The Best California Songs

That Will Make The Miles Fly

Through The Golden State

by Bill Flitter

Over the past 20 years I’ve made several road trips to, through, out, and back into California. Each time I had a constant soundtrack playing through my car. Here now are some awesome California songs to download for your next road trip through the Golden State.

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way

The Best Road Trip Music – California Songs

Driving through California and need some music or maybe you just want to show some pride for your state? Either way here are some California songs to enjoy.

California - Tom Petty

This song is from the She’s the One soundtrack released in 1996. I believe the movie starred Jennifer Aniston, but don’t quote me on that. It’s a lighthearted song. It was also playing on my tape deck as I drove from Wisconsin to California in my 1989 Grand Prix.

It’s a good song to listen to while pulling out of the driveway.

Room At The Top- Tom Petty

In 1999, Tom Petty released Echo, with the song, Room at the Top, which was nominated for a Grammy, and it too was playing on my tape deck while I drove through the Sierra Nevadas as I retraced the route I took three years earlier.

But this time I was near Tahoe for camping. By pure coincidence, I drove past a sign that read something like, “Top of the World.”

Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin

Truth be told, I have no idea what inspired Robert Plant and Jimmy Page to write Misty Mountain Hop. But every time I drive up and down 280 from San Francisco to Palo Alto,  I always daydream that this was the scene that inspired the song.


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Going to California - Led Zeppelin

What’s better than one Led Zeppelin song? How about two Zeppelin songs? Going to California has always been one of my favorite California songs. Playing it while sitting on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park makes it that much better.

And yes, it’s true, there is a girl out here with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.

Black Magic Woman - Carlos Santana

Really, you could listen to nothing but Santana while driving through California, but Black Magic Woman is a song that always immediately jumps to the front of my mind.

The Bay Area’s own, Carlos Santana has brought music and food (he has his own restaurants) to a state that indulges in both unapologetically.

Did you know...

Carlos Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico. In the 1960’s Carlos Santana moved to San Francisco where he formed the Santana Blues Band, later know as Santana.

Oye Como Va - Carlos Santa

If you’re going to listen to Black Magic Woman, you have to follow it up with Oye Como Va; it’s a crowd-pleaser and you’ll never know satisfaction until you hear it at least once.

Hotel California - The Eagles

I might have lost several of you at the mention of The Eagles. And adding Hotel California to this list is a bit cliché, but it can’t be ignored. Especially if you’re driving through California rocking to a California playlist.

Just be happy I didn’t include Stairway to Heaven.

Born To Be Wild- Steppenwolf

I hinted at this song earlier in this post. I buried Born to Be Wild here instead of in the leadoff spot simply to have something to kickstart your heart after Hotel California.

Kickstart My Heart - Motley Crue

Yep, I just jumped from The Eagles to Steppenwolf to Motley Crue. After all, you gotta keep the party going. This band formed in Los Angeles and is just the California band to do so.

Running With The Devil - Van Halen

OK, this is a more logical jump from Motley Crue to Van Halen (another band formed in Southern California). This song will have you humming all the way down the highway with or without the Devil.

Did you know...

Eddie and Alex Van Halen were born and raised in Holland. When Eddie was 10 and Alex was 12, their family moved to Pasadena, California in 1967

Eruption - Van Halen

It should be a crime to listen to Running with the Devil and not have Eruption come on immediately afterward.

Panama - Van Halen

I’m keeping with the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth for one more song. Panama was written with California road trips in mind.

California Stars - Billy Bragg & Wilco

This is the perfect song to the end your California road trip as you pull up to: the ocean, the mountains, the desert, the city, the vineyards, the valley, or wherever your final destination finds you.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, it brought you back home to California.

Over to You

Do you agree with our list? Did we miss any songs that would’ve made your list? Let us know your favorite California songs. If you’re ever driving through Seattle or just enjoy the music from the Pacific Northwest here’s our list of Seattle music, too.

Listen to our complete compilation of music about cars and road trip music from the 70’s, 80’s and more.