The 10 Best Winter Road Trip Routes On The West Coast To Help You Embrace Cold-Weather Adventures

Post Summary: 10 Best Winter Road Trip Routes For Some Cold Weather Adventures!

During most road trips, you check the forecast to make sure you won’t be running into inclement weather.

Things like snow, closed mountain passes, and heavy storms can be a real bummer when you aren’t expecting them!

But what if you want to drive TOWARDS the snow?

Winter road trip routes are definitely more challenging to pull off, but they also come with huge rewards that you don’t get any other time of year!

In this post, we’re sharing the 10 best winter road trip routes, for those of you with brave souls and a love for the snow!

Now go and heat up the car…let’s go!

The 10 Best Winter Road Trip Routes To Help You Embrace Cold-Weather Adventures

But first, safety on winter drives…

There are very important items you will need to keep in your car during your winter road trip. Car complications can happen any time of year, but they can be a bit more dangerous if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, trapped in the snow.

If you’re considering driving cross country in the winter, being prepared for winter driving conditions are essential for your safety!

Here are some winter road trip tips for you – things you need to pack during cold weather:

Want to see the entire list? Read our entire list of emergency essentials below!

Read More: The 12 Essentials You Need To Pack In Your Car Emergency Kit


Emerald Lake Lodge in The Canadian Rockies In Winter - The Mandagies.com

The Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies Winter Road Trip Route

Starting Point: Calgary, Alberta Canada

Time Required: ~5-6 days

Looking for those Narnia-inspired winter scenes like snow-covered trees and frozen waterfalls? Look no further than the Canadian Rockies in the wintertime!

Banff in the winter season brings its own magical vibe to the season. From ice skating on Lake Louise to dog sledding in Banff, there’s so much to do and see during the winter.

Make sure your car has excellent snow tires, extra chains, and an ice shovel in your car. Bring a confident driver, and keep these Alberta road condition websites handy (by saving this blog post!) to check and see if your winter road trip route is open.

511 Alberta – a Province-wide source for updates on road conditions, closures and accidents.

Drive BC – Updated road conditions in the province of British Columbia.

Banff Winter Resources:


Vancouver Canada, Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Pacific Coast Highway (Winter Road Trip – California to Washington)

The Pacific Coast Highway Winter Road Trip Map - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: San Diego, California (Northbound) or Seattle, Washington (Southbound)

Time Required: ~1 week

The Pacific Coast Highway is an iconic Western USA road trip that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

From the rainy shores of the Washington beaches, incredible sea stacks on the Oregon Coast, and the golden sunsets of California, there’s never a dull moment on a Pacific Coast road trip. Don’t have time to do the entire route? Try taking a shorter, Northern California road trip itinerary instead! We’ve created this route that takes only 1 week to complete!

This is a more warm winter road trip itinerary because of the temperate climate all along the coast. You may encounter lots of rain, but hardly be stuck because of snowy conditions. Check out our complete guide to the Pacific Coast Highway here!

Pacific Coast Road Trip Resources:


Bryce Canyon National Park In Winter - Utah - TheMandagies.com

Utah National Parks

Road Trips To Take In The Winter - Utah National Park - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Salt Lake City, Utah

Time Required: ~5-6 days

Utah is full of amazing high desert national parks and they are an excellent option for planning your next winter road trip route! Because winter is the low season for all 5 Utah National Parks, you’ll likely find yourself being one of very few visitors.

While not everything will be open in the winter (for example, Angels Landing Hike is likely closed due to icy trail conditions), you can still check out the highlights of each park.

A Utah National Parks road trip in winter provides a chance to see the parks in a new light. Bryce Canyon looks amazing with a blanket of snow, and hiking to Delicate Arch during sunrise (have you seen photos of Arches National Park in winter?!) will bring a magical winter desert scene!

Utah National Park Road Trip Resources:


Yellowstone in the Winter - The Boiling River Trail - TheMandagies.com

Emily Mandagie in the Anvil Hotel, Jackson Wyoming - TheMandagies.com

The Grand Tetons + Yellowstone

Winter Road Trip USA - Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in Winter Route - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Jackson, Wyoming OR Bozeman, Montana

Time Required: ~3 days

From the snow-capped peaks of the Grand Teton range to the fluffy buffalo and elk in the valley just below, winter in the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone provide some amazing opportunities to get outside and enjoy this region.

Spend some time snowshoeing to a frozen lake like Taggart Lake at the foot of the Tetons, or camp out with your camera in the valley to capture some beautiful elk photos or amazing sunrises and sunsets.

The core of Yellowstone is closed during the winter season (check out winter road access here), but you can explore their many winter options in the Mammoth Hot Springs area and Grand Loop Road in the northern part of the park for a unique experience in Yellowstone during winter!

Yellowstone/ Grand Teton National Park Winter Road Trip Resources:


Alaska Road Trip Westfalia Van - TheMandagies.com

Anchorage To Fairbanks

Trips To Take In The Winter - Alaska Road Trip - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Anchorage, Alaska

Time Required: ~1 week

Instead of running away from winter, why not embrace it with the ULTIMATE winter road trip itinerary? Nothing says ‘winter’ more than an Alaska road trip, and there’s plenty to do during this magical season in the 49th state.

From witnessing the Northern Lights, experiencing days with total darkness, and discovering Denali National Park in its snowy glory, this trip is one for the bravest of the brave.

Alaska Winter Road Trip Resources:


Seward, Alaska In April - TheMandagies.com

The Seward Highway

Winter Trip Ideas - The Seward Highway Road Trip Route - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Anchorage, Alaska

Time Required: ~4-5 days

Not ready to do full winter mode but still want to discover Alaska? Luckily, Alaska is the largest state in the USA, which means there are a plethora of adventures to take during the winter season!

Check out Homer and Seward, Alaska, amazing coastal towns along Cook Inlet and Ressurection Bay. Along this winter road trip route, you can stop to take a winter kayaking tour through the ice, attend a local winter carnival, or just hang out in a pub and meet some friendly locals!

Winter Road Trip Resources:


Emily Mandagie in Cannon Beach, The Oregon Coast - TheMandagies.com

Winter Trips On The Oregon Coast

Winter Trips - The Oregon Coast Itinerary - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Portland, Oregon

Time Required: ~4-5 days

You won’t find snow on the coast, but you’ll sure and hell encounter those iconic, gloomy Oregon coast days on this Pacific Northwest winter road trip route. If you can survive a little rain and wind, you’re likely to have many of these Oregon coast spots all to yourself!

Bring your rain boots (with extra warm socks underneath) and a waterproof coat and get exploring! Winter on the Oregon Coast brings an entirely new perspective. Crashing waves and muddy trails will bring a new meaning to the word ‘adventure’ on this winter drive.

Oregon Road Trip Resources:


Pacific Northwest Hot Springs - Kirkham Hot Springs

This Idaho Hot Springs Route Is The Perfect Winter Road Trip

Winter Trips USA - The Idaho Hot Springs Route - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Boise, Idaho

Time Required: ~3-4 days

Is there anything better than soaking in hot springs while the snow peacefully falls around you? Come visit the state full of gorgeous commercial and natural hot springs…in Idaho!

Starting in Boise, you can easily see 6+ hot springs on one long weekend trip! Some of the highlights include The Springs in Idaho City, Kirkham Hot Springs, and Moutain Village Hot Springs!

When visiting, remember to leave the place better than you found it. That might mean packing out more garbage than you came in with! Thanks for keeping these delicate Idaho hot springs a magical place to other visitors too.

Idaho Winter Driving Caution: Some of the routes required to see Idaho hot springs (Like Highway 21) in winter often receive very heavy snowfall. Save this Idaho Road Conditions website for up-to-date information on road closures and expected openings.

Idaho Winter Driving Resources:


Kayaking in Washington State - TheMandagies.com

Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Washington - TheMandagies.com

view of Tree Root Cave on Washington Coast

The Olympic Peninsula (Washington)

Olympic Peninsula Winter Road Trip - TheMandagies.com

Starting Point: Seattle, Washington

Time Required: ~2-3 days (One long weekend trip from Seattle, Washington)

There are so many amazing spots to see on the Olympic Peninsula – even more beautiful with a light dusting of snow! Being from Washington, this is one of the best winter trips for us, and we love returning to the Washington coast time after time – there’s always something new to see. (By the way, if you want to stay longer, read our 10-day guide to the Olympic National Park!)

Some of the highlights of this west coast winter road trip include seeing the Kalaloch Tree Root Cave (Tree of Life), hiking along Rialto Beach, exploring tide pools and Ruby Beach, and driving to the most Northwest part of the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery.

There are also plenty of Washington winter hikes on the Olympic Peninsula – the milder temperature makes many trails accessible year-round!

More Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Resources:


Notable Mentions For Winter Drives On The West Coast

We haven’t explored all the best winter trips in the USA, but they are on our list!

Here are some dream winter road trips we’d love to take someday, and we’re leaving them here to inspire you too.

  • Lake Tahoe, California – Discover all the wonderful things to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter (think skiing, sleigh rides, and more!)
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon – See this gorgeous Oregon national park in the deep snow!
  • Mount Hood Scenic Byway, Oregon – Don’t forget to stop by the Timberline Lodge for a snowy winter wonderland trip!
  • Highway 84, Sante Fe, New Mexico – See the desert in a blanket of snow on this adventurous highway.

What are some of your favorite winter road trip routes to take during the colder months? Share your favorites with us in the comments below!

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