The Ultimate Northern California Road Trip with Wine, Walls and Wilderness

The Ultimate Northern California Road Trip with Wine, Walls and Wilderness

In this travel guide, we look at the best way to experience Northern California incorporating its soaring granite peaks, miles of rolling verdant vineyards and the bustling art scene.

For travellers to Northern California wanting to pack in adventure, relaxation and lots of good wine in one trip, this guide should tick all the boxes:

Tri Valley vineyard Northern California

Days 1 – 3: Wineries and rolling hills
Landing in San Francisco, rent a car and head east to the verdant rolling hills of Tri-Valley. Often overlooked for big sister Napa, Tri-Valley is a worthy wine region in its own right with nearly 60 award-winning wineries.

Yoga in the Vines Tri Valley Northern California

What to do – Visitors can blend their own wine at Wente Vineyards, the oldest family-run winery in the US, yoga between the vines at Concannon, or simply hop on the Livermore Wine Trolley and be whisked away through miles of lush, rolling hills. The regions’ wealth of recreational activities, from golf to mountain biking, makes staying inside a crime against nature.

For fishing, head over to Lake Del Valle. It’s a beautiful lake where you can reel in rainbow trout and inland chinook salmon. Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is the place for trails through rolling hills, but if you’re looking for a challenge, the scenic hike to the summit of Mount Diablo offers a pulse-quickening workout. Once at the summit, the entire Bay Area is sprawled out before you and on a clear day, visitors can see the San Francisco skyline.

Where to eat – Sabio on Main in Pleasanton is a sophisticated restaurant that just wants to have fun. Dishes range from tangy Peruvian ceviche to sweet Moroccan meatballs. For a hipster vibe, try Revel Kitchen & Bar, an upscale tavern offering local, sustainable and natural dishes to please the palate.

Where to stay – Technology and taste collide at Tri-Valley’s newest hotel, the Aloft Dublin-Pleasanton. Offering a wide array of modern amenities and technology, the Aloft boasts fire pits, a lively lounge and robot butlers. Rooms from $108 per night.

Cycling in Yosemite, Mariposa County in Northen California.

Days 4 – 7: Soaring granite cliffs and ancient trees
Head east to discover Yosemite Mariposa County, a place where time stands still. Here, visitors can stand amongst millennia-old giant sequoias or feel the mist from water cascading thousands of feet from granite cliffs. The region is known for its picturesque scenery, welcoming locals and exhilarating varieties of outdoor recreation.

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What to do – Thrill-seekers come for the white-water rafting, ziplining and world-class rock-climbing. Nature enthusiasts can marvel at the variety of wildlife, from delicate butterflies to majestic great grey owls. The historians can explore the museums, authentic 19th-century architecture and Gold Rush-era remnants such as working stamp mills.

Where to eat – Restaurants in Mariposa County range from casual to luxury dining. Fresh, local and affordable, 1850 features “twisted burgers,” locally crafted beers, and signature mountain food options like trout and venison.

Where to stay – The Highland House Inn is a cosy retreat, located in a sunny glade on ten private acres in the Sierra National Forest. Discover the beauty and seclusion of the High Sierra in Mariposa County just minutes from the park. Rooms from $145 per night.

The Lady Bird Mural in Sacramento Northen California

Days 8 – 10: Buzzing art scene and Farm-to-Fork mecca
Head due north to explore Sacramento, the buzzing and bustling capital of California and America’s reigning Farm-to-Fork mecca. After it’s initial Gold Rush-era boom, Sacramento’s popularity gave way to glitzier cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now the fastest-growing and most hipster city in California is ready to steal back the spotlight.

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What to do – Boasting 1.5 million acres of active farmland, the region has prime access to fresh ingredients and the world has taken notice – with Sacramento earning its first Michelin Star last year for The Kitchen. But there’s more to the city than food and drink. Harvard researchers once named Sacramento the most diverse city in America, and it has a buzzing art scene, thanks in part to the rise in graffiti art around the city. Take a guided mural walk and explore some of the incredible walls around the city. Keep your eyes peeled for the famous Lady Bird and Johnny Cash murals.

Where to eat in Sacramento Northern California

Where to eat – Fine dining restaurants nestled in historic buildings on blocks with art galleries, bookstores and family-owned shops are the norm in Sacramento. Empress Tavern is an American carvery in downtown Sacramento with a menu featuring rotisserie meats, craft cocktails and an adventurous assortment of beers.

Where to stay – The Citizen Hotel is a luxury, boutique hotel in the heart of the city, blending the best of two eras, combining the formality and magnificence of Sacramento’s history with today’s modern amenities. Rooms from $265 per night.

How to experience the Northern California road trip

America As You Like It ( / 020 8742 8299) has a nine-night road-trip to California from £815 per person. The tip is based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow to San Francisco on United, nine days fully inclusive car hire, three nights at the Quality Inn and Suites, Dublin, three nights at the Miner’s Inn, Mariposa and three nights at the America’s Best Value Inn Old Town, Sacramento.

Read more guides in our dedicated travel section here.

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