California is a top choice for travelers from around the world, attracting billions of people every year. What’s more, camping and RVing activities now encompass 32% of the total US travel market.
Keeping these facts in mind, it only makes sense to combine the two into one action-packed adventure. California’s wonderful collection of state parks, historic sites, magnificent scenery, and interesting culture add up to create a destination that begs exploring in a campervan.
Read on for a snapshot of the best ways to enjoy your campervan with these road trip ideas.
The southern California coast is a top choice for travelers wanting to enjoy the best that the California coastline has to offer. It’s also a great option for food lovers eager to discover the culinary delights of some of the state’s prestigious wine farms.
Along this stretch, you’ll discover sublime beaches, gorgeous nature, and historic treasures nestled against a pristine backdrop of mountains and greenery.
Highway 101 and Highway 1 are the best routes if you want to overnight at the most interesting and tranquil places along the way while lapping up serene ocean views.
Each of these offers a host of historic attractions to explore and some of the best-known beaches in the United States.
As you travel these winding seaside roads and country lanes in your campervan, you’ll explore fine California wines, quaint museums, state parks, grand architecture, and marine reserves bustling with ocean wildlife.
Go here for the best suggestions about making the most of your coastal campervan road trip.
Embrace Your Wilderness Wanderlust
Exploring California’s glorious selection of national parks in a campervan is the best way to connect with nature and make the most of everything on offer in these wonderful destinations.
Joshua Tree National Park, the meeting place of two unique desert ecosystems, is your first stop for non-stop animal sightings and blissful stargazing during an epic camping trip.
There’s more to Palm Springs than plush resorts, golf courses, and hot springs. You can also take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for unforgettable views of the Chino Canyon, which is one of the steepest in North America.
Death Valley National Park is the driest and hottest wilderness area in the USA, with three million acres of wilderness to enjoy while hiking and sightseeing.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks boast gorgeous sequoia groves and are home to hundreds of birds and black bears. Don’t miss the chance for a selfie alongside General Sherman’s tree, the largest tree by volume in the world.
Nearby Kings Canyon National Park showcases more giant trees, stunning waterfalls, and canyon views. Yosemite National Park is one of the country’s most popular destinations where you can go horseback riding, hike, and sightsee to your heart’s content.
As you meander from one pristine wilderness to the next, you’ll also get a chance to enjoy wine experiences, museums, smaller state parks, Fresno’s Underground Gardens, Santa Barbara’s beaches, and more.
On this road trip, you’ll get to enjoy the diversity and quality of California’s wine-making region, plus the stunning views on offer along the state’s scenic southern coastal route.
California’s wine experiences appeal to every palate, featuring exceptional vintages from Napa’s bold reds to Santa Barbara’s refreshing whites.
This route also offers a range of historic sites and seaside amusements to enjoy when you aren’t sipping wine or savoring farm-to-table cuisine.
Santa Barbara is a lovely city boasting excellent wineries, Mediterranean patios, and lush gardens where you can sip on Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.
Near Paso Robles, you can sample olives, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel while admiring the ocean and mountain views.
Monterey is famed for its rustic wine cellars, which offer cheese and charcuterie plates and over 200 wines for sale.
At Sonoma, tasting rooms and wine estates invite you to sip on select vintages overlooking tranquil, manicured gardens alive with birds.
At Sonoma, tasting rooms and wine estates invite you to sip on select vintages overlooking tranquil, manicured gardens, alive with birds.
Napa Valley is California’s most famous wine region, featuring 700 established vineyards serving up fine food and fabulous, award-winning wines.
Read our guide to help you make the most of your trip to wine country.
Road-Tripping Around the Southwest National Parks
Road-tripping around the southwest national parks showcases some of the most unique and interesting scenery in the country. Towering rock formations, towering canyons, desert ecosystems, and saltwater lakes beg exploration on this route.
This road trip takes you to Arches National Park and back again, taking in all of the best nature destinations along the way.
Joshua Tree National Park is awash with surreal desert landscapes and the iconic trees from which it takes its name. It’s also a good place to spot arid-adapted animals and birds, like road runners, coyotes, bobcats, bighorn sheep, and mule deer.
There are nine campgrounds in this iconic park to help you maximize your visit with an overnight stay.
Take a long drive to Grand Canyon National Park, where you can gaze in wonder at one of the Earth’s largest and most visited canyons.
Your next stop is Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, which showcases incredible sandstone towers rising dramatically from the desert.
Arches National Park is famous for its many unique geological features, sandstone buttes, mesas, and over 2,000 natural stone arches.
A short trip takes you to Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, best known for dramatic desert scenes. The incredible spire rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park form the largest concentration of these red hoodoos on Earth.
Zion National Park is Utah’s largest national park. Don’t miss the chance to witness the picturesque display of the park’s cliffs turning reddish orange as the sun sets.
Find out more about the things you can see along the way by checking out our suggested itinerary.
Discover the So-Cal Desert
California’s desert landscapes start just outside LA, where the Mojave steals the show with its vast canyons, rugged mountains, and lakes.
At Joshua Tree National Park, you can enjoy the iniquities of two deserts, the Sonoran and the Mojave, as well as numerous indoor museums.
Breeze by the Imperial Valley of California for a look at the Salton Sea, which is home to huge numbers of wetland birds.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the place to go to see wildflowers and teddy bear cacti in a fantasy-like setting nestled against a backdrop of narrow canyons.
On your way back to LA, be sure to stop off at the valley region of Temecula, where you can admire the sights from aloft in a hot air balloon. Get more travel tips by browsing our detailed desert travel plan.
A Sun-Kissed Sojourn in Southern California
Take a five-day drive, stopping off at some of Southern California’s most sought-after cities and interesting destinations.
Santa Monica’s pier and amusement park are an excellent way to kick off this fun-filled road trip, followed by some chill time on the city’s famous golden beaches before heading to the glamor on offer in Malibu, where you can spend the night on the seaside.
The road to Ventura offers plenty of opportunities for detours to see state parks, great views over the ocean, shopping, and more beach time.
From Ventura, you can travel to Santa Barbara to spend time on one of SoCal’s best beaches and visit the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve.
Close by, Solvang’s manmade lake is perfect for boating and skiing, or you can spend time exploring some of the local vineyards instead.
For more wine, art, and classy boutiques, stop off at the quaint town of Los Olivos before heading onward to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where you can spend some time exploring before you return to L.A.
Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks are the perfect first stops as you go for gold on this fascinating route, which officially begins at Oakhurst.
The Gold Rush route explores the lives and times of the thousands of prospectors who headed to California in the 1800s. As such, you’ll find numerous immaculately preserved or recreated mining towns and museums at the following stops:
California State Mining and Mineral Museum
Hotel Jeffrey in Coulterville
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
Columbia State Historic Park
Virginia City Historic District
Discovery Loop Trail
Along the way, Lake Tahoe offers respite from your travels among these quaint sites, and you’ll find plenty of attractions as you head back to L.A. from San Francisco, too. Read our detailed itinerary and start planning.
Take in the Best of the Pacific Northwest
This route offers a varied choice, incorporating some of the Southwest’s best experiences. From L.A., you’ll head straight to San Francisco, stopping to stretch your legs at one of the interesting places you’ll find along the way.
Then, take a trip to Redwood National and State Parks, sampling some of Santa Rosa’s fine wines along the way. After a few nights in nature, travel to Lake Crater National Park for fishing, birding, and more camping.
From there, you can explore the interesting cities of Salem, Portland, and Seattle before heading back to nature at Mount Rainier National Park, one of the most-visited parks in the country.
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor will take you to the coast of Oregon, where you’ll start your winding journey back to L.A. and have another chance to enjoy the coastal delights on offer along the way.
Travellers AutoBarn is your best option when you’re looking for a Los Angeles campervan rental. We offer a wide selection of immaculately maintained minivans and campervans for your travels.
Browse our website for the best road trip planning ideas, and book a campervan today so you can start exploring.
About the Author
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.