Discover the California Road Trip

Low waves roll in to a sandy beach surrounded by tall sandstone cliffs.

Ocean meets shore at Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway. Photo © Mariusz Jurgielewicz.

Take a look at a map of California, and you’ll discover that some of the top destinations in the country are within a day’s drive of one another: San Francisco, Yosemite, and Los Angeles. Push past the state’s borders and add Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and you’ll have the road trip of a lifetime.

If you don’t mind spending hours at a time behind the wheel, it’s possible to experience the best of the West in two weeks.That’s because the West is larger than life. The boisterous cities seem bigger, redwood forests and snow-capped mountains loom taller, and sandy coastlines stretch longer than anywhere else. California was a dream before it was a place, before its boundaries existed on any map. People have long headed west seeking natural beauty and wide-open space. And despite an ever-growing population, that open space still exists. It’s there in Yosemite’s lofty peaks, or the depths of the Grand Canyon, or the primal collision of land and ocean along the Pacific coastline. This is nature at its best, just a few hours away from the cosmopolitan pleasures of the most intriguing cities anywhere. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas all offer high art, frenetic nightlife, and gourmet dining, but the choices are as different as the distinctive personalities of the cities themselves.

The pace of life in the American West is as diverse as everything else. Life in the fast lane is an apt metaphor for Los Angeles, where California car culture reaches its zenith. Yet the quiet frenzy of San Francisco sometimes seems just as quick, and Las Vegas has made living fast into almost a new art form (not to mention big business). Outside the major urban areas, the hectic speed diminishes. California’s wine regions invite visitors to relax and enjoy life a sip at a time. Beyond the vineyards, an even more venerable and variable pace emerges—that of nature. The gushing waterfalls of Yosemite, towering redwoods and delicate native wildflowers along the coast, even the imperceptible flow of the Colorado River as it carves the Grand Canyon…all contribute to the unique rhythms of the West.

So choose your own pace. Take a look at a map of California, and you’ll discover that some of the top destinations in the country are within a day’s drive of one another: San Francisco, Yosemite, and Los Angeles. Push past the state’s borders and add Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and you’ll have the road trip of a lifetime.

That’s because the West is larger than life. The boisterous cities seem bigger, redwood forests and snow-capped mountains loom taller, and sandy coastlines stretch longer than anywhere else. California was a dream before it was a place, before its boundaries existed on any map. People have long headed west seeking natural beauty and wide-open space. And despite an ever-growing population, that open space still exists. It’s there in Yosemite’s lofty peaks, or the depths of the Grand Canyon, or the primal collision of land and ocean along the Pacific coastline. This is nature at its best, just a few hours away from the cosmopolitan pleasures of the most intriguing cities anywhere. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas all offer high art, frenetic nightlife, and gourmet dining, but the choices are as different as the distinctive personalities of the cities themselves.

The pace of life in the American West is as diverse as everything else. Life in the fast lane is an apt metaphor for Los Angeles, where California car culture reaches its zenith. Yet the quiet frenzy of San Francisco sometimes seems just as quick, and Las Vegas has made living fast into almost a new art form (not to mention big business). Outside the major urban areas, the hectic speed diminishes. California’s wine regions invite visitors to relax and enjoy life a sip at a time. Beyond the vineyards, an even more venerable and variable pace emerges — that of nature. The gushing waterfalls of Yosemite, towering redwoods and delicate native wildflowers along the coast, even the imperceptible flow of the Colorado River as it carves the Grand Canyon…all contribute to the unique rhythms of the West.

So choose your own pace. If you don’t mind spending hours at a time behind the wheel, it’s possible to experience the best of the West in two weeks. Gawk at Hollywood movie stars, wander Old West ghost towns, and explore the Magic Kingdom. Hike the Grand Canyon and hit the slots in Vegas. Or just lie on the beach and soak up the sun. Let your interests determine your routes and itineraries. No matter who you are or what you’re into, the West awaits.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California Road Trip.


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1 Comment

  1. Channeling Arte Johnson from 1960s TV show Laugh In: Verrrry Interesting!

    But what can you possibly mean by “… the imperceptible flow of the Colorado River as it carves the Grand Canyon…?”

    That’s some of the wildest whitewater anywhere. Roaring and powerful, and very perceptible!