The Must-ride California Road Trips For Fall

Our biggest problems with autonomous vehicles? We love road trips. And as nice as taking a snooze during a morning commute sounds, we'll never want to give up a few days on the open road. 

When it comes to road trip weather, it doesn't get much better than Fall on the west coast. The crisp morning air turns to mid 70's weather; the sun's out and the roads are clear of Summer beach traffic. 

So when our friends at Inside Hook asked us to put together a few of our favorite road trips, we were happy to oblige them. We've been traveling the coastal roads of California for a few years now and, while it's hard to find a trip that isn't scenic, we have a few that we hold close to our hearts. 

From windy mountain escapes to canyon cruisers to Pacific Coast views, here’s our top three road trips. You can check it out below or read it on Inside Hook's site here.

road trip

The Route: Los Angeles to Carrizo Plains Loop
Distance: 350 miles
Duration: 2-3 days

This is an easy loop from LA if you ride this route: up the coast through Ventura and take HWY 33 through Ojai, into the Topa Topa Mountains and wind up to the Pine Mountain Summit ... then drop down the backside into the Cuyama Valley. When HWY 33 ends, take 166 East for a short distance and turn left on Soda Lake Road. Leave the pavement behind as you drop down to the Carrizo Plain, which is a throwback to when California’s central valleys were vast grasslands, populated with elk and antelope. Head back to LA via I-5, which you can access if you exit Carrizo Plain on the north side and head east through Taft, which spits you out West of Bakersfield.

Checkpoints

Pine Mountain

If you’re going to call this home for the night, take Pine Mountain Road at the summit of the 33 all the way to the top. You’ll see dispersed camping sites as you get toward the top. The last few are superior. If you climb, bring your shoes, as there’s tons of great bouldering.

The Place

The Place is right on the 33 in Maricopa and is a great halfway point for an ice-cold beer, burger and homemade pie.

Selby Campground

Once you reach the Carrizo Plains, you can literally camp anywhere you like. However, if you require basic amenities, Selby Campground will fit the bill. It has beautiful views and fire rings for days.

Packing list

Bring warm layers. While days remain temperate, temps can dip close to freezing in the late fall or winter months. Your correspondent usually sleeps under the stars and pack light with my pad and sleeping bag. There’s no water at either overnight spot, so pack your own. You can have an open fire at both locations, so bring something to cook for dinner. Have a sip from your flask and watch the shooting stars.

Tips

  • There’s no cell service along most of this trip, so come prepared with the right gear, spare parts, tools and attitude
  • Pine Mountain Road closes around the first snow of the year or late November, whichever happens first

road trip 2

The Route: Tour De Santa Monica Mountains
Distance: Approximately 60 miles
Duration: 2-4 hours

Starting in Ventura, CA, head down Las Posas Road towards the ocean till it connects with PCH, where you turn south towards Malibu. Briefly work your way south on PCH and past the infamous Mugu Rock. Turn left about six miles past the Rock on Yerba Buena Road (which turns into Little Sycamore Canyon Road) and continue until it ends on Mulholland Highway. Turn left on Mulholland and continue for ½ mile before turning left again at a stop sign that connects Mulholland with Decker Canyon Road/HWY 23. In two miles, turn right to stay on Mulholland for another 16 miles, through a winding stretch known as the snake, and eventually turn right on Stunt Road to ascend toward the Topanga Lookout. When Stunt Road ends, head south on Schueren Road for a few miles and go left at Rambla Pacifico Street for a mile or so, then left on Las Flores Canyon Road, which takes you back to PCH.

Checkpoints

God’s Seat

This rock outcropping sharply rises hundreds of feet and has an actual seat that you can sit in and gaze out across the inland valleys and mountain ranges.

The Old Place

This is a great watering hole that feels like a saloon from the old west with stiff drinks to match.

Topanga Lookout

On a clear day, you can see across the San Fernando Valley, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and Santa Catalina Island to the direct south.

Packing list

Always check weather conditions before a ride and pack/dress accordingly. Never hurts to have a good jacket handy just in case the weather decides to change without notice. Bring a passenger along for this ride. My wife loves the route and helps keep my throttle hand under control.

iron

The Route: Off-road Trail to McIvers Cabin
Distance: Approximately 40 miles roundtrip
Duration: 1-2 days 

This is an out and back ride and not a loop, as you ride out on the same road you entered on. To reach the cabin, you have to travel about 20+ miles of dirt 4x4 trails. McIvers Cabin is in the southern section of the Sequoia National Forest in the Scodie Mountains and part of the Kiavah Wilderness, and serves as a shelter to hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail. The dirt road to the cabin is listed as BLM Trail SC65 (rated easy) and can be accessed via Horse Canyon Road in Kern County, CA, located off of HWY 14.

Checkpoints

Horse Canyon Well

This small reservoir with a windmill makes the perfect place for a rest before heading up into the sequoias and saying goodbye to the desert climate.

Microwave Tower

Next point of interest is the Microwave Tower and forestry lookout tower, a short ride after entering the pine covered section of the road. Shortly after, the road follows the Pacific Crest Trail for a brief section.

McIvers Cabin

The cabin is an old out-building that was not originally built where it now stands, but was used during the construction of the aqueduct in the desert valley below and moved to its new home at McIvers Spring in 1938.

There’s a 1/2-mile hike past the spring and up the closed old mine road where you’ll be rewarded with views of the Scodie Mountains, Lake Isabella valley and the Indian Wells valley.

Packing list

Water is a necessity for this ride unless you have a good backpacking filter. A solid pair of riding boots are also essential considering the harshness of the desert and mountain environments. I usually bring lunch for when I arrive at the cabin, but if you can convince a friend with a 4x4 to join, have them bring a cooler full of beer.

Tips

  • Don’t drink from the water unless you’re equipped with a filter, as water in the region carries Giardia and other waterborne parasites. 
  • Travel carefully on the backside of the ridge entering Sequoia National Forest. It’s more shaded and can have snow this time of year.   

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