Budget Friendly West Coast Road Trip: The Best Places To Visit

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As the coronavirus rages on, many of us are wary of airplane travel. However, if you are thinking of getting out of town this summer, there are still plenty of places that make for great road trip destinations. Here are a couple on the West Coast that you will want to consider.  

Note: Some of these attractions may be closed due to the pandemic. Please check in advance to find out if they are open so you can plan accordingly.

Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway – Also known as California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway covers over 600 miles of the California coastline. If you ride along it, you will pass through starlit neighborhoods of Los Angeles, mountainous views of Big Sur and awe-inspiring scenery of the Golden Gate Bridge before ending up in the redwood forests of Mendocino County. Many start their journey in the beach town of Dana Point where ocean vistas and whale watching tours can make for an exciting first day. 

Traveling the highway straight through can take five to seven days but you might want to tack on extra time to explore parks and cities. In addition to passing through San Francisco and L.A., you can also check out the attractions of Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo. 

Some must see stops include the scenic stretch near Big Sur and the Bixby Bridge, the historic city of Monterey and the old growth trees of Sausalito.

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Cascade Loop Of Washington 

Cascade Loop of Washington – If you are looking for a great way to see Washington, the Cascade Loop is highly recommended. You can start off in the famous city of Seattle and head north towards Anacortes to connect with the North Cascades Scenic Byway, a 120 mile stretch that is one of the most scenic landscapes in the state. 

The Byway is typically open from May to November and includes the great hiking and campgrounds of North Cascades National Park. Take time to explore the pristine water of Diablo Lake and the tourist friendly Methow Valley. 

If you drive to the southern part of the loop, you will find more terrific destinations such as Wenatchee, Cashmere and Leavenworth all of which are rich in culture and host celebrations throughout the year. Stevens Pass is another must see known for its hiking, skiing and whitewater rafting.

Columbia River Scenic Byway

Columbia River Scenic Byway – The Columbia river Gorge is located between Oregon and Washington and is often noted as one of the best waterfalls in Oregon. Visitors can start their journey by exploring Portland. Then they can head east to take in the Columbia River and other waterfalls like Multnomah Falls. 

Other recommended stops include the Vista House at Crown Point and Hood Point, a city known for its great restaurants, galleries and windsurfing rental companies.

Oregon Highway 101

Oregon Highway 101 – After leaving the Columbia river, hop on highway 101 and head to the California border. Take in the historical shipwrecks and sea stacks on the way. Be sure to take a second to get out for photo opps at Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport. Then head south to check out the views of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. 

Other places of interest include Cape Perpetua and the Oregon Dunes. Three Capes Scenic Drive is a great option for those looking for a weekend getaway.

Olympic Peninsula Loop

Olympic Peninsula Loop – Although no roads cut through western Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, it can be circumnavigated over 300 miles of highway. You can start off in Seattle or Olympia, then check out destination towns like Port Angeles, Forks and Hoodsport along the way. Get out to explore Olympic National Park or take a day trip on the Port Angeles ferry to visit Victoria, British Columbia.

Highway 395

Highway 395 is one of the most scenic ways to get from South Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park. Along the way, take in the lush forests, mountain views and wildlife of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. South Lake Tahoe is a recommended destination for natural attractions including Emerald Bay State Park.

The highway also connects with Mammoth Lakes and the town of Lone Pine which serves as a gateway to Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. If you are looking to explore the Yosemite Valley, head west on Highway 120 to check out areas like Half-Dome, Tuolumne Meadows and some of the area’s best campgrounds. 

Washington Volcanoes

Explore Washington’s Volcanoes

Mount Rainier is 60 miles southeast of Seattle. It is the most active volcano in the world and the location of one of Washington’s best national parks. The mountainous area is great for hiking, cross country skiing and other winter activities. It is also home to the Skyline Trail and Spray Park. 

From there, you can take a two hour drive south to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Once you arrive, you can experience the living science demonstration that focuses on the area’s recovery after the eruption event. Hiking trails are plentiful, and you can also embark on an underground expedition of Ape Caves to explore the massive crater left behind after the 1980 explosion.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway spans from Crater Lake in Oregon to Mount Lassen in California. While traveling this byway, be sure to check out Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the country. If you are looking for a place to camp, Crater Lakes National Park’s Mazama Village is a destination the whole family will enjoy. 

As you head south, you will encounter Mount Shasta as well as the water features of Burney Falls. On the southern end, you can explore the geothermal features of Lassen Volcanic National Park and the scenic stops along Pacific Crest Trail. 

Santa Barbara to San Diego

Not only are these cities great resort destinations in and of themselves, the 200 miles that connect them through highway 101 and interstate 5 are full of great scenery and fun things to do. On the way, stop through the glamour of Beverly Hills, the beaches of Long Beach and the metropolitan area of Irvine. 

San Diego is a fun place to hang out once you reach the southern tip. You don’t want to miss out on the museums and botanical gardens of Balboa Park and be sure to say hello to the animals at the San Diego Zoo. 

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley, Oregon is located at the Interstate 5 corridor. Home of the Willamette River, it is known for its fertile soil and cultural destination. With cities like Portland, Salem and Eugene located in the region you can be sure there will be plenty of fun to be had if you want to get out of the car to explore. Otherwise, you can just ride through the spring flowers and foliage. 

This summer is going to be a little different than most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a terrific vacation. Which of these will you be road tripping to this summer? 

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