Has a dream trip from south to north California focusing on the West Coast's natural beauty always been on your mind? Then this awe-inspiring trip from Los Angeles to Redwood National Park to explore the NorCal-SoCal cultural divide will help you realize it.
It takes over 11 hours to drive the 690-mile road trip from Los Angeles to Redwood National Park, visiting Santa Clarita, Napa, and Humboldt Redwood State Park on the direct route, or via the coast visiting Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and San Francisco.
This route has so much to offer, from incredible nature, breathtaking ocean views, beautiful landscapes, towering cityscapes, and it's easy to get carried away when the journey is as exciting as the destination. To help you start your planning, we have highlighted two fantastic routes, possible scenic detours, and our favorite things to do and places to visit.
How far is Redwood National Park from Los Angeles, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Quickest Route||690 miles||11 hours|
|The Coastal Highway Route||840 miles||17 hours|
The fastest drive to Redwood National Park from Los Angeles via The Quickest Route takes a little over 11 hours to cover 690 miles without any stopovers and detours.
If you have leisure for a slightly longer drive, take The Coastal Highway Route, covering 840 miles over 17 hours of driving, not considering food and gas breaks.
While you can cover the quick route in two days, we recommend that you take at least three days to explore the coastal way, make the most of its bountiful offerings, and avoid exhaustion.
Best road trip route from Los Angeles to Redwood National Park
Despite sharing the origin and the destination, the routes only overlap during the final segment. So, you'll have two very different journeys depending on your chosen path.
The Quickest Route primarily uses the interstate system and avoids the congestion in San Francisco. Yet you can get your eyes on the engineering marvel that the Golden Gate Bridge is.
The road North of San Fran winds up in Napa, where you can pass through small towns and vineyards with plenty of scenery.
The Coastal Highway route is far more scenic and takes you through the legendary US-101 and CA-1 highways along the Pacific. If time is abundant, we highly recommend this route.
As you drive by the stunning California coast, you'll stop at some of the state's, indeed America's, most gorgeous places. It'll allow you to explore the coastal cities of Big Sur, the Monterey Bay Area, San Francisco Bay, and scenic Northern California.
The Quickest Route
Take Interstate 5 (I-5) out of the city of angels to head northward. Pass through the agricultural lands, vineyards, and orchards, before reaching San Francisco after merging into I-680.
Admire the beautiful bay area and the surrounding scenery before heading to Napa Valley on CA-12. Notice the atmospheric landscapes of the vineyards as you merge into CA-29 to head over to Napa Valley.
As you leave behind the buzzing restaurants and wineries, join US-101 at Eureka and follow the winding road passing through the rolling hills on both sides.
Explore Mendocino County, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the parts of the Pacific Coast before finally reaching Redwood National Park.
The Coastal Highway Route
Taking I-10 out of Los Angeles, head to Santa Monica, where the road meets the iconic CA-1 highway. At Malibu, take a right on Malibu Canyon Road to join US-101.
Pass through the very green Thousand Oaks and join the coastal route again. Drive along the scenic ocean and stop briefly at the beautiful beaches to enjoy the sun and the sand.
After Santa Barbara, head to CA-154, drive through Cachuma Lake Recreation Area and merge into US-101. Once you cross Pismo Beach, join CA-1 toward Hearst Castle and follow it north to explore the beach towns of Big Sur and Monterey before arriving in Santa Cruz.
Straddle your way through the ocean on one side and the beautiful woods on the other as you continue your journey on CA-1 to San Francisco.
Take a brief detour on US-101 as you drive on the Golden Gate Bridge and go through the inland ways exploring the bay areas. Leave US-101 by taking a left on Stony Point Road to join CA-1 again.
Drive along the ocean and admire the beautiful golden sands and gushing waves as you cross a beach town like Mendocino. At Leggett, join the US-101 again. Keep straight and head north till you reach the lush green Redwood National Park.
Best places to stop between Los Angeles and Redwood National Park
The drive from LA to Redwood National Park is full of changing landscapes, from ocean views and national parks to rolling hills and exciting cities, and you'll be surprised what such a short trip can pack.
To make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, we have handpicked the best stopover points and hotels for you.
Get your spirits high in Napa
Situated just over halfway to your destination on The Quickest Route, you'll end up in the beautiful Napa Valley. It is where American winemaking has built its world, drawing tourists from across the country and perhaps the world.
After a day of driving, it offers an opportunity to relax, drink wine, and meet new people. One place you could visit to experience the wine culture is the Olney Family Vineyard. Book your visit in advance for a variety of tastings and tours.
Explore the recreation area outside Napa at the Skyline Wilderness Park for an outdoor adventure. Admire the natural beauty in the region and the trail at the foothills of Napa. Enjoy rides at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for a kicker adrenaline rush.
Archer Hotel Napa is our all-time favorite, located at the heart of Napa, within walking distance from the Napa Valley Opera House and Uptown Theater. The first thing you'll notice about the hotel is the gorgeous property and the chic décor.
After a day of driving, you can retire to luxurious rooms that scream comfort. Some rooms even have private balconies to soak in the Napa views. Also, no matter what time you get there, you'll always be welcomed by their staff at the 24-hour front desk.
There are plenty of fantastic restaurant options just outside the hotel. But if you wish to enjoy meals on the property, a fabulous upscale restaurant and a smashing rooftop bar are on site. Also, the American-style breakfast served in the morning is delicious and satisfying.
Relax in the coastal city of Monterey
You'll arrive in Monterey after covering a third of the total distance on The Coastal Highway Route. The Monterey Bay area is a beautiful part of California, with endless activities and hundreds of hidden gems for travelers.
It has so much to offer for people who love beach towns. You can marvel at the beautiful aquatic life via the exhibits displayed at the Monterey Bay aquarium. It is a massive attraction for the young crowds.
A trip to the beach town is incomplete without indulging in the fantastic seafood. Head to Fisherman's Wharf for a lively experience of shopping and restaurants. This old pier falls on the foot and bicycle path along the sea and goes for miles.
Located right on the shore and close to the top attractions like Monterey Bay Whale Watch and the aquarium, Monterey Bay Inn is our top choice for a peaceful stay in Monterey.
When you stay here, expect uninterrupted views of the bay and Cannery Row from your private balcony. You can also soak in the stunning views from the rooftop whirlpool at the hotel.
Take long walks and relaxing dips at San Carlos Beach, which can be directly accessed from the hotel. Or you can chill on the outdoor terrace by the firepits.
Where to stay when you reach Redwood National Park
As you reach the north end of California, we suggest you check in at the View Crest Lodge. Located at a convenient 15-minute drive from the Redwood National Park, this cozy lodge is an excellent excursion base.
The hotel is also near Agate Beach, Moonstone Beach, and Clam Beach. Lose yourself to the beauty surrounding you and relax in the hot tub at the property.
When placed at this lodge, you can enjoy an excellent breakfast and home-cooked meals daily using their fantastic kitchen facilities.
Things to see on a road trip from Los Angeles to Redwood National Park
Irrespective of your route, the road trip spanning the length of California will enrich you with novel cultures, people, food, and experiences. Blessed with abundant diversity, the region keeps surprising you with breathtaking coast and lush mountain views.
We have created a list of the top attractions and activities to ensure you don't miss out on any must-visit sites along the way.
The Quickest Route
- Castaic Lake Recreation Area – For a quick pit stop, visit this scenic reservoir and dam along the way.
- Fort Tejon State Historic Park – A 1800s-era fort has been converted into a park, and the picnic area is a perfect place to stretch your legs and have a snack in the picturesque rolling hills.
- Oakland Zoo – If you choose to detour via Oakland, you must visit the 100-year-old Oakland Zoo to view exotic animals and works to support conservation efforts worldwide.
- Bothe-Napa Valley State Park – Situated north of Napa and in the heart of the valley, it provides a fantastic opportunity for a hike and is encircled by miles of vineyards.
- Old Faithful Geyser of California – Not to be confused with the “Old Faithful” geyser in Wyoming, this natural waterspout is a worthwhile stop just a half mile off the route.
- Richardson Grove State Park – Dive deeper into Redwood territory with a quick stop in this 1800-acre state park, conveniently on the way north.
- Shrine Drive Thru Tree – Since you'll see the giant redwoods, you may as well drive through one on the way. This attraction south of Humboldt State Park allows visitors to drive (small vehicles) through a carved-out redwood and has a gift shop.
- Humboldt Redwoods State Park – Soak in California's northern wilderness at this massive park that boasts numerous scenic trails to explore the area.
The Coastal Highway Route
- Santa Barbara Zoo – If traveling with the little ones in the family, stop by this lovely zoo in the beautiful city of Santa Barbara that supports wildlife from around the world while overlooking the Pacific.
- Hearst Castle – The CA-1 road has plenty of detour options, like this short detour to the historic Hearst Castle. The incredible estate of William Randolph Hearst consists of several buildings and well over 100 rooms.
- Limekiln State Park – Marvel at the gorgeous waterfalls and incredible ocean views at this State Park, a historical limekiln site used in the production of lime. It also hosts waterfalls and incredible ocean views.
- Partington Cove – Coves are a beautiful sight, and after a short hike down the road, you'll arrive at a secluded cove where waves beautifully crash into the rocks. If you love discovering secret spots, take the tunnel through the mountain to a second cove.
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – Situated a little from the coast, you can trail the mountains among tall forests. It is home to many trails; you can always count on parking along the road if the lot fills up.
- Point Lobos State Natural Preserve – Before you reach Monterey, hike around the woods by the coast at this natural preserve and ravish the sights of swimming seals and lovely wildflowers.
- Carmel Mission - As you arrive on the Monterey Peninsula, a quick detour brings you to the Carmel Mission, an active Catholic church and a historic mission built by Spanish settlers in the 1700s.
- 17-mile Drive – Wrap up the first leg of your journey by traveling on the 17-mile Drive, overlooking the Pacific and the world's most luxurious estates.
- Santa Cruz Boardwalk – This must-visit tourist attraction combines the best rides, games, and food vendors at one historic landmark. Remember to ride on the Big Dipper, one of the oldest roller coasters in America.
- Sonoma Coast State Park – Stretch your legs to explore this state park's numerous beaches, vistas, trails, and rock formations.
- Salt Point State Park – The underwater area of this park is a huge attraction; you can enjoy sightings of seals, otters, and occasional scuba divers amidst the kelp forests.
- San Francisco – On both routes, you'll end up bypassing the heart of the city, but if you wish, San Francisco is always a welcome detour to explore the historic town, full of culture and entertainment.
Best time to go on a road trip from Los Angeles to Redwood National Park
If you take the Coastal Highway Route, you can take this trip any time of the year. Especially during spring and summer, the coast is kept cooler by a pleasant ocean breeze. But your experience will differ depending on your taste and the season you plan this trip.
Summer gets very crowded because it is an ideal time to explore outdoor activities in the redwood forests of Northern California. If you plan camping, finding a campsite can be almost impossible without booking well in advance.
You won't experience heavy rains during summer, but you should expect abundant fog.
Winter is quite chilly, and you may see some snow. The temperature is never freezing, but you'll see fewer tourists during those months. So, it'll be easy to find accommodation at reasonable rates. Also, it is essential to note that there could be closures due to the harsh climate, so watch out for warnings.
You'll find fewer people in the woods during fall because it rains ever so often. So, if you're looking to beat the crowds, you'll like the shoulder seasons.
The Redwood National Park doesn't host many events or huge festivals during the year. But you can enjoy free visits on a few holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Park Week, the Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.