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8 Incredible Weekend Road Trips to Take Soon

8 Incredible Weekend Road Trips to Take Soon

By California.com
October 16, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

There’s nothing like hitting the Golden State's open roads while singing your favorite songs at the top of your lungs. Thanks to California's endless opportunities for adventure, it’s easy to plan a last-minute weekend road trip and experience the best of the West Coast. From the Pacific Coast Highway to the iconic Route 66, the state has no shortage of scenic drives or breathtaking views. With adventurous stops enhancing your getaway every few miles, we've gathered up all the best routes for your next drivable vacation in California.    

Tips For A Fun Weekend Road Trip

Before you embark on the road trip of a lifetime with your better half, make sure you have all your vacation essentials.
  1. Make sure your car is functioning properly. The last thing you need during a weekend road trip is to have to stop every few hours to get your car running. 
  2. Know where you’re going, but don’t be too strict about your plan. Making a few detours might open doors for new experiences.
  3. Prepare a playlist to keep you entertained on your fun weekend road trip
  4. Carry a first-aid kit to be prepared for any situations.
  5. Use a GPS or bring a map with you so you don’t get lost.
  6. Make your weekend road trip an eco-friendly adventure and pick up healthy organic snacks instead of stopping at fast-food joints. 
  7. Download entertaining apps on your phone—no road trip is complete without games.

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The Best Weekend Road Trips To Take Next

The waves of orange sand at Death Valley Dunes are worthy of a visit during your next road trip adventure.

1. Death Valley National Park

Distance from Los Angeles: 214 miles

Drive time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

The ultimate California desert road trip destination is none other than the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in America. As the name suggests, Death Valley is a land of extremes. Covering an area of 3,422,024 acres, the national park has plenty of hiking trails and iconic destinations such as Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon, and Badwater Basin. Check out the beautiful Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes—the most photographed landscape in all of Death Valley—where breathtaking desert vistas come to life. With crusted valley floors and barren salt flats, a fun weekend road trip here is always a good idea.

No road trip to Palm Springs is complete without visiting this cute giraffe family. Photo courtesy of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

2. Palm Springs

Distance from Los Angeles: 107 miles

Drive time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Palm tree-lined streets, turquoise pools, iconic mid-century modern architecture? Yes, please. Whether it’s a last-minute road trip idea or a well-planned vacation, a trip to Palm Springs always leaves you with unforgettable memories. Gather your girlfriends and let the wind blow through your hair as you travel to the most luxurious city in the Golden State. Stay the night at Villa Royale for a boutique hotel experience and enjoy some much-needed pampering. In the morning, ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and admire panoramic views of Chino Canyon. The 10-minute journey on the world’s largest rotating tram car is rewarding, but the adventure really begins when you reach the Mountain Station where 50-plus miles of hiking trails await. After a long trek, grab a bite at one of the eateries overlooking the majestic Mount San Jacinto State Park. Before you head back to L.A., visit The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to feed a giraffe and participate in other animal fun. 

Don't miss this iconic Pacific Coast Highway road trip to Santa Barbara. The whole drivable area is nothing but breathtaking.

3. Santa Barbara

Distance from Los Angeles: 95 miles

Drive time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

It’s time to go on the Pacific Coast Highway road trip you’ve always dreamt of. Though this drivable vacation is only a short road trip from L.A., Santa Barbara’s Spanish Colonial architecture and laid-back vibe will make you feel far away. When you arrive in town, head straight to Old Mission Santa Barbara. Home to the Mission Museum, the Franciscan Friars, and the Historic Mausoleum, it's served as a gathering place and spiritual home since its establishment in 1786. Next, check out ancient and contemporary art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art before checking East Beach off your weekend beach road trip itinerary. Sandy volleyball courts, a grassy park, and a nearby restaurant make your fun weekend road trip even more entertaining. 

Savor the view of the peaceful sky above the Piedras Blancas lighthouse north of San Simeon.

4. San Simeon

Distance from Los Angeles: 230 miles

Drive time: 3 hours, 47 minutes

San Simeon is one of the best weekend road trip destinations. With breathtaking views and some of the most spectacular beaches in California, you’re sure to fall for this picture-perfect locale. Visit Piedras Blancas Rookery as soon as you arrive to admire dozens of playful elephant seals taking up residence on the shores year-round. Then visit Hearst Castle—one of San Simeon’s must-see attractions. The National Historic Landmark was built between 1919 and 1947 and was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces. As your short road trip comes to an end, stop by the Piedras Blancas Light Station to take in the incredible vistas of San Simeon one last time. 

Make a pit stop to enjoy the majestic trees of Sequoia National Park.

5. Sequoia National Park

Distance from Los Angeles: 255 miles

Drive time: 4 hours, 40 minutes

Scenic drives, majestic trees, and awe-inspiring sights comprise Sequoia National Park. Trade in your typical drivable vacation spots for a fun weekend road trip to California’s national parks and experience a whole new world. Hike up the trail to see General Sherman—the world’s largest living single-stem tree. Standing tall at 275 feet, the unbelievable sight is monumental and extraordinary. 

After taking in this incredible sight, head toward Moro Rock. Hidden in the center of the park between Crescent Meadow and Giant Forest, this granite dome rock formation rewards visitors with dramatic views of the Great Western Divide. Next, stop by Crystal Cave; this subterranean marble karst cave usually goes unnoticed due to the towering trees in the park, but it'll definitely be the highlight of your weekend road trip. End this full day of exploring with a night under the stars at one of Sequoia National Park's campsites to soak up the wisdom of the majestic trees.

Drive to Salvation Mountain—one of the little-known gems in the heart of the Salton Sea—to see its beautiful colors.

6. Salton Sea

Distance from Los Angeles: 164 miles

Drive time: 2 hours, 35 minutes

The Salton Sea has transformed from a Hollywood vacation destination into a hippie haven. This quirky area has a unique landscape as well as impressive man-made tourist attractions that captivate visitors. Since the Salton Sea is abundant with peculiar and unconventional spots, it’s easy to come up with last-minute road trip ideas, but the first place you should visit is the International Banana Museum. Different shades of yellow brighten your day as you enter the one-room museum, but the record-breaking collection of banana-related items will make your jaw drop. After an interesting day, spend the evening at the Brawley Inn Hotel and Conference Center in the nearby town of Brawley. 

In the morning, continue your weekend road trip with a drive to Salvation Mountain—a massive artistic religious monument. Before heading back home, drive a little further to check out Slab City, an alternative living community also known as “The last free place on Earth.”

Have a perfect weekend road trip at Yosemite National Park and enjoy the endless opportunities of outdoor fun and recreation.

7. Yosemite National Park

Distance from Los Angeles: 279 miles

Drive time: 4 hours, 43 minutes

No one has ever complained about not having anything to do in Yosemite National Park. Covering an impressive 748,436 acres, it’s the perfect weekend road trip destination for climbers, hikers, and nature lovers. Boasting 750 miles of trails, the park has so many must-see places that it’s hard to fit everything into just one weekend. 

Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park, as well as one of its most striking features. Once you’ve admired the falls in all their glory, discover Half Dome on the eastern edge of Yosemite Valley. This distinct rock formation frequently amazes climbers with its sheer size. Then, learn about the heritage and culture of the Ahwahnechee people who once inhabited the valley at the Yosemite Museum. Displaying artifacts and more than 100,000 historic park photographs, a visit to this museum makes your weekend road trip both fun and educational.

Don't miss a trip to Balboa Park during your next San Diego adventure. It offers enchanting scenery and cultural treasures.

8. San Diego

Distance from Los Angeles: 120 miles

Drive time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Offering laid-back vibes and coastal adventures, San Diego is the ultimate weekend road trip destination. Home to the best beaches in California, San Diego is an ideal spot to try watersports. Before you show off your skills on the shore, pay a visit to the historic Balboa Park. The urban park brings together culture, science, and nature, with a variety of museums and wide open spaces where beauty blooms. After spending some time on land, venture out to the ocean to explore the tide pools at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and soak in the majestic views of SoCal’s coastline. Later, head over to Pacific Rim Park to learn about the U.S.'s relationship with three Pacific Rim countries—Mexico, Russia, and China. The focal point of the park is the Pearl of the Pacific statuary, designed with symbols from each country. As one of the best summer road trip destinations in the Golden State, you’ll always leave San Diego with unforgettable memories. 

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