Planning a trip to the west coast and want to do an epic road trip journey? Check out this west coast road trip itinerary + ideas to help you plan your trip.
There’s nothing more American than a road trip! In fact, there are at least 25 American Road Trips that I think are essential to do before you die! One of them is the great west coast road trip.
I’ve lived in California most of my life, and driving the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) is a must when you live here at least once in a lifetime. It’s like a right of passage.
But there are even more incredible places to explore on the west coast of the USA.
If you’ve got a few weeks to cruise the western coast of the United States, you’ve made a good choice. This is some of the most stunning scenery in the world. You’ll spend time in the famous PNW (pacific northwest) and be venturing into the beautiful diversity that is California.
A west coast trip is a must, especially if you’re visiting the US for the first time. It’s so unique and classic, and something I hope everyone gets a chance to do in their lifetime! I hope that these west coast road trip ideas will help you when planning your trip and give you the confidence to drive the entire coast!
This loop ensures that you see all the most popular sites, while also getting off the beaten path and exploring hidden gems in each western state.
Here's a Short Cut
- Practical Tips for your West Coast Road Trip
- Other West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas
- My Full West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
- Western US Road Trip Driving Map
- South Bound Route
- North Bound Route
Practical Tips for your West Coast Road Trip
I wanted to share some practical information before diving into the road trip itinerary.
1. Safety Supplies for your West Coast USA Road Trip
When you’re preparing for west coast travel, it’s always a good idea to keep a road safety kit in your car, in case of break-downs, accidents, or other emergencies. Even when my boys have to get out and “go” on the side of the road, I like to put up reflective warning road safety triangles like these ones, especially at night! I always like to have a good first aid kit on hand as well, not only when we road trip, but when we travel anywhere. You never know when it could be a literal life-saver!
2. Get a Good Rate on a Car Rental
If you’re renting a car for your west coast road trip, be sure to shop around for the best deals. We like to use Rental Cars to find the best rates and locations. Be sure to read the rental agreement too. Some rental car companies only give you a certain allotment of miles and if you’re going to do a massive road trip like this, you’ll want to make sure you pick a car with unlimited miles.
3. Be sure you have good Insurance
Be sure that you have good car insurance and also a good travel insurance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grateful to have travel insurance the the peace of mind it brings! If you’re driving your own car, be sure that you have enough insurance as well. The last thing you want to have to deal with on a road trip is fighting insurance companies if you get in an accident.
4. Be sure to pack right
To prepare for your west coast road trip be sure to follow these tips that I’ve shared in How to Plan a Road Trip. I share all my best tips on how to plan the perfect road trip, including safety tips, ideas on how to keep kids entertained during a road trip, and the best apps to use for roadtripping! If you’ve ever considered doing a west coast road trip in a camper, check out these RV rentals in California.
5. Don’t overdo it
It’s human nature to think we can do more than we actually can. Try to be realistic about how much time you have to do this itinerary. I would give yourself at least two weeks for this. One week in each direction.
Other West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas
If you don’t have time to do this complete itinerary, you can always pick one of these shorter west coast road trip ideas. These road trip routes are some that I’ve done in the past and most can be done in just a day or two.
1. The Pacific Coast Highway
This is the most iconic California road trip. If you’re shorter on time and can’t do the entire west coast, at least drive the PCH. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in California is an incredible experience. The Pacific Coast Highway is a famous coastal road that runs along the Pacific Ocean, stretching over 600 miles from the north to the south of California. This scenic route is known for its breathtaking views, winding roads, and stunning beaches, making it one of the most popular road trips in the world.
This scenic highway, the PCH, runs from Dana Point in Orange County all the way up to Leggett in Mendocino County. The most scenic section of the highway is the stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles, which takes you through some of the most beautiful areas in California, including Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, and Malibu.
One of the highlights of driving the PCH is the incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, you’ll see rugged cliffs, stunning beaches, and sparkling blue water. You’ll also pass through charming coastal towns, each with its own unique personality and attractions.
Another great thing about driving the PCH is the opportunity to stop at some of the state’s most iconic landmarks and attractions. For example, you can visit Hearst Castle, a grand mansion built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Or you can explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is home to thousands of marine creatures.
The PCH is also known for its winding roads and steep cliffs, which can be a bit nerve-wracking for some drivers. However, the road is generally well-maintained and offers plenty of pullouts and viewpoints where you can safely stop and take in the views.
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is an unforgettable experience that offers some of the most stunning scenery in California. If you’re planning a road trip in the Golden State, the PCH is definitely a route you won’t want to miss.
Distance: 600 miles
2. San Diego to Los Angeles
A Southern California road trip from San Diego to Los Angeles is a great way to explore the southern coast of California. The drive takes you along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as Highway 1, which offers stunning ocean views and a chance to explore several charming towns and attractions along the way.
Starting in San Diego, you can head north on Interstate 5, which takes you through the coastal communities of La Jolla, Del Mar, and Encinitas, known for their beautiful beaches and oceanfront dining. Alternatively, you can take the scenic route and drive up the coast on the PCH, which takes you through the seaside towns of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Solana Beach, and Carlsbad.
As you continue north, you’ll reach the city of Oceanside, which is home to the California Surf Museum and the historic Oceanside Pier. Further up the coast, you’ll pass through the beach towns of San Clemente, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach, all offering beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and unique shops.
One of the highlights of the drive is the stretch of Highway 1 that passes through Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, where you can see some of the most expensive homes in California and catch a glimpse of the famous surf spot, the Wedge.
As you approach Los Angeles, you’ll pass through the charming coastal towns of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach, all offering great places to grab a bite to eat or take a stroll along the beach. The drive will end in Los Angeles, where you can explore attractions like Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica.
A road trip from San Diego to Los Angeles offers a chance to see some of the best beaches and coastal towns in Southern California. Whether you stick to the highways or take the scenic route along the PCH, you’ll be treated to stunning ocean views and plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way.
Distance: 130 miles
3. San Francisco to Yosemite National Park
A road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is a popular way to experience the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and one of America’s most iconic national parks. The drive takes you through the heart of the Central Valley, a vast agricultural region, and into the Sierra foothills before arriving at Yosemite National Park. This road trip is full of outdoor adventures.
Starting in San Francisco, you’ll head east on Highway 580, which takes you through the East Bay and into the Central Valley.
Continuing east on Highway 205, you’ll pass through the city of Modesto, home to the Gallo Center for the Arts, before reaching Highway 99, which takes you through the agricultural heartland of California. Along this stretch of road, you’ll see vast orchards of almonds, pistachios, and citrus, as well as miles of fields growing crops like tomatoes and lettuce.
At Merced, you’ll exit Highway 99 and head east on Highway 140, which takes you into the Sierra foothills and toward Yosemite National Park. This scenic route will take you through the charming towns of Mariposa and El Portal, where you can grab a bite to eat or stock up on supplies before entering the park.
Once inside Yosemite National Park, you’ll be treated to stunning views of granite peaks, waterfalls, and lush forests. Some of the must-see sights in the park include Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. There are also plenty of hiking trails and outdoor activities to enjoy, from gentle walks to challenging climbs.
West coast road trips from San Francisco to Yosemite are a great way to experience the beauty of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and one of the country’s most beloved national parks. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming towns, see breathtaking natural landscapes, and create unforgettable memories.
Distance: 170 miles
4. Southern California National and State Parks
You could spend weeks just in Southern California exploring the various national parks. Road Trips through Southern California’s national parks are a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty and diversity of the region.
Start your trip in Los Angeles and head east towards Joshua Tree National Park, located about two and a half hours away. Spend the day hiking, rock climbing, or simply enjoying the stunning desert landscapes of this unique park.
After a day in Joshua Tree, continue southeast to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, about a two-hour drive. This park is known for its rugged terrain, stunning wildflower displays, and fascinating geological formations.
Next, visit Cabrillo National Monument, located on the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego. This park offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, as well as hiking trails, tide pools, and historic landmarks.
Drive north to Ventura, which is about three hours away, and take a ferry to Channel Islands National Park. This park is located off the coast of Southern California and offers pristine beaches, hiking trails, and opportunities to observe marine wildlife such as seals and dolphins.
5. Portland to Seattle
West coast road trips from Portland to Seattle are a fantastic way to explore the Pacific Northwest and take in the natural beauty of the region. The drive covers about 175 miles and takes approximately three hours, depending on traffic and the route you choose. Along the way, you’ll encounter gorgeous coastlines, charming towns, and iconic landmarks that define the Pacific Northwest.
Starting in Portland, head north on I-5 towards Seattle. About an hour into the drive, you’ll reach the city of Olympia, the capital of Washington State. Olympia is known for its stunning waterfront parks, including Percival Landing Park and Priest Point Park. Stop by the Olympia Farmers Market to sample local produce, crafts, and food, or explore the Washington State Capitol Campus, which features beautiful gardens, monuments, and historical buildings.
Continuing on I-5, you’ll pass through Tacoma, another vibrant city in the Pacific Northwest. Tacoma is home to the Museum of Glass, where you can watch glass-blowing demonstrations and admire works by renowned artists. The city’s waterfront area offers stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound, as well as a variety of restaurants, shops, and galleries.
As you approach Seattle, you’ll pass through the suburbs and get your first glimpse of the city’s iconic skyline. Seattle is famous for its coffee culture, music scene, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Take a stroll through Pike Place Market to sample local seafood, fresh produce, and artisanal goods, or visit the Space Needle for panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. Other must-see attractions include the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Seattle Aquarium.
A road trip from Portland to Seattle offers a unique blend of urban and natural landscapes, with plenty of opportunities to explore the vibrant culture and breathtaking scenery of the Pacific Northwest.
Distance: 175 miles
My Full West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
For this west coast trip, I’ve divided the west coast up into two routes so that you can drive in a loop. There is a coastal route, stopping at some of the most stunning beaches in the U.S., and an inland route, where you’ll visit famous national parks and mountainous roads.
In my opinion, this is the best west coast road trip and will allow you to see some of the most incredible sites in the region. You can drive this West Coast Road Trip Itinerary either way you like. You can even start in the middle and only do parts of this itinerary, but I prefer to drive from north to south if I can.
The weather becomes more temperate the farther down you go, and when you’re driving south along the coast, the passenger (usually me with the camera) gets all those gorgeous views out their window.
Driving south will also allow you to take the longer route down first, saving the faster route for the end. This interactive map will help you plan your west coast road trips.
Western US Road Trip Driving Map
This west coast trip map will help you navigate all the stops along the way.
South Bound Route
You can begin or end your west coast road trip in Washington state. From the majestic, snow-capped Cascade Mountains, the bustling and hip town of Seattle, to the forested islands of the Puget Sound, Washington has beauty and variety that should not be missed.
Starting your west coast road trip off in Seattle is a great idea. Visit the Space Needle, a futuristic remnant from the 1962 World’s Fair, head to the century-old Pike’s Place Market, watch the fishmongers toss fish, grab a drink at the original Starbucks, and stock up on snacks for your epic journey! If you’re feeling brave you can make a visit to Mel’s Hole in Ellensburg before heading south.
San Juan Islands
From Seattle, grab a ferry to the San Juan Islands and enjoy a day or two of these stunning forested islands, where you can camp or stay in one of the Bed and Breakfasts along the islands. See wildlife, hike, swim, bike, kayak or just enjoy the scenery as you drive along the scenic byway of the San Juan Islands.
Download and follow this map of the scenic byway in the San Juan.
Olympic National Park
Spanning several different ecosystems, from the Olympic mountain range to the old-growth forests. Drive through the majestic national park and take it all in. Stop and hike, climb, picnic or just enjoy the ride!
Along these stunning beaches you’ll find sand dollars, driftwood, anemones, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot eagles, whales, dolphins and other coastal wildlife.
Be sure to visit these beaches in the Olympic National Park:
- Shi Shi Beach
- La Push Beach
- Rialto Beach where you can see the Hole-in-the-Wall rock arch during low tide
- Ruby Beach
Long Beach Peninsula
The Long Beach Peninsula is a 30 mile stretch of land with gorgeous white beaches just before the Oregon border. Visit the World Kite Museum and brave the winds by flying your own kite. If you’re making this west coast road trip in August, you’ll be just in time for the International Kite Festival.
Now it’s time to head south towards Oregon.
Welcome to Oregon! The northern Oregon coast has some of the most stunning scenery in the world. Home to more mountains, beaches, and some of the most incredible waterfalls in the world. It is a foodie mecca and home to more breweries than Scotland and the Czech Republic combined! Don’t miss these incredible stops along the Oregon coast:
Home to the ‘80s classic movie Goonies. Be sure to watch it before visiting, then you can see all the iconic scenes from the movie, including the infamous Goonies House.
Astoria is a historic city located on the northwestern tip of Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant arts and culture scene, and rich history. The city is home to a number of iconic landmarks, including the Astoria Column, a 125-foot tall monument that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which showcases the history and culture of the Columbia River and its importance to the region.
Astoria is also home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries, offering visitors a chance to experience the local arts and culture scene. Visitors can stroll along the waterfront, explore the town’s museums and historic landmarks, or take a hike through the nearby Fort Stevens State Park for stunning views of the coast and surrounding forests. With its stunning landscapes, rich cultural offerings, and unique history, Astoria is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling along the Oregon coast.
A charming little town and beach. Seaside is an amazing place to go if you want to spend some time by the ocean collecting shells, relaxing, and enjoying nature.
Seaside is a charming coastal town located on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles northwest of Portland. It is known for its beautiful beaches, scenic promenade, and family-friendly attractions. The town’s main attraction is the Seaside Promenade, a 1.5-mile long boardwalk that runs along the beach and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. The promenade is lined with shops, restaurants, and other attractions, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
In addition to the promenade, Seaside is home to a variety of family-friendly activities, such as the Seaside Aquarium, the Funland Arcade, and the Broadway Theater. The town also hosts several annual events, including the Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament, the Seaside Wheels and Waves Car Show, and the Seaside Jazz Festival. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the town’s attractions, or participate in one of its many events, Seaside is a fun and welcoming destination for visitors of all ages.
Another iconic scene from Goonies where you can see haystack rock. My kids love this beach and it makes for an amazing photo backdrop.
Cannon Beach is a charming seaside town located on the Oregon coast, about 80 miles west of Portland. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, including its pristine beaches, towering rock formations, and picturesque lighthouse. One of the most iconic landmarks in the area is Haystack Rock, a massive monolith that rises over 230 feet above the beach and is home to a variety of seabirds and marine life.
In addition to its natural attractions, Cannon Beach is also home to a thriving arts community, with numerous galleries, studios, and festivals showcasing the work of local artists. Visitors can explore the town’s quaint shops and restaurants, stroll along the beach, or take a hike through the nearby Ecola State Park for stunning views of the coast and surrounding forests. With its stunning landscapes, rich cultural offerings, and laid-back atmosphere, Cannon Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling along the Oregon coast.
Take a tour of the Tillamook Dairy Factory and learn where all that delicious, milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, and yogurt come from. Grab a giant ice cream cone and stock up on snacks for the next leg of your trip.
The Tillamook Cheese Factory is a popular attraction located in Tillamook, Oregon, about 75 miles west of Portland. The factory offers a free, self-guided tour that allows visitors to witness the cheese-making process firsthand, as well as sample a variety of cheeses and other dairy products. The tour includes a short video presentation, a viewing area overlooking the production floor, and a taste-testing area where visitors can sample Tillamook’s award-winning cheeses.
In addition to the factory tour, visitors can explore the Tillamook Creamery, which features exhibits on the history of Tillamook cheese and the local dairy industry. The creamery also includes a gift shop where visitors can purchase a variety of Tillamook products, as well as souvenirs and other gifts. The Tillamook Cheese Factory is a fun and educational destination for visitors of all ages, offering a glimpse into the art and science of cheese-making and the history and culture of the Pacific Northwest dairy industry.
You can choose to visit Portland on either route, north or south, or hit it twice, I don’t think you’ll mind. Be sure to eat everything in Portland, especially Blue Star Donuts and Salt & Straw Ice Cream.
Portland, Oregon is a vibrant and eclectic city located in the Pacific Northwest. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant culture, and progressive values. The city is situated at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and is surrounded by lush forests, snow-capped mountains, and scenic waterfalls.
Portland is often referred to as the “City of Roses” due to its numerous rose gardens and annual Rose Festival. The city is also known for its thriving food and beverage scene, with a wide range of farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, and coffee shops. Visitors can explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and charm, or take a stroll through one of the many parks and gardens, such as Washington Park or the International Rose Test Garden.
Portland is also a hub for arts and culture, with numerous museums, galleries, and performing arts venues. The city is home to the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Historical Society Museum, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, as well as several theater companies and music venues. With its natural beauty, vibrant culture, and laid-back atmosphere, Portland is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of the Pacific Northwest.
Multnomah Falls is a breathtakingly beautiful waterfall located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, just outside of Portland, Oregon. It is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, attracting over two million visitors each year. The waterfall is fed by underground springs and cascades over 600 feet in two tiers, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States.
The falls are accessible via the Historic Columbia River Highway and are surrounded by lush greenery and stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge. A footbridge spans the lower tier of the falls, providing visitors with an up-close and personal view of the cascading water. There are also several hiking trails in the area, ranging from easy to moderate, that allow visitors to explore the surrounding forests and discover additional waterfalls and scenic vistas. Multnomah Falls is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the Portland area, offering a glimpse into the natural beauty and wonder of the Pacific Northwest.
There are several beaches in Bandon, Oregon, all amazing. Visit the lighthouse at Bullard’s Beach, and Face Rock to look for the famous Tufted Puffins. The beaches in Bandon are said to be one of the best places in the world for storm watching.
Explore more from this Oregon bucket list.
Once you’ve had your fill of Oregon beaches, you can continue your west coast road trip down into California.
Welcome to the Golden State. Be prepared for some more gorgeous views and stops. If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to check out these California road trip stops.
Redwoods National Park
These protected forests and beaches along the northernmost coast of California are not to be missed. Spend time hiking or driving through the parks and taking in the trees, some of which are over 5,000 years old! Read more about visiting Redwood National Park with Kids.
Redwood National and State Parks is a national park located in the northern coast of California, known for its stunning coastal landscapes and towering ancient redwood trees. It spans over 131,000 acres and is home to some of the world’s tallest trees, including the Hyperion tree, which stands at over 379 feet tall. The park offers visitors the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the coast, hike through ancient forests, and observe a variety of wildlife.
In addition to its natural attractions, the park is also known for its cultural significance. It is home to several Native American tribes, who have lived in the area for thousands of years and continue to practice their traditions and customs. Visitors can explore the park’s museums, attend cultural events, or take guided tours to learn more about the area’s rich history and cultural heritage. Redwood National and State Parks is a unique and awe-inspiring destination, offering visitors a chance to experience the natural and cultural wonders of the northern California coast.
Located along the stunning Mendocino coast, Fort Bragg is known for its Glass Beach where you can see millions of colorful stones scattered along the shores.
Fort Bragg is a charming coastal city located in Mendocino County, California. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, historic landmarks, and vibrant arts and culture scene. The city is situated on the rugged Mendocino coast, offering visitors stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, scenic beaches, and towering cliffs.
One of the most popular attractions in Fort Bragg is the Glass Beach, which is located near the city’s downtown area. The beach is covered with millions of colorful glass pebbles that were created over time from discarded glass bottles and other objects. You can take a stroll along the beach, collect glass pebbles, and enjoy the stunning natural scenery.
The city is also home to several historic landmarks, such as the Skunk Train, a historic narrow-gauge railroad that offers scenic tours through the surrounding forests and hills. Fort Bragg is a charming and unique destination, offering visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of the Mendocino coast.
Point Reyes National Seashore
These protected lands offer seashores, hiking trails, forests and a beautiful historic lighthouse. Stop into Point Reyes Station to wander the shops, eat some lunch, stay the night, and grab more snacks for your drive. Read more about Point Reyes here.
Point Reyes is a peninsula located on the coast of Northern California, about 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and historic landmarks. The peninsula is surrounded by the Point Reyes National Seashore, which offers visitors miles of unspoiled beaches, scenic hiking trails, and breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the most popular attractions in Point Reyes is the Point Reyes Lighthouse, a historic landmark that has been guiding ships through the treacherous waters of the Pacific since 1870. Visitors can tour the lighthouse and learn about its history and importance to the region.
The peninsula is also home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, foxes, and numerous bird species. Visitors can explore the park’s many trails and observe wildlife in their natural habitats. Point Reyes is a stunning and unique destination, offering a chance to experience the natural beauty and rich history of the Northern California coast.
Visit the Napa Valley wine region, where you can tour local wineries and do taste testing.
Napa Valley is a world-renowned wine region located in Northern California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. It is known for its picturesque landscapes, award-winning wineries, and gourmet food scene. The valley is home to over 400 wineries, ranging from small family-owned vineyards to large estates that produce some of the world’s most celebrated wines.
In addition to wine tasting, visitors to Napa Valley can explore the valley’s charming towns, such as Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga, which offer a variety of restaurants, shops, and galleries. The valley is also home to a number of spas, hot springs, and wellness centers, making it a popular destination for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. Napa Valley is a must-visit destination for wine lovers and foodies alike, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, culinary excellence, and world-class wines.
There is so much to do in this beautiful city, that it has its own post. Read more about it here. We love San Francisco as its one of the nearest metropolitan areas where we live. It’s where we come when we need a little taste of city life and culture.
San Francisco is a vibrant and diverse city located on the northern coast of California. It is known for its iconic landmarks, rich culture, and stunning natural beauty. The city is home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the Painted Ladies, as well as several world-class museums, theaters, and galleries.
In addition to its attractions, San Francisco is also renowned for its culinary scene, with a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and food markets offering a variety of cuisines and flavors. The city’s diverse neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, the Mission, and Haight-Ashbury, offer visitors a chance to experience the city’s unique culture and history. With its stunning views, vibrant culture, and world-class attractions, San Francisco is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Northern California.
It’s time to start your trip down the iconic Pacific Coast Highway!
Monterey is another area of California that requires its own post. There is so much to do here, but if you only do one thing, take the 17-mile drive for the most breathtaking coastal views. There’s so much to see in Monterey with kids.
Monterey is a charming coastal city located on the central coast of California. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and world-class aquarium. The city is situated on Monterey Bay, offering visitors beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as opportunities for whale watching, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.
Monterey is also home to several historic landmarks, such as Cannery Row and the Monterey State Historic Park, as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which features a variety of marine life and exhibits. With its beautiful beaches, unique culture, and natural wonders, Monterey is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to California’s central coast.
While you’re passing through Monterey, stop by the charming little town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is famous for it’s fairytale cottages. Be sure to stop at the candy store for some road trip snacks.
This rugged stretch of California’s coast can be a little tricky to drive, with winding curves and nearly constant fog. Be careful while taking in the views. Big Sur is a rugged and stunningly beautiful stretch of coastline located on the central coast of California.
It is known for its towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and dramatic landscapes. Visitors can take a scenic drive along Highway 1, which winds along the coast and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, with the iconic view of Bixby Creek Bridge (above) or explore the area’s many hiking trails, such as the famed McWay Falls Trail, which leads to a picturesque waterfall and beach. With its rugged beauty and unspoiled natural landscapes, Big Sur is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to experience the breathtaking beauty of California’s central coast.
This classic Central California surf town has great beaches. Be sure to check out the Dinosaur Caves Park for stunning views of the Pacific.
Pismo Beach is a beautiful coastal town located in San Luis Obispo County, California. It is known for its sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and picturesque sunsets. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as surfing, kayaking, and fishing, or explore the area’s many hiking trails and nature reserves. The town also offers a vibrant downtown area with a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Wind your way down to LA, visit Venice Beach, climb to the Hollywood sign, drive through Beverly Hills, then skip town, trying not to hit too much traffic.
I mean, what’s a trip to California without visiting your favorite mouse? You’ll need to plan at least a full day or two for your trip to Disneyland. Read this to help you plan your trip.
Crystal Cove State Park
One of the most beautiful beaches in Orange County, Crystal Cove State Park is worth the parking fee. Crystal Cove State Park is a beautiful coastal park located in Orange County, California.
It is known for its natural beauty. You can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, or explore the park’s hiking trails, which offer breathtaking views of the coastline and surrounding hills.
The park also offers several historic landmarks, including the Crystal Cove Historic District, which features 46 vintage beach cottages and a beachfront restaurant. With its idyllic coastal setting and diverse recreational opportunities, Crystal Cove State Park is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Orange County.
There is so much to do in San Diego that is also deserves its own post. Check out this San Diego itinerary.
This is also a great California road trip itinerary!
Congratulations, you’ve now hit the southernmost tip of your West Coast road trip itinerary and it’s now time to head north!
San Diego is a vibrant coastal city located in Southern California, known for its stunning beaches, warm weather, and rich cultural offerings. The city offers visitors a variety of attractions, including Balboa Park, which houses several museums, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo, and the historic Gaslamp Quarter, which features a variety of shops, restaurants, and nightlife venues.
You can also enjoy the city’s beautiful beaches, such as La Jolla Cove, Coronado Beach, and Mission Beach, or explore the nearby coastal towns and attractions, such as the Cabrillo National Monument and the USS Midway Museum. With its perfect weather, diverse cultural offerings, and beautiful beaches, San Diego is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Southern California.
North Bound Route
If you’re ready for some desert R&R, this is the place. Take a step back in time and book a room at one of Palm Spring’s trendy retro hotels, soak up some rays and hang by the pool.
Palm Springs is a desert oasis located in the Coachella Valley, known for its hot springs, luxurious resorts, and iconic palm trees. The city offers visitors a variety of activities, including world-class golf courses, art museums, and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes visitors on a scenic ride up the San Jacinto Mountains.
Visitors can also explore the nearby Joshua Tree National Park or relax at one of the many spas and hot springs in the area. With its beautiful weather, luxurious accommodations, and stunning natural landscapes, Palm Springs is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Southern California.
Joshua Tree National Park
Take a day trip or camp at Joshua Tree National Park where you can find rugged rock formations and twisted other-worldly Joshua trees.
Joshua Tree is a stunning national park located in Southern California, known for its unique desert landscapes, towering rock formations, and diverse wildlife. The park is named after the iconic Joshua Tree, a type of yucca plant that is native to the area and has become a symbol of the park.
The park offers a variety of hiking trails, rock climbing opportunities, and camping sites, allowing visitors to experience the natural beauty and rugged wilderness of the desert. With its otherworldly landscapes and stunning vistas, Joshua Tree is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to explore the beauty of the American Southwest.
Death Valley National Park
Move from one desert park to the next and visit Death Valley’s ghost town and see North America’s lowest point.
Death Valley is a starkly beautiful national park located in Eastern California, known for its extreme temperatures, unique geological features, and diverse wildlife. The park is home to the lowest point in North America, as well as stunning sand dunes, salt flats, and canyons.
The area’s harsh environment supports a wide range of plants and animals, including coyotes, bighorn sheep, and several species of cacti. The park also has a rich cultural history, with evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years. With its stunning natural landscapes and unique features, Death Valley is a fascinating destination for anyone seeking to explore the beauty and diversity of the American Southwest.
Sequoia National Park
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia National Park is home to huge sequoia trees and underground Crystal Cave. Be sure to drive through the Tunnel Tree. Read more about Sequoia National Park here.
Sequoia National Park is a stunningly beautiful park located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, known for its giant sequoia trees, rugged mountain terrain, and diverse wildlife. The park is home to several groves of giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in the world by volume.
The park also offers a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, and fishing, as well as several historic landmarks, such as the Giant Forest Museum and the historic Lodgepole Village. With its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural history, Sequoia National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to explore the wonders of California’s mountain wilderness.
Yosemite National Park
Famed for its iconic vistas and epic granite cliffs, Yosemite offers hundreds of hiking trails. Read more about Yosemite here.
Yosemite National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful park located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, known for its towering granite cliffs, stunning waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. The park is home to several iconic landmarks, such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls, as well as several groves of giant sequoia trees.
The park offers visitors a variety of recreational opportunities, such as hiking, rock climbing, and fishing, as well as several historic landmarks, such as the Yosemite Valley Railroad and the Ahwahnee Hotel. With its stunning natural beauty and unique geological features, Yosemite National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to explore the natural wonders of California’s mountain wilderness.
Bordering the California and Nevada state line, Lake Tahoe is a deep blue lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The beaches, hikes and ski resorts are some of the best in the world. Take in the clear blue waters of the second deepest lake in the United States.
Lake Tahoe is a stunningly beautiful alpine lake located on the border between California and Nevada. The lake is known for its crystal-clear waters, rugged mountain scenery, and year-round recreational opportunities. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and boating, or simply relax and take in the stunning natural scenery.
The area is also home to several charming towns and villages, offering a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse recreational opportunities, Lake Tahoe is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to experience the beauty of the American West.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National park is rich in hydrothermal sites like Bumpass Hell and has acres of bubbling mud pots. Lassen Peak Volcano offers views of the nearby area.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a unique and breathtakingly beautiful park located in northeastern California, known for its fascinating geothermal features, rugged mountain landscapes, and diverse wildlife. The park is home to several active volcanoes, including Lassen Peak, as well as numerous geothermal features, such as hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles.
Visitors can explore the park’s hiking trails, take a scenic drive through the park’s various regions, or enjoy the park’s diverse recreational opportunities, such as camping, fishing, and winter sports. With its stunning natural beauty and unique geological features, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to explore the wonders of California’s mountain wilderness.
Home to the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland is a charming mountain town, with trendy vibe, offering museums, restaurants, and parks that make this a great road trip stop to stock up on snacks again, especially after visiting all those national parks and hopefully doing a lot of hiking!
Crater Lake National Park
Known for the famous Crater Lake, formed by Mount Mazama, the now-collapsed volcano, Crater Lake National Park offers hiking trails and a rim road, which circles the famous lake.
Crater Lake National Park is a stunningly beautiful park located in southern Oregon. It is known for its pristine blue lake, which is the deepest in the United States, as well as its towering cliffs, stunning vistas, and diverse wildlife. You can explore the park’s hiking trails, take a boat tour of the lake, or participate in a variety of outdoor activities, such as camping, fishing, and snowshoeing. With its breathtaking natural beauty and unique geological features, Crater Lake National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the Pacific Northwest.
These famous falls just outside of Portland can get busy, so be sure to go early to find a good parking spot and beat the crowds. Take the short hike up to the bridge which bisects the two sections of the waterfall. If you visit during the spring you’re likely to get wet!
Visit Portland again! You’ll need some more good food by now!
Congratulations, you’ve made it back to Seattle!
I hope this west coast road trip planner has been helpful!
Phew! What an epic West Coast road trip! I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the most iconic scenes and locations on the West Coast. I would love to know what your favorite was. If you’ve driven the West Coast, I’d also love to know what I’ve missed. Any hidden gems that you recommend?
I know that this is a massive trip and should not be attempted in a week!
It is a lot of driving, so be sure to prepare your car for this epic road trip and install a HumX in your vehicle to take the worry out of your journey and to get you on the road!
One thought on “The Best USA West Coast Road Trip: Itinerary + Ideas”
Nice article! There is so much to see in California! I have been creating California itineraries of various duration and for various interests for 4 years. I have 35 now on my blog http://familyroadtripguru.com/ and I think we only explored just about 20% of the state 🙂