California National Park and State Park Road Trip will Include Yosemite and Big Sur. This amazing 20 day itinerary will allow you to see the best that California National and State parks have to offer.
Duration: 19 nights / 20 days
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Visiting: Los Angeles
Hotel: The Garland - conveniently located in the city, and close by to Universal Studios Hollywood
Your California National Park and State Park Road Trip begins in Los Angeles where you will land after flying direct from London with one of our partner airlines like Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. In Los Angeles, before setting off on your California Road Trip adventure, there are a few must do activities- for example you’ll want to visit the amazing Santa Monica Pier and its amusement park, take stroll down Rodeo Drive and maybe spot a celebrity or two, visit the beautiful beaches of Malibu and watch the sunset, and perhaps even visit Disneyland California in Anaheim.
Visiting: Santa Barbara
National Park: The Channel Islands National Park
Hotel: Santa Barbara Inn - just a short walk from the beach, you’ll love this beautiful Mediterranean style hotel.
Your California National Park and State Park Road Trip continues up along the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara - a beautiful coastal town along Highway 1 that is home to the iconic Stearns Wharf - the Wharf has plenty of options for food, and one of the best seafood places around is Santa Barbara Shellfish Company! If you are up early enough you will also be able to see the fishermen bringing in their fresh catches of the day at Stearns Wharf every morning. From Santa Barbara you will visit the first National Park of your road trip: The Channel Islands National Park. California’s Channel Islands have been called the Galapagos of North America due to the diverse wildlife that lives there. The Channel Islands can be experienced by both land and sea - you can go kayaking and snorkelling around the islands or catch a boat for the day to one of the islands and explore it on foot. One of the most popular hikes on the island of Anacapa is to Inspiration Point which offers incredible views of the surrounding islands. Whilst in Santa Barbara we recommend spending at least a morning at one of Santa Barbara’s golden sand beaches soaking up the sun rays and listening to the waves of the Pacific Coast.
Visiting: Big Sur – with pit-stops at Pismo Beach, The Elephant Seal Rookery and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Falls.
State Park: Big Sur State Park
Hotel: Big Sur Lodge - cottage style cabins located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park - surrounded by Redwood trees and coastal fog, the hotel is a nature lovers dream. Big Sur Lodge hotel is also close to Pfeiffer Beach.
Setting off from Santa Barbara driving up the Pacific Coast Highway you will soon come to the beautiful Pismo Beach where you can stop for some lunch and admire the views. This town is full of quaint cafes, some that are popular with the locals are Brad's and Splash Café, followed by some amazing cinnamon rolls from Old West Cinnamon Rolls! If you fancy it you could even go boogie boarding or try surfing with the California locals whilst at Pismo Beach. Your journey up to Big Sur then continues, and after about an hour of driving you will come to The Elephant Seal Rookery - you will see signs for the Elephant Seal Vista Point where you can park up and look out over the cliff onto the elephant seals. This area is a sanctuary for these elephant seals and between December and March you will see the elephant seal pups on the beach. Your drive is now coming to one of the most scenic points along the Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur State Park, and you will undoubtably want to constantly be pulling over to take pictures. One stop definitely worth making is at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where you will see the iconic McWay Falls - one of California's 2 Tide Falls [or waterfalls that flow directly into the ocean]. There's no walk needed to see this Falls as you can see it right from the side of the highway.
Hotel: Casa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa - a charming and quaint hotel with a Mediterranean feel, located close to the Monterey Bay aquarium and Old Fisherman's Wharf.
After about another hour of driving through the Big Sur State Park you will reach your next destination of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monterrey is a beautiful coastal town that is home to the iconic Monterey Bay Aquarium - this aquarium is not only world class but a leader when it comes to marine scientific research and conservation efforts... it is also a Wildlife Refuge! In Monterrey, if this season is right, you can also go whale watching and visit Old Fisherman's Wharf - home to more wildlife like seals and sea lions. Monterey is a town full of marine life and is one of those rare places in California where marine life coexists with town life, making for a beautiful and a stop along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Visiting: Santa Cruz
State Park: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Hotel: Hyatt Place Santa Cruz - this modern, chic hotel is approximately a 15-minute walk from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and just a mile off of the Pacific Coast Highway.
The drive to Santa Cruz from Monterey will take you around Monterey Bay - it is a short drive, but you might want to pullover for some amazing pictures of Monterey Bay as you hug the coast almost the entire time. In Santa Cruz you could take a stroll along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to California's oldest amusement park. For an amazing perspective on the Californian Redwood Trees why not drive to Roaring Camp Railroads in the Santa Cruz Mountains where you can ride a steam train through the Redwood Forest; if you haven't got enough of the Redwood Trees then why not had to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park where you can walk among the giant Redwood Trees- one particularly popular area is the Garden of Eden: home to a natural swimming pool hidden beneath the trees. For some relaxation in Santa Cruz, before you begin your drive in-land to Yosemite National Park, why not have a beach day at one of Santa Cruz’s is amazing beaches such as Seabright State Beach, Sunny Cove and Twin Lakes State Beach.
Drive to Yosemite - with pit-tops in San Jose, the San Francisco Premium Outlets / the Del Valle Regional Park, and Modesto.
National Park: Yosemite National Park
Your drive from Santa Cruz to Yosemite National Park will be your longest one yet, but definitely worth it! Along the route to Yosemite National Park there are a few pit-stops to make to help you break your journey up. The first destination we recommend a stop is San Jose - San Jose is a city within Silicone Valley full of architectural landmarks, museums, and lovely cafes and restaurants where you can have a bite to eat before continuing on your journey. Around an hour outside of San Jose, if you feel like you need to stretch your legs, you will come across 2 potential pit-stops: the San Francisco Premium Outlets and the Del Valle Regional Park. At the San Francisco Premium Outlets, you will be able to have a look around and a shop before heading off into the wilderness, whereas Del Valle Regional Park is a nature reserve full of trails and a lovely lake with beaches if you want to stick to a simple walk to stretch your legs. After about another hour of driving you will come to the small town of Modesto, California. In Modesto, California you'll find plenty of places for food and drink, if you're feeling peckish, including local farmers markets that you could have a look around. From Modesto you'll want to keep driving until you arrive at Yosemite National Park and check-in to your hotel after a long day of driving.
Hotel: ,u>Yosemite View Lodge or Yosemite Valley Lodge (depending on your budget) - both hotels are located within Yosemite National Park, and both hotels offer lodge style rooms with Yosemite Valley Lodge offering waterfall views as well.
National Park: Yosemite National Park
On your first day in Yosemite National Park (day 12) you’ll want to visit Yosemite Valley: home to Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. If you are looking to do a hike in Yosemite National Park, and are not avid hikers or are visiting as a family, then hiking to Lower Yosemite Falls is ideal for your first day in Yosemite National Park. The hike to Lower Yosemite Falls is relatively short and easy and will offer you dramatic views of the Falls and the park throughout the hike. For those who want a serious hike then why not hike to Upper Yosemite Falls or hike Half Dome for some absolutely stunning views of the Yosemite National Park- though these hikes are not for beginners! On day 2 it's time to take a scenic drive and see another of Yosemite’s iconic waterfalls, Bridalveil Falls. The best viewing area of Bridalveil Falls is “Tunnel View” by the entrance to Yosemite National Park – you will get an amazing view of El Capitan here too. On the evening of your second day in Yosemite National Park why not visit Glacier Point - Glacier Point is one of the highest accessible points in the park with majestic views across Yosemite Valley. Glassier Point is the perfect place to end the day and watch the sunset. Once darkness falls, you'll be able to do some star gazing as well. For one of the most secluded areas of Yosemite National Park, why not visit Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite’s Mountain Fjord. The trail around this Fjord will lead you across several footbridges and allow you to see multiple waterfalls alongside the glistening blue water of the Fjord.
Visiting: San Francisco
National Monument: Muir Woods National Monument
Hotel: Hotel Zephyr San Francisco – ideally located on Fisherman's Wharf, with a cool and quirky design.
After an action-packed few days in Yosemite National Park it's time to make your drive back to San Francisco. The drive back to San Francisco will be slightly shorter than the drive to Yosemite National Park from Santa Cruz, and you can stop at any of the pit-stops you didn't make on the way to Yosemite or stop at them again if you really liked them! On your way into San Francisco, you’ll also pass-through Oakland, San Francisco's neighbouring city across the Bay, where you can stop for a look around or visit Jack London Square for amazing views out over the Bay to San Francisco. In San Francisco you’ll want to visit Fisherman's Wharf and try some of the amazing fresh seafood, the Golden Gate Bridge- you could even ride your bike over it, Alcatraz Island with this historic but eerie feel, and Union Square for some epic San Francisco shopping. From San Francisco you’ll also visit your final National Park, or Monument, the Muir Woods National Monument; a forest of California’s amazing Redwood Trees that you can stroll through leisurely or hike through for an adventure. From San Francisco you will make your way home to London with one of our excellent airline partners Virgin Atlantic or British Airways.
All our holidays are tailor-made and can be adapted by changing hotels durations and destinations to suit the individuals tastes and requirements – please do get in touch so we can start planning.
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