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The Pacific Coast Highway is arguably one of the most famous drives in the entire world.

Travelers flock from around the globe to rent a car and set out along the sinuous highway that works its way up the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. If you’re considering a drive down (or up) the western coast of the U.S., look no further. After making the trip myself in 2014, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the great stops, breathtaking sights, and sense of unbelievable freedom you can find if you drive the Pacific Coast Highway. The best part? You can do this road trip in just 10 days!

In this post, I’ve put together all my knowledge from driving the PCH, plus the latest and greatest updates and research on the state of the road and what to see and do. If you want the quick version of this post, sign up below and you’ll receive my two-page PDF version (trust me – it’s the quick version!).

Whether you’re planning a road trip from San Diego to San Francisco, Seattle to San Francisco, San Francisco to San Diego, or somewhere in between (Los Angeles! Portland! Crescent City!), this post will give you all you need to know. ad on and by the end, you’ll be ready to plan your own Pacific Coast Highway road trip!

The Perfect Itinerary for a Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

The most important thing you need to decide first is which direction you prefer to drive the Pacific Coast Highway (northbound or southbound). If I can make a recommendation? Southbound!

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

The reason I recommend driving southbound down the PCH is that you’ll be on the coastal side of the road. Driving south on the right-hand side of the road, you’ll have a great view of the ocean and coastline. When I drove the PCH in 2014, I drove northbound from San Diego to Seattle, and lament that I wasn’t on the “outer” side of the road.

Your second choice is where to start your road trip. The traditional definition of the Pacific Coast Highway is to drive California Highway 1; you can extend by adding on the Oregon and Washington coasts. Depending on whether you do only California or all three states, you can start/end your road trip at the various cities in this guide.

The Pacific Coast Highway is an ambitious road trip, but totally possible in as few as five days. To help you plan your road trip, here are two possible road trip itineraries you could take. As I mentioned above, both are southbound itineraries.

A Five-Day Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

If you only have a few days to drive the PCH, as I did, a five-day itinerary is ideal. You won’t have as much time to spend in each city, or to take a few of the “long drives,” but you’ll see it all in a short span of time.

Day
Route
Map
1Seattle to Portland

Map via Google Maps
2Portland to Crescent City
3Crescent City to San Francisco
4San Francisco to Santa Barbara
5Santa Barbara to San Diego

A 10-Day Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

If you have more time to drive the PCH, this 10-day itinerary is perfect. You can even stretch it out by spending a few extra days exploring some of the cities along the route if you want to.

Day
Route
Map
1Seattle to Port Angeles

Map by Google Maps
2Port Angeles to Long Beach
3Long Beach to Newport, Oregon
4Newport to Crescent City
5Crescent City to Fort Bragg
6Fort Bragg to San Francisco
7San Francisco to Big Sur
8Big Sur to Santa Barbara
9Santa Barbara to Los Angeles
10Los Angeles to San Diego

Choosing a Car for the Pacific Coast Highway

Before you hit the road, you’ve gotta figure out your car situation!

When I drove the PCH, I rented a car and drove it as a ‘one-way rental’ (meaning I dropped it off in a different city than I picked it up). This was more expensive than a round-trip rental, but I didn’t want to drive the Pacific Coast Highway both ways!

I’ve put together some tips on how to choose the right car for the PCH, but in short, I recommend an automatic car with a low center of gravity – but skip the convertible! I drove one and I hardly ever got to enjoy it!

If you know which car you want, I recommend renting from Fox Rent-A-Car, Sixt, or Alamo. They all offer budget rentals, run regular deals and specials, and have one-way rental options. If you’re not sure (or not loyal to any particular car rental company), consider using a tool like Momondo or TripAdvisor to compare a bunch of options (yes, TripAdvisor does rental cars!).

Okay, now you’ve got your car, you’ve got your basic itinerary. You’re all set to start filling in the gaps!

Washington Stops Along the Pacific Coast Highway

If you think I’m biased about visiting Washington, you’re right! It’s a beautiful state and driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Washington is unique but as breathtaking as elsewhere along the coast. Here are some of the best stops to make along the PCH on your road trip through Washington.

Seattle Packing List Featured

Seattle

Seattle is one of my favorite destinations in the world. After all, I liked it so much when I first visited in 2012 that I moved there in 2013! Therefore, it’s an amazing place to start your Pacific Coast Highway road trip!

Seattle is perfect for a few days if you have the time. If not, spend your day exploring the Seattle waterfront to see all of the city from above.

Briefly, here are some of the other must-see attractions in Seattle:

  • The recently renovated Space Needle with its all-new glass floor and paneling.
  • The Fremont neighborhood and its resident Fremont Troll
  • Gas Works Park or Kerry Park, both with stunning views of the Seattle skyline
  • The Ballard neighborhood and the Chittenden Locks and Fish Ladder

If you want to spend a few days in Seattle, consider purchasing the Seattle CityPass. You’ll get access to five major attractions at a discounted price, so you can experience more of what Seattle has to offer for less.

Resources for Seattle

Port Angeles

Port Angeles Marina, Washington

If you’re taking the full 10 days to drive the PCH, make sure you follow my guide and do at least one overnight on the Olympic Peninsula. Port Angeles is the place for that one-night stop. There are loads of cool things to explore in/around this small PNW town, including Olympic National Park! Other cool attractions include Hurricane Ridge (a popular hiking spot), Elwha River Valley, and Olympic Hot Springs.

Resources for Port Angeles

  • If you decide to spend a night in Port Angeles, my #1 recommendation is Colette’s Bed & Breakfast. I reviewed it in my post about FOMO-inducing B&Bs. Rooms from $195/night.
  • For dinner, book a table at Alder Wood Bistro in nearby Sequim. I had an amazing four-course meal there on my last trip to the peninsula.

From Port Angeles, head west and south around the Olympic Peninsula on Highway 101. Make sure to plan stops at Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach to get a true sense of the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Aberdeen

Aberdeen has one main claim to fame: it was the hometown of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain. If you’re a fan, make sure to stop in Aberdeen to see the house where he grew up. You can find the Cobain house at 1210 E 1st St, and right next door you can see a memorial to Cobain in Kurt Cobain Memorial Park (the house now a private residence, so don’t disturb the owners!).

Related: A Guide to Wandering the Washington Coast – 6 Stops Worth Making

Long Beach

Long Beach is – and always will be – one of my favorite destinations in Washington. The little set of communities on Long Beach peninsula are at the lower left corner of the state and are home to cozy accommodations and surprisingly delicious restaurants.

Depending on your schedule and route on the Pacific Coast Highway, I recommend staying a night in Long Beach; there is a variety of accommodation options. No matter what, stop for a meal and check out my recommendations below.

Resources for Long Beach Peninsula

  • For accommodation, you can splurge on a stay at the beautiful Shelburne Hotel, which changed owners and had a major renovation – or choose an alternative option by booking a trailer at the Sou’wester (from $128/night).
  • For meals, here are some of my favorites:

Oregon Stops Along the Pacific Coast Highway

If you’re driving the complete PCH, the Oregon Coast is a must. With beautiful beaches and fascinating geologic formations, here are my recommendations on where to plan your stops along the PCH in Oregon (with one slight worthy deviation inland).

Astoria

Astoria along the Pacific Coast Highway

Astoria, like Aberdeen in Washington, is a great destination for lovers of pop culture. If you’ve ever seen The Goonies, you know exactly what I mean. After driving across the famous Columbia River bridge, stop and give yourself a self-guided tour of popular Goonies spots in Oregon’s northwest-most town.

Seaside & Cannon Beach

Seaside is a picturesque coastal town, a western interpretation of the East Coast summer destinations along the Atlantic. The huge sweeping beach is admittedly not warm enough for a swim – but it’s great for a stroll in the surf. Downtown is a series of taffy-colored storefronts filled with beach gear, kitschy coastal crafts, and the Funland Seaside Arcade, which harkens back to the heydays of coastal vacations.

South of Seaside, be sure to stop in Cannon Beach to admire Haystack Rock. One of the most famous sea stacks on the U.S. Pacific Coast, Haystack Rock is picture perfect while you stretch your legs.

Portland

What to Pack for Portland, Oregon

Portland is the only city on this list that isn’t on the coast, and it’s definitely a trip extender if you want to visit Portland while driving the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re driving southbound along the PCH, I recommend you drive inland from Seaside along Highway 26E.

Once in Portland, it’s easy to spend a few days exploring; I have been to Portland repeatedly and there are so many experiences that can more than fill a stop on your road trip. If you don’t have the time, plan an overnight stop and make a late start after brunch at one of Portland’s many amazing restaurants.

Whenever you’re satiated with all Portland has to offer, hit the road southbound again by way of Highways 99W/18W, which will take you southwest back out toward the coast.

Resources for Portland

Newport

Newport Oregon, Along the Pacific Coast

Newport is a great destination to stretch your legs for a few hours once you arrive back on the Pacific Coast (you can also drive straight down Highway 101 from Cannon Beach if you decide to skip a stop in Portland). The Oregon Coast Aquarium lets visitors explore the marine ecosystems around this part of the Pacific Ocean.

If you prefer to see nature in its raw form, stop at Devil’s Punchbowl to admire how the ocean has carved a beautiful arch and hole into the coast. Or, head to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to look across the Pacific from the point and lighthouse, which dates to 1870.

California Stops Along the Pacific Coast Highway

When you hit the California coast, it’s like driving in a postcard. Jagged coastline, infinite blue water, sunny days, gorgeous sunsets… these are just a few of the reasons California Highway 1 became a popular route in the first place!

Crescent City

Crescent City, California is the first city you’ll enter when driving southbound into California along the Pacific Coast Highway (or last if you’re headed northbound). Located on a beautiful crescent-shaped bay, Crescent City is along part of the PCH where California Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101 overlap – hence this guide referring to both Highway 1 and Highway 101 as the “PCH” in different states. The coast near Crescent City is dotted with the gigantic rock formations out at sea that characterize most of the northern and central California coastline.

Crescent City is a great spot for an overnight stop depending on your itinerary. There are some great little restaurants, but the Airbnb I stayed at (listed in Resources below) served homemade pizza – so I’m biased to say that is the best meal in town!

Resources for Crescent City

  • If you’re adventurous or budget-conscious, book the private room Patree has listed on Airbnb. She’ll prepare fresh sourdough pizza for your arrival, welcome you with a great conversation, and give you recommendations for the rest of your road trip… all from $75/night! (Get $40 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
  • No time for an overnight in Crescent City? Opt for a meal stop and enjoy harbor views while you dine at Chart Room.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

After Crescent City, the Pacific Coast Highway starts to navigate in and away from the coast at times, which includes chances to experience one of California’s natural wonders: the Redwoods. It’s easy to make a stop in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, so take the opportunity!

Old Highway 101 is now called the Avenue of the Giants, and I highly recommend slowing down to enjoy this 31-mile stretch through some of California’s oldest living – and tallest! – trees.

Resources for Humboldt Redwoods

  • On my weekend trip in the Redwoods, I stayed at the historic Benbow Inn, which has brand new modern rooms I’m dying to visit. Rooms start from $160/night.

Fort Bragg

PCH Road Trip Stops - Fort Bragg Glass Beach

My stop in Fort Bragg was relatively short, but it was worth it! Fort Bragg is home to a beautiful glass beach, pictured above, where the entire beach is made of sea glass from past trash dumps. While the glass is technically part of MacKerricher State Park and you can’t take it home – you can still spend time out of the car searching for different colors and shapes of beautiful sea glass that wash up from the Pacific Ocean.

Resources for Fort Bragg

  • If you decide to do an overnight in Fort Bragg, this studio near the beach (from $100 night) looks like a beach house dream come true.

Point Reyes & Marshall

Point Reyes is arguably my favorite part of the Pacific Coast Highway – and that is saying something as it’s really hard to choose favorites from over 650 miles of California coastline! The drive south from Fort Bragg to Point Reyes is hours of winding coastal highway that will take your breath away at times (yes, it’s a little terrifying!)

While driving southbound, you’ll approach Marshall first. From the perspective of California Highway 1, it might seem like just a few buildings alongside the road. Next, you’ll pass through Point Reyes, which again seems underwhelming. Both have way more to explore once you stop or pull off the road.

In particular, plan a long foray out to Point Reyes State Park and Lighthouse. This 20-mile (one way) detour will take you out on Point Reyes, and has stark and beautiful landscape because it’s so far out “at sea.” Additionally, you’ll get a sense for the magnitude of the San Andreas fault line, which comes inland along the northern part of Point Reyes. Just be sure to plan your trip on a day the lighthouse is open for tours, so you can climb the steps down to the lighthouse and look out beneath the clouds across the sea.

Resources for Point Reyes & Marshall

  • If you’re hungry, stop for lunch at Nick’s Cove (pictured above). If you really love oysters, swing by Hog Island Oyster Company and purchase some to shuck and eat right then.
  • The Point Reyes Lighthouse is only open to visitors from Fridays to Mondays (weekends) from 10am-4:30pm. Plan accordingly when you design your PCH itinerary. It’s worth it!

San Francisco

San Francisco Along the Pacific Coast

It’s impossible to reduce all of the amazing things to do in San Francisco down to a small paragraph or overnight stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Now that I’ve moved to this part of California, I know this is true.

If you’re planning a PCH trip and want to pass through San Francisco, you can either skim over along the side of the city as you drive down the coast, or dive in for one night knowing it will only make you want to come back for more.

No matter which you choose, you’ll enter SF by driving across the Golden Gate Bridge; you can either stay along the coast and drive down Ocean Beach or head east into the city. In the city, be sure to spend time wandering along Fisherman’s Wharf, catch a boat ride out to Alcatraz, and explore the famous Chinatown neighborhood. Another good option is the San Francisco CityPass – I used this on a recent staycation and was impressed with how helpful it was for getting around and seeing the sights.

When you’re ready to continue on your PCH road trip, make your way back to Highway 101 (overlapping with Highway 1 in SF) and head south.

Resources for San Francisco

  • Blow your budget and stay the night at the Fairmont San Francisco, one of the nicest hotels in town. This gorgeous building mostly survived the 1906 earthquake and captures the Victorian glory with modern amenities. Rooms start at about $500/night.
  • San Francisco has tons of cool neighborhoods, so it’s hard to choose which Airbnbs to recommend… Stick in the heart of the city with this modern studio from $135/night or get to know the Mission by staying in this condo room from $130/night. Yes, SF really is that much more expensive than everywhere else. (Get $40 off your first Airbnb stay with this link!)
  • For food, head to Chinatown or Fisherman’s Wharf. Both are heavily trodden by tourists (like you), but Boudin Bakery makes the best bread in town, you’ll find the most authentic xiao long bao this side of the Pacific, and Li-Po Lounge has a great Chinese Mai Tai and was a favorite haunt of Bourdain’s.
  • Here’s what to pack for your time in San Francisco and how to spend 3 days in San Francisco if you decide to stay a little longer.

Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point Along the Pacific Coast Highway

Pigeon Point can be a fun rest stop along the Pacific Coast Highway or a quirky one-night stop depending on your itinerary. As the tallest lighthouse on the U.S. Pacific Coast, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is picturesque, and you can view it from several different angles along the nearby coastline. Unfortunately, you can’t climb the lighthouse steps as it has been closed for restoration since 2001.

Resources for Pigeon Point

  • You can spend a night at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel. This cozy hostel offers funky, budget-friendly accommodations starting from $30/night, and it’s literally in the shadow of the lighthouse.

Big Sur

Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary Featured Image

When you picture the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s Big Sur that comes to mind. The most easily accessible and breathtakingly stark part of the PCH is a short drive (about 3 hours) sound of San Francisco, so many people in the Bay Area do it as an overnight or weekend trip.

Big Sur is defined as the stretch of coastline and adjacent state park between Carmel and San Simeon. Here, California Highway 1 carves a sinuous path along steep cliffs; the road is beautiful at a price, since mudslides aren’t uncommon along this stretch of highway, and can close the highway for months. (As of July 19, 2018, the PCH is open after a 2017 mudslide!)

If you want to spend part of one day during your Pacific Coast Highway road trip beachcombing or hiking, Big Sur is the place to do it.

Pismo State Beach

Pismo State Beach is another great stop during a day of driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara (or reverse). I stopped here to eat a to-go lunch I had purchased earlier in the drive, with my toes in the sand.

Pismo is a popular camping destination, so the most common amenities you’ll find if you decide to stay longer than a few hours are camping-oriented. There are a few restaurants in town and 17 miles of beautiful beach to explore. If you happen to do your PCH road trip in the winter, Pismo State Beach is also home to the largest colony of migrating monarch butterflies during the winter months.

Lastly, Pismo is a great stop for a midday workout on the road, with the huge stretch of beach to walk/run on. Here are other tips on staying fit on a road trip.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was the biggest surprise I had on my PCH road trip in 2014. I was, for the most part, ambivalent about the cities along the PCH. I was far more interested in the hundreds of miles of coastal roadways.

My overnight stop in Santa Barbara changed my mind. I loved the harbor and wharf, was surprised by the food scene, and lightly dabbled in the historical significance of Santa Barbara enough for me to want to return. I enjoyed it so much that I wrote a whole article about the experiences I recommend in Santa Barbara!

Resources for Santa Barbara

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the last major city on my list of Pacific Coast Highway stops, and though I have a guide to spending one day in L.A., you can and should spend as much time as you like. Whether you just want to see the top highlights and sightseeing hotspots or want to dive into L.A.’s booming food scene, you can find it all in Los Angeles.

Depending on the timing of your itinerary, you may want to do an overnight here. If you’ve just stayed overnight in Santa Barbara or started your road trip in San Diego, that may not make as much sense. I haven’t stayed at any L.A. hotels, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending any. That said, there are plenty of nice ones depending on which part of town you want to stay in.

Related: One Magical Day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

San Diego

San Diego was the starting point of my Pacific Coast Highway road trip. For you, it may be the end. San Diego is high on my must-visit-longer list, so I’m again a bit short on recommendations here. San Diego is known for its Zoo and was made Instagram famous for Potato Chip Rock. Whether you stop to take a few Instagram-worthy spots or ogle the pandas, there’s plenty of experiences to choose from in San Diego.

That’s it! PCH bucket list road trip… done! Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is a trip that’s definitely worth putting on your bucket list. As you plan your trip and stops, there are plenty of options – almost too many! If you have any questions about where to stop, what to see, or what to do/eat along the PCH, pop them in the comments.

If you’re looking for a ​customized PCH itinerary​ for your specific trip length and start/end locations, I offer that! Email me your details – you’ll receive a 2-3 page document with all the details for just $20!​

This post was originally published in August 2014. and was updated in October 2017. Some links and details were updated in March 2018 and again in February 2019. Some links in this post are affiliate links, which provide income to me at no cost to you.

108 comments

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Awesome, I’m hoping to do the PCH and NorCal next summer. I’ll have to stop at these places

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What a drive! I’m thinking of a four day road trip for easter next year but thinking along the lines of vegas to grand canyon and so. Still figuring it out.

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It sounds like you’ll have a great trip no matter what! If you decide to drive the PCH, I’m happy to give you any tips!

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This is such a great resource. I love Portland and San Diego. I would love to do a Pacific Coast Highway drive at some point in my life. I love all the details and recommendations!

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Thanks for reading, Lauren! I hope you can make this trip someday (hopefully soon!).

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What a great and comprehensive post! One day, I would LOVE to make this road trip. I can’t even imagine how incredible it must have been to experience all this in person. I’m saving this post to reference when I think about doing this trip, because that has to happen! Also, I love your pictures!

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Thanks, Larissa! I hope you can see it for yourself someday too. Let me know if you need any extra tips whenever you start planning!

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You’ve put together one awesome road trip! Although I live in San Francisco, I’ve yet to visit several of these places on this list. Next time I have a few days off, I’ll have to change that!

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You live in SF! I do too (ish – I’m in Oakland!). I hope you can do at least part of the PCH someday soon 🙂

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Such a thorough guide! I drove part of this back in 2009 – from LA to San Francisco (northbound…..) and would also recommend stops in Morro Bay and Monterey – I enjoyed both very much! Especially watching the sun set over Morro Rock in the distance! Would love to do the northern parts of PCH though – I loved Portland and Seattle, but would like to see more of the coastal regions!

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Great tips, Kathi! I haven’t been to Monterey but it’s high on my list! If you make it out this way, let me know, as I’m now in the Bay Area!

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Will do!! <3

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This sounds like a great adventure. I have a few questions. If I wanted to follow your trip but stop off a day at Yosemite what might the drive look like? Also, about how many miles a day are you traveling on your 10 day itinerary? I’m thinking I might end my trip at Santa Barbara.

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Thanks for your comment, Vicky! I don’t think you can do Yosemite in a day — it’s a four hour drive from the coast to Yosemite (one-way) and you’ll probably want a full day in the park at minimum. The total distance is about 1,500 miles! from Seattle to San Diego along this route 🙂

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Loved your trip adventure and recommendations !! We are doing the PCH this July and August coming from Yellowstone, Glacier and Teddy Roosevelt NP —it has been on our Bucket list for quite some time after this trip we only have Alaska to visit and we will have visited all the States !! I am saving this to research more of the places you mentioned !! Very nicely done thanks ever so much !!

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Thanks for reading, Angel! I’m glad it was helpful. I haven’t been to some of those national parks, but they sound amazing! Feel free to comment back here if you have questions while planning your trip 🙂

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Extremely informative. I am planning for this roadtrip this December- starting from Dec 25th. I will be driving from Dallas to Seattle. Planning for 5-6 days of Seattle to San Diego. My car is a convertible (BMW 3 series) so I am not sure if it can take on the road during Dec end – Seattle and portland area mainly ?

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Glad this was helpful! You should have no problem making it down the road in December. You may encounter some rain up north near Portland and Seattle, but you shouldn’t experience any snow!

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Hello good morning my name is Cherie Carmona,

Wealth to California a little over a year ago I love it I live in Dana Point California, my husband will be moving here in a few weeks and I’m so excited my daughter lives in Seattle so we were considering a road trip to Seattle realistically how long do you think it would take thank you so much God-bless

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Cherie, thanks for your comment. You could do this road-trip in as little as five days, but I recommend taking at least seven — or maybe 10 if you have the time! The longer you spend, the more you’ll get to see and enjoy.

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taking my 13 and 17 year old with my wife. anything you can suggest extra the girls would be wowed by would be great.

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Thanks for your comment, David! I’m pretty confident they’ll be wowed by these sights. Best of all, there’s no cell service so they’ll have to look around to see them 🙂

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I love small beaches and in less popular destinations like this! Those little beaches overlooking the water below is freaking amazing.

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Right, Mel? I love that the Pacific coast has those little hideaways! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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Hi, and thanks for this terrific resource. We’re using it to plan our itinerary for June/July this year, 3 weeks, Seattle to LA. 1 question: we’ve booked hotels at both end (Seattle and LA) and would prefer not to book hotels until we’re on route and know how far we’re along and how long we want to stop in each place. is booking hotels on the day or maybe the day before likely to be OK, or should we book well in advance? We’d like to be flexible so, if we like somewhere we could stay an extra night, or if we need to push on, we could pull the itinerary forward. Whats your thought on late availability rooms at that time of year?

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Adrian, great to hear from you! I’m glad you booked LA and Seattle, because those are the two you most need to have arranged! Are you planning to stay in bigger cities (Portland, SF, Santa Barbara), or smaller ones? For bigger cities, there are probably enough options that you can wait until you arrive to book, even during that time of year. The worst that happens is you might end up in a slightly less nice place than you had planned. In smaller towns though, I’d recommend committing to those earlier – you may find you have nowhere to stay and have to drive on another 100+ miles at some parts! I hope this helps!

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Thanks Valerie. Yes, we intend to stay a couple of nights in Portland and 2 or 3 in San Francisco but we’ll probably look for hotels on the outskirts and travel in to the cities by car or public transport each day. The rest of time will hopefully be in small towns all along the coast. We’re making a shortlist of 3 or 4 likely hotels for each expected stopover. Thanks again for this excellent resource.

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Sounds like you’ve got a great plan – drive safe! Let me know if you have any other questions while planning or on the road! ??

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Hello,

my best friends and I have talked about driving down from San Francisco to some of the Orange County, CA cities. Though I have visited a few cities in California over the years, I (we) are looking forward to that California coastal drive. I already have the vista points where we will stop for photos and eating. Thanks for your points.

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Sonja, glad to help! Have a great trip! Send me a pic if you remember 🙂

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When driving the PCH south from Portland, how much of a detour would it be to see Crater Lake on the way?

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Mike, great to hear from you and thanks for reading! I did a quick search and here’s how it breaks down:

Newport > Crescent City (what I originally suggest) = about 5 hours of driving
Newport > Crater Lake > Crescent City = about 8 hours of driving (and none of it is on the coast)

If you chose to go from Portland > Crater Lake > Crescent City instead = 7.5 hours of driving

So it adds about 3 hours of driving time, but it also means you’ll miss out on basically all of the Oregon Coast. That includes missing the Devil’s Punchbowl and Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in the southern part of the state; you would however get to drive through Oregon’s Redwoods on your way from Crater Lake to Crescent City.

Happy driving!

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Great trip! I plan to rent a car in Los Angeles in the summer and make a similar journey

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Thanks, Alex! Have a great trip!

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Hello! Awesome suggestions and itinerary! I am planning to take this trip with my family of 5 as you have lined out for the 10 days this coming June. Only question I have is how much money would you recommend someone having for a trip like this and staying in a 3 star hotel each night? I’ve never been to CA and I know the prices are high. I would love to take this vacation but not fall short on money. I do not plan to do any shopping at stores, so our money would be spent on a rental vehicle, hotels, gas, and food. I would rather guess on the high side than the low side so I’m prepared. We might consider staying a total of 12-15 days. Thanks so much for any tips you can suggest on having adequate funds! 🙂

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Donna, thanks for your comment! I’d recommend booking – or at least searching – every hotel you want to stay at, and the nights you want to stay, so you can get a sense of exactly how much it’s going to cost. It’s a little tough to guess without knowing the exact dates and which towns/cities you plan to stay in on any given night, but I hope this helps!

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We are so overwhelmed. We can only do a quick trip. We will be coming from Anaheim and want to drive the Pacific Coast Highway to Half Moon Bay. We are planning to stay overnight at the Madonna Inn. Is this possible?? I know we won’t see everything, but it’s the only time frame we have. Do you have any tips? Can you share with me how long this should take us?? Is Pacific Coast Highway the same as Highway 1 or Highway 101?

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Aretta, thanks for your comment! What you suggested (Anaheim > SLO/Madonna Inn > Half Moon Bay) is a great two-day itinerary. You can definitely do that! I didn’t spend a ton of time on the Central Coast, but be sure to stop at Pismo Beach and drive through Carmel. Stop and admire the views in Big Sur, too! The PCH is Highway 1 in California, though sometimes Highway 1 and 101 overlap which is what causes the confusion! When in doubt, stay on the coast. Have a great trip!

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You did a fantastic job with this giude, everything is straight to the point but provided in a fun and educational way. I can really tell that you love traveling, Valerie 🙂

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Thanks for reading, Adam!

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Hi, I love Portland and San Francisco. I love to do a Pacific Coast Highway drive at some point in my life. I love all the details that you are recommended here. Thank you so much for sharing this informative article with all of us.

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You’re very welcome, Wilbert! I hope you have a great trip whenever you can make it!

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My husband and I plan to do this trip in June. As we will be married 40 years! WOW! Anyway, we are looking to do the very same drive. Start in Seattle and end in San Diego. Any other advise you could give us. I didn’t want to make all my reservations, but just go with it for one time in my life. You thinks that’s safe or should I make some. Thanks! Getting excited.

We would be flying from GA, so I guess I go fling to Seattle, and the book one home for San Diego?

I’m nervous go excited. We were 70’s teenagers all around!

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Angie, thanks so much for your comment! Yes, I’d recommend flying one-way to Seattle, and flying one-way home from San Diego. Also, you can probably get away with booking hotels/vacation rentals in the smaller towns only a few days in advance – but if you want to stay in any of the big cities, I would book those 2-3 weeks in advance at the latest! Have a great trip!

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Thank you for this wonderful review. I am planning a trip for next year, saving and researching. I live in Florida and have never been to the pacific coast. I want to fly out to the NW and drive to Crescent city, then go inland to see the redwoods, Bend, and Mt. Hood. Sort of a round trip Oregon adventure. What’s the best time of year to do this? I hate cold! Also, I will have 3 weeks to do this, I like small towns, Vegan food, and too out of shape for extended hikes.

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Ann, thanks so much for your comment. This sounds like a great trip – the PCH + inland Oregon! The best time of year to do this will be in the summer (June/July/August), probably sooner in the year rather than later. I hope you have a great trip!

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Wonderful trip sharing you made. Thanks so much. Am planning to do a 10 day PCH drive in August. This will be a great tool in planning. Prior to retiring I have done the San Francisco to LA 3 times but always by myself. This time I plan to take a friend and start in Portland. Again, thanks for great info and advice.

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Nate, thanks for your comment. Very glad to help, and I hope you have a great trip!

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Thanks for the great ideas! We are planning a west coast trip and are considering renting an RV one way from Portland or Seattle to San Francisco. Does that sound reasonable or doable?

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Thanks for reading, Laurie! With an RV, I’d just give yourself a lot more time each day (probably 25% more driving time) since you’ll need to go a bit slower. Hope that helps you plan!

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Valerie,
valuable tips ! Nice ride. I’m looking forward to have the same experience with my wife and my son.
The ideia is to have a “West Coast Beer Route” drive. Thanks for sharing.
Rudy

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Sounds like a great trip, Rudy! Drive safe in between those beer stops!

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Great read! My wife and I are planning an 18 day trip in the coming months to fly into San Diego and then make the drive up to Seattle. But, we need to go the opposite way; starting in San Diego and heading north. Is this going to be a big disappointment? Also, we were thinking with the additional days to do a detour over to Yosemite. To ensure accommodations, I was thinking to book all of the hotels in advance. I’me hoping the trip will run about $10k. staying at decent places 3-4 star properties. Any additional thoughts?

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Nope, headed northbound is not a bad way to go – it’s actually the way I went on my first drive! You’ll have a great time!

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Hi, My wife and I are planning a 7-day drive from San Fran to Portland in late June of this year. Can you recommend where to spend time and in which cities to plan to spend the night? We’ve spent time in SF already so don’t need to stay there. The redwoods are a definite. Seeing some nice beaches is also of interest. My wife doesn’t particularly like high bridges or steep drops (one reason we are driving north), so any advice on where we might avoid such things is appreciated. Is there any river rafting or boating along the way?

Thank you, Scott

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Scott, I replied to your email, so you should be all set!

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This is exactly what I was looking for. My husband and I are both 62 in pretty good shape and planning to do this trip from Portland to San Diego in late September 2019 over 2 weeks. Are we likely to hit snow in the northern stops? I am not fond of the cold and a bit fearful of icy driving in the mountains. We will be stopping to see the sights along the way but not for strenuous hikes.
Thank you for any other tips.

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Eileen, thanks for your comment, and for reading! You probably won’t have any snow – it’s usually just rain in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon & Washington). Have a great trip!

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Hi Valerie-
What is the best time of year for this 10 day trip?

Thanks, Lynda

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Thanks for reading, Lynda! The best time of year to do this will be in the summer (June/July/August), probably sooner in the year rather than later.

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Thinking of Seattle to San Diego on US 1 in late September or early October, is the weather still good for a 10 day driving trip?

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Thanks for your comment, Rex! Should be pretty good – it might be a bit rainy up in the Pacific Northwest, but the weather once you reach California should be great!

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Hello Valerie,

Looking to travel with your recommendations southbound! Looking to fly into Crescent City – I’ve tried to locate flight from Oakland to Crescent City but haven’t been able to, do you have any info on this flight?

Also being from Colorado, we would love to camp oceanside, do you have any recommendations on campsites?

Thank you for sharing your travels and still helping others along their journey!

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Thanks for your comment, Victoria! For flights, I recently heard there’s a flight from the Bay Area to Crescent City – check out Contour Airlines (they come up when I google OAK > CEC).

For campsites, I’m not super sure as I’m not a big camper, but this might help: https://www.theoutbound.com/theoutbound/camping-along-the-pacific-10-seaside-campsites-for-your-west-coast-road-trip

Have a great trip!

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I am planning a trip in late July. I am flying into Portland to meet my niece and we will rent a car and drive down the coast to LA to meet another nephew. We fly out of LA. I am thinking 5 days from Portland to LA. Would it be worth it to continue to San Diego then back to LA? We will probably book Airbnb if cost effective. I appreciate this guide. I want the most scenic route but RT 1 on the cliffs seem risky ? Suggestions? Also, niece is vegan and I am meat eater.

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Thanks for your comment, Kathy! To answer your questions:
1. Don’t drive down to SD and back up to LA. Just give yourself more time and end n LA.
2. Route 1 is fine – it’s twisty turny but it’s the best route by far.
3. You should have no problem finding vegan options! Oregon & California are both pretty vegan friendly states so I’d expect lots of restaurants have at least an option that’s animal-free.

Have a great drive!

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Doing this trip starting this weekend! We’re taking the 5 to Seattle with a few stops on the way then PCH from Port Angeles to SD. We’ll be camping out at most stops except for SF. Super excited. Great article!

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Thanks, CJ! Have a great trip and drive safely!

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I have been reading your blog posts about the PCH and think I read where you mentioned a couple of crossover vehicles that would be good rental cars. It may have been in a reply to someone else’s comment, but I can’t seem to find it now. Any ideas?

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Karen, great question! I don’t remember providing that advice… but off the top of my head, I wouldn’t go bigger than a Tesla Model X (swoon!), a Jeep Liberty, or most Subarus. If you go as big as a Suburban or Tahoe, you’ll be way to big and clunky to enjoy the road! I hope this helps.

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Hi – We have just 1-day and will be starting in Fortuna and heading to San Francisco. We want to make the best out of drive there. I see we can head to Mendocino and then over to a larger highway to San Francisco or…….drive all the way down the PCH to Point Reyes Station & then head over San Francisco but that would be a lot of driving. We are only going to be there once though and want to make the most of it. Do you highly recommend the LONG route OR is thru Mendocino only enough? Thanks for your help in advance!!!!

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Thanks for your comment, Shelly! To be honest, I’d opt for the long route – you only have one day, and Point Reyes is one of my favorite parts of California. Be sure to stop at Nick’s Cove in Marshall, CA for a meal or Hog Island Oyster if you love oysters!

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Hi Valerie,
Great job!
I am planning to start my road trip in Vancouver BC and ending in San Francisco. I am planning 14 days to take in the sights. Would you have any other suggestions since I am using 4 more days and not going south to Sa Diego and strarting in Vancouver?
Thanks

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Thanks for your comment, John!

I’d take those days and visit the San Juan Islands: https://www.valisemag.com/visit-san-juan-islands/

You could also give yourself more time in the cities:
https://www.valisemag.com/3-days-seattle/
https://www.valisemag.com/3-days-san-francisco/
https://www.valisemag.com/portland-city-guide/

I hope these help!

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Valerie,
My husband and I are wanting to fly from Denver to California on December 27th. We want to spend 5 days for PCH and not sure where to fly in or out of. Is this time of year realistic for an enjoyable adventure, or should we maybe plan to go somewhere else? Where would you start and end if it is reasonable to go in December, and what might we expect weather wise?
Thank you, and your blog is fantastic!
Kim

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Kim, December should be a pretty good time, but plan for classic marine layer weather (chilly and cloudy – this is what’s normal on the Pacific coast!). If I were youI would do a leisurely drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles/San Diego. Let me know how it goes!

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We’re renting an RV in Seattle (after few days in hotel) and have 30 days before we drop it off in San Fran (and hotel for a few days). Should we go down the coast only (plus say Portland & Crater Lk), or head inland given how much time we have? Is Yellowstone worth the long detour?

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Thanks for your comment, Anthony! You’ve got so much time, that’s awesome! I would definitely do some research on inland options – I’m not as familiar with what’s inland though. I can think off the top of my head that you could do the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, the Redwoods in much greater depth than I advise above… you could also spend some time at Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, or elsewhere in the Sierra Nevadas!

I haven’t been to Yellowstone so I can’t say if it’s worth it, unfortunately. #addittothelist

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Thank you so much for this information! We are planning a trip next year from New Orleans while my husband has a conference in Portland…we were thinking of driving Hwy 1 down to Disneyland…and catching some of the beautiful beaches and state parks. Our kids will be 15 & 10…I’m just afraid it will be a boring ride for them in the car. We were planning on 10 days total for driving, site seeing and ending it with 2 days in Disneyland. Any recommendations will be appreciated! Thanks!

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Heather, you saw the rest of the post, right? Those are my top recommendations! I’d find an interesting podcast for everyone in the car and have the kids keep an eye out for whales and wildlife. Have a great drive!

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Hi Valerie,

I am traveling with my husband, brother and our 4 year old. What type of car would you rent for 4 of us? We will only have 7 days. We planned to start in Seattle and drive to San Diego. Is this doable in 7 days, with stops during the day and to spend the night?

Thanks!

Raynard

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Raynard, when are you going? I’m going to publish a suggested 7-day PCH guide soon! I’d go with a mid-size car for your rental.

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Am interested in your upcoming 7 day itinerary of PCH. Enjoyed this 14 day article!

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Hi there, I am desperate to do the road trip next year – however, I am not keen on driving over bridges (I am fine on coastal roads/cliff edges), so are there any places that i definitely need to avoid or that you cant get through/past without crossing a bridge? Many thanks, alex

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Alex, unfortunately, this might not be the trip for you. There are no reasonable alternatives for some of the routes like the one across Bixby Canyon Bridge (shown above). You’d need to drive about 7-10 hours out of the way depending on the bridge, and miss major stretches of the road 🙁

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What are the reasons you really never got to enjoy using a convertible car?

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Thanks for your comment, Patty! Unfortunately, when I drove the PCH it was pretty foggy and cool most of the week.

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Great content here, thank you! We are thinking of taking this drive during the week of Christmas. Any thoughts on this as it pertains to weather? Is it worth waiting to do this trip in summer?

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Thanks for your comment, Jorge! The weather should be okay – but be prepared for coastal fog and chill (as you would experience pretty much all year long!). Have a great drive!

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Planning a mother/son trip after my son graduates HS next year. This blog has been incredibly helpful. I love road trips & he tolerates them so I am looking forward to all these sights to see!

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Hah, sounds like a good bonding experience, Angela! Have a wonderful trip!

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Thank you for great info – This is exactly what I was looking for. Booking this trip for late Oct. I’d like to fly in ( from East Coast) somewhere north of San Fran. What would be a good hopping on point?

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Great question, Sharon! The only places you can fly would be Crescent City – but it’ll require changing through San Francisco anyway. Also, further north, you could fly to Portland and do the Oregon coast too. Have a great trip!

(If you decide to fly to SF, here’s a recent post I wrote: https://www.valisemag.com/california-coast-road-trip/)

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Hello,
Thanks for sharing your trips and valuable tips. If I am going to follow your 10 day itinerary from Washington State to San Diego, how many overnight stays can I have?

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Thanks for your comment, Pam, but I’m a little confused – it’s a 10-day itinerary, so it’s a 9-night trip.

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Valerie – I just came across this post. Love it. My husband, myself and our four kids always take adventurous vacations every summer. We are from Ohio. If we have 10 days to do this and could skip San Francisco, because we just did that 2 years ago, could we drive from Seattle to either Los Angeles or San Diego in an RV? We always wanted to do an RV trip, but maybe the PCH is not the one to do that on?? Thoughts? You also mentioned Suburbans are not great because they are so big, but I don’t think we have much choice with the large family.

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Thanks for your comment, Erin! I wouldn’t advise doing this one in an RV, to be honest. It’s a very winding cliff-side road and doing it in an RV is going to be laboriously slow and probably make you a bit nervous at times. Also, it’s not exactly the most stimulating view – it’s a bit better for older kids than younger ones.

If I were going to recommend a route, I’d do something like the National Parks in California or the Utah/Arizona/SoCal loop. That gives you a lot more to do each day to wear the kids out and much more suitable for an RV.

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Planning a trip on PCH last week of July 2020. Starting at San Francisco ending San Diego. Making the drive in 2 days. What are must see spots.

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Thanks for your comment, Catherine. I make all of my ‘must see’ recommendations in this post, so I recommend checking out the section on California to find the ones that sound interesting to you. If you would like a customized itinerary, I offer that for a fee to help cover the time it takes me to put those tips together. There’s a link to that at the end of the post.

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Love all the comments ideas and suggestion, will try and make this trip happen in about 2-3 years . Got to save some $$$$$

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I hope you can make it happen sooner! Have a great trip!!

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Hi Valerie,

Thank so much for putting together a wonderful and comprehensive itinerary of the PC scenic drive. This will be a great resource for the trip that we are planning. My wife and I were planning to fly to San Diego to start the trip, but your point about southbound visibility makes total sense. What do you think about making this drive in November? We are planning to spend Thanksgiving in San Diego.

Thanks again and best wishes,

Dan

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Glad to help, Dan! November should be a good time, but you may experience some days where the Marine Layer rolls in – be sure to pack layers in case it’s cooler/less sunny than expected!

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Hello Valerie; my family and i are thinking about a trip from northern CA to San Diego along the coast. Want to stop over a few nights, and hit some of the destinations you listed. I was wondering if you would recommend any wine tasting spots along the way? I’ve been to Napa, Sonoma and Russian River Valley – but curious if there are any great places you are aware of.

Thank you!
Amy

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Amy, take a look at the Santa Maria Valley – I stopped in Lompoc on a trip recently and they have some fun and interesting wineries there. Sounds like a great trip either way – drive safe!

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