If you want to see some of the most beautiful scenery that the West Coast has to offer, start planning a San Diego to Solvang road trip. On your way up north, you can stop and explore Pinnacles National Park as well as some beautiful coastal state parks. You'll also pass through some interesting towns, like Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Barbara. While you could complete the journey in an afternoon, you may want to extend your road trip to several days so you have time to soak in the SoCal sites.
Joshua Tree National Park
The Mojave and the Colorado deserts come together at Joshua Tree National Park, which is located near Twentynine Palms. If you want a side-excursion to add to your road trip itinerary from San Diego to Solvang, this park is the perfect stop. Seven backcountry roads make Joshua Tree a great place to explore in a four-wheel-drive vehicle or bike. Consider following the Covington Flat Road to see some of the tallest Joshua trees in the park along with juniper and pinyon trees. Try following the road to its steep end to see amazing views of Morongo Basin, Palm Springs and the surrounding mountains. You can have many other experiences at this national park, including hiking and horseback riding.
Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park near Paicines, California, was formed by volcano eruptions more than 23 million years ago. While you will have to go about two hours further north than Solvang to include it on this road trip, the experience is worth it. The best way to explore this park is by hiking along its 30 miles of trails. Many of the hikes lead to caves that you can explore, so be sure to bring your flashlight along. Check current regulations to see which caves are open because some are closed in the spring to protect the maternal colonies of Townsend’s big-eared bats. If you're a climbing enthusiast, you'll want to check out the Marchette Range. The most popular route on this range is the Old Original, where you'll encounter seven rappels.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Add Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in Julian to your San Diego to Solvang RV road trip if you want to see some beautiful mountainous terrain. You'll love hiking along the 100-plus miles of wildflower-lined paths and under conifer and oak forests. One of the best trails is the 3.5-mile Cuyamaca Peak Trail as it offers stunning views of the desert to the east, the coast to the west and Lake Cuyamaca. Keep your eyes alert as you may spot a mountain lion, bobcat or badger near your hike. The Stonewall Mine site, which was active around 1867, features interpretative signage to help you understand the role that this park’s land played in the Great California Gold Rush.
Crystal Cove State Park
There are many different reasons to visit Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. You may want to start your visit by touring the historic district on the Los Trancos Creek’s banks. This colony of about 35 cottages is one of the last remaining examples of the sea colonies constructed between 1930 and 1940. Then, head out on a hike to explore some of the 18 miles of trails. The lower trails run through the endangered coastal sage scrub plant community while the more strenuous higher trails offer the ocean's stunning views. After working up a sweat, head to one of this park’s four beaches to cool off. One of the most popular is the Moro Beach. Along with the Reef Point Beach, this beach often offers outstanding opportunities to go body surfing and standup paddleboarding. You'll want to bring your camera along to capture stunning images of the tidepools because you are not allowed to collect anything aside from images and memories.
Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park
At Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park in Lancaster, there are two charming nature trails. The 0.25-mile-long Ripley Nature Trail starts near the picnic area and allows you to see one of the last remaining stands of Joshua trees. About 100 yards from the end of this trail, you will find the Rare Jupiter Trail's start. Hiking along this one-mile trail allows you to see some of the state’s rarest juniper trees. Before arriving, download or print the guide to these two nature trails as they are extremely helpful in understanding what you are viewing.
Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park
Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park in Tehachapi is only accessible with a special permit or on guided spring and fall tours beginning at the Tehachapi Indian Museum. However, you'll want to make the effort to visit this state park. The rock formations at this park are fabulous, with some consisting of limestone while others feature marble. You will also notice the dark red soil that is unique to this location and is a result of volcanic action. On the tour, learn about the history of the Kawaiisu people who called this area home for thousands of years. They were best known for the finely carved knives and beautiful woven baskets.
LEGOLAND California Resort
The first LEGOLAND theme park to open in the U.S. was here in Carlsbad. Over 60 rides and shows are available in the park. In addition to the theme park, this resort features a miniature park and aquarium. Of course, the family-friendly attractions are based around the Lego toys.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Guests have been going to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert for more than 50 years to see animals from around the globe. Guests can also see the living garden, which features more than 100 types of agaves, a large collection of East African plants and over 50 types of palms. Check the schedule for interactive animal presentations.
If you're traveling with children, you won't want to pass up Disneyland in Anaheim. At this legendary theme park, you can enjoy the rides, shop on Main Street U.S.A. and meet your favorite characters. This was the first Disney theme park built, and it was the only one built completely under Walt Disney’s control. Rides at this park are divided into eight areas, with those for the youngest members being in Frontierland.
Old Mission Santa Barbara
Spread across 15 acres, Old Mission Santa Barbara features a mausoleum, gift shop, cemetery, museum and gardens. While a self-guided tour is available, you will get to see a lot more on a docent-led tour. Prepare to learn about the history of this mission that was started in 1786 to convert local Native Americans.
Anglers find great fishing from the pier in Carlsbad, California. You may also want to visit the Flower Fields on Carlsbad Ranch. Campground options in Carlsbad include South Carlsbad State Beach and Oceanside RV Park. Carlsbad RV dump stations can be found at South Carlsbad State Beach and Don Picos County Park.
You may want to start your visit to Palm Springs with a ride up the Palm Springs Aeriel Tramway. Leave time to visit Indian Canyons. Happy Traveler RV Park and Palm Springs Oasis RV Resort are great campgrounds in the Palm Springs area. If you're looking for dumping services, head to Indian Waters Resort or Sands RV Resort & Golf.
As the largest city in California, Los Angeles is filled to the brim with attractions. You could spend a day at the beach or take in some entertainment history at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There are many great Los Angeles campgrounds too, including Hollywood RV Park and Dockweiler RV Park. Golden Shore RV Park and Orangeland RV Park offer dump stations.
You may want to stroll around Steams Wharf and visit the zoo while stopping in Santa Barbara. Campgrounds in the area include Santa Barbara Sunrise RV Park and Ocean Mesa RV Park and Campground. MarBorg Industries and Rancho Oso have RV dump stations.
During your road trip, you'll have a lot of fun before the journey draws to an end near the flower fields of Solvang. Major theme parks, natural attractions, top zoos and more await you. If you have an RV, then you are all set. Otherwise, consider getting a rental in San Diego or Solvang. The right recreational vehicle will take your road trip from San Diego to Solvang to the next level.