How to Plan a Road Trip To Northern California

Are you tired of sitting at home with all the chaos going around in the world? How to escape from all this for at least a short while? Don’t you think it would be great if you plan a road trip to Northern California with your family or friends?

Northern California (colloquially known as NorCal) is well-known for its redwood forests and serene Pacific coastlines. Northern California is an aesthetically pleasing place providing a retreat to your mind and your eyes.

So, you should definitely think about planning a road trip to Northern California to relax your mind and body!

However, planning can be challenging, so this blog will tell you how to plan a road trip to Northern California easily.

Let’s get started!

Make a Plan!

How to plan a road trip to Northern California?

1) Decide whether you should go with your family or friends.

2) Brainstorm your main destination it is the starting point for planning. 

3)Make a budget, If you’re going with friends, then it would be easy to divide the trip charges equally among yourselves. If you can set aside budget goals for your lodging, food, and activities, it really does help! 

4) Make a schedule or itinerary for the road trip. What are the routes you can take to get there? Because deciding your destination routes is important to choose what to see on the way, but if time is of the essence, just pick the straightest shot. 

5) Write down your must see list. When you choose your routes, write down down any destinations that you simply can’t miss.

6) Now decide the trip length, be realistic in how long you can travel, then divide the time you want to spend in your main destination and the rest of the time should be invested on your must-see list. 

7)Having a tentative schedule is good and be flexible if something happens.

8) Next step browse accommodations and choose where you want to stay. A hotel or a camp ground take in consideration your budget. 

9) Next and super important make a meal plan. Take in consideration if you will eat out and what you will be making. Never forget a coffee maker !

10) Keep suitable clothes for the trip according to the weather.

11) Take general medicines pack your first aid kit.

12) Don’t forget the fun gear for swimming, lake, snorkeling.

13) Wear one pair of shoes and keep an extra pair in your bag.

14) Keep a matchstick packet or lighter if you want to have a bonfire at the coast.

15) Moreover, don’t overpack your bags.

16) Don’t forget to update your playlist and keep a speaker.

17) Keep a charger or power bank.

18) Download Google Maps, which allows you to cache maps for offline use, complete with saved places to navigate to. This is great when traveling in areas with poor or no cell service because you don’t have to use data to get around. The same goes for Spotify playlists and any shows or movies you’ll need to keep young road trippers entertained on long trips, apps like Netflix allow some content to be downloaded for offline use. 

19) Control your data in the app’s setting. You can set how much data an app can use, and you can prevent photos from loading in your feed until you’re on Wi-Fi.

20) If you go to a National Park, download National Park Service app. This app also lets you download all Information from every park to your phone, which is great because cell service is spotty to non-existent in many parts of our national parks.

21) Get Waze for real-time traffic updates, GasBuddy for finding gas and comparing prices, and for managing your campground reservations.

22)Don’t plan on more than 8-10 hours per day on a road trip. Stop every 2 or 3 hours to stretch and get more gas.

Lastly, get ready to have fun and capture the beautiful memories.

That’s it! Follow these steps and watch how you make your road trip memorable!

The Best Time to go for a Road Trip to Northern California

Most of you must be thinking: What is the best time to visit Northern California?

The ideal time to visit Northern California for a road trip is in the summer (June to August) and spring (March to May) seasons. Moreover, these months have the least precipitation and have moderate weather conditions.

For people who don’t like waking up early in winter, spring and summer are the best seasons to go for a road trip to Northern California.

Best Destinations to Explore During A Road Trip to Northern California

Do you want to know about the best stops for your road trip? Although entire Northern California is full of breathtaking sights and landscapes, some places are aesthetically irresistible.

The 5 best stops for a Northern California road trip are:

1. Lassen National Park

2. San Francisco

3. Yosemite National Park

4. Sonoma

5. Carmel-by-the-sea

6. Big Sur

7. Sequoia and Kings National Park

8. Redwood National and States Park

These are the must-see tourist destinations in Northern California, and you should indeed check them out.

Now, let us take a detailed look at these places:

1- Lassen Volcanic National Park

Many years ago, a volcano erupted there, and now it has become one of the most impressive landscapes in Northern California. The main features of this park are steaming fumaroles, crystal-blue lakes, lush forests, and mountainscapes.

Lassen Volcanic

Moreover, if you wish to hike, mount Lassen is the best spot for hiking in this park. Plus, don’t forget to praise the beauty of Manzanita lake.

2- San Francisco

The must-see places of San Francisco are Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and Lombard street. Take a walk along Golden Gate Park and Lombard street for sightseeing.

Furthermore, there is so much to see in San Francisco for families. should visit these destinations if you want to have some fun with your family or friends as something exciting is usually going on in San Francisco. Read this blog to know more about the best places to visit in San Francisco.

3- Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, located in Yosemite National Park, is one of the most popular and most visited parks in Northern California.

It is well-known for its majestic Yosemite falls and monumental Half Dome and EI Captain. Beautiful landscapes make it one of the most renowned parks in entire California.

Click here if you want to make your Yosemite trip memorable!

4- Sonoma

Sonoma wine country is just a one-hour drive from San Francisco. Sonoma is well-known for its charming wineries, beautiful beaches, and aesthetic redwood forests.

Visit this place to get a fresh vibe in Northern California as so many tall trees will surround you.

5- Carmel-by-the-sea

Carmel is a city situated in Monterey County, famous for its natural scenic beauty and rich artistic history.

It is full of romantic seasides, lovely Victorian buildings shaded by surrounding trees, and little library cottages. Read this blog if you are planning a romantic getaway to Carmel.

6- Big Sur

Big Sur is the most scenic and rugged stretch of the Californian coast located centrally between Carmel and San Simeon.

Big Sur has the most beautiful attractions, such as McWay falls, Bixby Creek Bridge, and Pfeiffer beach. If you can’t figure out what to do in Big Sur, read this guide.

7- Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Park

These two parks are located side by side in Central California. Visit the Giant Forest Museum and admire one of the widest trees, the area’s General Sherman.

Also, don’t forget to visit the Crystal cave, the second largest cave lying underneath the Giant Sequoias. You may also get a chance to see black bears during your visit.

8- Redwood National Park

Redwood National and State Park are located in Crescent City. They are the tallest and oldest trees of California, covering an area of almost 139,000 acres.

Explore the entire Redwood National and State Park, and don’t forget to take photographs of the natural scenery.

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Itinerary For A Road Trip to Northern California

As you all know, the most difficult part of going on a trip is making a schedule and following it. Don’t worry because we have got you covered! Here are the best itineraries.

Itinerary 1: South from San Francisco

1st Day: Start your journey from San Francisco an explore the vibrant City here is an idea of what to do.

2nd Day: Leave for San Francisco early and drive to Carmel. Total driving time 2 hr 4 min (116.2 mi) via US-101 S and CA-1 S

3rd Day: Explore Carmel for a day and then keep going to Big Sur. . Here are few ideas of things you shouldn’t miss from Carmel. Spend the night in Big Sur campground. 37 min (25.8 mi) via CA-1 S

4th Day: Visit the best areas in Big Sur. Here are the top things to do there

5th Day: Explore more Big Sur!

6th Day: Leave Big Sur easier and be ready to drive 4 hr 4 min (211.2 mi) via CA-152 E. However once there relax at the viIllage and enjoy the view. Here are my favorite things to do in Yosemite.

7th Day: Explore Yosemite waterfall

8th Day: Give Yosemite one more day there is so much to hike!

9th Day: Leave early for San Francisco. 3 hr 4 min (166.8 mi) via CA-120 W and I-580 W.

Itinerary 2: East from San Francisco

1st Day: Arrive to San Francisco and spend the day there. Here is things to do. You can spend the day there

2nd Day: Get to Jamestown or Murphys and explore this charming towns. Spend the night there. Drive is 2 hr 12 min (128.9 mi) via I-580 E and CA-120 E

3rd Day: Spend a day exploring this are the Calavera Big Trees State Park deserves a visit.

4rd Day: Leave earlier to visit the epic Yosemite. 1 hr 3 min (45.1 mi) via CA-120 E

5th and 6th Day: explore Yosemite! Here are things to do in Yosemite

7th Day back to San Francisco

Itinerary 3: North from San Francisco

1st Day: Arrive to San Francisco and spend the day there. Check out Here here few ideas of what to do to.

2st Day Drive from san Francisco to Sonoma. Drive 59 min (44.7 mi) via US-101. Spend the day in beautiful Sonoma

3rd Day: Spend one day in Sonoma

4th Day: Leave to Russian River. Drive 1 hr 22 min (72.4 mi) via CA-12 W and US-101 N. Spend the day there.

5th Day: Relax at the Russian River

6th Day: Leave Russian River and drive to Calistoga 52 min (43.0 mi) via US-101 S and CA-128. Spend the day there.

7th Day: leave Calistoga and drive to Mendocino about 2 hr 14 min (103.0 mi) via CA-128 W.

8th Day Leave Mendocino and drive to Redwood National and State Parks California. 3 hr 47 min (183.3 mi) via CA-1 N and US-101 N

9th Day Spend the Day at the redwoods

10th Day One more day is perfect for this park

If you have more time visit Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and Fort Bragg.

You see, you can follow this sample itinerary to enjoy your road trip to the fullest. If you plan on taking a trip to Northern California Coast, check out this itinerary.

Where to Stay During A Road Trip to Northern California?

When planning a road trip, two types of accommodations come to your mind, which is as follows:

Camping– At some places, there are campgrounds for tourists and travelers where you can set up a camp tent easily without any hindrance, such as Yosemite campgrounds.

Hotels– You’ll have to book a room in a hotel where there are no campgrounds. Look out for the cheapest hotel, so you don’t have to pay a hefty amount for a night’s stay.

However, it is totally up to you to choose whether you should stay in a hotel or camp. If you can afford a hotel, then stay in the hotel. If you cannot, don’t forget to take the camp with you.

Are you still hesitant about planning a road trip to one of the most beautiful destinations in the world? Worry not! Read this blog if you want to know more about the best places in North California. You can also click here to see another Northern California trip guide.

Lastly, you should indeed plan a road trip to take a break from your hectic life, and don’t forget to keep your phone aside if you are going on a road trip. Make sure to capture the natural scenery and your memorable moments with your eyes and heart. Best of Luck!

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I am Rocio

Hello there! Thank you for stopping by. My name is Rocio, and I’m a Latina mother with a wanderlust. I believe that family trips are important in forming well-rounded kids. Even when you have kids, you can still travel, so I help busy parents figure out how. Through my blog, Real world Mami, I want to give you tips that will help you plan epic trips to both well-known and less-known places around the world. Happy Travels!

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