Taking a West Coast US road trip should be on every traveler’s bucket list. There are SO many things to see along the west coast – from rugged shoreline to lush forests to the rolling hills of wine country – every spot is unique and amazing. Because there are so many things to see and so much ground to cover, planning a West Coast US road trip can be overwhelming. Check out my list of the must-see spots along the west coast of the US and get a head start on planning your adventure!
West Coast US Road Trip Overview
- Total Miles: ~1,600
- Recommended Days for this Trip: At least 10 days
- PTO days needed – varies greatly depending if you will be working from the road, how many days your trip will be, etc.
I’ve included the top spots to see along your West Coast US road trip in order from Seattle down to SoCal, but if you aren’t going this entire route, just pick and choose what works for you!
Two Ways to Do Your West Coast Road Trip
- RV/Campervan Road Trip
- Renting an RV or campervan for your West Coast road trip is a great idea, as you have the freedom to park pretty much wherever you want each night with a great view without having to worry about booking a hotel. RVs can be expensive to rent full price, but thankfully there’s some pretty epic one-way RV deals where the price can be as low as $1/day!
- Car + Hotels
- If you love the idea of a road trip, but want the comforts of home each night – you can always get a hotel/airbnb each night of your trip. This does mean that you’ll likely need to plan your trip in advance instead of taking it day by day in order to book a hotel.
If you’re camping along your road trip and want to find the best FREE campsites along the way, download the Dyrt Pro app and use the new “map layers” feature to find BLM land and the best spots to camp for free!
West Coast US Road Trip – Washington
Seattle is a great place to kick off your West Coast road trip. From the Space Needle, to Pike Place Market, to thrift-store shopping in Fremont, there is plenty to do here. One of my favorite parts of our short stop in Seattle was that we took the ferry to Bainbridge Island in order to keep going on towards Olympic National Park!
The journey to Olympic National Park is a fun one because the fastest way to get there is by ferry to Bainbridge Island! You can drive right on to this ferry (yes, even with an RV!). The ferry ride lasts about 30 minutes. As you cruise along the Puget Sound, make sure to snap a pic of the Seattle skyline behind you!
Normally, Bainbridge Island is worth a visit itself, with a nice little beach, cute town, and good brewery. But for the sake of time (there’s a lot of ground to cover on this road trip) keep on moving to Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park has a diverse landscape. You can find lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, AND scenic mountains, all within the same park. A few highlights:
- Lake Crescent
- Pristine, glacial lake. We camped at a turnout here for the night in our RV and had the place to ourselves.
- Marymere Falls
- 1.7 mile easy hike to a beautiful waterfall
- Mount Storm King hike
- 5.3 miles, 2,076 elevation gain, epic views
- Hurricane Ridge Trail
- 3.1 miles – One of the most iconic trails in the park, with panoramic views of the mountains
- Hoh Rain Forest
- Spruce Lake Trail – 1.2 miles of scenic greenery!
- Rialto Beach
- One of several gorgeous beaches in the park
West Coast US Road Trip – Oregon
The Oregon Coast is stunning. One of the coolest parts about it is that most of the beaches in Oregon have these towering sea structures right off the shore. It’s so unique and is just as cool in person as it is in the iconic pictures you see of the Oregon Coast!
See below for some must-see sites along the Oregon Coast. Check out my more detailed Oregon Coast road trip itinerary if you want to go more in-depth!
- Cannon Beach
- The iconic beach you’ve probably seen pictures of on Instagram. Just as awesome in person!
- Otter Rock/Devil’s Punchbowl
- Devil’s Punchbowl is this super cool cave-like rock formation on the shore that you can go into at low tide
- Cape Perpetua
- Probably my favorite stop on the Oregon road trip. Super scenic hiking trails – beautiful views!
- Meyer’s Beach
- Another awesome beach on the Oregon coast, full of the towering rock structures that rest on the waters edge!
Optional Side Trip – Mt. Hood
If you have extra time and want to add something on to the Oregon portion of your West Coast US road trip – check out Mount Hood! It’s about 2.5 hours inland from Cannon Beach area. The reason why we made this side trip is because Timberline Resort on Mount Hood has the longest ski season in North America – so you are able to ski or snowboard throughout the summer!
After your ski/snowboard sesh, check out Mirror Lake right around the corner from Timberline on Mount Hood. This 3.7 mile trail takes you to a lake at the top that has a view of Mount Hood with a perfect reflection. When we got to the top, there was a big cloud covering the Mount Hood part (just my luck!) but it was still a beautiful site.
West Coast US Road Trip – California
There is SO much to see and do along the California coast. Check out the must-see stops in California below:
Redwood National and State Parks
Want to see some of the tallest redwood trees? You’re in luck! Very soon after you cross the border into California from Oregon, you will arrive at the iconic Redwood National and State Parks. It’s a bit confusing, because the Redwood National Park area technically also includes 3 state parks: Jedediah Smith State Park, Prairie Creek State Park and Del Norte State Park. It’s a pretty big area! Check out some of my favorite trails in Redwood National and State Park:
- Stout Grove Trail
- Klamath Overlook
- Elk Prairie/ Big Tree Hike
- Lady Bird Johnson Trail
- Fern Canyon
Note that if you are in an RV, you are not able to make it to the Fern Canyon trailhead because the roads are super skinny and winding. Even going to the Stout Grove Trailhead in our RV made me a bit nervous, but that one was still do-able.
READ MORE: Best Things to Do at Redwood National Park
Avenue of the Giants
Avenue of the Giants is a scenic 31-mile highway that runs parallel to the 101 through Humbolt Redwoods State Park. Cruising through nonstop redwoods with your windows down is definitely a must-do on your west coast road trip. There are plenty of turnouts along the road, so pull over whenever you want to hop out and explore more!
Keep on cruising along the coast until you get to Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is home to the popular Glass Sand Beach – full of colorful sea glass! Stop here and check it out before continuing on 15 minutes south to the town of Mendocino. This is a great place to stop for the night! If you aren’t on an RV/campervan road trip and need a hotel to stay at, check out the Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins. This eclectic inn has uniquely-decorated rooms, and a hot tub!
While in Mendocino, check out the local wineries! Cruise down highway 128 to be along the “wine road” and check out a few wineries for some tastings. I’ve heard great things about Pacific Star Winery.
There’s also some great hikes in the area:
- Van Damme State Park – Fern Canyon Trail (5 miles rt)
- Russian Gulch State Park – (5.2 mile loop hike to a waterfall)
- Mendocino Headlands State Park – (sweeping coastal views)
Point Reyes is a little over 3 hours from Mendocino area and is definitely worth a stop on your West Coast US road trip. Since Point Reyes is a protected national seashore, the coastline here is pristine and is known for wildlife sightings. It’s absolutely beautiful! There’s also a cute little town as well. See below for a list of things to do in Point Reyes:
- Tomales Bay Foods – Pick up some local cheese from Cowgirl Creamery!
- Point Reyes Vineyard Inn & Winery – Go for a wine tasting on the back patio of this cute, unpretentious winery
- Drakes Beach – beautiful beach surrounded by cliffs. Take the short trail from the parking lot for a birds-eye view
- Point Reyes Lighthouse – iconic and picturesque!
- Cypress Tree Tunnel – park on the side of the road and stroll through
Read More: 7 Awesome Things to Do in Point Reyes
Where to Stay in Point Reyes
There is not a ton of RV parking options here, but we found a turnout near Chicken Ranch Beach on iOverlander that worked out great!
Check out this cute “Serene Bungalow” in Point Reyes Station! You can walk from here to restaurants and shops in town.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Time for another Redwoods stop on your West Coast US road trip! Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California. Check out the 4.3-mile Sequoia Trail, or the 0.6-mile Redwood Trail if you’re short on time.
Santa Cruz is a beautiful little surf town! Put “Steamer Lane” in your GPS to park right near the iconic surf break in town. There’s a nice sidewalk on top of the cliff here where you can get a birds-eye view of the surfers in the lineup, and admire the beautiful ocean view! OR if you are in to surfing, grab a board and get out there!
After Santa Cruz, keep on cruising down the PCH to Big Sur. You’ll pass through the super cute towns of Monterey and Carmel right before Big Sur as well, which are great spots for grabbing a bit to eat.
Big Sur is AMAZING. It’s one of my favorite places in California. I’ve been 3 times, and could go back 1,000 more and not get bored. There are some super scenic hiking trails, but also literally just driving through it and pulling over on turnouts whenever you want a closer look at a certain view is one of my favorite things to do.
If you’re in an RV/campervan, I highly recommend just parking on one of the turnouts (as long as there aren’t any “no overnight parking” signs” to have an awesome view for the night! For hotel-goers, Ventana Big Sur is hands down the best place to stay. This luxurious adults-only resort nestled in the cliffside has two pools with amazing views.
Check out my Big Sur Itinerary for an Epic Weekend Trip for more details on the best things to do in Big Sur!
Hearst Castle/Paso Robles
After exiting the south end of Big Sur, keep on going about 20 minutes to the Hearst Castle and take a tour of this national historic landmark. If you have time in your West Coast road trip itinerary, take a 45 min detour inland to Paso Robles to visit a few of the vineyards there for wine tasting.
Check out my post “The Best Things to Do in Paso Robles for a Weekend Getaway” for more details on that and the Hearst Castle!
Santa Barbara/Gaviota Wind Caves
Keep on cruising about 2 hours on the PCH (take a quick stop at Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Solvang on the way too if you have time!) and head to Santa Barbara. If you want some activity in your day – about 30 minutes before you reach Santa Barbara, you’ll arrive at the Gaviota Wind Caves. This 2.5 mile hike takes you to these unique caves formed by wind, overlooking the ocean/PCH. You can scramble up the rocks and sit inside the caves for an awesome view! Read more about Gaviota Wind Caves, as well as the rest of my favorite 11 hikes in Southern California.
After that, take some time to explore Santa Barbara. Walk around the “Funk Zone” and get some food or visit one of the winery tasting rooms. Hit the beach, walk on the pier. Drive up to the Knapps Castle lookout point at sunset. This city is beautiful!
Ah, the final destination of your West Coast US road trip! I’ve lived in LA for about 5 years, and have loved every minute of it. There is SO much to see and do here (and so many amazing restaurants) that I don’t have room to fit my recos in this blog post. However, if you want a more low-key LA experience, hit up the South Bay and go to Manhattan or Hermosa Beach. These super walkable beach towns have plenty of fun bars, restaurants and big white sandy beaches. Play some volleyball like the locals, rent a bike and cruise on The Strand, or sit outside and enjoy a beer at one of the restaurants on Pier Ave. Check out the Best Things to do in South Bay LA for more details!
If You Want to Keep Going…
- Cruise down to Orange County area and check out the beaches at Newport and Laguna
- Head south to the cute little beach town of Encinitas
- Check out La Jolla for an up-close view of the sea lions
- Spend some time in San Diego.
- If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even drive across the border for a Baja California road trip to Mexico and check out breweries in Tijuana, or keep on going to Rosarito or the wine country of Valle de Guadelupe!