west coast road trip guide, USA
From surf towns, to jagged peaks, here are the top 10 west coast road trips you you need to take at least once!

There are so many unforgettable adventures to be had on a West Coast road trip. From surf towns, to jagged peaks, here are the top 10 West Coast road trips you need to take at least once!

If you are considering a West Coast road trip, I hope this will help you narrow down which destinations are best for your type of travel and the activities you love to do.

Every year we do at least one West Coast road trip. Sometimes it’s straight up the coast from San Diego, California to Port Angeles, Washington and often up into British Columbia, while some years we venture further east towards the Rockies. Last year, we drove all the way from San Diego to Alaska!

I love when our West Coast road trips allow us to enjoy and explore the incredible national parks of Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons, and Rocky.

It’s no wonder why we can never get ourselves past Colorado when we take our summer road trips. There’s just too much fun to be had on a West Coast road trip. It doesn’t matter if you are a beach, forest, lake, or mountain person, the West Coast has a road trip you will absolutely love.

There is so much adventure to be had on a West Coast road trip and it feels like there is never enough time to fit it all in.

We’ve traveled all around the world and and can honestly tell you that the West Coast of the US has everything you can ever want.

Whether it’s surf towns, empty beaches, jagged peaks, alpine lakes, or lush rainforests, you have the opportunity to explore anything you could dream of on the West Coast.

We’ve also done all the road trips in this post in an RV. While these road trips can be done in many various types of travel, we love the freedom and flexibility of RV travel so you might want to take a peek at Outdoorsy if you are considering renting an RV for your West Coast road trip.

First time road tripping? Be sure to check out all our road trip resources at the very bottom of this post.

See an itinerary or destination that excites you? Don’t forget to PIN it for later! All these photos can be saved to your chosen Pinterest board by using the Pin It button on each image (on mobile device, tap on the image first and the Pin It button will appear).

Table of Contents

10 West Coast Road Trip Suggested Itineraries

Here are 10 different suggested itineraries for a West Coast road trip. I highlighted some of our favorite parts of each road trip to help you narrow down the best one for you.

1 | San Diego to San Francisco

If you love beaches, this is the road trip for you. With so many rad beach towns along Highway 1, the biggest challenge will be deciding which to see and which to skip because honestly, each of these cities could be its own one-week destination.

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Best Time To Go

You can do this road trip any time of the year. Southern California’s temperate coast is nice most of the year. Even in the winter you’ll experience 70’s in San Diego, mid 60’s in the Central Coast, and mid 50’s as you get closer to San Francisco.

However, winter storms often bring in rain so make sure you have a good rain jacket and even in the summer the marine layer along the coast often lingers throughout the day so you’ll want a warm sweatshirt.

Adventure Highlights

Surfing is definitely the highlight on this trip but even if you don’t surf, exploring the many beaches, walking or biking along the boardwalks, camping at the many California State Parks, and eating and shopping are all wonderful ways to spend your days on this road trip.

Tip For Driving in Southern California

  • If you take I-5 to I-73 to I-405 (San Clemente to Carpinteria), the I-73 is a toll road and cost about $7 but there is rarely traffic this way and is worth the money.
  • If you take I-5 through LA, try driving through early in the morning (as in leave San Diego by 4 a.m.) or drive through after 9 p.m. to save you the headache of LA traffic.

Destinations Along The Way

San Diego, San Clemente, Ventura, Carpinteria, Pismo, San Luis Obispo, San Simeon, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, San Francisco

Related Blogs:

San Diego

Outdoor adventure in San diego
View looking down at the ocean from Torrey Pines

I have to start with my hometown. San Diego is amazing and it’s like nowhere else in the world. I’ve traveled a lot over the past 5 years and every time I return home to San Diego, I’m filled with so much gratitude and appreciation for America’s Finest City.

San Diego in itself should be an entire week but if you don’t have the time then I recommend exploring Pacific Beach, Little Italy, and Encinitas. If you have more time in San Diego, then check out my Local’s Guide to San Diego blog.

San Clemente + Dana Point

Both of these surf towns are awesome beach destinations with great restaurants, world class surf breaks, and tons of boutique and surf shops.

I prefer camping at Doheny State Park since you can camp right on the sandy beach.

San Clemente State Beach is also great since you are somewhat close to Trestles surf break. I don’t recommend San Onofre State Beach because you are close to the freeway and it’s a long walk to the beach.

Carpinteria + Ventura

While Santa Barbara is nice and filled with plenty of entertainment, great restaurants, and shopping experiences, I prefer the less crowded chill surf vibe of Carpinteria.

Camping at Carpinteria is one of my favorite campgrounds in California, but the surf vibe in Ventura is also a great way to spend a few days chilling out.

Pismo

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This is a great adventure destination. There aren’t many places in the world where you can surf in the morning, ride quads or dune buggies in the day, soak in hot springs at sunset, and still find time to enjoy some amazing food.

It’s also one of the only places I know on the West Coast where you can drive onto the beach to camp.

San Luis Obispo

Right next door to Pismo is one of the best SoCal towns, San Luis Obispo. And while personally I don’t think SLO is nearly as great for mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing as the PNW or Colorado, it still has an amazing charm to it.

The sense of peacefulness here makes it easy to escape the crowds of Southern California.

San Simeon + Elephant Seal Beach

Stop at Elephant Seal Beach near Big Sur on your west coast road trip

My oldest son, Daniel, really doesn’t like to travel, but asks us all the time if we can go here.

It’s pretty rad to watch the elephant seals because even when they don’t do much, their body movements are just so hilarious.

Big Sur

McWay Falls in Big Sur on the California Coast

Big Sur is a hikers paradise and also a great destination for rest and relaxation. Submersing yourself in the forest surrounding Big Sur, taking in the chill vibes, and experiencing the beauty of driving Highway 1 are all great motivators to add Big Sur to your West Coast road trip.

Carmel

With cottages (that look like something from a fairytale) lining the downtown streets and more sports cars driving around than anywhere else I’ve ever been (okay maybe not Italy), it’s no wonder Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular tourist destination.

I personally loved the beautiful white sand crescent shaped Carmel Beach and my kids loved climbing the huge trees in the park above the beach. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a great place to shop, browse the many art galleries, and indulge in some wine tasting.

Monterey

Monterey, West Coast California, road trip

I have to be honest, I usually drive right through Carmel now and spend my time in Monterey. I love downtown Monterey and look forward to coffee at East Village Coffee Lounge, dinner and beer at Alvarado Street Brewery, and walking at Asilomar State Beach.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is a one of a kind experience and kids young and old will love getting to see the marine life up close.

Santa Cruz

Surfing Santa Cruz, Surfing the California Coast
Gabi tearing up Steamer Lane

This is some of the best surf in all of California (actually the world for that matter). What makes Santa Cruz so epic though isn’t just the surf or the surf vibes in town, it’s that you can be playing in the ocean and then 10 minutes later be hiking and mountain biking through redwood forest.

If your road trip isn’t taking you all the way to Redwood National Park (which is up near the Oregon border), then detour over to Henry Cowell Redwoods or Big Basin Redwoods State Parks to experience the wonder of the redwoods.

Half Moon Beach

There isn’t a ton to do in this sleepy town, but if you love camping, Half Moon State Beach is epic beachfront camping.

You probably won’t be getting in the water here, but if you happen to time it in the winter when a storm comes through, you have to go watch the big wave surfers tackle Mavericks.

Pacifica

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Mountain Biking with cruisers 😂

For a little more in the ways of amenities, restaurants, and things to do, spend at least a day in Pacifica.

There is great hiking in the mountains surrounding Pacifica as well as trails overlooking the coast. This is also one of the best beaches for learning to surf.

San Francisco

Besides the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, you should definitely check out Alcatraz, Lombard Street, Chinatown, North Beach, Muir Woods, and the rad beaches of Muir and Stinson.

Come hungry because San Francisco is a foodies paradise! Between all the farm to table restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and breweries, you’ll have trouble deciding where to begin. My favorite is Dandelion Chocolate for coffee, sipping chocolate, and dessert.


2 | Northern Cali + Southern Oregon

This is a great trip for beach and forest lovers, especially if you love walking on the beach and aren’t necessarily looking to get into the ocean (brrr🥶).

If you choose summertime, there are many bodies of water (lakes, waterfall pools, rivers) to play in on this road trip and a lot of great hikes through the forest.

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Best Time To Go

While you technically could do this year round, it will probably be wet and cold in the winter and if you want to play in the water, you’ll want to save this one for late spring, summer, or best, early fall.

Adventure Highlights

There is a great diversity of adventures to choose from on this West Coast road trip. You could brave the cold and surf the northern Cali coast, find epic hikes to gorgeous waterfalls, explore the cool beaches and headlands along Highway 1, hike through the Redwoods, and go boating on the Rogue River, Lake Almanor, or Lake Shasta. Plus, in summer, there are juicy blackberries growing wild all over the place.

Destinations Along The Way

San Francisco, Point Reyes, Mendocino, Redwoods, Avenue of the Giants, Ashland, Rogue River, Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen, Lake Almanor, Redding

Related Blogs:

Point Reyes

Just northwest of San Francisco is the hidden gem of Point Reyes National Seashore. This nationally protected coastline is a great place to escape the crowds of San Francisco.

Not only does it have an extensive network of hiking trails, there’s a good chance of spotting migrating gray whales, and every time we’ve hiked here there have been Tule Elk right alongside the trail. Last time we even witnessed a coyote hunting only a few hundred feet from us.

Mendocino

Russian gulch is a great stop on a west coast road trip
Russian Gulch’s famous bridge

Mendocino itself is a super quaint little town, that again, is a great spot for some rest and relaxation.

Don’t miss hiking down to the beach at Mendocino Headlands or exploring the many hiking trails through the temperate coniferous forest at Van Damme and Russian Gulch State Parks. These lush trails are surrounded by huge trees and dense ferns and the waterfalls in the spring are incredible.

Also, make time to stop at Bowling Ball Beach and Fort Ross on your way.

Avenue of the Giants

This is one of my favorite drives of all time. It’s a really incredible feeling to get to drive so close to these giants and the way the road weaves through the canopy of trees makes you feel like you’ve been transported to another world.

Try to set aside some time to explore or have a picnic while you are here.

Redwood National Park

Imagine what it would be like if the universe gave you a hug. That’s what it’s like standing in the Redwood Forest. These giants are truly awe inspiring and worth the effort to get to.

Rogue River

We haven’t explored nearly enough of this wild and scenic area that runs from Crater Lake out west to the Pacific Ocean.

The steep canyons, gentle meadows, amazing rock formations, and old growth forests provide numerous opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting for all levels. And, if you want to fish for salmon, this is is where it’s at.

Mt Shasta + Mc Cloud

Burney Falls, Northern California Waterfall Loop

Directly on the I-5 you have a few cute towns that are worth a day exploring- Weed, Mount Shasta, Mc Cloud, and Dunsmuir.

There isn’t much to Weed and Mount Shasta other than some old antique + touristy stores but it’s still worth checking out if you have time.

Once you’ve had your fill of antiques and the pleasantries of small town living, it’s time to explore some waterfalls.

McCloud Falls is a short hike and you can jump into the pools to cool off in summer, while the more famous McArthur-Burney falls doesn’t require any hiking to get to and if you want to get wet, you’ll have to drive down to the lake. Both have great campgrounds next to them.

Redding

In Redding, check out the architectural marvel, Sundial Bridge, and bike ride along the 17 mile paved Sacramento River Trail.

Just north of Redding there’s Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, a great place to play on the water recreation, or go hiking and mountain biking. There’s great climbing at Castle Crags State Park or for epic views, hike the rigorous 6.5-mile Castle Dome Trail.

You can go spelunking at Shasta Caverns or learn more about hydroelectric power at Shasta Dam. My personal fav is renting a boat and spending a day playing on Lake Shasta.

Mount Lassen + Lake Almanor

Lassen National Park is like a mix of Yosemite and Yellowstone but with way less crowds. While you won’t get to see a geyser erupt, you can explore steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs.

In the summer, Lake Almanor is a playground for the water enthusiast and has many lakefront campgrounds.


3 | Sacramento to Los Angeles

This road trip provides a great diversity in very little time. Experience city life and iconic attractions in Sacramento or San Francisco, explore the beauty and grandness of one of America’s best national parks at Yosemite, witness the diversity of ecosystems in Death Valley, and finish with shopping, food, and the beach in Los Angeles.

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Best Time To Go

Fall is best time to go on this trip because temperatures are cool enough for Death Valley and Tioga Pass is still open to drive through Yosemite. If you are skipping Death Valley, then summer is a great time for this road trip, but note that Yosemite roads often don’t open until mid-July.

Adventure Highlights

After exploring the attractions in San Francisco or Old Sac, I’d definitely etch out 2 full days to explore the hikes in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows.

If you have time, detouring to both Death Valley and Sequoia national parks would be incredible, but there are also some pretty epic hikes, MTB, and gorgeous scenery in Mammoth and Bishop. Climb, hike, or just camp at Joshua Tree. Get in a day of boating on Big Bear Lake.

Then, finish this trip off with some surf and beach life and you’ll be amazed at how many adventures you can cram into a week or two.

Destinations Along The Way

Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Mammoth, Bishop, Death Valley, Optional: Sequoias, Joshua Tree, Big Bear, Los Angeles

Related Blogs:

Sacramento

One thing you have to do in Sacramento is tour the Wild West themed Old Sac. There’s also the train museum here that my kids loved when they were young and the candy store seems to be the highlight of the area for them 🤷‍♀️.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a year round adventure destination. This winter wonderland has everything you could ever want from ski resorts to nordic trails, sledding, sleigh rides, and backcountry snowmobile tours.

In the summer, the turquoise lake looks like something out of a fairy tale and between the lake and the sharp jagged mountains surrounding it, any outdoor adventure you can imagine is possible here.

Yosemite

Best Hikes in the World- Yosemite

While the Redwoods are like a big hug, standing beneath the granite domes in Yosemite and feeling the ions coming off Nevada Falls is like being struck by lightning.

While this hike in Yosemite Valley is one of my favorite day hikes, I enjoyed the mellow trails and beauty of camping in Tuolumne Meadows more. If you like exploring the backcountry, get a permit and hike between the two areas.

Mammoth Lakes

Taking in the view of Convict Lake near Mammoth on our West Coast road trip
Icy blue Convict Lake

In the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountain range lies Mammoth Lakes. Like the Tahoe area, Mammoth offers year round adventures but here it comes with a small town vibe.

You’ll love the local feel as you explore Devils Postpile National Monument, zip down the slopes of Mammoth Mountain, explore miles and miles of hiking and mountain biking trials, rock climb routes from easy all the way to advanced routes, and soak in the nearby hot springs.

Bishop + Mt Whitney

Bishop used to be a sleepy town you only stopped in to fuel up on your way to Mammoth or Yosemite, now it’s a destination in itself.

Climbing nearby at Owens River Gorge is one of the many popular climbing areas in this Gateway-to-the-Sierras town. There are great camping and hiking opportunities all around Bishop, check out Big Pine Lakes.

Just a few miles to the east is the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest with some of the coolest looking twisted tree trunks you’ve ever seen.

Lone Pine

This is the gateway to Mt Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet. If hiking to the top of Whitney isn’t your thing, you may like camping at Alabama Hills Recreation Area where you’ll get epic views of Mt Whitney.

Plus, camping here is totally free and there are other outdoor adventures like hiking to sandstone arches, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Bring your camera because the night photography is amazing!

Death Valley

At 282 feet below sea level, Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth, but there’s more to this desert than just sand. If you only have a few hours in Death Valley, be sure to check out the salt flats of Badwater Basin, the 600 foot deep Ubehebe Crater, and the green and turquoise hues of Artist’s Pallette.

Some years in spring, after heavy rainfall, you’ll get to witness this desert come to life with a colorful blanket of wildflowers.

Sequoia + Kings Canyon National Parks

Experience the wonder and awe of standing beneath the worlds largest trees at Sequoia National Park, or head over to a national park that John Muir said Rivals the beauty of Yosemite, Kings Canyon. With trees that seem to touch the sky, massive rock faces, and the deepest canyon in the United States, you’re going to want a few days to explore both parks.

Be sure to check out the General Grant Tree and Redwood Canyon in Kings Canyon. If you like backpacking, there are some epic trails that start in both these parks. We have our eye on doing Rae Lakes Loop and Glacier Pass to Sawtooth Pass.

Joshua Tree

As a haven for SoCal rock climbers, Joshua Tree’s beautiful combination of large boulders and numerous trails offers hikers and nature lovers a wonderful weekend escape.

Camping at Joshua Tree is awesome but most sites are first come first serve and fill up fast on the weekend. If you have kids, look into camping at Jumbo Rocks Campground. My kids loved scrambling the rocks here! And for great views, don’t miss hiking to the top of Ryan Mountain.

Big Bear

For a quick and easy escape to the mountains in Southern California, Big Bear has a lot to offer. In the winter, there’s tubing, skiing or riding at two resorts, nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. In the summer, you can rent a boat and play on the lake.

Holcomb Valley is great for rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and off roading.

Los Angeles

There’s just so much to choose from in LA. From Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Six Flags to Hollywood and Muscle Beach, you’ll have a hard time choosing what to do and what to save for the next trip.


4 | Utah

With this road trip you’ll get to see 5 of America’s National Parks including the one I consider to be one of the best, Zion NP. And if you drive from Bryce to Moab on Highway 12, the views are incredible with a lot of great places to stop and explore. This road trip is perfect if you love deserts and canyons.

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Best Time To Go

You can do this year round but if you want to hike then summer and fall are a better choice. A lot of this road trip is at high elevation so beginning in November there will more than likely be snow on the ground. If you don’t care about hiking, we’ve done part of this in winter and I have to say, Zion and Bryce in the snow are so incredibly beautiful. There is a lifetime of adventure near Salt Lake City especially in the Cottonwood Canyons and Park City area. My only suggestion would be to avoid the mud season of April and May when you can’t play in the snow and hikes are well…muddy.

Adventure Highlights

You have to do at least one hike in Zion. Take in the views from Bryce Canyon overlook or hike the Fairyland Loop.

Explore Arches, Dead Horse, and Canyonlands, but if you have time for only one, then go early to see Delicate Arch. Rent mountain bikes for a day in Moab or hire a guide and go climbing.

Climb in Maple Canyon, Cottonwood Canyon, and American Fork. Hike near Alta and Brighton ski resorts. Mountain bike Park City. Or in the winter, ski one or all of Salt Lake’s 6 resorts.

Destinations Along The Way

Park City, Wasatch Range, Maple Canyon, St George, Zion, Bryce, Moab

 Related Blogs:

Park City

living adventurous life, Park City mountain biking
Mountain Biking near Park City

One of the many things that makes Park City an epic stop on a West Coast Road Trip is that you can hike and mountain bike right from the center of town.

Besides so many outdoor adventures, Park City has great food and shopping. Don’t miss the delicious chocolate at Ritual Chocolate.

Also, in the summer, drive over the Guardsman Pass and hike to Lake Mary and Lake Catherine from Brighton ski resort or mountain bike the Wasatch Crest Trail.

Big + Little Cottonwood Canyon

Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

These two canyons deserve multiple days because there is so much outdoor adventure to be had here. From mountain biking to hiking and climbing, we love it when our road trips cross Salt Lake City mainly for the fun we have camping and playing in the Cottonwood Canyons.

Maple Canyon

This is a great destination if you love rock climbing and camping (if not, skip it). There are few places in the US with campgrounds right at the base of the climbing walls like you find here. Plus, the climbing on conglomerate is a really unique experience.

St George

Compared to nearby Zion NP, Bryce NP, and Vegas, St George is often overlooked but there’s a lot of great things to explore in this up and coming town.

Our favorite is Snow Canyon where the desert landscape is surrounded by orange and white striped sandstone cliffs providing opportunities for some great rock climbing as well as hiking and biking trails.

Be sure to get a coffee at Perks! and The Crêpery is fantastic place for breakfast.

Zion

There are a lot of amazing national parks to visit on a west coast road trip but this is the one you can’t miss. Zion is a magical place and one of the easiest national parks to explore.

While you could brave the famous trail, Angel’s Landing, the views from Observation Point are equally magnificent and way less crowded. Our favorite hike in Zion though is The Subway, however, it does require a permit in order to hike it.

After a long day exploring, head to Zion Pizza and Noodle for a delicious meal.

Bryce

The views of Bryce Canyon National Park on our west coast road trip

Sitting at the edge of the pine forest lies a canyon like nothing you’ve ever seen. The orange and red hoodoos of Bryce Canyon are gorgeous when seen from above, but really need to be experienced up close by hiking down into the canyon.

Our favorite hike is the Fairyland Loop. Also, if you can, camp inside the park so that you are literally camped at the trailheads making it easy to catch sunrise or sunset over the hoodoos.

Drive Highway 12

The drive from Bryce to Moab via highway 12 is filled with some great adventures. You can stop and explore Grand Escalante Staircase, Capitol Reef NP, or one of the numerous slot canyons along the way.

Moab

Moab, West Coast Road Trip
Free camping in Moab on a West Coast road trip

I have to be honest, Moab almost didn’t make the cut. I’m not a fan mostly because every time we come here it’s just way too crowded.

That being said, Moab is rad when you think of how much mountain biking, hiking, and climbing there is here. Plus there is a ton of free camping, but it fills fast on busy weekends so either get there mid week to snag a spot or reserve a hotel or campsite way in advance.

Moab is a central jumping off point for exploring Arches NP (a must see in my opinion), Dead Horse NP, and Canyonlands NP. The best time to visit though is spring and fall. 


5 | Vegas to Phoenix

This road trip takes you to Grand Canyon NP. It’s good if you are looking for a shorter road trip and are happy taking in gorgeous views. You can also squeeze Zion and possibly Bryce Canyon into this road trip.

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Best Time To Go

While I suppose you could do this any time of the year, temperatures can get really hot in the desert in the summer so I’d found doing it in May or October to be the best times for this trip.

Adventure Highlights

We love rock climbing in Red Rocks but if that’s not your thing, just set aside an hour or so to take the scenic drive through it. Then, give yourself one full day in Vegas to see the city transform into a magical sea of lights at night.

Again, one hike in Zion is a must. You could try to get a permit to hike the Wave. Go boating on Lake Powell. Pay to explore Antelope Canyon. Take sunrise photos at Horseshoe Bend. Hike into the Grand Canyon, ride the train, and see wildlife at Bearizona. And finish off the trip with the magical energy vortexes in Sedona.

Destinations Along The Way

Red Rocks Conservation Area, Zion, Wave, Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls, Flagstaff, Sedona

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

I suppose everyone needs to see the city of lights once in their life but the only reason we now stop near Vegas on a West Coast road trip is to hike or rock climb at Red Rocks. The 13 mile drive through the park is worth the detour but if you have time, I recommend spending a half day hiking here or a full day of rock climbing. There’s a very inexpensive camping spot nearby but it has limited space for RVs and mostly caters to tent camping.

The Wave

This is one of the things that is still on our bucket list mostly because it’s really hard to get a permit to hike it and depending on road conditions you often need 4wd to access the trailhead.

It’s really cool and a great thing to do if you are visiting Nevada, Southern Utah, or Northern Arizona.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell is a great place to camp on a west coast road trip

There are a couple great ways to explore Lake Powell. You can join a guided tour, rent your own power boat and play for a day, rent a houseboat for a week and dock in one of the many coves or set up camp on the shoreline, or camp at Lone Rock campground and enjoy the lake from the sandy beach.

Antelope Canyon + Horseshoe Bend

While I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this, if you make it to Lake Powell, you should definitely set aside a day to explore Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Note that in order to visit both of these locations it does cost now.

Grand Canyon 

The Grand Canyon is as amazing as everyone makes it out to be and is another place you absolutely need to see once in your life.

While a backpacking trip to the canyon floor is one of the best ways to take in the full canyon experience (as is rafting it), getting to take in the views of the canyon walls’ many striations of colors from the rim trail is still something you’ll never forget. We day hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to river to rim in one day and it was absolutely wonderful. Plan your one day hike to the river here.

Havasupai Falls

Another bucket list adventure for us is backpacking to the magical turquoise falls of Havasupai.

We haven’t done this one mostly because of how expensive it is for 7 of us since the fee is now over $75 per person per night, but if cost isn’t a factor, this is a gorgeous hike.

Sedona

The red rocks and energy vortexes of Sedona are something you will never forget. Sedona is filled with some pretty rad hikes like Devil’s Bridge, plus some amazing intermediate to advance mountain biking trails.

One of the most popular things to do in Sedona is take a Jeep Tour.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff has great camping, hiking, climbing and mountain biking and is surrounded by forest. Be sure to check out the lava tube cave and eat at Beaver Street Brewery.

Our Southwest National Park Road Trip Itinerary has more info on other destinations near Flagstaff like rock climbing in Winslow, driving the rim of Canyon de Chelley, and visiting the Petrified Forest.


6 | Idaho

Idaho is one of our favorite places to visit because there are so many open spaces to explore and adventures to be had. My favorite thing to do is mountain bike in Idaho and get food at their incredible farmers markets in the summer.

I’ve been to Boise only once and wasn’t a fan so I left it out of this blog, however, I know a lot of people who love Boise so I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out.

I did however love Sandpoint and the only reason I didn’t include it was because it’s a little bit out of the way.

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Best Time To Go

This is a better road trip for summer or fall when all the roads are open through Stanley, but you could do this in winter and ski Sun Valley and McCall.

Destinations Along The Way

Boise, McCall, Coeur D’Alene, Salmon, Stanley, Sun Valley, Crater of the Moon, Lava Hot Springs, City of Rocks,

Adventure Highlights

Go mountain biking in Boise, McCall, Sandpoint, Missoula, or Sun Valley. Go boating in Coeur D’Alene or McCall. Hike the Sawtooths. Be sure to soak in a hot spring.

Drive up Trail Creek Road near Sun Valley to camp or hike, star gaze and climb at City of Rocks. Climb at Post Falls. Eat at a farmers market. Camp at Ponderosa State Park. Bike Crater of the Moon.

Related Blogs:

McCall

Camping at Ponderosa campground in  McCall, Idaho on our west coast road trip
North Beach by Thinking Spot in McCall

While Idaho has plenty of small towns, this one is my absolute favorites. In the winter, you can ski Brundage Resort, however it’s playing in the lake and camping at Ponderosa State Park in the summer that draws me here.

I love the miles of hiking and MTB trails at Ponderosa and that it’s a quick bike ride from the campground into town where there are many great coffee shops, ice cream, burgers, sushi and much more.

We’ve been here twice for Fourth of July and the town of Mc Call puts on quite a show and days worth of entertainment. I’m hoping to get to McCall next time with 4wd to explore the many backcountry adventures surrounding this rad town. 

Coeur de Alene 

A popular destination for boaters, Coeur d’ Alene is also where it’s at in Idaho for fine dining and shopping.

Not to worry if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, there are inexpensive things to do here like walk the world’s longest floating boardwalk, Centennial Trail or Tubbs Hill. You could also go berry picking, rock climb at Q’Emelin Park, or bike the Hiawatha Trail.

Stanley + The Sawtooth Mountain

Alice Lake: Epic Day Hikes in the Sawtooth Range, Idaho on our west coast road trip

One of the most beautiful and cheap destinations on a West Coast Road Trip, the area surrounding Stanley has hundreds of acres of BLM land and miles of trails for hiking, MTB, and off roading.

If you’re just passing through, two great, but challenging, hikes are Goat Lake and Alice Lake. For an easy hike try Bridalveil Falls.

Sun Valley

This bike friendly ski town is great for families and outdoor adventurers. Besides the fun and flowy mountain biking trails, there are miles and miles of paved bike paths and I love how all the intersections on the main road have flags for the kids to hold while crossing the street to keep them safe.

If you feel adventurous, head up Trail Creek Road to camp, rock climb or hike. It is a dirt road but passable by most vehicles.

Salmon + Goldbug