Best West Coast Road Trips Ideas

Planning a road trip out West means focusing on the nearly 1,700-mile road that stretches from Southern California up to northern Washington state. It's known as the Pacific Coast Highway and includes US Highway 101 through Washington and Oregon before joining Highway 1 in California.  

You can drive between the two cities on Interstate 5 in 1,200 miles as well, but you’d miss some breathtaking sights. If you’re going to road trip out West, the Pacific Coast Highway route is the way to go. 


How to Plan a Trip Out West

Get a free copy of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway online to carefully review the dozens of choices you'll have to make on this trip. You can plan ahead but be prepared to deviate from your agenda, as this route includes hundreds of places to pull off and take a picture. 

You don't want to drive the Pacific Coast Highway in one stretch. It's best to split the trip up between your preferred stopping points. The southern stretch of this road takes you by some fun and interesting cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The drive gets much quieter as it weaves along the ocean up through Oregon and Washington. 

You'll need to decide which direction you want to travel—north to south or south to north. If you’re flying in and renting a car for the West Coast road trip, you'll want to use San Diego International Airport (SAN) or Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). 


Weather Concerns on Your West Coast Road Trip

Find your favorite weather app and keep it handy if you'll be traveling this route from late October through May. Winter watches and warnings can cause road closures or detours. In the summer, be prepared for the possibility of western wildfires sending smoke or haze into the air. These can also cause road detours or closures. 

The climate from Southern California up to Washington state can change dramatically any time of year, so pack accordingly. Bring a raincoat and umbrella for the northern leg of this trip. The West Coast is clear from any hurricane potential year-round. If you’re traveling in winter, bring snow chains just in case. 


How Many Days Does it Take to Drive the West Coast?

It depends on how much time you want to spend at each stop area, but ideally, 4–5 days will give you time to complete this western U.S. road trip with plenty of memories to talk about for years to come.

With 1,700 miles of scenic roadway, aim to cover around 400 miles a day—give or take a hundred miles between certain tourist stops. You’re going to want to travel mostly during daylight hours to soak it all in before the sun goes down.


What to See in California

Northern and southern California are almost like two different worlds in many respects, so it would be ideal to plan an overnight stay in the Bay Area after you've finished SoCal or vice versa.


Southern California

SoCal is known as the Golden Coast for a reason. Everything you've seen on television comes to life before your eyes as you head down the Pacific Coast Highway, known as the "PCH” by California natives.

There are a lot of beach town stops, and each brings its own unique history and charm to the coast.

  • San Diego
  • Laguna Beach
  • Newport Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Santa Monica
  • Santa Barbara
  • San Luis Obispo (SLO)


Northern California

The northern section of the state begins just outside of San Luis Obispo. There’s a cultural, political, and economical difference between southern and northern California. It's a difference so vast that there have been more than 200 attempts to split the state into separate sections (of course, none of those attempts have worked).

On your West Coast U.S. road trip, you'll see the difference up North in the drive itself. Highlights include:

  • Big Sur
  • Monterey Bay
  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • Bodega Bay (movie location of Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds) 
  • Eureka
  • Redwood National Park
  • Crescent City


What to See in Oregon

The section of this route known as "The People's Coast" stretches 363 miles, hugging the rugged Oregon coastline. You'll pass through art communities, fishing villages, and roads where you’re the only car to be seen for miles.

Some great stopping points are:

  • Gold Beach
  • Otter Beach State Recreational Park
  • Sisters Rock State Park
  • Humbug Mountain State Park
  • Port Orford
  • Cape Blanco Lighthouse
  • Coos Bay
  • Elliott State Forest
  • Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve
  • Astoria


What to See in Washington State

Highway 101 wraps around the Olympia area—a loop with lots to do. You'll still see beach towns, but lumber takes your attention away as logging is a big industry in Washington. Mountain lakes are a quick stop away and the landscape is dotted with Alpine peaks. How many other places can you spend a morning at the beach and a sunset at the summit?

Recommendations for city life and nature viewing include: 

  • Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
  • Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary
  • Lewis & Clark National Park
  • Olympia
  • Seattle
  • Tacoma
  • Olympic National Park (Mt. Olympus stands at 7,965 feet above sea level)


Book Now

You now have a better idea of how to plan your road trip out West, and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts will be right by your side with locations close to top points of interest. Download the app and book now. 

Find your stops, book your stays, hit the road. It’s the easiest way to book and go on the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts app.


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