This summer we decided to take a 4 day road trip through California. We didn't take the typical Cali road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. Instead, we started our trip heading east from Los Angeles, then we made our way up north to the desert and the forest.
DAY 1 | WOLF MOUNTAIN SANCTUARY, BIG BEAR LAKE & LAKE ARROWHEAD
We left Los Angeles Thursday morning around 8:30AM and headed east for our first stop at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary. The drive went by really fast and we didn't run into any heavy traffic. We arrived at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary a little before 11AM. The wolves at the sanctuary were all so cute, but not very active due to the high temperatures that day. We got to pet and sit next to the friendliest wolf, Holan, which was pretty awesome. The tour ran a little under an hour and we headed back west towards Lake Arrowhead.
The scenic drive to Lake arrowhead was gorgeous. When we left the sanctuary, it was all desert, but then we started driving into the mountains and it was such a beautiful view. On our way to Lake Arrowhead, we made a quick stop at Big Bear Lake Village to grab some lunch.
There were lots of options and we decided on 572 Social since we liked the modern decor. We had a really great time at the restaurant with tasty drinks, delicious food and the friendly staff. Our server, Rudy, was extra friendly and quite the jokester. He kept telling us we had to pay him to take photos of the restaurant, so we just made him take a picture with us.
We browsed around a few stores and they were all cute, but there really wasn't anything interesting and the village seemed dead. Big Bear Lake is usually more popular in the winter for skiing, so we're guessing there's just not much to do in this town in the summer.
We stopped by a couple of places where we could see the lake, but it was just underwhelming. We really tried to like this town more, but it just wasn't for us. We left Big Bear and made our way towards our final stop of the day - Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. The drive took about an hour and everything about Lake Arrowhead was peaceful and breathtaking.
We checked in to our gorgeous hotel and had a stunning view of the lake from our room. We even had a nice little balcony with table and chairs. We rested for a bit and then explored the trails that surrounded the lake. The hotel had private access to the beach, so it was nice having the trails pretty much all to ourselves.
Later, we headed to the village next door and had some dinner at a pizza and arcade joint. After our dinner, we were exhausted and called it a night.
DAY 2 | MANZANAR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, LONE PINE & THE ALABAMA HILLS
We started out the morning with a nice breakfast on the terrace at the hotel's restaurant, Bin 189. We had a great view of the lake and enjoyed our hearty meal before getting back on the road to Manzanar.
The drive was a bit tricky at first with the windy uphill roads. Our GPS signal was on and off, so we got a bit lost and had to turn around. Apparently, we missed our turn, but luckily we didn't get too far before realizing. The roads up in the mountains can be tricky if you aren't paying close attention to the road names.
The GPS calculated that the drive to Manzanar would be about 3.5 hours from Lake Arrowhead. Well, that 3.5 hours ended up being a little over 4.5 hours. There was construction and then trucks on no-passing zones, so this made the drive longer than expected. Once again, the views along the drive were beautiful and helped to make the time pass quickly.
When we arrived at Manzanar National Historic Site, we went inside to check out the museum first. After a couple of hours in the museum, we took the tour outside. You can walk or drive the tour, but there was no way we were walking in the 100-degree weather that day, so we drove around the site. The whole experience was very powerful for us and we encourage everyone to visit this site if you ever get a chance. Because of the extremely hot summers, visitors are quite low this time of year.
After Manzanar, we stopped by Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, which was only a 15-minute drive. Lone Pine is a small town located right next to the Alabama Hills, which is THE place where all of the Western movies and TV shows were filmed. Western films and shows aren't as popular as they used to be, but this location is still being used today for filming. Recent movies like Iron Man, Gladiator, and Man of Steel were all shot here.
We really enjoyed the rock formations and it was very easy to stop at any location to take photos. Because the roads are unpaved, this was the only time we wished we were driving an SUV or truck. We also got a little lost because there were absolutely no road signs and everything looked exactly the same! It did look like they were starting to build a paved road, which would help out the visitors tremendously.
Before heading out of Lone Pine, we stopped by Lone Pine Smokehouse for dinner and had some good pulled pork and great entertainment with Fiddlin Pete playing his tunes for the crowd.
After our dinner, we drove down to our final stop for the day, Ridgecrest, which was 80 miles south. We chose to stay at Ridgecrest so that we could cut some of our driving time the next day to Sequoia National Park. We arrived at Hampton Inn Ridgecrest, which was a nice hotel especially for the price, and went straight to bed.
DAY 3 | SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
We woke up around 8AM and had our free breakfast in the hotel lobby. It didn't look like there was much to explore in Ridgecrest, so we headed straight to Sequioa National Park.
The drive was an easy 3.5 hours and once again, the views along the drive were breathtaking. We stopped by our hotel first at Comfort Inn, but our rooms weren't ready yet, so we headed to the Sequoia National Park visitor center.
Since we only had one day to spend at the park, we asked the park ranger which locations were the best to check out with our limited amount of time. He gave us three great suggestions and off we went! The drive from the visitor's center to the actual locations was less than 20 miles, but the windy, steady incline with a speed limit of 20 mph made it about an hour drive. The drive goes by really fast because the views are incredible! Once you start entering the forest of the giant sequoia trees, you start to feel like you're in some fairy tale because everything is so huge!
There really wasn't any place to stop and eat lunch, so we snacked on protein bars, trail mix, and water. Gotta remember to stay hydrated! We wanted to check out all three locations the park ranger recommended, but ended up having time to check out only two of them: General Sherman Tree and Crescent Meadows. We both enjoyed Crescent Meadows way more than General Sherman Tree. We saw a bear, two cubs, and a deer as soon as we got off our shuttle!
The shuttle buses stop operating at 6PM, so that was when we left the park. We made our trip back down to our hotel in Three Rivers, which is located just outside of the park, and had dinner at Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant, not too far away from our hotel. We sat outside in the patio area with a great view of the mountains. We ordered some tasty drinks and enjoyed them very much. The food, on the other hand, was not so great. We shared a caesar salad and ribeye steak and everything tasted bland. We weren't expecting top-notch food around the area, so we weren't too disappointed. We were just happy to have some steak after our adventure!
DAY 4 | BEVERLY HILLS
We woke up around 8AM and had free breakfast in the lobby. We tend to choose hotels that have free breakfast to save some money and also save time on looking for places to eat. We like the variety they usually have at hotel breakfast buffets and most of the time they have healthy options.
This was the last day of our road trip, so we started heading back down south to Los Angeles, which was a little over 3 hours. Before heading to the airport, we stopped by Beverly Hills. Crystal wanted to have lunch at Villa Blanca and Candy wanted to stop by the Nespresso Cafe.
Nespresso Cafe is a place not to be missed in Beverly Hills. The place is huge with a colorful cafe and shop. It's a great place to meet up with friends and get free samples of coffee or have some mini desserts from the cafe.
We both really enjoyed the gorgeous views of the mountains and lakes while driving and had such a great time. If we got to pick a different time, we probably would have gone a bit earlier in the year. The temperatures at Wolf Mountain, Manzanar and Lone Pine were pretty hot and unavoidable since there weren't any shaded areas. Driving in a standard car is doable, but probably more comfortable if we had an SUV for the mountainous and off-road areas in the Alabama Hills. Californians, you are so lucky! There is so much to see and do in this beautiful state. Can't wait for our next California road trip adventure!
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