Plan Your Next Road Trip in California, USA With Us
Good news for all our USA fans – roadsurfer is now also available in California! Our location in Los Angeles is the perfect base for an iconic West Coast road trip. Metropolises, coasts, and national parks await you on the greatest road trip adventure.
Author: Annika Ziehen
Photo: Max MüllerHire a Camper
The 3 Most Epic American Road Trips Through California
The start of all our USA road trip routes in California is conveniently located in Los Angeles, where our new roadsurfer station is located and where you can pick up your camper. We highly recommend that you take a few days to explore L.A.
Our L.A. highlights:
- Rent a bike and ride the 22-mile Marvin Braude bike trail along the beach.
- The best place to eat on Sunday is Smorgasburg, where there are more than 80 food stalls to choose from.
- Get a close-up look at the Endeavour at the California Science Center.
- A visit to one of L.A.’s many amusement parks is a must – Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Hollywood, Jurassic World and many more are available.
- At Griffith Park, you’ll find plenty of greenery and nature in the middle of the city, plus a fantastic view of LA.
- Film buffs can look up their favourite stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at the Academy Museum, dedicated to the Oscars.
- Admire the end of the historic Route 66 at the Santa Monica Pier.
Campsite: Hollywood RV Park or Walnut RV Park
As with all our USA road trip itineraries, it’s entirely up to you how many days you spend at each location. If you are planning a road trip through California with children, you may want to allow a little extra time so that you can take extended breaks between driving sections. In general, California is a great destination for families with children, especially if you spend a lot of time in the state parks or on the Pacific coast.
Highway No 1 to San Francisco
On this West Coast tour, you will mostly drive on Highway No 1 from L.A. to San Francisco. Highway No 1 or State Route 1 (SR 1) is a highway that runs from north to south along the Pacific coast. It begins at Dana Point in Orange County and runs for 656 miles (just over 1,000 km) to Leggett in Mendocino County. It is made up of various sections, including the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway.
1st Stop – Santa Barbara
- Visit the Channel Islands National Park, which calls itself the Galapagos of North America – a paradise for water and nature lovers.
- A highlight for families is MOXI, an interactive museum of science and creativity.
- The Santa Barbara Channel is home to 27 species of whales and dolphins, which you can spot on a catamaran tour.
Campsite: Paradise Campground
2nd Stop – San Simeon
- See Hearst Castle and check out the 120 zebras that live here.
- Then head to William R. Hearst Memorial Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the region.
- Visit the Piedras Blancas Colony – here you can see elephant seals all year round, up to 17,000 depending on the season.
Campsite: San Simeon Creek Campground
- Sand Dollar Beach is perfect if you’re travelling by camper, as it’s easily accessible from the road. Nevertheless, the long sandy beach is one of the most beautiful in Big Sur and one of the best spots for surfers.
- Afterwards, we recommend taking a hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, a great nature park with waterfalls, forests, and canyons. Divers are also in for a treat, as the park is one of the few areas in Big Sur where scuba diving is allowed.
3rd Stop – Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey
- Drive along Ocean Avenue and enjoy the view of the beautiful Carmel Beach.
- Park your camper and head out on foot for wine tasting – there are more than 20 places to sample in Carmel.
- Visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, a great activity for the whole family in case it rains.
- Stroll along Old Fisherman’s Wharf which is a very charming tourist attraction.
Campsite: Monterey Fairgrounds RV Park
4th Stop – Silicon Valley
- At the Intel Museum, you can learn all about the computer technology that made the area so famous.
- NASA is located in Silicon Valley, and the NASA Ames Research Center has great exhibitions on space exploration.
- A visit to Apple is a must – besides the latest iPhones, you can also buy exclusive Apple promotional items that you can’t find anywhere else.
Campsite: Black Mountain Backpack Camp
5th Stop – San Francisco
- Ditch your roadsurfer and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world.
- Tour Alcatraz, the former prison located on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.
- Stroll through the city when it gets dark, as Illuminate SF lights up the streets with various light installations.
- A bit kitschy and very touristy, but still nice: a ride on the famous San Francisco Cable Cars.
Campsite: Kirby Cove Campground
From Sacramento to Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada
If you are planning to do a 3-week road trip in California, you can combine the Yosemite National Park route with the Highway 1 route. You can drive from San Francisco to Sacramento and drop off your roadsurfer in LA. Alternatively, you can combine the routes in reverse order for an epic California road trip.
1st Stop – Sacramento
- Get caught up in gold fever at Old Sacramento State Historic Park – the historic area is full of buildings from the Gold Rush era.
- The American River also played an important role during the Gold Rush and you can go rafting here.
- The California State Railroad Museum is one of the largest railway museums in the world and a great destination for the whole family.
Campsite: Cal Expo RV Park
2nd Stop – Lake Tahoe
- There are many great hiking trails in South Lake Tahoe for every fitness level.
- Take a boat ride across the lake and Emerald Bay State Park on the west shore.
- In winter, there’s great skiing in the Sierra Nevada. Squaw Valley Resort is especially nice, or just ride the Heavenly Gondola for a great view over Lake Tahoe.
Campsite: Eagle Point Campground
3rd Stop – Yosemite Nationalpark
- Be sure to bring your camera for a souvenir photo of Yosemite Falls. You don’t even have to get out of your camper (although we recommend you do) for a good view!
- Half Dome is a world-class climbing area, and even if you don’t want to swing up high, you shouldn’t miss the view.
- El Capitan has also made some climbers world famous. See it from below and then admire it up close in the famous film “Free Solo”.
Campsite: Yosemite Creek Campground
4th Stop – Fresno
- If you want to cool off in the summer, take a tour of the Forestiere Underground Gardens, which, as the name suggests, are underground.
- In spring, the Fresno Blossom Trail is unparalleled – 62 miles of regional fruit trees are in full bloom.
- Spend a night camping in the beautiful Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, part of the Sierra Nevada.
Campsite: Blackstone North RV Park
5th Stop – Las Vegas
- In Las Vegas, you either gamble away your savings or become a millionaire, OR you can visit the fascinating Death Valley National Park on a guided day tour. You will have to leave your camper behind because a drive through Death Valley is not covered by insurance! But it’s nice to be driven around in comfort, so you can concentrate on the great views.
- Dante’s View offers the best view in Death Valley and over the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the USA.
- From Zabriskie Point, you’ll get a fantastic view of the region, especially at sunset.
Campsite: RV Park Circus Circus
6th Stop – Los Angeles
- Finally, head back to Lake Hollywood Park for the best shot of the Hollywood Sign.
Road Trip to Joshua Tree National Park
At just under 300 miles, the route from L.A. to Joshua Tree National Park is great for a short trip. However, we recommend a few days to explore beautiful San Diego and Palm Springs along the way.
If you feel like seeing more after a visit to Joshua Tree, you can continue on to Las Vegas or even the Grand Canyon.
1st Stop – San Diego
- Take a stroll through the Gaslamp Quarter with its picturesque Victorian buildings and numerous restaurants and bars.
- Visit the famous San Diego Zoo and then stroll through beautiful Balboa Park.
- In Old Town San Diego, you can travel back in time as restored houses tell the story of the first European settlers in California.
Campsite: Campland on the Bay
2nd Stop – Palm Springs
- If you don’t suffer from vertigo, take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up Chino Canyon for 2.5 miles.
- Get your cameras out for the chic Desert Modernist buildings that the area is so famous for.
- Visit the Palm Springs Art Museum for contemporary art from the West Coast and the desert.
Campsite: Palm Springs Oasis RV Resort
3rd Stop – Joshua Tree Nationalpark
- Enjoy the best view of the Coachella Valley from the Keys View lookout.
- For those new to hiking, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a great destination as it is only one mile long and easily accessible.
- Climbing and bouldering are a large part of Joshua Tree – there are around 8,000 routes.
- Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, and Barker Dam, home to the largest Joshua palm lilies.
Campsite: Hidden Valley Campground or Jumbo Rocks
California Travel Tips & Costs
To drive a motorhome through California, you officially only need your British driver’s license. However, depending on the car rental company, an international driver’s license may also be required. In general, we recommend that you have both with you.
In the USA, distances are given in miles (1 mile = 1.6 kilometres) and speeds in miles per hour (mph). Speed limits in California are 25-35 mph in urban areas and 55-70 mph in extra-urban areas. You can find more important traffic rules for your road trip to California in this article.
Campsites in California start at $30 per night, but can quickly become more expensive depending on amenities. On some land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the US Forest Service (USFS), you can camp for free.
One of our practical tips for your holiday in California: A good place to start is the Reserve California website. There you can search for and book suitable accommodation in advance when planning your road trip if you want to stay overnight in one of the many state parks.
Unfortunately, petrol in California is the most expensive in the country. Currently, you can expect to pay an average of $4.64 for 1 gallon (3.79 litres).
What do you need to pack for your California road trip? Don’t pack a lot of unnecessary camping gear, because you can buy or even rent it locally. If you’re planning a full California road trip, be sure to pack some warmer clothes for the coast, but also enough sun protection in the desert.
How do you get to California?
Catch a direct flight from London to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and pick up your roadsurfer at our local station, and your USA road trip can begin.
With a British passport, you can enter the country as a tourist without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program and stay up to 90 days. Your passport must be valid for the entire stay, and you will need a return or onward ticket.
In addition, you need a so-called ESTA registration for entry, which you must apply for at least 72 hours before departure. When planning your USA road trip itineraries, you only need to include your first address in the country in your ESTA application.