Mini California Road Trip [Part I]

When trying to decide what to do for our good friend Melissa’s first birthday in the USA, we made a list of everything that she wanted to do and had never done. Our planning parameters were: 1-3 nights maximum, possible to drive with two people, and as cheap as possible. After narrowing down the list, we decided on a short 4 day road trip up the eastern side of California through some of the state’s most famous national parks to fabulous South Lake Tahoe.

We started our trip in San Diego, CA with our first major stopping point being Onion Valley Campground located in Kings Canyon National Park just outside of Independence, California. Our route took us around deserts, over mountains, along the famous Route 66, and through small towns with less than 100 residents. For those looking for an “off the beaten path” California road trip, this would definitely be it.

ca roadtrip

Upon our arrival in Independence, we were warned that the wildfires aggressively burning on the other side of the mountains would make our stay in Onion Valley difficult but we decided to push on which led to one of the most terrifying yet rewarding drives of our lives. Hugging the side of a cliff for 8 miles along the side of Mt. Whitney’s surrounding peaks, we drove very cautiously through thick smoke to our beautifully situated, and nearly empty, campground.


Although the smoke made for an eerie sunset and possibly some slight respiratory problems, the view at sunrise when the smoke cleared was well worth it.


Following a breakfast of trail mix and donated raspberry cinnamon rolls from the famous Erick Schat’s bakery (thanks to our wonderful neighbors and their concern for our diets), we started our morning with a hike up Kearsarge Pass in Inyo National Forest before heading off on the next leg of our road trip.


Any questions on our trip, how to plan a road trip, or what stops to make on this particular road trip? Any suggestions for next time? Let us know in the comments!

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