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Northern California Road Trip: The Adventurer’s Itinerary

Difficulty

1600 km

Distance

7-10

Recom. Days

Adventure

Trip type

Face of a girl with a tree behind
Clara Cohen

Freelance writer with a passion for travel and a dream to explore every country on the map. Over 30 visited so far!

Northern California Road Trip Itinerary: San Francisco and Back

Northern California Trip map itinerary

Google Maps

With incredible coastal views, dramatic desert backdrops, astonishing geological formations, and miles and miles of promising vineyards, there’s not a single minute you won’t be amazed on this epic California road trip. Famed for its hot, sunny climate and friendly people, California is one of the best states for a campervan holiday.  Driving from Los Angeles in Southern California to Bodega Bay in Northern California, you have the opportunity to see some of America’s oldest and greatest natural wonders.

From the powdered sand beaches of Malibu to the spectacular scenery of Yosemite National Park, there’s something for everyone on this epic road trip. So head to Los Angeles, choose your campervan , and hit the open road on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. 

Part of the Yosemite Park
Pick-up in
Los Angeles Pick-up centre
1

Malibu, a Pacific Paradise

Bordered by soft, sandy beaches and covered in picturesque hiking trails, Malibu is the perfect first stop on your California road trip. The city and its people are warm, comfortable and relaxed, just as you might expect from such a scenic spot. Surfers try their luck on the waves, hikers climb along the dry and rocky landscape, families feast at classic roadside diners, and couples enjoy tasting local wines under the dusky Californian sky.

Malibu Pier at the beach

Known for hosting the beach houses of many Hollywood stars, Malibu is an iconic pacific paradise. There’s something for everyone in the city and surrounding landscape. Beach lovers have a wide selection, from the rocky coves of Point Dume and El Matador to the powder sands of Zuma Beach. Trekkers can enjoy the stunning backdrop of Malibu Creek State Park, where famous movies such as Planet of the Apes and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed. Places like Malibu Pier or Surfrider Beach cater to those who enjoy watersports, like surfing, diving, or fishing. 

Your Southern California to Northern California road trip will be filled with awe-inspiring scenery, amazing destinations, and lots and lots of driving, so take advantage of your Malibu stay to get yourself energized for an epic adventure.

Visiting

Malibu

1 -2

Recom. Days

Main route

30 Miles

Los Angeles Depot

30 min

Los Angeles Depot

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Leo Carrillo State Park

Beachside park with many activities and natural wonders

Malibu Country Mart

Upscale shopping district with many different boutiques, eateries, and architectures

Escondido Falls

Make the trek to the wonderful, hidden 150-foot waterfall

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Eat at

Neptune’s Net

Long-standing seafood and burger diner, featured in many films

Malibu Farm Restaurant and Cafe

€€€

Serves fresh, delicious food at either end of Malibu Pier

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Parking

Malibu Pier

€€

Easy access to the pier but can fill up quickly

Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Convenient parking lot adjacent to the beachfront

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Stay at

Malibu Beach RV Park

€€€

Lovely campervan park along the waterfront

2

Red Rock Canyon State Park

To the North of Malibu, through the hot Californian desert, lies the geological marvel that is Red Rock Canyon State Park. Dominated by colorful cliffs and incredible, jagged rock formations, the park is as historic as it is beautiful.  Hundreds of years ago, the park was home to the indigenous Kawaiisu people. Their legacy now lives on in the many drawings and carvings that have been discovered in and along the mountains. 

While Red Rock Canyon State Park is breathtakingly beautiful enough to justify the journey, many flock to the park to see the filming location of a range of Western classics, and other features such as Jurassic Park and Holes. 

Hills in Red Rock Canyon State Park

If you‘re traveling in the Summer and leave Red Rock, driving through the Great Basin Desert to reach your next destination, you may feel as though you have left civilization behind. While there are towns dotted along the Three Flags Highway, they are few and far between. A great place to visit, if you need a break from the long road, is the small, historic town of Lone Pine.

Visiting

Red Rock Canyon State Park

1

Recom. Days

Main route

130 miles

Malibu

2h

Malibu

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

El Paso Petroglyphs

See prehistoric drawings from early native Kawaiisu Indians

Red Cliffs Trail

Staggering cliff-face with vibrant, layered red rock

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Eat at

Carolyn’s Kitchen

A Southern comfort kitchen located 16 miles from the park

Voyager Restaurant

Friendly American diner with a view over an airfield

Picnic Spots, Red Rock Canyon

Free

Bring your own food to one of many scenic spots

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Parking

Red Rock Canyon Parking Lot

Open sunrise to sunset, start your canyon adventure here

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Stay at

Red Rock Canyon Campsite

A natural camping space, nestled in the desert mountains

3

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a famed, Californian-protected, valley known as much for its natural beauty as it is for its varied wildlife. A great stopping point on any road trip, Yosemite can be explored through a network of hiking trails on foot, or by following the winding and scenic roads from the comfort of your campervan.

Waterfall in Yosemite National Park

It’s difficult to choose a favorite feature of Yosemite National Park, as it has a variety of natural wonders to behold. Yosemite Falls is just one of many waterfalls to flow into the vast park, but it is so named as it is the longest, at nearly 2,500 ft. Impressive mountains border Yosemite, such as the iconic Half Dome, or the 3,000 ft tall El Capitan. Discover the flatlands throughout the park, like the Tuolumne Meadows which spreads from the Tuolumne River, and see if you can spot some deer or bobcats. Take a step back in time as you journey through the impossibly tall and ancient Giant Sequoia trees. 

Yosemite National Park isn’t the only geological marvel in the area. While you’re traveling the Three Flags Highway in the summer, be sure to visit the Hot Creek Geological Site, where natural springs bubble with geothermically heated boiling water.

Visiting

Yosemite National Park

1-2

Recom. Days

Main route

240 miles

Red Rock Canyon State Park

3h45

Red Rock Canyon State Park

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Valley Floor Tour

Guided open-air tram tour of Yosemite Valley

Horsetail Fall

A sunset visit in February offers the amazing ‘Firefall’ illusion

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Eat at

The Ahwahnee

€€

A grand 1920’s lodge with quality American cuisine

Meadow Grill, Curry Village

Affordable, easy lunch, halfway from Half Dome to Yosemite Falls

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Parking

Yosemite Valley Parking Lot

Can fill by 9 am, some delays if you arrive late

Tuolumne Meadows Parking Lot

Limited parking, try to arrive before 10 am

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Stay at

Indian Flat Campground

€€

30 minutes from Yosemite Valley Visitor Center along Highway 140

4

Napa Valley, Extraordinary Vineyards

This sunny Northern California region is the birthplace of some of the greatest wines ever produced. Many flock from all over the world just to visit one of Napa Valley’s high-class vineyards and wineries, so it’s worth a visit when you’re in the area. 

Wine field

Stretching out for miles and miles over the beautiful countryside are vines with all different colored grapes. From the warm-weather Cabernet Sauvignon to the cold-weather Chardonnay, wine is being produced in Napa Valley all year round. While wine-tasting here is always recommended, remember to never drink and drive. Only partake in the tasting if your campervan is in an RV park or one of the many free parking lots, and you are finished driving for the day. 

Visiting

Napa

1 - 1½

Recom. Days

Main route

170 miles

Yosemite National Park

3h15min

Yosemite National Park

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Silver Oak Vineyard

€€€

Enjoy tasting the finest wines in Napa Valley

Charles Krug Vineyard

€€€

Discover Napa Valley’s longest-standing vineyard

Hess Persson Estate

€€

A magnificent blend of vineyard and art gallery

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Eat at

Napa Valley Wine Train

€€€

Sophisticated meal aboard an antique train travelling through wine country

Compline Restaurant and Wine Shop

€€

Terraced restaurant with French-American cuisine

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Parking

All-Day Parking Lot

Free

Large, open-air parking lot

Pearl Street Garage

Free

All-day underground parking

Fifth Street Garage

Free

All-day underground parking

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Stay at

Napa Valley Expo RV Park

€€

Steeper prices, but has full hookups and free WiFi

Skyline Wilderness Park

€€

Peaceful campgrounds within a wilderness park

5

Bodega Bay: Sea, Sun, and Serenity

You’ve made it all the way from Los Angeles to Bodega Bay on your epic Northern California Road Trip. Now is the time to sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself. Bodega Bay is famed for its natural beauty, with sandy beaches and picturesque hiking trails. Explore the quaint harbor, with its fascinating boutiques, or stretch your legs as you adventure through the various protected parks. 

Beach at Bodega Bay

While you’re in town, make sure to sample some of the fresh seafood that is caught and prepared for the numerous waterfront restaurants each day. Then pick up a pair of binoculars and walk along to the end of the Bodega Head peninsula for your chance to spot some Gray Whales.

Visiting

Bodega Bay

1 - 1½

Recom. Days

Main route

55 miles

Napa Valley

1h20min

Napa Valley

You can find Indie Campers RV rentals in more than 40 different cities and destinations across Europe.

Visit

Bodega Head

Rugged, beachside hiking trail

Doran Beach

Peaceful, county park famous among bird-watching enthusiasts

Potter Schoolhouse

19th Century building used prominently in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’

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Eat at

The Marshall Store

A landmark restaurant, known for their fresh and delicious seafood

Spud Point Crab Company

Freshly caught crabs and fish served along the shorefront

Gourmet Au Bay

€€

Wine and snacks along a waterfront terrace

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Parking

Salmon Creek Beach Access Parking Lot

Free

Smaller car park between the Pacific Ocean and Salmon Creek

Bodega Head Parking Lot

Free

Perfect place to start your hike along the coast

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Stay at

Bodega Bay RV Park

€€

Convenient overnight stop with coastal views

Drop-off in
Los Angeles Pick-up centre

440 miles

Bodega Bay

7h

drive