8 WEST COAST ROAD TRIP DESTINATIONS
While destinations like San Francisco and the Grand Canyon are obvious stops on a West Coast road trip, part of what makes the West Coast so uniquely beautiful is its sandy beaches, turquoise coastlines, jagged mountain peaks, lush forests, and expansive deserts. My family and I have spent the past five years traveling in our RV exploring the outdoors. So, if you’re planning a trip to the West Coast, here are eight of our favorite road trip destinations.
From cruising down the iconic Highway 1 to admiring the rocky coastline at the dozens of pullouts to exploring the beautiful forests surrounding Big Sur, it’s easy to enjoy all the California coast has to offer in a short amount of time. Nature lovers can enjoy the wildlife at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, watch the sunset at Pfeiffer Beach, and explore Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park—where you can view the famous McWay Falls. If you’re up for a little challenge, the best views of the turquoise ocean are at the top of the Ewoldson Trail. While Big Sur’s small-town charm can be experienced year-round, it’s best from late spring through fall.
While it’s the perfect surf of Steamer Lane that first brought us to Santa Cruz, it’s the quaint seaside town of Capitola, hiking in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and camping at New Brighton State Beach that keeps us returning. While some may enjoy Santa Cruz’s famous boardwalk, I think it’s the Mystery Spot that is the most exciting for kids and adults alike. With numerous beaches, tide pools, and mountain biking trails nearby, Santa Cruz is a perfect year-round destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about for the granite rocks of Yosemite until I drove in from the Lee Vining side of the national park. The deep striations of gray tower over green meadows and a crystal blue stream. It’s something you absolutely have to see for yourself.
Our favorite hike in Tuolumne Meadows takes you to the top of Lembert’s Dome, 500 feet high. A great family-friendly hike on the Yosemite Valley side is in Mariposa Grove, where you can stand beneath giant Sequoia trees. For those more adventurous, try the thirteen-mile day hike by starting up the Four Mile Trail, where you’ll get great views of Yosemite Falls across the valley. Yosemite is best visited in summer and fall when the scenic Tioga Road drive is open, connecting the two sides of the park.
The coast of Oregon is beautiful and lush, but Bend is our favorite place to go for year-round adventure. Ski at Mt. Bachelor in the winter, or try snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. For the rest of the year, the Three Sister's Wilderness is perfect for camping, hiking, and mountain biking. My family loves visiting in summer because it’s the perfect time for water adventures like inner tubing, river surfing, and cliff jumping. Bend is also a hub for all things hipster. When you’ve had your fill of outdoor adventure, head to one of Bend’s many great breweries, relax in a yoga class, walk along the river, or enjoy a summer concert at Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Crater Lake’s vibrant, deep blue hues are unlike anything I’ve seen before. One day, I hope to go back and spend a night at the Crater Lake Lodge, where there are epic views of the lake. Our favorite hike, Garfield Peak Trail, also starts from here. It’s best to visit in summer when all the trails are snow-free. Make sure to experience the lake on a boat tour too.
There are a lot of great national parks to choose from on the West Coast, but visiting the glacier-covered peak of Mt. Rainier is one of our favorites. We loved seeing the glaciers up close from Glacier Vista but it’s the north side of the park, Paradise, that I enjoyed the most. Summer and fall are the best times to visit so you can see the mesmerizing wildflowers take over. Be sure to catch the sunset in the park; the clouds change colors over the mountains and it’s truly an awe-inspiring moment.
We love visiting the historic town of Fairhaven year-round for its laid back vibe, delicious food trucks, amazing farmers markets, lively breweries, cute cafes, and dozens of nearby adventures. We usually camp at Larrabee State Park, where you can hike or bike the Interurban Trail straight into town. Fairhaven is a great jumping-off point to explore nearby Bellingham and hop on a ferry to the San Juan Islands.
Robyn Robledo is the co-creator of "Nomads With A Purpose" where she inspires others to get outdoors and travel more. Her family of seven have lived in their RV for the past five years in order to travel more and prioritize authentic connection and adventure.