Joshua Tree to San Francisco Road Trip Guide


Joshua Tree to San Francisco is a road trip that will be hard to forget but there is so much to cram in that you are going to need to make some tough decisions here. Pick up your RV early and hit the road in order to achieve as much as possible. In little more than a long weekend, you are going to need to keep on your toes to see all that this journey has to offer but you are free to skip some items mentioned below if you want to.

You could, for example, shorten your journey by skipping Anaheim and Disneyland but if the kids find out that’s what you have done this could prove dangerous. It is included here for safety's sake. From Santa Barbara, the run up the coast is one of the most beautiful and iconic road trips in the world. There are dozens of places to stop so we will offer a few and once again, you can tailor the trip to your own taste. That is just one of the many benefits you get by having your own rig to travel in. You become masters of your own agenda.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 2-3 days
Recommend rig: motorhome
audience: family

Point of Interest


Less than an hour from the park will bring you to Monterey. Situated on the edge of the Monterey Bay, this town was the inspiration behind John Steinbeck’s famed novel Cannery Row.

After your morning's drive and state park experience you are probably hungry and you will have no shortage of choices in this delightful coastal town. Don’t forget that you have now entered wine country, so a glass of something local might add to the pleasure.

Rosine's restaurant has been going for forty years and they are extremely family-friendly. They have won just about every award there is to win, including best family restaurant and best dessert restaurant. It was also featured in the TV series Diners, Drive Inns and Dives.

The cuisine and the town are both going to tempt you to hang around here but San Francisco is calling and there is plenty to do when you reach your destination, so think carefully.

Pfeiffer Big Sur National Park

Your GPS will tell you that the journey from Santa Barbara to Big Sur State Park is going to take around four hours. If you drove nonstop along Highway 1 this would indeed be the case, but that's not going to happen. There are so many spectacular views that you are going to need to pull over on a regular basis. The good news is that there are plenty of pull-out points to facilitate this.

With its combination of rugged coastline butting right up against redwood forest, Pfeiffer has to be one of the most scenic parks you will visit. There are literally dozens of paths and trails, many of which are iconic, and it would be easy to spend an entire holiday here. The McWay Falls is one spot that you should stop at. The trail is only a couple of miles long but you will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery.

El Capitan Canyon RV Park

El Capitan Canyon is situated just fifteen minutes north of Santa Barbara but you would never guess that you were so close to the city because of the seclusion in which you now find yourself. You could have opted for a second night in Anaheim but that would leave you with a very long drive to San Francisco tomorrow.

The Ocean Mesa RV park has an ocean view and is really quite luxurious if you still have any energy left after Disneyland. There are cycling and hiking options but you will probably be more tempted by the opportunity to just relax in the jacuzzi or swim in the heated pool. Alternatively, you might prefer to just light a fire in one of the open fire pits, pop the cork out of a bottle of chilled wine and slump into a folding chair.

Make reservations well in advance and if you can’t get a site there, don’t be alarmed. This is RV friendly country and there are plenty of alternative places to camp for the night.

Disneyland Resort

From the park to Anaheim the drive is just over two hours. This town takes its name from an amalgamation of two words; Ana from the Santa Ana River and heim from the German word for home. Germans first settled the area in 1857 with the intention of growing vines to produce wine. For 25 years it was the largest wine-producing area in California until the vines were wiped out by disease.

Today Disneyland is by far the largest employer and is a huge tourist drawcard. Head for Anaheim RV Park. This park offers all the basic facilities that you will need but it is also very convenient for Disneyland access and offers a shuttle bus so there is no need to try to find parking for your rig at the theme park.

When you get there you can cool off with a quick dip in the pool and discuss ticket options with the owners as you can purchase them at the RV site.

Joshua Tree National Park

It would be a shame to miss Joshua Tree reserve when you're in the vicinity. The drive time to Anaheim is around two hours and twenty minutes so you could swing through the park, do a short hike to get a feel for the place and still hit Anaheim in time to set up camp and get in a swim.

Joshua Tree takes its name from the trees that dot so much of this remote landscape. The first Mormon settlers gave them this name because they felt that the trees looked like Saint Joshua with his arms raised in supplication.

The park is at the confluence of the Colorado and Mojave deserts and it is an outdoor lover's paradise. It is riddled with hiking trails but with time not on your side, you might want to head to Key Viewpoint. Here you will have a bird’s eye view of the Coachella Valley. There is a short two-mile hike up to obtain the best views and on a clear day, you will be able to see all the way to Signal Mountain in Mexico.


This has been an epic road trip and, believe it or not, there is still more to come. The journey to San Francisco is less than two hours from Monterey but there are more views en route and when you reach the city, there seems to be no limit to what you can do.

There are the classics like the Golden Gate Bridge visit and the cable car rides, and then there is still the seafood to appreciate in the harbor area. All of that and you still haven't made it across to do the renowned Alcatraz tour.

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