Have you ever looked at those postcard-worthy shots from the West Coast of the U.S. and thought to yourself, “I’m going to grab my car and head there someday?” Well, today might be that day.
We know that the world right now might still be a bit scary and uncertain, but with the correct safety measures in mind, your travel desires can be curbed. And what’s better than getting on the road, breeze running through your hair, surrounded by scenic landscapes and the deep blue sea?
Going on a road trip can be one of the most remarkable experiences you’ll ever have, and today I’m going to show you some of the most magnificent routes the West Coast has to offer. From the northernmost point of Washington to all the way down to the southernmost point of California there are beautiful places that are only accessible by road. And perhaps, a short detour can end up taking you to another magical place you’ve never even dreamed of!
View of Coachella Valley found on the route from San Diego to Palm Desert by @justnlisa
That being said, we advise you to pack your GPS and map because we, as fellow backpackers, want to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. And yes, the map will be your trusty ally in case you lose your GPS signal. Here’s some inspiration for you to discover on your next road trip.
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Pacific Coast Highway - San Francisco to LA
There might be no more iconic road trip than taking the Highway 1 south from San Francisco along the beautiful coastline of California. On the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll go through the endless lines of palm trees and overpowering cliffs of Southern California, the sandy stretches over Monterey Peninsula all the way to the wildflower blooming paradise that is the Big Sur.
Enjoy a long weekend to visit the well-known Monterey Bay Aquarium (one of the largest in the world), explore the fabled Cannery Row, and even take a quick stroll through the local markets for some tasty treats.
Oregon Loop Road Trip
This particular road trip can be enjoyed in full over one or two weeks, which makes it the perfect choice for an end of Summer vacation trip. From Portland make your way East on I-84 through the stunning view of the Columbia River George and take in the breathtaking waterfalls throughout the landscape. As you keep driving South—and enjoying those local apple farms—through Mt. Hood National Forest, you’ll soon make your way through the high desert of Central Oregon. I encourage you to take some time to explore the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s wine country known by its world-class Pinot noir!
Lakes, mountains, parks—Oregon makes for a great road trip by @maris_riv
The Silverado Trail of Napa Valley
In less than an hour, you can drive through Napa’s most famous winery estates. Now, doesn’t that sound appetizing? Travel north from Napa to Calistoga to enjoy the scenic Silverado Trail, going for a 29-mile stretch of road, or opt for the State Highway 29—commonly known as “The 29” route. The Silverado Trail Road makes its way through some less well known but just as enjoyable wineries and offers you stunning views of endless wide vineyards that just seem to go on for ages. If you decide to make some stops, don’t miss out on the Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-inspired Tuscan castle and winery, and the Sharpsteen Museum, where you can get a grasp on the rich history of Napa Valley.
Stop for a wine tasting at some of the local Napa Valley vineyards by @maris_riv
Crater Lake to Cape Flattery
If you’re a road trip fan and you’ve already driven up the West Coast, you’re already well acquainted with all the endless beach stops along the way. The route from Crater Lake in Oregon to Cape Flattery in Washington is usually highly underrated, but trust me, it’s worth the drive. Here you’ll find yourself looking at the deepest lake in the U.S. Pretty neat, right?
Head up the coast and make sure you stop by Thor’s Well, a natural wonder that gives out the feeling of a bottomless sinkhole that drains out the sea. Keep driving until you reach Cape Flattery, which is the most northeastern point of the United States. I would advise you to bring your camera, but by now you’re already way ahead of me.
You'll encounter some impressive views hiking in Cape Flattery by @traveltrachs
Palm Springs to San Diego
The drive from the city of Palm Springs to coastal San Diego might just be one of the most fun road trips you can take in California, and the best part is that you get to call the shots on how long you want to make it last. While you can make this trip last several days, if your driving mood is action-packed with speed and leaning more to a couple of hours, the Interstate route will help you out. For a stunning view, drive by the Palms to Pines Scenic Bay through Temecula on route to San Diego. It might just be the eye-opener you need.
I advise you to avoid this road trip during the summer since the weather can be a bit foggy along the coast, and in the winter since it’s extremely likely to rain. If you happen to take this route during spring or fall, make sure to visit Balboa Park with its natural gardens and museums. If the beach is more your thing, go catch some sun at La Jolla and make sure you curb your cravings for Mexican food.
Explore the area by venturing out in a hot air ballon by @gawenallain
San Francisco to Sonoma County
This road trip might be the most relaxed choice you can take. Driving to Sonoma County will give you the opportunity to experience all that the county has to offer; from famous vineyards to farm-to-table cuisine, all the way to the redwoods in the background. If you enjoy endless rows of trees with reddish and orange tones during fall, I encourage you to take this trip during harvest season.
While in Sonoma, make sure you take some time to visit their wineries. Did you know that some of their best wineries are family-run producers?
If you happen to feel hungry during the journey, choosing where and what to eat will be your toughest choice. From Wild Flower Bread’s scones (ginger flavor, anyone?), to sustainable and seasonal farm-to-table cuisine, there’s no wrong choice.
Magical fog over Sonoma County by @meshna