Let’s be real – COVID has rocked most travel plans that anyone had this summer, especially any international ones. If you’re still itching to travel, it’s looking like 2020 will be the summer of road trips since they’re safer for social distancing and can lead you to more isolated places! The West Coast has plenty of gorgeous spots to visit on road trips, and you can avoid other tourists in most of the destinations I’ve pulled together by either visiting midweek or early in the morning. I actually visited all of these spots in a large 2 week West Coast roadtrip, so you could do them all together, separately, or in smaller groupings depending on how much time you have!
Don’t forget to be smart and cautious with any of these trips, and double-check that they are open for travel before visiting.
I will never forget the first time I saw a photo of Big Sur on Instagram – I COULD NOT BELIEVE this place was in the United States. The waters looked Caribbean blue, and I immediately knew that I had to visit here. The best views are at Pfeiffer Beach, pictured above, and Bixby Creek Bridge.
Getting There: Big Sur is accessible off the stunning coastal Highway 1, just 2.5 hours south of San Francisco, and 5.5 hours north of Los Angeles. It’s a gorgeous drive, but make sure the weather is nice as it can be a little scary when the fog rolls in.
Honestly one of the funkiest national parks out there, Joshua Tree National Park is filled with wild tall spiky “Joshua” trees, and wild round boulders. Since it’s located out in the desert, it’s a fantastic spot for stargazing and astrophotography. Just remember to pack warm clothes since it always cools down in the desert at night 🙂
Getting There: Joshua Tree is an easy 2.5-hour roadtrip from Los Angeles, or 3-hour drive from Las Vegas.
If you like camping, hiking, and epic mountain views then Yosemite is the spot for you. Arguably one of the most iconic national parks with stunning mountains like El Capitan, Yosemite is a great park to visit whether you’re extremely outdoorsy, or just getting started exploring the great outdoors. There are tons of great hikes to do, like Vernal Falls, pictured above. But if you’re less mobile, or traveling with those who are, there are tons of incredible paved paths that are wheelchair friendly, and incredible viewpoints you can drive up to. The park does tend to get busy, so I’d be careful visiting on a weekend and make sure you book your campsite ahead of time!
Getting There: Yosemite is a 3-hour drive from San Francisco.
Bright blue water with a wild island in the middle, Crater lake is a very unique lake to explore in Oregon. It was formed over 7700 years ago when a volcano erupted, and over the years as snow and ice melted, the lake was formed! Pretty wild, and unlike any other lake I’ve ever seen. We visited in late May and there was still tons of snow around so make sure to check the weather before you go, especially if you want to hike or camp.
Getting There: Crater Lake is 4 hours south of Portland, Oregon.
Sea Glass Beach
Casually stumbling across sea glass while you’re at a beach is fun, but how about walking on a beach entirely made of rounded sea glass pebbles?! That’s exactly what you’ll find on Sea Glass Beach in California! This was another spot I discovered from a photo on Instagram, and absolutely had to visit. You won’t spend more than a few hours here, but let me tell you it’s worth the trip and easy to tack onto another trip on the Northern California coast. Please don’t take the sea glass home with you though so that it’s here for everyone else who comes!
Getting There: Sea Glass Beach is located near Fort Bragg, just 3 hours north of San Francisco.
Point Reyes National Seashore
A gorgeous spot to stop while driving up Highway 1, Point Reyes National Seashore has stunning cliffs and moody rocky beaches along the California coastline. This could be a quick stop on a larger trip, or you could easily spend the whole day here checking out the lighthouse, enjoying the beaches, and viewing seals and other wildlife.
Getting There: Point Reyes National Seashore is just a quick 1-hour drive north of San Francisco.
Redwood National Forest
Some of the largest and most impressive trees you’ll ever see in your life, the Redwoods of Northern California will leave you speechless. There are winding roads you can drive around them, and even literally drive through some via small tunnels carved out inside. Make sure to get out and explore on foot though to truly appreciate their massive size in person!
Getting There: Unfortunately slightly harder to get to, Redwood National Forest is 5.5 hours north of San Francisco and 5.5 hours south of Portland.
Olympic National Park
Did you know there were lush rainforests in the United States?! Well before visiting Olympic National Park I had absolutely no idea. Makes total sense given how much it rains in Washington – it rains 149 days a year there, often with a heavy downpour. That makes for some gorgeous lush forestry, full ferns, and fun hikes through the magical woods.
Getting There: Olympic National Park is located 2.5 hours from Seattle and 3.5 hours from Portland.
Okay if you want to visit some of the moodiest beaches in Washington, and maybe read Twilight as a preteen, then you’ll definitely want to visit La Push! With large round boulders and islands popping up on the shoreline, it’s reminiscent of Cannon Beach in Oregon, and Tofino in Canada. Lots of people actually have cute bonfires on the beaches here, which we didn’t do but I’d love to do next time!
Getting There: La Push is a 4.5 hour drive from Seattle.
And there you have it, my favorite spots to roadtrip to on the West Coast this summer! Any spots I should check out and add to the list?! Let me know where you go 🙂