7 Best California Scenic Drives – Beautiful Road Trips In California

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Are you looking for the best California scenic drives? Then, you read this article on the best California road trip ideas! California has some of the most scenic drives in the world, with lovely picturesque routes and adventurous driveways. The state offers some of the most picturesque roads in the country, with views of rolling hills, majestic mountains, and deep blue oceans. 

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California Scenic Drives – Road Trips In California

Here’s a list of some of the best scenic routes in California or amazing road trips in California that is sure to take your breath away.

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)

California Scenic Drives - road trips in california

  • Total Drive/Miles – PCH drive in California state is 665 Miles approx, from northern California to southern California along the coastline.
  • Start and End Point – Mendocino County in northern California to I-5, San Diego. 
  • Scenic Stopovers – There are numerous scenic stopovers in California, and the Central Coast of California is the best. Santa Barabara to Monterey scenic PCH drive is the most fantastic part of this drive.

About – The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Route 1, is one of the most famous scenic drives in the world. This winding road runs along the California coast and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and sandy beaches. It’s a great way to explore the state’s central and southern coastline, and it’s one of the best drives in the world to see a rugged mountainscape with a blue ocean.

There are many combinations of itineraries on the PCH 1 highway, which you follow at your convenience, as there are many stunning coastal towns on that route. To Plan, your PCH road trip itinerary read this – 

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

One Day in Yosemite - Yosemite 1 day itinerary

  • Total Drive/Miles – 70 Miles
  • Start and End Point –  It starts northwest of Fresno at the junction of Highway 145 and 168 and ends at the Kaiser Wilderness Area. 
  • Scenic Stopovers – Mile High Vista. Just off of Forest Hwy 81, this stop offers one of the most spectacular views along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, Mammoth Pool, Clover Meadow & Ranger Station, The Balls/Portuguese Overlook, Cold Springs Summit, Nelder Grove, Fresno Dome, Ross Cabin, and Redinger Overlook. 
california scenic drive map
Courtesy – Google Maps – Click here for Google Map coordinates

The High Sierra Scenic Byway is perfect if you love a rugged, mountainous drive. This scenic drive in California takes you through the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and offers breathtaking views of beautiful peaks, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes. You can stop at vista points for lovely views and explore the many hiking trails and campgrounds. 

The San Francisco to Napa Valley Wine Country Drive

scenic drives in napa valley - scenic routes in california

  • Total Drive/Miles – 45 Miles to Reach Napa Valley
  • Start and End Point –  There are many scenic drives in Napa Valley with various start and end points.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Napa County, Sonoma, St Helena, Calistoga, Yountville.

Click here to Read a detailed guide on Northern California Vineyard’s scenic drive.

You’ll want to take this scenic drive if you’re a nature lover and a great foodie. This route takes you from San Francisco, through the rolling hills of Napa Valley, and past some of the best vineyards in the country. Along the way, you can sample delicious wines, learn about the history of winemaking, and take in the stunning views of the valley. 

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

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  • Total Drive/Miles – 500 Miles, including California and Oregon
  • Start and End Point –  It starts at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California and to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Medicine Lake (National Forest Byway) Highlands, Mt. Shasta, Lava Beds National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Almanor, Burney Falls

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway takes you on a journey through the stunning landscapes of California’s volcanic region. This drive offers views of towering mountains, deep valleys, and incredible lakes, and it’s the perfect way to explore the state’s geological wonders. 

The Angeles Crest Scenic Byway

  • Total Drive/Miles – 65 Miles
  • Start and End Point –  This scenic drive in California begins at La Canada Flintridge – north of Glendale and Burbank, and ends at Wrightwood on CA state route 2.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Red Box, Shortcut SaddleCharlton Flats Picnic Area, Dawson Saddle, Three Points Junction/Trailhead, Vincent Gap, Blue Ridge Summit, Big Pines Visitor Center. 

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The Angeles Crest Scenic Byway is a picturesque drive that takes you through the San Gabriel Mountains, a few miles away from Los Angeles. You will drive on a mountainous route with an altitude of 7000 feet; therefore, it is California’s thrilling and adventurous drive. This scenic drive in California offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and the city of Los Angeles in the distance. The starting point of this drive is at the La Canada Flintridge exit on the 210 Freeway, and the endpoint is at the Wrightwood exit on the 15 Freeway. For gas and food, you can find several gas stations and restaurants in the towns along the route, including Wrightwood and La Canada Flintridge.

The Gold Rush Country Drive (Gold Chain Highway) – Highway 49

california scenic drives

  • Total Drive/Miles – 300 Miles
  • Start and End Point –  Oakhurst to Vinton
  • Scenic Stopovers – Grass ValleyAuburn,  Empire Mine State Park. It is one of the largest gold mines in California, Coloma, Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, Placerville, Sutter Creek, Moaning Cavern, Jackson, Mariposa History Museum, Columbia State Historic Park, and many beautiful counties like Calaveras County, Sonora, Stockton, and many beautiful historical museums. 

California is known for its 1840s famous gold rush and how gold mining was done, resulting in a massive number of people flocking to the west coast. The Gold Rush Country Drive takes you back to the days of the California Gold Rush when the state was dotted with gold-mining towns and panning streams. This scenic California drive takes you through quaint historic counties of California’s gold country. 

The Redwood Highway

  • Total Drive/Miles – 350 Miles
  • Start and End Point –  You have to take the Golden Gate, San Francisco route, which starts precisely from Crescent City, CA (near the Oregon border) in the north to the Redwood Creek watershed south of Orick, CA.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Howland Hill Road, Crescent City, Prairie Creek Redwoods, Eureka, Humboldt Redwoods, Avenue of the Giants, Lady Bird Grove, and the most famous Chandelier Drive-Through Tree

California scenic drives - scenic routes in california - places to drive in California

The Redwood Highway is a scenic drive that takes you through the heart of California’s famous redwood forests. This beautiful California road trip offers breathtaking views of towering redwood trees and several charming coastal towns and scenic beaches. These trees are the tallest living things on this Earth, reaching 300 to 350 feet high and 16 to 18 feet across, and are grown in clusters. So these tall redwood trees forests on mountainous slopes form a dramatic scenery with fantastic wildlife and, therefore, one of the most scenic drives in California and a unique California road trip idea. 

FAQs – California Scenic Drives – Road Trips In California

5 Best Nature Spots In California - places to drive in california
Tioga pass drive – Mammoth Lake to Yosemite 
  • Q: What is the best time of year to take a scenic drive in California?

A: The best time to take a scenic drive in California depends on your route and the views you want to see. For example, the Pacific Coast Highway is best enjoyed in the spring and summer when the weather is warm and the wildflowers bloom. On the other hand, the High Sierra Scenic Byway is best enjoyed in the fall, when the aspen trees are changing color.

California road trip itinerary - Places to visit in California
Los Angeles to Santa Barbara drive via Ventura region on Pacific Coast Highway 1
  • Q: Can I take my RV on scenic drives in California?

A: Yes, many of the scenic drives in California are RV-friendly, including the Pacific Coast Highway, the Big Sur coastline, and the San Francisco to Napa Valley wine country drive. However, it’s essential to know the road conditions and restrictions, as some routes may have narrow roads, steep grades, and low-clearance bridges.

  • Q: Are there any fees or permits required to take a scenic drive in California?

A: No fees or permits are required to take a scenic drive in California. However, some scenic drives, such as the High Sierra Scenic Byway, drive through national parks and other protected areas, and you may need to pay an entrance fee to access these areas.

List of other scenic drives in California

California is full of natural beauty, and a scenic drive is a perfect way to explore it all. Whether you’re looking for stunning views of the ocean, rugged mountains, or rolling hills, a California road trip is the perfect way to explore all beauties of nature. From the Pacific Coast Highway to the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, there are many options, each offering a unique experience. So, pack your bags, fill up your tank, and hit the road to discover the breathtaking beauty of California’s scenic drives.

Now you know places to drive in California with stunning stopovers. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, taking a scenic drive in California is a must-do experience. So, choose your route, start your road trip in California, and experience the beauty of California’s scenic drives. These scenic drives offer unique beauty, and with so many options, you’re sure to find one that suits your taste. 

More scenic California Drive 

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