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21 Day RV Trip around California’s National Parks

Posted on Jun 27, 2019

Solstice has come and gone, summer vacation is in full swing, and the time to start enjoying some well-earned time off is now!  There are countless types of vacations to choose from but naturally, at 1st Choice RV, we are partial to the summer road trip.  California is a state ripe for big highway adventures, and there are so many different directions in which to take yours.  From coastal exploration to mountain getaways you can’t go wrong with any California road trip itinerary you choose.  What follows is just a sample itinerary of what a summer on the road in The Golden State could look like – a 21 day, 2,000 mile, 38 hour road trip visiting all nine of California’s national parks.  Whether that much of a commitment fits into your schedule or not, at least pencil in a few stops to some of this state’s most iconic and beautiful natural wonders. 

Day 1 – 3: Los Angeles to Ventura/Channel Islands National Park

You will be putting in a lot of hours behind the wheel and seeing much of the beautiful state of California on this road trip, but the first leg is actually quite short.  It is just over an hour from Los Angeles to Ventura, where you will catch a ferry to Channel Islands National Park.  This short drive will allow you the chance to get used to driving a bigger rig, and the park itself is well worth a visit.  There are five islands that make up this park, each boasting great opportunities to hike, snorkel, dive, kayak, surf, explore tide pools, and/or view wildlife.  All in all, this is the ideal slow and remote start to your 2,000 mile road trip.

Day 3 – 4: Pinnacles National Park

When you return to the mainland from the Channel Islands, hop back into your motorhome and start working your way the 3.75 hours north to Pinnacles National Park.  While the landscape and unique hiking, climbing, and wildlife viewing opportunities of Pinnacles are worth the visit, the drive up the Pacific Coast is worthy of a road trip all itself.  Be sure to take your time and soak up the beautiful Pacific Views as you head north!

Day 4 – 8: Redwoods National Park

At 7.5 hours from Pinnacles to Redwoods National Park, this is the longest drive between parks on this road trip itinerary. However, it is also one of the most beautiful and fun stretches of highway.  Continue north up the Pacific Coast enjoying the coastal mountains and ocean views as you drive through and past San Francisco to some of the largest trees in the country.  The redwoods and the surrounding landscape is an iconic part of the American landscape and certainly a sight to behold.  But don’t skimp on the drive up! Enjoy every minute of time on the road and don’t shy away from stopping for a night at any number of magical places along the way.

Day 8 – 9: Lassen Volcanic National Park

After enjoying a couple of days at the furthest north national park in California, turn your RV around and head southeast 4.25 hours to Lassen Volcanic National Park – home to volcanoes, alpine lakes, steaming fumaroles, and the perfect transition into the mountainous middle leg of this epic road trip.   

Day 9 – 13: Yosemite National Park

From Lassen National Park, you will point your RV south through the Sierras, past Lake Tahoe, and to the granddaddy of California’s parks – Yosemite National Park.  Similar to driving the coast, the route to Yosemite is riddled with beautiful places to stop so don’t let a tight itinerary hold you down.  The beauty of the road trip is freedom to shoot from the hip and adjust your travel plans accordingly, and you should feel empowered to do just that!  That said, Yosemite National Park is a spectacle and certainly worth a few days of your time.  From massive mountains and breathtaking waterfalls, there are enough places to explore in Yosemite to keep you occupied for a lifetime. 

Day 13 – 15: Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks

When you’ve seen enough of Yosemite, or at least decided that you need to come back to see the rest, continue south through the Sierra for 4.75 hours to the duo of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  Similar to Yosemite, these parks are home to great hiking, awe-inspiring mountains, and remarkable wildlife.  These parks have the bonus of being home to more ancient giants in incredible old growth stands of Sequoia trees. 

Day 15 – 18: Death Valley National Park

The second longest point to point drive on this itinerary – 7 hours – will take you out of the mountains and into the otherworldly desert environment of Death Valley National Park.  Don’t let the name fool you.  Death Valley is a spectacular natural wonder and the largest national park in the contiguous U.S.   It also happens to be the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the parks and boasts the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level.  Spend a few days exploring this park, learning about the desert environment, and drinking plenty of water!

Day 18 – 20: Joshua Tree National Park

From Death Valley, it is a 4 hour drive to the final park on your itinerary – Joshua Tree National Park.  This drive, of course, could be much longer if your final days in Death Valley are spent on the opposite end of one of country’s largest national parks.  That said, the drive itself is beautiful and the final destination is one of our favorites.  It is unbelievable that a landscape as unique and beautiful as Joshua Tree is located in the backyard of such a major urban environment.  This park, like all the others, could be explored for weeks, months, or a lifetime and after just one visit you will soon discover why.  The rock formations, mountains, trees, and desert ecology make J-Tree the perfect place to wrap up an epic 21 day national park adventure.

Day 21: Return to Los Angeles

At this point, you have likely covered 2,000 miles on the road and have driven for more than 35 hours.  You’ve seen 9 national parks and countless ecosystems.  From ocean tide pools to redwood forests, alpine meadows to desert oases, you have experienced much of the best California has to offer, and it is time to make the final 2 hour drive west to Los Angeles to return your motorhome rental.  What a trip!

California is a state full of countless natural wonders, and there is no better way to experience them than via the highway system.  And, if you are planning a road trip, why not do it in maximum comfort and style with an 1st Choice RV rental? The itinerary above is just an example of how you could spend 21 days on the road, but there is no right or wrong way to do it.  Take your time, stop where you want, and enjoy all of the freedom that the open road has to offer.  One thing is for sure – it will be a summer vacation you won’t soon forget! 

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