I’ve always wanted to do a Road-trip down the West Coast of America and this summer seemed to be the perfect time to do it! Starting from Vancouver we drove all the way down to San Diego over a 2 week period. We covered most of the major national parks and cities along the way. It was a trip of a lifetime and and an amazing way to see what the West Coast has to offer. I’ll take you through a rough guide of our route and stops along the way hope you guys enjoy and if you have any questions or queries feel free to ask! 🙂 x
Stop 1: Seattle
I was so impressed with Seattle, especially having lived in Vancouver for so long I was couldn’t believe this was my first time being here! Unfortunately we only had a few hours here so did a very brief whistle stop tour!
Things to do : Pike Place Market is definitely worth a visit, very cute, quirky and lovely to walk around. The first Starbucks is also right beside it serving their original roast (expect queues!) We ate in a lovely Mexican restaurant called Cantina de San Patricio which was reasonably priced and serve delicious fajitas. The Gum Wall is a cool, artsy sight which is just off the main street and a walk down to the Promenade is a must – we were there for sunset and it was beautiful! Although I didn’t have time to do the Needle I’ve heard its well worth a a visit!
Stop 2: Olympic National Park
Approx a 2 hours drive from Seattle this is a gorgeous National Park! The views and scenery are stunning especially the Hurricane Ridge drive. Ho Rain-forest is a lovely place to hike and has something to suit everyone. My favourite part of Olympic Park however was camping at Second Beach in La Push. This was one of the highlights of my entire trip! The beach was stunning, so picturesque. We set up camp (you need to get a permit in the rangers station),lit a campfire, toasted marshmallows and gazed at the shooting stars! Honestly if your ever near Forks you HAVE to go here it was incredible! Forks where the movie Twilight was filmed literally has nothing in it the film does not exaggerate, however La Push is amazing!
Stop 3: Mount Rainier National Park
This park is very pretty and reminded me a lot of The Alps. Mt. Rainier is actually an active volcano however is a hike only for the well experienced. We walked up to Paradise which is at very pretty viewpoint and has some small hikes around it. The park was very busy as it was a family weekend but we were lucky enough to get a tent site at Cougar Rock which was in the middle of the park. Be prepared for no cellular service or internet in the park not even the hotels had WiFi which is probably a good thing as it makes you enjoy the scenery! We camped just outside Olympia the second night in Columbus Park beside Black Lake which was a super campsite with clean showers and bathrooms! The Lake was also surprisingly warm to swim in and there’s a great buzz around the place.
Stop 4: Portland
We stayed in The Red Roof Inn in Portland, being students we just wanted somewhere cheap and clean and this was perfect for us. I was personally a bit disappointed at Portland however my friends loved it. It’s very artsy and quirky, the city center is nice however it just didn’t really do anything for me. We ate in a nice pasta restaurant called Pastini Pastaria in downtown Portland and then walked to the famous Voodoo Donuts shop where we queued for 20 minutes to get some donuts, they were delicious though and well worth the wait!
Stop 5: Umpqua National Park
I was really impressed with Umpqua. They have so many beautiful waterfalls and the scenery is beautiful. We went to Watson, Toketee and Fall Creek Falls all located north of the Umpqua River. They require a small hike to get to them – all less than 1 mile but very easy! and are definitely worth it.We also went to the Umpqua Natural Hot-springs which were very cool!
Stop 6: Crater Lake National Park
This is 100% worth a visit. The water is so blue and the lake is absolutely beautiful. We drove around the East rim which took us about an hour stopping at various viewing points.
Stop 7 : Avenue of the Giants
Finally in California , Avenue of the Giants was our first stop. The huge, beautiful Redwood trees line the road with numerous stops including Founders Tree, The Chimney Tree as well as the drive through Shrine Tree along the way. I really enjoyed it and think it’s worth a visit.
Stop 8 : Lassen Volcanic Park
This park was super cool and very picturesque oozing with volcanic activity. The Bumpass Hell hike is 100% worth doing and leads you to an amazing hydro-thermal area full of bubbling mud pots and steaming pools. The place smells like rotten eggs due to the sulfur produced but its definitely worth the views.
Stop 9: Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe was amazing. We drove from the North to the South crossing the border between California and Nevada twice. The South Lake is a lit more built up and crowded then the North. The North Lake water was also so beautiful and clear it was gorgeous! We went to Emerald Bay viewpoint and tried to do a water activity such as renting paddle boards or a boat however unfortunately it was too late in the evening by the time we got around to it. We also went to El Derado Beach which was lovely where there was live country music an a great atmosphere.
Stop 10: Yosemite
This was my second time visiting Yosemite National Park and its still my favourite out of all the parks we visited! The rock formations, lakes, trees and scenery is just beautiful. We hiked to the lower Yosemite falls as well as Vernan Falls (my favourite but very steep all the way!) and Mirror Lake which is completely dried up in summer so do not go and waste your time! Tunnel View and Glacier Point were just as amazing as I remembered and are a must see when visiting. We parked our car in Yosemite village and used the free shuttle buses to get to the falls as it can be very difficult to find parking and they run a reliable and regular service!
Stop 11: San Francisco
As beautiful as the National Parks were I was so happy to finally reach city life. We stayed with friends in the Frat houses in Berkeley just outside of San Fran. The Alcatraz tour had been sold out for weeks in advance however there were some same day tickets available but you need to be in the queue by 5am to get them! After getting up at 3am to be in the queue for 5am to wait for the ticket office to open at 7:30am the tour was 100% worth the effort. There was a big group of us so we were so lucky to be the last ones to get tickets! People had been queuing as early as 3am! We got the 10:30am ferry over to the island which takes approx 12 mins. Your ticket price of $33 includes your return ferry journey and audio tour. I really enjoyed the tour and found it so fascinating and it was one of the highlights of the trip. We also did the Golden Gate Bridge Cycle which is an iconic must do. Be prepared for the wind chill factor especially if its cloudy! The Palace of Fine Arts is on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge from Downtown San Francisco and is definitely worth diverting to. Its beautiful roman inspired architecture is incredible.
Stop 12: Santa Monica
The famous pier makes a lovely day trip. We parked along Venice Beach and walked to the pier which was longer than I thought however there is plenty of bike rentals along the way. Muscle beach is also well worth a visit, watching very muscly bodies do monkey bars and tightropes a treat for the eyes!
Stop 13: Santa Barbara
I absolutely loved Santa Barbara and was only sorry I couldn’t spend longer there. The city is so pretty, packed full of lovely eateries and so close to gorgeous beaches! Definitely worth a visit and is somewhere I would love to live for a few years.
Stop 14: San Diego
Our final destination San Diego had such a nice relaxed vibe. The weather is lovely, the marina is lovely and I was very impressed at how compact the city is. The airport is so close to the city center literally less than 10 minutes away, as is the San Diego Zoo. Voted one of the best zoos in the world I was very impressed with the array of animals from pandas to polar bears, lions and koalas the zoo has it all. I did feel it was quite overpriced though at $50 per adult.
Coronado is a very pretty town about 10 minutes outside of Downtown San Diego. There is a beautiful hotel there – Hotel Del Coronado as well as a lovely beach to walk along. Like San Diego there is a very chilled, relaxed vibe. Its a great place to walk around and gaze at the luxurious houses overlooking the beach. also took a quick trip to Fashion Valley which is great for some shopping and has a great selection of shops however it is not an outlet so expect to pay full price.