CA scenic drives

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California Scenic Drives & Back Roads

Calif Back Roads

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    California's back roads & byways. There is nothing like the diversity of terrain in the Golden State, anywhere else in the world. National Forests feature many scenic routes. The roads listed below leads through some of the most breathtaking sites in the West, plus provide access to many recreation areas. Many activities can be enjoyed along these routes. Plan to stop & enjoy many views, picnic or take a small hike.

  • Coastal Desert Country Mountain City

     Southern California

    Angeles Crest Scenic Byway
    Route 2
    64 miles
    2 hour drive
    Angeles National Forest
    Winds along the spine of the San Gabriel Mountains. Views of Mountain peaks, the Mojave Desert and the Los Angeles Basin

    Angeles Crest Loop

    Take Interstate 210 to La Cananda, exit Hwy.2 North into the Angeles National Forest. Drive approx. 50 miles to Wrightwood. Jackson Lake is also nearby. Horse rentals might be available in the area; check woth the locals. Plenty of picnic grounds & hiking trails around. Stop in town for lunch & relax in this forested retreat. Lodging is available in town.

    • 1 or 2 day trip from Los Angeles area
    • Mountain biking area
    • Loop back to I-15, by taking a right on Hwy.138 & continue down through the Cajon Canyon.
    • recently HWY 2 has been closed due to landslides and are under repair

    Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway
    Route 33
    36.5 miles
    1.5 hours drive
    Los Padres National Forest
    Winds between coastal mountain ranges & the Central Valley, past landscapes of pine forests and semi-desert vegetation.
    back road maps

    Los Padres Loop

    Take Hwy.101 North to Ventura & exit Hwy.33 to Ojai
    Stop here for lunch & relax in the quaint downtown area. Lodging is closeby. Backtrack 1 mi. & continue North on Hwy.33 as it winds through Wheeler Gorge & the beautiful landscapes of Los Padres National Forest . Be on the lookout for waterfalls which can be seen off the roadsides even in the driest years.

    • 1 or 2 day trip from Los Angeles area
    • Bike paths run throughout the countryside
    • Option to loop back to I-5, by taking a right on Lockwood Valley Rd. & continuing eastbound.

    Pines to Palms Scenic Byway

    back road maps Route 74 & 243
    67 miles
    2.5 hour drive
    San Bernardino National Forest
    See desert palm and oak, pine and fir forests. The San Jacinto Valley and San Jacinto Mountain peaks are viewed from this byway. Plus the fun lil Idyllwild mountain town.

    Rim of the World Scenic Byway

    Route 138,18 & 38
    107 miles
    3.5 hour drive
    San Bernardino National Forest
    Following the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains, view spectacular sites, thick forests and autumn colors. Big Bear & Fawnskin.
    gorgonio wilderness maps

    Big Bear Loop

    Take Interstate 215 North to San Bernardino, Exit Hwy. 259 / Hwy.30, take Hwy.18 North into the San Bernardino National Forest
    Drive up to Lake Arrowhead. Great place for lunch or even an overnight visit. Plenty of picnic grounds & hiking trails around. Take Hwy.18 over to Big Bear for fun on the lake. Horse rentals area available in the area. Return by taking Hwy.330 down the mountain.

    • 1 or 2 day trip from Los Angeles area
    • Mountain biking area
    • Loop back by taking Hwy.330 to Hwy.30 to I-10

    Sunrise National Scenic Byway

    Route S1
    24 miles
    1 hour drive
    Cleveland National Forest
    Laguna Mountain. meadows and forest with spectacular views of the Anza-Borrego Desert 5,000 feet below on the East.
    San Diego mountains map
    California Deserts


     Central California

    Ancient Bristlecone Scenic Byway
    Route 168
    52 miles
    2 hour drive
    Inyo National Forest
    Pinyon-Juniper woodlands to the world's oldest living trees, the Bristlecone Pine Forest.

    Carson Pass Scenic Byway
    Route 88
    52 miles
    2 hour drive
    Eldorado National Forest, Toiyabe National Forest
    Travels along alpine forests and meadows, with spectacular views of lakes and mountain peaks, and features volcanic landscapes.

    Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
    Route 180
    50 miles
    4 hour drive
    Sequoia National Forest
    Showcases giant sequoia and Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America.

    Lee Vining Scenic Byway
    Route 120
    12 miles
    30 min. drive
    Inyo National Forest
    Climbs through dramatic and rugged Lee Vining Canyon, connecting the Basin landscapes with the high alpine meadow and the Sierra Nevada. Closed in winter.

    Side road - at the base of Whitney Portal Rd.

    Eastern Sierra map

    Eastern Sierra Loop

    near Inyo National Forest
    Take Hwy.14 North to Mojave & then North on Hwy.395 to Bishop, June Lake or even Lee Vining
    This area may be getting early season snow, double check road conditions. Backtrack the way you came or try a mountain pass (snow permitting) over the mountains, westward toward the San Joaquin Valley

    • 3 or 4 day trip from Los Angeles area

    Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway
    Route 168
    70 miles
    2 hour drive
    Sierra National Forest
    Runs through the Sierra Nevada landscape of granite walls and domes. Spectacular views of majestic peaks in wilderness areas.

     Northern California

    Feather River Scenic Byway
    Route 70
    130 miles
    3.5 hour drive
    Plumas National Forest
    Steep canyon walls and high mountain valleys, along grasslands, oak woodlands, mixed conifer and high desert chaparral.

    Lassen Scenic Byway
    Route 89
    185 miles
    5.5 hour drive time
    Lassen National Forest
    The northernmost portion of the Sierra Nevada range, the western terminus of the Modoc Plateau/Great Basin and the Lassen National Forest.

    Smith River Scenic Byway
    Route 199
    33 miles
    1 hour drive
    Six Rivers National Forest
    Highlighted by the Smith River, this diverse geological land form hosts redwoods, rhododendrons and other magnificent ecosystems.

    State of Jefferson Scenic Byway
    Route 96, 263
    108 miles
    2.5 hour drive
    Klamath National Forest, Siskiyou National Forest
    Follow along the wild and scenic Klamath River.

    Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway
    Route 3
    120 miles
    3.5 hour drive
    Shasta-Trinity National Forests Climb 4,500 feet as you follow the path of early miners and settlers.

    Trinity River Scenic Byway
    Route 299
    140 miles
    4 hour drive
    Shasta-Trinity National Forests
    Traverse coastal plains, steep granite cliffs, arid manzanita and digger pine hillsides that parallel the beautiful wild and scenic Trinity River.

    Yuba Donner Scenic Byway
    Routes 80, 89, 49, 20 & old 40
    175 miles
    4 hour drive
    Tahoe National Forest
    Rich with gold-mining and transportation history. Historical and geological diversity.

    Check the Backroads Section for real adventure & off-the-beaten path routes.

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