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The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
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The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip Itinerary

It’s time to cross off major items off your West Coast road trip itinerary, and here are our top nine to get you started.

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5 min read

October 31, 2021

Bored of the classic road trip feel and on the hunt for a new adventure? Well, if you’re on the West Coast, that means picking between the sun-drenched drives through SoCal, the forested hideouts in the Pacific Northwest, or long weekends cruising on the Columbia River Highway. However you slice it, there’s no shortage of cities to see and things to do, nor incredible drives to take. It’s time to cross off major items off your West Coast road trip itinerary, and here are our top nine to get you started.

West Coast Road Trip Stops to Make on the Way

Santa Monica experienced a boom since the late 1980s through the revitalization of its downtown core, significant job growth, and increased tourism.

Stop One: Santa Monica, California 

The iconic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) road trip is one of the most popular adventures in the whole United States. The PCH starts at the famous Santa Monica Pier and kicks off the West Coast road trip’s seven-day itinerary—make sure to take in all its highlights. Get your amusement park fix at the pier and head on directly down to Santa Monica State Beach for that quintessential Golden State splashing around.

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Stop Two: Solvang, California 

One of the West Coast’s hottest road trip ideas is a scenic adventure starting in Solvang and stretching all the way to California’s picturesque small towns. The quaint Danish village is one of SoCal’s best-kept secrets. Rich with history, Scandinavian architecture, and delicious cuisine, Solvang will keep you entertained all throughout your stay. You can even calculate your road trip to fall on the third weekend of March so that you can participate in the Taste of Solvang—this event gets all the best chefs and bakers together to give guests a taste of Denmark’s outstanding cuisine.

With expansive beaches and some of the world’s best off-shore breaks, Santa Cruz is famous for its high-stoke surf culture.

Stop Three: Santa Cruz, California 

Renowned for surfing, beaches, and laid-back living, Santa Cruz is the next stop on your West Coast road trip. During your journey, you’ll pass by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of the state’s oldest amusement parks boasting attractions ranging from pure nostalgia to thrill-inducing modern rides. And before you head to your next destination, make sure to explore the Swanton Berry Farm—it’s the perfect end to your visit to Santa Cruz. This pick-your-own-fruit farm boasts seasonal juicy olallieberries or unique fruits like tayberries and loganberries.

Settlement of Jackson by American pioneers was stimulated by the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills around 1848.

Stop Four: Jackson, California 

A Gold Rush gem in Amador County, Jackson is your introduction to the historic era. Once there, head straight to downtown and try to picture what the boomtown looked like back in the day; with gold seemingly oozing out of every corner. Today, the legacy of high-spirited shopkeepers, innkeepers, and restaurateurs remains alive on Main Street, which showcases Jackson’s reputation as the most successful town to a new generation of visitors.

Sacramento is known for its evolving contemporary culture, and is dubbed the most "hipster city" in California.

Stop Five: Sacramento, California

No road trip to the U.S.A.'s West Coast is ever complete without a journey through the Gold Country’s main superstar, Sacramento. You’ll feel as if you’re following in the footsteps of Johann Augustus Sutter and his carpenter James Marshall—the duo who first discovered gold in California. The Old Sacramento district is where you’ll find most of the historic buildings relating to the Gold Rush; a history museum, a railroad museum, and lots of unique shops will remind you of an era gone but certainly not forgotten.

Besides panning for gold, Sacramento’s known for a handful of other attractions and activities—soothing rivers, historic streets, basketball games, and scenic trails you can bike through if you need a break from all that driving.

Stop Six: Mendocino, California 

Conclude the California end of your West Coast journey in Mendocino, a gem known for its distinctive New England-style architecture and endless coastal vistas. This is a place to truly unwind, as the charming boutique hotels and the urge to turn off your phone take over your senses. You’ll feel that the city buzz is worlds away—a wild wonderland of nature compels you to consider living at a slower pace, and you’ll need your camera with you at all times. And while interesting museums and amusement parks may have been draws for your other West Coast road trip destinations, this area is personified through its giant redwood trees, jagged cliffs, and fairytale-esque Victorian mansions.

While it often gets overshadowed by Seattle to the north, Portland is one of the country's best and most interesting metropolises.

Stop Seven: Portland, Oregon

Hipsters, foodies, and eco-activists love Portland—all the more reason to include it in your ultimate West Coast road trip itinerary. The city is where independent coffee shops sit alongside vegan restaurants; this place is exactly what you should be exploring. For a quick intro, catch up on a few episodes of the TV show Portlandia, written by and starring SNL alum Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. And while the show offers a gentle satire of the city’s hipster scene, you can find their real-life inspiration by simply wandering around; did we mention that Portland is extremely walkable? If you want a break from your car yoga sessions and wish to discover second-hand bookshops and scenic street corners, Oregon’s liberal heart is the place to stop.

Seattle is the birthplace of rock musician Jimi Hendrix, as well as the origin of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and more.

Stop Eight: Seattle, Washington

The beating heart of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is one of the highlights of a West Coast RV trip. Upon arrival, take a turn around Pike Place Market, where the daily catch is sold at dawn. Later, visit the first-ever branch of Starbucks right opposite the market and climb the Space Needle for killer views over the majestic Mount Rainier dominating the skyline—this is as scenic as Seattle gets. 

Say, if you were doing a 10-day West Coast road trip, you can take a cruise around the harbor and swat up on local facts—for instance, you can learn how the view from Cheers’ Frasier Crane’s apartment could never exist.

Stop Nine: Anchorage, Alaska 

Anchorage is the West Coast’s winter wonderland. Every day in this city begins with a rugged wide-open space backdrop and the freshest water in the whole wide world. This, of course, is only scratching the surface of this Alaska gem. Visiting here means having unmatched access to wildlife, unique sports (have you ever heard of ice golfing?), and nature’s bounty like you’ve never seen. Time your trip for the summer months and you can join Alaskans on their busy calendar of festivals like Salmonfest, Sitka WHaleFest, and the iconic Alaska State Fair.

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