The magic of a road trip is something I’m always a bit overeager to shout from the rooftops. Something about packing up the car, stopping at the grocery store to load up on provisions, the playlists, the car games.
Rest stops in the middle of nowhere. The best conversations of my life have taken place in moving vehicles, usually en route to an off-the-grid location, usually during the summer time. The getting there is equally as worth it as the being there. So be it a weeks long voyage across state lines or a quick jaunt over the bridge for a night or two, summer is the time to hit the open road and explore. Three road trips of varying lengths, below. Ready, go.
The Little One
Point Reyes Seashore, CA
Miles from SF: 59.2
You can’t live in San Francisco for very long without someone regaling you with the wonders of Point Reyes. With viewpoints as pretty as even the greenest hills of Ireland and wildlife unbounded, it’s no wonder President Kennedy established this stretch of government protected land in 1962. A road trip to PR isn’t really complete unless you spend a night or two, preferably camping atop a coastal bluff. The Wildcat campsites available on recreation.gov are the sweetest spots to score. You’ll sleep in a cozy, elevated plain suspended above the ocean, just a fifteen minute stroll from Alamere Falls. The hike out is 7 miles, however, so pack wisely (and light!)
Not up for the whole sleeping in the woods thing? It’s cool, dude, we’ve got you covered. Pop over to Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay for a sleep on high thread count sheets complete with views of the bay. You can still call yourself an explorer, we’ll allow it.
// Stops: Alamere Falls, Drake’s Bay, Cyprus Tree Tunnel, & Picnic at Marin French Cheese Shop on your way back to the city.
The Mid One
Miles from SF: 153
It’s like a tinier, more easily-reached Tahoe—with all the good mountain stuff you crave. Take a jaunt up to Calaveras County and the Stanislaus River this summer. Float at White Pines, climb the big boulders at Candy Rock, and Kayak Lake Alpine with your homies. Less than three hours from San Francisco, this is an easy-peasy escape that you’ll hit time and time again. Campsites can be booked at parks.ca.gov, with some walk-up options available.
// Stops: Copperopolis is a must-stop before you make your way up the mountain into Big Trees. On your way back home, the town of Murphy’s offers real-life Gold Rush vibes, along with Wine Tasting and the sweetest looking downtown this side of the Mississippi. Grab lunch at Firehouse for a world class burger. Feeling a splurge? Check out Alchemy for fine wine and a sit-down dinner.
The Big One
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Miles from SF: 512.3
God bless the brave souls that make the not-so-short trip to Joshua Tree. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the sheer bliss upon reaching the park is comparable to the endorphins that hit you after running a marathon. If you’re going to make the power move of driving from SF to JT, pull together a caravan of friends and book one of the park’s largest campsites - the Cottonwood sites are perfect for 8-20 people, with sunset views of the unearthly scenery and multiple hiking trails directly connected to the site. Get your bearings and decide just where you want to spend your time in JT. With the expanse of the park larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, it’s important to plan ahead while jumping from northern and southern territories of the park.
// Stops: This one requires quite a few stops, and with most of the state laying between your starting point and your ending destination, this gives you some leeway on road trip excursions (Big Sur? Santa Barbara? LA? All of the above!) Be sure to load up on firewood in Indio prior to entering the southern entrance of the park as you won’t have many options afterwards. Photography by Isabella Welch.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.