Hypothetically, you can drive from the northernmost point of Washington to the very end of California via I-5 in a mere 21 hours. But with stunning landscapes, beautiful big cities and natural wonders, there are so many reasons why drivers should make multiple stops along their way to the West Coast. From the scenic San Juan Islands of Washington to the desert oasis of Palm Springs, California, there’s so much to explore from top to bottom. Here are some West Coast road trip planner highlights to consider.
Endless evergreens, magnificent mountains and unique urban landscapes are what make Washington one of a kind. The Olympic Peninsula is home to outdoor activities like whale watching off the San Juan Islands, beach-combing on coastal towns like Port Townsend and hiking through the Hoh Rain Forest. For an urban adventure, Seattle has iconic architecture, sophisticated dining, world-class shopping and the charming Pike Place Market. Beyond Mount Rainer, you’ll find wine country near Walla Walla, the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth and even the dry terrain of Eastern Washington. Wherever you find yourself, there are plenty of West Coast road trip routes in Washington to enjoy.
Some may love to say Oregon and Washington are basically the same state, but those people couldn’t be more wrong. With craft breweries, over 300 miles of coastline, high-desert regions and enough natural wonders to overwhelm an outdoorsman’s bucket list, Oregon has a culture all its own. The quirky city of Portland is the perfect pit stop for any daring foodie, while Bend is a recreational mecca for cyclists, rafters, kayakers, rock climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Some of Oregon’s other natural landmarks include the Painted Hills, the Columbia River Gorge, the Wallowas and Crater Lake.
Much of the West Coast is made up of California, a state that has some of the most popular driving routes in North America. Northern California is filled with romantic cities by the shore, the Redwood forest and the Napa and Sonoma wine countries. San Francisco is a must-see metropolis with famous sights like Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re looking for an explosive excursion, the breathtaking Mount Shasta is a safe-to-visit volcano in California’s northeast corner.
Elegant, historic and beautiful are just some of the words travelers use to describe Central California. A classic drive along Highway 1 boasts dreamlike views of a Mediterranean-style stretch of coastline. Discover elusive beaches and soaring cliffs in Big Sur or be romanced by the complimenting cities of Monterey and Carmel. The glittering Lake Tahoe and awe-inspiring Yosemite National Park are ideal family vacation spots to drive through.
Arguably the warmest part of the West Coast, Southern California is a sun-drenched paradise with beaches for surfing and deserts for stargazing. If it’s movie stars you’re searching for, a trip to Los Angeles won’t disappoint. Surfers flock by the thousands to Huntington Beach in Orange County while serious shoppers make their pilgrimage to Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills. With Disneyland, Paramount Pictures and LEGOLAND, family vacations in SoCal will never be lacking in entertainment options. For a break from the glitz and glam of Hollywood, travel to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks for hardcore outdoor activities and desert beauty.
TripIt is here to be your West Coast road trip planner, whether you only have time for a tasty tour of Portland or you have all the time in the world to discover everything between the borders of Mexico and Canada.