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Undiscovered California Road Trips

Three travel experts share their favorite highways and byways leading to hidden gems across the Golden State

Sometimes the best adventures come from taking the road less traveled. That's just one of the great tips Soterios Johnson uncovers on this episode of the California Now Podcast, which is all about finding unique California road-trip experiences.

To start things off, Johnson connects with Jessica Dunham, who has authored multiple road-trip guides. Dunham discusses an otherworldly cruise through the California deserts, raving about the magical experiences to be found in and around two national parks—Joshua Tree and Death Valley.

Next Johnson talks with travel writer Ann Marie Brown about some of her favorite roadways in California. Brown talks about what makes a highway an officially designated “scenic byway,” and then goes deep in describing three of her favorites.

And then Johnson chats with Lia and Jeremy Garcia, cofounders of the travel blog Practical Wanderlust. The pair talks about a recent trip they took to the northern stretch of the famously gorgeous Highway 1—a remote part of the state where travelers can explore historic lighthouses, ancient trees, and unique beaches.


Jessica Dunham, author of The Open Road: 50 Best Road Trips in the USA

Ann Marie Brown, author and travel writer

Lia and Jeremy Garcia, cofounders of Practical Wanderlust


Jessica Dunham says the best place to start a road trip through the California desert is in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs

Joshua Tree National Park

Jumbo Rocks Campground

The Joshua Tree House

Mojave National Preserve

Kelso Dunes

Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin

Furnace Creek Campground

Wildrose Campground

Telescope Peak

Route 66


Roy's Motel and Café


Travel writer Ann Marie Brown says California's scenic byways are meant to be explored at a leisurely pace.

Big Sur Coast Highway (Highway 1)

Tioga Pass

Death Valley Scenic Byway (Highway 190)

Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway

Trinity County

Blue Lake

Shasta State Historic Park



Trinity Alps Wilderness

Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park

Trinity River

The Shaw House

Highway 35 Scenic Byway (Skyline Boulevard)

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve

Methuselah Tree

Alice's Restaurant

The Mountain House

Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

The Gardens on El Paseo


Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument

Coachella Valley Vista Point

Paradise Valley Cafe

Pacific Crest Trail


Cafe Aroma

El Buen Cacao

Lia and Jeremy Garcia, the Oakland-based duo behind Practical Wanderlust, love to explore the lesser-known northern stretch of Highway 1.

Marin County

Battery Spencer

Muir Woods National Monument

Point Reyes National Seashore

The Cypress Tree Tunnel

The Marshall Store

Point Arena Lighthouse

Bowling Ball Beach


MacKerricher State Park

Fort Bragg

Glass Beach

Avenue of the Giants

Yosemite National Park

June Lake Loop

Mammoth Lakes

About the Host

Soterios Johnson, formerly the local host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on radio station WNYC, moved from New York City to Davis in 2016. By combining his journalistic instincts with his personal curiosity, Johnson uses the California Now Podcast platform to develop a deeper understanding of his adopted home.

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