Quick roadside pullovers recharge your batteries and fight road weariness. The California Road Trip loop is flush with worthwhile roadside attractions, from stunning waterfalls to an alien-themed convenience store.

San Francisco to Yosemite

The Knights Ferry Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. Built in 1864 to span the Stanislaus River, the Knights Ferry Covered Bridge was considered state-of-the-art at the time as a minor engineering marvel stretching 330 feet. To reach the bridge, head out of Oakdale east on CA-108/120 for 11 miles. Take a left on Kennedy Road, and then after 0 .5 miles, take a left on Sonora Road. After 0 .5 miles, take a right on Covered Bridge Road, and the bridge will appear soon.

A long covered bridge over the Stanislaus River in California.

Knights Ferry Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. Photo © Tom Hilton, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Yosemite to Las Vegas

Ever wonder what it would be like to live upside down? Satisfy your curiosity at the Upside-Down House. Just a block off US-395 outside of Yosemite National Park, this classic road trip stop is inspired by the children’s stories “Upside Down Land” and “The Upsidedownians.” The small wooden cabin features a bed, a rug, and furniture all on the ceiling.

If otherworldly experiences sound like a good time, let your conspiracy theories run wild at the Area 51 Alien Travel Center. Capitalizing on its location just south of the secret military installation, this travel center focuses on UFO conspiracy theories and sells all sorts of extraterrestrial-influenced merchandise. Painted fluorescent yellow, it’s hard to miss.

Last Stop Arizona also celebrates life on other planets. Pose for a photo in an alien cutout display and fill up your tank with “Uranus” gas. There’s also a diner and a quirky gift shop.

Los Angeles to Grand Canyon

Located in Kingman, a town that proudly preserves and displays its heritage of training ground for World War II heroes and playground for the postwar middle class, the well-curated Historic Route 66 Museum tells the story of the celebrated roadway and Kingman’s role in it.

Grand Canyon to Los Angeles

You’re not hallucinating: The giant golf ball teed up in the desert is called the Golf Ball House. 40 feet in diameter, this orb was intended to be the Dinesphere, a nightclub and restaurant. That development failed, so today it’s a private residence and surreal photo-op. Find it east of the Alamo Rd I-40 exit.

The colorful kitschy interior of the Madonna Inn with carved wood and brightly-colored vinyl chairs.

The delightfully kitschy Madonna Inn. Photo © Omar Bárcena, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Los Angeles to San Francisco

The kitschy Madonna Inn is the mothership of roadside motels. Truly one of a kind, it’s considered a pilgrimage site for lovers of all-American kitsch. Each guest room is decorated wildly differently to suit the diverse tastes of the road trippers who converge on the area. The creative names given to each over the years suggest what you will find inside: The Yahoo, Love Nest, Old Mill, Kona Rock, Irish Hills, Cloud Nine, Caveman Room and on and on. Then there is the famous men’s restroom downstairs, where the urinal is built out of rock and a water-fall flushes it. If you don’t have time for an overnight stay, still plan a stop for the copper-plated Copper Café & Pastry Shop, which is exactly what it sounds like, and the garish explosion of giant fake flowers and rose-colored furniture in the Gold Rush Steak House.

If kitsch isn’t your speed, the appeal of McWay Falls is far more sublime. Viewable any time of year, this waterfall plunges 80 feet down into the Pacific off the edge of a sheer cliff and onto the beach of a remote cove, where the water wets the sand and trickles out into the sea. The water of the cove gleams bright cerulean blue against the just off-white sand of the beach. You’ll want to build a hut beside it and stay awhile, but there’s no way down to the cove that’s even remotely safe. Enjoy the view from the top.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon California Road Trip.