Best 30 Scenic Drives in California (Updated)

There is nothing quite like a drive up the coast or through the mountains.  If you’ve never experienced it, we bet that your life will be changed forever once you do.  It’s not just about beautiful scenery – there are plenty of those in California! The best thing about scenic drives is the adventure and excitement that come with them. You never know what you might see on these adventures, from wildlife to roadside fruit stands and amazing views at every turn! So if you want to shake things up and make some memories this year, start planning your next road trip

1. Pacific Coast Highway Route 1 (CA)

Pacific Coast Highway Route 1 (CA)

      The Pacific Coast Highway (also known as the PCH, Highway 1, or Pacific Coast Freeway) is one of those routes that we all dream about taking at some point.  If you take the time to go on it, you will not regret it! It runs up and down much of California’s coast and takes you through places like Big Sur and Malibu. Along the way, it provides breathtaking views from sea level up to cliffs, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.

2. Topanga Canyon Road Topanga CA

Topanga Canyon Road Topanga CA

 Nothing quite captures the essence of California road trips like a drive through Topanga Canyon. This route goes from Los Angeles out west and will show you both the city and nature in one glimpse.  It goes through Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where you can stop to take a hike or do some bird watching in between enjoying views of the surrounding landscape.

3. Highway 1 Route: Malibu to Big Sur (CA)

 Highway 1 Route: Malibu to Big Sur (CA)

 This route follows along what is said to be one of the most scenic coastlines in the world! This trip takes about three hours, but trust us – it’s worth it! You get to go past Hearst Castle and venture into Big Sur, including Lucia, Carmel River State Beach, and Point Lobos. Along the way, you’ll pass beautiful beaches and plenty of wildlife such as seals, sea lions, and elephant seals.

4. Highway 395: Lake Tahoe to Yosemite (CA)

Highway 395: Lake Tahoe to Yosemite (CA)

      If you’re looking for a more mountainous journey, this route may be perfect for you! It goes from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park, which means you can stop along the way at places like Mono Lake, Tufa State Natural Reserve, and Mammoth Mountain. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled as you drive because there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting as well as some fantastic photo ops of the surrounding landscape. 5. Top of King’s Canyon Route CA

 This destination is only open in the summer, but it makes it onto our list of scenic drives because it is so beautiful! This road takes about an hour and takes you to Cedar Grove, Roaring River Falls, and Hume Lake.  You could easily make this your camping destination for the weekend or simply go on a day trip! Either way, be sure to stop at one of the many pull-offs along the way to take in some fantastic views.

6. East Grade Road Clovis CA

East Grade Road Clovis CA

      This route is quick (about 20 minutes), but it will give you an excellent view of Clovis farmlands as well as Clovis Point Technical Center. Along Route 180, there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled! And if you’re still feeling adventures, go ahead and cross over Grizhere. There are even more beautiful views of the surrounding land.

7. Old Redwood Highway Route 20 (CA)

Old Redwood Highway Route 20 (CA)

      This scenic drive takes you through the Avenue of Giants, a 34-mile stretch of road that runs alongside some of California’s oldest trees! It goes from Leggett to Pepperwood, and along the way, you will see places like Founders Grove and Rockefeller Forest.  You can choose to take this route with your car or include it in a bicycle trip, but either way – be sure not to miss out on all of these beautiful views!

8. Grizzly Grade Road Arnold CA

Grizzly Grade Road Arnold CA

This one-hour journey starts in Arnold and takes you down into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Along this winding route, you will see plenty of amazing views of the mountains as well as pass-through Grizzly Flats. There are also some excellent hiking opportunities along with it, so be sure to keep your eyes open for those! 9. Mil Potrero Highway San Martin CA

     This unique drive takes you through agricultural lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where you can see everything from cattle ranches to apple orchards! You can start this journey in either San Martin or Morgan Hill, but you must take it too slow either way since many twists and turns are involved. Although it may not be the most traditional scenic route, it is worth taking for a different view of California.

10. Trout Farm Grade Route 35 (CA)

Trout Farm Grade Route 35 (CA)

      If you’re looking for a short drive that won’t take up too much of your time, this scenic route is perfect for you! This particular road stretches only four miles, but it is filled with bright green rolling hills and beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Along Highway 35, there are opportunities to see wildlife as well as a few historical landmarks. So grab a friend and enjoy the ride on this one – we promise you won’t be disappointed!

11. Pearblossom Highway Route 138 (CA)

 Pearblossom Highway Route 138 (CA)

      This hour-long journey takes you through various landscapes, including high desert areas, dry washes, Joshua Tree forests, and even portions of Mojave National Preserve. You will pass many different kinds of plant life along the way, like desert shrubs and wildflowers. Once you start getting to the actual dunes – be prepared for some excellent photo ops!

12. The Ridge Route CA-14 (CA)

12. The Ridge Route CA-14 (CA)

      This scenic drive takes about an hour, but it is worth every minute! Along this route, there are views of rolling coastal hills and opportunities to see local wildlife like deer and coyotes. You will also get a chance to see Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area along the way, which is known for its off-roading trails and historic landmarks like the Cow Mountain Petroglyph Site.  Be sure to take your time and enjoy all that this journey has to offer, and we promise you won’t regret it!

13. Canyon Road Route 17 (CA)

Canyon Road Route 17 (CA)

      This route is only about 45 minutes long, but it will take you through some of the most amazing landscapes that California has to offer. You can begin this journey in Tejon pass, where you will enter into the Angeles National Forest. Along your trip, you will also get to see Acton, Lake Hughes, and Leona Valley. There are so many opportunities for exploration along this road which makes it perfect for those who love spending time outdoors!

14. Angeles Crest Highway CA-2 (CA)

Angeles Crest Highway CA-2 (CA)

      On this one-hour drive, there are plenty of incredible views of Los Angeles as well as mountains on either side of the roadway. There are some great places to stop along the way, like Hoegees Campground, Mount Wilson Observatory, and Switzer Picnic Area. You can also hop off the main highway to explore other roads like Mountain High Road, which will take you into Big Pines.

15. Wilkerson Pass Road CA-138 (CA)

15. Wilkerson Pass Road CA-138 (CA)

      There are incredible views of isolated cliffs, chaparral landscape, and even panoramic views of Mt. Baldy on this scenic drive. There is plenty to do along the way, like visiting Devil’s Punchbowl County Park or stopping at Iron Door Saloon in Lytle Creek. If you choose not to include it in a more extensive journey, we recommend allowing for enough time to enjoy all it has to offer!

16. Amboy Crater Route 66 (CA)

Amboy Crater Route 66 (CA)

      This journey takes about an hour and a half, but it is so worth it! Along this route, you will get to see the Mojave Desert in all of its glory. There are also opportunities to stop and take in the scenery like Amboy Crater, inactive for approximately 920 years. You can also visit Roy’s Motel & Café, built-in 1929 by Roy Crowl and then added onto by his son. If you want to stretch your legs or grab some food – we highly recommend stopping here!

17. Mountain Mesa Overlook Road CA-138 (CA)

Mountain Mesa Overlook Road CA-138 (CA)

      This gorgeous trip takes around 45 minutes to complete and starts right outside Palmdale. Along the way, there are beautiful views of the Antelope Valley and panoramic views of Mt. Isabel. You can also stop at two different visitor centers at the start and end of the journey – Lancaster City Hall Visitors Center and Mojave River Valley Museum & Skelton Ranch Site.

18. Acton Road Angeles Forest Highway (CA)

Acton Road Angeles Forest Highway (CA)

      On this scenic drive, you will get to see some fantastic desert-like landscapes that California has to offer. You can explore many places along the way, including Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, Marie Canyon Petroglyph Site, Geology Tour Road, Sandberg Marsh Wildlife Area, Paluxy River Trailhead, Neenach Meteor Crater, and so much more!  This loop drive takes a little over two hours.

19. Pearblossom Highway CA-ca 14 (CA)

Pearblossom Highway CA-ca 14 (CA)

      This drive is about an hour and a half long, but there are so many beautiful landscapes that you will get to see along the way. You can start this journey from Littlerock, which has a rich history. There are also opportunities to stop and take in the scenery like Dry Lakes, Hines Spring Petroglyph Site, and Sheep Mountain Wilderness. If you have time, we recommend coming back for sunset because it is truly magical!

20. Dove Springs Road CA-190/191 (CA)

Dove Springs Road CA-190/191

      On this roughly one-hour adventure, you will get to see some fantastic views of the White Mountains. Along the way, you can see Pinyon Flats Petroglyph Site, Dove Springs Campground, Pinyon Flats Observatory, and White Mountain Research Station. If you are an astronomy lover, this is the perfect opportunity for you!

21. Big Pine Road CA-168 (CA)

Big Pine Road CA-168 (CA)

      This drive takes around an hour and a half to complete – but it’s so worth it! During this journey, you will be driving through some of California’s finest desert landscapes. There are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way where you can take in the views or partake in some outdoor activities like hiking at Grandview Campground, which has incredible views, or Big Pine Canyon. If you want to stretch your legs – we highly recommend stopping at Big Pine Community Park.

22. Pearblossom Highway CA-ca 138 (CA)

Pearblossom Highway CA-ca 138 (CA)

      On this journey, you will be able to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in California! Make sure that you bring your camera with you on this adventure because there are so many photo opportunities. You can start this journey from the junction of Pearblossom Highway and Avenue J7 – it’s about a 45-minute drive up. There are many things to do, like visiting The Vintage Press, an antique shop, Soap Plant & Wacko, or Historic Old Town Newhall.

23. Los Angeles Forest Highway & Soledad Canyon Roads CA-14CA-39 (CA)

Los Angeles Forest Highway & Soledad Canyon Roads CA-14CA-39 (CA)

      This journey takes an hour and a half to complete, and if you love the outdoors, we highly recommend this one! Along the way, you will be able to see some of California’s most beautiful landscapes, including Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, Marie Canyon Petroglyph Site, Geology Tour Road, Sandberg Marsh Wildlife Area, Paluxy River Trailhead, Neenach Meteor Crater, and so much more. We also recommend stopping by El Tejon Ranch, host to Western movies such as The Legend of Hell House.

24. Angeles Forest Hwy – LA County Sign Road (CA)

Angeles Forest Hwy - LA County Sign Road (CA)

      If you’re looking for a short scenic drive with amazing views, we highly recommend this journey! The drive is only two hours long, but there are so many beautiful landscapes that you will be able to see. Along the way, stop at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, Marie Canyon Petroglyph Site, and Geology Tour Road.

25. Angeles Crest Highway (CA)

Angeles Crest Highway (CA)

      This is a four-hour journey with absolutely stunning views of California’s landscapes! There are plenty of photo-taking opportunities along the way, like Snoqualmie Point Park, Devil’s Punchbowl County Park, and East Fork- North Fork Divide. We recommend making sure you bring your camera on this adventure and snacks because you will want to make lots of stops along the way!

26. Mojave Drive CA14 (CA)

Mojave Drive CA14 (CA)

      This is a two-hour drive through some of California’s most beautiful desert landscapes – we highly recommend this journey! Along the way, you will see  Pinyon Flats, Geology Tour Road, Sandberg Marsh Wildlife Area and more. We recommend stopping for a picnic at Neenach Meteor Crater or walking around Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park,

27. CA-38/East Grade Road (CA)

 CA-38/East Grade Road (CA)

      If you are looking for something not too long and with amazing views, we suggest this one! It takes only an hour, and there are so many photo opportunities along the way, including Pechanga Summit Rest Stop, which has incredible views of Palm Springs and beyond! If you’re into hiking, we recommend taking a trip out to Beaumont-Cherry Valley Campground, with stunning views.

28. Angeles Forest Highway (CA)

Angeles Forest Highway (CA)

      This is one hour and 45-minute journey through some fantastic landscapes! Along the way, make sure you stop by Big Pines Lodge, Angeles National Golf Club, or The Old Place for an excellent meal – you will not regret it! There are so many photo opportunities along this route as well, including Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.

29. Sunset Strip CA-170 (CA)

      This is an incredible drive if you’re into rock and roll because you can visit all of these iconic spots starting from West Hollywood North on Fairfax Ave., East on Sunset Blvd., North on Doheny Dr., East on San Vicente Blvd., south on La Cienega Blvd and West onto Charing Cross Rd.

30. Big Bear Lake CA-38 (CA)

      This is a two-hour journey, but we promise that it won’t feel like it! Along the way, you will be able to see some of California’s most beautiful desert landscapes, which you might recognize from movies such as Django Unchained, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Town. Make sure you stop by Hells Gate Airtram and Red Rock Canyon State Park too!

conclusion

The scenic drives in California are amazing and will provide you with a lifetime of memories. There is something for everyone, no matter what your interests may be, so take the time to explore these routes while you’re here! Whether it’s just an hour or two that you have available or if you have all day long, we can help identify which route best fits into your schedule.

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