Guest Blog: The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip
National Parks, Renter Guest Posts, Trip Ideas & Guides, Women on the Road
By Jasmine Burgan
Your ultimate west coast road trip. Wild coastlines, giant trees, and the open road. From LA to Seattle and everything in between, here is your step by step guide to see the best that the west has to offer.
Don’t forget to read this list of things to know before you go before hitting the road!
Begin: Pick up your van from the Escape Campervans LA Rental Site
The first thing you’ll want to do is stock up on drinking water, food, and any other essentials you’ll need for the first part of the trip.
If you’re like me and would rather not do these things right in the heart of LA, head north on I5 and stop in Santa Clarita or even as far as Bakersfield before reaching Sequoia National Forest.
There are numerous free campsites in the Sequoia National Forest region, I used the Campendium app to find this one.
First Stop: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Spend time in the presence of the largest trees in the world.
Second Stop: Yosemite National Park
There’s something incredible to look at in every corner of this iconic National Park. Check out the park’s website here for things to do.
I got into the park super early to watch the sunrise at Tunnel View and would highly recommend it – you get awesome views of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome all from the comfort of your bed.
Third Stop: San Francisco
See the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, catch a Giants Game, visit Alcatraz… there are endless opportunities for fun in a city like San Fran.
Fourth Stop: Highway 1
Heading out of San Fran, jump onto Highway 1 and head north up the coastline. Whether it’s basking harbor seals, headlands covered in wildflowers, or misty seaside towns, there is so much to see you’ll want to stop every five minutes to admire the view and take pictures. I absolutely adored the town of Mendocino.
Fifth Stop: Redwoods National and State Parks
Continue heading a few hours north of Mendocino – highway 1 will turn into highway 101, and you’ll reach the beautiful Redwoods region of northern California.
I’d recommend taking the scenic route off Highway 101 into the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and on to the road known as ‘Avenue of The Giants’ – it runs parallel to the highway but winds through an amazing, fully-established forest of Redwoods. Be prepared to feel dwarfed and insignificant!
Avenue of the Giants joins back up with Highway 101 and you can continue further north to the Redwood forests that are found closer to the coast, like Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It’s amazing to see the forest blend into the sand dunes. Also in this park is an amazing little landscape known as ‘Fern Canyon’ – it is exactly what it sounds like, a small canyon whose walls are covered in lush green ferns. If you’re up for a walk along the beach, park the van at Gold Bluffs Beach Campground day area and walk along the ocean to the Fern Canyon parking lot, it’s only about 1.5 miles and if you’re lucky you’ll see wild elk on the beach!
Sixth Stop: Crater Lake National Park
Time to leave the coast and head inland towards Crater Lake. This is a bit of a longer drive, so you’ll probably want to camp somewhere in the National Forests alone the way to break up the journey a bit. Check here for a spot!
I arrived at Crater Lake when it was lightly snowing, so didn’t have the clearest of views, but regardless of weather, it’s impossible to not be awestruck by the grandiosity of this landscape.
Seventh Stop: Bend, Oregon
From Crater Lake, head north for just under two hours and you’ll reach the town of Bend, Oregon. If you’re into outdoor activities and craft beer, then this is the town for you! Wrapped around the Deschutes River, Bend is picturesque and full of character.
About an hour north of Bend is Smith Rock State Park, a striking landscape of rock formations formed by basalt flow from nearby volcanoes millions of years ago. With the Crooked River running right through the center, Smith Rock is another one of those places where you feel like you’re walking in a painting. There are plenty of hiking trails and climbing routes here as well as options for camping nearby.
Eighth Stop: Mt Hood and Trillium Lake
Another couple of hours north, on the way to Portland, you’ll find Oregon’s tallest peak, Mt Hood. If glass-like lakes and snow-capped mountains are your thing, stop by Trillium Lake for some amazing views of Mt Hood and a stroll around the lake. Honestly, though, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my favorite moment from this part of the trip was when I dipped my feet into the lake and had Salamanders coming up to greet me.
There are a number of hot springs in the surrounding areas – if you’re interested, why not check out Bagby Hot Springs or Cougar Hot Springs on the way to Portland.
Ninth Stop: Cannon Beach
Time to head back to the coast to check out what is possibly Oregon’s most iconic beach – Cannon Beach. You’ll pass through Portland on your way here from Mt Hood – this modern city is full of surprises so if you’ve got time and are interested, why not stop in for a few hours? I took a stroll through Mt Tabor Park, which has some really nice views of the city.
If not, head straight through to Cannon Beach. Famous for its striking sea stacks, it’s the perfect place to have a beach bonfire and watch the sun go down. There aren’t any free camping opportunities available in this area, but for a small fee, you can camp at the nearby Fort Stevens State Park or any of the local private campgrounds which you can find on the Campendium app – hooray for showers!
Tenth Stop: Olympic National Park
Time to check out Washington’s coast and witness some of the wildest beaches you’ll see in the US – I recommend Kalaloch Beach. Just minutes away are the lushest temperate rainforests and waterfalls, and plenty of lakes and hiking trails – you won’t be disappointed.
Eleventh Stop: Mt. Rainier National Park
And now to check out Washingtons tallest peak – Mt Rainier, an active volcano covered in glaciers. There is no shortage of things to do here, from snow activities to hiking and dining. There are numerous free camping opportunities in the area too!
End: Escape Campervans Seattle Rental Site
Try not to cry as you say goodbye to your loyal home on wheels!
11 thoughts on “Guest Blog: The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip”
Hey this trip looks INCREDIBLE! I wanna replicate it on some level. How long did this take/what do you think the range?
Hi Jason! She did this route in about 14 days. That’s a good amount of time, but it all depends on what you want to see and how much time you want to spend in each place!
If I did this trip from San Francisco to Seattle how many days do you think I would need?
Hi Kristene! If you would like to follow this itinerary to a T, it would take about one week. Spreading the trip out over 10-14 days would allow you to spend more time hiking and sightseeing and space out the driving time more.
Hello, I’m glad to have found your article. We’re planning on a 4 week road trip from Tucson all the way up to Vancouver, and its our first time. My concern is – do we have a lot of options in terms of parks where we can park? Especially with the virus and all, we prefer to be in non crowded places. Safety is an issue as well.
You have tons of options! Luckily, with a campervan you won’t need hookups at an RV park. The campervan will fit in most tent sites. Private campgrounds, state parks, national forests and national parks are all great options. Call ahead to make sure they are open and ask if you can reserve a site. Hipcamp is also an option similar Airbnb but for campsites that could offer seclusion.
This looks amazing! We are looking to do a similar trip. How far in advance do we need to book for overnight parking and access to parks etc?
This is a great question as things are changing so quickly these days. Our advice: book as far in advance as you can and research the cancellation policy. You can book a campsite at most National Parks up to six months in advance via recreation.gov. Timed or ticketed entry from busier parks like Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park are also available on recreation.gov.
Amazing trip. When traveling the west coast, don’t pass up Ventura County, with two great recreational harbors, fine dining, and all sorts of fun things to do.
What about eight days west coast, flying in from New Orleans?
Hi there! Do you know if there’s many places to camp in a camper van in the cities on this road trip?