sure you save room for the more hidden neighborhoods, those less-traveled by tourists, like the Mission, the Richmond, Nob Hill and the beachy Outer Sunset. Getting around the city by MUNI (bus) or BART (subway) is much easier than driving, so be sure to find a long-term parking lot to leave your car in.

Best place for a stroll:

Union Square

Best SanFran experience:

Cable Car Tour

Can’t miss it:

Alcatraz

Best place for an evening out:

China Town

Best place for seafood:

Anchor Oyster Bar

Best view of the Golden Gate Bridge at night:

Crissy Field

Best place to hike:

Muir Woods

Crookedest street in the world:

Lombard Street

Classic SanFran Neighborhood:

Haight-Ashbury

Best view of the city at night:

Coit Tower

Can’t miss it:

Palace of Fine Arts

Best night out:

The Castro District



National Parks and a Southwest Road Trip

National Parks and a Southwest Road Trip

The Great American Road trip awaits you as you travel across some of the most beautiful landscapes the American West has to offer. This trip will take you from the Golden Coast to the Shining Desert with nothing but adventures along the way.


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
Florian

States: 
California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah

Start/End: 
San Francisco, California

Total miles:
2,550

Suggested days: 
At least 20

Type: 
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Year-round

Overview

This trip is one of our favorites, and it offers a great first impression of America’s national parks. Nine iconic “desert parks” in California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Arches, along with the famous Monument Valley, color the landscape of the American Southwest with beauty and are sure to leave you feeling amazed, inspired, and maybe even like the star of your own Western movie! We have even included several small Western towns we believe are worth seeing, and some large cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, in order to help provide you with a complete picture of this region.

How to Prepare

We recommend 3 weeks for this trip, in order to ensure you have plenty of time to visit every national park, Western town, and city on the itinerary. Though some days will require more than 5 hours of driving time, each one will present a spectacular opportunity to explore part of the American Southwest. If you have more time, we have included suggestions of where to stay an extra day.

DAY 1: arrival in San Francisco

1.5 hours/72 miles

Arrive at San Francisco International Airport, pick up your rental car and enjoy San Francisco, world famous for its skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. We recommend choosing a hotel that is convenient to the airport location, given that you might be exhausted coming in.
But if you are not too tired to explore, discover Fisherman’s Wharf for an unforgettable waterfront dining experience, where you might even befriend some local sea lions!

DAY 2: San Francisco to Yosemite

4 hours/175 miles

You will probably wake up early, so take advantage of this and start your great American National Park trip! If you’re sad to leave San Francisco, don’t worry: you will return at the end of your trip, when you’ll have plenty of time to discover the city and do your shopping. You can drive from the airport toward downtown San Francisco, take Interstate 80 East over the Bay Bridge, then head further east on Interstate 580 through Oakland toward Stockton. Hwy 120 will then take you straight into Yosemite National Park. When you arrive at the park entrance, go first to Yosemite Valley to explore Yosemite Falls and the famous rock climbing mountain, El Capitan. If you want to camp, you’ll find the best campsites either in the valley or higher up on Hwy 120. You can also stay overnight in a hotel inside Yosemite or the nearby town of Mariposa.

Best scenic drive:

Hwy 120

Can’t miss it:

Stoneman Meadow

Grab a bite:

The Majestic

Best photo op:

Tioga pass

Must see:

Valley View

Best hike:

The Mist Trail

DAY 3: Yosemite-Sunrise-Mono Lake

4 hours/130 miles

A highlight of any visit to Yosemite is the glorious sunrise, so get up early and head toward Tioga Pass, which offers many view points where you can watch as the sun illuminates Yosemite Valley. After the sunrise, keep going east to see some small glacier lakes, among them Ellery Lake. Once you are over the pass and reach Highway 395, you will enter into a desert area where you’ll see Mono Lake. If you have extra time (approximately 2 hours), venture out to Bodie to see a very unique “Ghost Town”. After that, head south on Highway 395 and enjoy an incredible scenic drive along the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as you pass the Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort.

Best place to see wildflowers in Mammoth Lakes:

Sky Meadows Trail

Best short hike:

Rainbow Falls

Best place to soak your cares away:

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

Best place for dinner:

Nicely’s

Best after hours fun:

T-Bar Social Club

Best place for a swim:

Navy Beach

DAY 4: Death Valley National Monument and Las Vegas

5 hours/289 miles

Start your morning with nice views of Kings Canyon National Park. There is no access into the park from the east side, but the views are stunning! Then head out on Highway 395 further down along the Inyo Wilderness Mountains to Lone Pine, and go west on Hwy 136 and Hwy 190 into the famous Death Valley, home to the hottest point in the United States. Temperatures here can reach up to to 50 degrees Celsius! Given that it is very hot, there are not many activities we recommend, except perhaps a walk on the Sand Dunes and a stop at Zubriskie Point. Badwater, the lowest point in the United States at 85m below sea level, is also worth a visit. From here, follow Hwy 190 toward Pahrump and then enter Las Vegas. We recommend staying on the Las Vegas Strip to get the best glimpse of the city.

Best hike:

Eureka Dunes

Best Photo:

Zabriskie Point

Best drive:

Artist’s Drive

Best historical stop:

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Can’t miss it:

The Milky Way

Best place for after-desert refreshments:

Pahrump Winery

DAY 5: Las Vegas

1.5 hours/77 miles

Las Vegas calls itself “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” and it’s easy to see why. You’ll be entertained simply by walking down the city’s main thoroughfare, the Strip, and witnessing countless local attractions and visitors from around the world! But to make the most of all this city has to offer, we recommend a few specifics. For a delicious American breakfast, we suggest the restaurant “Hash House A Go Go”, but be warned that portion sizes tend to be huge, so sharing with your travel partner is recommended! Lounging by the hotel pool during the day presents an ideal way to cool off from the intense heat, but you have plenty of sightseeing options to pursue in both Downtown Las Vegas and on the Strip if you prefer. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can pay a small fee to travel to the top of the Stratosphere and ride any of the three thrill rides perched high above the city. Farther afield, a short drive will take you to Hoover Dam, an attraction outside of the city that boasts great views of Lake Mead. When dinnertime rolls around, visit the buffet at your hotel for a dining experience unlike any other, where you’re welcome to eat all you can for a flat fee! Las Vegas is famous for its nightlife, so you won’t want to miss it. We recommend that you either attend one of the world famous Cirque Du Soleil shows, or a music concert. If you’d like to partake in some of the gaming Las Vegas is famous for, try Roulette or Black Jack to get a taste of the local culture.

Best tour:

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours

Best place to shoot the sunset:

Skyfall Lounge

Best place to people watch:

The Strip

Best dining experience:

Andiamo Italian Steakhouse

Best buffet in Vegas:

The Wynn Hotel

Best place to stay:

The Luxor

DAY 6: Zion and Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park climbing areas

4.5 hours/245 miles

The next day, get up early and leave Las Vegas behind, following Interstate 15 north toward St. George. Traveling through the spectacular Virgin Canyon will take you right into Utah, known for its national parks, top scenery and the Mormon culture. Take exit Hwy 9 to Hurricane and follow the directions toward Zion National Park, a true gem of America’s national parks that offers many scenic hikes. If you prefer a leisurely hike, you can try the Emerald Pools, but if you are not scared of heights, we recommend the iconic Angeles Landing hike, with incredible views into the canyon. After your hike, continue on Hwy 9 over the pass into Hwy 89. Go north on Hwy 89 until you reach the junction for Hwy 12, which will take you into Bryce Canyon National Park. Follow the signs and enjoy view points in the Dixie National Forest, then enter Bryce Canyon National Forest. We recommend staying overnight at Ruby’s Inn. After sunset, Bryce Canyon National Park offers some of the best views of the stars in the entire country, so go stargazing if you feel inclined; you won’t regret it!

Best photo ops:

Kolob Canyon

Best hike:

The Narrows

Can’t miss it:

The Virgin River

Best place to have lunch:

Benja Thai and Sushi

Can’t miss it:

Queens Garden

Best sunset photo:

Rainbow Point

DAY 7: Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands

5 hours/263 miles

Begin your day by enjoying the view points of Bryce Canyon. We recommend Sunrise or Sunset Point, wherever you can find parking. Take the Queen Victoria Trail that loops with the Navajo Trail, but be sure to bring water and snacks, as this is a long hike down- and uphill! If you have extra time and energy, you can also try the Peekaboo Loop Trail, which is much less crowded and offers incredible views of the Hoodoos. Once you have finished the hike, we recommend stopping at each of the view points on the way to Yovimpa Point. Continue on Hwy 12, passing the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument as you journey to Capitol Reef National Park. This is a smaller park, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with incredible views of the Red Rocks and the Colorado Plateau. A 10-mile scenic drive will ensure you see the best of these. We recommend staying overnight in Capitol Reef, but you may choose to continue to Moab if you don’t have extra time, resulting in additional 4 hours of driving.

Best photo op:

Grand Staircase Escalante

Best hike-Grand Staircase:

Zebra Canyon

Best hike-Capital Reef:

Cassidy Arch Trail

Best point of interest-Capital Reef:

Sunset Point

Best kept secret:

The Orchards at Fruita

Cant’s Miss it:

Fremont Petroglyphs

DAY 8: moab

4.5 hours/274 miles

As you begin to Start your day early and head over to Moab, Utah experiencing the dramatic red colors of the Colorado Plateau. Known as Utah’s National Park Outdoor town, Moab is home to Arches National Park, featuring the iconic Delicate Arch, an astounding natural arch that emerged out of slick red rock! We definitely recommend taking a hike to see it. Then, try a mountain bike adventure on Moab’s famous Slick Rock Trail, or a boat tour on the Colorado River. Canyonlands National Park is one of the best places to mountain bike, so if you are interested in this, we recommend an extra day there. Another must-see in Moab is the Dead Horse Point State Park, an ideal place to stop and take some incredible pictures of the Colorado Plateau.

Best day hike-Arches National Park:

Delicate Arch

Can’t miss it:

Hovenweep National Monument

Best photo op:

Dead Horse State Park

Best taco:

Quesedilla Mobilia

Best kept secret:

Hummer Tour of Moab

Best local brew:

Moab Brewery

DAY 9: monument valley

2.5 hours/166 miles

After breakfast, continue on Hwy 191 toward Blanding and Bluff, then take Hwy 163 toward Monument Valley. This valley is world famous for movie scenes, red rocks, and the endless highway that runs through the desert. The best viewpoints here come just before you enter Monument Valley from the north, looking toward the road and the horizon. When you enter the tribal park, enjoy the view points and connect with Native American history in a respectful way, as you are now in Navajo Nation. Buy local arts and crafts and join an interpretive tour. This is also a great place to go on a horseback ride; ask Goulding Tours for their schedules. When you’re ready to continue your tour, keep going on Hwy 163 entering Arizona toward Kayenta. Take Highway 160 West toward Tuba City, then head South on Highway 90 toward Cameron, Arizona.

Great Coffee:

Moab Coffee Roasters

Can’t miss it:

Monument Valley Safari

Best photo op:

Forrest Gump Point

Shop Ultra Local:

Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise

Eat Ultra Local:

The Fry Bread trucks at Four Corners

Best Scenic Drive:

Desert View Drive

DAY 10: the grand canyon

grand canyon national park

You are now very close to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! For early risers, we recommend experiencing the sunrise from one of the park’s view points (Mather Point is a fantastic one, though you really can’t go wrong if you choose another!), and taking as many pictures as you can! If you plan to be there an extra day, we recommend doing a couple of hiking trails, such as the Hermit Trail (6.5 miles) and the Grandview Trail (6.4 miles). The most iconic backpacking trip is the “Rim To Rim” trail, a full two-day backpacking trip that requires a tent and an overnight stay at the bottom of the Colorado River.

Best day hike:

Bright Angel Trail

Best photo op:

Hopi Point

Experience of a lifetime:

Havasupi Indian Reservation

Grab a bite to eat:

Yavapai Tavern

Can’t miss it:

Horseshoe Bend

Best way to re-align your transformational energy:

Sedona Vortexes

DAY 11: Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park

6.5 hours/408 miles

In the morning after breakfast, drive south on Hwy 64 to Williams, then take Interstate 40 West toward Kingman. You are now officially on the famous Route 66, which was one of America’s first significant long distance highways. As such, it is colored with relics of American history: you will find old gas stations, motels, and small towns like Seligman that might make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the 1950s! If you have extra time, we recommend taking Hwy 66 between Seligman and Kingman for the full experience of this historic route. This unique stretch of highway goes through another Indian Reservation worth seeing. Keep going west on Interstate 40, entering California, until you reach the junction for Hwy 95. Go South on Hwy 95 along the Turtle Mountains Wilderness until you reach Hwy 62. Go West on Hwy 62 until you enter Joshua Tree National Park, a pristine desert area filled with its namesake, Joshua Trees, which resemble a mix between a palm tree and a cactus. Stop at the view points and take pictures of the sunset in the west, then keep going toward Palm Springs and stay overnight there.

Best Coffee:

Creekside Coffee

Best highway ice cream:

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap

Best small town experience:

Kingman, Arizona

Best hike in Joshua Tree:

Barker Dam

Can’t miss it:

The stars in Joshua Tree

Treat yourself in Palm Springs:

Miro’s Restaurant

DAY 12: Palm Springs to San Diego

2.5 hours/140 miles

Right after morning, before it gets too warm, continue west on Interstate 10 toward Interstate 215, then head south until you arrive in San Diego. If you are interested in touring a winery in southern California, you should stop in Temecula, the only known winery area in Southern California, and do one of the wine tastings there. Once you arrive in San Diego, we recommend staying overnight near the Gaslamp district or right by the Pacific Ocean.

Best place for breakfast:

Farm of Palm Spings

Best kept secret:

Temecula Vineyards

Best ghostly experience:

The Whaley House

Go for an ocean swim:

La Jolla Beach

Can’t miss it:

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Treat yourself in San Diego:

The Gaslamp Quarter

DAY 13: SeaWorld of San Diego

2.5 hours/140 miles

Welcome to San Diego, a place where you can relax and the weather is always perfect! We recommend a full day in San Diego and a visit to SeaWorld. Be prepared to get wet at this amusement park dedicated to sea life, but don’t worry: the warm outside temperatures will dry you off in no time! During the evening, we recommend dining along the coastal towns outside of San Diego.

Best place for breakfast:

Breakfast Republic

Can’t Miss it

San Diego Zoo

Best beach town:

Carlsbad

Tour an aircraft Carrier

USS Midway Museum

Best Fish Taco:

Taco Surf Taco Shop

Best kept secret:

The seals at La Jolla Cove

DAY 14: san Diego to Santa Monica

3 hours/150 miles

Welcome to San Diego, a place where you can relax and the weather is always perfect! We recommend a full day in SanToday’s priority? Just enjoy the beautiful southern California coast. With charming beach towns to visit like Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica, this won’t be difficult! After breakfast, take Interstate 5 north along the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Los Angeles. This scenic drive will give you the feeling and vibe of Southern California, with the lush vegetation along the coast and the crazy traffic on the freeways: two things that definitely characterize it! Stop in Oceanside for a quick walk along the coast, then take Hwy 1 past San Clemente, and continue to explore the other towns! Diego and a visit to SeaWorld. Be prepared to get wet at this amusement park dedicated to sea life, but don’t worry: the warm outside temperatures will dry you off in no time! During the evening, we recommend dining along the coastal towns outside of San Diego.

Best viewpoints on the coast:

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Best place to shop:

Fashion Island-Newport Beach

Can’t Miss it:

Venice Beach

Best place for a stroll:

Santa Monica Pier

Best Taco:

Casa Martin

Best place to stay:

Casa Del Mar

DAY 15: Los angeles and Fabulous Hollywood

1.5 hours/50 miles

In the morning, you might consider a quick run along the coast before heading to Los Angeles to see the world famous Universal Studios, where classic films and television shows are brought to vivid life around you, and you might even run into some movie stars! In the evening, check out some iconic Hollywood locations, such as the Kodak Theater and the Walk of Fame, where celebrities have been honored for decades with their names imprinted on glossy stone stars embedded in the sidewalk. During the evening, take Sunset Drive into Beverly Hills, then follow Sunset Drive to head back to Santa Monica.

Best photo op:

The Hollywood Sign from Canyon Lake Drive

Best place to see a celebrity:

The Hollywood Roosevelt

Can’t Miss it:

Rodeo Drive

Best place for a stroll:

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

Best local tradition:

In-n-Out Burger

Best place to shop:

The Grove

DAY 16: Pacific Coast Highway

6.5 hours/350 miles

Start your day early to get the most out of your tour of the Pacific Coast Highway. It is one of the most scenic drives along the coast, but quite a long one, so be prepared! Your first stop should be Santa Barbara, to see the incredible flora and picturesque piers along the coast. Then continue north on Hwy 101, stopping by Gaviota State Park. You could plan to spend an extra night of camping there. Keep going on Hwy 101 toward San Luis Obispo, then take Hwy 1 toward Morro Bay. You can choose to stay overnight in Morro Bay before heading toward Big Sur on the most scenic part of the drive. Or, you can choose to skip Morro Bay and arrive near Big Sur right around sunset, which is the most spectacular time for taking pictures. Enjoy your evening; tomorrow you’ll journey to Monterey.

Best place for a stroll:

Old Mission at Santa Barbara

Best place for a quick snack:

Renaud’s Patisserie

Can’t Miss it:

Bixby Creek Bridge

Best short hike:

McWay Falls Trail

Best restaurant with an ocean view:

The Sierra Mar

Best night out:

Cannery Row

DAY 17: monterEy to san francisco

2.5 hours/120 miles

Monterey is world famous for its bay and a spectacular aquarium, worth spending a half- or full day visiting. After the aquarium, we recommend heading straight toward San Francisco, driving through the Silicon Valley where you can stop by and take a look at the headquarters of Apple, Facebook and Google. Once you arrive in San Francisco, we recommend watching the sunset at the West end of the Golden Gate Park to avoid the tourist crowds. Later on, we recommend eating fish at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Best place for an evening out:

China Town

Best place for seafood:

Anchor Oyster Bar

Best view of the Golden Gate Bridge at night:

Crissy Field

Best view of the city at night:

Coit Tower

Can’t miss it:

Palace of Fine Arts

Best night out:

The Castro

DAY 18: san francisc0

Golden gate bridge, san francisco

Now that you’re back in San Francisco with more time to spare, we recommend exploring in several areas. Start with downtown San Francisco, which is also a famous shopping area, then head over the Golden Gate Bridge and stop on the north side for some view points. Head toward Fort Barry and take the scenic route to Bonita Lighthouse. You will have the best skyline views from there with San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. After that, we recommend visiting the piers, especially Pier 39, which is quite famous for its little shops. Then take the cable car back downtown and head out to Ocean Beach. This is the local beach for San Francisco residents and therefore is not as overrun by visitors. Last but not least, we recommend shopping at the original Levi’s store on Union Square. There are plenty of other shops before you head back home.

Best place for a stroll:

Union Square

Best SanFran experience:

Cable Car Tour

Can’t miss it:

Alcatraz

Best place to hike:

Muir Woods

Crookedest street in the world:

Lombard Street

Classic SanFran Neighborhood:

Haight-Ashbury



National Parks and The High Sierras

National Parks and The High Sierras


#thisismyroute

Prepared by:
James

States:
Nevada, California

Start/End:
Reno, Nevada

Total miles:
958

Suggested days:
At least 8

Type:
scenic road trip

Recommended for: 
First-timers to the United States, honeymooners, photographers, road trippers

Suggested season: 
Spring through Fall

Overview

This route highlights the unbelievable experiences to be had traveling through California and Nevada’s High Sierras region. The High Sierras is known for their magnificent skyline and spectacular landscapes, making it one of the most beautiful physical features of the United States. Biologically, it is home to the largest trees in the world—the giant sequoias. This Road Trip Destination takes you through the heart of the High Sierras, starting and ending in Reno, Nevada. The route takes you through two national parks, a multitude of state parks and urban centers, as well as a little Americana History thrown in for good measure. Along this route you will eat at eclectic restaurants, stay in eclectic hotels and visit some of the single most awe-inspiring wilderness the United States has to offer.

How to Prepare

We recommend at least eight days to encompass all of the possible offerings that are suggested in this itinerary. A lot of distance is covered here, so it would be ideal to think of this as a journey, rather than a destination. (Of course, the drives themselves are wonderfully scenic, so it won’t feel long at all! The journey is the destination, as they say.) Many of the drives are relatively short – many are only around three road hours between stops – while at least two of the drives will take a good portion of your day, so plan accordingly. (These longer drives could be broken up into segments, too.) The weather in the region is generally predictable: somewhat chilly in the early spring, quite hot in the peak summer months, crisp and cool in the fall. In the High Sierras it can occasionally snow in the later fall months, so pack intelligently. This trip could be done almost any time of year, but possible heavy snow in November through February can make driving in those more mountainous areas rather dangerous.

DAY 1: arrival in Reno

high sierras

1 hours/55 miles

As your plane touches down at the Reno/ Tahoe International Airport, you can start getting excited. Your 8-day adventure through the High Sierras is about to begin. The first thing you need to do is rent a car. You are going to need it. The Reno/Lake Tahoe has a few different options for this. About an hour from the airport is the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. A confirmation will have been sent to your email when you booked this. Once you get unpacked and settled get ready to spend some time on the water. 10 minutes from the hotel is the Zephyr Cove Resort where you can take a scenic sightseeing cruise to Emerald Bay aboard the M.S. Dixie II. You will need to book this cruise in advance. This cruise will take you on a two and half hour cruise across Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay. Hitting dry land again, it’s time to lose those sea legs. A quick 45 minute trip from Zephyr Cove Resort is Emerald Bay State Park. Seeing Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay from above is a great way to finish off your first day in the area. Hiking trails, picnic
shelters, wildlife viewing, and museums are only scratching the surface of the number of things to do at Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay.

Best place for photo ops:

Emerald Bay

Best place to stock up on gear:

The Shops at Heavenly Village

Best place to watch the sunset:

Desolation Wilderness

Best short hike:

Eagle Falls

Go for a swim:

Kings Beach

Best place for dinner:

The Boathouse at South Tahoe

DAY 2: Calaveras Big Trees State Park

high sierras

4 hours/175 miles

Well rested and ready for action, your first stop on Day 2 should be the Tahoe Adventure Company. Pick your poison; mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing or specially customized adventures. Any reservations for bikes should be made at least an hour in
advance, as they have a limited supply. Thirst for adventure not yet whetted, a three-hour scenic drive from Tahoe Lake Resort is the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This state park has plenty of activities for everyone, but the spectacular South Grove is well worth a visit. This five-mile hike takes you through a grove of giant sequoias in their natural setting. The scenery and the chance for reconnecting with nature are second to none. One hour away from Calaveras is the Groveland Hotel. Located in Tuolumne, this historic hotel is based close to Yosemite. Get checked in and get ready for dinner. There are many options in the area but we would recommend the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest continually operated saloon in California.

Best short hike:

South Grove

Can’t miss it:

Pioneer Cabin Tree

Go for a swim:

The Rainbow Pools

Interesting Americana:

Chinese Camp

Best place to grab a bite:

Charlotte Bistro and Bar

Best place to enjoy a California vintage:

Yosemite Cellars

DAY 3: Sequoia National Park

4.2 hours/201 miles

Day three is train day, of course! A short two and half hour drive from Tuolumne is the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Founded in 1965, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad takes passengers on an hour-long ride through mountains where lumberjacks felled mighty trees and flumes carried lumber from the mountains to the valley below. After your ride through history, it’s back in the car again for a two and half hour drive to Sequoia National Park. Before entering the park, though, we recommend a quick bite to eat. Try the Pita Kabob in Visalia. Exploring Sequoia National Park is one of those lifetime experiences you won’t forget. Walking beneath those cathedral-like trees will install within you a sense of child-like wonder. Of course, there is so much to do in Sequoia, but no trip would be complete without a visit to General Sherman, the
world’s largest tree. After Sequoia National Park, it’s back to Visalia for dinner and a well-deserved sleep. There are plenty of quality hotels for you to choose from. A great place to eat is Cafe 225.

Best photo op:

Moro Rock

Best place to stock up on gear: 

Dick’s Sporting Goods

Can’t miss it:

The General Sherman

Best hike in Sequoia:

The Congress Trail

Best place for a stroll:

Forestiere Underground Gardens

Best morning pick-me-up:

Le Boulevard

DAY 4: Yosemite National Park

high sierras

3.2 hours/139 miles

Today you head to that iconic American park, Yosemite. With its lofty granite summits and the fairy-tale like Yosemite Valley, this scenic drive will render you speechless for its grandeur. Stop at the historic town of Wawona and the Big Trees Lodge for lunch. Located near the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias it is an excellent chance to stretch your legs. After lunch and a bit of a walkabout, it’s an hour drive to Yosemite Valley before heading on to Bishop. Just before entering the Valley you’ll come to Tunnel View one of the most photographed vistas in the world. Once you enter Yosemite Valley, stop and take the free shuttle to the many Valley iconic spot such as Yosemite Falls, Half Dome Village and El Capitan. One and a half hours from the Valley is the unsurpassed Tioga Pass. With views to infinity along the backbone of
Yosemite, this is a great place for photos. Just ten minutes further on is a not-to-bemissed dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli. From here it is another one and a half hours to Bishop. Again, for a place to stay for the night, there are many quality hotels to choose from, but the Vagabond Inn is low-key with many great amenities.

Read more about Yosemite

Read more about Bishop

Best photo op:

Tioga pass

Must see:

Valley View

Best hike:

The Mist Trail

Best place to catch the sunset:

Owens River

Best place for BBQ in Bishop:

Holy Smoke

Best night out:

Rusty’s Bar

DAY 5: Mammoth Lakes

high sierras

1.5 hours/65 miles

Start your day a little slower today with an easy breakfast in town. Try Jack’s Waffle Shop, a local breakfast icon. After your morning fuel, explore Bishop Creek Canyon. A short 20-minute drive from downtown Bishop. Fresh air, granite peaks, pristine lakes, and summer wildflowers, this is a great area to have a quick sabbatical after all your time on the road. From Bishop, plan for a 45-minute drive to Mammoth Lakes. The first thing you will want to do is grab a bite at the Eatery, inside Mammoth Brewing Company. After lunch, head to the Wave Rave, a local snowboard and outdoor shop and rent an electric bike to ride the bike path network in Mammoth Lake Basin. This 5.3-mile paved multi-use path connects the North Village to Horseshoe Lake and passes many popular Mammoth Lakes attractions. Time your bike riding just right so that you can drive 30 minutes to Mono Lake to catch the sunset. Mono Lake is an oasis in
the dry Great Basin and a vital habitat for millions of migratory and nesting birds. Plan to stay the night in Lee Vining. Again, Lee Vining has many places to choose from but the Yosemite Gateway is a fun place with views of the lake. Try dinner at The Mono Inn.

Best place to see wildflowers in Mammoth Lakes:

Sky Meadows Trail

Best short hike:

Rainbow Falls

Best place to soak your cares away:

Wild Willy’s Hot Spring

Best place for dinner:

Nicely’s

Best after hours fun:

T-Bar Social Club

Best place for a swim:

Navy Beach

DAY 6: Bodie State Historical Park

3 hours/143 miles

After breakfast, a great way to truly appreciate the unique geology of Mono Lake is to take the quick drive from Lee Vining to the South Tufa area. The South Tufa area is rich with tufa, which is formed when fresh water springs containing calcium bubble up through the carbonaterich lake water. The South Tufa area has a trail that allows you to walk among these giant spires, some reaching 30-feet tall. After your hike through the eons, we recommend heading back to the Whoa Nellie Deli for lunch. (Yes, it’s just that good) Ready for your ghost walk? Though the likelihood of you seeing a real-life ghost along this walk is not guaranteed, the likelihood of you getting to visit a real-life ghost town is. Just 45 minutes from Lee Vining, Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. This is a fascinating site and offers a great look into the history of the gold rush days, and what happens when the gold runs out. From Bodie head to Truckee for the night. Again, plenty of options for your stay, but we recommend the exquisitely funky and historic Redlight Historic Bunk Hotel and Speakeasy. For dinner, try the Bar of America. The place is as fun as the name suggests.

Spookiest Bodie Secret:

The tombstone of “The Angel Of Bodie”

Best Bodie tip:

Don’t envoke the “Bodie Curse”

Best place for a stroll:

Historic Downtown Truckee

Best eclectic shop in Truckee:

Tahoe Oil and Spice

Can’t miss it:

Martis Peak Fire Lookout

Best beverage at the Redlight:

The Redlight Rita

DAY 7: Donner Pass

34 minutes/33 miles

Get ready to experience one of the most famous and tragic incidents in American History. Located just 9 miles west of Truckee is Donner Pass, named after the ill-fated Donner Party. The Donner Party was a group of American pioneers that set out for California in a wagon train in May 1846. Departing from Independence, Missouri, they were delayed by a series of mishaps and mistakes and spent the winter of 1846–7 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the pioneers resorted to cannibalism to survive. Directly before the pass is the Donner Memorial State Park, which is located on the site where the snowbound emigrants spent that winter. The park contains the Emigrant Trail Museum and the Pioneer Monument dedicated to the travelers of the Emigrant Trail. From Donner Pass, head back through Truckee towards Reno. This is your last day, so it’s time to relax a bit and the Reno Riverwalk District is just the place to do it. Located in the heart of Reno along the Truckee River, this area has plenty of things to keep you entertained. Want to put some money on Lady Luck instead? Reno has you covered. There is any number of sublime casinos in the area, most of which have free shuttles. Since you are flying out tomorrow, we would recommend finding a hotel near the airport, which won’t be hard to do.

Best photo op:

Rainbow Bridge

Best hike:

Milk Lake Trail

Can’t miss it:

Donner Lake Interpretive Trail

Best place to get some Souvenirs:

Reno eNVy

Best steak:

Atlantis Steakhouse

Best night out:

Death and Taxes Provisions and Spirits

DAY 8: Back Home

high sierras

Wave goodbye to the beautiful High Sierra from your plane as you fly back home!