Some of the best Californian sights can be seen from outside a car window. The state with the largest population in the United States, California is also the third-largest state, behind Alaska and Texas. It’s safe to say there’s plenty to see and do in the Golden State, and for road-trippers, the possibilities are nearly endless.

The following two great California road trips take travelers through three national parks, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon, and a journey through California’s scenic wine country.

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California National Park Tour: Yosemite, Sequoia, And Kings Canyon

Beginning and ending in San Francisco, this efficient trip will take guests through three of the nation’s most popular national parks.

  • Driving time: 12 hours and 34 minutes
  • Length: 643 miles
  • Starting point: San Francisco
  • Ending point: San Francisco

First on the list is Yosemite National Park. Tunnel View and Glacier Point are two scenic and drivable overlooks at Yosemite that guests can visit. From these spots, visitors can see panoramic views of the valley, and also get a glimpse at the familiar Half Dome!

At Yosemite, road trippers can see some of Yosemite’s most famous waterfalls right from their car, like the Ribbon Fall. If guests are fine with getting out of the car for a bit, there are easy hikes over to Bridalveil Fall and to the bottom of Lower Yosemite Fall.

  • Note: Consider planning this trip in the spring, as the waterfalls tend to dry up a bit come Fall!

For a classy hotel option, the famous Ahwahnee hotel is also a National Historic Landmark.

  • Pricing: Averaged at $600 a night
  • Amenities: pool, hot tub, gift shop, Wi-Fi, indoor and outdoor dining

Next on the list is Kings Canyon National Park. While this park has so many interesting trails to consider, one of the best is the hike to Redwood Canyon, where guests can see the jaw-dropping forest of gigantic Sequoia trees.

Wander through the breezy meadows of Zumwalt, another area of Kings Canyon National Park. Trails will lead hikers by granite cliffs, the river, and fragrant California wildflowers.

South from Kings Canyon, take the scenic drive down Generals Highway toward Sequoia National Park, where road-trippers can see the Giant Sequoia National Monument on the way. Even without stopping at the scenic overlooks, this drive is especially gorgeous

At Sequoia National Park, the obvious highlight should be the General Sherman Tree- the largest tree on planet Earth. Sequoia National Park has plenty of trails to check out, and all of them feature views of California’s stunning natural landscape.

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Wine Lover’s Tour: California’s Napa And Sonoma Counties

If vacationers are more interested in wine than in national parks, this wine lover’s tour will surely delight even the pickiest drinker! While this quick trip is perfect for those who want to see, smell, and taste some of the delicious wines California has to offer, it is also just a simply beautiful time. California’s countryside is a famous vacation destination for a reason!

  • Driving time: 6 hours
  • Length: 273 miles
  • Starting point: San Francisco
  • Ending point: San Francisco

Beginning in the historic town of Napa, travelers can park their car and stroll beautiful streets lined with Victorian-era houses, gaze over the river, or shop for souvenirs in the pedestrian-friendly downtown areas.

Close to the Carneros vineyards and home to nice spas, restaurants, and resorts, the town of Napa is the perfect start to a trip through wine paradise. Domaine Carneros is a stunningly picturesque vineyard, featuring some of the best sparkling wine and Pinot Noir around.

Further up the valley, the National Historic Landmark of Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards is a National Historic Landmark for the history buffs, and Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch features delicious organic farm-to-table cuisine.

  • Hours: 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM daily
  • Check out their menu here!

For hiking lovers, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park has attractive creekside trails to explore, and the nearby Bale Grist Mill is a fascinating stop for history lovers.

For a unique experience, Calistoga, at the northern end of Napa Valley, offers volcanic mud baths- they are reported to do wonders for the skin.

The Chateau Montelena Winery is a superb chance for a stop in this area- they have excellent wine and the nearby Chinese Jade Lake is a great spot for a picture.

Speaking of lakes, as travelers drive farther north, they should not miss out on seeing two of California’s most beautiful lakes: Lake Berryessa and Sonoma Lake. Lake lovers can go boating and swim, and hiking lovers can see birds and other wildlife on the surrounding trails.

To end the trip, the small town of Sonoma features a variety of wineries for road-trippers to tour. And don’t miss the castle at Ledson Winery & Vineyards, slightly to the north in Kenwood. It’s gorgeous!

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What to Bring

To road trip California, there are only a few things guests should remember to bring on their journeys.

  • A vehicle (a camper or RV is a great choice, if available)
  • Water and snacks for long stretches inside the car
  • A physical map (in case cell service is spotty)

In conclusion, the entire state of California has so much to offer for vacationers looking for a variety of wildlife, natural landscapes, and historic landmarks. A road trip through this sunny state is a great way to knock out national parks and wine tours without bothering with any flights!

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