10 Day California Road Trip
There’s nothing like taking a classic American California Road Trip. The state is perfect for a road trip. This 10-day California road trip stops at some popular sites from cities, beaches, and national parks.
I planned this trip around the fact that it was my first time visiting California and that I was still determining when I would be able to come back. Therefore, I wanted to hit the awe-inspiring stops. From landing in San Francisco and working your way south to San Diego, this road trip should show you some of the famous wonders of California.
You can use my post as a guide for your 10-Day California Road Trip. If there are places you want to add in or take out, feel free to do so when planning your own! You can also add on or remove days if there are locations that interest you more.
Ready for a road trip? See below how to spend ten days driving through California!
Day 1-2/3 - San Francisco
San Francisco is the perfect first spot to fly into when starting your 10-day California road trip. There are plenty of airports to fly into and many things to do in the town.
I picked three days for San Francisco because there is so much to do! However, if you need to cut it down to two days, you can. Try to keep it to two to three days for your first time. Even at three days, there is still so much to explore!
I already have a detailed post on how to spend 3 Days in San Francisco. This post discusses when, where to stay, how to get around, what to expect, and the top sites to see.
After day three, we got a rental car and headed to Napa Valley that evening. Napa is about an hour from San Francisco, depending on where you plan to stay.
Day 4 - Napa Valley
Coming from a busy three days in San Francisco, Napa allowed for a more relaxing part of our road trip. Wine tastings, spas, and romantic scenery are just some popular things that make up Napa Valley.
Even if you are not a wine person, there are plenty of things to do other than visit wineries in Napa. From balloon rides to cooking classes, Napa is more than just wineries.
See How to spend a Weekend in Napa Valley and decide how you want to spend your day here!
Day 5 - Drive to Yosemite
After checking out of our Napa hotel, we headed to Yosemite! It was a long day on the road, but this drive was enjoyable, so we didn’t even notice how long it took. The five-hour car ride flew by with fun stops on the way.
After lunch, we drove a little bit and took our afternoon pit stop break at Oakdale Cheese Factory. Oakdale Cheese Factory is the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs before the last leg of the drive. Here, we got cheese and snacks from the store, ate outside the picnic area, walked through the grounds to admire the koi fish, and fed the farm animals.
We drove to Yosemite and stayed right there in Yosemite Valley!
Day 6 - Yosemite
Yosemite desperately needs its trip. The National Park is huge and wonderful, and no one day does it justice. I’m planning to go back to Yosemite to get the whole experience. However, if you do only have one day to visit and want to include it on this trip, below are some day hikes:
Lower Yosemite Falls (Easy)
Mariposa Grove (Easy)
Mist Trail to Vernal Falls (Moderate)
Cathedral Lakes (Moderate)
Glacier Point via Four-Mile Trail (Hard)
Upper Yosemite Falls (Hard)
Day 7 - Monterey/Carmel-by-the-Sea
After leaving Yosemite, we took the scenic route to Santa Barbara. This route is a full day’s worth of driving, so start early.
Our first stop was Monterey. Known for its famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, and other attractions, it’s a great pit stop for a break. We ended up driving the scenic 17-Mile Drive. There is a small fee per vehicle, and you get to take a beautiful road through Pebble Beach with many stops for pictures.
After that, we went to Carmel-by-the-Sea. A small beach town, this was a great way to take a walk down the beach and grab a bite. The small craft stores have great items if you’re looking for small gifts and souvenirs.
I would have added an extra day, stayed in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and recommended if you have the time to add a day here as well! Then make your way to Santa Barbara.
Day 8 - Santa Barbara
Once we had a good night’s rest, we woke up early to begin our day in Santa Barbara. This coastal city has a Mediterranean feel with beautiful scenery.
We started with brunch downtown. Santa Barbara had some of the best food on my whole California trip. After, we headed to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where we got great views and pictures at the top. Finally, we walked off to Stearns Wharf, looking out at the ocean and browsing the shops.
In the evening, we browsed around downtown again to grab drinks. There are many more activities around town, but we just walked around as Santa Barbara was beautiful.
Day 9 - Laguna Beach
Day 9 was our relaxing day, so we took a slow morning to check out and grab brunch. Then we took our drive towards San Diego. On the way, we drove through LA and stopped in Laguna Beach.
Beware of the LA traffic. We didn’t want to stop in LA for this trip but met up with friends for an early dinner inÂ Laguna Beach. After dinner, we walked the beach and watched the sunset, where we got great photos. Then, we made our way to San Diego.
Day 10 - San Diego
We woke up on our last morning in beautiful San Diego. Filled with beaches, attractions, and gorgeous weather, this was the perfect stop to end our trip.
The San Diego Zoo’s popular attraction can take up a whole day. We didn’t do this on our trip but will need to include it next time as we heard many good things. So instead, we grabbed brunch inÂ Little Italy, walkedÂ Balboa Park, and ended the evening at La Jolla Cove.
And that concludes my ten days in California!