California is full of stunning natural wonders, and it’s so massive! There are so many amazing things to do in the Golden State that you’ll need a bucket list to see them all. Why not plan a road trip with your besties? We’ve made an epic list of the best California road trip ideas you need to try for the adventure of a lifetime.
From hidden turquoise blue pools you can swim in, to enchanting waterfall hikes, stunning sunset beaches, and quirky roadside stops, this state has it all. Here’s the best part. This map will take you down the coast from Norcal through San Diego. Are you ready?
Location: Kirby Cove, San Francisco, California
Why You Should Go: This hidden gem has a tree swing with amazing views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.
Cypress Tree Tunnel
Location: Cypress Tree Tunnel, Inverness, California
Why You Should Go: You can walk through a massive tunnel of cypress trees towering over you. It makes for a fantastic photo.
Muir Woods National Monument
Price: $15 entrance fee per person and $8 per vehicle parking
Location: 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, California
Why You Should Go: This scenic location is known for its old-growth Redwood trees and beautiful hiking trails. Everywhere you look, there are jaw-dropping views.
Price: $10 per car entrance fee to Big Sur
Location: Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, California
Why You Should Go: You can see incredible views of the Pacific Ocean coast and dramatic cliffs from this iconic California bridge.
Price: $10 per car entrance fee to Big Sur
Location: McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California
Why You Should Go: You can take pics by a massive 80-foot waterfall cascading onto the beach. Did we mention the water is bright turquoise?
Glamping At The Treebones Resort
Price: $215 a night for two guests with a two-night minimum stay.
Location: 71895 Highway 1, South Big Sur, California
Why You Should Go: You can sleep in a giant human-sized nest hotel overlooking the Big Sur Coast and the Pacific Ocean.
Sequoia National Park
Price: $35 per vehicle
Location: Sequoia National Park, California
Why You Should Go: Walk among giants with some of the oldest living trees on earth. In winter, it's a snowy wonderland.
Price: Free for hikers
Location: Big Pine Lakes Trail, John Muir Wilderness, California
Why You Should Go: You can see seven stunning turquoise alpine lakes and waterfalls on this hike. You can take a dip in some too!
Location: Seven Teacups Trail, Springville, California
Why You Should Go: This hike takes you to seven beautiful cascading waterfalls. They do look like spilling teacups!
Price: Day use fees range from $8 to $10
Location: Burney Falls, California
Why You Should Go: An easy one-mile hike will take you to one of the most stunning natural wonders you’ve ever seen, including a 129-foot waterfall. *
Price: Varies by order
Location: 30 S El Dorado St, Stockton, California
Why You Should Go: You can sip the largest mimosas in California and indulge in delicious craving-satisfying brunch food.
Yosemite National Park
Price: $30 per vehicle
Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Why You Should Go: You don’t even have to hike to see the falls. There are numerous places you can spot them throughout the valley, and the scenery is stunning.
Location: Alabama Hills, California
Why You Should Go: You can hike amidst crazy-looking rock formations that look out of this world and camp for free under beautiful clear, starlight skies.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
Location: White Mountain Rd, Bishop, California
Why You Should Go: You can see the Milky Way here on a clear night and camp under some of the world's oldest trees.
Price: $10 per person cost for shuttle service to get to the falls.
Location: End of CA-203 West Mammoth Lakes, California
Why You Should Go: This 101-foot cascading waterfall often has giant double rainbows framing it.
Wild Willy's Hot Springs
Location: Mammoth Lakes, California. You can see the directions listed here.
Why You Should Go: You can soak in beautiful heart-shaped hot springs surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Price: Free to visit
Location: Solvang, California
Why You Should Go: Thisis a piece of Europe in California! You can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, explore old European architecture, eat traditional pastries, and watch a performance at a star-lit outdoor theatre.
Joshua Tree National Park
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California
Why You Should Go: This vast desert has unusual landscapes and large rugged rocks. It's a great place to hike, explore, and take pics with your BFFs.
Area 51 Themed Airbnb
Price: $225 a night
Location: Joshua Tree, California
Why You Should Go: You can sleep in a UFO flying saucer house under the stars.
Location: Beal Rd, Calipatria, California
Why You Should Go: You can walk along a giant colorful man-made mountain and explore artist’s caves!
Location: Palm Springs, California
Why You Should Go: It's the perfect relaxing getaway spot to go with your BFFs or SO. Lounge poolside or explore the city at night.
Location: 50770 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, California
Why You Should Go: Who doesn't want to take a selfie with a 65-foot-tall T Rex?
Location: Artist’s Drive, Death Valley, California
Why You Should Go: You can drive through 9 miles of beautiful rainbow-colored mountains.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Why You Should Go: There are endless things to see and do! Take a hike by the Hollywood sign, see the Griffith Observatory at night, see the scenic glass Wayfarer's Chapel, and take a pic by your fave celeb's star.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Price: General admission tickets begin at $109. You can see Universal Studio's full price list here.
Location: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California
Why You Should Go: As one of the world's most famous theme parks, there are so many things to do at Universal. Plus, you can take a trip to the Wizarding World!
Santa Monica Beach
Location: Santa Monica, California
Why You Should Go: This iconic beach has been the location for countless Hollywood movies. You and your friends can chill on the sand, ride the Ferris wheel and famous beach roller coaster.
Price: There is a $5 fee at Splinter’s Cabin Trailhead unless you show a valid California Adventure Pass or Interagency Pass in your car.
Location: Pacific Crest Trail, California
Why You Should Go: This oasis in the desert is the perfect adventure you would never expect to find near San Bernardino.
Heart Rock Waterfall Trail
Price: Free (You need a California Adventure Pass to park on the main road)
Location: Crestline, CA
Why You Need To Go: You can see a gorgeous 25-foot waterfall cascading down heart-shaped rocks.
Big Bear Lake
Location: Big Bear Lake, California
Why You Should Go: Big Bear is one of the most famous skiing and hiking places in California. Plus, there's a cool alpine slide you can race your besties on for $6.
Alpine Slide At Magic Mountain
Price: $6 per person
Location: 800 Wildrose Ln, Big Bear Lake, California
Why you should go: You can race your friends on a giant alpine slide through the wilderness.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Price: $10 admission per vehicle
Location: 15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, California
Why You Should Go: During the spring, you can get lost in a field of colorful flowers and take amazing photos. Just be sure to stay on the designated trail.
Location: Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach, California. You can get full directions here.
Why You Should Go: You can swim in a natural saltwater pool overlooking the ocean and explore an old lighthouse on the beach.
Price: $74.50 for the Catalina Flyer ferry.
Location: Catalina Island, California
Why You Need To Go:is the closest thing you’ll get to the south of France in Californa.
Price: Prices start at $97 per person for a general admission ticket. You can see Disney's full prices here.
Location: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, California
Why You Should Go: It's the happiest place on earth! Chances are, you want to visit Star Wars Land too.
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Location: W Spruce St, San Diego, California
Why You Need To Go: You’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you cross thisfrom 1912. It offers the most beautiful views of the city skyline and the canyon below.
Japanese Friendship Garden: San Diego
Price: Admission for adults is $12 and $10 for students.
Location: 2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, California
Why You Should Go: You can immerse yourself in a beautiful Japanese garden hidden deep within San Diego. There are waterfalls, koi ponds, cherry blossoms, and more.
Kayak Through Sea Caves in La Jolla
Price: It varies by the tour you choose.
Location: 2164 Avenida De La Playa, La Jolla, California
Why You Should Go: You can kayak through prehistoric sea caves and see some turtles and Leopard sharks up close!
* This article has been updated.
Editor's Note: Many California waterfalls are seasonal. Check weather conditions before you go on the trails to make sure the falls are still flowing and trail conditions are safe.
We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.