Northern California Road Trip Destinations

A few weeks back I set out on a road trip from Tahoe to explore the surrounding areas in California. This state has captured my heart and brings me back from Australia year after year. California has so much to offer, whether it be mountains, beaches, cities, National Parks, deserts, wine regions and endless more. I had just under two weeks to explore where a car could take me, all places being somewhere I had never been before. Here are the destinations I made it to and why you should visit this beautiful state.

1. Sacramento

What a city! I needed to pick up my rental car here thought I may as well stay, such a great decision. Here, I couchsurfed with the best hosts, got to drink amazing coffee, eat heaps of delicious food and act like a child. This city is centred for adults who don’t wish to be grown-ups. We went to an art house exhibition where we coloured, played exquisite corpse and scavenger hunted all while drinking wine. Sacramento is also gorgeous, tree-lined streets and beautiful classical architecture. My incredible hosts also gave me an old tent and sleeping pad which saved me buying my own! Thanks, guys 🙂


2. Santa Rosa

Practically needing to be dragged out of Sac (the promise of wine tasting did help) I ended up in Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is part of Sonoma Wine Region we visited D’Argenzio winery which had a pretty outdoor area with bocce, darts and super friendly staff. We stayed chatting to the bartender for most of the afternoon and the owner joined us to talk about his wines. You can find some great food places here. Local tip: Try Hanks Creekside for breakfast after you’ve had too many wines the day before.

D'Argenzio Winery

Next, I had the pleasure of heading 30 minutes south to Petaluma and going to the Lagunitas Brewing Company to meet a friend for lunch. I love craft beers and Lagunitas is one of my favourites. They have such a big selection of beer on tap that they don’t sell at the supermarket.

3. Arcata

Afterwards, I decided to follow a friend up to Humboldt on the Northern California coastline. Along Highway 101 we stopped at a hidden swimming spot. Known only by locals and easily accessible it made for a nice break from driving. I couldn’t tell you where it was even if I wanted to.

Secret Swimming Hole

Nearby Humboldt State University is the Redwood Park, plenty of hiking trails accessible also to bikers and horses. If you time it right like we did you get to watch the sun set through the trees while strolling through the dense forest. The next morning was spent exploring the rough coastline of Arcata and visiting the cute town centre. With so much to look at, it was easy to waste a day meandering along.

Humboldt County

4. Fort Bragg/Mendocino

Arriving in Fort Bragg after dark I was not confident of setting up camp. I couchsurfed with a lady, her husband and their pet rooster. They were the cutest. The next day I was adamant that I could not put off camping anymore. First stop was the iconic glass beach before heading south on the scenic Highway 1, I went via Mendocino which had always been high on my go-to list. A peaceful coastal town, adorable cafes and storefronts. With an iced coffee to go, I managed a quick walk along the reserve and then back to the drive.

Fort Bragg

5. Armstrong Redwood State Park

Thinking the road could not become any more scenic I was hugely surprised when I turned at the intersection heading towards the Armstrong Redwoods. The heavy forest lined road was covered in dense moss and greens of every hue. It looked like a fairyland. Being only 20 minutes north-west of Santa Rosa it is easily accessible.

Fears of camping alone had fled me and I was rearing to get my tent set up and head out on a small hike. I was in so much awe of the huge giants I was among, having only ever seen the redwoods before in Arcata. The best thing about this campground was the elevation. Watching the sun set at the same height as the surrounding mountains was one of the most incredible moments in my travels to date.

Armstrong State Park

6. Yosemite National Park

Everyone always says the pictures of Yosemite don’t do it justice, but I still had no idea how immense the rock formations in the valley were going to be. We were lucky enough to score the last first come first serve campsite in Bridalveil campground around noon. This campsite although far out was a great one and nice and close to glacier point for another spectacular sunset. I fell so much in love with Yosemite and camping I hope to return for a backpacking trip next spring.


7. Murphys

Finishing up my loop and heading towards Tahoe, I spent a night in Murphys. A ‘green’ town, and fast becoming a go-to destination for wine enthusiasts. The main street in town boasts plenty of local boutique wine cellars, to keep you well occupied for most of the day.

Armstrong Redwoods

I did not expect to like camping half as much as I did, it opened up more places to stay. Ever since I cannot stop thinking about how to get into the wilderness for my first backpacking trip. I urge everyone to take a solo trip like this. I had so much fun!

Where are your favourite road trip destinations and your most memorable moments?

Highway 1



*This post was originally seen on DreamSeekWander by the same author in 2015.

Next Post

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: