Nowadays, an increasing number of people going on vacation prefer traveling by plane. While convenient, it does not reward you with the same amount of psychological benefits brought upon by road trips. Not to mention the endless winding roads and serene landscapes encountered along the journey. Such is a road trip from Sacramento, California, wherein visit-worthy destinations are only a few hours away and highways leading to and from the city are not congested, making the place an ideal starting point to launch your adventures. While you’re here, you can choose an accommodation from the top hotels and Vrbo vacation rentals. Once you’re ready for your trip, you can start by heading north, toward the more wintry climate of Astoria, Oregon, followed by the temperate climate of Southern California far south or the more laid-back state of Idaho due east. Here are some of the best road trips from Sacramento!
1. Sonoma Valley, CA
Fancy a trip to the vast vineyards? You’re in luck! Sonoma Valley is only a 1.5-hour drive from Sacramento, with a distance of approximately 70 mi (112 km). Aside from the wineries, Sonoma Valley is home to quite a few attractions that will make your trip more interesting. Some of these attractions include Quarryhill Botanic Garden, Jack London State Historic Park, Sonoma State Historic Park, and Mission San Francisco Solano. If your kids are on the trip with you, take them to Sonoma TrainTown Railroad, a miniature amusement park.
2. Lake Tahoe
There’s no arguing that Lake Tahoe is one of the most magnificent places to visit in the United States, and it’s a lucky coincidence that it’s only a two-hour drive from Sacramento. This freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada is a major tourist attraction. It’s home to quite a lot of outdoor activities and winter sports. There are various snow and ski resorts that you can book once you arrive in the area. Some of the other popular activities here, especially with family, are boating, SCUBA diving, and hiking.
3. Astoria, OR
A port city flanked by mountains, oceans, and rivers, Astoria offers the perfect mix of nature and civilization. It is one of the best places to travel near Sacramento. There are numerous scenic spots around the city, which help locals and travelers immerse themselves in the attractions the city has to offer. Astoria Riverfront is a good place to start your itinerary, where you can have a nice walk and fully appreciate the views of the ocean. Then head to Astoria Column—a place offering a bird’s-eye view of Columbia River, Pacific Ocean, and the whole city. The catch is you need to climb 160 steps, but fret not, the view is worth it. Capping off the day, you can choose from a variety of restaurants and cafes in downtown Astoria. There’s always a place for every budget and discriminating taste. Other attractions are Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, Fort Stevens State Park, and Heritage Museum.
4. Cottage Grove, OR
One of the easy road trips from Sacramento is to Cottage Grove in Oregon. It is known as the stereotypical American small town, where the beauty of a rural lifestyle is predominantly the norm. The vibe of the place represents classic American charm, a testament to the city receiving the All-American City Award, twice. You can explore the laid-back streets and immerse in the seemingly lazy vibe the town radiates. Here, you can check out hidden gems of nature, such as Row River Trail and Row River Nature Park, where you can go walking, cycling, or running. This park is covered with trees, lakes, and other exotic animals in the area. Cottage Grove is a nice nature escape where your physical and mental well-being is rejuvenated. To end the day, you can visit Downtown Historic District, checking the local flavors and doing some shopping.
5. Garden City, ID
A road trip to Garden City gives you contrasting landscapes along the way. Starting from the busy city life in Sacramento, drive up the foothills of Sierra Nevada to the punishing terrain of the Great Basin Desert. The road trip alone is quite the adventure already. However, it does not stop there, as Garden City is still waiting to be explored. The place is known for its wine-tasting rooms, kayaking, paddle boarding, and other recreational activities. If you’re fond of river sports, Garden City is a good place for you, and you can start your day at Boise River Rapids. Other fun activities are walking and jogging at Boise River Greenbelt Trail. To end your day with a little sophistication, taste some wine along Chinden Boulevard.
6. San Diego, CA
A city on the Pacific Coast, San Diego is well-known for its miles of spectacular shoreline and world-class beaches, complemented by a collection of famous museums, beautiful parks, and gardens—Not to mention the seemingly organized chaos of the bustling city life, which makes you want to indulge in it more. As you are driving down south from Sacramento through Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll get a glimpse of stunning natural wonders and beautiful roadside attractions along the way. Once inside the city, you must visit USS Midway Museum and Unconditional Surrender Statue—good for the history geeks. Then spend the afternoon walking at Coronado Beach. Other notable attractions are Balboa Park (the local version of New York City’s Central Park), San Diego Museum of Art, and numerous world-class restaurants and cafes that saturate the city.
7. Baker City, OR
Once known as the Queen City of Eastern Oregon, Baker City nowadays is a laid-back city famous for its breweries. This place is a pretty well-known stopover of travelers along Interstate 84. However, not all come for a mere stopover. Rather, many purposely visit to taste the products of fine breweries—perfect for alcohol enthusiasts. While here, you can check out Baker Heritage Museum, which houses the rich history of the place. To fully appreciate Baker City, you must drive along its avenues and observe the architecture of its buildings, which are constructed at the turn of the century.
8. Pocatello, ID
Located 697 miles (1,122 km) northeast of Sacramento lies the gateway to the northwest—Pocatello, Idaho. This laid-back city hosts one of the most historic museums featuring cleaning tools and utensils dating back 2,000 years ago. So for those who have a liking for old utensils and other wares, this place is for you. Other landmarks of Pocatello are Idaho Museum of Natural History, Pocatello Zoo, and Old Town. The latter is where buildings dating back to the 1800s are located and preserved. You should also try the locally well-known sizzling steaks and legendary prime rib entrees at Sandpiper Restaurant to stuff your tummy.
9. Los Angeles, CA
Only a few hours away from Sacramento and with so many world-famous sites, Los Angeles can require much planning if you want to visit. But a detailed itinerary guarantees that you’ll be able to truly explore the place, starting off at Hollywood. Then you can put in extra miles to cover all worthy attractions of the city, such as Santa Monica beaches, the classy Silver Lake, and the historic streets of Art District. If that is not enough, you can tour all of Los Angeles’ museums to spice up your trip. But if you prefer to relax and escape the bustling and crowded spots, there are numerous chic hotel pools and extravagant shopping malls for you to unwind. Elsewhere in the city, you’ll never run out of options to eat, whether you prefer Scandinavian, Asian, or Middle Eastern—you name it, it’s all there.
10. Death Valley National Park
With as much as 3.4 million acres (1.4M hectares) of land, Death Valley National Park is home to diverse breathtaking spots. This place is perfect for everyone, especially those who want to escape the city life and plunge themselves upon the wonders nature has in store for them. However, a whole day is not enough to explore this immense nature reserve, but you can start your day exploring the lowest point of the land at Badwater Basin. Then slowly ascent through the valleys and trails that crisscross the landscape. Other landmarks of the place are Salt Creek and Golden Canyon. You can end your day appropriately at the highest point—Dante’s View, which is around 5,400 feet (1,646 meters) in elevation.
11. Joshua Tree National Park
Another great driving vacation spot from Sacramento is Joshua Tree National Park. It is known for its beautiful rock formations, contrasting landscapes, serene horizon, and the Joshua tree. The place is named by Mormon settlers in the area when they saw an unusual tree that reminded them of a Bible story regarding Joshua—hence the name of the tree. This site is a haven for the ascent-obsessed, nature lovers, hikers, trekkers, and cyclists alike. This national park delivers plenty of delights for travelers. Start by exploring Indian Cove Nature Trail, then slowly hike your way around the picturesque paths that dot the land. Other attractions of the national park are Echo Cove and Arch Rock Trail, where you can rock-climb and hike respectively.
12. Los Padres National Forest
Strategically located around the big bustling cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, and Bakersfield, Los Padres National Forest is the perfect escape for those who want to take a break from the urban lifestyle. The best way to experience the forest is by hiking, as there are dozens of trails lined up with thick vegetation and huge trees. In fact, huge redwood trees call Los Padres home. Other trails have their special perks as well, where you’ll encounter impressive waterfalls, local fauna, and exotic plants—truly making for a fun time with the whole family. Other must-visit attractions of the forest are San Ysidro Trail and The Playground.
A land of contrast
California and surrounding states are lands of contrasts, from the coastal plains where the big bustling metropolises are nestled to the mountainous and badlands of the interior countryside—indeed a place worthy of exploration. Along with the seemingly endless winding roads and picturesque views along the way, this state is truly a treasure trove of wonderful experiences waiting to be discovered.
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