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12 Epic California Weekend Getaways

Looking for the best California weekend getaway? California is home to some seriously beautiful and unique landscapes and destinations. Keep reading for a list of my favorite weekend road trip destinations from Southern California and start planning your escape!

california weekend getaways

12 Epic Southern California Weekend Getaways

(in order from closest to furthest away from LA)

  • Catalina Island
  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Temecula
  • Santa Barbara
  • Anza Borrego State Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Paso Robles
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Alabama Hills/Mammoth/June Lake
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Big Sur
  • Yosemite National Park

Catalina Island

  • Distance from LA: About 1 hour to Orange County area, and a 1 hour ferry to Catalina
  • Best Time to Go: Spring and Fall
catalina island weekend trip

Just south off the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island makes for a great getaway that feels like you are in a tropical paradise! Take the 1 hour ferry from Newport or Long Beach and either head to the town of Avalon to chill with drinks on the beach and bop around town, or head to Two Harbors if you are looking for a more off-the-grid camping adventure. Pro tip: rent a golf cart and cruise around the island!

Check out my post with more details to plan your trip to Catalina Island.

Channel Islands National Park

  • Distance from LA: About 1.5 hour drive to Ventura, and a 1-hour ferry ride to the island
  • Best Time to Go: May-September

Channel Islands National Park consists of 5 islands off the coast of Ventura. The islands are uninhabited and undeveloped, so they make for a great place to go camping and enjoy the beauty of the area (although you are also able to do a day trip if you aren’t into the idea of camping). The largest of these islands is Santa Cruz Island. For your first time, I recommend camping on Santa Cruz Island. They have a campground, beautiful hikes, and kayak tours you can book to cruise around the surrounding sea caves. Being in this remote spot makes you feel like you are worlds away from Los Angeles, when in reality you are only a few hours away!

Check out my blog post – 2 Days in Channel Islands National Park – for more details to plan this trip.

Temecula

  • Distance from LA: About 1 hour 45 min
  • Best Time to Go: April-November
best california weekend trips temecula

Not only does California have amazing outdoor adventure getaways, but also several different options for wine country weekends! Not only is Temecula way closer than Napa, but it’s also way more affordable. Situated south of Los Angeles, Temecula is home to plenty of wineries, and also has a super cute town that gets lively on the weekends, with great bars and restaurants. Pro trip: Kick off your wine country weekend with a hot air balloon ride at sunrise! Also make sure to check out my favorite restaurant there, Public House, and order the Goat Toast appetizer – what dreams are made of!!

Santa Barbara

  • Distance from LA: About 2 hours
  • Best Time to Go: March-May, September-November
best california weekend trips santa barbara

Honestly, what’s not to love about Santa Barbara? With beautiful beaches, a cute town, and a great food and wine scene, this makes for an awesome and laid back California weekend getaway. Check out the “Funk Zone” area of town for hipster cafes, art galleries and wine tasting rooms, head to the pier and soak in the view of the beach and the mountains, or drive up to Knapps Castle for a scenic sunset overlook spot. Also, there’s a fun day hike nearby to the Gaviota Wind Caves! Read more about it in my Top 11 Best Hikes in Southern California post.

Anza Borrego State Park

  • Distance from LA: About 2.5 hours
  • Best Time to Go: March-April so you can see the wildflowers!

Camping at Anza Borrego State Park is perfect for a spontaneous, off-the-grid adventure weekend in Southern California. What makes this park unique is its dramatic desert landscapes, slot canyon hikes, and some wacky statues in the middle of the desert. Also, unlike many other parks in California, you don’t have to reserve a campground months in advance as they offer free dispersed camping, You can literally camp anywhere in the park as long as you are at least 100 yards away from a water source.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know for Camping at Anza Borrego State Park

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Distance from LA: About 2.5 hours
  • Best Time to Go: March-May, October-November
california weekend trips

Joshua Tree is such a relaxing and unique getaway. I love this place! You can either rent one of the cute and eclectic Airbnb’s in the area, or try your luck at scoring one of the first-come-first-serve campgrounds to be able to stay inside the actual park. Either way, you’re bound to have an amazing time. This isn’t a park where you need to hike long distances to see views. Instead, you drive through the park and stop off whenever you see something you want to explore more. Don’t miss Skull Rock – one of the most iconic rock faces in the park. Also, the town of Joshua Tree has some great little boutiques, cafes, art galleries and thrift stores that are fun to stop by when you are in the area.

Read More: 12 Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Paso Robles

  • Distance from LA: About 4 hours
  • Best Time to Go: Summer or Fall (for the grape harvest)
weekend trips from southern california

Not only does California have amazing outdoor adventure getaways, but also several different options for wine country weekends! Paso Robles is one of them. Located on the Central Coast, Paso Robles is not far from LA, is cheaper than Napa, and is close-by to other sites on the Central Coast that you can see in the same weekend (hello, Hearst Castle!). There’s plenty of different wineries to choose from, a cute town with great bars, shops and restaurants, and beautiful views.

Check out my blog post for more details on the best things to do in Paso Robles for a weekend getaway.

Sequoia National Park

  • Distance from LA: About 4 hours
  • Best Time to Go: June-August

California is home to several amazing national parks, and Sequoia National Park is one of them! Reserve a campsite or lodge in the park and spend your weekend immersed in nature, checking out the huge trees and beautiful hikes Sequoia National Park has to offer. My favorite hike in the park is Little Baldy Trail – this lesser-known hike is a great way to beat the crowds and experience some solitude with AWESOME views at the top.

Check out my blog post for my full Sequoia National Park weekend itinerary to start planning your trip!

Alabama Hills/Mammoth/June Lake

  • Distance from LA: About 4 – 5.5 hours
  • Best Time to Go: Winter is great if you also want to ski, but summer is the best time to enjoy the lakes and camping

Ok so I kind of lumped a few places together in this one, but seriously – anything driving up the 395 is an awesome stop and a great place to spend your weekend. Alabama Hills is nestled near the Eastern Sierra mountain range, offering free dispersed camping with amazing views. Chill out, camp wherever you want, and enjoy the area. Also check out the Mobius Arch rock formation that creates a perfect frame around Mt. Whitney in the background!

Keep driving and head closer towards Mammoth Lakes, where you’ll find natural hot springs with a view of the Eastern Sierras. Wild Willy’s hot springs is the largest of the hot springs and one of the easiest to find. Bring some beers and hang out in the warm water for a while! Also pictured here is Hot Creek – this active geothermal creek is way too hot to get in, but beautiful to look at! Check out my blog post for more details on the best things to do in the Mammoth area for a weekend trip.

Head towards June Lake if you want to set up camp at the lake and enjoy kayaking or paddle-boating around the lake. There are a few campgrounds to choose from – Oh Ride, June Lake Campground, and Silver Lake Campground, to name a few. Make sure you reserve a spot in advance as they fill up fast! There’s also a great brewery in town – June Lake Brewing – that’s worth making a stop at.

Death Valley National Park

  • Distance from LA: About 4.5 hours
  • Best Time to Go: Winter

Head to Death Valley National Park and check out the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (282 feet below sea level) at the lowest, driest and hottest national park. This is a great spot to explore in the winter, when the temperatures are cooler. You can either camp at one of the first-come-first-serve campgrounds, or book a room at the lodge in the park. Don’t miss the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Badwater Basin, and Zabriskie Point!

Read more: Death Valley Weekend Road Trip Itinerary.

Big Sur

  • Distance from LA: About 5 hours
  • Best Time to Go: Spring or Fall (to avoid the summer crowds)

Big Sur is seriously epic. The views driving along the rugged coastline are amazing. If you plan your trip far enough in advance, you can get reserve a campsite at Kirk Creek Campground that sits right on the bluff overlooking the ocean. If you aren’t the camping type, you can reserve one of the lodges in Big Sur, or splurge for the beautiful Ventana Resort. Make sure to stop at Nepenthe for drinks with a view, McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, and the Bixby Bridge!

Read More: The Best Big Sur Itinerary for an Epic Weekend Trip

Yosemite National Park

  • Distance from LA: About 5 hours
  • Best Time to Go: May and September

Yosemite is my favorite national park I’ve been to so far. Even though it’s a super popular national park with lots of people visiting, you still feel so totally immersed in nature. It’s such a beautiful place, and one of my favorite California weekend getaway destinations! One of the most epic hikes I’ve ever done is the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. You need permits for this so will need to plan far in advance and get lucky, but even if you aren’t able to do this hike, there are SO many other great ones in the area.

Read more: Yosemite National Park – Planning for the Half Dome Hike

I hope this list inspires you to get out there and plan a fun weekend trip this year!

Enjoy!

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