Last week, I went on a 6 day road trip around California in collaboration with Visit California and I had an unbelievable time! In this blog post, I will talk about my experience during the trip as well as provide tips and recommendations along the way.
Let’s start off with this 2 minute video I made from my experience:
Have you ever been to California? It’s one of the most beautiful states in the USA!
I recently went on a 6 day road trip across the state with Visit California, and made this video from my experience touring around LA, fly fishing in Mammoth Lakes, skiing in Lake Tahoe & white water rafting in Yosemite.
If this video doesn’t make you want to visit California, then I don’t know what will!
Thank you to all regional partners for making this trip happen: Discover Los Angeles, Visit Mammoth, North Lake Tahoe, Yosemite Nation — and a special Thank You to all our military who has fought endlessly to protect our freedoms on this Memorial Day.
Music: Ben Sound
Posted by Drew Binsky on Monday, May 29, 2017
California is a state that I love and adore from the bottom of my heart.
Growing up in neighboring Arizona, I used to go on family vacations every summer to San Diego since I was 5 years old, and until today, I have lots of family living in the LA region.
I’ve probably been to California 50 times in my life, with 90% of visits to either San Diego or LA.
So when the opportunity came to partner with Visit California on a 6 day road trip around the beautiful state – I was beyond excited! Visit California was a fantastic tourism board, and one of the most professional companies I’ve had the opportunity to work with. I have nothing but great things to say about them.
Our schedule for the 6 day road trip was LA –> Mammoth Lakes –> North Lake Tahoe –> Yosemite –> Fresno (see map below).
Every place on this trip was new for me, except for Lake Tahoe, where I haven’t been in 11 years – so it hardy counts!
For the remainder of this post, I will give a recap of the trip, in the order that it all happened starting with Los Angeles.
Part 1 – Los Angeles
We flew in from Manila to LAX, where we started our trip. We spent 2 days in beautiful Venice Beach and spent most of our time wandering around Los Angeles as a tourist (I still love being a tourist in LA despite visiting many times!).
My favorite new activity that I did in LA was visiting the cool lamps at the LACMA Art Museum (photo below) — I’d always heard about them and seen photos, so I finally pulled the trigger. I’m glad I visited, because I was told that they are going to knock them down soon and rebuild something else!
And of course, I enjoyed watching the golden sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It doesn’t get any more picturesque than this.
After a quick visit to LA, we picked up our rental car and got on the road up North to Mammoth Lakes.
Part 2 – Mammoth Lakes
The drive up north was about 6 hours, which began in the hot brown desert, and ended in the snowy mountains (and one of the highest mountain ranges in California). It was surreal to watch the landscape transform nearly every hour!
The mountains around Mammoth were still covered in snow, from the record setting snowfall that hit the region over winter. They had over 600 inches, can you believe that?!
From the moment we arrived in Mammoth Lakes, I was stunned by the beauty around me. It sort of reminded me of Queenstown, New Zealand or Interlaken, Switzerland – in regards to them all being outdoorsy places with tons of activities to do outside.
For lunch, we went to a lovely Mexican place called Gomez’s, which had some of the bets tacos and homemade salsa I’ve ever had. The owners and staff are down to earth and accommodating, and was shared travel stories with them for hours.
In the late afternoon, we went snow shoeing (which was my first time). Basically, you put giant shoes/skis on your feet and use them to trek through the snow. We walked around the frozen lakes and had some amazing views.
By night, we checked into the Westin Monache Resort and had dinner at a place called Mammoth Tavern. Great homemade beer and burgers!
The following morning, we woke up early to go fly fishing (my first time). Don’t be fooled, because it’s much harder than it looks! Basically, you can fly fish in any flowing body of water, like a river or creek, and you do so by using flies as bait attached to the end of your fishing rod. Then, you cast the rod every time where you think there is trout nearby, and if you get a bite, you have to pull the rod up immediately or else the fish will snag the fly and get away…. It’s very hands on and you must be paying attention at all times. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in catching any fish, but I still had a great time and I can’t wait to fly fish again.
After fishing, we took the scenic cable car up the top of Mammoth Mountain – one of the most popular snowboarding and skiing resorts in the country. The peak of the mountain is 11,053 feet tall, and offers stunning views over the valley. I felt like the king of California from up there!
Part 3 – North Lake Tahoe
After Mammoth Mountain, we jumped in the car and headed 6 hours for North Lake Tahoe. I decided to visit the North (as opposed to the South), because I wanted to check out Squaw Valley – home of the 1960 Winter Olympics and a very famous ski resort. I’m really happy that I made that decision, because this place was awesome!
We checked into our Resort at Squaw Creek, which was one of the nicest properties I’ve stayed at. It’s set at the base of the mountains, and retains the “mountain ambiance” feel as the views are impossible to miss. The resort has a golf course, cross ski center, fly fishing center, ice skating rink, swimming pools, water slide and scenic hiking & biking trails.
The following morning, we set off to ski Squaw Valley – the highlight of the trip for me.
I’m sort of an Olympic nerd, meaning I like to visit ex-Olympics sites and venues around the world. So this was an extra special experience for me!
It was mind blowing to be skiing in May… There aren’t too many skiing resorts in the world that are open still in May, and there was more than 20 feet of snow still on Squaw Valley! Word on the street is that BOTH Mammoth Lakes & Lake Tahoe will keep their slopes open until after July 4th this year!
I’m nowhere near an advanced skier (I’ve been about a dozen times), but I attempted to ski down the double black diamonds… and I made it out alive! Woo hoo!
Check out these views from the top.
After skiing, we headed to Lake Tahoe to go stand up paddle boarding for sunset. Can you believe that I went skiing and paddle boarding in the same day? Only in California.
Lake Tahoe is one of the freshest and deepest lakes on planet earth, and the water temp is always cold (50-55 degrees F), because it contains a large amount of snow melt. The alpine lake is massive, and sits at the border of California and Nevada, with mountains in all directions, and crystal clear fresh water.
I’ll let the photos do the talking.
By night, we ate a 5 course dinner at West Shore Cafe, which was the best meal of the trip. The restaurant actually wasn’t open yet for the summer, but they did a special opening for us to sample all of their dishes. I’m still drooling as I think about that T-bone steak and those juicy scallops.
Part 4 – Yosemite National Park
Our last stop, and possibly the most hyped of them all, was Yosemite National Park. It’s a place I had always heard about growing up, and recently, I’ve been seeing many Instagram photos popping up on my feed.
The drive from North Tahoe was spectacular. We went through several mini lakes that had no people around. My favorite was Silver Lake – green forests sitting below snow capped mountains and deep blue water.
When we arrived at Yosemite, we stayed at a place 20 miles away from the park called Yosemite Bug Hotel. It was a rustic, authentic place with an amazing cafeteria that felt like I was at summer camp.
We spent 2 days exploring Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the best displays of nature not only in the USA, but on our planet.
There are dozens of waterfalls within a few square miles around Yosemite Valley, and the park is surrounded by massive ancient rock formations and pine tree forests. We parked our car and hiked down to several of the waterfalls, and walked around the park grounds.
This place is absolutely amazing, and I recommend everyone reading this to get out to Yosemite if you find yourselves in California! Most of the “famous spots” in Yosemite are located within a mile of each other in Yosemite Valley, making it easy and convenient to see everything in one day.
We went white water rafting in the category 4 rapids, which we were told had the highest water level in decades from all the melting snow! I’ve been white water rafting 4 or 5 times, and this was by far the most extreme experience I’ve had. The water temperature was FREEZING (like 44 F), and my body was numb by the end (even after wearing a wet suit). But I would do it again in a heartbeat!
To wrap up the trip, we drove to Fresno to hang out for a few hours and then headed to the airport.
My road trip around California further convinced me that California is amongst the most beautiful states in the USA. It’s a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list if you haven’t considered visiting — not only the places I went, but there are plenty more options along the Pacific coast and deeper in the state to visit. You could probably spend a month road tripping California and still not see everything!
Huge thanks to my friends at Visit California for helping organize this experience of a lifetime, as well as all regional partners Discover LA, Visit Mammoth, Tahoe North & Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau. I can’t wait to go back!
Disclosure: I was invited to California by Visit California, and received financial compensation from them during the trip. As always, this post was written by me and is honest from my own personal experiences.