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Monday, March 27, 2023

Best Road Trip Routes on the West Coast USA

Discover the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA, where stunning natural wonders and culturally significant cities await. Spanning from the picturesque Cascade Mountains in Washington to the sun-drenched beaches of San Diego, California, the West Coast offers an array of must-see destinations.

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Whether you’re exploring Seattle’s thriving metropolis or taking in the breathtaking ocean vistas along the coast, there’s no denying that the West Coast is the ultimate destination for travelers seeking adventure, beauty, and unforgettable memories.

When it comes to must-see roadside attractions on the West Coast, few places can compete with the towering redwoods near San Francisco, the historic Crater Lake caldera, and the imposing Mount Rainier. Whether you’re planning a short 10-day trip or a longer adventure lasting weeks or even months, make sure to budget plenty of time for the road.

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The region’s many natural wonders, from active volcanoes and pristine beaches to breathtaking alpine lakes, are worth exploring at a leisurely pace, and you’ll want to factor in extra time to soak up their beauty and unique character. Regardless of the season, there are endless fun things to do in every direction, with wide-ranging landscapes to satisfy your wanderlust.

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Our comprehensive list of top West Coast USA road trips will help you plan your perfect journey. From the dusty drive through Joshua Tree’s desert to the historic and wildlife-filled Alaska Highway, and the picturesque coastal journey along California’s Highway 101, the West Coast is home to the greatest road trips in the country.

When it comes to the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA, you’ll find a plethora of amazing destinations to explore. The area boasts some of the country’s top national parks, including Yosemite, Crater Lake, and Olympic national parks, among others.

Additionally, you’ll discover serene coastal towns and vintage-style getaways that evoke the nostalgic glamor of old Hollywood. To help you plan your next adventure, we’ve curated a list of the top West Coast road trips that should definitely be on your must-see list.

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Here are the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA:

1. Pacific Coast Highway, California

Pacific-Coast-Highway-California
Pacific Coast Highway, California

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA that’s bound to give you the wind-in-your-hair feeling is the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This scenic stretch of almost 450 miles offers picturesque coastal views, unique accommodations (such as The Madonna Inn), and numerous recognizable landmarks, including the iconic Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, as seen in the popular TV show Big Little Lies. To enhance your experience, consider treating yourself to a convertible for the ultimate thrill.

2. Los Angeles to Palm Springs, California

Los-Angeles-to-Palm-Springs-California
Los Angeles to Palm Springs, California

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA is to head east from Los Angeles to the fashionable desert getaway of Palm Springs. This quick two-hour drive offers stunning views of impressive granite formations, slender yucca trees, and expansive skies with picturesque sunsets.

Upon arrival, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an abundance of mid-century modern homes, picture-perfect pool scenes that are ideal for Instagramming, and vintage stores offering a range of unique and eclectic pieces.

3. The Alcan, Alaska

The-Alcan-Alaska
The Alcan, Alaska

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA, the Alaska Highway, or “The Alcan” (derived from Alaska and Canada), is an iconic highway system that has evolved from its origins as a bumpy dirt road.

Stretching over 1,000 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction near Fairbanks, Alaska, this legendary route is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, including snow-capped mountains, frozen expanses, and spruce forests, as well as abundant wildlife such as caribou, moose, and even bison.

4. Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA is the 75-mile drive that showcases mossy stone bridges, basalt cliffs, and over 50 stunning waterfalls. Considered one of the most scenic drives in the country, the journey begins in Troutdale, a mere 30-minute drive east of Portland.

As you travel along the edge of the gorge, make stops at fresh berry stands, the 1917 Vista House for prime lookout views, and the impressive 620-foot Multnomah Falls, which stands as Oregon’s tallest waterfall. For hikers, take on the five-mile hike to Angels Rest and take in panoramic valley views from atop the bluff. Conclude the trip in Hood River, where you can witness windsurfers and kiteboarders soaring across the waterfront.

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5. Highway 101, Oregon

Highway-101-Oregon
Highway 101, Oregon

An excellent road trip route on the West Coast USA is a 380-mile adventure down the Oregon Coast and into the northernmost point of California. Begin your journey an hour west of Portland, where you’ll merge onto Highway 101. Your first stop is Cannon Beach, a charming seaside town with quaint galleries, shops, restaurants, and the famous 235-foot monolith, Haystack Rock.

As you continue south, you’ll pass by pine-covered hills, lighthouse-covered peninsulas, and coastal rainforests that are rich with Sitka Spruces and salmonberry bushes. Conclude your trip with a visit to the stunning Redwood National Park in California, just 60 miles south of the state border.

6. Highway 101, Washington

best-road-trip-routes-on-the-west-coast-usa
Highway 101, Washington

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA is Highway 101, which encircles the perimeter of Washington’s Olympic National Park. This scenic route takes you past impressive peaks such as Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh temperate rainforest, and Ruby Beach, which is a stunning spot for watching sunsets.

For a comfortable stay, spend a few nights at the elegant Lake Quinault Lodge, built-in 1926, or one of the cozy cabins located near the shores of Lake Crescent. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit idyllic towns along the way, like Sequim, famous for its blooming lavender fields in June, and Aberdeen, the birthplace of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame. In Aberdeen, take a tour of the rock star’s childhood home.

7. Yosemite to Death Valley, California

best-road-trip-routes-on-the-west-coast-usa
Yosemite to Death Valley, California

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA is the drive from Yosemite National Park to Death Valley National Park, with stops at Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks along the way. While the trip can be completed in a single day, it’s recommended to take a break and spend the first afternoon exploring the marvels of Yosemite, including the towering 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls.

8. Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Oregon

best-road-trip-routes-on-the-west-coast-usa
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Oregon

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA is the scenic byway that winds through southern Oregon, featuring Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the country, and Upper Klamath Lake, the largest in the state. To embark on this adventure, start at Diamond Lake Junction, which is midway between Bend and Klamath Falls on I-97, and then pick up the scenic byway at Crater Lake National Park.

The area’s rich geological history is evident in its deposits of pumice and other volcanic stones, which were formed after the collapse of an ancient volcano over 7,700 years ago. As you travel south, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife, including over 430 species of birds such as pelicans, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles, at Upper Klamath Lake. The byway also takes you into California and passes by Lava Beds National Monument, where you can explore over 500 lava tube caves created over half a million years.

9. Mendocino to Napa, California

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Mendocino to Napa, California

Although it is strongly advised not to drink and drive, if done responsibly, embarking on the wine trail that starts in Mendocino County, California, and continues down to Sonoma and Napa, is a treat like no other.

At Pennyroyal Farm in Mendocino, begin your wine tasting experience surrounded by 23 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes, as well as a creamery and a vegetable garden that provides fresh produce to the on-site farm-to-table restaurant. As you journey towards Sonoma and Napa, enjoy the picturesque view of rolling hills cloaked with vineyards, coastal redwoods, and inland oaks, all leading to the region’s acclaimed restaurants and wineries.

10. Seattle to Whidbey Island, Washington

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Seattle to Whidbey Island, Washington

One of the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA is the San Juan archipelago, which consists of 172 isles that stretch from Olympic, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia.

To explore the largest of these islands, Whidbey Island (which is also the fourth largest in the U.S. at around 55 miles long), simply head north for approximately 30 minutes to the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal, where ferries depart for Whidbey every half hour. Once you reach the island, take a drive to the charming towns of Langley and Coupeville, and continue on to Deception Pass Bridge for breathtaking views and plenty of roadside attractions.

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Final Thoughts

The West Coast USA offers some of the best road trip routes in the country, with an array of natural wonders and culturally significant cities to explore. From the Pacific Coast Highway in California to the historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon, there is no shortage of adventure, beauty, and unforgettable memories waiting for you. 

Whether you’re exploring the towering redwoods near San Francisco, the imposing Mount Rainier, or the stunning vistas of Crater Lake, the West Coast is the ultimate destination for travelers seeking scenic drives. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and discover the best road trip routes on the West Coast USA for an experience of a lifetime!

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