My name is Jessica Wright and I’m a Northern California native. I’ve run the Bon Traveler blog for five years, and over the past few weeks I’ve been scrolling through photos and memories from my travels—cherishing past trips and thinking back to some wonderful adventures. While most of my travels have taken me abroad, over the last year or so I started to focus on exploring my own backyard, the great state of California. I’ve come to realize just how many incredible places there are here. The best part? The diversity of landscapes, cities, and coastline.
Since I’m staying home right now, I’ve had a chance to reflect on moments shared in wine country with friends, solo road trips up Highway 1, and cherished memories in nature. I’ve enjoyed thinking back on these journeys but I can’t wait to see these places again, in person, when the time is right. Here are five trips in particular that are etched in my mind right now.
#1 A Day in Yosemite National Park
If there is one place my mind keeps racing to, it’s Yosemite National Park. There is something about the drive in, as you wind in and out of the towering trees, and suddenly El Capitan stands out amidst it all. Yosemite has been a favorite escape for me and my husband—a place we retreat to when we need to reset and immerse ourselves in nature. We’ve always arrived early in the day and stayed around for sunset. It’s part of the deal—to always catch sunset somewhere new in the park. Of course, Glacier Point is a wonderful spot to watch the sun fall behind Half Dome but these days we’ve been retreating to the valley floor for a new perspective. Yosemite will be at the top of our list to return to and I can’t wait to savor those last minutes of the day where every tree and meadow is drenched in golden light. Read more about my trip here.
#2 Weekends in Gold Country
I’m from the heart of Gold Country—Auburn, to be precise—and I recently returned to the region after living in the San Francisco Bay Area. To help me settle back in, I embarked on a trip that took me on Highway 49 through places I hadn’t visited before, like Amador County and Placerville. I felt like there was so much more to explore of this incredible countryside. From river rafting to wine tasting, Gold Country is deep in my roots. I can’t wait to go on more road trips in the surrounding area: I want to be a weekend warrior in my own backyard. I’ve got a long list of local wineries and breweries to try, farm stands to visit so I can pick up produce, and historic towns to explore. Read more about my trip here.
#3 Exploring Marin and Sonoma County Coastline
My husband and I spent the last few years living in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, before moving to Sacramento. While there, we became fond of our day trips up the Marin and Sonoma County coastline. These are some of my favorite landscapes in California— small towns dotting the Pacific Coast with rolling pastoral lands all around. We established a few favorite traditions, including grabbing a loaf of bread from Wild Flour in Freestone and cheese and charcuterie at Freestone Artisan Cheese. We’d take our picnic and from there wind toward Guerneville and make our way out to the coastal area of Jenner. It was pure bliss—sweeping coastline for miles and a fresh sea breeze. Read more about my trip here.
#4 Road tripping up the Northern Coast
I hadn’t explored much of California north of Mendocino until last year, when my friend and I took a girl’s road trip all the way to Trinidad. Along the way we stopped in wonderful places that had long been on my bucket list, including the Avenue of the Giants, Ferndale, and Redwoods National and State Parks. This part of Northern California was mostly unknown to me. The coast there is different—a bit more rugged than what you see in the San Francisco Bay Area yet peaceful and untouched. The redwood trees that line Highway 101 take you further into state parks that have lands to hike and explore. It’s the ultimate outdoor playground for the adventurer who loves a wildly surprising landscape. Read more about my trip here.
#5 The Best of Wine Country Weekend: Napa and Sonoma
I live close to wine country, and the Napa Valley and Sonoma County have provided some our favorite day trips and weekends away. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions there. Sonoma and Napa are physically close to one another and yet they are completely different. A few years ago, I spent a night in Sonoma and then made my way to Napa to finish off the trip there, experiencing both areas in a single trip. I love the slowed-down atmosphere of both, with afternoons either poolside or sipping wine at beautiful tasting rooms. With a few trips postponed here this year, I’m looking forward to getting back to our favorite wineries in both regions. Until then, I’m thankful for online experiences like virtual tastings and wines that ship! Read more about my trip here.