San Jose to Big Bear Lake Road Trip Guide


San Jose, which is Spanish for Saint Joseph, is the economic center of Silicon Valley. With a population of over a million, it is also the largest and most populated city in northern California. Right in the middle of Santa Clara Valley and on the shores of San Francisco Bay, it is in the most affluent county in the state, Santa Clara County.

It could be popular because it is almost in the middle of the state, or maybe it is because it is so close to the coast of the Pacific. It may also be the weather, which is on average about 62 degrees all year long. Whatever the reason, there is plenty to do and see in this awesome city.

You and the family can stop at the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, explore the Japanese Friendship Garden, or visit the Portuguese Historical Museum at Kelley Park. You may also want to check out the Lick Observatory, Children’s Discovery Museum, or take a historical walking tour of San Jose. Then get back in the rig and head for your next adventure.

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

Point of Interest

Yosemite National Park

Driving from San Jose to Big Bear Lake, California can be done in about six hours if you want it to. But that wouldn’t be a road trip really, would it? You cannot go through central California without stopping in Yosemite National Park. Head out I-205 to the east and it is about a three-hour drive to this iconic park in Mariposa County.

Enjoy one of the guided tours of Yosemite National Park while you are there to get the best experience. The Valley Floor Tour is a two-hour tour on a tram that takes you along the valley floor to see the Bridalveil Fall, Tunnel View, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.

If you would rather play in the water, put on your suit and enjoy the Merced River beaches or take a dip in one of the other bodies of water in this huge park of almost 750 thousand acres. You can also rent a raft and take the family on a short float trip down the river with or without a guide. Make sure you have life jackets and sunscreen with you.

If you like to fish, drop in a line and see what you can catch in one of the rivers or lakes in the park. Bass, crappie, two kinds of trout, and many other species can be found in the waters of Yosemite. Be sure to learn the rules and regulations and get a California fishing license and trout tag before tossing out that line. Don’t leave without getting some selfies and family photos in front of some of the park’s many waterfalls.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Two national parks in one day? It is doable in central California. Landing at Sequoia National Park in the Sequoia National Forest, about 2.5 hours from Yosemite National Park, you will still have plenty of time to explore before heading for bed in the motorhome. Well, it used to be Sequoia National Park. Now it is known as Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. So really, you are visiting three national parks in one day!

The first thing to do when you get to the park is check-in at your campsite. The park has 14 different campgrounds to choose from. Some of these are first-come, first-served, but it is best to reserve a site if you know when you will be going. Since you will be on the western side of the park by Three Rivers, Atwell Mill or Potwisha are the best choices. However, Atwell Mill does not do reservations and only has 21 sites. Potwisha has 43 sites that can be reserved up to six months in advance.

It is important to note that there are bears in the area and you must keep food and other scented items in the provided bear boxes or locked in your rig. Once you check-in, head out on foot or bike to explore the amazing sights in the park. Take a hike or ride on one of the trails, cool off or go fishing in the Kaweah River, or visit the Foothills Visitor Center. If you want to see the Giant Forest Museum, it is just a 45-minute drive and well worth the time. Fall asleep to the sounds of the wilderness so you can get up early the next morning and head to your next destination.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Get up bright and early so you can be at Six Flags Magic Mountain when it opens its gates at 10:30 AM. It only takes about three hours from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, so if you leave at seven, you will have plenty of time. Just down CA-65 to I-5 by way of CA-198 and CA-99, the trip to Santa Clarita is an easy one, and the family will be ready to get out and play as soon as the park opens.

If you like roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain is going to be an awesome experience for you because they have 19 of them! In fact, with a total of 45 rides from mild to extreme, the park has something that everyone will love. Take the kids to Bugs Bunny World to ride Pepe Le Pew’s Tea Party or the Boardwalk to play some of the carnival games.

The park also has about three dozen places to eat, so when you work up an appetite, they have that covered too. From full-service restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy a meal to snack kiosks where you can grab a hot dog or burger, Magic Mountain has something to satisfy everyone. And don’t forget to grab some funnel cake or cotton candy for dessert. Afterward, take in a show and get some souvenirs from one of the shops before heading on to your next stop.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is only about a half-hour from Six Flags Magic Mountain, which is good because you are all going to be pretty worn out after a day of walking around the park. Known as the City of Angels, this popular spot is famous for many reasons. One of them is the Hollywood sign on Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains, which you can see from just about anywhere in town.

Speaking of Hollywood, take a trip down the Hollywood Walk of Fame to see more than 2,600 stars embedded in 15 blocks of sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard. Get some selfies and family pics to share on your favorite social media sites and to remember this unique RV road trip. Don’t forget to take a walk on the Santa Monica Pier while you are in Los Angeles. The iconic landmark is so big it has a Ferris wheel, dozens of eateries, a carousel, a video arcade, and an aquarium. Oh yeah, you can fish from the pier too.

After your visit to the pier, you are probably ready to hit the campground and relax for the night. There are quite a few private and public campgrounds in the area to choose from. One of these is Hollywood RV Park in Van Nuys about 20 miles from the pier. They have 180 sites that can fit all sizes of motorhomes with full utilities plus all kinds of fun things to do. Another excellent choice is the Acton / Los Angeles North KOA about 45 minutes from the pier. They have 100 RV sites with utilities that can handle rigs up to 65 feet. You’ll also notice that they have a pool, spa, clubhouse, showers, and a playground for the kids.


Less than two hours from your main destination of Big Bear Lake, you can take your time getting on the road unless you have a certain time to be at your final landing point. You can take CA-210 all the way or I-605 to I-10. Whichever way you take, the roads will be turning and twisting once you get off of CA-210 on into the lake. Take it slow and easy, relax and take a break if you need to.

Big Bear Lake is one of southern California’s most popular destinations in all four seasons. In fact, it is nicknamed the Jewel of the San Bernardino National Forest. If you are staying at Big Bear Lake, you are already at your campsite. All you have to do is check in. Actually, they have two RV campgrounds with a total of 224 campsites to pick from. Serrano has 109 sites and Holloway’s has 115. They both have a plethora of amenities and recreational opportunities and they accept reservations, so make sure you book one early.

If you are not staying at Big Bear Lake, don’t worry. Being in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest, there is no shortage of campgrounds to choose from. Some of the closest include Pineknot, Lakeside Village, Pine Tree, and Big Bear Shores. Of course, whichever one you choose, you will still be at Big Bear Lake because all of these campgrounds are within a few miles. So, enjoy the lake and the campground to the fullest before heading on to your next adventure.

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