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13 Most Scenic Drives in California You Can’t Miss

California is a great state for driving enthusiasts and travelers who would rather experience scenic routes. As one of the country’s biggest states, visitors looking to explore the region have endless opportunities for adventure and romantic getaways.

1: Laguna Beach 

Laguna Beach.
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Laguna Beach, a captivating coastal city in California, boasts seven miles of beautiful coves and beaches. Visitors can stroll through the city’s boardwalk, surf its majestic waters, and explore an underwater park. Hiking enthusiasts can even enjoy 7,000 acres of over 40 trails. 

2: Redwood National Park 

Sequoia trees.
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Redwood National Park was established in 1968 and is about 50 miles long. It’s an excellent destination for nature lovers. The park houses majestic trees over 300 feet tall, including the California redwood and Douglas-fir.

3: South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe.
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South Lake Tahoe is nestled in southern California and is known for its extravagant ski resorts and clear waters. The city sits within the Sierra Nevada mountains and has a lively nightlife. Although visitors come throughout the year, the optimal time to travel there is from March to May. 

4: Napa Valley

Grapes growing in a vineyard.
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Notorious for its vineyards, Napa Valley is home to over 400 wineries. The city is picturesque with its rolling hills and romantic stays; visitors looking for a calm weekend getaway will feel right at home.

5: California’s Death Valley

Woman walking through Death Valley.
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Death Valley is well-known for its hot temperatures. Largely regarded as one of the driest regions in North America during the fall and spring seasons, an average of four days is enough time to see what the destination has to offer. The desert’s National Park received over a million visitors in 2021. 

6: Big Sur

Big Sur bridge.
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Stretching 90 miles in California’s Central Coast, the Big Sur region has a rich artistic history and luminescent blue waters. This destination is an ideal spot to drive through when visiting California’s coastline. It’s home to many endangered species, including some of North America’s largest birds.

7: Rancho Palos Verdes 

Path by the ocean in Palos Verdes.
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One of the best places to live in California, Rancho Palos Verde, is a city within Los Angeles County. The peninsula is a great place to drive around, with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, grasslands, and hills.

8: Highway 49

Old brick building.
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It takes over six hours to drive Highway 49 in one direction, given that it’s about 326 miles long. The highway features delightful stops like the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, where visitors can explore numerous exhibits showcasing fossils, gems, and minerals.

9: Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive sign.
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What’s a scenic California drive without passing through the famous Rodeo Drive? The famous street is two miles long and attracts many visitors daily. Looking out the window, you’ll see vibrant restaurants and exquisite accommodations in one of the world’s most upscale destinations.

10: Fresno Blossom Trail

Plum blossoms in Fresno, California.
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The Fresno County Blossom Trail is 62 miles long and a gorgeous spot for visitors. It showcases a variety of plants, such as almond and plum blossoms. The best time to visit the trail is from February to September.

11: Route 66

Route 66 through Joshua Tree.
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Popularly known as the Mother Road, Route 66 stretches 2,448 miles and has a rich history. The route comprises 100 sites like museums, bridges, and restaurants that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

12: California State Route 158

June Lake Loop.
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Visitors can find California State Route 158 off Highway 395. Sometimes regarded as the June Lake Loop, travelers often choose this route for peaceful road trips because of its picturesque mountains, stunning lakes, and extensive hiking trails. 

13: Mount Shasta Scenic Byway

Snow capped Mount Shasta.
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The Mount Shasta Scenic Byway features many mountains, including Mount Shasta, which stands over 14,000 feet tall. Its peak can be seen from over 100 miles away. Travelers should visit Mount Shasta in June or July for the best weather. 

Three Musketeers

Tall palm trees.
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The State of California inspires many movies, songs, and shows. Still, many travelers are unaware that there are over 1,500 cities to visit in the famous Golden State. One such region is Poso Park, which had a population of only three residents in 2020. In contrast, locations like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose have 1+ million residents.

A Large Melting Pot

Hollywood sign.
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Tourists typically frequent Los Angeles when visiting California. The city attracts around 50 million tourists annually, likely due to its closeness to the Hollywood Sign, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Brothers studios.

Age Comparison 

Woman with pink flip flops hanging out of a car.
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California has one of the youngest populations in the country. According to the 2021 American Community Survey, the average age in the state is 37.  Meanwhile, states like Maine and Florida are home to one of the oldest populations in the country, with over 20% of the population being older than 65. 

Gas Prices

Woman putting money into gas.
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Many travelers underestimate gas prices when taking long scenic road trips. When visiting California, expect gas prices of at least four dollars a gallon. California’s gasoline prices often increase during the spring and summer travel seasons. 

Sizzling Summers Days

Los Angeles at sunset.
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If you plan to visit California during the summer, be prepared for daytime temperatures of at least 80 degrees and nighttime temperatures of around 60 degrees. Enjoy the beauty of the state while keeping the weather in mind. Though restaurants are likely not far from your drive, stay hydrated by bringing summer essentials like water and on-the-road snacks. 

Staying Safe

Someone buckling a seat belt.
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