Post Summary: West Coast Road Trips And The Most Scenic Drives To Take!
Itching to go on one of many West Coast road trips? There are virtually endless possibilities!
From the Pacific Coast Highway to the Rocky Mountains, there is an American west coast road trip just for you!
In this post, we’re sharing tons of inspirational west coast road trips to take this season, including how to find the best camping spots, photogenic stops, and highlights of each route.
Let’s get started!
19 Stunning West Coast Road Trips For Adventure-Lovers
Disclaimer about these road trips on the West Coast USA: You may be wondering why we’re covering landlocked locations when this is a blog post about west COAST road trips. Instead, think of these as Western USA road trips, that cover everything from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide!
How To Get Around On A West Coast Road Trip
Getting around on an American West Coast road trip requires a little planning, and a lot of flexibility! It can work for anyone regardless of if you are seeking luxury, or simply traveling on a budget – there’s a west coast road trip route for you!
For budget road trippers: We highly recommend downloading an app called The Dyrt. It’s the largest database of campsites in the USA, including reservable AND free sites! We have the pro membership and love it for finding campsites offline & last-minute. We also love that The Dyrt has BLM and National Forest maps, so we can make sure that we are actually camping on free land. Try the pro membership free for 90 days, by using our code MANDAGIES90!
What To Pack In Your Car For A West Coast USA Road Trip
Before embarking on a road trip, it’s important to pack all the necessary road trip essentials. Being prepared will make your trip as smooth & carefree as possible.
Navigation Apps: Download all the essential road trip planning apps, offline maps, and tools you need to hit the road. Most importantly, sign up for The Dyrt Pro, so you can find last-minute campsites offline!
Emergency Roadside Kit: It’s important to be prepared for an emergency on your West Coast USA road trip. Use this road trip emergency kit guide to help build your own and keep it in your car!
Podcasts & Music: Podcasts and the right music can really set the mood of your West Coast road trips! Check out our favorite road trip podcasts for a great mix of comedy, news, lifestyle, and mystery content!
Conversation Starters: Road trip podcasts and playlists might get you far, but nothing beats some good conversations with good friends! Save this list of 101 road trip questions to ask on your next adventure.
First Aid Kit: Ideally part of your roadside emergency kit, you can also keep one near the front part of your car. This way, it’s easily accessible. We like this one for it’s compactness and durability!
Cash: No matter where you go, cash is king – especially if you are traveling between small towns and away from big cities. Cash especially comes in handy to pay day-use fees in parking lots, last-minute camping fees, and to use in small-town grocery stores.
Car Adapter & Power Cables: If you are traveling photographers like us, it’s essential to have chargers nearby to power up things like our laptops, cameras, and phones. We use this car inverter that easily plugs into the cigarette lighter of any standard car.
Comfy Car Shoes: The ultimate road trip shoes are the Ember Mids and Ember Mocs by Teva. These slipper-shoe hybrids keep your feet cozy with their sleeping-bag knitted quality, while giving traction on the sole when walking outside. We can’t recommend them enough!
Light Scarf/Blanket: If that A/C gets too chilly, it’s convenient to have a light scarf or blanket to use. This is also helpful to prevent sunburns if you are stuck on the sunny side of the car!
Ergonomic Neck Rest: If you are going to be driving for long periods of time, consider investing in some ergonomic support for your neck and back! We have these neck supports, and they can double as a makeshift pillow, too!
The Best West Coast Road Trip Routes
The Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1 and Highway 101)
Known For: Windows rolled down, cruising along the ocean. Sweet, sweet summer memories!
The Pacific Coast Highway road trip is probably one of the most famous West Coast USA road trips out there! From the epic sea stacks of Washington & Oregon to the sunny beaches of California, this is a must-do trip if you love the ocean.
Where To Begin/End: You can start on either end, (Seattle or San Diego). That really depends on the time of year you take this amazing West Coast USA road trip.
- Coming In Winter/Spring? Go Southbound to end up on the sunny California Coast.
- Visiting In Summer/Fall? Drive Northbound to escape the scorching heat.
Time Required: It can be done in one week, but give it two weeks to see everything!
Oregon Coast Road Trip (Highway 101)
Known For: Quaint beach towns, stunning coastline, 50+ family-friendly public beaches
Along the Oregon Coast’s iconic Highway 101, you’ll experience quaint beach towns, historic lighthouses, and some of the most beautiful sea stacks anywhere on the West Coast. Some of the best Oregon photography locations can be found on its coast. It’s definitely worth a drive if you’ve got a week to spare!
Not ready for it to end? You can follow our classic Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary! Alternatively, you can continue in either direction to explore the iconic Washington beaches. Even more, keep driving south for a California Coast road trip!
Where To Begin/End: Start in Portland, Oregon, pick up a rental car, and drive south down the coast. At the bottom, cut east to Interstate-5 and return to Portland with an overnight stop in Eugene.
Time Required: 5 days is very doable, one week is ideal to see everything.
Olympic Peninsula Loop (WA Highway 101)
Known For: Washington’s famous temperate rainforest, amazing things to do in the Olympic National Park, amazing beach hikes
The Olympic Peninsula road trip route is for the weekend warrior who wants to see it all without having to drive super far! Easily accessible, this is the ideal weekend trip from Seattle, all-inclusive with beaches, ferries, rainforest, and waterfalls.
Where To Begin/End: Begin and end in Seattle, driving a one-way loop.
Time Required: You can do all the Olympic Peninsula highlights on a long weekend trip from Seattle. However, try 4-5 days for a more leisurely pace.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta Canada (Highway 93)
Known For: Epic roadside views, powerful waterfalls, towering mountains
The Icefields Parkway is a scenic drive in Alberta, Canada between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Spanning 166 miles in length, this is a drive that will definitely fill up your entire day. There are amazing stops to take around every turn, including glaciers, waterfalls, and gorgeous aqua-colored lakes! This is a must-do scenic drive for any good Canadian Rockies Road Trip!
Places to Visit: Peyto Lake, Athabasca Glacier, Sunwapta Falls, Abraham Lake (during Banff in winter)
Where To Begin/End: Begin in Banff, Canada, and end in Jasper, Canada.
Time Required: 1 long day
Highway 12 In Utah
Known For: Unspoiled landscape, colorful Slickrock, hoodoos (outside of Bryce Canyon!), and high desert scenery
Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 is definitely not the quickest route to anywhere in particular, but it is for sure a beautiful route nonetheless. Start at Bryce Canyon National Park and ending at Capitol Reef for a quick visit to these iconic national parks. This 122 miles of winding, lonely road (in the best way) connects you with the surrounding landscape and encourages you to stop frequently and take it all in.
Places to Visit: Henry Mountains, Grand Staircase–Escalante, Capitol Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park
Time Required: 1 day (three hours drive if you don’t stop…but you will!)
Going To The Sun Road, Glacier National Park Montana
Known For: Dramatic mountain views, wildlife, and amazing addition to your Glacier National Park itinerary
Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana is hands down one of the most beautiful scenic drives on the West Coast. Only open a few months every year (usually July to September), this is a highly coveted drive. It’s available only for the dedicated and most adventurous!
Places to Visit: All of these stops on the Going-To-The-Sun Road including Big Bend, Logan Pass, and Lake McDonald. Extend your trip to the Many Glacier Area or the Two Medicine Lake area to see more of this epic west coast road trip.
Where To Begin/End: Begin in Kalispell, Montana, end in St Mary, Montana
Time Required: 1 day passing through, or 2-3 days with multiple visits back (a long weekend).
Highway 191 In Wyoming (Grand Teton + Yellowstone)
Known For: Incredible geological and natural features, wildlife viewing, and the amazing Teton Mountain range
Highway 191 is one of the longest north-south roads west of the Continental Divide. This 290 stretch of Highway in Wyoming is known as one of the most scenic drives in the USA for a West Coast road trip! It will connect two famous national parks – Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park.
Passing through Yellowstone National Park‘s famous Old Faithful Geyser, driving through the National Elk Refuge, and a quick visit to Jackson, Wyoming are just some of the highlights of this beautiful road. Stay overnight in both national parks to make the most of this Rocky Mountain road trip.
Places to Visit: Schwabacher’s Landing, Old Faithful, Mormon Row, Downtown Jackson, WY
Where To Begin/End: Begin in Bozeman, MT, and End in Jackson, Wyoming
Time Required: 2 days (staying one night in Yellowstone National Park)
Trail Ridge Road Scenic Byway, Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Known For: Tundra-like conditions, views of the Rocky Mountains, high-elevation roads
This amazing 48-mile stretch of road in Colorado is famous for a lot of different reasons. Most of all, for its panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains in all directions! It’s also a nationally designated All-American Road. Climbing high above the treeline, it feels like you’re entering another world. It kind of resembles the unforgiving arctic landscape of northern Alaska!
With sharp turns, steep dropoffs, and jaw-dropping views, you’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time during this west coast road trip!
Places to Visit: Alpine Visitor Center, Lava Cliffs, Rainbow curve, the Continental Divide
Where To Begin/End: Begin and end in Estes Park, or end in Grand Lake, Colorado.
Time Required: Half a day’s drive from Estes Park
Highway 395 California
Known For: Lonely roads, abandoned towns, and out-of-this-world landscapes
This 600-ish mile stretch of lonely road is the perfect attraction for alien lovers and ghost towns! The Eastern Sierras provide cool desert shapes of Alabama Hills (you’ve got to check out the iconic Movie Road!), and the unforgiving landscape of Yosemite National Park‘s eastern entrance. With Tioga Pass and the relaxing natural hot springs near Mammoth Lakes, you’ll get a perfect dose of ‘wow’ moments along California’s Highway 395!
Places to Visit: Alabama Hills, North Fork of Big Pine, Crowley Lake Columns, Mono Lake
Where To Begin/End: Begin in Los Angeles and end in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Time Required: 3 days (with night camping in Alabama Hills, and the camping near Lake Tahoe)
Cascades Lakes National Scenic Byway, Oregon
Known For: Alpine Lakes, camping, hiking, canoeing
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is famous for passing through some of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Oregon! Take the Oregon Route 372 for the scenic way to Bend, Oregon from the Diamond Peak Wilderness to the south.
We recommend coming in the summer months for full access to the road and access to all the hiking trails and camping recreation sites. It can get really snowy in the winter season, but the summer provides all sorts of things to do like canoeing, lake dips, and more!
Places to Visit: Sparks Lake, Mt Bachelor Mountain Resort (winter), Elk Lake, Lava Lake. Not ready to leave? Extend your drive to include the Mount Hood Scenic Byway from Portland to Hood River!
Where To Begin/End: Spend the weekend in Bend, Oregon, and finish in Diamond Peak Area in the Cascade Mountains
Time Required: 1 afternoon from Bend, Oregon (or multiple days if you want to go camping in Bend!)
Highway 20 – North Cascades National Park
Known For: Mountain views, incredible hiking trails, backcountry camping opportunities
Often referred to as the North Cascade Highway, Highway 20 is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Washington for its countless mountain views and gorgeous scenic pullouts. Some of the most iconic places to stop are Diablo Lake Overlook, Washington Pass Overlook, and Rainy Pass.
If you want to stay longer in the North Cascades National Park, consider hiking the popular Heather/Maple Loop Pass, or even take an overnight backpacking trip to the Sahale Glacier Camp. Regardless of the length of your adventure, you’ll leave wanting to return as soon as possible!
Places to Visit: Diablo Lake, Washington Pass Overlook
Where To Begin/End: Begin in Seattle, Washington, and end in Winthrop or Twisp, WA
Time Required: 1 day
The George Parks Highway (Alaska Highway 3)
Known For: The main road in Alaska that connects major stops like Anchorage, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks in the Interior region
Commonly named the George Parks Highway, this is the main road that connects the two largest cities in Alaska: Anchorage and Fairbanks. It also hosts the most iconic activities to do in Alaska, including visiting the Denali National Park, a plethora of adventures from Talkeetna, and city life in Anchorage.
Take this road to begin one of the coolest Alaska Road Trip itineraries!
Places to Visit: Talkeetna, Denali National Park, Fairbanks
Where To Begin/End: Begin and end in Anchorage, Alaska, with a northernmost stop in Fairbanks.
Time Required: 5 days
Route 89A In Sedona, Arizona
Known For: Red rock buttes and formations, gorgeous high-desert pine forests, and amazing sunrises and sunsets.
Route 89A in Arizona takes you through some of the most incredible, rich-colored rock structures in the entire state! Sedona, Arizona is known for being a spiritual place, so many people come here for its mystical, peaceful nature and stunning hikes.
On the edges near the Red Rocks State Park, you can find plenty of free places to camp, so you can continue to return to the park to explore the many amazing Sedona hiking trails around. The best time to visit is in the spring and fall seasons when the desert weather is cool in the morning and warm in the afternoons – not too hot!
Where To Begin/End: Start in Flagstaff on 89A, and finish off on Highway 17 on your way west or south to Prescott or Phoenix.
Time Required: 2-3 Days
Pacific Marine Circle Route (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)
Known For: Ocean vistas, ancient trees, and lush rainforests.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route is a 180-mile loop that begins and ends in Victoria, British Columbia. The drive will bring you to some of Vancouver Island’s most iconic locations, which include Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, East Sooke Park, and of course, the city of Victoria.
Now, we KNOW this west coast road trip route isn’t in the United States, but it is a very easy weekend getaway from Seattle, and definitely part of the Pacific Northwest, which is what this blog is all about! If you are looking for an adventurous west coast road trip in Canada, this is your route!
Places to Visit: The city of Victoria, East Sooke Park, Port Renfrew, Avatar Grove, and Goldstream Provincial Park
Where To Begin/End: Begin and end in Victoria, BC
Time Required: 2-3 days (but you can see the entire Island with our Vancouver Island road trip route here!)
Southern California Road Trip
Known For: Incredible beach sunsets, dry desert landscape, and unique Airbnbs!
A Southern California road trip is perfect for LA and San Diego locals who are looking for a quick getaway from the city! Just driving a few hours east brings you to stunning deserts, incredible hikes, and lots of desert solitude.
Make your home base in Palm Springs to do day trips (and also to stay in a cozy bed) or get adventurous and find free camping on BLM land. No matter how you do it, there’s a little something for everyone on this West Coast road trip!
Places to Visit: Joshua Tree National Park, Alabama Hills, Anza-Borrego Desert, Mojave National Preserve, and the Trona Pinnacles
Where To Begin/End: Start and end in either San Diego or Los Angeles with a loop drive
Time Required: 3-4 days (or one long weekend)
Northern California Road Trip
Known For: Wild California coastlines, giant redwood trees, tons of camping opportunities
A Northern California road trip is perfect for people who want big adventures without venturing too far away from the big cities of California. You can easily plan a long-weekend trip to Northern California from San Francisco, which makes this one of the best West Coast USA road trips for its convenience and epic scenery!
Where To Begin/End: Begin and end in San Francisco or Oakland, California
Time Required: 3-4 days (or one long weekend)
Southwest Road Trip
Known For: Epic desert landscapes, iconic American southwest destinations, several national parks
A Southwest road trip is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime scenic drive on the West Coast USA! This iconic road trip in the American West Coast is best taken in the shoulder season (October/November or March/April) because the summer weather can be HOT.
Places to Visit: Grand Canyon National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, Sedona, Arizona, Utah National Parks, deserts of New Mexico, Monument Valley – just to name the big ones!
Where To Begin/End: Driving one way? Begin in San Diego and end in Salt Lake City, UT. Driving in a loop? Begin and end in Las Vegas, NV.
Time Required: One Week (at least!)
Eastern Oregon Road Trip
Known For: Desert landscapes, backcountry hot springs, and incredible geological wonders
An Eastern Oregon road trip is not one you would typically expect to find when planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest! This part of Oregon is filled with long & lonely stretches of highway, endless sagebrush, and lots of peace and quiet.
This is one of the best West Coast road trips to take if you want to escape the crowds. Come prepared with an off-road-ready vehicle, and have fun exploring this incredible part of Oregon!
Where To Begin/End: Start and end in Bend, Oregon
Time Required: 4-5 days
Idaho Hot Springs Route
Known For: Seemingly endless amounts of natural geothermal pools to explore, all over the state of Idaho!
Idaho hot springs deserve their own road trip that is completely dedicated to relaxation! Luckily, there is a route in Idaho that takes you to the majority of the popular ones in the state, making it a perfect road trip for adventure lovers. Come in the fall and winter to warm up the most!
Where To Begin/End: Begin in Boise, Idaho and turn back to the city
Time Required: 3-days or one long weekend trip from Boise.