Days 9-10 – The Hollywood elite’s mountain retreat
Take Highway 120 south-east to reach the year-round Adventureland known as Mammoth Lakes. Majestic in scale and awesome in natural beauty, Mammoth Lakes is California’s best-kept secret. The name speaks to the size of the mountains, the expanse of the valleys and the incredible number of crystal-clear alpine lakes. Tucked away in the Eastern Sierra, Mammoth Lakes is home to the closest ski resort to LA, making it a long-time favourite mountain getaway for the Hollywood elite. From world-class beers to skiing, Mammoth Lakes is the perfect spot for unadulterated outdoorsy hedonism. For more information: visitmammoth.com
Days 11-12 – The purest lake in North America
Drive due north into the heart of the stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range and find South Lake Tahoe – the hottest spot for cold-weather adventures. Nestled on the border of California and Nevada and boasting breath-taking views of both lake and desert, South Lake Tahoe offers countless ways to spend a day on the slopes besides the go-to skiing and snowboarding.
From snowmobile excursions to s’mores by the fireside, this mountain village offers something for thrill-seekers and comfort lovers alike. For more information: southlaketahoe.com
Days 13-14 – Whale watching, walks and world-class wines
Finish your loop of northern California in Sonoma County. Despite cooler temperatures and the occasional mist, rain or fog, the weather remains largely mild in California wine country throughout the winter months. During the low season, many Sonoma wineries offer behind-the-scenes tours and tastings, while visitors can take advantage of more than 50-miles of dramatic Pacific coastline deserted by the summer tourists.
In Bodega Bay, fishermen are active with the Dungeness crab season, while it’s a great time to spot a migrating whale at one of several overlooks. Several exciting events are sure to tempt gastronomes of all ages, including Healdsburg’s Winter Wineland, Cloverdale Citrus Fair and Parade and California’s Artisan Cheese Festival in Santa Rosa. For more information: sonomacounty.com
Days 15-16 – California’s coolest city
If you want to experience city life in the state before heading back home, make your final stop in San Francisco to explore its unique neighbourhoods, iconic landmarks and world-class food scene. Get up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge with Blazing Saddles’ guided tours, wander around the hippie Haight Ashbury neighbourhood and its vintage boutiques, and visit the Ferry Building to sample some of California’s freshest produce. For more information: visitcalifornia.co.uk
If this Ultimate California Winter Road Trip inspired you, read about another spectacular toad trip ‘Beyond the Coast’ here.