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Off the beaten track

California road trippin’

Charlie Adams October 6, 2014

Death Valley National Park

When Charlie, one of our Destination Specialists, and her boyfriend went on a road trip around California, they decided to do it right: in a Mustang convertible, top down, wind in their hair. 

 
While cruising along looking cool they stopped off in some of California’s top destinations, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Death Valley. This is how they got along...
 
Leaving San Francisco
 
San Francisco
 
We started in San Francisco. There’s so much to see in this city, and the Hop on Hop off bus makes it easy to get between sights. I recommend hiring a bike and riding over the famous Golden Gate Bridge, and of course you have to visit Alcatraz (make sure you book in advance!). San Fran is known for its amazing seafood. Blue Mermaid Chowder House on Pier 39 is a great place to sample some. Make sure you try the delicious, award-wining Crab Chowder. 
 
 
View over the Pacific Coast
 
Pacific Coast
 
When cruising along the Pacific Coast, it’s best to take your time to enjoy the picturesque view and wildlife spotting opportunities. We stopped for a picnic at a lookout point near along Pebble Beach, just outside Carmel, where we watched sea otters wrapping themselves in sea kelp and cracking shellfish with rocks. We also saw elephant seals, sea lions, sea eagles and pelicans on this drive too. 
 
 
Beverly Hills in LA
 
Los Angeles
 
LA was all about the music scene for my boyfriend; he’s a huge Guns and Roses & Red Hot Chilli Peppers fan. We stayed at the Grafton Hotel on Sunset Boulevard so we could take advantage of the free shuttle service to the Chinese Theatre, Rainbow Rooms, Whiskey-a-go-go and Viper Rooms – all famous music venues. For the best views across the city and the Hollywood Sign, you can’t beat the view from Griffith Observatory. 
 
 
Historic Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
 
San Diego
 
I wish we’d had more time in San Diego! We only had one day so we did our own whirlwind highlights tours. We first drove up to the Cabrillo National Monument where you can enjoy amazing views over the city and coast. After walking along the beaches of La Jolla we had lunch in the old town before enjoying an afternoon stroll in Balboa Park. We finished the night in the popular tourist hotspot of Coronado Beach.
 
 
Cruising into Death Valley
 
Death Valley
 
Next we headed inland to Death Valley, detouring slightly to drive along parts of the Old Route 66. As our views turned into mountains, deserts and canyons, the temperature shot up. It was like driving through an oven! Furnace Creek lookout point offers great photo opportunities and the chance to cool off with a much needed dip in a swimming pool.  
 
 
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
 
Driving west out of Death Valley is pretty surreal. Within 30 minutes we went from immense heat to spotting the snow-topped summit of Mount Whitney. Temperatures plummeted by 20 degrees and scenery started to change. We stopped off at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, to take a short hike through the unusual looking trees that look like they’ve been burnt in a forest fire. We stopped for a picnic to take in the vast views & remoteness surrounding us.
 
 
Mammoth Lakes 
 
In the picturesque Mammoth Lakes we stayed at Juniper Spring Hotel where we could enjoy a soak in an outdoor hot tub – just what we needed after a long drive! With the hotel as our base we explored Yosemite National Park and the Tioga Pass road. This road is absolutely stunning. It reaches up to 10,00 feet so you can just imagine the views! Yosemite National Park has so much to do in the summer months, from picturesque hikes and short strolls to adventurous water sports. 
 
 
Moment of serenity on Lake Tahoe
 
Lake Tahoe
 
Our next stop was Lake Tahoe, which sits on the border between California and Nevada. I would highly recommend trying out paddle-boarding on the lake. It takes some balancing skills, especially as the Lake is not as calm as you’d expect, but it’s very relaxing once you get going. We watched the sunset from Cave Rock on the lake’s south east side, before returning to our hotel to toasts ‘smores over a fire pit. Perfect days.
 
 
Wine Country
 
Napa Valley 
 
Our last day took us into the wine country of Napa Valley and Sonoma. Here we hopped from vineyard to vineyard tasting the wines on offer (or rather my boyfriend did the tasting as I was designated driver!). On our way back into San Francisco, we stopped off at Muir Woods, which is just over the Golden Gate Bridge, to see the some of the last remaining Giant Red Wood Trees along the coastline.
 
 
Strolling through Muir Woods
 
Our trip was incredible. For those of you dreaming of doing something similar, I suggest you pick your top 10 destinations you want to visit before you go so you don’t risk missing out on anything… everything else then will be a bonus!