10 Day California Road Trip

10-Day California Road Trip

There’s nothing like taking a classic American California Road Trip. The state is the perfect itinerary for garnering a road trip in. California has a wide variety of scenery; therefore, you should be able to get a little taste of everything on every stop. From city life, wineries, hiking, and beaches, this 10-day California road trip stops at some of my favorite places in California. 

I planned this trip around the fact that it was my first-time visiting California and that I didn’t know 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.

Ready for a road trip? See below how to spend 10 days driving through California!

Day 1-3 - San Francisco

Painted Ladies in San Francisco California

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. I suggest for your first time, to try and keep it to three days. Even at three days, there is still so much to explore! I think three days allows you to hit the major highlights and spots that are must-sees in San Francisco.

I already have a detailed post of how to spend three days in San Francisco here. In this post I talk about when to go, 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 or so from San Francisco. This allows you to have a full day three in San Francisco, and then make your way to Napa to check in for the night!

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 of the 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.

While there, we visited Castello di Amorosa, V. Sattui, and Darioush. I highly recommend V. Sattui, for a lunch break between the wineries, as they have a great deli/grocery to grab lunch items, and a perfect outdoor picnic area to eat lunch.

I am working on a more detailed post on great wineries and other activities to do. One thing I do recommend, is to either a private driver, or to do a tour to visit the wineries so that you can relax and enjoy your trip without worrying about driving. Ubers were a bit hard to come by while we were there.

Day 5 - Drive to Yosemite

Oakdale cheese factory in California

After checking out of our Napa hotel, we headed to Yosemite! It’s a long day on the road, but this drive was enjoyable to where we didn’t even notice how long it took. With fun stops on the way, the five-hour drive flew by quickly.

For our lunch stop, we had a bite at In-n-Out Burger. Since we don’t have this in Florida, it was a treat and must have while on the west coast.

After lunch, we drove for a little bit and took our afternoon pit stop break at Oakdale Cheese Factory. This 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 in the picnic area outside, 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

Mist trail in Yosemite California

I’m going to be very honest here, Yosemite needs its own trip. The National Park is huge and wonderous, and there is no way one day does its justice. I’m planning to go back just to visit Yosemite so that I can get the full experience. However, if you do only have one day to visit, and want to include it on this trip, it is worth it!

Some popular day hikes to include:

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

Asilomar coastal trail in Monterey California

After leaving Yosemite, we took a scenic route on our way to Santa Barbara. This is a full day worth of driving, so be sure to start early.

Our first stop was Monterey. Known for its popular 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. If you’re looking for small gifts and souvenirs, the small craft stores have great items. 

If I could, I would have added an extra day and stayed in Carmel-by-the-Sea and recommend if you have the time to add on a day here as well! Then make your way to Santa Barbara.

 

 

Day 8 - Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County Courthouse in California

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 off with brunch in downtown, to note, Santa Barbara had some of the best food in my whole California trip in my opinion. After, we headed to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse where we got great views and pictures at the top. We walked off the rest of brunch at Stearns Wharf where we looked out at the ocean and browsed the shops. 

In the evening, we browsed around downtown again to grab drinks. There’s a lot more activities going on around town, but we enjoyed just walking around as Santa Barbara was beautiful itself.

 

Day 9 - Laguna Beach

Treasure Island Beach in California

This was our relaxing day, so we took a slow morning to check out and grab brunch one more time. 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 on LA for this trip, but rather met up with friends for an early dinner in 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 the beautiful San Diego. Filled with beaches, attractions, and gorgeous weather, this was the perfect stop to end our trip.

A popular attraction, the San Diego Zoo can take up a full day. We didn’t do this on our trip but will need to include it next time as we heard many good things. Instead, we grabbed brunch in Little Italy, walked Balboa Park, and ended the evening at La Jolle Cove.

And that concludes my 10 days in California!

I hope this inspired you to start planning your 10-day California road trip!

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12 Comments

  • Shelly
    Posted March 3, 2022 4:54 am 0Likes

    CA has such amazing options for great roadtrips!

  • Sharyn
    Posted March 3, 2022 6:50 am 0Likes

    What a great little trip. I look forward to doing this.

  • Leah
    Posted March 3, 2022 9:03 am 0Likes

    Love this itinerary!! Will make sure to visit each place now!

  • Linda (LD Holland)
    Posted March 9, 2022 10:45 pm 0Likes

    There are so many great stops on a road trip in California. We have followed the route you outlined in both directions. And always found some new spots along the way. And we would head back to do it again!

  • Kate
    Posted March 10, 2022 1:19 pm 0Likes

    Great recommendations! These are all places in CA that I definitely want to visit. Yosemite, especially, is so high on my list! As is Napa Valley!

  • Venaugh
    Posted March 10, 2022 5:53 pm 0Likes

    Such a great road trip! I always hear about Yosemite but never realised it was in California! I went to LA a few months ago, would have loved to see the park.

  • Michelle
    Posted March 10, 2022 6:55 pm 0Likes

    Driving the California coastline is one of my favorite trips. The coastline is so beautiful and there is so much to do! On my last road trip down the coast we also stopped in Big Sur.

  • francescalamberti91
    Posted March 10, 2022 11:36 pm 0Likes

    I have done pretty much the same trip with my partner in 2017 and it was one of the best things ever happened to me! I loved Monterey in particular with its pier and incredible whale watching! Reading this post brought back many lovely memories. Thanks for sharing!

  • simplyjolayne
    Posted March 17, 2022 4:58 pm 0Likes

    We are leaving for the Monterey and Big Sur area for Spring Break and I am so excited. Hope to be able to spend time at Carmel-by-the-sea as well. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Marianne
    Posted March 17, 2022 7:20 pm 0Likes

    I can’t wait to travel to California. Before the pandemic, we had been planning our west coast roadtrip, so I will need to revisit this plan soon! You actually mentioned a couple of places I did not have on my original plans, so thank you!

  • Alex
    Posted March 17, 2022 8:09 pm 0Likes

    An amazing road trip that I would LOVE to take one day! I’m on the east coast and have only visited San Diego. Can’t wait to get back over there and explore some of these places. Thanks for the share!

  • nina2813
    Posted March 20, 2022 1:40 pm 0Likes

    Saving this! I’ve been trying to plan a warm road tirp this year and I think I know where I’m going now 🙂

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