Taking a road trip is as much about experiencing the journey as arriving at the final destination. If you’re lucky enough to be behind the wheel of a classic car in California, you can expect the trip of a lifetime. In fact, many people even argue that California was designed with road trippers in mind!
With stunning scenery, brimming with Pacific coastal views, mountains, deserts and national parks, California’s great open roads are just begging to be explored. Drive your car in any direction, and fabulous vistas will never be far away. Here are some of the top routes for driving in California that will leave your car purring for more.
Highway 1, the Big Sur
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the world’s top-ranking driving routes for scenery, and the 85-mile stretch that makes up the Big Sur is arguably the star attraction of this iconic route. It may not offer you the quickest option to drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it provides world-class scenery all the way. To appreciate the splendours of the Big Sur, this route deserves to be driven at leisure.
Complete with ample twists and turns and rugged coastal views, the Big Sur drive starts at San Luis Obispo in the south and winds its way northwards to Monterey. There are plenty of places to pull your car over and admire the wild Pacific views, catching the sound of seals basking in the breaking waves below. Other must-stop places include Bixby Bridge, Point Sur Lighthouse and McWay Falls. Make sure to fill up on fuel before you hit Highway 1, as gas stations are few and far between.
If you’ve ever fancied experiencing one of the world’s most iconic highways, Route 66, you’re in the right place when driving in California. The Californian stretch of this famous highway runs from the Arizona border in the east, to Los Angeles’s Santa Monica in the west, where the route finishes at the pier. You’ll pass through the Mojave Desert and a place called Needles, the hottest town in the USA. The route also winds its way up mountainous terrain, including the Cajon Pass, which is the highest peak on Route 66. Take a break at the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow to become acquainted with the history of this famous route. Once you hit Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a thoroughly pleasant place to stay put for a few days.
If your idea of driving in California involves plenty of mountainous views, the Tioga Pass will be a dream come true. Running through the Sierra Nevada mountains in north California, the Tioga Pass marks the eastern point of entry for the stunning Yosemite National Park. As the highest highway pass in the whole of California, make sure your motor is in tip-top condition before tackling this route, and don’t come in winter as the road is usually closed due to heavy snowfall. The scenery is nothing short of stunning – you can expect vistas that span mountains, forests, meadows and lakes. Even if you don’t make it to Yosemite National Park, traversing the Tioga Pass is an experience in itself.
Growing as tall as 370 feet, the coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. There’s only one way to catch a glimpse of these mammoth trees, and that’s by driving in California. The Redwood Highway is part of Route 101, stretching north of San Francisco through the renowned Avenue of the Giants in southern Humboldt County, and then to the Redwood National and State Parks that end near the Oregon border. There are many sections of this highway that you can take to see these lofty trees, but the 31-mile Avenue of the Giants is arguably the most famous route, boasting the largest section of virgin coastal redwoods. If you decide to ride the Redwood Highway route, be sure to take your car through the amazing drive-through tree near Myers Flat.
If you’re pressed for time but still want to experience the giant redwoods, those staying near San Francisco can take a route just half an hour from the city. This trip takes in the Golden Gate National Recreation area, where you can stop and admire the scenery of the beautiful Muir Woods. For those looking to experience longer trails, the Redwood National and State Parks offer even more options to enjoy the great outdoors amongst these unique and wonderful trees.