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The 4 best road trips in California

You have finally arrived in southern California - the waves are beautiful, the sun shines every day and you are basically only wearing shorts and sandals. When you get tired of the sun, sand, and fish tacos in San Diego (is that even possible?), Don't forget that some of the greatest places and attractions in the United States are just a few hours drive away.

We already talked about great road trips through the USA in an older post. Today we want to introduce you to a few more excursion routes that you should definitely not miss during your year abroad in California. Off to your California road trip!

1. For beach lovers: The PCH

The Pacific Coast Highway

You can start your California tour in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara - it doesn't matter whether you drive from north to south or the other way around - the route is spectacular in both directions. Are you from San Diego? Let's go north, where you should first stop in Laguna Beach and take a look at 1000 Steps Beach or Crescent Bay. In downtown Laguna Beach, you'll catch up with yourself The Stand Natural Foods an acai bowl. In Los Angeles, head to Malibu and take a walk to Matador Beach. With a little luck, a few baby seals will join you and sunbathe with you. In the Santa Barbara area, don't miss Big Sur. The rugged California coast in all its alluring splendor can be experienced with a stroll at Ragged Point. It's even nicer at Julia Pfeiffer State Beach, where the turquoise water seems to dance and the sunsets are unforgettable.

Excursion duration: Variable. The PCH is suitable for day trips as well as for longer explorations, e.g. a California tour.

Estimated travel time: That too is entirely up to you, but you will get the most out of it if you complete the majority of the route before sunset (so that you can enjoy all the wonderful views).

2. For efficient weekenders: A trip through the desert

It won't take you more than 48 hours to see some of the most beautiful desert landscapes in Southern California.

Salvation Mountain

This man-made place is a 15-meter-high and 47-meter-wide structure made entirely of adobe clay and decorated with thousands of liters of fluorescent paint. The monument was created by a single man who clearly has great endurance, and it makes a great background for your souvenir photos. You can explore the inside of this man-made hill and find wildly painted adobe trees with branches full of blooming flowers.

Joshua Tree National Park

Afterwards it goes to Joshua Tree National Park, where impressive sunsets and a fascinating starry sky await you. This national park is a good place to test your camping skills. What you shouldn't miss are the Hidden Valley Nature loop, Arch Rock or Indian Cove. You don't like tents that much? Then you can get a hotel room in Twenty-Nine Palms, a rough but classic American desert town.

Excursion duration: We recommend 2 days for your California trip

Estimated travel time: at least 7 hours

3. For true wine connoisseurs: Temecula

A real gem is hidden just an hour's drive from San Diego: a town full of world-famous wineries and a good starting point for a tour of California.

Wine tasting and a hot air balloon ride

In the Temecula Valley, more than 35 wineries crowd within a radius of 15 km. All you have to do is reserve a cozy Airbnb room and some wine tastings, and you'll have your weekend break in these beautiful hills organized.

You can also have lunch or wine tasting with a cheese platter at one of the wineries. For the more adventurous among you, I recommend a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. Or both. You really should do both.

Excursion duration: 2 days

Estimated travel time: 4 hours

4. For the adventurous: The Grand Canyon

For this tour you have to plan a few more days and drive a lot more kilometers, but a California round trip to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and through Zion National Park is worth every effort. You can hardly experience more spectacular natural wonders anywhere.

Grand Canyon

It is not for nothing that it is considered one of the 7 natural wonders of the world: The view from the Grand Canyon can make your jaw drop. When you step to the edge of the precipice, your knees go weak and your heart beats faster. The view into the canyon is most beautiful when the sun goes down, because then the light makes the cliffs shine in orange, red and purple.

Horseshoe Bend

And the Grand Canyon is just the beginning. because if you drive 2.5 to 3 hours further east, you will reach the city of Page in Arizona, and with it the origin of the Grand Canyon: Horseshoe Bend. A short walk of about 1 km will bring you to the edge of the rock, where you can look straight down 300 meters until the vertigo creeps up your spine. From here you have an amazing view of the bend of the Colorado River, which looks exactly like a horseshoe and therefore has its name: Horseshoe Bend.

Antelope Canyon

Are you afraid of heights? Then you can instead book a tour to Antelope Canyon, which is sacred to the indigenous people, for your California trip with one of the local operators. The walls made of deep orange sandstone stimulate the imagination because it looks as if they were painted with a broad brush. The water masses from spring tides have shaped the rock walls over millennia, so that over time narrow paths have emerged for the migration of the desert antelopes. Your guide will also show you the best places for photos (or take the photos of you in front of the curved walls of the canyon).

But that's still not all! Another 2 hours behind the wheel will bring you to Zion National Park, the destination of your road trip in California.

Zion National Park: The Narrows & Angel’s Landing

Think you've hiked some really cool places by now? Zion offers two very special hikes that will really blow you away (or wash away).

The first is called The Narrows Hike and starts at the beginning of the Zion Valley. As the Virgin River flows south, turn north and into the canyon. But you should plan enough time, because as far as you dare to venture into the valley, the way back will be just as long, because this is not a circular route. That sounds too bad? You can borrow a walking stick and sturdy shoes before you set off from the Zion Adventure Company.

And if you really suffer from fear of heights, you better stay away from Angel’s Landing. This hike extends over 8 km, there and back. But the 8 km are the least of your worries, because on the way you climb a ridge shaped like the fin of a shark and descend over it into the heart of the Zion Valley.

There are troughs carved into the stone and a railing made of thick chains, but the ascent and descent still involve dangers: the ridge climbs up to 450 meters from the valley floor on both sides. But in the end, the view compensates you for all the hardships, because you feel as if you are standing on top of the world, or rather: the highlight of your California tour.

Las Vegas

And on the way back to Southern California, you can try your luck in Las Vegas - the only road south leads through the middle of Sin City.

Estimated travel time: a total of 20 hours.

Excursion duration: 3 to 4 days

Experiences: Timeless