The Ultimate 1-Week California Road Trip Itinerary
Ah, the California road trip. Is there anything that brings to mind the perfect all-American summer like a drive along the Cali coast? There’s more to the drive than simply Los Angeles and San Francisco, though.
Here’s our idea of a perfect week, starting from the south, heading inland to the national parks and hitting the Bay Area and iconic seaside cities. The best part? You can stop wherever your heart desires for an ice cream, fish taco or photo op.
Day 1: San Diego
Starting in San Diego, your first day is for exploring the famous zoo (for animal encounters), gorgeous Balboa Park (for Spanish-style architecture and gardens) or the charming Gaslamp Quarter (for nightlife). Just north of the city, you can find La Jolla Cove with tide pools and your first view of the rocky coast.
Day 2: Los Angeles
It’s a short two-hour drive to Los Angeles on your second day in California. Once you’ve made it through the typical traffic, that’s enough time to explore the Santa Monica pier, spot the Hollywood sign and find somewhere glamorous to dine on a palm-tree lined patio.
Day 3: Death Valley National Park
You’ve got a four-hour drive on Day 3 in order to make it to the hottest spot in the U.S. — Death Valley. There are several easy day hikes under four miles, meaning you can drive another couple of hours through Sequoia National Park before stopping for the night.
Day 4: Yosemite National Park
Day 4 is dedicated to Yosemite National Park. While you might be tempted to dive deep into the 750 miles of trails in the park, we’d suggest sticking with a nice six-mile hike to Yosemite Falls. But if you’re feeling more ambitious, the trail to El Capitan is just over nine miles.
Day 5: San Francisco
You’re headed to San Fran (a two-hour drive) on your fifth day, where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and wander through the accompanying park. You have more sight options than time in S.F., so choose carefully between Fisherman’s Wharf (for sea lions and seafood), Chinatown (for Chinese food and shopping) and Haight Ashbury (for hippie vibes).
Day 6: Monterey
Four hours south of San Francisco — through some of the most beautiful highway miles you’ve ever seen — you’ll find stunning views, wineries and even whale watching in Monterey Bay. This is the famed Pacific Coast Highway that people dream of, so you’ll want to soak it up slowly.
Day 7: Santa Barbara
Your last day is a chill day in uber-relaxed Santa Barbara. It’s a four-hour drive from Monterey, but once you’re there, it’s all surfing, shopping, snacking on seafood and sipping on craft beer. What a life.