Road trips with close friends often make some of the most cherished and valuable memories. The feeling of freedom offered by getting in a car, pointing it toward your destination and putting your foot down does not compare to many other things in life. Still, it can help to have at least some idea of where you are heading before you set off, especially if you plan to drive around a huge state like California where there are so many things to see and do. Without so much as a basic plan, you might end up missing places that you shouldn’t or even getting into unforeseen logistical problems that might ruin your experience. Before you arrive in the States, however, make sure that you have all the required paperwork sorted out – getting an ESTA visa is much simpler if you go through a reputable visa agency. While there are many possible routes to take on your road trip through the Golden State, read on for some tried and tested road trips that are guaranteed to get you feeling like a modern-day Kerouac.
California Coast – Pacific Coast Highway Route
This classic route will leave you with an unforgettable memory of the incredibly beautiful Californian coast. We recommend that you start your journey in San Francisco. There are various things that you can do before heading south, including catching a glimpse of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and visiting the terrifying Island of Alcatraz. After setting off, your first stop should be Half Moon Bay, which is located a mere 45 minutes from San Francisco. The coastal trail here is simply fantastic and allows access to lots of picturesque and quiet beaches. Having spent the afternoon or evening here, make the short hop down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz (1 hour). As well as a pretty beach, the town has an early twentieth-century boardwalk complete with fairground rides. Spend the night in either Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey, both quaint little fishing villages, not far south on the coastal road.
The next morning, wake up early and head to Big Sur – often cited by travellers as their favourite stop on the California Coast road trip. You will probably find yourself stopping at regular intervals along this stretch of the road. The scenery is beyond beautiful. Take your time and even stay a second night at one of the many beaches in the area. There is not much in the way of civilisation, so you might find yourself getting back to nature and camping. In the morning, you can head towards Los Angeles via Santa Barbara at your leisure. Don’t forget to stop off at some of the vineyards on the way to taste some of the local produce.
Inland California – Los Angeles to Sacramento
From Los Angeles, head inland to the incredible Joshua Tree National Park. The drive is spectacular as the landscape begins to resemble a desert (in fact, it is where the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert meet). From there, we advise that you head north along the miles of arrow-straight highways through Death Valley toward Yosemite National Park. This is not for the faint-hearted, and air conditioning is a good idea, but the drive is spectacular. Turn the driving music up and enjoy the ride! Spend the night camping in Yosemite if you are that way inclined. The nature and scenery here is second to none, and many people choose to stay two or more nights before moving on.
The final stop before Sacramento is Lake Tahoe. There is plenty to do in town, with many tasty bars and restaurants at which to eat and drink. In the winter, the slopes around Lake Tahoe offer some fantastic skiing and winter sports opportunities. In the summer, it is worth taking a scenic drive around the lake, with charming little bays extending all around the shore providing perfect places to while away an afternoon frolicking in the crystalline waters before heading to the final stop on your trip: Sacramento.
The magic of California is in its sheer abundance of natural beauty. By far the best way to access it is by renting a car or van and setting off on the highway to find your own little slice of paradise. You can only do this, however, if you have arranged a visa before your trip. Make sure you consult an accurate and up-to-date ESTA guide to ensure that your arrival at the airport goes without any hitches.