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West Coast National Park Road Trip

This West Coast National Park Road Trip starts at Yosemite National Park and heads north to Crater Lake National Park and then finishes up in North Cascades National Park. This itinerary centers around hiking, rock climbing, and camping. Besides the West Coast National Parks, we also included stopping to check out beautiful waterfalls near Redding, exploring Bend, Oregon, and epic adventures near Leavenworth, Washington.

How long do you need for this West Coast National Parks Road Trip?

We did this trip in 4 weeks. I felt like it was enough time to take in all 3 national parks but we really could’ve spent even more time than we did in each of the national parks.

How many miles is it from Yosemite to Crater Lake National Park?

About 600 miles.

How many miles is it from Crater Lake to North Cascades National Park?

About 625 miles.

Our West Coast National Park 4-week Itinerary

In the summer of 2017, we set off on a 5,000-mile, summer-long adventure road trip through the Western U.S. and Canada.  Our goal was to lose ourselves in the mountains, connect as a family, and find incredible hikes and rock climbing destinations along the way.

The U.S. and Canada have some pretty amazing mountain ranges to explore. Whether we were hiking, rock climbing, or mountain biking, it seemed like we were always trying to reach the summit of some glorious peak, see another alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains, follow a trail through rows of Aspen trees, or scale a rock wall to see expansive views of more mountains.

We had done a similar trip the previous year in Europe where we did a different adventure every day for 162 days!

This blog just highlights the first 4 weeks of that summer road trip. If you’re looking to extend this road trip, check out these blogs:

Rent an RV through Outdoorsy for your next Adventure Road Trip

Yosemite National Park to Crater Lake National Park

Day 1: We chose to camp at Summerdale Campground in Fish Creek, which is 45 minutes from Yosemite.

Day 2: Explore Tuolumne Meadows.

On Day 3: We hiked the 13-mile Panorama Trail in Yosemite. This is a great spring hike and the amount of water coming off the waterfalls this year was incredible!

Day 4: We drove to Redding and then headed east and slept at a pullout right before Burney Limestone where we planned on rock climbing the next day.

Pro Tip: Save a ton of money by signing up for Harvest Hosts! Back in 2015, it was hard to find free camping spots. Now RVers and Van Lifers can park at wineries, breweries, golf courses, and even people’s driveways with Harvest Hosts. For less than $100, you can camp at 7000+ unique locations.

Day 5: Rock climbing at Burney Limestone.  We liked that this climbing area had a short approach from the side of the road and that the area around the crag was pretty, however, a few of the climbs were a bit sandbagged.   

In the afternoon, we drove a short distance to play in the water at Hatchet Falls.  

That night we camped at Burney Falls, which I highly recommend.  It is a beautiful campground with nice roads for the kids to ride bikes on and the one-mile hike to the lake is pleasant.  Plus, of course, there is a beautiful waterfall to take photos of and it is a state park so we finally got showers!  

Related Blog: Best Campgrounds California

Gabi jumping into water at Hatchet Falls on summer adventure road trip
Gabi jumping into the water at Hatchet Falls

Day 6 & 7: We love seeking out new adventures, but some days it’s nice to just chill by your campsite. For three whole days, we stayed in this campground (that’s a lot for us) relaxing in our hammock, riding bikes, and hiking to the lake to swim in—and got in trouble for jumping off the dock :/ 

Related Blog: 3 Amazing Northern California Waterfall Hikes

Day 8: We got in a quick workout and headed towards Oregon.  On the way, we stopped to hike Middle McCloud Falls and cliff jump into the pools. 

This was a nice short hike from the campground, which I do recommend spending a night at if you have the chance. There are no showers here, but plenty of trees and trails.

Related Blog: Oregon Road Trip Itinerary: 10 Destinations You Can’t Miss

Day 9: We made it to Crater Lake. Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow on the ground so we could only hike part of the Garfield Peak Trail but the part we did hike was incredibly beautiful.  I had been reluctant to stop here and I’m so glad we got to see how blue the water in Crater Lake is and my kids loved all the snow. 

Instead, we camped at McKay Crossing near La Pine, Oregon.  This campground only has a pit toilet but it’s in the middle of the forest and I loved that this campground was right next to the trail we wanted to do the next day.  

Crater Lake National Park to North Cascades National Park

Day 10: We just started mountain biking on this trip and started the day by biking the challenging Peter Skene Ogden Trail. Then, we hiked up just a mile on the same trail to the natural rock waterslide in the creek.

Paulina Creek Natural Waterslide, Peter Skene Ogden Trail OR
What it looks like approaching Paulina Creek Natural Waterslide

In the evening, we drove the Cascade Highway and camped at Lava Lake Campground. There are many campgrounds along this highway to choose from. Just make sure you bring some form of mosquito repellant. We use essential oils and add extra garlic to our meals to help keep the mosquitos away.

Related Blog: Guide to Hiking & Camping Along the Cascade Highway near Bend, Oregon

Day 11: Today we did two cool hikes– up to Lucky Lake and then around Sparks Lake.  After, we drove to Bend to get Gelato at Bonta.  Camped on a fire access road near Phil’s Trailhead in Bend.

Jumping into Sparks Lake on our summer adventure road trip
Jumping into Sparks Lake

Day 12: Biked at Phil’s Trailhead.  This place has such great single-track trails and an awesome pump track that is great for kids and adults.  

We then drove to Steelhead Falls and hiked to go cliff jumping at the falls.  That night we camped at the free BLM campground at the trailhead. 

Day 13: Rock Climbed at Smith Rock and climbed the famous 5-gallon buckets and the Northwest Wall. Then rinsed off by cliff jumping at Steelhead Falls and camping at the free BLM here.

Best Oregon Campgrounds
A visit to Bend, Oregon wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Smith Rock
rock climbing smith rock on our summer adventure road trip
Climbing the Northwest Face at Smith
rock climbing smith rock on our summer adventure road trip
Climbing 5 Gallon Buckets
waterfalls on summer adventure road trip
Steelhead Falls
Steelhead Falls, Things to do near Bend, Oregon
So Many Great Family Adventures Near Bend, Oregon!

Related Blog: 10 Adventures To Do On A Summer Road Trip Through Bend

Day 14: Rest day.  We took care of all the normal chores like cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and sitting in a Starbucks to get wifi.  Then we slept outside of Skull Hollow Campground so we could get up early to climb again. 

Day 15: Gabi and I started off the day with an epic multi-pitch climb at Smith Rock— Wherever I May Roam. Then, we drove on to Yakima and camped at Yakima Sportsman State Park (not one of our favorite campgrounds, but the Walmart was too loud and we were tired so we had to camp here). 

Leavenworth on our summer adventure road trip
Leavenworth

Day 16-18: Leavenworth had been one of the places we had been wanting to get to for a long time and while the town is a bit too touristy for us, we loved the area called Icicle Creek which is just fifteen minutes from here. 

We spent almost a week in this area and developed quite a comfortable routine here.

There is a huge pull off about ten miles up Icicle Creek Road that allows RVs to park at overnight for free.  There are also great campgrounds nearby that are inexpensive. 

Cascade Loop Road Trip: Icicle Creek Road, Leavenworth
Icicle Creek Road, Leavenworth 

We started each day by rock climbing along Icicle Creek Road then went into town to grab a beer and WiFi at Icicle Creek Brewery, walked around town and the waterfront park, and played in the river.  

Day 19-20: After three days of rock climbing, we decided that we desperately needed showers so we drove up the road a half hour to camp at Lake Wenatchee State Park.  We spent the next day, which happened to also be my birthday, playing and swimming in Lake Wenatchee.

Related Blog: Best Campgrounds in Washington State

Then, with freshly washed hair, we headed back down to Leavenworth and stocked up on yummy food at their farmer’s market (getting all local ingredients for my birthday dinner) then camped again at the pull off on Icicle Creek Road. 

Day 21: Yep, More rock climbing off Icicle Creek Road and Swimming at Waterfront Park.

Day 22: One of the best days of this trip was today when we did the 19 mile thru-hike of The Enchantments.  It was AMAZING!

Related Blog: How to Thru Hike the Enchantments in One Day

Hiking through snow on the Enchantments, US & Canada Road Trip
So much snow to hike through!
View of Upper Snow lake, Hiking the Enchantments on our US & Canada Road Trip
View of Upper Snow lake on the Enchantments hike

Day 23: On our way towards the North Cascades National Park, we stopped to swim in Lake Chelan near Manson. Then slept at Trailhead for Cutthroat Lake.

Lake Chelan, Cascade Loop road trip
Floating on Lake Chelan

Day 24: Today was a hiking marathon for us as we did 3 hikes in one day! 

The first hike was a short two-miler to Cutthroat Lake. The second was a gorgeous short hike to Blue Lake, both are great hikes to do with kids.

Tip: Make sure to stop at Washington Pass to soak in the views of Liberty Bell!

Hiking Maple-Heather Pass, Washington- One of the best hikes in the PNW
Gorgeous Maple-heather Pass. One of our all-time favorite hikes.

The last hike was an epic seven-miler at Maple Pass. It was covered in snow at the top and it was nearly sunset so we couldn’t finish the loop and had to backtrack, which means it’s back on the bucket list to finish next year. It was so late and we were exhausted, so we just slept at the trailhead for Maple Pass.

Related Blog: Cascade Loop Road Trip: Leavenworth to Newhalem

Day 25: We drove into North Cascades from the east, stopping at the lookout for Ross Lake.  Then got a campsite at Colonial Creek in North Cascades N.P. and did the short hikes around the campground.

best campground Washington Colonial Creek

Day 26: Today was an eating day!  On the way towards Bellingham, stop for ice cream at Cascade Farms—they have delicious milkshakes.  

Our destination today is Fairhaven– a quaint little town on the outskirts of Bellingham and one of our favorite towns to stop at.  We had the most amazing soup at the farmers market in Fairhaven two years ago so we went back to try and find them again.  Unfortunately, they weren’t at the farmers market this time, but we still got to go to Drizzle and grab delicious olive oil & vinegar for our salads.  Then headed up the street to a brewery and food truck.  

We camped at Larrabee State Park. Supposedly there is rock climbing here, but we wandered for a few hours and couldn’t quite find it, however, our campsite had a great boulder that we played on. For mountain biking enthusiasts, there are some great trails to ride from here.

Related Blog: Washington State National Park Itinerary: For Foodies and Hikers 

Day 27: Gabi and I started the day by getting up at sunrise to bike the Interurban Trail to get wifi and do some work at the Cafe in Fairhaven. This is a great biking and hiking trail! 

Then it was time for chores—laundry, wifi, grocery shopping— and then, as a special treat, we went to the movies.  

If you are in Bellingham, stop at Aslan Brewery—they have great beer and food.  We finished the day by driving into Canada and sleeping near one of the parks in Vancouver.

Want to do this road trip but don’t own an RV? Check out Outdoorsy to find a perfect rental for your next vacation.

Check out these resources to help you plan your next road trip:

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West coast national park road trip

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