Table of contents
- Road Trip #1: Road Trip Los Angeles – San Francisco
- Road Trip #2: Journey through America’s great parks
- Road Trip #3: Road Trip from San Francisco to Seattle
- Road Trip #4: Los Angeles to San Diego
- Road Trip #5: Destination Alaska
Discover 5 road trip ideas to explore the West Coast of the United States of America. The countless sights of California, the wilds of Oregon, the lush greenery of Washington State or the polar splendors of Alaska will provide an inexhaustible wealth of beauty.
Road Trip #1: Road Trip Los Angeles – San Francisco
For your first road trip on the U.S. West Coast, one of the most fantastic routes is along the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Allow around 8 days to get the most out of your journey, which covers almost 620 kilometers.
Days 1 and 2: Discovering the City of Angels
In Los Angeles, take advantage of your arrival to discover the city’s emblematic landmarks. Venice Beach is a wonderful neighborhood with its famous Venice Boardwalk. Plan a stroll along the canals that run alongside villas with lush gardens. Continue your peregrination in Santa Monica for a shopping session in one of the local malls. Plan to watch the sunset on the Santa Monica Pier, then spend the evening at Pacific Park, the amusement park located on the pier.
The next day, start your day with a soak in the stars on Hollywood Boulevard. Then head for Beverly Hills, with its chic restaurants and shops. It’s also an opportunity to explore the streets lined with palm trees and sumptuous mansions. For an unobstructed, panoramic view of the whole of Los Angeles, head for Mount Griffith, home to an ancient astronomical observatory.
Day 3: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara
Take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), a series of roads between northern and southern California. It’s also known as California State Route 1 or Highway 1. It runs along the Pacific coast.
First stop from Los Angeles: Malibu. Stop off for a few hours to discover fantastic spots such as Surfrider Beach, Broard Beach and Pirate’s Cove. For lunch, choose one of the restaurants on Malibu Pier. Then head back to Santa Barbara.
The city of Santa Barbara is a seaside resort with many celebrity homes. But the main attraction lies in the city’s Hispanic-style architectural heritage. It’s also a perfect place for whale and dolphin watching.
Day 4: Stopover in an oasis at Pismo Beach
Set course for Pismo Beach, about 1h30 from Santa Barbara. Get ready for a tasty California experience. If you’re a surf enthusiast, head for the beach. You’ll find a trendy bar where you can enjoy an excellent California Pinot Noir.
Nature lovers will not be outdone. The Pismo Beach area is home to the Pismo Preserve, where you can contemplate magnificent landscapes from high above. It features magical beaches and wooded hills.
Days 5 and 6: Towards Big Sur
On this fifth day, drive to Big Sur. This is a part of the Pacific coast that stretches between San Simeon in the south and Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north. The region is relatively sparsely populated. It’s a wilderness that’s perfect for hikers and backcountry campers. Several state parks offer delightful immersions in nature. Big Sur is a novel of the same name written by Jack Kerouac, describing his tormented spiritual retreat. Don’t hesitate to read it for a glimpse of the magic of the place.
During your few days in the wilderness, plan to set down your bags in Carmel-by-the-Sea. This charming little town welcomes you to its bohemian setting on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. It’s about 2.5 hours from Pismo Beach.
Days 7 and 8: Going to San Francisco
From Carmel-by-the-Sea, allow 2h00 to reach The City by the Bay. Add Scott McKenzie’s famous song to your playlist:
If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there
When you arrive in San Francisco, you’ll taste a different lifestyle and meet some friendly people. The architecture is sublime, and not just…
Road Trip #2: Journey through America’s great parks
Explore the great American national parks on the West Coast with this second road trip. You can combine the previous tour with this one. As a reminder, our road trip number 1 took you along the Pacific Coast Highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Yosemite National Park
This road trip starts in San Francisco. Allow at least two days to explore the city before heading for Yosemite National Park. The journey takes around 4.5 hours over a distance of 300 kilometers. Be sure to rent a car that can handle the miles and, above all, the high temperatures – you’ll understand why a little further on. Allow 3 or 4 days to explore all the wonders of the area.
Yosemite National Park was made famous by the famous naturalist John Muir. This nature lover wrote many articles about the park, as well as a poetic and delightful book: Un été dans la Sierra (A Summer in the Sierra). Rock-climbing enthusiasts will enjoy climbing Half Dome, a mountain peaking at 2,700 metres.
Or discover Yosemite Falls: waterfalls cascading from a height of 750 metres. Numerous panoramic viewpoints immerse hikers among peaks and clouds.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Near Yosemite National Park, explore forested landscapes that project you into a Jurassic setting. Sequoia and Kings Canyon are located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Mount Whitney, North America’s highest peak, proudly dominates these verdant expanses. Two trails are a must: Redwood Canyon and Big Trees. You’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with the giant redwoods! Allow 3 to 5 days to explore both parks, which cover a very large area.
Death Valley Park
The distance between Sequoia National Park and Death Valley Park is around 557 kilometers. You’ll need to allow a full day for the journey. There are plenty of ghost towns to explore, but the wonders of nature, sculpted by the desert, are far more fabulous to survey. Depending on the season, the heat can be very intense. That’s why it’s imperative to hire a car that can cope with such conditions.
Two days are enough to visit Death Valley Park. After your exploration, you can head for Los Angeles with a stopover in sultry Las Vegas.
Road Trip #3: Road Trip from San Francisco to Seattle
Departing from charming San Francisco, start your trip with a stroll through the Muir Woods redwood forest. A tribute to naturalist John Muir, it’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries after a few days in the city.
Day 1: To Little River
The Redwood Highway offers magnificent panoramic views of the ocean. Several spots offer splendid sunset views. Stop off in the small town of Little River. The distance from Frisco is around 250 kilometers.
Days 2 and 3: Crescent City
On the second day, you’ll drive to Crescent City. The distance is 350 kilometers. Take your time to drive along the Pacific coast and admire the different panoramas. You can plan to stay 2 days in Crescent City to explore one of the countless forest trails. You’ll rub shoulders with giant trees and cool off in clear rivers.
Days 4 and 5: Arrival in Oregon
It’s time to leave California and enter Oregon. A drive of just over 200 kilometers will take you into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. You’ll be able to wander through vast expanses of windswept dunes bordered by pine forests. Allow around two days to explore the area and recharge your batteries with the Pacific sea spray. You can find a B&B or hotel in Coos Bay.
Day 6: A day on the road
It’s time to hit the road again, bound for Portland. From Coosbay, drive about 160 kilometers along the Pacific coast to Newport. This charming little town is the perfect place to stop for lunch. To reach Portland, you’ll have to drive another 130 kilometers.
Day 7: A day of rest in Portland
Take a day off to visit Portland, one of the greenest cities in the USA.
Days 8 to 10: Drive to Seattle
Drive back to Seattle. From Portland, the road stretches for approximately 300 kilometers away from the coast. Plan to leave in the morning and arrive in Seattle for lunch. The Emerald City, in the heart of Washington State, lies between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Explore Seattle’s verdant surroundings and beautiful streets, including Pioneer Square and the Pike Place Market district. A ferry ride is a must.
Road Trip #4: Los Angeles to San Diego
The distance between Los Angeles and San Diego is only 200 kilometers. If you don’t have much time to explore California, this road trip is the ideal format.
Day 1: Newport Beach
After your visit to Los Angeles, drive about 70 kilometers to Newport Beach. It’s an elegant seaside town offering many sumptuous panoramas. It’s one of the most popular spots for surfers. Take the day to explore the town and its famous pier.
Day 2: Oceanside
For this second day, you’ll have to travel just 70 kilometers to reach Oceanside via Interstate 5. Take advantage of the scenic route to drive with your hair blowing in the wind. Oceanside is a seaside town offering a wide range of activities. Rent a boat to watch the whales offshore.
Days 3 and 4: San Diego
San Diego is about 60 kilometers away. Once you arrive in this big city, which is a US Navy base, you’ll find plenty to do. Consider Seaport Village for shopping, or Old Town, which immerses you in miniature Mexico. If you’d like to visit a warship from the Second World War, you can visit the aircraft carrier USS Midway.
Road Trip #5: Destination Alaska
The last example of a road trip you’re about to discover: the wild roads of Alaska. To get to the Land of the Midnight Sun, you can fly from France to Seattle. Alaskan Airlines offers flights from Seattle to Anchorage.
Day 1: Visit Anchorage
Take advantage of this first day to visit Anchorage. Set in the hollow of the mountains, the city is home to many architectural and craft treasures.
Day 2: En route to Denali National Park
From Anchorage, drive along roads lined with wild forests and tundra. It’s a 372-kilometer drive to Denali National Park, with its many walks through spruce forests.
Days 3 and 4: In a park with polar frontiers
Spend two days in Denali National Park. Explore the various trails in this gigantic space, rich in fascinating wildlife: squirrels, elk, caribou, not forgetting the terrifying grizzlies.
Day 5: En route to Fairbanks
On this sixth day, you’ll travel about 205 kilometers to reach Fairbanks. Take a day for a leisurely drive and admire flower-filled plains, shimmering lakes and many other wonders.
Day 6: Rest in Fairbanks
Take a day off in Fairbanks. This is your chance to learn more about Alaska Native culture and take a trip to the hot springs. The region is full of stories about the Gold Rush.
Day 7: To Chitina
It takes all day to reach the hamlet of Chitina from Fairbanks. The distance is 500 kilometers. You’ll pass through wilderness and see distant glaciers on the horizon.
Day 8: A day in Chitina
After this long stretch of road, enjoy a moment’s rest in this small hamlet that looks like a city straight out of a Gold Rush movie. A few strolls along forest trails will liven up your day.
Day 9: Marine exploration
From Chitina, it’s a 330-kilometer drive to the Palmer region. Don’t hesitate to hire a boat to cruise the icy waters of the Gulf of Alaska. Many marine wonders can be contemplated.
Day 10: Return to Anchorage
On this last day, take your time to get to Anchorage, just 50 minutes from Palmer. Breathe in the wild Alaskan air.
The west coast of the United States stretches for almost 2,000 kilometers, between San Diego and Seattle. It’s full of wonders that you’ll be able to contemplate, provided you allow enough time and budget.