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USA West Coast Road Trip

USA West Coast Road Trip

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There were a lot of highlights from our 3 month east to west coast road trip of the USA and many of them are from our time spent on the west coast road trip segment. Full of beautiful beaches, National Parks, cool relaxed cities and super tall trees, a road trip on the west coast of America is a must-do!

In this post, I’ll cover some of my favourite places from our USA west coast road trip that you should add to your US west coast road trip itinerary!

Looking to road trip to West Coast from the East Coast? Check out my full 3-month USA road trip itinerary.

Itinerary for a road trip USA West Coast

sunset in mt rainier national park

We spent around a month working our way up the west coast from San Francisco and Big Sur to Seattle and eventually Vancouver, BC where we’ve been living.

You could start your West Coast USA itinerary from lower down the West Coast such as in Los Angeles or Palm Springs, or from higher up such as Portland. That’s the best part about road trips, the itinerary is yours to decide as you plan your West Coast American tour.

Use this post as inspiration for your USA West Coast itinerary! You can mix and match destinations and add to them to make your own west coast road trips.

Preparing for your USA Road Trip & Travelling the West Coast of America

Prepping for a road trip is a bit different from packing for a standard vacation. You’ll have to make sure your car is running well, and you probably don’t want to book hotels too far in advance as you might drive further or shorter distances than you’d expected.

We’ve done a lot of road trips across the world and have put together some posts that’ll help you have a fun and safe trip.

You’ll likely be visiting a lot of National Parks as you travel the West Coast USA, if so you should get an America Parks Pass to save money on entrance fees! They’re valid for a year and get you into all National Parks, monuments and historic sites.

San Francisco

things to do in San Francisco on a budget

Despite not being one of my favourite cities on our USA west coast road trip, San Francisco is still a must-visit. The city is known, of course, for the Golden Gate Bridge but there’s a whole lot more to see. Since we were travelling on a budget, we prioritized finding cheap and free activities in San Francisco and had a great time exploring the city’s distinct neighbourhoods.

Big Sur & Monterey

usa west coast road trip

Before heading north up the coast, we went south towards Big Sur. The year of our west coast road trip the road was washed out from heavy rains and flooding so we didn’t get to see all the best sites but the views were still incredibly impressive!

Now that the road is reopened, you’ll get to do the full drive, taking in the coastal views, beaches, waterfalls and artsy scene in Monterey.

This drive on it’s own is a complete road trip on the west coast and one that many people want to experience. It’d be perfect for a west coast road trip itinerary of 7 days.

Check out this guide for where to stop on a Big Sur road trip.

Highway 101 California

redwood national park california (1 of 7)
sea of redwoods

Take the coastal route out of the city and drive highway 101. It’s more peaceful and waaay more picturesque! The route also has some super fun places to stop off at.

Ever wanted to drive through a tree? Find corn bigger than you? Or explore a big ship? There’s all that and more along Highway 101 with its weird roadside attractions.

Redwood National Park

redwood national park california (1 of 7)

Heading north out of San Francisco we were keen to stop at Redwood National Park. We’d stopped off at Muir Woods just outside of San Francisco but it was super busy and quite small. The same can not be said of Redwood National Park!

This National Park is actually made up of several areas and it’s huge! There are plenty of trails to explore as you wander among the giant redwood trees. We explored the part of the park around Klamath which is a bit out of the way for most people exploring the west coast USA. However, if you’re road-tripping the USA’s west coast it’s the perfect stop!

Oregon Coast

oregon coast sunset

Arguably one of the most beautiful USA road trips on the West Coast is an Oregon Coastline road trip. I was absolutely blown away by the Oregon Coast. I had zero expectations going in it as I hadn’t heard much about Oregon besides a bit here and there about Portland.

I feel like more people know about its beauty nowadays and if you’re doing a West Coast USA road trip you simply have to drive this stunning stretch of coastline.

We went crabbing, watched an incredible sunset, and visited cute towns and breweries. It was a great few days!

Portland, OR

things to do in portland

Portland is known as a cool city and also a weird one: as the city’s slogan goes “Keep Portland Weird”. We ate great food and enjoyed chilling out in some of the city’s cool coffee shops while visiting Portland as part of our west coast itinerary.

Mount Hood & Columbia River Gorge

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Mount Hood is Oregon’s tallest mountain and the area where it meets the Columbia Rive is beautiful. You can enjoy paddleboarding and floating or swimming at the river, then go for hiking around Mt Hood and taking in the view.

A few months after we drove through, there was a huge wildfire, the Eagle Creek fire of 2017, so some areas of the forest aren’t quite as lush as they once were. It’s recommended to check with the USFS for more information on trail closures as this area recovers.

Mount St Helens

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From Mt Hood, we drove north into Washington and over to Mount St. Helens. This active volcano not only offers great hiking trails. There’s a great museum with information about eruptions and the geology of the area. I’d definitely recommend checking it out during your visit.

Another fun thing to do near Mount St Helens is to visit the Ape Caves. You can reserve your ticket in advance and then wander into the lava caves over 2 miles long! To make it to the furthest point you’ll have to be prepared to climb up a rock wall and scramble over rock piles, but you can turn around before that point if that’s not up your street!

Mt Rainier National Park

mt rainier 6 of 6

Mt Rainier National Park was one of my favourites – mostly because it was the first time I saw a bear! We were also in the park for sunset and watched as some beautiful lightbeams crossed over the valley.

Mt Rainier has some incredible hiking trails including the Wonderland Trail which goes around the base of the mountain. At 93 miles long it takes most people 10-14 days to complete and you’ll need to secure a permit through their lottery system if interested.

Seattle, WA

best things to do in seattle

Seattle was another place I was looking forward to exploring on our West Coast road trip and it didn’t disappoint. The whole city has a kind of relaxed feel to it and there’s tonnes to do whatever your interests are.

We enjoyed ticking off all the touristy things like Pike Place Market, the Gum Wall, and a trip out to one of the islands.

Portland – Oregon Coastline – Mt Rainier – Seattle

A trip from Portland to Seattle including some of the National Parks would also be a fun road trip on the USA West Coast. If you’re looking for a 2 week west coast USA road trip this could be the one!

North Cascades National Park

north cascades national park diablo lake

North Cascades National Park is a place I’ve been meaning to go back to. We visited it the day before we crossed over the border into Canada and it was still snowy in early June with some of the scenic drives and a lot of hiking closed. What we did see, however, was Diablo Lake and did the short and easy Thunder Knob trail for an outlook over the park.

There are lods of awesome hikes in the North Cascades to check out! Perfect if you’re looking for an adventurous USA road trip west coast route.

Bellingham

things to do in bellingham

Bellingham is somewhere we drove straight through on the way to Vancouver at the end of our West Coast itinerary but, honestly, this little town has so much to offer and should be included on your west coast US road trip itinerary.

From super cool cafes to awesome breweries, mountain biking, trail-running and more!

We spent a day in Bellingham when activating our Candian permanent residency and had so much fun. I’ve been desperate to go back and hope to soon now that borders are open again!

Vancouver, BC

downtown vancouver views stanley park

And yes, I may be biased, but I think I’ve totally saved the best until last. Sure, it’s not in the US, but if you’re doing a West Coast road trip and have some additional time, head over the border and into Vancouver.

Vancouver is my favourite city – you just can’t beat it’s location between the mountains and the ocean. It’s beautiful even when it rains (which it does a lot of) and there’s outdoor adventure to be had at every turn.

I’ve written a lot about Vancouver having lived here for over 5 years so you can check out my Vancouver blogs here.

Hopefully you’ve now got some road trip ideas for the west coast US. Of course, there are lots of other places you could add but these are some of my picks from our time travelling West Coast Ameria.