The west coast of the United States is vast and diverse, with so much to see that will amaze you. There is so much to see; it’s hard to decide where to start. We’re here to help you find the perfect trip for you with the best west coast USA road trips.
We will start our west coast adventures with an epic California road trip down the famous Pacific Coast Highway. Then we will head south to Las Vegas and venture through multiple national parks as we make our way north to Yellowstone. To finish up the best west coast USA road trips, we will travel north again through Oregon and Washington State. Let’s jump right into the very best west coast USA road trips.
What To Pack On Your Road Trip
Before you hit the road, make sure you pack efficiently and minimally. Take only the things you need. Your car will fill up fast with essentials, so make sure everything you pack you will use during your trip. I like to buy some car organizers from Amazon before we go so that we can organize our things. This makes it easier to find the things you need when you need them.
A few other essentials for our family road trip include a cooler that plugs into the car, that way we don’t have to stop for a cold drink or fresh food. Traveling with kids, you will need games and activities for entertainment. One great idea that I have used is to put a shoe organizer on the back of the front seat; this makes it easy for the kids to put away all their entertainment and toys when they are not using them. It also makes things easier to find, so you’re not rummaging the back seat for a lost toy.
Make sure you have a charger for all your electronic devices. Nothing is worse than a powerless device and a cranky kid on a long road trip. For more great essential items to pack, check out our detailed road trip essentials post here.
Pacific Coast Highway
As I have traveled all over the world, I have seen many beautiful places, but San Diego California rivals almost anywhere in the world. San Diego is at the southern tip of California and where you will find the beginning of one of the best west coast USA road trips. Begin this road trip on Highway 1 in San Diego and drive north. Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, hugs California’s coastline from San Diego to northern California. This road trip has a lot to see, so plan at least 5-7 days so you can take your time.
This road trip is quintessentially California. The rocky coastline is filled with palm trees and white sand beaches. You are hitting the most famous surf towns and fishing villages along the way. You will feel like you are in a movie the entire trip.
The Pacific Coast Highway passes through many major cities in California. Including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay, San Francisco, and Fort Bragg. There are countless places to stop along the way, so check out our post here to see the best places to stop and stay along the Pacific Coast Highway.
My favorite part along the Pacific Coast Highway is from Big Sur to Monterey Bay. I love the rocky cliffs and the way the ocean waves crash against them. This stretch of the road trip is the best part, in my opinion. I also love the Monterey Bay Aquarium and walking through the town of Monterey. I could spend a few days just sitting on the bay watching the waves and spotting some whales or dolphins.
North of San Francisco, the landscape begins to change, and you make your way up the coast towards Fort Bragg and the unique glass beach. This glass beach is filled with real glass that has been washed up ashore and smoothed by the ocean. You can’t take any of the glass from the beach, but you can enjoy the incredible colors that fill the shore. This is one of the most unique beaches I have ever seen or visited.
National Park Road Trip
Are you looking for a great way to take advantage of your national park pass? Look no farther than this awesome road trip. Start your adventure in Las Vegas or at Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. You will head north on I-15 and pass through two additional national parks on your way to Yellowstone National Park. That’s right; you’ll tour three national parks in one trip and tons of waterfalls, mountains, and other sites that are beyond beautiful.
After you leave Hoover Dam, the next stop is at Zions National Park. Zion’s is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States, and it’s not difficult to see why and what makes this place so unique. This incredible national park is home to the infamous narrow slot canyons. These canyons are so amazing you have to experience them for yourself. I love how beautiful they are, but they do scare me to death to climb through!
Besides just knowing what to do along the way to Yellowstone, you will want to know what is worth visiting while in Yellowstone National park. We’ve included the top geysers, hikes, and waterfalls to visit in Yellowstone.
Don’t miss the best things to see in Yellowstone on our post here. As you leave Yellowstone National Park, a once in a lifetime stop will be at Jackson Hole. There are so many amazing things to see on this road trip that it is by far one of the best west coast road trips.
Northern Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
My last best west coast road trip leaves from Seattle and follows the coast south until you reach the Redwood Forest in Northern California. Starting in Seattle, spend at least one night exploring this fantastic city. Don’t miss the top sites like the Public Market at Pike’s Place, the infamous gum wall. You can take a trip up the Space Needle for the best view of the Seattle skyline. My favorite place to visit in Seattle is Green Lake; I love to go for a run around the lake and watch the ducks dive in and out of the water.
After a great day of discovering Seattle, it’s time to head south. As you reach Olympia Washington, make a stop at the children’s museum. This children’s museum is a ton of fun. You won’t want to leave, but it’s time to hit the road again and follow the coast. As you head to Highway 101, the land changes and becomes magnificently beautiful. Dense forest to your left and the jagged cliffs sitting along the Pacific Ocean.
This road trip has great places to stop and stretch your legs. The first stop you will come across is Astoria Oregon, the home of the movie The Goonies. You can even take a tour of all the famous sites from the movie. As you continue to head south on Highway 101, there are lots of beach towns to stop and grab a coffee while you sit and watch the waves.
Cannon beach is my favorite place to stop and stretch my legs. The beach has amazing rock formations that jut out of the ocean and make it look like you are in a different world. The small town of Cannon Beach is the perfect place to stop for lunch or an ice cream. If you have the time, this would be a great place to spend the night as there are plenty of accommodations and camping locations around.
The next great beach is Newport Oregon. Newport is a great place to stop and spend the night on your road trip. There are a lot of great places to stay in Newport but my favorite way to stay is to find a home on Air bnb to rent. There are a lot of awesome homes to rent right on the beach. I love to stay on the beach and just watch the ocean.
After a good night’s rest, you’ll finish out this road trip as you head down the coast and enjoy the scenery as you head into California and explore the Redwood National Park. I would definitely recommend camping in the Redwood National Park. The needles that fall from the Redwood trees make the ground a soft bed.
Go plan your next West Coast USA Road Trip!
Road trips are always a good idea and now you can see why these are easily some of the best of the west coast USA road trips. Rather you drive up the California coast, explore the national parks of the west coasts, or relax on the Oregon beaches, you will have an amazing trip with endless great memories.
Meet the Guest Author, Ashley
Hi! I’m Ashley and I’m so happy you’re here. I love to travel with my husband and our three daughters. We currently live in Southeast Asia and have lived in Kuala Lumpur for about 2 years now. My background is in Public Health, and I worked in hospital administration before relocating. As a family, we have traveled the world. We started traveling with our oldest when she was just 3 months old. Now almost 11 years later, we are still traveling with kids. As a mom traveling with my kids is not always smiles and sunshine. I’m here to share with you everything I have learned over the last 11 years of traveling with kids. I want to help you learn some easy tips and tricks that will make your family trips so much more enjoyable! I hope you can share some tips with me along the way because we all know that it takes a village to raise kids, let alone travel with them.