Best Road Trip Destinations in Southern California

July 10, 2022

California is a massive state with a wide variety of environments and places to explore. Southern California alone has a lot of great destinations for a road trip. Whether you’re looking for a beach getaway, a desert drive or a trip to the mountains, here are some of the best road trip destinations in Southern California.

Best Road Trip Destinations in Southern California

Big Bear LakeLocated in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake has a small town surrounding the titular man-made lake. One of Southern California’s best ski destinations, the area features multiple resorts in the winter. Boating, paddle boarding and kayaking are great ways to spend time on the lake in the summer. The area features many hiking trails usable throughout the year as well, though snow gear is a good idea for winter hiking. Big Bear Lake also boasts many shops and restaurants to satisfy those looking for something more comfortable than nature activities.

Los Angeles’ South Bay regionIf you’ve ever heard the Beach Boys’ music, this is where it came from. Along with the bordering inland areas such as the Beach Boys’ hometown of Hawthorne, the South Bay includes the Beach Cities of Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa Beach, El Segundo and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Beach Cities boast charming beach town vibes and are a great place to spend a day by the ocean, while the Palos Verdes Peninsula offers incredible cliffs and tide pools to explore, such as Abalone Cove.

Torrey Pines State Natural ReserveThis natural preserve encompasses more than 2,000 acres of protected natural land. A unique subspecies of critically endangered pine tree, the Torrey Pine that gives the park its name lives only here and a small handful of other spots in Southern California. The park features eight miles of trails for visitors to experience one of the best natural areas near San Diego. In addition to its unique trees, Torrey Pines includes stunning coastal cliffs, scrub brush and a lagoon.

Joshua Tree National ParkThis national park is known for its open desert spaces. Within Joshua Tree National Park, you can explore rock formations and the park’s signature plant: the Joshua Tree. This park has elements of the Mojave Desert on the western edge and the Colorado Desert on the eastern edge. One of its prominent attractions is the California Riding and Hiking Trail, a 37-mile trail perfect for backpacking.

Santa BarbaraIf you’re traveling from Los Angeles or San Diego, the drive to Santa Barbara will take you up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. On this drive you’ll not only get to watch the scenery change as the coast gains more cliffs, rocks and becomes more rural, but once in Santa Barbara you’ll be greeted by a hilly and beautiful coastal town. With mountainous hikes, plenty of restaurants, shops and beautiful beaches nearby to pick from, Santa Barbara has enough to explore for days.

Temecula ValleyTemecula Valley is the go-to destination in Southern California for wine lovers. Home to dozens of wineries, this is one of the best places in Southern California to sit on a winery’s patio and sip on a local flavor, all while enjoying the gorgeous green scenery. The area also has a charming historic section, hot air ballooning and spas. If that’s not enough to keep you occupied, golf and equestrian activities are on offer.

Crystal Cove State ParkLocated along Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, Crystal Cove State Park has about 2,800 acres of land. Within its confines you’ll find vast swaths of wilderness and trails to explore, beaches, a charming historic district consisting of a seaside village from the early 20th century, and even an offshore area in the ocean for divers to use. Amenities in the village include food and cottages for accommodations, while camping sites are available for those looking for a more rugged experience.

Before hitting the road on your Southern California trip, stop in at your closest Super Star Car Wash to get your car looking its best. A road trip with a clean car is much more enjoyable!