The great thing about RVing in California is there is something for everyone. From the sunny beaches of San Diego to the forested hills of Northen California, you are bound to find just what you’re looking for in a road trip.
There are popular RV destinations such as Yosemite and Death Valley, but you have ever heard fo Trinidad, CA? I hadn’t either. After spending the last four months living and traveling in California, my family and I stumbled across some fantastic destinations with great RV parks.
Most were off the beaten path enough that we didn’t feel crowded, yet they were easy to navigate with our 35-foot fifth wheel in tow. So, if you are thinking about hitting Highway 101 with your mobile home this summer, here are five ultimate California RV destinations you’ll want to visit.
1. Palm Springs
There is something magical about the desert. The wide open spaces, the unique landscape, and of course the climate. The climate can be a little extreme, so spring, fall, and winter are the best times to visit the area. If you don’t mind the heat, any time of year works! Palm Spring is the perfect home base for exploring the surrounding desert.
What to see:
- Joshua Tree National Park. Palm Springs is an easy, scenic one-hour drive from Joshua Tree National Park. The park gets crowded on the weekends so get there early to avoid long lines or visit on a weekday if you can. Joshua Tree offers days worth of exploring great for all ages. From hiking Hidden Canyon with the kids to extreme rock climbing for the adventure seekers.
- Coachella Valley Preserve. This lush hidden oasis is just 10 miles east of Palm Springs. The 17,000-acre preserve is excellent for hiking, even on a hot day as it offers well-shaded areas thanks to the massive palms. The 25 miles of trails include McCallum, Hidden Palms, and the Willis Palm Trails.
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tramcar that travels over 2.5 miles up into the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. The ten-minute tram ride offers breathtaking views of the valley below and rugged hills as you pass over. Take a hike and grab lunch at the top for dining with the best view in town.
Where to stay in Palm Springs:
Palm Springs RV Resort. While the park is located in Palm Desert, you are a short drive to anywhere in the valley. You have easy access to hiking, biking, golf, shopping, dining, and almost anything you could ask for.
The 25-acre campground offers full hookups, a year-round heated swimming pool, clean and updated bathrooms/shower facilities, a game room, playground, and more. This park is fun for all ages!
2. San Diego
Did you know San Diego is known as America’s Finest City? After experiencing it for yourself, you will probably agree! San Diego is known for its surf, sun, and sand, but there is so much more to experience.
What to see:
- Pacific Beach. A trip to San Diego wouldn’t be complete without at least one day at the beach. PB has something for everyone. Miles of sandy beaches for reading a book or playing volleyball, waves for splashing and surfing, boardwalk for biking or blading, fresh seafood for munching, and cool cocktails for sipping.
- La Jolla Cove. This natural beauty is situated between the picturesque town of La Jolla and the sea. The La Jolla Cove is a natural playground offering tide pools to explore, caves to kayak, and a rich underwater world to snorkel and scuba dive. Have you ever wanted to get within in touching distance of a wild sea lion? Here’s your chance!
- USS Midway Museum. The USS Midway is an actual aircraft carrier that has been turned into a maritime museum. The ship displays an extensive collection of aircraft, including many built in Southern California. The museum is great for all ages. The history of the ship is rich, which the history buffs will enjoy, while the hands-on exhibits and interactive tour will please even the little ones.
Where to stay in San Diego:
Campland on the Bay. Located along Mission Bay as part of Mission Bay Park, Campland has been a popular destination since opening in 1969. Campland offers a plethora of amenities including full hookups, a private beach, water toy rentals, multiple swimming pools, an arcade, bar and grill, and playground, just to name a few. Campland is a dream come true for kids of all ages!
3. Santa Barbara
Sophistication and the wild west collide in Santa Barbara. The morning can be spent horseback riding in Los Padres National Forest while the afternoon may include strolling through art galleries and finishing the day off with wine tasting. The architecture is almost as beautiful as the scenery.
What to see:
- Stearns Wharf. This is California’s oldest working wharf and the perfect place for spectacular views of the city and the sea. Stearns Wharf is home to several shops and dining options. Want to give fishing a try? Here’s your chance! This wharf is also home to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, great for your little RVers.
- Old Mission Santa Barbara. The Mission is a Santa Barbara landmark that shouldn’t be missed. Take in the stunning architecture with double bell town, walk through the lush gardens, and gaze upon the San Ynez mountains in the distance.
- Santa Barbara Zoo. This huge 30-acre zoo is home to more than 146 species, including mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects, exhibited in open, naturalistic habitats. Make sure to take the train ride for a unique at the zoo and surrounding landscape. The Santa Barbara zoo has been described as “the Audrey Hepburn of zoos—petite, charming and beautiful.” It’s a must-see Santa Barbara attraction, especially for families with kids.
Where to stay in Santa Barbara:
Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort. Rancho Oso is located about 30 minutes outside of Santa Barbara in the Los Padres National Forest. Rancho Oso is home to a working farm with goats, chickens, horses, and a pot-bellied pig named Gordon. On top of your own personal petting zoo, amenities include a swimming pool, hot tub, nature trails, and more. Make sure to check out the shindig that takes place every Friday night!
4. San Francisco
A big city might not be the first place you’d think of for an RV road trip, but San Francisco is actually a great stop! There is something really cool about driving your tiny home across the Golden Gate Bridge! San Francisco offers endless urban exploring with something for everyone.
What to see:
- Alcatraz Island. A former prison, Alcatraz is now a National Park and one of the city’s most famous attractions. A visit to the island includes a tour of the cell house where the prisoners lived along with an audio tour. Besides learning about the rich history of Alcatraz Island, enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The island sits 1.5 miles from the shore and is only accessible by ferry.
- Golden Gate Park. This 1,017-acre park has something for everyone. From lush gardens to green lawns, playgrounds, and museums. While there are several gardens to explore, make sure to hit the Japanese Tea Garden for a unique experience. The Garden is free if you enter before 10AM three days a week. Looking for indoor fun? Golden Gate Park is home to various museums including the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences.
- Chinatown. San Francisco Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia as well as the oldest Chinatown in North America. Just walking the streets make you feel like you’ve left the city and traveled to another county. The sights, sounds, and smells are something that shouldn’t be missed. Make sure to grab lunch or dinner while in Chinatown. Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House is the oldest dim sum house and tea room in the country and might just have the best pork buns you can find!
Where to stay in San Francisco:
Slightly outside of the city in Pacifica is San Francisco RV Resort. The park is quiet and relaxing as it sits right on the rocky cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but is only 15 miles from the heart of San Francisco.
Skip the traffic and crowded streets by taking public transportation to the city. Just a bus or BART ride, and you’re there! The San Francisco RV Resort offers amenities such as a large laundry room, playground, small store, and is walking distance to grocery stores, restaurants, and more.
Located just 25 miles north of Eureka and 30 miles south of Redwood National and State Parks is the seaside village of Trinidad. If you blink, you might miss it, but we highly recommend that you don’t. Here, the redwoods meet the sea, and there is so much to explore in the forest and along the coast. Go for a hike and visit a secluded beach all in the same day!
What to see:
- Trinidad State Beach. This long stretch of sandy beach is located on the north side of the pier and Trinidad Harbor. Trinidad State Beach is pet-friendly and the perfect place to stretch everyone’s legs. College Cove is a popular area with sheltered waters that are safe to enter when conditions are right. College Cove also has fascinating rocks and tide pools to explore. College Cove is a great place for little ones to play in the waves!
- Redwood National and State Parks. Trinidad is a great home base for exploring the redwoods, just a short, beautiful drive, and you’re there. Home of the world’s tallest trees, the parks protect nearly half of the world’s old growth redwoods. Hike along 200 miles of trails in the park system. The park’s forests, hills, rivers, and coastline support a lot of wildlife and plants, including Roosevelt Elk, whales, seals, and seasonal wildflowers such as lupine and rhododendron.
- Humboldt State University: Marine Laboratory. While this is an active HSU campus, it offers self-guided, free tours! See and touch some of the local marine life found just outside the front door of this seaside laboratory.
Where to stay in Trinidad:
Emerald Forest Cabins & RV. Emerald Forest is located just off Highway 101 and less than a mile from the beach. Even though the campground is close to town, you feel away from it all thanks to the massive trees that live within the park. Emerald Forest has everything you could need including full hook-ups, a laundry room, mini-mart, playground, arcade, and an abundance of natural beauty.
The adventures that can take place in California are endless. But, you have to start somewhere, right? This ultimate California RV road trip allows you to see the wide range of beauty found in California. What are some of your favorite places to explore in California? Comment below with your must-sees!