Traveling along one of the best West Coast road trips in the United States is something we must all do at least once in our lifetimes.
Despite road trips being fun, they can also be expensive and dangerous if caught in a place far off the unbeaten track. However, this article will detail the best and most practical West Coast road trips for all tastes.
Seriously, these West Coast road trips are among the most memorable and enjoyable experiences imaginable. We’re sure you’ll love them!
While there are many places to road trip, the West Coast of America has some of the most beautiful and enthralling locations, making it an ideal part of the world for anyone to experience.
13 Best West Coast Road Trips
Here are the best road trips on the West Coast in no particular order. Enjoy!
1. Pacific Coast Highway
Location: Washington, Oregon, and California
West Coast USA road trips offer numerous high-quality, desirable, historically significant, and vibrant routes, which can make the selection process slightly complicated.
The Pacific Coast Highway remains one of America’s most breathtaking and must-see road trips. The Pacific Coast Highway road trip is just over 1,700 miles long and has two separate highways.
Completing the entire Pacific Coast Highway distance will take more than 18 hours without stopping. However, we recommend taking a week or two to fully experience all the sites, scenery, and other locations the route offers.
Traveling through California will necessitate taking California Highway 1, while US Highway 101 will enable you to cover most of Oregon and Washington state.
Many people choose or must travel directly through California, Oregon, and Washington; however, if you want to obtain the best possible experience along the Pacific Coast Highway, be prepared for a two to three-week travel time.
It is important to note that you can travel up or down the Pacific Coast Highway, with either direction consistently considered the best American West Coast road trip route possible.
Moreover, such is the popularity and fame of the Pacific Coast Highway; many consider it an essential item on their US bucket lists, clearly indicating the unparalleled beauty of the route.
Along the Pacific Coast Highway, you can expect outstanding sea stacks, picturesque mountainous scenery, the raging Pacific Ocean in all its glory, and various unmissable urban spaces.
To get the most authentic experience possible along the Pacific Coast Highway, we recommend traveling from Seattle to San Diego.
The first part of the West Coast road trip should be from Seattle to Portland before traveling further down the coast to Crescent City. But be sure to make a detour so you can check out Haystack Rock along the way!
After taking all the beauty Crescent City contains, continue driving down the coast until you reach San Francisco.
San Francisco remains one of the most beautiful, striking, and awe-inspiring cities globally. Besides, San Francisco has some incredible wine bars, too.
First, visit the Golden Gate Bridge (our favorite bridge in the US), Fisherman’s Wharf, Glass Beach, and Alcatraz in bustling San Francisco, which you can cross off right from the start of your coastal road trip.
We recommend spending a few hours or days in the San Francisco area before continuing to San Jose.
San Jose is a major city in central California with a little bit of everything ranging from historical sites to modern-era tech.
Half Moon Bay is also a place worth visiting in California in order to enjoy its small beach town vibes and nature.
Santa Cruz is another non-negotiable. While visiting, you’ll feel as though you’ve traveled back in time to America in the 70s. Still, a visit to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a must!
Further along, you’ll find Monterey, where you can learn all about the area’s underwater world by visiting its aquarium and various museums.
For all sorts of fairytale scenery, head to Carmel-by-the-Sea next, where you’ll be treated to cobblestone streets lined by storybook-like cottages.
Carmel actually marks the starting point of one of the most beautiful areas of this California scenic drive: Big Sur.
The Big Sur road trip is a shorter trip, but you’ll be in for a real treat when it comes to nature and rugged coastal scenery! The Big Sur alone is a pretty enjoyable American road trip, actually.
After marveling your way through Big Sur, check out the magical Hearst Castle, explore the charming Morro Bay and Pismo Beach on the central coast, watch seals playing around in San Seamon, check out the lovely San Luis Obispo, and visit the Danish-style town of Solvang (make sure you try a few of its Denmark-inspired treats!).
Finish off your road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with a bang at ritzy Santa Barbara or picturesque Malibu, both of which provide access to some of the most beautiful beaches in southern California!
Santa Barbara is one of California’s most desirable beachfront locations, which would be the perfect precursor to the final part of the road trip, a quick drive over to San Diego.
Pacific Coast Highway is hands-down one of the best West Coast road trips!
2. Utah’s Mighty 5
Distance: at least 386 miles
Maybe the dramatic red rock landscapes will make you feel like you’re walking on Mars, the whacky-looking rock formations that pierce the sky, the unparalleled hiking opportunities, and the adventures through the desert.
Your trip will take you to Zion National Park, one of the most incredible national parks near Las Vegas.
This park is a wonderland of soaring cream and red-toned cliffs, a congregation of desert wildlife, hanging gardens, striking rock formations, hidden caves, and lush meadows above mesa tops.
Then, Bryce Canyon National Park will greet you with a sea of striking red rock hoodoos—a beautiful view from your car.
The nearby Capitol Reef National Park is Utah’s most underrated park, but trust us when we tell you, you’ll be in for a real treat.
You will find dramatic landscapes of rugged canyons, cliffs, and striking rock formations.
The next stop on your West Coast road trip is Arches National Park, an iconic landmark in Utah with many photo-worthy arches.
The final stop of your Utah road trip is Canyonlands National Park, which offers sweeping canyon views that seem to last forever, Mars-like landscapes, and striking red rock formations that look as though they pierce the skies.
3. Olympic Peninsula Loop – An Insane West Coast Road Trip in America
Distance: 330 miles
Encircling Olympic National Park, one of the most visited national parks, there isn’t an overtly lousy place to start this 330-mile drive filled with forested hills and natural sandpits.
But, most people who have experienced this natural wonder of a drive will agree that you should start the Olympic Peninsula Loop in Seattle at the junction of US Highway 101 with 104.
Take a quick detour to Port Townsend immediately after the checkered flags signal your start. This stop of less than 10 square miles serves your trip with some sophistication with its Victorian architecture, art galleries, and wine bars.
Between Seattle and rounding the southern end of the loop to close it back north on the 101, be sure to take your time at the Dungeness Spit, one of the world’s longest natural pits. Port Angeles right after makes up for a good stop as well.
You should get your novelty badge by driving past Neah Bay, Washington State’s westernmost point reachable by car.
Few road trips in America can claim you a badge of driving to one of the country’s edges.
Walking your hiking boots in one of America’s largest temperate rainforests, Hoh Rain Forest, is also one of this route’s favorite activities.
Oh, don’t miss Rialto Beach and Ruby Beach, by far two of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast.
Read next: Where to Stay in Seattle
4. San Diego To LA
Distance: about 120 miles
The California road trip between San Diego and Los Angeles is one of the most popular and famous worldwide. The route will require you to travel just over 120 miles, taking nearly three hours to complete safely.
While the route and highways between San Diego and Los Angeles alone make the road trip utterly worthwhile for anyone, there are various places we recommend you stop to gain an authentic, unique, and memorable experience.
If you are willing to take a slight detour off the interstate highway, the revered Joshua Tree National Park (and even Palm Springs) is just a stone’s throw away, making it an ideal location to stoop for a few hours or even a day.
A few places along the West Coast you should consider stopping by are Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and Long Beach.
Don’t forget to pose with the “end of the trail” sign of Route 66 at Santa Monica.
Most agree that the roads between Los Angeles and San Diego are stunning and should make the road trip worthwhile alone.
However, the roads also offer unmatched sea views, scenery, and unbeatable memories for everyone lucky enough to experience it at some point during their lifetimes.
5. Oregon Coast (Astoria To Florence)
Distance: 360 miles
The Oregon Coast offers the most dramatic scenery, mountain ranges, and stunning sea views, remaining one of the best West Coast USA road trips imaginable.
Traveling between Astoria and Florence via Highway 101 while taking all it offers will usually require two or three days.
The Oregon Coast road trip will entail just over 360 miles of traveling, a relatively long distance to travel in less than three days.
While you can easily travel the entire length of the Oregon Coast on the weekend, we recommend taking a week of leave to thoroughly experience the unparalleled beauty and scenery along the route.
Many people who have road tripped between Astoria and Florence via Highway 101 agree that the drive and the accompanying scenery are enough to render the effort worthwhile.
However, for the best and most authentic experience possible along the Oregon Coast, we recommend spending a day in Portland (and check out the somewhat nearby Multnomah Falls on the Multnomah Creek in the Columbia River Gorge), three days at Cannon Beach, another day at Newport’s National Park, and a quick stop at Coos Bay, before finishing your journey in the breathtaking Scenic Corridor located near Florence.
Pssst: Did you know Cannon Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in America?
6. Los Angeles To Death Valley National Park And Joshua Tree
Distance: about 500 miles
The West Coast road trip between Los Angeles and Death Valley National Park is an unparalleled experience for people of all ages, cultures, and sizes.
At the same time, if you are willing to travel an additional 250 miles, which should take roughly five hours due to the terrain, you can experience and hike Joshua Tree in its full glory.
One of the distinguishing features of Joshua Tree is that you can obtain an unmatched and authentic experience if you aim to stay just for the day.
At the same time, people have been known to enjoy themselves in one of America’s most famous national parks for more than a week.
If you have more time, you can even add Sequoia National Park to the itinerary and check out some of the largest trees in the United States.
By committing to more miles and road-tripping to the Joshua Tree National Park, you will experience scenery, activities, nature, and emotions that cannot be beaten by any other location globally.
7. Portland To Seattle
Location: Oregon and Washington
Distance: about 180 miles
The route between two of America’s most famous cities in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, and Seattle, is just over 180 miles long and should take less than five hours to travel safely.
While you can quickly and effortlessly travel from Portland to Seattle, we recommend taking a more scenic approach, which usually requires two to three days for the whole experience.
One of the distinguishing factors of the road trip between Portland and Seattle is the unmatched beauty, which is visible even on the most boring sections of the interstate.
However, to fully experience all the majesty, beauty, and historically significant sites along the way, commit to making between three and five stops along the way, allowing you to take in most of what the road trip can offer.
The most authentic way to travel between Portland and Seattle is usually stopping at several national parks, charming towns, and botanical gardens just off the main intestate.
The most valuable stops along the way will include the Olympic Flight Museum, Point Defiance Park, and Lake Sacajawea.
You can’t miss Pike Place Market, Space Needle, and Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle.
8. Los Angeles To Yosemite National Park
Distance: about 315 miles
Los Angeles and Yosemite National Park are two of North America’s most popular tourist destinations. Yet, when complemented with one of the best road trips on the West Coast, the experience is unbeatable.
When traveling by car, the road trip between Los Angeles and Yosemite National Park should take just over six hours if you don’t take any breaks or stops.
The distance between Los Angeles and Yosemite National Park is just over 315 miles. You should travel between the national landmarks for two to three days to obtain the best and most authentic experience possible.
Moreover, we recommend taking the slightly longer and more scenic route between Los Angeles and Yosemite National Park, which could take over ten hours to complete.
However, if you aim to get to Yosemite National Park as quickly as possible, travel through the I-5 freeway until you reach the CA-41 freeway, which should lead directly to your intended destination.
When in Yosemite, explore the hiking trails around the dramatic rock formations that dominate Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, and, of course, check out Yosemite Falls. You’ll love it.
9. Portland To Yellowstone National Park
Location: Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming
Distance: about 900 miles
One of the most famous road trips on the West Coast is between Portland and Yellowstone. While the route is more than 900 miles long, its scenery, mountain ranges, and beauty make it worthwhile.
To travel between Portland and Yellowstone without stopping once should take just over 19 hours to complete safely. However, we recommend committing to a few stops along the way, as that is the most efficient way to obtain the best possible experience.
While there are hundreds of ideal locations to stop along the way, the current highest-rated ones are Twin Falls, Boise City, Idaho Falls, the Teton National Forest, and the famed city of Jackson.
While it is recommended to stop and experience a few different locations along the way if you aim to reach the outstanding and unmatched Yellowstone National Park as quickly as possible, give yourself two or three days to get to the location safely.
10. San Francisco To Death Valley National Park
Distance: 500 miles
One of the most famous and popular West Coast USA road trips is between San Francisco and Death Valley National Park, which is close to Nevada.
San Francisco is a bustling city with many attractions, like Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate Bridge, and more. But after exploring it, you will welcome the quietness of Death Valley.
Completing the standard route between San Francisco and Death Valley National Park will usually take just over nine hours as it is more than 500 miles long. You can easily complete the entire route in over a day if you stop once or twice.
However, to get the most thorough, authentic, and best experience possible, we recommend taking a week to explore all the road trip fully offers.
Moreover, the route between San Francisco and Death Valley National Park contains many of the world’s most famous highways, with most agreeing that the journey’s unique landscapes and historical significance render it worthwhile to everyone.
Besides, you can see North America’s lowest point, Badwater Basin, and take in many desert landscapes.
If you don’t have a week to complete one of America’s most famous road trips on the West Coast, we recommend taking at least a weekend.
The ideal way to travel through the must-see locations is by taking the NV-160 and the Ca-190 before entering the highway through Beatty, known as the US-95.
11. San Francisco To Crater Lake National Park
Location: California and Oregon
Distance: about 420 miles
The road between San Francisco and Crater Lake remains one of the most popular West Coast road trips.
While the famed West Coast road trip is just over 420 miles long, taking close to seven hours to complete without any stops, we recommend taking two to three days to obtain the most authentic, memorable, and valuable experience.
The best stops along the way will usually include the revered Sundial Bridge, Old Sacramento, Lower Bidwell Park, and the State Railroad Museum.
However, due to the unmatched beauty, glory, and breathtaking views, traveling directly to Crater Lake will make the trip worthwhile even without the above stops.
Lake Crater National Park is globally recognized due to its sheer size, beauty, and awe-inspiring views.
Traveling to Lake Crater is an astonishing experience for people of all ages, especially if you were not fortunate enough to have been taken there by your parents for vacations when you were younger.
12. Cannon Beach To Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Distance: 300 miles
The American West Coast road trip between Cannon Beach and Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is just over 300 miles long.
With no notable stops, traveling between Cannon Beach and Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor should take over seven hours to complete safely.
However, the road between Cannon Beach and Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is exquisite. It offers some of the most picturesque sea views imaginable, making it the perfect American West Coast road trip itinerary for young couples, families, and tourists.
While there are many unmissable locations along the 300-mile journey, we recommend traveling straight to the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor if you do not have two to three days to explore the area thoroughly.
Moreover, the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor offers a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone fortunate enough to have an opportunity to travel out that direction.
In addition, it offers enormous and unique Sitka spruce trees, small sandy beaches, and rugged coastlines, with the incredible scenery only found in the 13-mile corridor.
13. San Francisco To Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Distance: 340 miles
The journey between San Francisco and the Humboldt Redwoods is just over 340 miles in length and should take eight hours to safely complete if you don’t commit to any stops.
While you can reach the awe-inspiring Redwood National Park in a day, we recommend a two-day journey.
This will allow you and your family to obtain an authentic, memorable, and unmissable experience.
The best way to road trip between San Francisco and the Humboldt Redwoods is by taking Highway 101, linking with Interstate 5, before traveling along the stunning Highway 299.
While stopping along the way is recommended, the striking beauty of the Redwood National Park frequently sees tourists undertaking to complete the entire West Coast road trip in a single day.
For the best American West Coast road trip experience between San Francisco and the Humboldt Redwoods, give yourself and your crew at least two full and relaxing days of travel time.
America’s national parks are revered for their historical significance, unmatched beauty, and charisma, making this one of the most popular road trips along America’s West Coast.
Most West Coast Road Trip Ideas You Might Want to Check Out
Grand Teton to Glacier National Park
Seattle to Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area
Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks
Salt Lake City to Yellowstone – perfect road trip on the West Coast
Wrapping Up on West Coast Road Trips
With incredible coastal towns, pristine beaches, and breathtaking landscapes, these West Coast road trips will surely make you fall in love with the region.
Whether you’re kicking off your West Coast road trip from San Francisco, Santa Barbara, or Seattle, these itinerary ideas will show you the beauty this part of America has. Don’t be afraid to venture on day trips along the way and go off the beaten track. You’ll be surprised by all you will find.
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