5 Nature-Inspired California Road Trip Ideas


The sun is shining, the car radio’s on full blast, the top is down, and you’re heading up the highway on a new adventure. All that’s missing is Hugh Grant beside you Bridget Jones style.

The entire state of California awaits you with incredible, jaw-dropping landscapes to explore. From beaches to mountains to redwood forests...this is your chance to get away and connect with the natural world around you. All you need is a car and our guide for five nature-inspired road trips.

Each hotel and destination offers various ways to connect with nature -- while also making a positive impact in the communities you visit. You can escape the business of everyday, take a deep breath, and deeply connect with the world and wildlife around you. Read on to take the next step in planning your trip and begin exploring the awe-inspiring planet that gives us so much.

Related: How to Travel Responsibly in California During Covid-19 Recovery 


Escape the busy city and dive headfirst into bliss when you check into Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, just south of Los AngelesA complete oasis: you have luxury at your fingertips. Almost all of its rooms have breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. You'll feel as if you're one with the scenery with regular sightings of sea lions, seals, and whales. When you can tear yourself away from the view, hiking trails, kayaking, and farm to table dining are waiting for you.


Amongst many sustainability initiatives, the resort has a bee program, sustainability team, and gives back to a variety of local charities that help solve food poverty and homelessness. When you book Terranea Resort on Kind Traveler, you'll have the chance to support local charity, Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles. When you support MMCC LA, you'll help the center in its efforts to rehabilitate stranded, injured, or sick marine mammals.


Distance driven from home base: 43 miles

Start off by heading to Whittier Narrows Nature Center. There you can find trails to explore that are home to a plethora of plants and animals. Bordering the San Gabriel River, this 400-acre sanctuary of riparian woodland, features four lakes, including many plants and animals native to wetland communities. More than 300 birds have been spotted here - a nature lover's dream. While the nature center is currently closed because of Covid-19, the trails are open with restrictions in place including required face coverings and maintaining social distancing guidelines. 


Hop in the car and experience the mountains at Mt. Baldy ResortIt has over 4,000 acres where you can: hike, zip-line, disc golf, camp, ski,or snowboard. Take a 20-minute Scenic Lift Ride to the Top of the Notch. You get an incredible view of LA and the Mojave Desert. You can also access an abundance of hiking trails for various skill levels. Scenic lift tickets may be purchased in advance online or at the walk up window located at the Counterweight Cafe.

Distance driven from home base: 74 miles

Total: 117 miles


Start your trip off right by staying at the Olema House Point Reyes, approximately 48 miles north of San Francisco. With farm-to-table food, local produce, and specialty beer, you’ll feel completely connected to the world around you. Nature is right at your doorstep.


Explore four acres of private grounds and get lost in gorgeous gardens. Head out to the Point Reyes National Seashore two steps away. Which is perfect because the local charity beneficiary on Kind Traveler for Olema House is Point Reyes National Seashore Association. When you support them, not only do you get a discount per night on your stay when booking on Kind Traveler, but you also help the Association improve trails, promote research, and restore the habitats of the local wildlife.

You can spend as much time as you’d like at the Point Reyes National Seashore. They have activities that can take up an hour to a full day of your schedule, depending on what you’d like to do. They offer various hikes, Ranger-guided programs, biking opportunities, beach access, and historical sites to learn about. Take some time to whale watch, explore tidepools at the beach, or head over to the Pierce Point Ranch and Tule Elk Reserve to catch a glimpse of the nearly 400 free-roaming elk.

Distance driven from home base: 0.2 miles

The summit of Mount Diablo is famous. You can see nearly 200 miles of valleys, hills, and landmarks like the Farallon Islands, the James Lick Observatory, Mount Loma Prieta, and Mount Saint Helena. Mt. Diablo is home to fossils that date back as far as 190 million years (otherwise known as the Jurassic Period). Since the late 1890’s, over 455 species have been identified within the stones of this local recreational space.

Distance driven from home base: 71 miles

Total: 71.2 miles


An environmentally friendly resort with a fun retro 50’s vibe? Sign us up! Flamingo Resort Santa Rosa focuses on environmentally friendly practices like buying local, reducing their carbon footprint and moving away from non-renewable resources. They have a green sustainability team on site. Here you can spend time by the pool, play tennis, participate in fitness classes, or head straight to the spa and grab a massage to start the relaxation right away.


When you book Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa on Kind Traveler, you'll have the chance to support local charity, Sonoma Land Trust. The Trust has conserved Sonoma land since 1976, and they work to establish the bond between community and their surroundings. They’ve protected over 50,000 acres of land throughout the county. They also inspire the next generation through a summer camp they run to teach children ecology and the importance of conservation.

Enjoy a full wine experience beneath the Mayacamas Mountains just a short drive away from the resort. Landmark Vineyards offers various tasting experiences for groups of different sizes. Their Signature Tasting is daily and gives you tastes of their winery-exclusive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs while you enjoy the view. If you want something more exclusive and intimate, you can do their Private Tower Tasting, which offers a flight of their more exclusive, rarer wines. Each wine is carefully paired with local artisan cheeses. You can also picnic at the vineyard. Lose yourself in your meal with beautiful blue skies and green lawns and trees around you. After all, the one thing that makes nature even more enjoyable? Enjoying it with a glass of wine!

Distance driven from home base: 8.6 miles


While staying at Flamingo Resort Santa Rosa, you won’t want to miss the iconic drive to the Sonoma Coast. Start by heading to Bodega Bay on the coast which will take you through the darling town of Sebastopol. Known for its liberal politics and small-town charm, you’ll find adorable mom and pop restaurants and artisanal boutiques. Once in Bodega Bay on the Sonoma Coast, get up close with nature when you stroll the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, a paved path running along the Bodega Bay salt marsh that’s home to wildlife and thousands of birds throughout the year.

Head north on one of the most beautiful patches of Highway One to Jenner and head back east to where you started by going through the rustic and elegant town of Guerneville along the Russian River.

Distance driven from home base: 34 miles

Total: 42.6 miles


The Ranch at Laguna Beach is nestled amongst the canyons and sits only 350 yards away from the shoreline. As one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, they have no problems combining nature and luxury. You have 87 acres open to you, with a 3,000 square-foot indoor/outdoor spa, a nine hole golf course, and a bar that holds an 180 degree view of the canyon. Match that with fresh food straight from their garden, a composting program, a recycling program, and renewable energy, and you’ve got yourself a perfect spot to stay during your travels.


The local charity beneficiary to support when you book on Kind Traveler is the Ocean Institute. They are an organization that uses the ocean as a classroom to teach others about its wildlife, its conservation, and our own impacts on it. Open seven days a week, they educate 250,000 visitors annually. Pop over to see an exhibit or go on a whale watch, they’re only a ten minute drive from the resort.

Leave your sea legs behind for a few hours and visit Irvine Regional Park. Surrounded by heritage Oak and Sycamore trees and filled with wildlife, the park offers plenty of activities to fill your day: bike trails and rentals, equestrian trails, hiking, and paddle boating

Distance driven from home base: 24 miles

Truly get away at Crystal Cove State Park. Here, there are over three miles of beach and 2,400 acres of wilderness to enjoy. Hiking, biking, and equestrian trails are open for various activity levels. They also have a bluff top trail that stretches 2.5 miles. There’s a variety of staff-led activities offered, as well as bird walks and full-moon hikes.

Distance driven from home base: 5.7 miles

Total: 29.7 miles


Timber Cove sits on top of cliffs overlooking the ocean. You won’t find another place like this that combines indoor comforts with embracing the outdoors. They have an oceanside fireplace and an Outdoor Living Room where you can relax, socialize, or play pool or ping-pong. Eco-friendly products are a must, of course, and there’s two miles of hiking trails right outside for you to enjoy.


Choose Russian Riverkeeper as your local charity to support when you book on Kind Traveler. The Russian Riverkeeper restores, protects, and sustains the health of the Russian River which flows into the ocean near the resort. They celebrate the beauty of the river by restoring over 80% of the area that was lost over the last 100 years to agricultural and urban development.

The Salt Point State Park and its Marine Conservation Area make for a perfect road trip to enjoy wildlife both on land and in the ocean. With over 6,000 acres, you won’t find yourself bored. On land, there are over 20 miles of hiking trails to choose from that go through grassland and forest. You’ll be able to identify various tree species as you explore the park on foot, on bike, or on horseback. The Marine Conservation Area has the first underwater park in California. It’s called Gerstle Cove and the marine life within is fully protected. You can see a variety of life within the conservation area and within the tide pools.

Distance driven from home base: 3.1 miles

About 20 minutes north from Salt Point State Park, you’ll find Gualala Point Regional Park in the northwest corner of Sonoma County, bordering the Gualala River and Mendocino County. This park features an expansive beach and estuary, where the river meets the sea. Don’t miss Gualala Arts nestled amongst the majestic redwoods. This multi-million-dollar cultural facility is home to art exhibitions and community events. While the Arts Center building is closed currently because of COVID-19, the sculpture garden is open Friday – Sunday, from noon to 4pm.

Distance driven from home base: 61 miles

Total: 64.1 miles

California is Calling for You…

Fresh air at sea level or over 7,000 feet up, gorgeous sunsets, incredible wildlife, and nature walks are all waiting for you. So what are you waiting for? Book your accommodations here, grab your keys, and let’s go! 


Sarah Jones is a marketing strategist for conservation organizations and eco-friendly businesses. She's a defender of wildlife, tabby cat mom, and a very optimistic New York Islanders fan.