California Highway Journey: A 21-Day Urged Itinerary

An open road in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
Posted: 7/2/2020 | July 2nd, 2020

California. It’s the third-largest state within the nation and residential to over 40 million folks and a spread of environments and landscapes: dense forests within the north, rugged mountains within the east, majestic deserts within the south, world-class seashores on the coast, and the fabulous wine areas on the coast and central valley.

And it’s good for street journeys.

I’ve already outlined an superior seven-day itinerary for Southern California, however right now I needed to share an extended, extra complete route for anybody who has just a few weeks to discover extra of the state’s cities and landscapes.

Even with three weeks, you’ll nonetheless miss plenty of nice spots on this state (I imply you can spend months touring California) however this recommended itinerary hits a few of my favourite main — and never so main — locations.

Days 1–3: San Francisco

The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
San Francisco is among the most recognizable cities within the US. House to hippies, yuppies, techies, college students, and a sizeable immigrant neighborhood, it’s a vibrant and various metropolis. It’s an eclectic vacation spot to go to. Right here’s a listing of some of my favourite matters to see and do:

  • Stroll the Golden Gate Bridge – When it opened, it was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge, stretching some 4,200 toes. It provides unimaginable views of the bay and the ships coming and going. You may stroll throughout it too.
  • Tour Alcatraz – Alcatraz is among the most notorious former prisons within the nation. It housed a number of the nation’s worst criminals, akin to Al Capone. At the moment, it’s a nationwide landmark the place you may take excursions of the jail, step foot within the cells, and find out about its historical past.
  • Go to the Beat Museum – Devoted to the 1950s Beat Era, this distinctive museum homes unique manuscripts, uncommon books, letters, and extra from authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It additionally holds common occasions, so test the web site to see if something is occurring throughout your go to.
  • Take a meals tour – San Francisco is understood for its foodie tradition. If you wish to forged a large culinary web and take a look at plenty of totally different cuisines and dishes, think about taking a meals tour. Some corporations to take a look at are Wild SF Excursions, Secret Meals Excursions, and TasteBud Excursions.
  • Discover Chinatown – When immigrants from China first got here to America, many arrange store in San Francisco. At the moment, within the greatest Chinatown within the U.S., you’ll discover a number of the greatest Chinese language meals within the nation, in addition to fantastic teahouses, bars, memento stalls, and fortune cookie makers.
  • Calm down at Golden Gate Park – This gigantic park a terrific place to stroll or loosen up. It includes a Japanese backyard, museums, an arboretum, a carousel, and lots of mountaineering and strolling trails. It’s 20% larger than New York’s Central Park so that you simply might spend a complete day right here!

For extra strategies, right here’s an in depth checklist of matters to see and do in San Francisco.

The place to Keep

  • HI San Francisco – Downtown – HI Downtown has some customary perks, like free breakfast and free towels, however the employees additionally manage plenty of occasions, together with pub crawls, journeys to Muir Woods and Yosemite, and bike excursions throughout the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Inexperienced Tortoise Hostel – This full of life hostel is my favourite within the metropolis. It provides free breakfast, free dinners a number of instances per week, and even a free sauna! It’s a celebration hostel, so make sure you keep right here provided that you’re seeking to meet folks and get rowdy.

For extra strategies, right here’s a full checklist of my favourite hostels in San Francisco!

Day 4: Large Sur

The rugged coasts and blue waters of Big Sur, California
On the coast simply over two hours south of San Francisco is a 90-mile expanse of gorgeous views and large redwoods referred to as Large Sur. There are many lovely seashores, mountaineering trails, viewpoints, and campgrounds in case you need to keep in a single day (which I like to recommend). It’s one of the crucial lovely stretches of craggy, unspoiled shoreline within the state, so take your time exploring as you head south.

The place to Keep
I recommend staying not less than one evening round Large Sur (or simply south of the area) to separate up the drive to LA. If you happen to don’t have tenting gear, Airbnb has plenty of locations across the space. You may also simply pop into any of quite a few low-cost motels within the space too.

Days 5–7: Los Angeles

The picuresque Santa Monica beach and ferris wheel
Although I hated it after I first visited, I’ve come to like Los Angeles. It’s not a “vacationer” metropolis: all the things is unfold out and there aren’t many points of interest as you’d anticipate. However, in the event you come to LA and drift like a neighborhood, you’ll see why folks find it irresistible a lot. This can be a metropolis the place you eat, drink, hike the various trails within the space, and linger in a coffeeshop.

Listed below are some strategies on the best way to fill your days:

  • Hit the seaside – Venice Seaside is an iconic LA hotspot the place you’ll encounter all types of avenue performers, surfers, rollerskaters, and each locals and vacationers alike absorbing the solar. Different seashores price trying out are Carbon Seaside, Santa Monica State Seaside, Huntington Metropolis Seaside, and El Matador.
  • See the Le Brea Tar Pits – Situated in Hancock Park, these pure asphalt pits have existed for over 50,000 years. Tons of fossils preserved for hundreds of years have been discovered within the pits, and there’s a museum close by that has a lot of fascinating details about them and the way they got here to be.
  • See the Hollywood Signal – You may snap footage of the signal from just about wherever in Hollywood. Nevertheless, it’s additionally doable to hike as much as the signal itself to absorb the view. The three trails that you could take (from best to hardest) are the Mt. Hollywood Path, the Brush Canyon Path, and the Cahuenga Peak Path. Carry water, as a result of the hike will take just a few hours.
  • Go to LACMA – House to some 150,000 works, the LA County Museum of Artwork is the most important artwork museum within the western USA. They’ve collections from just about each period all through historical past and each area of the world. Admission is $25 USD.
  • Go to The Final Bookstore – That is one among my favourite bookstores on the earth. It additionally sells information, has artwork shows, and includes a cool upstairs space with low-cost used books. Browse the cabinets, seize a espresso, and purchase a ebook on your journey.
  • Stroll down Hollywood Boulevard – Don’t miss the Stroll of Fame (the place celebrities have their names engraved within the sidewalk) and Grauman’s Chinese language Theatre (that includes celebrities’ handprints and footprints).
  • Go to the Getty Museum – This artwork museum opened in 1997 and boasts a various assortment work, manuscripts, drawings, and different art work. The gathering runs from the eighth century to the current day, so there’s something for everybody. Admission is free.
  • Go mountaineering – Get out and stretch your legs on the town’s mountaineering trails. Some price trying out are the Charlie Turner Path (90 minutes), Baldwin Hills (30 minutes), Runyon Canyon (45 minutes), Portuguese Bend Reserve (Three hours), and Echo Mountain (3-3.5 hours).
  • Go to The Broad – This modern artwork museum is among the metropolis’s latest. Opened in 2015, it has over 2,000 items of artwork. It additionally has a rotating sequence of short-term exhibitions too (test the web site to see what’s on throughout your go to). Admission is free.

For a for much longer checklist on what to see and do in LA, try my Los Angeles journey information.

Furthermore, the town additionally has innumerable world-class meals choices. Some locations I actually like are Musso & Frank Grill, Dan Tana’s, Meals by Genet, The Butcher’s Daughter, Sugarfish, and Thai Pepper.

The place to Keep

  • Banana Bungalow Hollywood – A laid-back however social hostel that organizes a lot of actions and makes it simple to fulfill folks. If you wish to get together and have enjoyable, that is the place for you!
  • Freehand Los Angeles – This hostel/resort options designer rooms with snug beds, a rooftop pool and bar with wonderful views of the town, a foyer bar, a restaurant, and even a health heart.

For extra strategies, right here’s a listing of my favourite hostels in Los Angeles.

Days 8–9: San Diego

The wide, white-sand Pacific Beach near San Diego, California
San Diego, simply two hours down the coast, has simply as a lot to supply. It’s simpler to navigate (it’s smaller), the climate is at all times good, the seashores are higher, and it’s cheaper too. After LA, it’s my favourite metropolis within the state. Spend a day or two absorbing the town.

Listed below are some strategies for matters to see and do throughout your go to:

  • Go to the usMidway Museum – This plane service, commissioned proper after World Battle II, was the most important ship on the earth till 1955 and noticed motion in quite a few conflicts, together with Vietnam. It was decommissioned in 1992 and have become a museum. You may discover the flight deck in addition to most of the rooms under.
  • Hike Level Loma – That is the peninsula the place Europeans first arrived in California. Stroll out to the tip and benefit from the serene views, go to the lighthouse (inbuilt 1855), and watch locals climb the rocks and cliffs of Osprey Level.
  • Go to the San Diego Zoo – This is among the greatest zoos within the nation. Situated in Balboa Park (see under), it has over 3,500 animals and 700,000 plant species. It’s a large, 1,800-acre park the place you can simply spend a complete day. If you happen to’re touring with youngsters, don’t miss it.
  • Discover Balboa Park – Along with the zoo, Balboa Park additionally provides dozens of museums in addition to strolling paths, sports activities fields, gardens, greenhouses, stadiums, theatres, and far more. It’s one of many oldest leisure parks within the nation.
  • Take pleasure in Pacific Seaside – If you wish to take in the solar, swim, or surf, head to Pacific Seaside. If you happen to’re an evening owl, the realm additionally has a lot of bars, golf equipment, and eating places too.
  • Go whale watching – California grey whales, which might develop as much as 49 toes and dwell for over 70 years, migrate from Alaska to Mexico every year between December and April. They’re unimaginable to see up shut, and excursions are fairly inexpensive (normally round $35 USD).
  • Calm down in Belmont Park – This can be a kitschy amusement park proper subsequent to the ocean. It has just a few traditional rides, in addition to video games and plenty of greasy (and scrumptious) snacks. It’s tacky however enjoyable!
  • Log on – Whether or not you’re a veteran or a beginner, seize a board and hit the waves. There’s some superior browsing right here. You may normally lease a board for round $30 USD a day. Classes value round $70 USD and final 90-minutes.

The place to Keep

  • HI San Diego – HI San Diego organizes a lot of occasions and excursions that make it simple to fulfill different vacationers. They embrace free breakfast and still have an enormous kitchen so you may cook dinner your individual meals to save cash.
  • ITH Journey Hostel – That is an eco-friendly hostel with a vegetable backyard (visitors get free veggies), a recycling and compost program, and even yard chickens. There may be a lot of out of doors widespread area to loosen up in too.

If you happen to’re on a price range, right here’s a listing of the most effective hostels in San Diego for you.

Days 10–12: Joshua Tree Nationwide Park

The beautiful and unique Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park, California
Situated slightly below three hours from San Diego and sandwiched between the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, that is the place you’ll discover the enduring Joshua bushes (Yucca brevifolia), twisted multibranched bushes. Towering boulders dot the arid panorama and swaths of cacti poke up from the exhausting dust. It’s an otherworldly place good for mountaineering, tenting, and escaping the busy cities alongside California’s coast.

The park was declared a nationwide monument in 1936 and designated a nationwide park in 1994. There are plenty of trails right here, so seek the advice of the path map whenever you go to. A few of my favorites are:

  • Barker Dam Path – A fast 1.1-mile loop on which you’ll be able to see wildlife akin to rabbits, bighorn sheep, and all types of birds.
  • Wall Avenue Mill – A simple 2.8-mile hike that results in an previous mill used to refine ore from close by gold mines.
  • Ryan Mountain – A steep 3-mile hike providing some unimaginable views.
  • Break up Rock Loop – A quiet 2-mile hike with a lot of neat rock formations.

A seven-day car move for the park is $30 USD (it permits a number of entries in case you keep in one of many close by cities).

The place to Keep
Airbnb is the most suitable choice in the event you don’t have your individual tenting gear, though there are additionally glamping and extra rustic choices.

Days 13–15: Sequoia Nationwide Park & Kings Canyon Nationwide Park

The massive redwoods and sequoias in Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia Nationwide Park, established in 1890, is the place you’ll discover the most important single-stem tree in all the world. Named “Basic Sherman,” this large sequoia tree stands a whopping 275 toes tall and has a diameter of 25 toes (that’s a 103-foot circumference). It’s so large that one among its branches is greater than virtually each single tree east of the Mississippi.

Begin your go to on the Big Forest Museum to study concerning the historical past, geography, and significance of the park and its wildlife. Afterward, stroll the Large Timber Path, a brief loop that can get you in and amongst the bushes so you may see them up shut.

For a sweeping view of the forest and surrounding panorama, hike up Moro Rock, a large 250-foot granite dome that juts out of the encircling hills and forest. Stairs and a concrete viewpoint had been constructed into the rock itself, so you may safely climb to the highest and benefit from the magnificent vista.

And for extra mountaineering choices and exquisite surroundings, go to close by Kings Canyon Nationwide Park. Right here you’ll discover “Basic Grant” (the third largest tree on the earth). For a scenic drive, cruise alongside the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.

Each parks are round 4-6 hours from Joshua Tree.

The place to Keep
There are tons of locations to camp right here (each inside and outdoors of the parks). Nevertheless, there are additionally a lot of lodges and accommodations if tenting just isn’t for you. has the most effective checklist of all of them.

Days 16–18: Yosemite Nationwide Park

The beautiful scenery of Yosemite National Park, California
Situated within the Sierra Nevada mountain vary two hours from Sequoia Nationwide Park and encompassing almost 750,000 acres, Yosemite is among the most iconic nationwide parks within the nation. It’s the place you’ll discover El Capitán, the towering granite cliff you’ve seemingly seen on social media (it was additionally featured within the film, Free Solo). It is among the hottest parks within the US, seeing over 4 million guests every year who take pleasure in mountaineering, biking, climbing, tenting, rafting, canoeing, and kayaking right here.

Listed below are just a few mountaineering strategies that will help you get began:

  • Mirror Lake – A simple 2-mile hike to Mirror Lake. Takes 1-2 hours.
  • Nevada Fall Path – A difficult 5.8-mile hike to the highest of the Nevada Falls waterfall. Takes 5–6 hours.
  • Tuolumne Grove Nature Path – A simple 2.5-mile hike round a grove full of huge large sequoia bushes. Takes 1–2 hours.
  • Elizabeth Lake Path – A average 4.8-mile hike that results in Elizabeth Lake, a glacier-carved lake on the base of Unicorn Peak. Takes 4–5 hours.
  • Eagle Peak Path – A tough 6.9-mile hike to the highest of Eagle Peak and again. Takes Eight hours.

Be sure you go to the customer’s heart on arrival to get info on actions, costs, and knowledge on the most recent climate.

The place to Keep
If you happen to aren’t planning to camp, there are literally many different choices right here. Lodges, resorts, and accommodations will be discovered each contained in the park and throughout it. Use Airbnb or to discover a place to remain.

Days 19–20: Napa Valley

A hot air balloon floating over vineyards in Napa Valley, California
Lastly, head northwest to Napa Valley, one of many world’s premier wine areas, and finish your journey stress-free at a winery. Napa is simply over three hours from Yosemite and provides a plethora of world-class wine and meals to take pleasure in.

Whereas it’s a very costly area of the state, it’s doable to go to Napa Valley on a price range in the event you plan forward and share prices with different folks.

If you happen to’re on a price range, follow the markets and sandwich retailers. Gott’s Roadside has areas in each Napa and St. Helena and serves scrumptious burgers for underneath $10 USD, whereas Advert Hoc runs a scrumptious meals truck providing fried rooster made by a Michelin-star chef for $15 USD with sides.

Whereto Keep
Whereas some vineyards supply lodging, they’re normally tremendous costly. Until you’re seeking to splurge, use Airbnb. I discover the most effective worth lodging within the space on that website.

Day 21: Again to San Francisco

It’s time to go again to San Francisco. The drive is round 90 minutes, so that you’ll have loads of time to make stops alongside the way in which in the event you see something that piques your curiosity.


This three-week itinerary will assist you cowl plenty of floor with out being too rushed. Modify the route as you go (or based mostly on the period of time you’ve got). However, regardless of the route you choose, the range and fantastic thing about California will make sure you’ll have a beautiful street journey.

E book Your Journey to the USA: Logistical Ideas and Methods

E book Your Flight
Discover a low-cost flight by utilizing Skyscanner or Momondo. They’re my two favourite search engines like google and yahoo as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe so that you at all times know no stone is left unturned.

E book Your Lodging
You may ebook your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep elsewhere, use as they constantly return the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and low-cost accommodations.

Don’t Overlook Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you towards sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many instances prior to now. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite corporations that provide the most effective service and worth are:

In search of the most effective corporations to save cash with?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective corporations to make use of whenever you journey! I checklist all those I exploit to save cash after I journey – and I believe will assist you too!

Need Extra Info on touring the US?
Be sure you go to our strong vacation spot information to the US for much more recommendations on the best way to plan your go to!

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