California's National Parks Road Trip  

Bright lights, big sights, balmy beaches and some of the USA’s wildest and most beautiful landscapes.

An adventurous road trip accelerating you across mountains, valleys, deserts, beaches and cities allowing you to see more of the world in one go

You’ll start on San Francisco’s steep streets, end in Las Vegas’ neon lit glow and in between lace up your boots and face the natural elements in some of the USA’s most jaw dropping National Parks. You'll be fronting Yosemite’s waterfalls, wildlife and granite peaks, embracing the silent wilderness of Sequoia and trekking across Death Valley’s dramatic desert layers. This is a real ‘hit the open road trip’ designed to give you enough time to soak up two laidback southern California cities, stopping in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles along the way.

Read more
San Francisco, Yosemite, Sequoia, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Death Valley and Las Vegas

Ideal for
National Parks. Nature lovers and adventurers. Hitting the open road.

Recommended itinerary

San Francisco

Experience the City by the Bay

Your journey begins in California’s Golden Gate City where cable cars traverse nuttily steep hills and bohemian neighbourhoods boast independent boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. In San Francisco, culture collides with Pacific Ocean vibes and you’re just as likely to be ducking into museums and cathedrals as you are soaking up seafaring style.

San Francisco

What to do in San Francisco

Cable cars, culture and cocktails

Give yourself three nights here to hire bikes and cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, see the sea lions at Pier 39 and catch a ride on a classic San Fran cable car. Board the hop on and off open-top Big Bus and do everything from North Beach to Nob Hill in one day or go entirely your own way, from a whale watching tour to waterfront dining and coastal trails to craft cocktail bars.

Where to stay in San Francisco

Discover some of the best hotels in the city

Choose from prime location hotels such as The Handlery Union Square which comes with an outdoor pool or Hotel Caza which is just minutes from Fisherman’s Wharf. Have a stylish stay in a former fruit cannery at The Argonaut or sleep sky-high on the waterfront at Hyatt Regency. The Fairmont San Francisco is the luxury choice for balcony suites and wonderful bay and city views.


Land of eagles, condors and bears

In the heart of the western Sierra Nevada mountains, about a four-hour drive from San Francisco, phenomenal scenery comes as standard in the nearly 750,000 acres of Yosemite National Park. Here you’ll finally see those thundering sky high falls, giant glacier domes and ancient sequoia trees. Spring is the time to chase waterfalls, autumn and summer are fabulous seasons to hike and winter, the least crowded time, is for visitors hoping to see the first whisper-quiet drops of snow. Please note: An advanced purchase vehicle permit system is in place for Yosemite National Park. See for more details.

What to do in Yosemite

Explore mega mountains and meadows

Spend a night in Yosemite and stretch out your legs for spectacular hikes across well-sign posted trails or motor across scenic roads to the mega rocks – Half Dome and Clouds Rest are up there with the best. The fearless tackle the sheer rock face of El Capitan while serenity seekers cycle the Valley Loop or head to the glass-like waters of Tenaya Lake. Take the windy drive up to Glacier . for the ultimate views of America's most iconic valley.

Where to stay in Yosemite

Mountain views and lakeside living

Opt for the basic but brilliantly located Yosemite View Lodge close to the National Park’s Arch West Entrance or sleep near the southern entrance at Tenaya Lodge, a chalet-style resort with swimming pools and a spa. Also near the south gate is The Pines Resort at Bass Lake which boasts tennis courts, a private beach and a marina.

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite


The land of giants

A number of driving routes take you from Yosemite to Sequoia, the quickest is about 2 and a half hours from Yosemite View Lodge to Wyndham Visalia. From here, exploring the National Park is a breeze, whether you’re heading to the tallest tree in the world, General Sherman, or venturing into subterranean chambers to see stalactites and stalagmites.

What to do in Sequoia

Break out the hiking boots

Venture deep into the National Park – home to wilderness trails, wildflower forests and the tallest trees in the world – and you'll feel like a tiny speck. Allow two days here to drive under Tunnel Log, live like fairies in the Giant Forest and explore Crystal Cave;s mythical underground chambers. Look out for deer and marmots on Crescent Meadow, take the tamer hike to Tokopah Falls or the more challenging one to Moro Rock for dizzying canyon views.

Where to stay in Sequoia

Our favourite hotels

Don’t fancy roughing it in the wild? Wyndham Visalia is a great option for a slice of city life that’s close enough to the park for rosy-cheeked adventure. For stargazing and sequoia trees on your doorstep, sleep inside the park at Wuksachi Lodge, just a ten-minute drive from the General Sherman Tree.

Santa Barbara

The American Riviera

Swapping giant trees and crystal caves for California’s central coast, buckle up for the 400 kilometre dive to Santa Barbara. This tiny town’s reputation exceeds its geographic size: just 90 miles north of Los Angeles it’s close enough for its celebrity citizens to catch their agent in the melee of LA, but just far enough away for escapism.

What to do in Santa Barbara

The essence of Californian cool

Set aside two nights in Santa Barbara to enjoy its Spanish architecture and slow like honey pace. Pootle down to the Pacific Ocean, sip wine on pretty patios and discover your next favourite farm-to-fork restaurant. Drive out to Montecito for the day, stay central and top up your tan on Hendry’s beach or sail off at sunset on a harbour cruise.

Where to stay in Santa Barbara

From purse friendly stays to poolside scenes

Just off Highway 101, the great value Best Western Plus Pepper Tree Inn comes with an outdoor pool. If you want to be close to the fabulous Funk Zone and the beach, choose from the pretty rooms and ocean views at Hotel Milo or the boutique atmosphere at Riviera Beach House. Take luxury up a notch at Spanish-style Kimpton Canary or El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel; both boast beautiful rooftop pools and excellent restaurants.

Los Angeles

An Oscar-worthy trip

Taking the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles is the classic and scenic route. Choose to stop at sights along the way - Ojai, Ventura and Malibu – or head straight into Tinseltown’s palm-studded landscape where surfing, shopping, museums and movie star attractions await.

What to do in Los Angeles

See the sand, the shows and the studios

Remarkably multifaceted, LA is never just Hollywood. First time visiting? Experience 90210’s luxury, take the movie star tours and see the skyline from rooftop bars. Coming back for a second look? Visit Griffith Park, surf in Santa Monica and stroll around LACMA and The Getty. Three nights gives you enough time to take it all in – perhaps a performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall, a hike to the Hollywood Sign, some serious shopping on Rodeo Drive or the 3D rides at Universal Studios.

Santa Monica

Where to stay in Los Angeles

Iconic hotels and beachside hotspots

Ten minutes from Universal Studios, The Garland Hotel is a gorgeous spot to soak up the sun before seeing the sights. For a taste of SoCal’s salty ocean lifestyle Shutters on the Beach is your chicest beachside retreat. And the icons? The Beverly Hilton is a wonderful choice for glam poolside lounging whilst The Hollywood Roosevelt, opposite the Chinese Theatre, is a hip hotel with a history of movie star guests.

Death Valley

Hot, hot, hot

California’s beauty beyond the beaches is a scorching surprise. Approximately a four hour drive from Los Angeles brings you to Death Valley, passing through the subranges of the southern Sierra to reach Stove Pipe Wells, the commercial hub.

What to do in Death Valley

Discover the beauty of the badlands

Spanning over three million acres of mountains, canyons, sands and salt flats, it’s impossible not to be captivated by Death Valley’s sculpted beauty. Reserve a night here and get more than a glimpse of the hottest, driest place on the North American continent. Hike Badwater Basin’s salt flats and the ever-moving Mesquite sand dunes, catch sunrise at Zabriskie . and motor along Artist’s Drive to experience its colourful volcanic rocks. If you’ve never been up close to a caldera, now’s your chance: walk to the bottom of the 600 foot deep Ubehebe crater or take the easier trip around the rim.

Where to stay in Death Valley

Dust off your boots for a desert stay

Go cowboy casual at Stovepipe Wells Village, set close to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, follow in the footsteps of Clark Cable and book into The Inn at Death Valley which boasts a stargazing deck and an outdoor pool, or check in at The Ranch at Death Valley for a fuss-free and budget friendly stay right next to Furnace Creek Visitors Centre.

Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley

Las Vegas

Entertainment Capital of the World

You’re already in the Mojave Desert, and a two-hour drive will take you to drama of a manmade kind. Las Vegas: the showstopping resort city where anything goes. The hotels are opulent, the shows out of this world and the experiences as diverse as your dreams. Palm trees, pool parties and pina coladas or Cirque de Soleil, celebrity restaurants and soothing gondola rides.

What to do in Las Vegas

Sky-high sights and decadent nights

Allow yourself a night in Las Vegas to be drawn in by the dazzling lights and the thrills of the roulette tables, indulge in a cornucopia of exceptional dining and breath-taking entertainment, and escape the madness with a soaring heli-flight over The Grand Canyon.

Where to stay in Las Vegas

Wow-worthy places to sleep

For a taste of Las Vegas’ bright, bold and big complexes you could choose the Luxor Hotel and Casino or MGM Grand Hotel Casino, both which boast casinos, clubs and permanent shows. It’s hard to beat the Bellagio’s dancing fountains and decadent restaurants but if you prefer something low-key and quiet you should take a look at the swish Vdara Hotel and the casino-free Waldorf Astoria which both offer luxury spas and glamorous pools.