California has many beautiful and fun scenic drives. After many trips though out our great state we have picked the best. We hope you will enjoy them; we do every chance we get.
Highway 1 is your best bet for a great drive along the coast. Along this route you will see beautiful beaches and ocean areas. You will pass many small beach towns and hamlets. Surf, kite, skate and food stores line the road where there is enough land and parking for them to do business. Parking is usually at a premium.
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is a beautiful forest community that is unspoiled and far from the big city air and crowds. You can get to Big Bear Lake by taking highway 330 from the city of Highland going east. Then take highway 18 on to the lake. Another good road is highway 38 out of Redlands. This is somewhat higher elevation but it runs though some of the campground area that dots the mountain. Once at the lake you can take either 38 or 18 to drive around the lake. Some of our favorite restaurants are La Paws (Mexican), The Cowboy (steaks) and The Sizzler.
From the 101 Freeway go west on Sunset Blvd. This will take you pass Mann’s Chinese Theatre where the footprints and handprints of the stars are set in cement. You can see if you are bigger or smaller then the stars TV Stations line this blvd along with movie studios of old. The world’s largest movie house is on this street called the Cinerama Dome Theater on the corner of Ivar and Sunset. This is not an IMAX type; the screen is just really high and wide. Sunset Blvd is full of everything you ever heard about the street. Gift shops line the area selling everything from movie stars pictures to toilet paper with money printed on it. When you get to the end of the commercial area you can buy a map to the stars homes from street venders and drive by some of the most famous homes in America.
Joshua Tree National Park
A real beautiful drive, Joshua Tree National Park shines above most desert areas. This drive is especially a gorgeous one in the spring as everything is blooming. It gives the look of a carpet on the desert floor. You can get on the only road though the Monument from either the highway 10 around Indio or from the other side in the small town of Joshua Tree. There is a road you can get to the Monument from Twenty Nine Palms Just south of Joshua Tree. You can drive by rock climbing areas and historic mines. Park phone: (760) 367-7511
From the 10 freeway going south take highway 111 to Palm Springs. This is an eye opening experience. On your way down highway 111 you will see sand dunes blown up the side on the mountain. You can rent ATV’s at the bottom of the hill. Farther on you will see the Palm Springs tram. This takes you up near the top of the mountain, some eight thousand feet straight up in a revolving gondola. There is a restaurant at the top of the tram. You will feel a difference close to forty degrees when you get there depending on the time of year. If you don’t stop at the tram you will start to enter the town of Palm Springs, Movie stars, cement ponds, (sorry). Close to the start of the main town is the Shilo Inn; this is a great place to stay. This town has the best of shopping and dining anywhere. Most of this is on highway 111. You will drive though Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells and La Quinta as well. There are more golf courses along this area then anywhere in the world the same size. During the winter some of the richest and famous people live here. Just look at some of the names on the street signs you pass, this will give you a clue as the residents, past and present. The summer months get quite hot so prepare. It gets so warm that one of the hotels has a chilled pool. Cool huh?
San Juan Capistrano
Highway 74 comes out of the Mission area and heads over the small mountains to Lake Elsinore. This road winds though some beautiful hills with ranches and large homes dotting the area. As you drive the road leads up though the higher mountains with curves and some switchbacks. On the other side of the hill it gets somewhat steep as you make your way down to the lake. Take a minute to stop at a turnout to look at the lake. Highway 15 is on the far side of the lake. Total miles are 34 from city hall to city hall. Time about 1 hour 20 minutes. On the weekend a few over zealous people use this road for a racetrack so use caution on the turns.
World Famous Julian Apple Pies!
From the junction 86 at the southwest end of Salton Sea, take 78 west. The road runs up into the hills as you pass miles of sand, dry river washes and amazing mountains scenery. This part of the drive is in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Farther on you drive by small towns like Julian and Ramona. Julian is a quaint village with antique stores lining both sides of the main street. There is a bakery in the middle of town that sells delicious pies. Stop and walk around, there’s much to see. When you get to Ramona you can take one of two roads. To the left you can drive to Poway or Santee/Lakeside by way of highway 67 or go right to Escondido. The whole trip is about 60 miles, you can take the trip from the west and then explore the Salton Sea.
Called the most beautiful freeway in California and for good reason, highway 163 also called Cabrillo freeway, is build and groomed to please the eye and make driving a pleasure. The best part runs from highway 8 south to the 5 highway. As your driving though the area take some time to check out Balboa Park on the left. You can enter by turn east on El Pardo. When you get to the parking lot turn either left or right. It’s a trip in to the past as most of the area was built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition then added more for the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition. Check out more information in our up coming museum page.
Point Loma San Diego
In the area of freeways 5 & 8 go southwest on highway 209, take your time and drink in all there is to see. When you get to the end of the road you will find the Cabrillo National Monument, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. If it is open the cemetery is a sight to see. You can walk though the area for a small fee. This is a hard place for you not to be impressed.
Temecula To Palm Desert
As you leave Temecula on highway 79 east you will see the area go from large groups of homes to wide-open spaces. You will want to turn left to highway 371 then right on highway 74. You can also take 74 off of 215 freeway east and drive though Hemet and Idyllwild. Both will get you to Palm Desert the pleasant way. You will see lots of agriculture and small towns. The drive goes from 5,000 feet to 245 feet in Palm Desert. Great mountain views enhance the ride, as the elevation is as high as 8,000 feet at times.