The Ultimate 4-Week California Road Trip Itinerary

Embarking on a California road trip is a journey of a lifetime. Discover everything this unique state has to offer from breathtaking National Parks, to white sandy beaches, rugged coastline, and the world’s tallest trees. Planning on escaping to the Cali coast? Check out our ultimate 4-week itinerary…

 

Stop One – San Francisco (3 nights) 

San Francisco makes for a great starting point for your road trip, the high volume of flights means you can generally bag a return for under £600, and even less if you hold out for sales and offers. It also provides a great first stop in the loop we’re about to take you on, not to mention it’s a fantastic city to explore with tonnes of sights to see and things to do! Once you’ve beaten the jet lag and filled up on the hotel breakfast buffet, head out and embrace all this city has to offer. We always feel that San Fran is a city of two halves, you’ve got the tech-city high rise buildings in the centre, and then the cute Pier 39 with a more vintage, historic feel. While you’re in San Francisco be sure to make visiting Alcatraz Island a priority in your itinerary, if you love a prison documentary like us, you’ll love Alcatraz, If not, you’ll still love it anyway! The night-time tours sell out fast though so be sure to book in advance.

Make sure you visit:The Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Union Square, Twin Peaks, Alcatraz

Top tip: Pack your hiking boots and set off early for a sunrise view of the city from Twin Peaks

 

Stop Two – Yosemite National Park (3 nights)

One of the most inspiring and naturally beautiful destinations on the planet, Yosemite National Park. The drive from San Francisco to Yosemite is not for the faint hearted. Especially as you wind your way up the mountains in an RV which feels like the width of the road with no barriers to save you. Oh, the memories! Once you’ve safely made it to your campsite, you can enjoy all that this incredible National Park has to offer. The ‘official’ campsites sell out very quickly, and are quite tricky to secure but don’t let that put you off because there are tonnes of amazing sites scattered outside of the official National Park grounds that are just as beautiful.

Make sure you visit: The Mirror Lake trail

Top tip: Get to the park entrance early, and if you’re planning on jumping on one of the bus services into the park, set your alarm as these can fill up super-fast 

Stop Three – Sequoia National Park (2 nights)

Sequoia doesn’t get quite as much attention as Yosemite, but it’s definitely not to be missed. Approximately three hours south, you’ll stumble upon another area of stunning beauty, and the biggest trees you’ll ever see in your life. No really, Sequoia is home to the world’s biggest tree. General Sherman! Get your camera at the ready, there’s endless opportunities for the gram.

Make sure you visit: River view restaurant, a classic-American feeling bar/restaurant popular with biker crews and with views of the rapids

Top tip: Pack for all weather eventualities, we visited in June and the park was covered in snow\

 

Stop Four – Las Vegas (4 nights)

From Sequoia, you can embark on a six hour stretch to Vegas. Technically Nevada, but close enough to squeeze into your California road trip. Las Vegas really is one of a kind, and has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime. It’s a love it or hate it kind of place, and you’ll never truly know how you feel about Vegas until you step foot into this bizarre yet strangely captivating part of America. It’s flash, it’s tacky, it’s weird, but also kind of wonderful.

Make sure you visit: Old Las Vegas, Neon Museum, Arts District, Las Vegas sign, Bellagio Fountains at night, Cirque du Soleil show

Top tip: Don’t pick up a $25 bottle of water in your hotel to have a look. There is in fact a fancy weight mechanism and they will charge you for that bottle as soon as you pick it up. We learnt the hard way with a $75 bill for Fiji water. Can you tell we’re not over it?

Stop Five – San Diego (4 nights) 

San Diego is sorely underrated in our humble opinion, for ultimate cool-girl Cali vibes, this is the place to be. More relaxed than LA but with more going on than Laguna, San Diego is renowned for its cool art scene, amazing beaches, beautiful harbour and green spaces. You can easily fill four nights in San Diego, and we bet you’ll be tempted to stay another with so much to explore and an addictive laid-back, carefree vibe. There are 16 museums in Balboa Park alone, trust us when we say you won’t run out of things to do here.

Make sure you visit: Balboa park, La Jolla, Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado, Pacific Beach, Seaport Village

Top tip: Head by the Gaslamp Quarter at night for the best bars, and stop by Little Italy for a yummy pizza. Civico 1845 offers a great vegan menu

 

Stop Six – Laguna Beach (1 night)

Remember when life was simpler and all you had to worry about was setting Laguna Beach to record? Oh, how we miss the days of Lauren Conrad, Stephen Colletti and Kristin Cavallari. If like us, you’ve been dreaming about Laguna Beach since high school days, you won’t be disappointed. This seven-mile stretch of oceanfront consists of over 30 beaches and coves, with plenty of spots to dip your toes and lay back under the California sunshine. This small coastal city has a high-end chic feel, and just one glimpse into the hills will tell you all you need to know about the residents. How we can dream.

Make sure you visit: Victoria beach

Top tip: Soak up the peace and tranquillity, because LA is coming to get you


Stop Seven – Los Angeles (5 nights) 

Rodeo drive, baby! Los Angeles can feel overwhelming for first-time visitors, the sprawling city can feel a little disjointed but after a day or two, you’ll soon feel at ease in the city of stars. With so much to fit in, you’ll need at least 5 nights to soak it all up. A car is essential, although if you’re not keen on driving around your RV there are plenty of Ubers so getting from A to B is quite easy. If you can, try and split your stay so you can enjoy different areas of the city. West Hollywood is great but after a couple of nights you’ll probably want to escape to somewhere a little calmer. Santa Monica is a beautiful part of LA, with beachfront hotels, trendy bars, restaurants and boutiques.

Make sure you visit: Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Melrose Avenue, Universal Studios, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Venice Canals, The Grove 

Top tip: Be prepared to feel underwhelmed by Hollywood Boulevard, it’s looking quite tired and rough these days but there are so many more amazing places to visit

California 4 week itinerary

Stop Eight – Santa Barbara (2 nights) 

Santa Barbara is where many city folks go to retire when they’ve had enough of LA, or so we were told anyway. It’s not hard to see why either, with beaches that can rival LA and plenty of green spaces, Santa Barbara is a much-needed rest from the crazy buzz of Los Angeles. Wine tasting, shopping, golfing, surfing, eating, wandering, there’s enough to keep you busy for a few days but it is quite pricey here so if you’re looking to save those dollars then look into the various hiking trails for a fun afternoon of exploring. Damn those wealthy retirees.

Make sure you visit: Old Mission Santa Barbara, Inspiration Point, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden 

Top tip: If you’re looking for an RV friendly site with easy access to the highway, Sunrise RV park is great and just a short walk to the main city area

 

Stop Nine – Monterey (1 night)

If you’ve caught an episode of Pretty Little Lies, you’ll know just how pretty the charming coastal town of Monterey is. Think quintessential California beaches, rugged coastline, spectacular ocean views and stunning cliffs. Wine lover? Monterey was named one of the world’s “Top ten wine travel destinations” and if that’s not reason enough to visit…

Make sure you visit: Cannery Row, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Del Monte Beach

Top tip: Enjoy one of the most scenic drives in the world, 17-mile drive, from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach

Stop Ten – Santa Cruz (2 nights) 

As you work your way back up the coast to complete your road trip loop, be sure to stop by Santa Cruz for a couple of days. From the iconic boardwalk to the quirky downtown scene, Santa Cruz is cool, too cool. Fancy a go at surfing? There’s loads of water sports opportunities and lessons, even for the amateur surfer.

Make sure you visit: The Boardwalk and Hula’s Island Grill for amazing Hawaiian food 

Top tip: Head to the boardwalk on Tuesday evening for cut price tickets

Complete the road trip and make your way from Santa Cruz back up to San Francisco for a final night or two before ending the journey of a life time…

 

For more information visit www.vistcalifornia.com

Tilly-Jayne Kidman

Tilly-Jayne Kidman is a freelance blogger and travel writer usually found browsing Skyscanner for the cheapest flights anywhere. A fan of US road trips, European city breaks, and asking "do you have any vegan options?"

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