Lake Tahoe on a clear day with mountains in the background and forests in the foreground
Road Trips

Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary

By Pat Dorri | Published on 2 May 2023

Countless songs have been sung about California. It's a land of dreams and opportunity; innovation and enchantment. On this 12-day road trip around the length and breadth of the Golden State, you'll see why it's been a muse to so many and agree with the State Motto – “Eureka!”

On this ultimate California Road trip start on the sun-filled shores of SoCal, drive by the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur to San Francisco, admire the Redwoods, explore distant peaks in the Sierra and be embraced by the solitude of the Mojave Desert.

This curated 12-day itinerary covers as many of the state's varied landscapes as possible – with helpful tips on where to stop and spend the night. Read on below to start planning your own ultimate California road trip.

What is the ultimate California road trip itinerary?

The ultimate California road trip itinerary covers a total distance of 2,455 miles and would take a whopping 55 hours to drive nonstop. We suggest breaking up the drive over 12 days; this makes the average drive time about 4 hours and 30 minutes per day.

Some days entail as much as 7 hours of driving and others are as short as two, so read carefully to see where you'll have more time in a day to explore and note where you might want to spend more than one night if a lot of the previous day was spent driving.

The ultimate road trip itinerary in California

Distances and daily travel times on the ultimate road trip in California
DayDriving itineraryDistanceTime
1Los Angeles to Pismo Beach180 miles3 hours 15 minutes
2Pismo Beach to Monterey150 miles3 hours 30 minutes
3Monterey to Sonoma160 miles3 hours 30 minutes
4Sonoma to Mendocino140 miles3 hours 30 minutes
5Mendocino to Klamath210 miles4 hours 15 minutes
6Klamath to Mineral340 miles6 hours 30 minutes
7Mineral to Lake Tahoe180 miles4 hours
8Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park110 miles2 hours 15 minutes
9Yosemite National Park to Bakersfield350 miles6 hours
10Bakersfield to Palm Springs325 miles6 hours
11Palm Springs to San Diego180 miles3 hours 20 minutes
12San Diego to Los Angeles125 miles3 hours

What is the ultimate California road trip itinerary?