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Home Destinations 7 Major Tourist Destinations To See In A Two-Week West Coast Road Trip (& How To Do It)

7 Major Tourist Destinations To See In A Two-Week West Coast Road Trip (& How To Do It)

by Staff

Summary

  • Key takeaways:
  • Those looking for two-week West Coast road trip ideas with stops at popular tourist destinations (and a few lesser-known spots thrown in!) are in luck; this entire route is planned out for avid roadtrippers, from Seattle to Los Angeles.
  • Major tourist destinations in Washington, Oregon, and California offer a variety of attractions, from rainforests to iconic city sights.
  • Along the way on this West Coast road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, there are plenty of spontaneous stops and smaller attractions to keep the journey interesting and enjoyable.

Planning a road trip down the West Coast can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. Major tourist destinations can be found on nearly every stretch of road in these coastal states, which comprises Washington, Oregon, and California. With two weeks to explore, what are the must-visits on the West Coast?

First, roadtrippers need to decide how much driving they are up for. A beautiful two-week West Coast road trip can easily take place in just one of the three states, with more time spent at each stop. For instance, a scenic 10-day California road trip itinerary spans nearly two weeks without even exploring the northern third of the state.

This West Coast road trip is a bit more ambitious, visiting at least one major tourist destination in each state. With that comes a bit of driving (approximately 1,700 miles, so a lot of driving actually).

The rewards are undeniable – temperate rainforests, tide pools, granite mountains, and absolutely iconic city sights. While there will be plenty of miles on the road on this ultimate West Coast Seattle to Los Angeles road trip route over two weeks, there are just as many spontaneous stops to make between these major destinations to keep things interesting.

Overwhelmed by the amount of time in the car? To help the process, each entry includes the distance traveled, the time (without traffic) it will take to travel between the stops, and how much time we recommend spending at each destination (including the time it takes to drive there). This Google Map plans of the entire road trip can also help with planning the full two-week adventure.

Plus, don’t worry; below every major West Coast road trip stop are some tips for smaller stops between each popular tourist destination. After all, with two weeks and 1,700 miles, there’s plenty to see!

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7
Seattle/Olympic National Park, Washington

Distance Between Seattle and Olympic National Park: 111 miles


Olympic National Park Washington
Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

A stream flowing in Olympic National Park in Washington

With only two weeks to see everything, starting a West Coast road trip in a major city like Seattle is as practical as it is scenic. Those who have to fly will have no issues securing a flight to Seattle’s major airport, and those close by can get busy exploring the city. There are a number of free things to do in Seattle itself (great for those on a budget), and the area around Seattle is equally enjoyable.

Perhaps the biggest tourist attraction near Seattle is Olympic National Park. Just two hours from downtown Seattle, there are plenty of activities in and around Olympic National Park, so much so that picking just a few things to do may be the hardest part of this West Coast road trip stop.

Whether leaving from Seattle or Olympic National Park to head to Portland, many of the major possible stops on I-5 South remain the same. Olympia, Centralia, and Castle Rock are all easy stops to add to this first big drive of the 2-week West Coast road trip itinerary.

6
Portland, Oregon

Distance From Olympic National Park: 162 miles


Portland, Oregon
Photo by Josh Herrington on Unsplash

An aerial view of Portland, Oregon, at dusk

Portland, Oregon, has so many things to do that it easily becomes its own vacation. As one of the biggest cities in the state, it also serves as one of the perfect Oregon stops on a West Coast road trip route.

Portland is home to numerous unique attractions, including the Oregon Zoo and Powell’s City of Books (the largest used bookstore in the world). These city stops, as well as the variety of regionally-specific food (think Voodoo Doughnut, who started the bacon maple bar craze), and travelers will find no trouble exploring the beautiful and quirky side of this urban city.

The drive through the southern half of Oregon via I-5 has a variety of interesting towns worth stopping in, including Salem and Eugene. For those wanting to turn this drive into more of an all-day outing, a stop in Winston, home of the drive-through Wildlife Safari (and one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the world), is truly a one-of-a-kind way to spend an afternoon on a West Coast road trip.

5
Redwood National and State Parks, California

Distance From Portland: 318 miles


Giant Sequoias in the Sequoia tree and Redwood forests of Redwood National and State Parks, California, USA
Shutterstock

Giant Sequoias in the Sequoia tree and Redwood forests of Redwood National and State Parks, California, USA

California is home to nine national parks, the most of any state in the US. Of those, three parks are dedicated to the spectacular, massive, and incredibly rare giant trees that California is world-famous for.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are both highly trafficked, thanks to their proximity to each other and other major attractions. Further off the beaten path (but perfectly situated along this itinerary for a West Coast road trip over two weeks) are Redwood National and State Parks.

Road trippers can opt to spend the day exploring some of the beautiful hiking trails in Redwood National Park, or simply stay in their cars, driving among the giants (or through them people can actually drive through a Californian Redwood tree!).

Regardless of which activities travelers take up, there is no doubt Redwood National Park is a must-visit tourist attraction on a 14-day West Coast road trip itinerary.

  • Drive Time from Portland to Redwood National/State Parks: ~5.5 hours
  • Recommended Time in Redwood National/State Parks: 1–2 days
  • Things to Do in and around Redwood National/State Parks: Avenue of the Giants Scenic Drive, Hiking Trails, Camping, Nature Walks, Guided Ranger Walks, Bird watching
  • Redwood National and State Parks Entry Fees: FREE

With two back-to-back long drives, intermittent stops are key to keeping things fun. A stop in the big city of Santa Rosa is a must, while scenic stops in the many small towns along the way will keep things exciting. Detours to coastal stops like Fort Bragg and Point Reyes National Seashore may add time but will add plenty of scenery to this two-week West Coast road trip route as well.

4
San Francisco, California

Distance From Redwood National/State Parks: 311 miles


The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

San Francisco is perhaps one of the best stops on a cross-country road trip, but travelers don’t have to go from coast to coast in order to enjoy this one-of-a-kind city. If the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t enough reason to pause, the winding streets full of historic homes, local shops, and locally sourced cuisine may just do the trick.

Outdoor lovers will find plenty to enjoy as well, with lots of hiking trails in and around San Francisco available. With enough time and planning, visits to Alcatraz Island or Angel Island State Park might also fit into this West Coast two-week road trip itinerary.

  • Drive Time from Redwood National/State Parks to San Francisco: ~5.5 hours
  • Recommended Time in San Francisco: 2–3 days
  • Things to Do in and around San Francisco: Chinatown San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge Walk/Bike Ride, Alcatraz Island Tour, Hike Angel Island State Park, Palace of Fine Arts

Between San Francisco and Big Sur, popular coastal stops like Santa Cruz, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Monterey provide ample opportunity to explore port towns, coastal food, and seasonal marine life. Travelers should also keep a lookout for pull-outs and trailhead parking areas, both of which are perfect for pictures and to stretch those legs.

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3
Big Sur, California

Distance From San Francisco: 146 miles


Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los Angeles, Big Sur Area, California
Shutterstock

Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los Angeles, Big Sur Area, California

Soft, sandy beaches are a staple of California, and the ultimate West Coast road trip itinerary means plenty of planned and unplanned stops along the way. There is one stretch of beaches, however, that deserves a more concrete place on the route.

Big Sur, which includes iconic landmarks like Sand Dollar Beach, Keyhole Arch, and Bixby Bridge, is one of the most iconic coastal areas on the West Coast. The area is also home to some less familiar sights, including the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach.

Considering there are 1,293 miles of coastline along the West Coast, spending a day near at least one of the gorgeous beaches is a must for a West Coast two-week road trip route.

  • Drive Time from San Francisco to Big Sur: ~2.5 hours
  • Recommended Time in Big Sur: 1–2 days
  • Things to Do in and around Big Sur: Hiking, Biking, Wildlife Watching, Sand Dollar Beach, Keyhole Arch, Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Since Yosemite National Park is a little more isolated than the rest of the major tourist destinations on this West Coast road trip, some backtracking is needed to reach it. Thankfully, this means plenty of time to stop at Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey if they were missed the first time around.

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2
Yosemite National Park, California

Distance From Big Sur: 216 miles


Last Light at Cathedral Lake Yosemite National Park, California
Shutterstock 

Last Light at Cathedral Lake Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited places in America, so much so that it is one of several US national parks that will require early reservations in 2024. While it’s true that this top West Coast attraction can’t be left for the last minute, the planning is well worth it to include Yosemite.

Serious planners can reserve an additional permit for the famous Half-Dome hike, while more spontaneous visitors enjoy the hundreds of miles of trails around the rest of the park. Of course, those ready for more time in the car can also enjoy one of several scenic drives in Yosemite National Park.

  • Drive Time from Big Sur to Yosemite National Park: ~4 hours
  • Recommended Time in Yosemite National Park: 2–3 days
  • Things to Do in and around Yosemite National Park: Firefall Waterfall, Hiking Trails, Biking Trails, Horseback Riding, Overnight Camping, Backpacking, Scenic Drives
  • Yosemite National Park Entry Fee: $35/vehicle

Roadtrippers leaving Yosemite National Park may be eager to get to Los Angeles and make their way home, but those still looking for detours have plenty of options. Side trips to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are easy to include. The most direct road to LA also leads right through Fresno, a fun California city with a distinct college-town feel.

1
Los Angeles, California

Distance From Yosemite National Park: 281 miles


Los Angeles Skyline
Shutterstock: Gabriele Maltinti

The beautiful skyline of Los Angeles

This epic two-week West Coast road trip vacation ends as it began, in one of the region’s biggest cities (and easily among the best tourist destinations on the West Coast!). A practical choice for those who need to fly or those returning their rental cars, there are plenty of things to do in Los Angeles and the SoCal area to round out this massive road trip.

As this is the end of the road trip, some travelers may find themselves focusing on the free activities that Los Angeles has to offer, which may be the case if they’re on a budget (or have spent all their trip funds by the endpoint!). Those who have a little extra time, on the other hand, may opt to explore some of the short day trips to nearby parks and beaches, including Malibu Beach State Park, just 30 minutes outside Los Angeles.

Whether enjoying the big city or venturing into the nearby great outdoors, Los Angeles has something for every traveler, making it the perfect last stop on this epic West Coast Seattle to Los Angeles road trip itinerary.

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