The most scenic route to California from Ohio

Ohio and California are 2,402 miles (3,866 kilometers) apart. Ohio serves as the starting point of your trip, while California serves as the destination. The total travel time, including all stops, is approximately 37 hours. You can divide this time into seven stops or individual travel days. If you are in a hurry, you can cover the distance in 34 hours and 55 minutes without any stops. But let us assume you are not in a hurry. In that case, some of the most scenic routes you should not skip are the following: The Grand Canyon Loop, Ohio River Scenic Byway, Wichita Mountains, Quartz, Mountain State Park, Canyon, Sweep and the Jemez Mountain Trail, to name a few. So let us start with the places you can go on your nine-day adventure. Let’s explore the most scenic route to California from Ohio.

Camino Campana Trail
Camino Campana Trail

Highlights

  • Ohio River Scenic Byway
  • Wichita Mountains
  • Quartz Mountain State Park
  • Canyon Sweep
  • Jemez Mountain Trail
  • Grand Canyon Loop

Day 1: Ohio 

At Ohio River Scenic Byway, you may start taking advantage of Ohio’s 289 miles of beautiful attractions and extending from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Wheeling, Ohio, and ending there. This route offers numerous water views and historical sites as it winds alongside the Ohio River. There are other stops along the way where you may learn more about long-gone occupants, early settlers, and people who participated in the Underground Railroad, including Ancient Fort Steuben and the Martius Museum of the Northwest Territory. Visit Shawnee State Park for possibilities for outdoor enjoyment in Ohio’s “Little Smokies,” the gently undulating hills of the Appalachian Plateau. 

Alternately, you might begin your journey in Cleveland, Ohio, then travel to Philadelphia, Ohio. You can find a good blend of culture and natural beauty along this 89-mile, winding route between Cleveland and New Philadelphia. Discover Cleveland’s attractions, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Museum of Art, before you leave, then travel to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Hale Farm and Village, a living museum devoted to preserving the way of life in the area during the 19th century, is a worthwhile stop down the road.

Day 2: Indiana

After traveling 210 miles (340 km) from Ohio, it takes 3.5 hours to reach Indianapolis, Indiana. Rolling down the windows, turning up the music, and taking a leisurely, scenic drive down some of Indiana’s most scenic highways are all ideal summertime activities. Consider the Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway, an incredible trip that can take you beside this necessary historical canal and occasionally display views of the Ohio River. The historic Whitewater River valley also features miles of rolling hills, old railroad tracks, and landmark structures. There are 67 miles in the entire drive. Alternatively, you can profit from the Indiana SR-62. This lengthy state highway offers a winding yet beautiful trip through some of Indiana’s most beautiful locations. It stretches from the Illinois State Line to our lovely state’s southwest corner and even features several elevation variations, which are uncommon in Indiana. It’s an excellent road for riders as well. The length of the road is 223 miles.

Lastly, the historic and picturesque backroad known as the Historic National Road is worth checking out if you enjoy Indiana and US history. Along this route, you’ll pass through streetcar-style Victorian neighborhoods, districts, Pike towns, and quaint downtown regions and villages. Additionally, it consists of numerous antebellum restaurants and diners.

Day 3: Saint Louis, Missouri

The first leg of the journey is a 4-hour, 240 miles (390 km) drive from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Saint Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch National Park, which still dominates the city skyline, is one attraction you must see while visiting Saint Louis. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a magnificent 630-foot (192-meter) stainless-steel monument designed by Eero Saarinen, rises from the riverside at the base of Market Street. Visitors can get to the top viewing room using a miniature tram. The free and intriguing Museum of Westward Expansion, located between the legs of the arch, tells the story of the human wave that swept America’s frontier west to the Pacific. 

The Hill neighborhood is unbeatable for food: Of the dozen traditional neighborhood Italian restaurants, Gian is arguably the best. The local institution Ted Drewes is known for its many flavors of “concrete,” a delicious frozen dairy and egg custard concoction so thick you can flip it upside down and not spill a drop. No one leaves St. Louis without traveling old Route 66 southwest from downtown to Ted Drewes.

Day 4: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Five hundred miles or 800 kilometers from Saint Louis, Missouri, to Oklahoma City takes 7.5 hours. So you can access Historic Route 66, like driving through America’s scrapbook from St. Louis to Oklahoma City. The honoree is the legendary Route 66, one of the first transcontinental roadways in the nation to open in 1926. Although traveling down historic Route 66 might increase the time it takes, the treasure search makes the extra time worthwhile. Large banners flying from poles along Route 66 in the town of Cuba welcome travelers on the historic route. A fantastic example of a motel from the 1930s is this location’s still-open Wagon Wheel Motel. There are several Missouri wineries within ten miles of Cuba, close to St. James.

The first five blocks of Route 66 divided were in St. James. Avoid the temptation to go around the curve on Route 66 west of Halltown. Route 66 takes a peculiar turn at Paris Springs, crossing Missouri 96, before jogging northwest to meet it. Following the old path will take you over a steel truss bridge and past Spencer’s abandoned town.

Day 5: Amarillo, Texas

It takes 4 hours to go 260 miles (420 kilometers) from Oklahoma to Amarillo, Texas. The best attractions to see from Oklahoma to Amarillo, Texas (with brief detours) include the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Tiger Safari Zoo, and Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Other well-liked destinations include the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries, Tower Station & U-Drop Inn Café, and National Route 66 and Transportation Museum. The Quarter Horse Museum and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum are just two of the many distinctive museums in Amarillo dedicated to the history and culture of West Texas. 

Try your hand at graffiti at Cadillac Ranch for some creative entertainment, or hike the Palo Duro Canyon trails nearby to take in some of the state’s distinctive nature. After the Grand Canyon, it is the second-largest canyon in the country. It is only thirty minutes south of Amarillo. Palo Duro Canyon measures about 120 miles in length, up to 20 miles in width, and 800 feet in depth. Mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, geocaching, and hiking are all everyday activities in Palo Duro State Park. From the canyon rim to the canyon floor and back is a 16-mile round trip drive. Several campgrounds with a combined 150 campsites and many hiking trails exist off this road.

Day 6: Albuquerque, New Mexico

The biggest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque, is in a high desert. In contrast to Old Town Albuquerque, which dates back to the city’s inception as a Spanish colony in 1706, it has a modern Downtown core. The San Felipe de Neri Church, five museums, and stores selling Native American handicrafts are just a few of the old adobe buildings you can see in Old Town. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center nearby chronicles the history of the local tribes. From Amarillo, Texas, it takes four hours to travel 290 miles (470 kilometers). You may reach Albuquerque by automobile from the east or west via I-40/Historic Route 66 and from the north or south using I-25. 

Albuquerque offers a wide variety of lodging options, so you won’t have trouble choosing something that fits your needs and preferences. The spectacular Albuquerque Museum of Art and History gives visitors a thorough understanding of the city’s heritage. This museum, situated on the outskirts of Old Town, is home to a fantastic collection of artifacts dating back 400 years. It is a location where guests may learn more about not only the history of Albuquerque but also the history of European settlements in the broader southwest.

Day 7: Flagstaff, Arizona

In regular traffic, the direct route from Albuquerque to Flagstaff is 323 miles (519 kilometers) long and should take 4 and 26 minutes. The main attractions to see en route from Albuquerque to Flagstaff include the Standin’ on the Corner Foundation, Walnut Canyon National Monument, and Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. Other well-liked destinations are Sky City Cultural Center & Haak’s Museum, Sunset Crater, and Wupatki National Monument. Flagstaff, Arizona Northern Arizona is home to some of the west’s most beautiful landscapes and fascinating cities, and Flagstaff is ideal for day trips to many of these treasures. 

Due to its closeness to the Grand Canyon, the San Francisco Mountains, Sunset Crater, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon Historical Monuments, Oak Creek Canyon, and the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff has been dubbed the “City of Seven Wonders.” Scenic drives in Flagstaff might take you to these breathtaking sites. Flagstaff has numerous accolades to its name, but probably the most deserving is that it is amid the world’s most extensive contiguous Ponderosa pine forest, the Coconino National Forest. The Ponderosa pine forest between the pion-juniper woodland and the alpine tundra dominates the region around Flagstaff.

Day 8: Bullhead City, Arizona

Prepare for a three-hour drive from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Bullhead City as you approach Ohio. The approximate driving distance is 180 miles (290 kilometers). The historic Arizonan oasis, situated along the Colorado River’s banks, provides year-round water sports, golf, and fun. Bullhead City attracts tourists with its outdoor activities, breathtaking drives, festivals, and nightlife. The city is named after a riverbank landmark rock resembling a bull’s head and was built by river traders in an older Mojave community. 

The region is a great starting point for exploring the Mojave Desert, Lake Mohave, the Colorado River, old mining towns, and the casinos nearby Laughlin, Nevada. Bullhead City hosts several events. Enjoy live music at the Colorado River Bluegrass Festival in February and kayak races, or join in on the excitement when the Bullhead City River Regatta takes place in August. For a great night out, take a water taxi across the river to Laughlin, Nevada, where there are ten casinos with 24-hour bars, restaurants, and entertainment.

Day 9: California (CA)

Last but not least, it takes 6.5 hours to go 380 miles (610 km) from Bullhead City to California, CA. Nothing compares to taking to the open road when exploring all that California has to offer. Fortunately, there are 63 scenic byways in California, eight of which have the federal designation. These scenic byways, which are vast, stunning, and never-ending captivating, are route corridors recognized for their exceptional scenic, ecological, cultural, historical, archaeological, and recreational significance. 

From Redding to the Pacific Ocean, Highway 299, often known as the Trinity Scenic Byway, is 140 miles long. You will encounter various fauna, landscapes, and climate zones along this trip. The Palm to Pines Scenic Byway is a road that the Bureau of Land Management has classified as a scenic route. Greater Palm Springs is famous for its picturesque landscape and pleasant climate, but just a few miles to the south is a scenic journey that offers high mountain wildness and winding roads. It takes about two hours to complete, assuming you don’t stop at some of the stunning vistas en route.

FAQs

How many days does it take to drive from Ohio to California?

The drive from Ohio to California is about 35-36 hours non-stop, over 2400+ miles. If you drive 12 hours daily, you can comfortably complete it in three days. With more than one driver, this can be cut to a day and a half if the only stops are to switch drivers. I would recommend pushing it to no less than two days. Allowing plenty of stops along the way is ideal.

Ohio to California flight

The flight from Columbus to Fresno takes 6 hr 10 min+.

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