From classic Southern California beaches to giant sequoias, granite domes and desert country, this road trip has it all. Plus, you can tackle five national parks along the way.
Start in L.A. for your beach and arts fix before heading north. Within three hours, you’ll reach Sequoia National Park where you can walk among giant sequoias and see the world’s largest living tree. Next to Sequoia lies Kings Canyon National Park, a hidden gem offering spectacular caves, mountain terrain and the world’s second largest tree, the General Grant Tree. Nearby historic towns of Visalia and Exeter make for great stopovers.
Then point your wheels north to Yosemite. Leave the crowds by driving Tioga Road to alpine meadows and exit the park at its East Entrance. From there explore small towns like Bishop that dot this stunning high-desert landscape lined by 14,000-foot peaks. What follows are some highlights south of Yosemite.
Road Trip Itinerary
Start: Los Angeles, Calif.
Stop 1: Tulare County's Fields of Dreams
Stop at local farms and a cheese factory to find out how the areas nestled against Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks feed the world.
Stop 2: Sequoia National Park
Drive the Generals Highway descending into the Sierra Nevada foothills and stop to see the namesake tree towering 275 feet.
Stop 3: Kings Canyon National Park
This canyon carved by glaciers and cut by the Kings River can claim to be the deepest in the USA. It reaches a maximum depth of 8200 feet– that’s even deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon!
Stop 4: Oakhurst at Yosemite's Southern Entrance
Swing by the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau for up-to-date info on park conditions; in summer, a park ranger is on hand to answer questions. Browse the area’s art galleries, see a show at the Golden Chain Theatre, or hop on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for a scenic, 4-mile ride on a historic train before you head for Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in nearby Coarsegold.
Stop 5: Yosemite National Park
After you enter Yosemite at the South Entrance, visit the Mariposa Sequoia Grove (reopening fall 2017) and explore the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Continue north through the park to see five famous viewpoints close to the road, Tunnel View with El Capitan, Valley View with the Merced River, Glacier Point with a view of Half Dome, Olmsted Point, and Tenya Lake. The later two are on Tioga Road on your way to the next stop.
Download the GyPSy Guide app and feel like you're touring with a local in your car. The app uses your phone or tablet's location to play commentary about Yosemite attractions such as Half Dome and Tunnel View as you drive.
Expand your park experience: Take a private tour of the park with Yosemite Family Adventures. Do one of four classic tours, or go stargazing, fly fishing, or hiking with a Yosemite expert guide.
Only have three days? Visit three parks, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite, in three days on the Majestic Mountain Loop.
Stop 6: Mono County
Just 12 breathtaking miles from Yosemite’s East Entrance, see tufa formations protruding from a salt lake, a ghost town that's now a state historic park, and lava columns at Devil's Postpile National Monument.
Stop 7: Bishop, Calif.
On the Eastern Sierra between Yosemite and Death Valley, walk among ancient trees, go trout fishing, and relax in a small town with down-to-earth people.
Stop 8: Three Museums in the Land of Extremes
Inyo County claims the highest and lowest points in the lower 48. Stop at a WWII internment camp, read tales of local mountaineer, and see restored trains.
Stop 9: Death Valley National Park
From the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at Badwater Basin, to the top of Telescope Peak, this park enfolds an incredible variety of landscapes.
Stop 10: Ridgecrest, Calif.
See ghost towns, a Naval museum and petroglyphs in this eastern Sierra town that has so many wildflowers, they give tours every spring.