The ultimate California road trip

Who has never sung along to California Dreamin’?

It's time to stop dreaming and set out on a journey to discover one of the most beautiful states in the Western U.S.!

Pack your bags, we're leaving on a 2-week tour of California.
 

Road trip map

road trip in California itinerary
Map of the ultimate California road trip

Road trip summary

Days 1-3 : San Francisco 

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Golden Gate Bridge

When we think of a trip to California, San Francisco is always on the do-do list.

This magnificent American city, known for its European style and its great tolerance, is the starting point for your road trip. 

With its distinct neighbourhoods, the "City by the Bay" is not short on diversity and can easily be explored on foot. A ride on the famous cable car, one of the icons of the city, is a must.

Families won't want to miss Fisherman’s Wharf. In addition to the famous sea lions on Pier 39, you will find many boutiques, restaurants et museums.

Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge is another classic activity, and provides access to the best views the iconic bridge has to offer. 

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The Alcatraz prison

Finally, don't leave the city without a tour of Alcatraz, the most renowned high-security prison in the world.

To be sure of making it out to the island fortress, you will need to book your cruise as early as possible, as this is an extremely popular activity.

Days 4-5 : Yosemite  (315 km)

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Yosemite Falls

Let the road trip begin!

You're on your way to Yosemite, the third-largest park in California, where magnificent landscapes await: towering granite cliffs, powerful waterfalls, giant sequoias, and so much more.  

The park's most famous attractions are to be found in the Yosemite Valley section, including the iconic scenic viewpoint known as Tunnel View. The valley is accessible by car and bus year-round.

Families will love the trail leading to the base of Yosemite Falls. An easy 30-minute walk (round-trip) will take you to amazing postcard-worthy scenery!  

Finally, take a drive along winding Glacier Point Road which leads to Glacier Point lookout, where you can enjoy what many consider to be the most beautiful view in the park.  

 

Day 6 : Mammoth Lakes  (164 km)

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Mammoth Lakes

Today, head for Mammoth Lakes, a resort town nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

To get there, take the Tioga Road, a scenic high mountain road that runs through the northern section of Yosemite National Park.

If you have time, take a short detour to Mono Lake, an ancient saltwater lake with spectacular, unique scenery.

Have your camera ready, as you are likely to be met by hundreds of birds!

Once you reach Mammoth Lakes, set out for a fairly easy 4 km round-trip hike on Crystal Lake Trail.

In less than 2 hours, you will find yourself in the heart of the alpine beauty of Crystal Lake with panoramic views of the Mammoth Lakes Basin.

Please note: if your trip takes place between October and May, the Tioga Road will be closed due to snow at high altitudes. You will have to take a detour to the south, which will add several hours to your itinerary.

 

Day 7 : Death Valley  (291 km)

ultimate california road trip
View over Death Valley

This morning, set out to discover the mythical Death Valley.

Despite its morbid name, this mysterious place will charm you with its mountains, canyons, dunes and salt pans.

Enter from the west on Route 190 and head to Dante’s View, a panoramic viewpoint soaring 1670 metres above the valley floor.

Then pay a visit to Furnace Creek, the central point of the park. 

Expect to be hot! The world record highest air temperature of 56.7o Celsius was recorded here in 1913!

Here in the middle desert, you will find restaurants, a visitors' information centre, a museum, a gas station, a hotel, campgrounds and even a small airport. 

 

Days 8-9 : Los Angeles  (391 km)

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Griffith Observatory

Your next destination is the City of Angels.

The city is huge, and it is hard to get around by public transit.

Since there are so many things to do and see, you will be better off taking your car, it will save you a lot of time.

Families, don't miss a visit to Universal Studios

The Studio Tour will give you a behind-the-scenes look at sets, special effects, and everything related to moviemaking.

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Venice Beach

While in Los Angeles, be sure to spend an afternoon in Venice Beach, a rather eclectic seaside resort.

The Venice boardwalk is a colourful show unto itself.

It is frequented by an eclectic mix of musicians, dancers, fitness buffs working out, homeless people, artists, fortune tellers, vendors of all kinds, and more...

 

Days 10-11 : Sequoia Park  (282 km)

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Sequoia National Park

This morning, set a course for Sequoia National Park, in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

Sequoia National Park was created in 1890 to protect the giant sequoia trees from logging. 

You will feel very tiny in this land of natural giants.

The park's main attraction is the General Sherman Tree, the largest living organism on the planet

An easy 800-metre forest trail (round-trip) will take you there in less than twenty minutes. 

 

Day 12 : Pismo Beach  (231 km)

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Pismo Beach main street

Your road trip continues with Pismo Beach, a stopover town where beach activities are the main attraction. 

If you prefer to stay dry rather than swimming, head to Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve, where you will find the largest area of coastal dunes in California.

This state park offers several sand-based activities such as horseback riding and ATV rides in the dunes

Or if you're in the mood for some shopping, head to the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets.

There you will find the biggest brands at low prices.

 

Days 13-14 : Monterey  (252 km)

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Bixby Bridge on Highway 1

Windows down and hair blowing in the wind, today you will drive along a spectacular stretch of the legendary Highway 1

Running along the Pacific coast, considered by some to be the most beautiful coastline in the world, this route offers a real feast for the eyes!

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17-Mile Drive

The following morning, be sure to explore 17-Mile Drive, a private scenic road through one of the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in California. 

If you're looking for the house of your dreams, you'll probably find it here!

Stop at Seal Rock for a picnic and to watch the sea lions, at Cypress Point for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, and finally at Lone Cypress to photograph the famous 250-year-old cypress tree, alone on its rock.

 

Day 15 : San Francisco (193 km)

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San Francisco

Time to return to San Francisco.

Head to the airport and board your flight home.

Your California adventure has come to an end, but you return home with beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. 

Do you agree that this is the ultimate California road trip?

Don't hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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