If you are looking for a cross-country road trip that covers desert landscapes, pretty coastlines, vast plains, bustling cities, bucket-list sites, world-famous national parks and historic landmarks, then this unforgettable adventure from California to New Jersey is the road trip for you!
The 2,915-mile road trip from California to New Jersey will take 43 hours of nonstop driving, passing Las Vegas, Moab, Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Nashville, Washington and Philadelphia.
Take an epic journey from California to New Jersey and you will visit some of the most memorable and iconic sites in America. You are sure to have many tales to tell once you complete this amazing trip, so keep reading to see all the adventures you can have along the way.
How far is New Jersey from California, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Northern Route
|The Southern Route
If you take the challenge of heading from California to New Jersey, you are in for an epic treat! One option, the Northern Route, sees you traveling 2,915 miles and driving for around 43 hours without any detours.
Alternatively, you can take the Southern Route, a slightly longer journey covering 2,960 miles with a non-stop drive time of 44 hours.
This is one memorable journey from California to New Jersey, and to soak up all the wonderful sights and explore what both routes have to offer, we recommend dedicating at least 7-8 days to this road trip.
Best road trip route from California to New Jersey
While both routes promise a journey bursting with natural attractions, amazing scenery and bucket-list experiences, your decision will depend on the kind of backdrop you prefer for your drive.
The Northern Route takes you past the glitz and glam of Las Vegas to the stunning red rocks of Moab. You can enjoy the plains of the Midwest, the urban vibes of Chicago, and breathtaking views at Dead Horse Point near Moab.
The route also features the spectacular vista from Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado, where on a clear day, the Rocky Mountains' snowy peaks can be seen.
If you want to get a closer look, reserve a ticket to visit Rocky Mountain National Park because there is a timed entry permit system in place.
The Southern Route takes you on a musical and historic journey. Just a short drive from Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon National Monument has stunning views of ancient cliff dwellings, with Island Trail or Rim Trail giving you the very best canyon views.
As you continue east, you'll enjoy a musical journey through Memphis and Nashville - a must-visit for blues and country fans.
During this route, you can also detour as you approach Nashville towards Look Rock Tower, where sweeping views of the Great Smoky Mountains greet you, before reaching the historic landscapes of Washington and Philadelphia.
How to drive from California to New Jersey
The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between California and New Jersey. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.
The Northern Route
Begin your journey in Los Angeles, heading along Interstate 10 (I-10) and then I-15 towards Las Vegas. En route, visit Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area before stopping at Mormon Rocks Viewpoint, a prime photo opportunity with distinctive rock formations.
Continue onwards and pass the California Route 66 Museum and Seven Magic Mountains in Nevada, an art installation with vibrant, towering boulders, before reaching the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas.
After your fill of entertainment, continue on I-15 to Little Jamaica Natural Swimming Hole, a hidden oasis offering dips in cool water. As you head towards Moab, take US-191 to marvel at Arches National Park, brimming with over 2,000 natural stone arches.
Heading along I-70 pass the Colorado River Scenic Byway with breathtaking river views before stopping at Fremont Indian State Park. The Rocky Mountains are not far away and are spectacular. Afterwards divert to Copper Mountain, a prime spot for more outdoor adventures.
From here, you will arrive at Denver, ideal for a stopover. Mount Evans Scenic Byway is a high-altitude experience with unmatched views.
Afterwards I-76 and then I-80 arrive at Des Moines before jumping onto I-88 and arriving in Chicago, best known for its iconic skyline, deep-dish pizza, jazz and blues.
From here, the I-90 east then leads to Pittsburgh, a route packed with scenic landscapes, before I-78 leads to Jersey City.
The Southern Route
From Los Angeles, take I-40 to Mojave Trails National Monument, with sand dunes and volcanic formations to explore.
Your next destination is the awe-inspiring and bucket-list destination Grand Canyon. While here, head to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, and historic Apache Death Cave, also reachable along I-40.
After Flagstaff, travel past Petrified Forest National Park and Joseph City and to Albuquerque. The Old Town historic district is certainly worth a meander before heading north on I-25 to Santa Fe. The unusual Meow Wolf Santa Fe experience awaits you here.
Taking I-40 you can then enjoy Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, a spring offering refreshing dives, and onwards to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, where the ten Cadillac cars buried nose-down are quite the sight!
Oklahoma City can then be found for a stopover to explore this interesting and exciting city. Before driving and toe-tapping your way to Memphis and Nashville. As well as great music, the replica of the ancient Greek temple, The Parthenon, is definitely a talking point.
Your journey continues through the stunning landscapes of Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia and along I-81 towards Washington, DC. Here, history awaits you with the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall to explore.
Afterwards take I-95 towards Philadelphia, with sites such as Independence National Historical Park, before your grand journey ends at Jersey City.
Best places to stop between California and New Jersey
This journey from California to New Jersey is packed with so many amazing stops along the way. Keep reading to see some of our top picks for where to stay a night or two as you make this unforgettable trip.
There's much to discover in 'mile-high' Denver
Denver is a great overnight stop around halfway along The Northern Route, packed with excitement and adventure. This vibrant city, often called "The Mile-High City" as it sits one mile above sea level, offers respite just on the doorstep of the stunning Rocky Mountains.
Music enthusiasts will be thrilled to visit the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, just outside Denver. This world-renowned venue boasts incredible acoustics and stunning rock formations - a unique concert experience.
For art fans, make sure to head to the Denver Art Museum, with one of the largest collections between the West Coast and Chicago. The contemporary American Indian art is particularly impressive.
During your visit, also watch for a copper penny in your change. In 1943, the Denver Mint accidentally made them rather than the usual zinc-coated steel coins, and they'll fetch you a handsome sum!
Enjoy rodeos and ranches in Oklahoma City
Make a pit stop at Oklahoma City overnight along the Southern Route, and you can expect a blend of Old West charm and modern urban vibrancy.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum marks the tragic 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and the impressive Outdoor Symbolic Memorial invites reflection and remembrance.
Step into the past, visiting the Old West experience in Stockyards City, home to the world's largest stocker-feeder cattle market. Here, you can enjoy Western entertainment, buy cowboy gear, and treat yourself to a steak.
If you fancy a spot of horse riding and popping to the shops, then no problem either! You can find an official horse trailer parking area in town, with horseback riders casually trotting through the streets.
When it comes to a luxurious stay, the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel is the place to be. Relax here by heading to the rooftop, where a stunning outdoor pool and bar offer unrivaled city views. Afterwards, head to one of the delicious six on-site restaurants, where you are spoilt for choice.
A great location and super close to many top sites, just 350 yards away lies picturesque Bricktown River Walk Park, a perfect spot for a leisure stroll. The Oklahoma City National Memorial is also accessible a short distance from the hotel for a visit during your stay.
Where to stay when you reach New Jersey
Jersey City is renowned for its vibrant urban vibe and stunning New York City skyline, with so much to see and do. The first stop is to Liberty State Park for views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Manhattan skyline, with a visit to the interactive Liberty Science Center also a must.
Journal Square is a bustling square packed with events and dining options. Visit Loew's Jersey Theatre, a restored movie theater dating back to 1929, and watch a show from the golden era of cinema.
As you journey along the waterfront, the iconic Colgate Clock will keep you on time, with a clockface over 50 feet wide. This is an excellent spot for a river view and selfie.
During your visit, we recommend staying at Canopy By Hilton Jersey City Arts District. The hotel has modern and urban charm, with a beautiful sun terrace where you can soak in panoramic city views.
Explore the city's landmarks on free bikes provided by the hotel, where you can visit top attractions, including the One World Trade Center and the iconic Statue of Liberty, just a short ride away.
Things to see on a road trip from California to New Jersey
Head on this journey from California to New Jersey and you can expect such a mix of unique experiences and landscapes to enjoy. The list really is endless, but here are some of our top picks of places to stop at as you head on your way.
- Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area - Nestled in Irwindale, California, this area offers outdoor recreational opportunities, including biking, fishing, and picnicking, with a stunning dam providing a unique backdrop.
- Mormon Rocks Viewpoint - Located in San Bernardino County, California, this viewpoint presents astonishing sandstone formations offering great photographic opportunities and hiking trails.
- California Route 66 Museum - Situated in Victorville, this museum dedicates itself to preserving the historical heritage of the iconic Route 66, with exhibitions displaying memorabilia and artifacts.
- Seven Magic Mountains, Nevada - An art installation near Las Vegas, it features seven towering stacks of vibrantly painted boulders, creating a visually striking contrast against the desert backdrop.
- Las Vegas - A globally renowned resort city in Nevada known for its vibrant nightlife centered around 24-hour casinos, famous shows, and a myriad of other entertainment options.
- Little Jamaica Natural Swimming Hole - A hidden gem near Littlefield, Arizona, it offers a refreshing natural pool fed by a waterfall, providing a cool respite in the desert landscape.
- Rocky Mountains - A major mountain range in western North America, offering breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and recreational opportunities including hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.
- Fremont Indian State Park and Museum - Found in Utah, this park and museum showcases rock art and artifacts from Fremont culture, and look into the lives of the region's ancient inhabitants.
- Giant Soda Cans, Salina - In Utah, these colorful roadside attractions represent giant versions of popular soda cans, adding a quirky and vibrant spot for photo opportunities.
- Arches National Park - Found in eastern Utah, the park is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, providing spectacular landscapes and hiking trails to iconic spots like Delicate Arch.
- Colorado River Scenic Byway - This byway runs along the Colorado River, offering picturesque views against stunning rock formations.
- Dinosaur Journey Museum, Museums of Western Colorado - Situated in Fruita, Colorado, this museum immerses visitors in the prehistoric era through its exhibits of dinosaur fossils and interactive displays.
- Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves - Located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, this spa offers natural vapor caves and mineral hot springs, providing a tranquil setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.
- Copper Mountain - A renowned ski resort in Colorado offering skiing and snowboarding, coupled with picturesque mountain views.
- Mount Evans Scenic Byway - The highest paved road in North America, it offers spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and a chance to see alpine lakes and diverse wildlife.
- Mojave Trails National Monument - Spanning 1.6 million acres in the Mojave Desert, it protects a wide variety of sand dunes, volcanic formations, and mountain ranges, offering a glimpse into the natural and historical heritage of the region.
- Mojave Museum of History and Arts - Located in Kingman, Arizona, the museum showcases the history, culture, and arts of the Mojave Desert region.
- The Historic Seligman Sundries - Situated in Seligman, Arizona, it is a historic site offering a nostalgic glimpse into the 1930s, with a range of vintage memorabilia and a classic soda fountain.
- Grand Canyon National Park - A world-renowned natural wonder in Arizona, known for its size and colorful landscape, it offers some of the most stunning vistas in the world.
- Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff - A historic observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Pluto was discovered; it offers educational exhibits and star-gazing opportunities.
- Albuquerque Old Town - The historic district of Albuquerque, New Mexico, characterized by its Spanish colonial architecture, offers a range of shops, restaurants, and cultural sites.
- Meow Wolf Santa Fe - An immersive art installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where visitors can explore a variety of multimedia exhibits and interactive experiences.
- Blue Hole, Santa Rosa - A popular dive destination in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, known for its crystal-clear waters offering excellent visibility for scuba diving and training.
- Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo - A public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, featuring ten half-buried Cadillacs, it's a popular spot for graffiti and photo ops.
- National Civil Rights Museum - Situated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, it serves as a profound museum documenting the American Civil Rights Movement.
- The Parthenon - Located in Nashville this full-scale replica of ancient Parthenon in Athens is an art museum and testament to the city's nickname, "the Athens of the South."
- Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia - Home to a natural arched rock bridge, enjoy picturesque views, hiking trails, and educational exhibits.
- Lincoln Memorial - A prominent national monument in Washington, D.C., honoring Abraham Lincoln, it is a majestic statue of Lincoln and inscriptions of his speeches.
- National Mall - A national park in downtown Washington, D.C., it houses iconic monuments and memorials, including the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol.
- Independence National Historical Park - Situated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it's home to historic sites such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.
Best time to go on a road trip from California to New Jersey
If you make this amazing journey from California to the lively heart of Jersey City, you will pass some of the most iconic and memorable sites in America.
If you set off in summer, temperatures can be quite hot, particularly as you travel through desert areas like Las Vegas along the Northern Route, and around Flagstaff, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe on the Southern Route. Make sure to pack plenty of water.
On the other hand, Jersey City is ideal in summer and basks in warm temperatures, giving you the perfect backdrop to explore the vibrant areas around Journal Square. Although hotter, planning your trip around the Vail Dance Festival in August could also add a vibrant addition to your journey.
Spring and fall are milder times to travel, and as you reach Jersey City, expect temperatures ranging from the cool 50s to the mild 70s Fahrenheit - a pleasant climate to explore this bustling area if you are not keen on the summer heat.
If you are traveling in spring, you can plan your road trip to coincide with the Jersey City Jazz Festival in May and June, providing a music-filled backdrop to your road trip finale.
Travel in winter and snowy conditions along the Northern Route might greet you in Moab and Denver, so take extra care. As you arrive in Jersey City, the chilly winter sees temperatures around mid-30s to high 40s Fahrenheit.
It can be a particularly pretty and special time to visit, and enjoy stunning views from Liberty State Park.