Interstate 5, also known as I5, is the main highway along the west coast that runs from Mexico to Canada, crossing California, Oregon, and Washington on its 1381 mile journey. While most people use the route to drive as fast as possible to get to their destination, it does have a lot of fun places to stop if you have the time to get off the highway a little bit. On this list, I am covering 17 places to stop on I5 and purposely skipping Los Angeles and San Diego area stops as posts that cover those areas. Lets jump into it and let me know what I left off in the comments.
Vista Del Lago Visitor Center
As you leave the greater LA area and head towards the grapevine, a great stop is the Vista del Lago Visitors Center. This building sits above Pyramid Lake and the California Department of Water Resources runs it. It has many fun, interactive exhibits on water and the state’s connection to it. It also has a deck with beautiful views out over Pyramid Lake, making it an excellent place to get out and stretch your legs.
Fort Tejon State Historic Park
Next up, Fort Tejon State Historic Park sits right at the top of the pass before heading down into the valley. There is a small parking fee here, but the state park is fun to explore and well preserved. The park has the remains of an army outpost that was used from 1854 to 1864, and it has multiple buildings, including a barracks and a house that you can walk through. It is a beautiful and historic area that is hardly ever busy, so it is a fun stop on the drive.
It is hard to beat Tejon Ranch if you are looking for lunch. Located about 10 minutes from the last stop, it has dozens of places to eat and an outlet mall that you can shop at. I am partial to Chipotle or In-N-Out, my go-to stops here. Be warned; this is one of the busiest areas on holiday weekends.
Tule Elk State Natural Reserve
The Tule Elk State Natural Reserve is located about 5 minutes off the highway. This park has dedicated land that protects a herd of tule elk. These elk used to be prevalent in the area but were hunted almost to extinction. Through the work done here to preserve them and relocate them, the elk are now thriving around California. Note that I have been here many times and never seen anything, but on the last trip, I got to see the elk close up and it is was well worth the stop.
Like Tejon Ranch, Bravo Farms is another go-to stop on the long drive from Los Angeles to Sacramento. Bravo Farms is pretty amazing for every member of the family. There are antiques to see, lots of souvenirs to shop, a restaurant, an ice cream parlor, and a great children’s play area. There is an In-N-Out off the same exit as well. I never pass bravo farms when I am on a road trip, even if it is just for a restroom break; the place is just fun to see.
Harris Ranch is the largest beef producer in the state of California, and you will no doubt see the cows as you drive through the area. The ranch property expanded to a hotel and restaurant in the 1980s, and it has become one of the most popular spots for an overnight stay on the drive. The restaurant features fantastic steaks and is often in the top 100 busiest restaurants in the United States. My dad and I ate at the restaurant and stayed on the property, and it was a great meal and a nice place to stay with a massive pool right in the middle of the property.
As you enter Sacramento, here are two fun road trip stops. You can see 14 more in the video linked in the description. First, head to Old Sacramento. Old Sacramento is a major tourist attraction in the city, with some of the restored buildings dating back to the 1800s. The area has shops, restaurants, museums, and the beautiful Sacramento Tower Bridge. Plan to spend a little time here just walking along the water and exploring the historic district.
California State Capitol
If you are traveling on a weekday between 8 and 5, you should also stop to see the state capital, which is only 5 minutes drive from Old Sacramento. The capitol grounds are beautiful and have plants from all over California on display. You can also go into the capitol and see the gorgeous rotunda and walk the halls to see all of the different California counties on display. It is a stunning building, and it is a fun weekday road trip stop.
The Olive Pit
After leaving Sacramento, I tend not to stop again until I get to Corning. The Corning Olive Pit is one of my go-to road trip stops that I have been doing for years. The Olive Pit has hundreds of different kinds of green olives with all sorts of fillings, but the highlight for me is the raspberry almonds. I never leave without grabbing a bag. There are lots of other snacks here for your road trip, so it is worth a stop to grab something.
Leaving Corning, it is about an hour to Redding, an excellent place to spend the night, and that has all of the restaurants you would expect in a city of this size. For me, the Sundial Bridge is the best road trip stop in Redding. This bridge was built in 2004, and it crosses the river without touching it and has a full sundial on one side. The bridge is fun to see both at day and at night when it is lit up. Next to the bridge is a great museum if you are traveling with kids which can easily pass a few hours.
As you leave Redding, the Shasta Dam is an interesting place to stop if you want to go a little off the highway. A scenic drive takes you through the hills and gives you some great views of the dam and the lake behind it. As you get closer to the dam, you can stop at the visitors center to learn more about it as well. It is the eighth tallest dam in the USA, and it was built in 1945, so it is an engineering feat that is well worth seeing.
As you head north on I5, keep your eyes peeled for Shasta Caverns. If you have the time, this is a fantastic place to visit. The caverns are located on the other side of the lake, so you have to take a boat over to other side, then a bus up to the cave where you can take a tour. It is more of a half day adventure, but it is a unique thing to do in California.
Yaks on the 5
As you make it to the town of Dunsmuir, Yaks on the 5 is a great place to stop for a meal. Don’t expect it to be healthy but do expect it to be tasty. The burgers here come with everything from piles of cilantro to garlic and you can get their famous lavender ketchup on the side to go with. The sticky buns are also excellent here, and it has been voted one of the best restaurants in the USA by Yelp a few years in a row. Let me know what you think in the comments if you go.
Hedge Creek Falls
Hedge Creek Falls is located only 5 minutes up the road from Yaks, and it is a fantastic waterfall hike for the whole family. The hike is short as it heads down to the impressive waterfall. When you get there, you can walk behind it, which is unique, and there are many opportunities for great photos here. Note that it is downhill the whole way there, so it is uphill on switchbacks to get back out.
As you leave Dunsmuir, you will make it to the town of Mt Shasta, which has the famous volcano with the same name. If it is clear, you can see it peeking out from the highway as you drive, and there is a signed overlook where you can get a good view. If it is clear, I would recommend getting off in the city to grab some coffee or something to eat and soak in the views of this 14,000 foot peak. If you want to know what it is like to climb it, you can see that in another video I made when Amie and I climbed it.
While in the town of Mt Shasta, head over to the headwaters of the Sacramento River. The headwaters are located in a small park at the edge of town and are signed, so it is easy to find them. It is impressive to see the small beginnings of this massive waterway that carves through most of the northern part of the state. It is a quick stop, but it helps to put it into perspective.
The Yreka Dragon is the last California stop on this list. The statue sits on the east side of the freeway as you leave the town of Yreka. Keep your eyes peeled for it and pull entirely off the road if you want to see it. It is a fun piece of public art, and it is beautifully situated with the stunning landscape that is all around it.
All that is left in California is the Welcome to Oregon Sign. I always stop for a photo with these signs when on a road trip. Let me know what you think of these stops in the comments!