The West Coast has garnered worldwide fame for its breathtaking natural beauty. What better way to enjoy the sights than gathering your friends or family together for a scenic road trip? Whether you’re looking to enjoy the coastal highways of California, the river gorges of Oregon, or the mountains of Washington, an adventure is always just around the corner. Here are several of the best drives in the region, offering everything from towering sea cliffs and redwood forests to vacation towns teeming with rustic West Coast vacation rentals.
1. Los Angeles to Joshua Tree
Escape the busy streets of Los Angeles to enjoy the beauty of the Mojave Desert on this scenic stretch of highway. The drive is just over two hours long, making it a great choice for a weekend outing, but you can also find a quiet vacation rental in the desert town of Joshua Tree to spend more time exploring the wide range of hiking trails winding through Joshua Tree National Park.
2. Columbia River Gorge
This favorite year-round drive follows the historic highway that meanders along Columbia River, one of Oregon’s most awe-inspiring natural treasures. Start in the City of The Dalles, and enjoy the hour-long scenic drive to Troutdale, making a pit stop in Hood River to grab a craft beer or snap pictures by the gorge. About halfway from Hood River to Troutdale, stop by the famous Horsetail Falls to see the cascades.
3. The Silverado Trail of Napa Valley
To enjoy the best of California’s Napa Valley, travel north from Napa to Calistoga, forgoing the busier State Highway 29 in favor of the more scenic Silverado Trail. Stop by Clos du Val and other renowned wineries along the 29-mile stretch of road, and find a vacation rental in Calistoga to enjoy even more attractions such as the Castello di Amorosa and the Sharpsteen Museum.
4. San Francisco to the Big Sur
If you crave an epic road trip along a sea cliff-studded shoreline, embark on this coastal drive that brings you south from San Francisco to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. While the drive itself lasts around three hours, stops such as the beach city of Monterey and historic Santa Cruz beg for a weekend adventure.
5. Rim of the World Scenic Byway
Starting at Cajon Pass off of State Highway 138, the Rim of the World Scenic Byway takes you through the majestic San Bernardino Mountains on your way to the alpine vacation village of Big Bear Lake. While this is one of the few scenic drive in California where you can look out on a snowy landscape, keep in mind you may need tire chains in the winter. Be sure to stop by Lake Arrowhead or snap photos at the Silverwood Lake Overlook along the way.
6. Portland to Redwood National Park
Set out early from Portland to enjoy a five-hour drive through rolling hills and quiet villages until you finally reach the mighty redwoods. For an even more scenic route, stick to the coastline with a drive along the breathtaking Oregon Coast Highway, bringing the total one-way trip to just short of eight hours. Be sure to stop for a night at Gold Beach to kick back on the sandy shoreline.
7. Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park
Experience the beauty of the High Sierra with a 215-mile trip beginning at South Lake Tahoe. On your way to Yosemite, where you can book a vacation rental to enjoy the world-class hikes, don’t forget to view the towers of Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve and enjoy some mountain biking at Mammoth Lakes. If you’re planning a winter road trip, be sure to check weather conditions and use tire chains, if needed.
8. San Diego to Ensenada
Cross over the border to take in one of Southern California and Mexico’s most beautiful cliff-studded coastlines. Enjoy the wind-swept sand dunes and small fishing villages for fish tacos along the way, but be ready for a few toll roads throughout your journey. Be sure to spend an afternoon at Estero Beach in Ensenada before making the two-hour drive back to San Diego.
9. The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway
Summer and fall are the best times of year to plan a drive down the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway that stretches from the town of North Fork to the heights of Sierra National Forest. Look out the window to see pine forests, towering granite domes, and sharp-peaked mountains. Be sure to grab a treat at Jones General Store and check out the historic Jesse Ross Cabin along the 90-mile route.
10. The Mount Hood Scenic Byway
This Oregon drive winds for just over 100 miles around the glacier-covered peak of Mount Hood. Stop by Mt. Hood Skibowl during the winter for some skiing and snowboarding, or check out the Adventure Park with ziplines and mini golf if you’re planning a summer drive. The byway also brings you along the orchards of the Hood River County Fruit Loop, through pine forests, and past Hood River where you can book a vacation rental for the night. You can also check out the town of Sandy to enjoy some flyfishing.
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