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The Best West Coast Road Trips


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Hanny Chmielewski



Embarking on a road trip is one of the best ways to explore the stunning landscapes, vibrant cities, and hidden gems of the West Coast. With its breathtaking scenery, diverse culture, and endless opportunities for adventure, the West Coast of the United States offers some of the most unforgettable road trip experiences.


From the rugged coastline of California to the pristine forests of Oregon and Washington, there are countless routes that will take you on a journey of discovery and excitement. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or food enthusiast, there’s a road trip for everyone along the West Coast.


Picture yourself cruising along scenic highways, windows down, wind in your hair, as you explore charming coastal towns, majestic mountains, and iconic landmarks. With each mile, you’ll uncover something new and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, buckle up and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime as we take you through the best West Coast road trips. From the famous Pacific Coast Highway to the historic Route 66, we’ll guide you through the top routes that should be on every road trip enthusiast’s bucket list.


Pacific Coast Highway: From San Francisco to San Diego

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is one of the most iconic road trips on the West Coast. Spanning approximately 650 miles, this route takes you along the stunning California coastline from San Francisco to San Diego.


Starting in the City by the Bay, you’ll venture south through the scenic Big Sur region, renowned for its dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and towering redwood forests. As you drive along the winding roads, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.


Make a stop at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where you can hike through ancient groves of redwoods or relax by the picturesque Big Sur River. Further down the coast, you’ll encounter the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, a marvel of engineering and a perfect spot for a memorable photo.


As you continue your journey, be sure to visit Hearst Castle, the lavish estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Take a guided tour of the opulent rooms and marvel at the stunning Mediterranean Revival architecture and extravagant art collection.


As you approach southern California, make a detour to explore the charming coastal towns of Santa Barbara and Malibu. Stroll along the pristine beaches, indulge in fresh seafood, and soak in the laid-back California vibe.


Finally, your road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway concludes in sunny San Diego. With its beautiful beaches, vibrant neighborhoods, and world-class attractions like Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, there’s plenty to see and do in this dynamic city.


Driving the Pacific Coast Highway offers an unforgettable adventure filled with natural beauty, cultural landmarks, and a true taste of California. So, grab your sunglasses, roll down the windows, and get ready to experience the road trip of a lifetime.


Highway 101: Seattle to San Diego

Another incredible road trip along the West Coast is Highway 101, which stretches all the way from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California. This iconic route takes you through some of the most diverse and picturesque landscapes in the United States.


Starting in the Emerald City of Seattle, you’ll make your way down the Washington coast, passing through charming towns like Olympia and Aberdeen. Enjoy the stunning views of the Olympic Peninsula, with its lush rainforests, towering mountains, and crystal-clear lakes.


As you cross into Oregon, you’ll be greeted by the rugged coastline and pristine beaches that this state is famous for. Make a stop in the charming town of Astoria and explore its rich maritime history and iconic landmarks, such as the Astoria Column.


Continuing down the Oregon coast, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Cannon Beach, home to the iconic Haystack Rock and miles of sandy shores. Further south, the coastal towns of Florence and Newport offer beautiful scenery and exciting outdoor activities, such as hiking, whale watching, and sandboarding.


Once you cross into California, Highway 101 takes you through the stunning redwood forests of Northern California, where you can marvel at the towering ancient trees in parks such as Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.


As you journey further south, you’ll pass through vibrant cities like San Francisco and Santa Cruz, where you can experience the vibrant culture, world-class dining, and iconic attractions. Make sure to stop at the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for some classic California fun.


The final leg of the Highway 101 road trip takes you through the breathtaking Central Coast of California, with its picturesque coastal towns, vineyards, and stunning landscapes. Make a detour to explore the charming town of Solvang, known for its Danish architecture and delicious pastries.


Your journey along Highway 101 culminates in sunny San Diego, where you can relax on the beautiful beaches, indulge in delicious Mexican cuisine, and visit popular attractions like the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park.


Highway 101 offers a diverse and captivating road trip experience, showcasing the natural beauty and cultural richness of the West Coast. With its picturesque scenery and exciting destinations, this route is a must for any road trip enthusiast.


Redwood Highway: San Francisco to the Oregon Border

If you’re a nature lover seeking to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of giant redwood trees, the Redwood Highway is the perfect road trip for you. This scenic route takes you from the bustling city of San Francisco to the serene wilderness of the Oregon border, allowing you to witness the majesty of these ancient giants.


Starting in San Francisco, you’ll head north on Highway 101, passing through the charming towns of Marin County. As you continue your drive, you’ll enter the heart of the redwood country and encounter one of the most iconic parks in California, Muir Woods National Monument.


Muir Woods is home to a dense forest of towering redwood trees, some of which are over a thousand years old. Take a leisurely stroll along the well-maintained trails, allowing the serene and peaceful ambiance of the forest to envelop you.


Continuing on the Redwood Highway, you’ll pass through the quaint town of Mendocino, known for its stunning coastal bluffs, rugged cliffs, and artistic community. Be sure to visit the Mendocino Headlands State Park and take in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.


As you venture further north, you’ll reach the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile scenic drive that meanders through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Prepare to be amazed as you drive through tunnels of towering redwood trees, some of which reach heights of over 350 feet. Be sure to stop at Founders Grove and Rockefeller Forest to experience the grandeur of these ancient giants up close.


Continuing on the Redwood Highway, you’ll reach the border of California and Oregon, where the famous Chetco River flows. Take a moment to soak in the tranquility of this remote and untouched wilderness, surrounded by the lush greenery of the redwood forest.


At the Oregon border, you can choose to continue north and explore the redwoods of the southern Oregon coast or head inland to visit Crater Lake National Park, known for its stunningly deep blue lake formed in the caldera of an ancient volcano.


The Redwood Highway offers a truly magical road trip experience, where you can witness the ancient giants of the forest and immerse yourself in the serenity of nature. So pack your bags, breathe in the fresh forest air, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the redwood country.


California State Route 1: San Diego to San Francisco

Get ready for a breathtaking coastal road trip as you embark on California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, from San Diego to San Francisco. This iconic route winds its way along the scenic California coastline, offering stunning ocean views, charming coastal towns, and unforgettable experiences.


Starting in sunny San Diego, you’ll travel northward along the coast, passing through picturesque beach towns like La Jolla and Del Mar. Make a stop at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, where you can hike along the cliffs and enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.


Continuing on, you’ll reach the vibrant city of Los Angeles, where you can explore famous landmarks such as the Santa Monica Pier and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Visit the Griffith Observatory for stunning views of the city skyline and the iconic Hollywood sign.


As you leave the city behind, brace yourself for one of the most scenic stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway – Big Sur. This rugged and awe-inspiring region boasts dramatic cliffs, towering redwoods, and pristine beaches. Take your time to stop at iconic spots like Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls, and hike through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.


Further north, you’ll pass through charming coastal towns like Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Explore the historic Cannery Row in Monterey, visit the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, and take a scenic drive along the famous 17-Mile Drive, known for its stunning coastline and picturesque golf courses.


As you approach San Francisco, be prepared to cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, a symbol of the city. Spend a few days exploring San Francisco’s vibrant neighborhoods, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and the Mission District. Don’t miss the chance to ride a cable car and visit Alcatraz Island.


California State Route 1 offers a thrilling road trip experience filled with natural beauty, cultural landmarks, and coastal charm. Whether you’re cruising along the cliffs of Big Sur, exploring the bustling streets of L.A., or indulging in the diverse cuisine of San Francisco, this road trip is guaranteed to leave you with unforgettable memories of the Golden State.


Oregon Coast Highway: Astoria to Brookings

The Oregon Coast Highway, also known as Highway 101, is a scenic road trip that showcases the rugged beauty of the Oregon coast. Stretching from the historical town of Astoria to the charming community of Brookings, this route takes you through a diverse array of landscapes, charming coastal towns, and stunning natural wonders.


Starting in Astoria, located at the mouth of the Columbia River, you’ll journey south along the coast. Explore the town’s rich maritime history, visit the iconic Astoria Column for panoramic views of the area, and take a stroll along the Riverwalk to admire the picturesque waterfront.


As you continue your drive along the Oregon Coast Highway, you’ll encounter breathtaking vistas, dramatic cliffs, and pristine beaches. Stop at Cannon Beach, famous for its striking Haystack Rock and miles of sandy shores. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the beach or perhaps try your hand at surfing or beachcombing.


Further along the coast, you’ll come across the charming town of Tillamook, known for its delicious cheese and ice cream. Stop by the Tillamook Creamery for a tour and treat yourself to some of their famous dairy products.


As you travel south, make sure to visit Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, where you can witness the crashing waves and stunning views from atop the 800-foot-high Cape Perpetua. Explore the tide pools, hike through old-growth forests, and take in the beauty of Thor’s Well and Devil’s Churn.


Continuing your journey, you’ll reach the charming town of Newport, home to the renowned Oregon Coast Aquarium. Get up close with marine life, explore the historic Nye Beach neighborhood, and savor fresh seafood at local restaurants.


As you venture further south, you’ll pass through picturesque coastal towns like Florence and Bandon, known for their quaint charm and beautiful beaches. Make a stop at the Sea Lion Caves, the largest sea cave in the United States, and watch as hundreds of sea lions gather on the rocks.


Your road trip along the Oregon Coast Highway concludes in Brookings, a scenic coastal community near the California border. Explore the stunning Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, which features dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and breathtaking viewpoints.


The Oregon Coast Highway is the perfect road trip for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. With its stunning vistas, charming coastal towns, and abundant opportunities for outdoor activities, this route will leave you with unforgettable memories of Oregon’s rugged and beautiful coastline.


Highway 1: San Luis Obispo to Monterey

One of the most scenic stretches of California’s coastline can be found along Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey. This picturesque road trip takes you through breathtaking landscapes, charming coastal towns, and iconic landmarks, making it a must-do for any West Coast adventure.


Starting in the vibrant city of San Luis Obispo, make sure to explore its historic downtown, visit the iconic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, and indulge in the local cuisine. As you head north on Highway 1, you’ll soon be greeted by the rugged coastline and jaw-dropping views.


As you weave through the rolling hills and cliffs, be sure to stop at the iconic Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Take a guided tour of this grandiose mansion, marvel at the opulent architecture, and learn about the fascinating history of media mogul William Randolph Hearst.


Continuing northward, you’ll enter the enchanting coastal town of Cambria, known for its quaint charm and artistic community. Explore the unique Moonstone Beach and browse the local galleries and boutiques along Main Street.


Next, make your way to the iconic Big Sur region, a highlight of the Highway 1 road trip. Drive along the winding roads, offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and towering cliffs. Explore Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where you can hike through ancient redwood groves and relax by the Big Sur River.


As you venture further north, you’ll reach Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Take a leisurely hike along the scenic trails, spot sea otters and harbor seals, and marvel at the rugged coastal landscape.


Finally, your road trip along Highway 1 concludes in the charming town of Monterey, famous for its historic Cannery Row and world-class aquarium. Explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf, and indulge in delicious seafood.


Driving along Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to Monterey offers an incredible mix of natural beauty, cultural landmarks, and coastal charm. Take your time to enjoy the stunning vistas, stop in charming towns, and immerse yourself in the quintessential California coastal experience.


Big Sur Coastal Drive: San Francisco to Los Angeles

The Big Sur Coastal Drive is one of the most breathtaking road trips along the West Coast, offering awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and towering redwood forests. This iconic route stretches from San Francisco to Los Angeles, taking you through the picturesque region of Big Sur.


Starting in San Francisco, head south on Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. As you leave the city behind, you’ll soon find yourself driving along the stunning coastline, with the majestic Pacific Ocean on one side and the rolling hills on the other.


As you enter the Big Sur region, prepare to be enchanted by its dramatic landscapes. The winding roads lead you through towering redwood forests, giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the tranquility of these ancient giants. Stop at the famous Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to marvel at the picturesque McWay Falls, a waterfall that cascades directly into the ocean.


Further along the drive, you’ll encounter the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, a marvel of engineering that spans a deep canyon and offers magnificent views of the coastline. Be sure to pull over and capture the perfect photo of this architectural gem.


Continue your journey through the breathtaking coastal scenery, passing by pristine beaches, hidden coves, and sheer cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, including sea otters, dolphins, and even migrating whales during certain times of the year.


As you reach the end of the Big Sur region, the drive opens up to the charming coastal town of Cambria, known for its artistic community and picturesque landscapes. Take some time to explore the galleries, boutiques, and enjoy the local hospitality.


Finally, as you near Los Angeles, the drive transitions from the tranquility of Big Sur to the vibrant energy of Southern California. You’ll pass through iconic beach towns such as Santa Barbara and Malibu, where you can soak up the sun on the sandy shores and enjoy the laid-back California lifestyle.


The Big Sur Coastal Drive is a truly unforgettable road trip, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty and coastal charm. Whether you embark on this journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles or vice versa, be prepared to be captivated by the stunning vistas, world-renowned landmarks, and the spirit of adventure that awaits along the way.


Route 66: Chicago to Santa Monica

Embarking on a road trip along Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road,” is like taking a journey back in time. This iconic route spans over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, offering a glimpse into the history, culture, and beauty of the United States.


Starting in Chicago, you’ll venture westward through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally reach the Pacific coast in Santa Monica. Along the way, you’ll encounter charming small towns, unique roadside attractions, and stunning landscapes that define the essence of Route 66.


As you traverse Illinois, make sure to visit the historic Route 66 Start/End Point in Chicago, where you can take a photo with the iconic “Begin” sign. Explore the bustling city before hitting the road, and fuel up on some classic American diner cuisine.


As you enter Missouri, stop in St. Louis to admire the majestic Gateway Arch and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the city. Step back in time at the Route 66 State Park, where you can explore the remnants of a 1930s roadside motel and take a stroll through the park’s nature trails.


The journey through Kansas offers a glimpse into a bygone era, with preserved stretches of the original Route 66. Take a detour to Baxter Springs and visit the historic Marsh Arch Bridge, one of the last remaining Marsh rainbow arch bridges along the route.


In Oklahoma, the Route 66 Museum in Clinton is a must-visit, showcasing the history and culture of the Mother Road. As you continue west, make a stop at the quirky Blue Whale of Catoosa, a beloved roadside attraction and swimming hole.


As you enter Texas, be sure to stop at the Cadillac Ranch, an art installation consisting of ten buried Cadillacs covered in graffiti. It’s a perfect spot for unique photos and to leave your mark on this ever-evolving masterpiece.


The stunning landscapes of New Mexico await as you continue your journey on Route 66. Explore the Petrified Forest National Park and the vibrant city of Albuquerque, known for its rich Native American heritage and delicious Southwestern cuisine.


In Arizona, the highlight is the iconic town of Winslow, immortalized by the Eagles’ famous song “Take It Easy.” Take a stroll along the “Standin’ on the Corner” park and snap a photo with the statue of a guitar-playing troubadour.


Finally, your road trip along Route 66 concludes in Santa Monica, California. Take a walk along the historic Santa Monica Pier, dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean, and celebrate the end of an epic journey.


Driving Route 66 offers a fascinating connection to the past, showcasing the vibrant spirit of America’s open road and its diverse landscapes. So, get behind the wheel, turn up the music, and embark on a nostalgic adventure that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.


The Great Northern Road Trip: Seattle to Glacier National Park

The Great Northern Road Trip offers a perfect blend of natural wonders and cultural gems as you journey from the vibrant city of Seattle to the breathtaking Glacier National Park. This road trip takes you through some of the most magnificent landscapes the Pacific Northwest has to offer, making it a must-do for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.


Starting in Seattle, take some time to explore the iconic landmarks, such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, before hitting the road. Drive eastward through the Cascade Mountains, where you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of snow-capped peaks and serene alpine lakes.


As you continue your journey, make sure to visit Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian-style village nestled in the mountains. Wander through the quaint streets, savor delicious German cuisine, and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere.


Heading further east, you’ll reach the crown jewel of this road trip – Glacier National Park. Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” this national park boasts over one million acres of pristine wilderness, with jagged mountains, sparkling lakes, and awe-inspiring glaciers.


Set aside ample time to explore the wonders of Glacier National Park. Take a scenic drive along the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, marveling at the breathtaking vistas and dramatic cliffs. Lace up your hiking boots and trek along the park’s numerous trails, where you’ll discover hidden waterfalls, alpine meadows, and wildlife sightings.


Be sure to visit the picturesque Lake McDonald, where the clear turquoise waters reflect the surrounding mountains. Participate in ranger-led activities, such as guided hikes or boat tours, to enhance your experience and learn about the park’s unique ecosystem.


As you bid farewell to Glacier National Park, continue your road trip eastward, passing through the stunning landscapes of Montana. Marvel at the wide-open prairies, rolling hills, and picturesque ranches as you make your way towards the charming town of Whitefish.


Whitefish offers a perfect blend of outdoor adventure and small-town charm. Enjoy hiking, mountain biking, or skiing in the nearby Whitefish Mountain Resort, or explore the town’s vibrant arts scene and bustling downtown area.


Finally, your Great Northern Road Trip culminates as you return to Seattle. Take some time to reflect on your journey, soak in the memories of the breathtaking landscapes, and appreciate the wonders of the Pacific Northwest.


The Great Northern Road Trip is an unforgettable adventure through rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and charming towns. Whether you seek outdoor exploration or cultural immersion, this road trip promises to leave you with a deep appreciation for the natural beauty and rich heritage of the Pacific Northwest.



The West Coast of the United States is a road trip enthusiast’s dream, offering a multitude of routes that showcase the region’s natural beauty, vibrant cities, and cultural treasures. From the awe-inspiring coastline of California to the rugged mountains of Washington and Montana, there is something for everyone to explore and discover on a West Coast adventure.


Whether you choose to cruise along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, immerse yourself in the history of Route 66, or venture into the wilderness of Glacier National Park, each road trip presents its own unique charms and experiences.


Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to witness breathtaking vistas, explore charming coastal towns, marvel at iconic landmarks, and engage in thrilling outdoor activities. From the towering redwoods of California to the jagged cliffs of Oregon and the pristine lakes of Montana, the West Coast offers a diverse and captivating landscape that will leave you in awe.


Additionally, the West Coast is home to vibrant cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles, where you can immerse yourself in cultural experiences, culinary delights, and exciting nightlife.


As you embark on your West Coast road trip, remember to take your time, soak in the natural beauty, and embrace the sense of adventure that comes with exploring these incredible destinations. Be sure to plan your trip well in advance, allowing for flexibility to discover hidden gems along the way.


Lastly, don’t forget to capture and share your journey. Whether it’s through stunning photographs, journal entries or sharing stories with fellow adventurers, documenting your West Coast road trip will allow you to relive those memorable moments and inspire others to embark on their own epic adventures.


So, gather your travel companions, plan your route, and get ready for an unforgettable road trip experience along the West Coast. Whether you choose to drive from San Francisco to San Diego along the Pacific Coast Highway, or take on the historic Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, the West Coast awaits with its natural wonders, cultural richness, and endless opportunities for adventure.