California is known for Hollywood stars and laid-back living, but for the intrepid driver, a wonder awaits just off the beaten path. The golden state is home to a diversity of terrain, from blooming deserts to rugged coastline. And, all are easily accessible by road in a well-maintained classic car. Here are three of the best drives in California chosen to make your next trip through California exciting and memorable.
La Jolla to Anza Borrego
Starting in La Jolla, this sea to mountain to desert adventure begins in one of the most prestigious zip codes in the country. Leaving the beach on one of the best drives in California is easy. Take State Route 56 to Highway 67, headed east. Winding through the canyons, soon you will pass through quaint rural communities untouched for decades by the urban sprawl of greater San Diego County.
Turning on Highway 78 will lead you into the Cuyamaca mountains where you’ll enjoy a truly alpine experience in Julian. You’re in apple country. Sampling local cider, cobbler, and pies is a must on this trip, and there are plenty of opportunities to sample the local fare without leaving the main road.
The last leg of this trip brings you down to the Anza Borrego Desert and directly to the Casa del Zorro resort. In early spring, your descent brings you through famous fields of wildflowers. A full spa awaits at the resort if you choose to stay the night. If not, it’s only ninety miles back to the beach.
Rim of the World in Big Bear
Most visitors don’t realize how close the coast of Southern California is to the mountain community of Big Bear. Less than 120 miles away exists a forest playground complete with a ski resort and a lake large enough for fun year-round.
One of the best drives in California takes you on Highway 18 through the San Bernardino mountains. The winding drive is exhilarating as you climb the cliffs on your way to the Rim of the World, as locals call it.
This drive is all about the views you experience on the way up to the resort community of Big Bear. The best way to capture the full experience is to take advantage of the many turnouts leading to fire lookouts, arboretums, and nature preserves. Of course, if you are driving your favorite convertible, stopping will just add to the scenery. From several locations, it is possible to look west and see the shimmering Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Big Sur Ocean Views
No list of the best drives in California would be complete without a trip to Big Sur along old Highway 1. This throwback road to simpler times hugs the rugged coastline and challenges even the best drivers to focus on the road while breathtaking scenery whizzes past in an awe-inspiring panorama of pristine beaches and crashing waves.
Beginning this drive after the Carmel Highlands allows you to explore some of the most undeveloped coastline left in California. For almost ninety miles the twists and turns take you through this magical region, leaving drivers with an appreciation of the power of the ocean and the beauty of the coast.
There certainly is no shame in renting a quality vehicle and turning heads on the boulevards in some of America’s best cities. If you are in the mood to open it up and explore what California has to offer, these drives will get your heart pumping and make for amazing memories for years to come. Take a day and try one of the best drives in California. You won’t regret it.