Let’s read about the stunning California Road trip itinerary 21 – 25 days with the best places to visit in California with family and kids. Take a virtual tour of top things to do in California with nearby places to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon & Hoover dam and also know about the best places to stop on Pacific Coast Highway 1. So let’s enjoy the virtual tour of the most beautiful places in California with things to do, where to stay, and some tips and useful information.
California is a warm, sunny state located in the western United States has wonderful tourist attractions which make this state perfect for a beautiful road trip. Driving across the Pacific Coast Highway which ranks among the world’s best beautiful road drive, to lush green and mighty national parks of Yosemite, to beautiful lake cities, to hottest place – Death Valley, mesmerizing beaches, cultural counties, and many more would be the perfect way to plan your California itinerary with family and kids.
In this itinerary, you would cover 28 to 29 cities/regions, 3 National parks, 1 grand dam, 2 lake cities, and one of the most scenic highway drives.
Highlights of Stunning California Road Trip Itinerary 21 – 25 days with Las Vegas & Grand Canyon tour
- Day 1 – 4 Landed at Los Angeles, LA city tour and nearby beaches
- Day 4 – 5 Santa Barbara (through Pacific Coast Highway and in between Vista points)
- Day 6 – 7 Monterey ( through Pacific Coast Highway 1 via Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, San Simeon, Big Sur)
- Day 7 – Carmel By the Sea and Big Sur Trip from Monterey
- Day 8 – Proceed to San Francisco via Santa Cruz
- Day 8 – 11 – San Francisco City tour and nearby areas like Napa Valley
- Day 12 – San Jose (for Silicon Valley offices tour)
- Day 13 – Lake Tahoe
- Day 14 – 15 – Proceed to Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite National Park
- Day 16 – Drive through Death Valley National park and reach Las Vegas
- Day 16 – 19 – Las Vegas city tour with nearby day trips like Grand Canyon National Park, Red Canyon National Park & Hoover Dam tour.
- Day 20 – 23 – San Diego – Coronado
Return to Los Angeles
Stunning California Road Trip Itinerary 21 – 25 days with Las Vegas & Grand Canyon tour
Mesmerizing road trip across one of the most beautiful scenic Highways of the world – Pacific Coast Highway 1 with a round trip to eastern California and small trips to nearby states – Nevada and Arizona.
LOS ANGELES – The starting point of the stunning California Road trip Itinerary 21 – 25 days.
The most glamourous city of southern California boasts world-class tourist spots, idyllic weather, a funky dining scene, and many cultural-artistic attractions. Not only inside the city but there are so many day trips from Los Angeles with numerous options.
Things to do in Los Angeles – LA
- Universal Studios
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Rodeo Drive
- Beverly Hills Celebrity tours
Day trip/s from LA
- Explore nearby beaches of Santa Monica & Venice
After spending a fun-filled 3 to 4 days in LA, take your car or rent a car/SUV to hit one of the most scenic drives in the world – Drive across Pacific Coast Highway 1 from LA to San Francisco for a stunning coastal drive with Santa Ynez mountains cliffs on one side and deep blue ocean on another side.
SANTA BARBARA – 2 NIGHTS STAY
The distance of Santa Barbara from Los Angeles – 95 Miles (1 Hour and 45 minutes).
TIP – While driving to Santa Barbara from LA, take some stopovers at Ventura regions with wonderful beaches and Vista scenic points.
Why Santa Barbara – It is also known as Californian Riveria famous for its beautiful Mediterranean climate. It has several pretty beaches, Mediterranean architecture, and palm trees. Also, it houses the famous California mission, State Street shops with laidback quaint vibes.
Things to do in Santa Barbara
- Chromatic Gate
- East Beach
- Old Mission Santa Barbara
- Whale Watching Tours
- Santa Barbara Zoos/Ostrich Farms
- State Street
- El Presidio de Santa Barbara
- Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
- Stearns Wharf
DAY TRIP FROM SANTA BARBARA – SOLVANG
During your stay in Santa Barbara, plan your day trip to Solvang from here.
The distance of Solvang from Santa Barbara – 35 Miles (Approx. 45 minutes).
Why Solvang – You will get a taste of Europe in heart of California as this place has European heritage architecture. It is called as “Danish Capital of America” too. Take a walking tour around narrow streets and small alleys. You can find Danish pastries, Danish icons like windmills, historic churches here as this place was established by Danish immigrants and is also well preserved too.
Things to do in Solvang
- Old Santa Ines Mission
- Walk around the historic town and spot the Little Mermaid fountain, 5 windmills, the giant red clog & Round Tower
- Shop across 150 boutique shops
- Santa Ynez Valley tour
- Hans Christian Andersen Museum
- Wildling Museum
- Ostrichland USA
- Enjoy shows or concerts at Solvang Festival Theater
- Food tour to taste Danish delicacies and visit Bakery and Winery
PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY 1 STOPOVERS
After checking out from Santa Barbara – proceed to Monterey across Pacific Coast Highway – stopping at various stops.
STOP 1 – Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a seaside town that attracts all ocean lovers and is a perfect stop on Pacific Coast Highway 1. This is a classic beach town in the San Luis Obispo region with a surfing beach.
STOP 2 – Morro Bay
Morro Bay – Gibraltar of Pacific is known for surfing, enchanting coasts, sandy beaches, and a perfect coastal holiday spot for nature lovers.
STOP 3 – San Simeon
One of the most beautiful spots on this highway and not to be missed during this drive. Exotic coastal cliffs and vast ocean views are worth turning off Highway 1 with elephant seals lying across beaches in their natural habitat.
STOP 4 – Bixby Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is a perfect and must stopover during this road trip. It is one of the most photographed bridges in California.
STOP 5 – Big Sur
TIP – Start early as there are too many vistas and scenic spots in between Santa Barbara to Monterey through the Central Coastal California region. This is the most scenic part of the whole drive.
MONTEREY – 2 Nights stay with Day trips to Carmel by-the-Sea and Big Sur
Distance of Monterey from Santa Barbara – 235 Miles
Late evening check-in after a hectic day of stopping over various scenic spots on Pacific Coast Highway.
Click here to book your stay in Monterey
Monterey Bay is known as the Serengeti of Marine life. With vibrant Pier and amazing marine life, Monterey attracts ocean lovers. Not only Monterey but its nearby cities like Carmel-by-the-Sea too attract people a lot.
Day trip to Carmel by the Sea & Big Sur
Distance of Carmel Valley from Monterey – 16 Miles (20 to 25 Minutes)
Why Carmel Valley – A Victorian seaside town known for its rustic charm with historic Spanish mission, beautiful village vibes. A perfect romantic seaside town with sandy beaches, streets decked with trees.
Distance of Big Sur from Monterey – 28 to 30 Miles (40 to 45 minutes) – The drive is very-very scenic.
Why Big Sur – Formed of rugged coastline with stunning views and it is the place where Saint Lucia mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. It is known as one of the most stunning coastlines in the world and also the most scenic coastline in the USA. Known for its wilderness, unexplored virgin coasts, this place comes under the best top nature attractions in the world.
I did my Big Sur Trip while going to Monterey but did a day trip to Carmel by the Sea from Monterey.
After Monterey’s stay, proceed to San Francisco via Santacruz.
SAN FRANCISCO – 4 Nights stay with a day trip to Napa Valley wine region
A 49 square mile city known for its Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars is a cosmopolitan city of Northern California. This fog city is blessed with cultural diversity, beautiful nature, and wonderful amenities.
Things to do in San Francisco
- Driving across the famous Golden Gate Bridge
- Fisherman’s Wharf/ Pier
- Catching ferry and passing under the Golden Gate Bridge
- Walking and driving across Crooked street
- Little Italy and China Town walking tours
- Alamo Square and famous SF painted ladies’ home tour.
- Haight Ashbury Square
- Famous museums and galleries.
- Take a view of the whole city from the top floor of any bar or restaurant.
- Ride old-styled trams through zig-zag slopes of the city.
- Big Bus night tour.
Day trip from San Francisco – Napa valley
Drive to Napa Valley across Golden Gate bridge highway, Sonoma Valley road to Napa Town, and then proceed to Silverado Scenic road through various vineyards and famous wineries.
The distance of Napa from San Francisco – 50 Miles (Approx 1 Hour)
Why Napa – Napa is one of the most beautiful wine regions to visit in the world. Famous for wineries and vineyards the sight of vineyards with rainbows is amazing here. Lots of sunshine, nature, exotic wines, and food are the top features of the Napa region. It is said that there are more than 300 wineries that are open for tastings. Being closer to the city, Napa is perfect for a day trip from San Francisco.
SILICON VALLEY – 1 Night stay
After fun-filled 4 nights in San Francisco, proceed to Silicon Valley. California is also known for its famous Silicon valley with a multi-billion dollar industry of technology and computers. Being a Computer Engg, it was always in my mind, to visit some of the famous Computer biggie techie giants in Silicon Valley.
I visited the visitor’s areas of Google, Apple, and Facebook. Visitors can have access to exteriors and photo opportunities with their famous logos and signs. After Silicon Valley stay, proceed to LAKE TAHOE via Sacramento.
LAKE TAHOE – 1 Night stay
Distance of Lake Tahoe from San Jose – 231 Miles – via Sacramento, Single Springs, and Camino
Things to do in Lake Tahoe
- Emerald Lake – the view is stunning and not to be missed point
- Topaz Lake
- Garden Hill
- Tamarac region
- Sierra scenic drive
- Toyibe National forest
- Bridgeport city
- Stateline area
- Mono Basin National Forest
Why Lake Tahoe – Lake Tahoe is one one the wonderful place to visit from San Francisco for nature lovers. A serene, calm place where you can enjoy your weekend getaway with your loved ones and that too it is one of the most pet-friendly places in Northern California. The breathtaking scenery of Lake Tahoe would amaze you and it is a summer and winter-friendly destination. This lake is formed by melted snow which is surrounded by enchanting mountains.
After staying at Lake Tahoe proceed to Mammoth Lake – a lake city which is very close to Yosemite National Park. Either you stay at Yosemite National Park or Mammoth Lake
MAMMOTH LAKE & YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – 2 Nights stay
Distance of Mammoth Lake from Lake Tahoe – 140 Miles
Yosemite National Park has five entrances –
- Hetch Hetchy Entrance
- Big Oak Flat Entrance
- Arch Rock Entrance
- South Entrance
- Tioga Pass Entrance
USEFUL TIPS FOR YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK TRIP
- Take the Tioga Pass State Highway 120 to the eastern gate into Yosemite National Park, if you are staying at Mammoth Lake. This entrance is sometimes closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.
- Book your arrival at Yosemite National Park as nowadays after the pandemic, they allow a certain number of cars per day. So don’t face the last-minute disappointment and book your slots early on this website. Slots get filled too fast on holidays and weekends.
- But in summer the drive from Mammoth Lake and Yosemite National Park is breathtaking and all nature lovers would love this drive.
- Pairing Mammoth Lake and Yosemite National Park is a beautiful idea for all nature lovers.
Things to do in Mammoth Lake and Yosemite National Park
- Admire mother Nature here
- Every spot or point here is a tourist attraction.
- Take a map of National park hiking points, trails, and most scenic points.
After finishing Yosemite National Park and some amazing spots at Mammoth Lake, proceed to Death Valley National Park.
Death Valley National Park is very close to Las Vegas, so we added Las Vegas – 4 days trip with a California trip.
LAS VEGAS via Death Valley National Park – 4 Nights
Distance of Las Vegas from the Mammoth Lake via Death Valley National Park – 345 Miles
After this Death Valley tour, you will reach late evening Las Vegas.
USEFUL TIP – Death Valley in the summertime can be dangerously hot and therefore check the temperature before you start driving. At many spots, you can find warnings about closing your car AC off for not burning out. Be cautious when driving here during summer, especially during mid-afternoon.
Book a famous casino resort in Las Vegas at the Strip for all fun and entertainment.
Day trip from Las Vegas –
Take a day trip to the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon and the famous Hoover Dam over the Colorado River. There are many other day trips to Red Canyon, Joshua tree National Park and Seven Colored rocks.
Highlights of Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam Trip
- Start early in the day as the drive is too long and hot too.
- Book Grand Canyon bus tour or helicopter tour in advance.
- While going or while coming back you get a diversion to go for the Hoover Dam trip. Do that on the same day.
- Hoover dam area passes through Stateline and you can witness the time change difference on one road. Hoover Dam lies in Nevada and Arizona both and this is distinctly marked there.
- Take lots of fluids/water as this area is very hot in summer. Also carry sunscreens, hats, and anything which can protect you from cold.
After a fun-filled stay in Las Vegas, proceed to San Diego
SAN DIEGO – 3 to 4 Nights with a day trip to Coronado Island & nearby beaches.
Distance of San Diego from Las Vegas – 332 Miles
Highlights of San Diego Trip
- Old Mexican styled historic town
- Balboa Park with the Spanish style of architecture
- Famous San Diego Zoo
- Indulge in Mexican food at colorful Cantinas
- San Diego’s Port with Naval ship and maritime museum
- San Diego’s Port Village tour.
Day trips from San Diego
- Coronado Island – Distance of Coronado from San Diego – 6 to 7 Miles – This you can do by ferry or by driving through the famous Coronado Bridge.
- Click here to book Hotel Del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton
Why Coronado – Coronado Island is known for stunning beaches, quaint downtown area, stunning views of the San Diego skyline, with a perfect Mediterranean climate.
- La Jolla Beaches and Carlsbad beach town – Mediterranean-styled beaches with beautiful sunset points, surfing points would truly enchant any beach and nature lovers.
San Diego’s historic, cultural vibes with an amazing coastline would win your heart, and with this, your Stunning California Road Trip Itinerary 21 – 25 days is about to end.
- Drive back to LA from San Diego.
- Distance from San Diego to LA – 120 Miles
- As we took our rental car from LA – Los Angeles, we returned our car at LA International airport and so we then drove from San Diego to LA.
CALIFORNIA VIRTUAL TOUR VIDEOS
GENERAL INFO – Stunning California Road Trip Itinerary 21 – 25 days
- California doesn’t have many toll highways but if you find some then take the CARPOOL lane if you are more than 2/3 persons in the car.
- There are expressway lanes for which you need a transponder and so better to avoid it if you have rented a car and not taken a toll – transponder.
- While going from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Pacific Coast Highway 1, the ocean view would come towards the left side – means towards the driving seat side.
- Mark all Vista points before only on your Google map as returning on Pacific Coast Highway would be difficult as it is surrounded by mountain cliffs on one side and ocean on the other side.
- Pacific Coast Highway is mostly mountainous so you can feel dizzy sometimes and take light food during this drive.
- On the Pacific Coast scenic highway there are not many fuel/gas stations, so fill your tank to full when you start from your hotel.
- Book your car for reputed Car rental services.
I hope you loved reading the stunning California road trip itinerary 21 – 25 days with Las Vegas trip across the world’s famous scenic highway, covering one of the most beautiful national parks, the hottest area on Earth, the biggest lake in the US, cultural-historic towns, stunning marine life in their natural habitat, fun and frolic throughout.
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