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18 Epic West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas & Itineraries

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The western coast of the USA is a stunning haven, a perfect blend of big cities, national parks and au natural beaches. And the BEST way to explore this beauty is to take a road trip. In this post – 18 Best West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas, we have handpicked some of the awesome routes that you can undertake to explore the States and beyond – from city lights to the twinkling stars – experience it all!

Best West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas and Route Itineraries to fuel your wanderlust. 2- 10 day road trip itinerary ideas with activities, tours and more
West Coast USA Road Trip

The West Coast is also called the Pacific Coast and it is the coastline along which the continental Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean. The West Coast of the USA comprises the coastal states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

The west coast road trip itineraries listed below have routes, trip highlights, and duration of travel ranging from a short weekend trip to 10 days itinerary. The starting point is on the west coast and then drive to explore more of the USA.

18 Best West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas & Route Itinerary

USA Road Trip Ideas
West Coast USA Road trip – tosomeplacenew

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Preparing for a road trip – Road Trip Packing List/Essentials

Before you embark on the Pacific Coast Highway road trip, it is important that you are prepared and carry the following essentials to make your journey less stressful and enjoyable.

Get the SHOPPING LIST on ToSomePlaceNew Amazon Site 

Los Angeles to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks 

ROUTE: Los Angeles – Death Valley National Park – Joshua Tree National Park – Los Angeles 

Joshua Tree National Park LiveLoveRunTravel
Joshua Tree National Park LiveLoveRunTravel

DAYS: 4 – 6 

ROUTE STOPS: Los Angeles to Death Valley to Joshua Tree to Los Angeles

MILES COVERED: 650 miles (1046 kms) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP: 

California has no shortage of National Parks or road trip itineraries. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you can easily take a road trip to Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park before circling back to LA.

While you can make this journey in as little as four days, spending five to six days along this route works best. If you want to see more of Los Angeles, plan to spend an extra few days there before or after your road trip.

Los Angeles to Death Valley: The drive from Los Angeles up to Death Valley takes about four hours. Since Death Valley does not have many accommodations within the park, make sure to plan your visit ahead of time to stay at one of the few hotels inside the park or to stay outside of the park.

Staying outside of the park can mean an hour’s drive into the park again, so try to arrive in the evening if you plan to stay outside the park. Then you can spend the entire next day inside the park itself before moving on. Browse hotels in Death Valley here

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park

Death Valley: Within Death Valley, make sure to stop and see the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. The best time to visit Death Valley is in the spring or fall, but even then, visit the dunes near sunrise or sunset if possible. There is no shade during the summer heat, but the sand dunes also make for a perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset.

Another must-see stop is the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. The salt flats here stretch for miles, but you only have to walk about 10 minutes out to get past the dirty salt of the walkway. Before you leave, make sure to drive through Artist’s Drive to take in the colorful hills.

Joshua Tree: From Death Valley, the drive to Joshua Tree takes about four hours. Joshua Tree has plenty of accommodations nearby, and most of the popular spots to visit are near the north end of the park where the namesake Joshua Trees abound.

Start your day with sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden to enjoy the low sun shining through the garden. Then head back up to the White Tank Campground area to hike the short path out to Arch Rock. Take the road to the west entrance to see lots of great spots to stop for pictures of the famous Joshua Trees.

If you have some extra time, you can also visit nearby Palm Springs.

Back to Los Angeles: The drive from Joshua Tree back to Los Angeles is a shorter one at less than two and a half hours. Once you are back in Los Angeles, you can visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame and check out the other famous sites, watch the sunset at the Santa Monica Pier, hike to the Hollywood sign, or enjoy the views from Griffith Observatory.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Christine from LiveLoveRunTravel

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Southern California Desert – Ultimate West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: Orange County – Palm Springs – Salton Sea – Salvation Mountain and East Jesus – El Centro

Imperial-Sand-Dunes
Imperial-Sand-Dunes

DAYS: 2

ROUTE STOPS: 8

  • Orange County to Palm Springs (100 miles) – Palm Springs Windmills
  • Palm Springs to Salton Sea (64 miles) – Bombay Beach
  • The Salton Sea to Salvation Mountain and East Jesus (21 miles) – Salvation Mountain
  • Salvation Mountain to El Centro (40 miles) – Overnight in El Centro, CA
  • El Centro to Imperial Sand Dunes (35 miles)
  • Imperial Sand Dunes to Borrego Springs (80 miles)
  • Borrego Springs to Orange County (122 miles)

MILES COVERED: 462 miles (or 743.5 kms) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP:

This quick loop through the Southern California desert will bring you through some of the most interesting and desolate places you may have ever seen!

Day One Palm Springs: Palm Springs, which is famous for its windmills. The best spot for getting up close is on Garnet Avenue, near North Indian Canyon Drive.

Salton Sea: The Salton Sea was once a very popular place to escape to but is now basically deserted. Bombay Beach is the only community that still inhabits the Salton Sea. Check out the Bombay Beach Ruins and Drive-In Theater during this stop.

Salvation Mountain: This brightly-colored mountain is a unique sight to see. You can walk on top of the mountain and through little caves underneath. Follow the yellow brick road on your way up and don’t step on any areas you shouldn’t. 

Salvation-Mountain
Salvation-Mountain

East Jesus, or Slab City: This tiny town is in the middle of nowhere and apparently off-the-grid (not regulated by the government). Take a walk through the Art Garden to see the various used and recycled items that have been put together to create some very unique art.

El Centro: This is the closest city to rest for the night. 

Day two – Imperial Sand Dunes: Make a quick stop at the Imperial Sand Dunes. Watch the dune buggies, take some photos, and head on out. 

Borrego Springs: Borrego Springs, where you can find over 100 metal sculptures scattered throughout the desert. The most popular one is the Sea Serpent!

Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail: This short hike will give you a good sample of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Time to head back home, where you will be happy to be after experiencing all of that remoteness in the middle of the desert!

CONTRIBUTED BY:  Heather Saez from That OC Girl

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Las Vegas to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Grand Canyon 

ROUTE: Las Vegas – Springdale – Zion National Park – Bryce Canyon National Park – Page – Grand Canyon

Where to stay in Vegas first Stratosphere Resort, Casino and Towertime
Las Vegas Strip – Stratosphere Resort, Casino and Tower

DAYS: 7

ROUTE STOPS: 

  • Las Vegas to Springdale Utah- 160 miles
  • Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park – 85 miles
  • Bryce Canyon National Park to Page – 153 miles 
  • Page to Grand Canyon – 133 miles
  • Grand Canyon to Las Vegas – 279 miles 

MILES COVERED:  810 miles (1303 kilometres) round trip approx.

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

One of the classic road trips in the Western United States is the small loop starting and ending in Las Vegas: visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Grand Canyon. We did this road trip with eight people ranging in ages from one to 80, over the course of a week!

Las Vegas: Before we officially hit the road we had a day for arrival in Las Vegas, car rental, and grocery shopping.

Springdale Utah and Zion National Park: Drive 160 miles from Las Vegas to Springdale, Utah, on day 1 to access point to Zion National Park. After spending the night, we had a full day for exploring Zion, specifically the Westside with lots of family-friendly hikes, accessible via the free shuttle inside the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Following the second night in Springdale, we drove through the Eastern side of Zion National Park on our way to Bryce Canyon.

The views are spectacular but much of the road is small and windy making this 85 mile stretch take several hours. We made in time to take in the sunset at the aptly named Sunset Point, a gorgeous introduction to Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Again we had a full day for hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park, and the following morning after a final visit to Sunrise Point, we started the long drive to the Grand Canyon. This driving day entailed 286 miles and took pretty much all day.

Grand Canyon Tour
Grand Canyon Tour

Page Arizona: We stopped in Page, Arizona, approximately half-way through for lunch. Just in time for the late afternoon sunlight, we had a first look at Grand Canyon Visitors Center and decamped to a hotel in Tusayan, Arizona.

Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam: Our last full hiking day we did parts of the Grand Canyon National Park South Rim Trail. Ending out our week was the 280-mile drive to Las Vegas, with a final stop to tour the Hoover Dam just outside the city.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Daphna from A Tiny Trip

Key Activities and Tours at this route

San Francisco Bay Area to Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon

ROUTE: San Francisco – Klamath Falls – Ashland – Crater Lake National Park – San Francisco

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

DAYS: 3

ROUTE: From San Francisco to Crater Lake, one-stop in either Klamath Falls (southeast of the park) or Ashland (southwest of the park)

MILES COVERED: 800+ miles (1288 kilometres) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP:

San Francisco Bay Area to Crater Lake National Park: Road trips from the San Francisco Bay Area up to Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon are great for weekend trips. The distance is about 400 miles.

If you wish you can stop at the Klamath Falls for the night before heading over to Crater Lake the next day. However, there isn’t really much to see in Klamath Falls so we would only recommend it for ease of access to the lake.

Ashland and Medford: Ashland and Medford, although located a bit further away, are two other towns in Southern Oregon that would make for excellent stops before or after visiting the national park. Ashland is home to the famous Shakespeare festival and it’s just a very quaint town that makes for an interesting road trip destination.

Drive to Crater Lake: Since there are no towns next to Crater Lake, you’ll either end up driving an hour and a half from Ashland/Medford or 45 minutes from Klamath Falls to reach the entrance.

If you go in the summer when there’s no snow, you should definitely complete the Rim Drive. This route takes you about two-thirds of the way around the crater and you can stop at numerous viewpoints along the way to take pictures.

If you visit Crater Lake during the winter months or any month where there’s a lot of snow, the Rim Drive will likely be closed. In this case, you’ll want to park at the main visitor center and walk around the outskirts of the crater.

Either way, a visit to Crater Lake will mostly consist of walking around, staring out into the distance, and appreciating the incredibly unique and picturesque views.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Michael from Passport Explored

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Wine County One Day California Road Trip 

ROUTE: LA to Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley 

Daou Winery
Daou Winery

DAYS:

ROUTE STOPS: Los Angeles to Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley 

MILES COVERED: 681 miles (1096 kms) round trip 

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP: 

The secret is out. Paso Robles, roughly 200 miles north of Los Angeles, is producing some of the best wines in the world. And it doesn’t get much better than a quick romantic weekend getaway.

To say the area has become a hot spot is an understatement — today Paso Robles alone has over 300 wineries. Like surfing through Netflix, all these choices can be overwhelming. So we did the work for you and picked our top recommendations. And hey, if all else fails, there’s always Netflix. 

Los Angeles to Buellton, 138 miles: Hitching Post II
Call it the Sideways effect — the 2004 cult wino movie with Paul Giamatti that put a spotlight on Santa Ynez’s Pinot Noir.

Many of the movie’s most memorable scenes were filmed in the restaurant Hitching Post II, best known for their filet mignon and Pinot Noir. Though something tells me the bartender has heard the classic line more than once, “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving!” We recommend getting the Pinot Noir flight ($18) that includes four 2 oz pours. 

Hitching Post
Hitching Post

Buellton to Paso Robles, 100 miles: Wine Tasting at Daou Vineyards
With so many wineries, how can we narrow it down to just one? Well, Daou is pretty special. Daou is located at one of the highest spots in the region with sweeping views.

The winery was founded by Georges and Daniel Daou, Lebanese brothers who immigrated to France when they were 10- and 14-years-old to escape the civil war. They became fascinated by winemaking and the rest is history. Tastings are $40 per person. 

Paso Robles to San Luis Obispo, 35 miles: Evening at Petit Soleil
Petit Soleil is one of our favorite hotels. It offers free wine and snacks, a big breakfast, and easy parking. Hey, we’re from LA… now that’s a luxury item! The boutique hotel is French-themed, right down to the room decor, and accordion music playing on the alarm clock/CD player. 

CONTRIBUTED BY: Phil & Kevin from Gourmet Globetrotter

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Utah Road Trip National Parks – West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: Zion National Park – Bryce National Park – Capitol Reef to Arches/Canyonlands

Arches National Park
Arches National Park

DAYS: 5+ 

ROUTE STOPS: 4

  • Zion National Park to Bryce National Park – 72 miles
  • Bryce National Park to Capitol Reef – 112 miles
  • Capitol Reef to Arches/Canyonlands – 136 miles 

MILES COVERED:  494 miles (795 kilometres) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

If you’re a fan of visiting national parks, then you’ll love this Utah road trip to visit all 5 national parks in the state.

Zion: Start the road trip at Zion National Park and spend 2 days exploring the park’s hiking trails. Drive along Highway 9 and Kolob Terrace Road to get away from the crowds in Zion Canyon.

Bryce Canyon: Next drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and spend one day. You’ll pass through Red Canyon on your way which gives you a sneak peek of what you’ll see at Bryce. Take the scenic drive road to the end at Rainbow Point without making any stops.

Spend half a day to drive from Rainbow Point to the Amphitheater and the other half walking the Rim Trail or Navajo Loop Trail to really experience all Bryce has to offer.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

Capitol Reef: Drive toward Capitol Reef National Park via Highway 12. You’ll find some Utah State Parks along the way, so take your time on this road. One full day at Capitol Reef includes the scenic drive, hiking, and picking fruit in the orchard.

Arches and Canyonlands: Now it’s time to drive to Moab where you can explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. You’ll pass by Goblin Valley State Park which is a fun side trip. Take 1 to 2 days to enjoy and photograph the unique beauty of Arches while driving along the park road and hiking the trails.

Another 1 or 2 days can be spent at Canyonlands biking, hiking, off-roading, and river rafting. Be sure to visit Dead Horse Point State Park as a side trip near the entrance to Canyonlands Island in the Sky.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Jamie & Dave from PhotoJeepers

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park Day Trip – West Coast Trip

ROUTE: Las Vegas – Amargosa Valley – Death Valley – Shoshone – Las Vegas 

Death Valley - Las Vegas to Death Valley West Coast Road Trip
Las Vegas to Death Valley West Coast Road Trip

DAYS: 1

ROUTE STOPS: Las Vegas – Amargosa Valley – Death Valley – Shoshone – Las Vegas 

MILES COVERED: 450 miles (724 kilometres) round trip 

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

Making the round trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park is one of my favorite west coast road trips in the United States.  You can make the entire route in a single day, and still see many of the top attractions of the park, or you can add in a couple of overnight stops to make it into a vacation.  

Las Vegas to Death Valley: The route is about 125 miles from Las Vegas to Death Valley, and on a day trip, you will travel about 75 miles in the park.  It totals about 325 miles, but there are plenty of stops to make it an enjoyable day, and be back by evening.

If you choose to cross to the far side of the park and add in some overnight stays, it will be about 450 miles for the round trip.  Most often, we prefer the day trip.  

Amargosa Valley: We recommend using US Route 95 out of Las Vegas, and turning on Highway 373 at the Amargosa Valley.  You can’t miss the stop for refreshments at the intersection!

When you get to Death Valley Junction, you may want to visit the Amargosa Opera House before turning right to the park on Death Valley Road, route 190.  

Death Valley from Las Vegas Road Trip
Death Valley from Las Vegas Road Trip

Death Valley Road: On Death Valley Road the stops to make include Zabriskie Point, Furnace Creek, the Devil’s Cornfield, Mesquite Dunes, and Stovepipe Wells.  You will want to hike around a bit, or at least explore in each of these stops, so bring plenty of water along.

Turn around at Stovepipe Wells and head back to Badwater Road to visit Artists Drive and Badwater Basin, where you can get some amazing photos. 

Town of Shoshone: Your final stop of the day will be the little town of Shoshone, where you can see mining relics, and have dinner before heading back to Las Vegas.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Roxanna from Gypsy with a Day Job

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Portland OR to Yellowstone National Park – West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: From Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone National Park, stopping in Richland, WA, and Missoula, MT

DAYS: 10

ROUTE STOPS: 4

  • Portland to Richland – 220 miles
  • Richland to Island Park – 606 miles
  • Island Park to Yellowstone – 77 miles 
  • Yellowstone to Missoula – 313 miles

MILES COVERED:  1600 miles (2575 kilometres) round trip approx.

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

After watching a documentary about Yellowstone National Park, we knew we had to visit it. And in 2017, with flights, car hire and accommodation booked, we set off from Portugal to visit this amazing National Park. 

Portland: We landed in Portland, OR after a long flight from the UK and hit I-84 east following the Columbia River along the Columbia River Gorge. The scenery was stunning.

We then turned north onto I-82 towards Richland where we stopped overnight. From Richland we headed onto US-395, joining I-90 at Ritzville. This road took us past Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, a beautiful lake surrounded by rich forests. We stopped at an interesting place called the 50,000 Silver Dollar Inn along the way to freshen up.

Missoula in Montana was our next stop for lunch, as we planned to do the 600 miles from Richland to Island Park, Idaho in one day. 

Clepsydra Geyser Yellowstone
Clepsydra Geyser Yellowstone

Island Park and Yellowstone National Park: Late in the evening, we finally arrived in Island Park, ready to start exploring Yellowstone National Park with our son over the course of four days. We saw bison, Old Faithful erupt, lots of springs, and a stunning sunset. Visiting Yellowstone with our son was our best holiday to date. And worth the 800 miles each way!

Missoula, Montana: On the return trip, we took the same route back to Portland, with a 3-day stop in Missoula, Montana to break up the journey. It was a town that surprised us with many things on offer for families like ours. Had we had more time, we would have spent time around Coeur d’Alene.

Mount Hood: Our original plan was to stop by Multnomah Falls on our return to Portland from Richland, but due to forest fires it and the entire Columbia River Gorge was closed, and we had to take a diversion around Mount Hood, which was very picturesque. 

CONTRIBUTED BY: Cath from Passports and Adventures

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Olympic Peninsula Coast Road Trip

ROUTE: South to North Coast – Kalaloch and Ruby Beach – Second and Third Beach – Rialto Beach – Shi Shi Beach

West Coast USA Road Trip
West Coast USA Road Trip

DAYS: 2

ROUTE STOPS: 

  • Kalaloch to Second Beach- 48 miles
  • Second Beach to Rialto Beach – 10 miles
  • Rialto Beach to Shi Shi Beach – 65 miles 
  • Shi Shi Beach to Olympic National Park – 81 miles

MILES COVERED:  204 miles (328 kilometres) round trip approx.

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

The state of Washington is known for its moody vibes and breathtaking mountainous forests. Surprisingly, one of the best things to do in Washington is to do a two-day road trip along the Olympic Peninsula Coast. The beaches are filled with sea stacks, driftwood, wildlife, and many sea anemones. The vibes and the views are outstanding. A road trip with many stops to the beaches is the perfect way to experience the Pacific Northwest. 

Kalaloch and Ruby Beach: If you are driving from the South coast to the North coast, your first stop is the Kalaloch and Ruby beach. There, you can experience the exciting Tree Of Life. If you choose to, you can spend the night at the Kalaloch Lodge or drive north to First, Second, and Third Beach.

To access Second and Third Beach, you need to hike a few miles, but the effort is worth the hike with views of sea stacks and many wildlife. Second Beach is an excellent spot to the beach camp, don’t forget to obtain a permit. 

Rialto Beach: The next stop will be Rialto beach which is mainly known for the “Hole in the Wall” photography spot. It is also a great beach sunset location.

Shi Shi Beach: The last destination is the great Shi Shi Beach. Its 8-miles round trip hike makes it a bit more difficult than most. However, it is an excellent spot to backpack and camp. Just make sure to obtain the correct permits. 

CONTRIBUTED BY: Michelle from The Wandering Queen

Key Activities and Tours at this route

  • Seattle is a good starting point for this road trip itinerary. Seattle to Olympic National Park is 88 miles. 
  • Seattle city exploration tour – Check it out here
  • Seattle to Olympic National Park Small-Group Tour – Explore it here
  • Explore Mount Rainier National Park in a small group tour – Book here
  • The San Juan Islands is located 108.7 miles away from Seattle, one way. San Juan is a popular whale and Orcas sighting location. Take a private tour to the San Juan Islands

San Diego to Phoenix West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: San Diego – Jacumba Hot Springs – Imperial San Dunes – Quartzsite – Phoenix

San Diego USA Bucket list
San Diego USA Bucket list

DAYS: 2

ROUTE STOPS:

  • San Diego to Jacumba Hot Springs – 72 miles
  • Jacumba Hot Springs to Imperial Sand Dunes – 79 miles
  • Imperial Sand Dunes to Quartzsite – 89 miles
  • Quartzsite to Phoenix – 129 miles

MILES COVERED: 366 miles one way

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP:

The drive from San Diego to Phoenix is actually only five and a half hours, but what many people don’t know is that there are a few fun places to stop so you can stretch the trip out.

This is the perfect road trip for anyone who loves the outdoors and off-the-beaten-path activities.

San Diego to Jacumba Hot Springs: There are many more opportunities for stops in the first half of the trip since it’s so close to San Diego. Right as you leave the city you can stop for a hike at Sunrise Highway.

Garnet Peak is one of the best and can range from 1 to 5 miles depending on the route you take. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking here.

Jacumba Hot Springs: There are many things to see here including the desert view tower, boulder park, and the hot springs. Exploring the tower does cost a small fee, but you can also rent the whole thing out for the night.

This is where we would recommend staying to break up your trip. Boulder park has different rock formations that have been molded and painted into different animal shapes.

Imperial Sand Dunes: Make a quick stop here to see the largest sand dunes in the state. You can hike around here as much as you like but if you have more time then go on an ATV tour. It’s one of the most fun things that you can do in the area!

Quartzsite to Phoenix: Quartzsite is the perfect jumping-off spot to explore the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a popular place for photography because of its stunning views and plentiful wildlife.

The drive from Quartzsite to Phoenix is pretty desolate so make sure you fill up on gas and your vehicle is in good shape. The scenic mountain views in the distance make the drive well worth it though.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Chelsey from Chelsey Explores

City and National Parks (SF to Las Vegas) West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: San Francisco – Yosemite National Park – Sequoia National Park – Death Valley – Las Vegas

DAYS: 16

ROUTE STOPS: 

  • San Francisco to Yosemite National Park – 191 miles
  • Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park – 169 miles
  • Sequoia National Park to Death Valley – 312 miles
  • Death Valley to Las Vegas – 150 miles

MILES COVERED: 1391 miles (2239 kilometers) return trip SF to Las Vegas

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP:

This is a great trip because it combines two incredible (and very different) cities with three awe-inspiring (and very different) national parks.

SF to Yosemite National Park: Start with spending three days in San Francisco. In San Francisco, highlights include riding a cable car, visiting Chinatown, and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Then drive to Yosemite National Park.  It takes about half a day to get there plus two full days in the park. In Yosemite, drive and/or hike to lookouts and admire El Capitan and Half Dome, dramatic rock formations that dominate Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park: Then another half day on the road to Sequoia National Park, where you can easily spend another two full days. 

Then a full day of driving, especially if you are in an RV, as you will have to backtrack to the north entrance of Sequoia National Park and go the long way around, to Death Valley National Park.  This drive takes you through much of the park. 

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

In Sequoia, home to the largest trees on earth, don’t miss the Congress Trail, the Big Trees Trail, and the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park, where you can see enormous trees such as General Grant, General Sherman, and Chief Sequoya.

Death Valley: Spend another two full days in Death Valley before heading to Las Vegas, where you can easily stay for three full days before heading home.  

Death Valley has sand dunes, salt flats, and mini- badlands among its many desert landscapes. It’s very hot in Death Valley, so avoid summer!

Death Valley to Las Vegas: Of course, Las Vegas has dozens of casinos on the famous strip, but even if you don’t gamble, seeing the themed features such as the New York’s roller coaster, the Bellagio’s fountains and the Mirage’s volcanic eruptions are fun.

This road trip really has something for everyone.

CONTRIBUTED BY: James from Parks Collecting 

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Oregon Coast Road Trip 

ROUTE: Astoria – Cannon Beach – Three Cape Route – Newport – Florence

OR West Coast USA Road Trip
OR West Coast USA Road Trip

DAYS: 3. Preferably 3 days but if you are pressed for time, the Astoria to Newport stretch can be done in a day.

ROUTE STOPS: From Astoria to Florence via Three Capes Scenic Loop 

MILES COVERED: 379 miles via Highway 101 (605 kilometers) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP: 

With its old-growth forests, picture-postcard towns, towering cliffs, and unparalleled views of the great blue Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Coast is beyond beautiful. A drive from Astoria in the far north, near the Washington border, to Florence in Central Oregon will give you a taste of the best that this part of the world has to offer.

Astoria: Start with guzzling a few craft beers at Astoria, tasting the delicious seafood which includes the West Coast’s famous Dungeness Crab, visiting the Astoria Column, and, of course, taking photos of the famous iconic sea-green Megler bridge. Hike to the top of Neahkanie Mountain to be rewarded with some breath-taking views of the Oregon Coast.

Another gorgeous hike is Cape Perpetua, south of Newport.

Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach is a quaint town with cute cafes and mansions overlooking the Pacific Ocean. One look at this town and it isn’t so hard to guess why it is one of Oregon’s prime real estates!

The sunset is especially beautiful here; the soft pink blush of the setting rocks adds a tinge of magic to the Haystack Rock. You can spot puffins in the spring here.

Best West Coast USA Road Trip Ideas and Route Itineraries to fuel your wanderlust. 2- 10 day road trip itinerary ideas with activities, tours and more

At Tillamook, explore the Tillamook Dairy and indulge in loads of creamy ice cream!

Three Cape Route: The Three Cape Route is arguably one of the most beautiful routes in the world! The road climbs up along the cliffside and promises stellar views. At Cape Meares, visit the lighthouse and check out the magnificent Fresnel lens.

Stop by at Oceanside for a swim and at Agate Beach to do some beach-combing. If you’re lucky, you find slices of translucent agate in the sands!

Go on a whale-watching tour at Depoe Bay.

Newport: Newport’s historic bayfront is lined with restaurants, cafes, and galleries and it is delightful to wander through the narrow streets, past the pretty houses.

There are glass-blowing workshops and studios here, should you be interested in a lesson. Say hi to the sea lions before heading further south to Seal Rock where the beach is lined with impressive formations of basaltic rock.

Florence: Near Cape Perpetua is the famous Thor’s Well. During high tide, the ocean seems to drain away from it! The dunes and the sea lion rookery at Florence are a lovely epilogue to the trip.

It is 188 miles via Highway 101 from Astoria to Florence. You can stay at hotels and motels along the way. There are 4 campsites along the route: Fort Steven State Park, Warrenton, Nehalem Bay State Park, Cape Lookout State Park, and Beverly Beach State Park, Newport. 

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mohana & Aninda from Two-Together

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Los Angeles to Palm Springs and California Desert Parks 

ROUTE: Los Angeles – Palm Springs – Joshua Tree National Park – Anza Borrego State Park – Palm Desert & Thousand Palms – Los Angeles 

Road to Joshua Tree

DAYS: 5

ROUTE STOPS

  • LA to Palm Springs – 106 miles
  • Palm Springs to Joshua National Park – 38 miles
  • Palm Springs to Anza Borrego State Park – 99 miles
  • Palm Springs to Palm Desert and Thousand Palms – 21 miles for both
  • Palm Springs to LA  -106 miles

MILES COVERED: 349 miles (562 kilometers) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP: 

One of the most fabulous road trips you can do from Los Angeles is to the beautiful desert community of Palm Springs. Palm Springs is not only a desirable destination unto itself, it is also the perfect base for day trips to a couple of gorgeous California desert parks: Joshua Tree National Park, and Anza Borrego State Park.

LA to Palm Springs: Plan on five days for the road trip, including the drive from LA to Palm Springs and back. Start early on day one and do the drive to Palm Springs, which is about 106 miles, and takes about 3 hours in normal traffic.

Spend the rest of the day exploring Palm Springs. Discover beautiful examples of mid-century modern architecture, stroll downtown Palm Canyon Boulevard, or hike in nearby Indian Canyons.

Joshua Tree National Park: On day two, do a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. There are lots of fun things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, including hiking, bouldering, watching the sunset from Keys View, and discovering the flora and fauna in the park.

The namesake Joshua trees and the cholla cactus are two examples of unique flora you can see in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is about 38 miles from Palm Springs, and you can do the drive in about one hour. Although you can camp in the park or stay at Twenty-nine Palms just outside the park gates, accommodations in Palm Springs are much nicer.

Anza Borrego State Park: On day three, do a day trip to Anza Borrego State Park, which is about 100 miles away, a drive of about 1.45 hours. Especially if you visit in the spring of a super bloom year, Anza Borrego is a must-visit, with carpets of wildflowers providing color in the desert.

The park also features gigantic sculptures in metal, which are interesting to photograph. On the way, stop at the Salton Sea, an enormous body of saltwater with lots of birds.

Palm Desert & Thousand Palms: On day four, you can explore the communities of Palm Desert, which has some desert gardens and a zoo, and Thousand Palms, where you can do some desert hikes. These two places are just a few minutes drive from Palm Springs.

Drive Back to LA: Drive back to Los Angeles on day five, having experienced the magic of the California desert!

CONTRIBUTED BY: Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Yosemite Valley Road Trip Itinerary

ROUTE: Mariposa Grove to Tuolumne Meadows via the Tioga Pass

Yosemite Valley Road Trip
Yosemite Valley Road Trip

DAYS: 3

ROUTE STOPS: Yosemite Valley Stops 

  • Mariposa Grove to Tunnel View – 28 miles
  • Mariposa Grove to Glacier Point – 34 miles
  • Mariposa Grove to Tuolumne Meadows – 43 miles
  • Mariposa Grove to Pacific Crest Trail  – 72 miles

MILES COVERED:144 miles (231.75 kilometres) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

Yosemite National Park makes the perfect destination for a road trip. This Yosemite road trip can be completed in as few as 3 days or extended for as long as you like. All stops are found within the confines of the park. 

Mariposa Grove: Begin your road trip adventure at Mariposa Grove, near the park’s southern entrance where you can view some of the largest trees in the world. From here you’ll drive to the historic Wawona Hotel. This is a really pretty hotel with a great restaurant.  If you’re hungry, take advantage of the opportunity. This may be your last great meal for a few days. 

Tunnel View Lookout: After lunch, you’ll stop at the famous Tunnel View lookout. Find a parking spot and take your time, it’s worth every minute. After Tunnel View you’ll make your way into Yosemite Valley. Get settled into your accommodations and head back out to explore the valley.

Your next several stops can be seen on foot walking around the valley floor. Use your park map to locate Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome.

Mist Trail, Vernal and Nevada Falls: The next morning you’ll tackle the Mist Trail to see Vernal and Nevada Falls up close.

Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley: In the afternoon you’ll get back in the car to head up to Glacier Point. This is another famous lookout perfect for photographs. The drive up will take about an hour and 15 minutes each way. You can finish off your second night relaxing back in Yosemite Valley and viewing the stars on a clear night. 

Tioga Pass: The next morning you’ll head out on the infamous Tioga Pass. You’ll follow the Tioga Pass all the way out to Tuolumne Meadows. The drive can take 90 minutes, but the object is to take your time.

There are tons of lookouts and rivers and mountains along the way. Stop wherever looks interesting and enjoy this peaceful and serene side of Yosemite. I assure you, there will not be any crowds here. Bring lots of water and snacks with you as you will not find anywhere to purchase anything on the road. 

Yosemite Valley Road Trip
Yosemite Valley Road Trip

Tuolumne Meadows and Pacific Crest Trail: Once you reach Tuolumne Meadows you can have a picnic, walk around, or even hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Whenever you’re ready, you can begin the slow drive back to Yosemite Valley for your last relaxing night in the park.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Eden from Rock a Little Travel

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Utah West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: Moab – Arches National Park – Bryce Canyon National Park – Zion National Park

Bryce National Park
Bryce National Park

DAYS: 6

ROUTE STOPS: 

  • Arches National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park – 246 miles
  • Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park  – 75 miles 

MILES COVERED: 634 miles (1020 kilometres) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

Zion, Bryce, and Arches are three of my favorite National Parks in the world. Take it from a Park Ranger who has worked and camped in her fair share of parks, these Utah gems are frankly perfection. If you have not yet fallen in love with the fiery allure of the red rock desert, oh boy, get ready to fall hard.

That said, these three beauties are still deeply unique in their own ways. The starting point of the trip is Moab, Utah. 

Arches National Park: Arches, on the East side of the state, is the most like a desert, but with a jungle of towering red slabs and bizarre arches everywhere you look. Arches are in the coolest area, in my opinion; its gateway town of Moab is rad and full of fun adventure activities. The Moab Brewery has great food and even better beer. 

Bryce National Park: Bryce, in between the two, is known for its eerily human-like hoodoos, feels almost like the Grand Canyon with its rim hikes and pine forests.

Zion National Park: Zion, famous for needing a shuttle bus most of the year because it’s just that popular, is named for “paradise” for a reason.

To properly visit these parks, I recommend at least two solid days in each and camping as often as possible. Luckily, the longest drive of this road trip—that between Arches and Bryce—is only 244 miles through some gorgeous terrain. The road trip in its entirety (not including exploring each park to your heart’s content) is only 317 miles total. 

I’d spend the most time in and around Arches, and in and around Zion. Bryce is lovely, but smaller and more easily appreciated in a day or so. 

Besides that, you can’t go wrong spending every spare moment hiking in each park. In particular, the Narrows and Angel’s Landing in Zion is literally world-famous, for good reason (you need a permit for the Narrows, so plan ahead).

You could do this Utah National Park trip in less than a week, or really take your time and stretch it out. I’ve done it both ways, and never been disappointed.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Kaisa from  Glam Ganola Travel

Key Activities and Tours at this route

Cannon Beach Oregon to the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

ROUTE:  Cannon Beach Oregon to Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

DAYS: 4

ROUTE STOPS:

  • Cannon Beach 
  • Cannon Beach to Yaquina Head Lighthouse –  155 miles
  • Yaquina Head Lighthouse to Florence – 53 miles
  • Floras Lake State Natural Area to Gold Beach – 39 miles
  • Gold Beach to Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor – 14 miles

MILES COVERED: 298 miles one way

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP ROUTE

Day 1: Cannon Beach

Spend the day in Cannon Beach. Time your visit right so you can visit Haystack Rock at low tide. Haystack Rock is one of the most iconic pictures of the Oregon Coast. It stands at 235 feet tall. 

At low tide, you can explore the tide pools home to starfish, green anemones, and crabs.  After exploring the tide pools, head to Ecola State Park for beautiful hiking trails and Hug Point for beautiful coast views.  

Day 2: Tillamook Creamery > Cape Kiwanda > Devil’s Punchbowl > Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Today you will start your drive down the beautiful Oregon coast. The first stop is the Tillamook Creamery. It is a perfect road trip stop to stretch your legs and grab some freshly made ice cream and cheese. There is a massive cheese-making process hall with viewing windows where visitors can go on a self-guided cheese-making tour.

At Cape Perpetua Scenic Area there are beautiful views of the jagged coastline and the forest area that seems to fall straight into the ocean. The Cape Perpetua Visitors Center has lots of information about trails, camping spots, and viewpoints.

Devil’s Punchbowl is a large giant sea cave with a hole in the roof. The best time to visit the cave is at high tide when the waves crash in the bowl. It is a spectacular thing to watch from the viewing area above.

Your road trip along the west coast is not complete without a lighthouse visit. Yaquina Head Lighthouse along with the surrounding historic areas and tide pools make it a fun area to explore. Cobble Beach is a fun place to spend some time as well.

Day 3: Florence > Floras Lake State Natural Area  

Florence is a great place to either hit the sand dunes or go canoeing for the first part of the day. Then head down to Floras Lake State Park. There are not a lot of amenities there so pick up some food in Florence to take with you. The easiest beach access is at Boice-Cope Park.

Day 4: Gold Beach > Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Before heading to the scenic corridor, spend a few hours exploring Gold Beach. It is a small Oregon town with beautiful beaches like Meyers Creek Beach. You will want to leave the majority of your day to explore the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Some of the highlights are Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint, House Rock Viewpoint, Arch Rock, and Natural Bridges Viewpoint.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Candice from CS Ginger 

San Francisco to Redwoods of Northern California West Coast USA Road Trip

ROUTE: Mendocino –  towns of Fort Bragg & Leggett – Humboldt Redwoods State Park

West Coast USA Road Trip
West Coast USA Road Trip

DAYS: 4

ROUTE STOPS: 

  • San Francisco to Mendocino – 155 miles
  • Mendocino to Fort Bragg  – 10 miles
  • Fort Bragg to Leggett  – 43 miles 
  • Leggett to Humbolt Redwoods State Park – 56 miles 

MILES COVERED: 500 miles (805 kilometres) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP :

One of the best road trips in California is the route between San Francisco and the redwoods of Northern California.

The trip takes approximately 4 days and will take you through the sleepy coastal towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg before you reach your final destination at Humboldt Redwoods State Park (part of Redwood National Park, California). 

Mendocino: Mendocino is best known for its beautiful iconic cliffs that extend into the Pacific Ocean. Kayak into sea caves to explore inside the cliffs or hike along the cliffs at Mendocino Headlands State Park to take in the gorgeous ocean views. Check out the quaint downtown area for a small-town vibe and some fudge. 

Fort Bragg: Be sure to explore the colorful Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It is famous in California for its amber, white, green, and sometimes blue sea glass. Noyo Headlands Park also offers amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. 

Town of Leggett: Another place to stop on the way to the redwoods is the town of Leggett. Here you’ll find the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree, a remnant of the bygone days when it was socially acceptable to saw through trees for cars to drive through as a road trip sight to see. 

Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Finally, you’ll reach Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to some of the tallest redwood trees in the world.

Don’t miss the drive through the Avenue of the Giants, nowhere else will you feel so small as you coast between giant redwood trees. The hiking trails within the park are also amazing, especially in Founders Grove and Rockefeller Forest. 

READ: Cities and beach towns to visit in coastal California

CONTRIBUTED BY: Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

Key Activities and Tours at this route

A love affair with Baja California (Los Angeles to Ensenada Mexico)

ROUTE: Los Angeles –  San Ysidro – Tuetano Taqueria – Tijuana – Ensenada

Baja California
Baja California

DAYS: 3

ROUTE STOPS

  • LA to San Ysidro – 137 miles
  • San Ysidro, the USA to Tijuana, Mexico – 4.5 miles
  • Tijuana to Ensenada – 104 miles 

MILES COVERED: 245 miles (395 kilometers) round trip

ABOUT THE ROAD TRIP: 

If you grow up surfing in Southern California there’s no doubt that you have had a love affair with Baja California. The Baja Peninsula is visually stunning, the beaches are mesmerizing and the restaurant industry has grown into the envy of Mexico. 

LA to Ensenada: Ensenada has the soul of Baja but it’s only 200 miles from Los Angeles. It is perfect for a three-day weekend. Leave before daylight on Saturday morning and you will cruise through San Diego in less than two hours, cross the border quickly and be in Ensenada and surfing in just over three. 

San Ysidro: It is mandatory to buy Mexican car insurance. I prefer to stop in San Ysidro to buy it at the drive-through. It takes 5 minutes and there are great tacos a block away. Everybody on the US side is reselling the same policies from the three big Mexican insurance companies. The policy has to be from a Mexican company.

Tuetano Taqueria: The best birria tacos (chile-rubbed and slow-roasted beef served with a beef broth soup) this side of Tijuana. If Bill Esparza of @StreetGourmetLA fame is a fan then you should be too. 

Tijuana to Ensenada: The coastal highway from Tijuana to Ensenada is a toll highway with three toll booths that cost a total of about US$10 each way. It is fast, in perfect condition with views of the ocean most of the way. 

Ensenada: At the last toll booth before you enter Ensenada is the world-famous San Miguel surf spot. It’s a right-hand river mouth that breaks like Trestles but with a small fraction of the crowd. After surfing all morning you have to decide if you are going to head into Ensenada or up the hill to the Valle de Guadalupe wine region.

Restaurants in Mexico- Best West Coast USA Road Trip
  • Muelle 3 Restaurant – Located in the Ensenada Harbor just steps away from the seafood market, Muelle 3 is different from the rest of the seafood restaurants on the block. Excellent salads, grilled fish fillets, and European-style steamed mussels make this one of the best restaurants in town.
  • Tostadas La Guerrerense – Fresh, exotic seafood cart tostadas that won a street food world competition in Singapore and enchanted Anthony Bourdain. La Guerrerense recently opened a sit-down restaurant in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City.
  • Manzanilla Restaurant – Harbor to table and farm to table staple that helped define the regional cuisine. Celebrity chefs Benito Molina and Solange Muris are the husband and wife team behind this celebrated restaurant.
  • Valle de Guadalupe – Sinaloan Ranch style breakfast made with local ingredients and lots of lamb. Highly regarded as one of the best meals in the Valle de Guadalupe the wait can go on for hours. Get here early.
  • Cuatro Cuartos – Vineyard glamping with a rustic wine bar overlooking the pacific ocean. This is one of the most Instagram-friendly spots in the Valley because of the dramatic views of the coastline.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Paul Hudson from Playas y Plazas

Key Activities and Tours at this route

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7 Comments

  1. Bookmarking this! My partner and I have talked about doing a west coast roadtrip for years. We’ve been to a few spots before but haven’t spent nearly enough time. High on the bucket list are definitely Yosemite, Grand Canyon and driving the PCH. Can’t wait to head off on one of these routes someday soon – when we get back from our expat year living in Prague!

  2. Mayuri, thank you for this post! My boyfriend and I are currently planning a three-week roadtrip to the States with many of these spots in mind! We did Yosemite last year and part of Nevada this year, but so many of these spots are high up on our list and I can’t wait to dig deeper and refine our itinerary, now that I’ve downloaded your pdf version 🙂

  3. Love that you started the post off with essentials needed for a road trip! I would add to that – always make sure to have an extra bottle of water on hand. You never know if you may accidently get stranded somewhere. Great post!

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