Best of the USA: California Road Trip Itinerary – 14 days

death valley

California Road Trip Itinerary 14 days

The West Coast of America will always hold a special place in my heart. After years of living vicariously through others, I decided enough was enough. At twenty one I took the matter into my own hands and decided to go on an adventure of my own. At twenty-one and by myself there was only one place I was going to go. America. I don’t know why but I’ve always put America on a pedestal of being the capital of adventures, a ‘pinch me kind of place’. It didn’t take long for the flights to be booked and trip organised, I was going on a road trip of the West Coast of America! It was ultimately the start of my passion for travel, which has consistently grown bigger and bigger with every year that’s followed. In this post, I want to talk about where I spent the majority of my time, California. My road trip lasted three weeks in total but 14 days was in the sun-drenched state of California. In this post, I’m sharing an epic California Road Trip Itinerary 14 days!

California has mountains to offer as a state and could appeal to anyone and everyone. It’s home to the big cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco plus so many other gems. Relax in the beach paradises of San Diego, Santa Barbra and Santa Monica. Then pull on your hiking boots and pitch up the tent in one of the world’s best national parks, Yosemite. I only have one outstanding wish when it comes to California and that’s to do it all over again.

California Road Trip Itinerary 14 Days

Starting Destination: Los Angeles
Finishing Destination: Los Anegles
Distance: 1200 Miles/1931 Km
Time: 14 Days
Road Trip Type: Loop

California Road Trip Destinations:

  • LA
  • Death Valley
  • Yosemite
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Monterey Bay
  • Big Sur
  • Santa Monica
  • Santa Barbra

Day One Los Angeles

Los Angeles. The number one spot on a lot of peoples California Road Trip Itinerary including mine. As an avid watcher of Laguna Beach and The Hill when I was a young teen I could not wait to visit this famous city. My belief about LA is simple. I think you should go and experience it but I don’t think many go back. As cool as it was to walk the walk of fame, stand where so many stars have stood and of course see that famous sign up in the hills, I’m in no rush to return to LA. That said if I was to do this road trip all over again I would probably go back and see if my mind could be changed. After all, I was only twenty-one and I definitely appreciate more now than I did then.

My opinions aside Los Angeles should be on every California road trip itinerary especially if you’ve got 14 days. The international airport is the most sensible to fly into for the road trip so it makes sense to see it whilst being so close!

Things to See and Do in Los Angeles

Hollywood Walk of Fame

It just has to be done. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an iconic space known all over the world. For the rich and famous it’s an honour to have your name placed on this side-walk because let’s be honest that’s exactly what it is. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was established in 1958 and the first permanent star was awarded to actress Joanna Woodward. The walk of fame is now 1.3 miles long and goes past the famous Chinese Dragon Theatre too. It does feel pretty cool to stand where some of the worlds best actresses, actors and performers have stood! The walk of fame is, of course, free and a great way to spend the morning whilst exploring more of Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood walk of fame
Of course!

See the Hollywood Sign

Okay, when I do eventually get back to California and if we visit LA then the one thing I want to get closer to is the Hollywood sign! You can hike close to the sign via Griffith park or the Wonder View Trail. Because I did this road trip as part of a Trek America tour we were on limited time and had to see the sign from quite far away. We viewed the sign from the Hollywood Highland mall and although it was cool it was WAY too far away!

Did you know that the sign originally read ‘Hollywoodland’ about some houses being built beneath! Of course, it wasn’t long before it got linked to the ‘Hollywood’ film industry!

Drive to the Coast to See Venice Beach Via Beverly Hills

Spend the afternoon in Los Angeles on the legendary Venice Beach! If you’ve not heard of Venice Beach then perhaps you’ll have heard of Muscle Beach. Muscle Beach is located on Venice Beach and very fun to visit. It was quiet when were there but when it’s busy be prepared to be surrounded by bodybuilders and a lot of hot bods! As well as Muscle Beach the streets that line Venice Beach are packed to the brim with shops, cafes, bars and indy sellers.

The beach itself is gorgeous and the sunset on Venice Beach is mesmerising. Take a picnic, have a swim in the ocean, catch an LA sun glow and enjoy. Stroll up and down the beach taking it all in. I loved this part of LA. Be aware of pickpocketers on Venice Beach too especially on the side-walks. There are also street sellers offering you anything and everything so just be mindful of where your bag/purse is as a lot of robberies are reported in this area.

If you don’t drive through Beverly Hills then did you even go to LA? Although you can hardly see anything because of the tall hedges and steel gates it’s worth going for a nosey. If there’s time then hit up the shops at Rodeo Drive and feel like a complete star!

Other Things to Do in Los Angeles

  • Visit Disneyland
  • Explore amazing views from Griffith Park
  • Watch a show at Hollywood Bowl
  • Take a free walking tour
  • Watch a baseball game at the LA Dodgers stadium

These are just a few more ideas/things to experiance in LA during this California 14 Day Road Trip!

Los Angeles to Death Valley – Day Two

Death Valley National Park

Tittering on the edge of the state of California is the incredible Death Valley. Death Valley is awesome paired in with Las Vegas which we did but I’ll be creating another post on the whole road trip as we went quite far our of California! But without visiting the crazy Nevada desert Death Valley is a must-see place on any California road trip.

death valley
The crazy landscape that is Death Valley

Death Valley is a land of the extraordinary. Where heat and humidity reach a whopping new level and the meaning of ‘mind-blowing’ is taken to another level. I recommend spending a whole day exploring Death Valley even though you could spend a lot longer in this vast land. The most popular area to visit and where we too went was to Badwater Basin. Death Valley is most famous for its salt formations and Badwater Basin brings you right into the heart of it.

As the lowest point you get to in the western hemisphere it’s a very cool place to visit. Out on the salt flats very little can survive meaning you’ll find virtually no animal or plant life at Badwater Basin.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley
Pretty cool right?

To find out more about how to vast Salt Flats were formed at Death Valley take a look here! Because if I explain it I’m 100% bound to get it wrong.

Death Valley to Yosemite – Days 3-5

Yosemite could arguably be in the top 5 best national parks in the world. Who said that? Well, me. It’s one of the best national parks I’ve ever visited. The incredible giant sequoias, mountainous landscape and gushing waterfalls are enough to make you fall in love with America. Three days is a great amount of time to spend in Yosemite during a California road trip. Even though I could spend a week, if not more, in Yosemite three days is a great length of time to explore. My top picks whilst experiencing Yosemite National Park are below.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia (Redwoods)

Hike amongst giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove. Home to over 500 mature redwoods this area of Yosemite is incredible. My favourite hike was the Guardians Loop Trail and I highly recommend it. Wind in and out the towering sequoia in awe at how fantastic nature really is. This loop, in particular, is 6.5 miles or 10.5 km so some walking/hiking experience is advantageous. This is where the incredibly famous Wawona Tunnel Tree was found until a storm brought it down in 2012. Now stands The California Tunnel Tree. A great area of Yosemite to be at one with nature.

Waterfalls in Yosemite

There are some awesome waterfalls in Yosemite and I need to go back to see them all! Yosemite falls is super popular but one of the harder walks if you want to reach the top. But if you can’t manage a big hike then you can see the fall from Columbia Rock which is only a 2 mile round trip. The hike to the top of the falls however is an 11.6 km round trip reaching an elevation of 823 metres.

For more information of both of these hikes take a look here

You could spend a whole day finding the different waterfalls in Yosmite there are so many! For a complete guide to the waterfalls in Yosemite check out this amazing guide by World of Waterfalls.

Explore the Various Look Out Points in Yosemite

Yosemite is full of unique vantage points. One moment a waterfall stands before you, then a mountainous backdrop then a huge redwood. Honestly, the sensational views in Yosemite just keep on coming. There are so many to explore and a lot can be accessed via car. Half Dome and Tunnel View are a couple of these most popular.

Check out this post for a comprehensive list of amazing lookout points in Yosemite! 

My biggest piece of advice when visiting Yosemite during your 14 Day California Road Trip is to spend as many days there as you can. Especially, if you call yourself an adventure seeker Yosemite will be your haven.

Yosemite to San Francisco – Days 6-9

Ever since being little I’ve wanted to explore the streets of San Francisco. I think it probably began after a slight obsession with the film Princess Diaries! After years of lusting about riding the tram, walking up and down the many hills and of course seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, when I got there it certainly didn’t disappoint. San Francisco stole my heart away. It still stands as one of my all-time favourite cities in the world, probably more so than Sydney Australia!

The urban hip feel that San Francisco has on offer along with its vast amount of history makes it a fascinating place to visit. There is so much to do see and San Francisco but a couple of days is easy enough time to see the main attractions. In fact, you can see a lot of San Francisco in just one day!

Things to Do in San Francisco During a California Road Trip

With three days in San Francisco here are the main things to do and see. A mix of culture, food, history and epic views are what makes this place special. Not to mention amazing sealife and a sunset to impress.

See The Golden Gate Bridge

I think this one may be a given but nonetheless, it has to be the first thing you do in San Francisco. It’ll probably be one of the most memorable sights from this California road trip! I know it’s certainly stuck in my head for all these years. The possibilities are endless when it comes to seeing the bridge. Drive, walk, run or cycle the choices are yours but I highly recommend walking. You get to see life from a different perspective when you walk and the details in the bridge are so worth it.

California in 14 Days! California is one insane state. From incredible national parks to the bright lights of LA there is so much to do! But it is possible to fit everything into 14 Days! In this post I'm sharing a brilliant 14 day California itinerary that you just don't to miss. It includes all the hotspots that amazing state has on offer. | California 14 day road trip | #usa #america #bestofusa #bestofamerica #californiaroadtrip #yosemite #deathvalley #LA #sanfrancisco
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Visit Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island/Prison is another San Francisco must do! Learn the vast history that comes hand in hand with San Francisco. I enjoyed Alcatraz a lot more than I thought. I recommend booking a ticket in advance and going on the audio tour too. The audio tour gives you all the gory details that you wouldn’t know (unless you’re a history buff) and it is really interesting! The views back to San Francisco are second to none as well.

Find out more about tickets/the tours at Alcatraz here

Eat/Explore on Fishermans Wharf

Fishermans Wharf is the perfect place to try the San Francisco world famous clam chowder! Served in a bread bun it is so delicous! Whilst you’re on the waterfront make sure you head down to Pier 39 to see a colony of sealions too!

Watch the Sunset/Sunset Cruise

The sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge is fantastic! I was lucky enough to go on a catermaran sunset cruise which was nothing short of amazing. If you’ve got a little cash to spare then I highly recommend it! If not just head back to the bridge to watch the sunsetting over the ocean!

Other Things to Do in San Francisco

  • Explore Lombard Street
  • Watch a baseball game at the home of the San Francisco Giants
  • Ride on the cable car
  • Shop in Union Sqaure
  • Enjoy the sights with the hop-on hop-off bus
  • Hike Lands End

San Francisco to San Jose – Day 10

I feel like San Jose should be included in a 14 day California road trip but I must admit we only drove by. San Jose is a popular city in California. It’s known as the hub of technology and has an abundance of museums, art exhibitions and sports activities to indulge in! I won’t talk to much about it because I can’t but The Crazy Tourist has an awesome list of things to do in San Jose!

Monterey Bay and Big Sur – Day 11

After a couple of days in the cities on San Jose and San Francisco, it’s time to leave the urban lifestyle behind and get to the California Coast. Arguably one of the best coastal highway drives in the world. Take in the mesmerising views as you weave in and out of the ocean.

When you hit Monterey Bay stop the car and go for a gorgeous stroll around the stroll. If you read Of Mice and Men at school then you’ll have heard of John Steinbeck. He grew up in Monterey Bay and you can buy his books in the local stores. Monterey Bay is a gorgeous coastal town with a big fishing culture and scenic views all around.

Big Sur

Credit: Austin Prock

It’s a lot to do in one day but it felt it easy to accomplish. Big Sur is one of the quietest and most scenic places I remember from this trip especially down at McWay Falls. After a short 0.6 mile walk from the car, McWay Falls is a great way to finish off the day. You can only see the falls from above as the beach below is completely private – which leaves some people a little aggy about this spot but I think the beauty will be preserved for a lot longer. We viewed the falls from the vantage point just off from Highway 1 but you can get to other views points in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. That said I do know there have been some track closures in 2019 so check before you go!

San Luis – Day 12

After a three hour drive down from Big Sur stop-over in San Luis and explore the gorgeous town. Known for its beautiful landscape and great farmers markets San Luis is a great day just to breathe. But before you hit San Luis make sure you stop off at the Elephant Seal Beach Vista Point. 

I remember our tour guide bringing us to this beach and from the distance I could see a beach full of boulders. Oh, how wrong was I. No on the beach in front of me lay not boulders but Elephant Seals! These seals were almost made extinct because of hunters hunting them for their very oily rubber! But the Elephant Seal made a comeback and you’ll find a whole colony on this beach! Both male and female seals come to this beach throughout the year and thousands are spotted every year! It was truly magical!

For more information on the seals that migrate to this spot click here.

Santa Monica and Santa Barbra – Day 13

Think bikini babes, golden tans, jet skis and drinks on the pier. Santa Barbra the posh end compared to Venice beach if you will. It’s lined with restaurants and bars that lead to the Santa Monica pier, which for me is the highlight.

Grab a coffee or beer and walk down the promenade there are restaurants, cafes and bars if you like. But for me the simplicity of the sea at the end of the pier is all you need. We only had  quick whistle stop tour to Santa Barbra at the latter end of our road trip but the snippet I saw was beautiful. Take a great book and dangle your legs off the side of the pier and enjoy

Santa Monica is also a gorgeous coastal town but with a little more to do. It’s great to just take walks along the beach or hit up Pacific Park if you enjoy rides/the fun fair. These two spots are an epic way to finish up a great 14 Day California Road Trip!

Things to Do in Santa Monica

  • Pacific Park
  • Bike Tour of the City
  • Looking for a thrill? 26 Mile Bike Path Ride (you might need longer in the area though)!
  • Enjoy Santa Monica Pier
  • Visit the City Hall

Final Day of the California Road Trip Itinerary – 14 Days!

So I guess as we reach Day 14 the great big California Road Trip comes to an end! Of Course, if you do have more time then there are some extra places I’ve put below because visiting San Diego was also awesome but it’s a further one hour south of Los Angeles. I would’ve also loved the Joshua Tree National Park to have been in the itinerary too! Another great reason to revisit California right?

Stretch your California Road Trip 14 Days to 15 and see San Diego!

I didn’t really know what to expect visiting San Diego as I thought it would be very residential. When I arrived one of my favourite things happened, I unexpectedly fell in love with the place! If you want my opinion San Diego is one of the most beautiful places in California. It has it all from gorgeous beaches that stretch for miles, museums galore and food to die for.

We spent most of our one day in San Diego lapping up the rays on the beach and walking along the front. This included dreaming about living in one of the million dollar pads that overlook the sea! San Diego definitely has a dreamy feel to it and is so ‘California’! San Diego is what I expect from California.

California Road Trip Itinerary 14 Days – Please Share!

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I hope you enjoyed this California road trip itinerary – 14 days to help you plan and book your road trip! 14 Days is great length of time to visit all the best places California has to offer but if you can stretch it a little further then why not! If you did enjoy this post please share it with your friends!

Wishing you an awesome road trip and as always

Happy and Healthy Travels,

Alicia

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Alicia

Alicia is a travel obsessed Registered Nurse who is on a mission to help other unfulfilled nurses reconnect with their purpose, passion and joy for life. Alicia has suffered from countless bouts of burnout in her nursing career and now wants to help other nurses too. Alicia is a huge advocate for travel and travel makes up a huge part of her life and this blog! Join her on her adventures nursing around the world and helping others to live a happier more positive life.

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2 Comments

  1. 17/09/2018 / 02:27

    Love this post. You saw so many seals! Very cool! This has definitely made us want to visit Calfornia.

    • Alicia
      17/09/2018 / 11:49

      Hi Charlie! I just want to say thank you so much for commenting on this post, it’s so nice to get comments on the blog so thank you! Also i’m so pleased you enjoyed the article and it’s made you want to visit California, it really is a beautiful place and i can’t wait to go back! There are so many seals and sea lions to see its just magical!

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