- Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is where Dr.Seuss got his inspiration for his books. Driving into the park, you can immediately tell why! The rugged rock formations and desert landscapes are unusual and a must see when visiting California. The Joshua Trees themselves are some of the most unique trees you will ever lay eyes on. Grab a tent, your hiking boots, and some friends that are ready to explore this amazing park. It is only a 2.5 hour drive from Los Angeles. Once to the park if you wanted to drive straight through and stop a couple of times, it would take roughly 4 hours so plan accordingly.
2. Yosemite National Park
This is one of the most famous National Parks in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and maybe even the whole of America. It is known for its diverse landscape and wildlife. It is also home to the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls, falling a total of 2425 feet. Some places you cannot miss when visiting Yosemite National Park include the Tunnel View, Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mariposa Grove! Be advised it costs $30/vehicle at the entrance stations and is valid for seven days.
3. Mariposa Grove
This is apart of Yosemite National Park. You must visit Mariposa Grove in order to see the amazing sequoia grove. There are over 500 giant sequoia trees that you can hike around and explore. You do have to take a shuttle bus into the park. It is free and a 15-minute quick ride to where the trails start. There are several trails you can choose to take depending on your fitness level. There is even a wheelchair accessible 0.3 mile trail which takes you right past notable trees such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and California Tunnel Tree. Allow 45 minutes to walk this trail. You don’t want to miss out on seeing some of the largest trees in the world!
4. Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach is located one hour southeast of Los Angeles. The seaside city is famous for the Huntington Beach Pier and is a popular destination for surfers from all around the world. If you feel like shopping for some beach clothes check out Pacific City. This outdoor mall has several clothing stores and restaurants. The beach is the perfect place to watch the sunset while taking epic photos of the pier in the background. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Huntington Beach!
Malibu is located one hour west of Los Angeles. The city is known for being home to several rich and famous people. It has also been the setting of several movies, television programs and music videos. Some beaches to check out on the Malibu coastline include Surfrider Beach, Zuma Beach, Malibu Beach, Topanga Beach, Point Dume Beach, County Line, and Dan Blocker Beach. You must also check out some of the State Parks including Malibu Creek State Park, Leo Carrillo State Beach and Park, Point Mugu State Park, and Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. Malibu is a great place to relax on the beaches and soak in the California sun!
6. Lake Tahoe
If you are looking for a picturesque lake to take your next Instagram selfie at, look no further than Lake Tahoe. The large freshwater lake is located a 4-hour drive from San Francisco. It straddles the border of California and Nevada and is the largest alpine lake in North America. Take a wine boat tour, go skiing, hit up one of the casinos on the Nevada side, or drive down the coast of the lake and admire all of the mansions! You will never get bored of exploring what Lake Tahoe has to offer.
Truckee, California is a cute mountain town that is great to explore in the spring and summer! There are several boutiques, art galleries, and top of the line dining opportunities in the Historical Downtown district of Truckee. If you are wanting to get out into the nature go check out Donner Memorial State Park. During the winter months, the average snowfall total is 200 inches, so it isn’t the best time to travel there unless you have plans to go snowboarding or skiing. It gets very cold so plan accordingly if you do.
8. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park. The desert reserve protects more than 600,000 acres of Southern California. Some must visit places are Borrego Palm Canyon, The Slot, Borrego Springs, Ghost Mountain, and the Ricardo Breceda Sculptures. The area is famous for colorful wildflower blooms, so if you time it right (around April usually), you just might get to see this spectacular event for yourself. The best part is, the State Park is one of the few places left in America where backcountry camping is FREE! Park your car, pitch a tent and stargaze at some of the darkest skies in California. This is thanks to California making it the first and only International Dark Sky Community. This means they demonstrate their commitment to protecting the haven of dark skies around it and have “dark-hours” where outside lights are not allowed to be on.
9. Big Sur
The Big Sur coastline stretches 90 miles along the rugged Pacific Ocean. It is approximately 3 hours from San Fransisco and 6 hours from Los Angeles. Drive down State Route 1 to experience epic cliffside views and a day that you will remember for a lifetime. Some places to stop along the way are Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and the 17-Mile Drive. There are tons of awesome hikes and beaches along the way. One could spend months here exploring the nature.
10. Napa Valley
Calling all wine lovers!!! Napa Valley is the place for you! There are over 400 different wineries to choose from. So no matter if you are a white wine lover or red wine lover, Napa Valley has something for everyone. This is a good day trip from San Fransisco as it is only a 1.5-hour drive. Just make sure to have a designated driver with you! You can easily visit 3-4 wineries in one day. If you don’t want to drive yourself, check out the many winery tour options!