West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
This 10 Day West Coast Road Trip Itinerary begins in Seattle and ends in San Francisco. Take a trip through classic Americana where hippies sleep on the beach, RV’s replace semi’s, and you can picture yourself venturing down the 101 in a wood-clad station wagon.
If you haven’t already added a west coast road trip to your bucket list, do it now. Here is our journey down the 101 from Seattle to San Francisco.
Travel Tip: When traveling during September be sure to pack for all types of weather, layers are a must. We experienced sweltering hot days and snow all in the same trip.
Day One Of The Ten Day West Coast Itinerary: Seattle
Touch down and run, that is how we took on Seattle. Since we were only in town for one day, we had to make the most of it! We stayed at the Maxwell Hotel, which was amazing! Modern, free bikes, and cupcake happy hour, yes, a cupcake happy hour!
Not to mention the most fantastic bed that you will never want to leave. First thing first, we had to do the space needle. It is incredibly touristy and expensive, but you have to do it at least once. Come on; you are in Seattle!
There is a restaurant at the top of the space needle, but make reservations ahead of time because they book up quickly.
Right by the space needle is a monorail that will take you about a block away from Fisherman’s Wharf. It is cheap, quick, and accessible.
The Wharf has some novel shops and plenty of stops for food enthusiasts. A visit to Biscuit Bitch is a must! Tender, flaky biscuits piled high with toppings, simply heavenly.
The Gum Wall is an intriguing sight to behold while visiting The Wharf. Feast your eyes upon one of the most unhygienic, sticky and unique sites in America, possibly the world. Don’t forget to pack you a few pieces of gum so you can add to the masterpiece.
Gas Works Park
After the Wharf, it was off to check out some of the parks in the area. The sculpture park was just ok, so we moved on to the Gas Works Park.
Gas Works Park offers stunning views of the city with tons of green space. The inner historian will delight in knowing that the park sits on the former Seattle Gas Light Company, and some of it remains still! Definitely worth the stop!
Fremont Brewing and The Fremont Troll
Grabbing a cold beer from the Fremont Brewing Company is the perfect way to end your evening. By this time, you will likely need a beer from all of the sightseeing. While visiting Fremont Brewing Company, you can hike up what seems like a mountain to see the Fremont Troll.
The Fremont Troll is a sculpture under a bridge that I recommend driving-by to do a quick photo opt. It’s a quirky and quick pit stop, and it makes you wonder what the inspiration behind something is.
Dinner was nowhere else other than the Walrus and the Carpenter. Be sure to order oysters and seafood in this trendy eatery. This trip is the ideal time for seafood fanatics to get their fill. Coming from the midwest, where the majority of seafood is frozen, this was heaven on earth.
The next morning we treated ourselves to breakfast at the Wandering Goose. Anywhere with a line out the door is going to be out of this world, which it was. Everything coming out of the kitchen was tempting, but none more than their biscuit sandwiches. A perfect ending to our day in Seattle.
Here are a few more great things to do during a weekend in Seattle.
Day Two Of The West Coast Road Trip: Mt. Rainier
After overindulging at the Wandering Goose, it was time for our two-hour drive to Mt. Rainier. Thank goodness for hiking after that meal. The trip was smooth, and before we knew it, we were at the National Park. It is breath-taking. With endless miles of hiking trails, it could be easy to spend months exploring this scenic park.
We did a death march up the mountain and then decided to hop on one of the motor trails that lets you explore the park without leaving the comfort of your car. The motor tour offers majestic views, jaw-dropping pull-offs, and Instagram worthy photos. Hiking trails are along the Motor Trail for those looking to see more of the park.
A Bit Of Road Trip Advice
Keep in mind that during this trip, your rental car will become a mobile home. It takes on the role of your closet, kitchen, and garbage can and will often smell like stinky feet. Bring air freshener. Keep multiple layers and an extra pair of shoes in the rental car as well.
After doing a little more hiking and completing the motor tour, we ended up at the Packwood Lodge. This quaint little hotel that even offered us a glass of wine when came in. Either they excel at concierge services, or we looked like we needed some wine. The hotel manager recommended us to go into Packwood and eating at the Blue Spruce Bar and Grill.
WARNING: THE OUTSIDE IS DIRE NEED OF JESUS. You will take one look and say, nope, no diarrhea for me. Please don’t be scared and go in because the food is incredible, and they have a full bar for those who need to partake. The place serves tater tots!! What more could you want! After I ate my fill of tots, it was back to the hotel to sleep! We had to get up early to hit Mt.St. Helen’s and then Portland!
Day Three: Mt. St. Helens / Lower Lewis Falls
Getting up early to hit the road was rough. I wished we had one more day to explore Mt. Rainier. If you are an avid hiker and nature enthusiast, you may want to add an extra day or two.
We started our journey by visiting Lower Lewis Falls located near Mt. St. Helens. It is worth the side trip! Follow one of the trails to climb down into the creek bed and hike to the falls. It is worth it. You can even swim by the waterfall.
Mount St. Helens
After the falls, it was off to the Mt. St. Helen’s. We didn’t hike here because we opted to do Ape Caves. There are many pull-offs along the way to get amazing views of Mt. St. Helen’s.
Ape Caves were formed by lava tubes and offer the more adventurous explorer a unique opportunity to get down and dirty in a cave in which there is no light.
You must bring or rent a lantern and have a flashlight. The cave is massive once you get inside, and many folks bring their children. Take heed, as much as you don’t believe the signs to bring a coat, bring one! It is cold, and you will freeze regardless of what the weather is like outside. A pit stop to see lava canyon concluded our day.
Day Four Of The West Coast Road Trip: Portland, Oregon
Portland is a quirky, eccentric, and vibrant city; just ensure to come hungry! Portland is a foodie paradise. It can be challenging to navigate with a myriad of gourmet eateries, artisan restaurants, and drinkeries. Our first stop was the famous Voodoo Doughnut. Don’t be intimidated by the line; it moves quickly. Stop by Stumps coffee to grab a coffee to stand in line with, it will make your wait more enjoyable.
The city is very walkable, and after eating everything in sight, you should walk. The smells coming from the sea of food trucks are heavenly and will make you want to shove your crumbled dollar bills in the window in exchange for a basket of mouth-watering ethnic goodness.
Waddle yourself down to Powell Books at some point and take in the countless rows books in their papery glory. There is a book on everything and nothing there. If it rains during your time in Portland, this is the place to be.
The other thing you can do if the weather is not in your favor is wine TASTINGS! About 45 minutes outside of Portland are local wineries.
We hit three local wineries and SakeOne for a Sake Tasting. Keep in mind there is a fee for the Sake tasting.
We fell in love with the wines of Oregon. The countryside was breath-taking, even in the rain! Be sure to add Kramer Wineries to your list of stops. It was by far our favorite and the most friendly that we went too. Not to mention their wine was fantastic!
That evening we decided to venture out to see the Multnomah Falls. It is a little drive outside of the city, but these magnificent falls are worth it. Take a walk up to the bridge for great photo opts or go one step further and take the mile hike to the top of the waterfall.
The hike is a one-mile death march up a mountain. I thought for sure my husband was going to die, but he made it to the top in one piece. It was worth all the sweat to catch a glimpse of the spectacular views.
Looking for more spectacular waterfalls in Oregon? Here is a great guide to Waterfalls in Southern Oregon.
Day Five Of The West Coast Road Trip: The Oregon Coast
If you add a day in your 10 Day West Coast Itinerary, add an extra day on the Oregon coast. There are tons of darling towns, quaint shops, and hidden parks along the way that beg you to come to visit.
I would recommend spending at least three days driving the entire Oregon coast. You will be disappointed if you only do a two-day drive as it will feel rushed.
Many may find it tempting to overlook this seaside gem; however, Astoria has plenty to offer. Arriving into this quaint town, you can’t help but notice the engineering marvel of the Astoria-Megler bridge. This astounding piece of architecture appears to rise out of the sea and then dips commuters into the water on their journey to Washington.
Take time to stroll the historic boardwalk. A trolley will make its way up and down the boardwalk while the seal’s bellow. Swing into Bouy Beer for a cold one or grab lunch of Northwest Wild Products.
Northwest Wild Products
We ordered oysters and clam chowder and instantly regretted only staying in Astoria for a few hours. I wanted to come back for dinner, a fourth meal, breakfast, and lunch.
After walking the remainder of the boardwalk, we headed to Fort Steven’s State Park to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck. The Wreck provided tons of fun photo opts and selfies and was fascinating. The State Park was beautiful, and I wished we had more time to explore, but it was off to our next stop Cannon Beach.
“Goonies” lovers rejoice!! Here is the Haystack Rock that graced the big screen in this beloved film.
Side note: If you are a devoted Goonies fan while visiting Astoria, check out the original Goonies house. The sheer magnitude of this rock is powerful.
We parked our car on a side street and walked to the beach. This beach stretch is long and once walking, you may think that you will never reach the rock (especially if you park a little farther away than you thought). After spending an hour on the beach, we found a small coffee shop and then hit the road again!
Tillamook Cheese Factory
It is a cheese factory, and they offer free samples of cheese, need I say more?!?! We came prepared and brought a little lunchbox cooler because we knew we were going to be buying some cheese.
Because you know what goes grate (haha) with cheese? WINE! And to go one step further, take that wine and cheese to the beach. Boom! Instant romantic date. Now, unto the Cheese Factory. They offer a free tour of the factory with complimentary cheese tasting. YUM!!! Perfect for families, couples, and all ages.
They have a restaurant here as well, which specializes in GRILLED CHEESE!! Get one of those to go, and then you need to get in line at the ice cream counter. This ice cream is all kinds of creamy deliciousness that will leave you pondering whether to steal ice cream from the child next to you.
After our cheese feeding frenzy, we hit the open road with a grilled cheese in one hand and shame in the other. After stopping at a few overlooks and state parks, we arrived in Newport.
Day Six Of The 10-Day West Coast Road Trip: Newport
Today we were going to be adventurous and experience something unusual for us midwesterners; we were going crabbing! The lovely folks at Yaquina Bay Charters hooked us up with shellfish licenses, and all the stuff we needed for our crabbing adventure for around $50.00. Then it was off to the crabbing pier.
Rogue Brewery is conveniently located right next to the public fishing pier, so grab a few cold ones before heading out. Locals are very welcoming and offered a lot of support and advice to us newbies, and before long, we had our first crab! Crabbing turned out to be one of the most lively, entertaining activities we have ever done.
In the end, my husband said it best; it is through these experiences that we get seasoned in life. To round out the crabbing adventure, we took our bounty to a local crab cooker who cooked the crabs at a reasonable cost. We then hauled our bucket of cooked crabs to the beach for a crab extravaganza lunch! We were the envy of many seagulls and pelicans.
After lunch, it was off to our next stop, Crescent City, CA. We had spent so much time in Newport that is was mid-afternoon by the time we hit the road, which left side stops to a minimum. A great resource is to download the Oregon Coast Visitor Guide. The guide will tell you where popular attractions along the drive are, such as the devil’s punch bowl, lighthouses, etc.
Now driving the coast after it gets dark is downright terrifying. Never knowing if beyond the guard rail lays a 100-foot drop into the rocky ocean abyss or if there is a field with twenty cows, can play mind games on the weary traveler.
By the time we rolled into Crescent City, I had aged ten years, needed a diaper change and a stiff drink. We stayed at the Lucky 7 Casino and Hotel. The moment the suitcase hit the room, it was off to the bar to ease my frazzled nerves with mozzarella sticks, nachos, and vodka. Before long, all was well, and I was ready to tackle the Redwood Forest the next morning.
Day Seven Of The West Coast Road Trip: Redwood Forest
Waking up refreshed and ready to start a new day, we hit the 101 again and began our journey towards the Redwood Forest. This stop had to be one of my favorite days in our 10-day West Coast Itinerary.
I will begin with this: No photo can ever capture the sheer magnitude of these trees. The towering, massive trees stand so majestic, and the forest is often eerily quiet. You must, must, must leave the comfort of your car and hike. You can thank me later.
Swing by the first welcome center to grab a park map that shows where key hiking and points of interest are in the park.
We swung by for a photo opt with Paul and Babe but chose not to do the Trees of Mystery. The gift shop is nice if you are looking for a little something to bring back from the Redwoods.
Avenue of Giants
Be sure to stop at the first pull off to grab a brochure that tells will help guide you through the Redwoods.
Another unique thing to do is to drive through a tree. Corny, maybe, but when are you going to get the chance to do this again?!?! The fee is nominal to drive through, and there are three different locations scattered across the Redwood area that allows the tourist to do this.
It is worth the money for the experience. Be sure to get out and snap a great photo to share with your friends and family. You will only regret it if you don’t do it
Orr Hot Spring Resort
After hiking all day off to the hot spring resort, we opted to stay at. Orr’s Hot Spring Resort is a lovely little place in Ukiah off the beaten path by 20 minutes with nothing around it.
I will begin by saying that when we initially booked this place, their website was down, but upon calling, we were able to get a yurt for the night for a reasonable price.
It wasn’t until everything was said and done that the person on the phone mentioned it is a clothing-optional resort. The shock on my husband’s face was priceless, and there was no going back! So we were going into this very skeptical as this is very much outside our comfort range, but you only live once!
We were surprised when we arrived at the resort as it resembled a summer camp.
Keep in mind that clothing is only optional in the bathhouse, where the hot springs are. You have to be clothed everywhere else! Relief swept over us, and we hauled our luggage up a gravel road, four flights of stairs to our yurt in the dark. The yurt was clean and comfortable with a comfy bed.
In true summer camp fashion, you had to go to the public bathrooms as none were in your yurt. You also had to bring your own food, as they do not sell any there. They have a kitchen in which you can prepare it, but that is it. We chalked the whole experience up to getting more seasoned at life!
In true summer camp fashion, you had to go to the public bathrooms as none were in your yurt. You also had to bring your own food, as they do not sell any there. They have a kitchen in which you can prepare it, but that is it.
We chalked the whole experience up to getting more seasoned at life!
Day Eight: Ukiah to San Francisco
Swing by the visitors center, grab a map and see the museum. The temple is ornately decorated and is very humbling.
Please don’t be a loud annoying tourist taking selfies and photos while people are praying. Be a decent human, and show some respect when you visit.
After visiting the temple, it was off to Glass Beach. A shade out-of-the-way from our current location, but worth it. Glass Beach can be found along Highway 1 and gives visitors a chance to see and collect colored sea glass that has washed ashore.
Visitors are warned not to take the sea glass, as there will soon be none left, but that hasn’t stopped many from pocketing a little souvenir. The landscape here is rocky, rigid, and beautiful. After you get overheated in the sun, swing by North Coast Brewing to quench your parched soul and grab a quick bite to eat. Then it is time to hit the road and head to San Francisco!
DAY NINE AND TEN Of The West Coast Road Trip: San Francisco
We choose to end our 10-day west coast itinerary in San Francisco for two reasons.
1) It was cheaper to fly out of San Francisco than Sacramento, and 2) The Alamo rental car was a fraction of the cost if we return it to the San Francisco location. Hence, we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the City on the Bay.
There are tons of great things to do near San Francisco as well. Check out these great day trip ideas!
We booked a hotel via Priceline because staying in the city is expensive. We hit the lottery and was awarded the Scarlet Huntington. What a sight we were rolling up in our piece that stunk of feet, crab, and Taco Bell to a five-star hotel. Why yes valet, you can park this, here is a clothespin for your nose. Once we were cleaned up and looked respectable, we hit the town.
Naturally, when had to hop on the cable car. Word of the wise, the California line is not as busy as the other. We decided to have dinner at Forbes Island. TOURIST BEWARE: this is an expensive tourist trap! You think you are getting a gourmet dinner, with an underwater dining experience on a private island.
Here is what you get: a mediocre dinner that is going cost you $200 for two people, there are five portholes in the whole restaurant, so odds are you aren’t going to be by one; instead you will be shoved in a small, dark, crowded corner. The portholes are dirty, so you can’t see anything through them anyways. The island is a barge that has been turning into a tourist trap. Complete with fake pirates, a Tahitian dining room, a lighthouse, etc. There are better places to eat!
The next day we hit China town, which was a cultural explosion leaving your mind spinning and wanting more! There was a Chinese festival happening and before you know it there are lanterns, singing, dancing and a dragon coming down the street! It is the sight to behold, and a must-see while visiting San Fransico.
We did eventually wandered to the Fisherman’s Wharf, which is also very touristy. The seals are the star of the show, but not worth the crowds, terrible chain restaurants, and shops all around. We ended up at Golden Gate Park watching the Rolex Sailboat Regatta which was a spectacle
That evening we hit the Jelly Fish Lounge for Happy Hour, followed by some sausages at Hogwash. We ended up at the Tonga Room, located in the Fremont Hotel. The Tonga Room is worth visiting, even though it reminds me of a tropical version of a Rain forest Cafe.
We had visited San Francisco in the past, so we had already seen the painted ladies, Lombard street, and some of the other sights. If you want to visit Alcatraz, please book your tickets a month in advance. They go fast! After the Tonga room, it was back to the hotel to pack for the worse part of our trip had come, the end.
We hope that you enjoyed our 10 Day West Coast Itinerary. Looking for another exciting road trip? Read about our adventure to Niagara Falls and Toronto!