The best 10-day California road trip itinerary

Imagine yourself on a California road trip, the windows rolled down, on your right the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye can see, on your left, high mountains looming in the distance. 

You're humming California Dreamin' as you breathe in the ocean air. Sound like a dream?

Here's the best 10-day California tour to help you make that dream come true!

Map of California road trip

best california road trip map
Map of the 10-day California road trip

Summary - 10-day tour

Days 1-2 : Los Angeles 

best 10-day tour California Los Angeles
Venice Beach

That's right, your trip to California begins in the City of Angels, Los Angeles

L.A. is an iconic Golden State destination, so you simply must stay there during your 10-day tour. Why not take advantage of your first day here to take in some typical California sights?

Be sure to make a stop at Venice Beach  to see its endless beach, its lively boardwalk and its one-of-a-kind assortment of artists and athletes.

For dinner, go to Abbot Kinney Boulevard , a colourful Venice Beach street where you will find a wide range of dining options.

10-day tour California
Santa Monica Pier

In the evening, make your way to neighbouring Santa Monica 

The area features many small shops and restaurants, as well as the famous Santa Monica Pier .

A small amusement park, the official end of the legendary Route 66 and breathtaking panoramas await.

Visit Los Angeles, California tour
Hollywood Boulevard - Walk of Fame

For your second day in the vibrant city of L.A., immerse yourself in the Hollywood experience!

I recommend taking a Hollywood studio tour, such as the Universal Studios with its World Famous Studio Tour 

This tour offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at sets, special effects and everything related to moviemaking.

To complete your day, spend some time exploring Beverly Hills , home of the stars, or pay a visit to the Griffith Park Observatory for a spectacular view of the city!

Day 3 : Sequoia  (282 km / 2:47)

California tour, USA Sequoia National Park
Giant sequoias in Sequoia National Park

Today you take to the road in your USA rental car, for a complete change of scenery!

It may be but a relatively small protected enclave in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, but Sequoia National Park offers nature on an epic scale

You won't want to miss the park's star attraction, the General Sherman Tree . At 31 metres in circumference and 84 metres tall, it is the largest living organism on the planet and is more than 2200 years old!

A short 800-metre trail leads to the tree and takes about 45 minutes (round-trip).

Giant sequoia trees during a western USA tour
Sequoias seen from the ground

The General is not the only giant in the park! For a close look at other notable trees, take the Congress Trail , which begins near General Sherman. This easy 3.2 km loop takes about 1 hour to complete. 

Another highlight of Sequoia National Park, and probably its best-kept secret, is Crystal Cave , a truly majestic marble cavern.

45-minute guided tours are available. If you'd like to adventure even further into the depths of the cave, talk to a Ranger at one of the Visitor Centers! 

Note: the temperature inside the cave never goes above 10 degrees Celsius, so bring a jacket!


Days 4-5 : Yosemite  (230 km / 2:41)

Best 10-day tour of the American West
Yosemite Valley seen from Tunnel View

No California road trip is complete without a visit to the jewel of American national parks, Yosemite.

Your first stop is sure to be Yosemite Valley , home to most of the park's famous cliffs and waterfalls.

For a sweeping view of what's in store, and to get a photo of the most iconic panorama of Yosemite Valley, go to Tunnel View .

On the right you can see Bridalveil Falls . Straight ahead is the famous 2,307 metre high granite monolith known as El Capitain , while Half Dome  looms in the background.

Yosemite, 10-day tour of the California coast, USA
Half Dome from Glacier Point

I highly recommend taking in the sunset from Glacier Point .

While this lookout offers breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls  at any time, it is even more spectacular at nightfall.

As the valley fades into deepening dusk, the mountain peaks glow shades of pink and red. An unforgettable moment!

If you're still up for it, a short trail leads from the Glacier Point parking lot to a panoramic viewpoint 3,214 feet above Curry Village .

Visit Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Falls

On your second day in this legendary park, you will explore the spectacular Yosemite Falls

A thirty-minute walk along an easy trail will take you to the base of the Lower Fall .

If you're feeling athletic, you can also tackle the epic Yosemite Falls Trail , a 6 to 8 hour hike to the top of the Upper Fall for a view of the falls from above!

For a more peaceful, but exciting, adventure, head to Tuolumne Meadows 

This vast subalpine meadow in the heart of the Sierra Nevada is crossed by the winding Tuolumne River and surrounded by magnificent peaks and domes. It's a wonderful place for a scenic stroll. 


Days 6-7 : San Francisco  (315 km / 3:34)

10 days in California, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge

Today, set a course for San Francisco, a city open to diversity, with a certain European flare. 

Visiting San Francisco in 2 days will require making some choices. Why not start your visit with an overview of what the city has to offer?

In the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood , at the top of the hill of the same name, is the Coit Tower , built as a tribute to the city's firefighters by Lillie Coit.

Go to the top of the 65 metre tower (by elevator, don't worry! :;): emoji) for one of the most spectacular views of San Francisco

To end the day on a high note, take a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge  at sunset!

San Francisco cable car, best time to ride
One of the famous San Francisco Cable Cars

If this is your first time in San Francisco, you will want to take at least one cable car ride .

Plan to do this as the first activity of the day, before 8:30, to avoid the crowds! 

Continue your day at Fisherman's Wharf , a series of piers on the northern waterfront.

The stars of the show can be found at Pier 39 : a small colony of sea lions!

The pedestrian section of the pier also features more than 100 boutiques, a dozen restaurants, and street artists and musicians performing all day long.

Best 10-day California road trip
Fisherman's Wharf

To end your visit on a high note, visit Alcatraz  at dusk

The night tours are especially exciting... and feature the ghosts that haunt the famous prison.

Will you dare? :;): emoji (Tickets must be reserved in advance.)


Day 8 : Monterey  (193 km / 2:01)

10-day trip to California - Highway 1
View of Cannery Row, Monterey

Enjoy your last morning in San Francisco before setting out along Highway 1 , a scenic route along the Pacific coast.

You will quickly see why it is considered by some to be the most beautiful coastal road in the world.

In fact, it is at the top of our list of the 7 wonders of California.

To give you the time to stop along the way, today's destination is Monterey.

17 Mile Drive, California
Pebble Beach on 17 Mile Drive

Monterey is a typical California coastal town. You will be charmed by its picturesque beauty!

I highly recommend the 17-mile drive , a private scenic road through one of the most famous residential neighbourhoods on the west coast.

Be sure to stop at Pebble Beach  in Cypress Point  to see the Lone Cypress , one of the most photographed trees in the world, all alone atop its rocky outcrop.


Day 9 : Pismo Beach  (251 km / 2:32)

Best one-week California tour, see Big Sur
Aerial view of Highway 1

Your tour of Highway 1 continues today towards Pismo Beach, another small coastal town known for its beaches and sand dunes.

Today you will experience the most spectacular section of this legendary highway, between Carmel and San Simeon , via Big Sur . You will want to stop often to take in the views.

To see the most beautiful and largest area of coastal dunes remaining in California, drive about 3 miles south of Pismo Beach, to the Oceana Dunes Natural Preserve .

Road trip on Highway 1 at Pismo Beach
The heart of Pismo Beach at nightfall

In the evening, head to downtown Pismo Beach  for a good meal. There is something for everyone, but the area is particularly known for its seafood restaurants.

For the perfect ending to your day and, at the same time, to your 10-day tour, take a stroll along the beach !


Day 10 : Los Angeles (278 km / 2:55)

West coast USA 10-day road trip
Goodbye California!

That's right - all good things must come to an end! It's already time to make your way back to Los Angeles for your flight home.

You'll return home with your head and heart filled with memories of America. I bet the California breeze will stay with you for a long time to come!

This concludes the best 10-day California tour.

If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to share them below!

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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