This California road trip journey is special because as well as going to some important well-known destinations, you will also get to scheme into areas of California unseen to most tourists.
START YOUR CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP IN SACRAMENTO
Have you been searching for California road trip ideas but they all start in LA or San Francisco? Well, why not start in Sacramento? With a great airport and many inbound flights, this is a great place to start your California road trip without having to fight through San Francisco traffic.
Sacramento has its own charm and spirit. Although there are half a million people here what I loved most about it were the small-town vibrations. You’ll find incredible coffee, delicious fresh food and you don’t have to act like an adult.
Sacramento frequently hosts art house exhibitions and bar nights where you have the chance to color in pictures, play superb corpse and do scavenger hunts all while drinking wine! So I guess we are being adults – Just the fun way. Sacramento has stunning, tree-lined streets and beautiful classical architecture.
While I Practically needing to be dragged out of Sacramento .Next stop was Santa Rosa which is part of the famous wine region of Sonoma County. Neighboring the Napa Valley but with prices overall on the more reasonable side. This is a great place to visit for a fancy wine tasting weekend without the price tag.
Make sure you spend at least a night here so you can make the most of the wine tasting and not have to drive. The bartenders are really knowledgeable and you’ll learn a lot about the wines. You can find some great food places here. The biggest trouble with this place is it is set up to keep you here. Don’t get trapped like we did and try some other wineries.
Continue your California road trip south of Santa Rosa to Petaluma and make sure you stop at favorite brewery – Lagunitas. If you love craft beers then Lagunitas should be one of your favourites too. One of the best parts about this taproom is that they have a large variety of beer on tap which isn’t sold in supermarkets. The brewery serves food and has two stages.
A northern California road trip wouldn’t be whole with heading up to Humboldt County on the far northern coastline. While we’ll save the drive along the scenic highway 1 for the return trip see if you can spot this hidden swimming spot along highway 101. Known only by locals and easily accessible it made for a nice break from driving.
Nearby Humboldt State University is the Redwood Park, known for the gracious tree giants, plenty of hiking trails and paths open to bikers and horses. Time it so you get to watch the sunset through the trees while strolling through the dense forest. Spend the morning exploring the rough and jagged coastline of Arcata and visiting the cute town centre.
ARMSTRONG REDWOOD STATE PARK
Heading towards the Armstrong Redwoods. The heavy forest-lined road was covered in dense moss and greens of every hue. It looked like a green fairyland. Being only 20 minutes north-west of Santa Rosa it is easily accessible for a day trip from the Bay Area.
To stay in the Armstrong Redwoods you will need to have your own camping gear. Spend a couple of nights in this enchanting state park and spend your days going on small hikes. The best thing about this campground was the altitude. You sit atop a peak and watch the sunset over peaks of the same height. One of most memorable moments in travels to date.
Continue your California road trip south to Yosemite. While this had always been a bucket list destination of mine, I was always told photos don’t do it justice. Yet seeing these iconic rock formations in person blew me away. They are huge!
Most of the campsites in Yosemite are first come, first serve. So ensure you arrive early in the day. Tip: If you happen to be too late, you can always share a site with someone else if they allow it. I camped at the Bridalveil campground which I would recommend to others. This campsite is close to glacier point for viewing those spectacular California sunsets. I fell so much in love with Yosemite and camping I hope to return for a backpacking trip next spring.
If you are doing your California road trip during the winter check the current conditions to see if the passes are open.
Finishing up my loop and heading back towards Lake Tahoe, I spent a night in Murphys. A small ‘green’ town (a lot of the California weed is produced in this region), and fast becoming a go-to destination for wine enthusiasts. The main street in town boasts plenty of local boutique wine cellars with fine dining and casual eateries.