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West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
16 posts
West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

Hi there,

My husband and I (and our 3 kids - 18, 11 and 9) are planning a west coast road trip over three weeks in Sep/Oct next year. I have put together the following rough itinerary and would be most appreciative of any feedback on whether what we are planning is realistic in terms of drive time etc. I have 2 alternate endings as I have read the drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea to LA is too long to attempt in one day. We are most interested in seeing natural attractions (hence all the national parks), with some city days thrown in along the way.

Any feedback at all greatly appreciated as this will be our first time attempting something like this!



Fly Brisbane - Vancouver - Seattle

OVERNIGHT 1: Seattle

Drive Seattle - Mt Rainier NP 1H 45M

OVERNIGHT 2: Mt Rainier NP

OVERNIGHT 3: Mt Rainier NP

OVERNIGHT 4: Mt Rainier NP

Drive Mt Rainier - Olympic NP 2H 40M


Olympic NP including La Push Beach



Drive Olympic NP - Portland 2H 45M

OVERNIGHT 8: Portland

OVERNIGHT 9: Portland

Drive Portland - Redwood NP 5H 20

OVERNIGHT 10: Redwood NP

OVERNIGHT 11: Redwood NP

OVERNIGHT 12: Redwood NP

Drive Redwood NP - San Francisco 5H 30M

OVERNIGHT 12: San Francisco

San Francisco incl Point Reyes

OVERNIGHT 13: San Francisco

OVERNIGHT 14: San Francisco

Drive San Francisco - Yosemite NP 3H 45M

OVERNIGHT 15: Yosemite NP

OVERNIGHT 16: Yosemite NP

OVERNIGHT 17: Yosemite NP

Drive Yosemite NP - Carmel by the sea 3H 30M

OVERNIGHT 18: Carmel by the sea

Big Sur

OVERNIGHT 19: Carmel by the sea

Drive Carmel by the Sea - LA 5H 30M by Highway 1 (more scenic)

Via Malibu



Fly home LA - BNE


Drive Carmel by the Sea - Santa Barbara 4H

OVERNIGHT 20: Santa Barbara

Drive Santa Barbara - Santa Monica/LA 1H 40

Via Malibu

OVERNIGHT 21: Santa Monica/LA

Fly Home LA - BNE


Drive Carmel by the Sea - St Luis Obispo 2H 20M

OVERNIGHT 20: St Luis Obispo

Drive St Luis Obispo - Santa Monica/LA 3H

Via Malibu

OVERNIGHT 21: Santa Monica/LA

Fly home LA - BNE

37 replies to this topic
Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
16 posts
31. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)


After giving further thought to the itinerary and taking feedback and tips into account I have come up with the following, which i feel might be closer to achieving what i think our main goals really are

1. See some PNW nature/scenery

2. Visit yosemite

3. Do the highway 1 drive SF to LA

NB. i have not planned out the details of the Cascades loop yet.

Also, we are now looking to travel in June/July instead of September to avoid the likelihood of adverse weather in the Cascades.


Fly Bne --> Seattle (via Vancouver?)

Seattle 2 nights

Northern Cascades Scenic Byway loop (4/5 nights), ending in Portland

Portland 3 nights incl day trip to Columbia River/Mt Hood region

Fly Portland --> San Francisco

SF 3 nights incl Muir Woods and Point Reyes

Drive SF --> Yosemite

Yosemite NP 3 Nights

Drive Yosemite --> Carmel/Monterey

Carmel/Monterey 2 Nights

Drive Highway 1 through Big Sur

--> Cambria 1 Night

--> Santa Barbara/Malibu 1 Night

--> LA ? Nights (depends how much time husband can get off work)

Fly Home LA--> BNE

If anyone has any feedback on the feasibility of the above that would be greatly appreciated. Are there any days of excessively long driving (ie > 6 hours), are there any inefficiencies in the plan? are things in a logical order?

Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to comment on this thread already, you have been a great help.


Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
71,359 posts
132 reviews
32. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

I think we have better weather & better trail conditions in the Cascades in September compared to June. But there are more hours of daylight in June.

Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
16 posts
33. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

Sorry PacificNWFamily, I should have clarified - it would be very late september/early october when we would be in the cascades if we went with the original timing. Does it not snow then? that's what i'd be worried about - driving in snow/icy conditions as we are from Queensland and have no experience with that at all. What is wrong with the weather in summer - too much rain? I apologise for all the questions, just trying to understand. The weather here in brisbane is so much different from PNW so I really need it spelled out to me :)

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
71,359 posts
132 reviews
34. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

There was a skiff of snow in the mountains a few weeks ago, but it melted quickly. No, it doesn't snow in the 'usual' places that tourists visit in October. But there will probably be snow on the trails along Hwy 20 (North Cascades) in June.

Yes, it rains in June. And it rains in October. If you want more info about Washington, I suggest asking on that forum. Folks are happy to help.

Today is a glorious October day in Washington. Next week, rain.

North Cascades NP webcam: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/air/webcams.htm… There are archive views as well.

Hotel prices in Seattle are higher in June (cruisers.)

We usually consider the 4th of July to be the start of summer.

Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
16 posts
35. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

OK thanks PacificNWFamily

Level Contributor
7,024 posts
57 reviews
36. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

The California segment in #31 looks fine to me. LA normally requires four full days minimum. It’s theoretically possible to cut that down to two days if you have no interest in museums, beaches, or shopping, but that would be foolish due to the sheer number of options for all three.

Orange County and Riverside County (Palm Springs) are also major destinations in their own right but both are so far from LA that they require an overnight stay.

Unfortunately, three nights in SF means you will not have enough time in the Bay Area for the East Bay (specifically, Berkeley) or the North Bay (Napa/Sonoma), though with two nights in Monterey, you would have enough time to briefly stop en route at Silicon Valley sites like Stanford (look up Palm Drive), the Googleplex, and Apple Park. Or you could skip those by taking Highway 1 all the way through Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz to Monterey. If you take the coastal route, read up on Mavericks so you know what to look for when passing Pillar Point.

Do not get a rental car until you leave SF. Read up on the extensive news coverage of the city’s massive crime wave against tourists in rental cars! Any item left visible and unattended for more than 30 seconds will probably be gone when you come back. The TV show Inside Edition recently came to SF to film a segment on this with a bait car, and then the TV crew discovered their own SUV had been burglarized, which made national news headlines.

As for the weather: August and September are the best months to visit California because they’re our most reliably warm, sunny, and dry months where many weeks can pass without any rain. October (as in right now) gets increasingly chilly and occasionally wet. June can be warm sometimes, but can also get lots of chilly, foggy mornings (“June gloom”).

In contrast, the Pacific Northwest rains a lot year round. About the only certainty is that if you go there in the summer, you’re looking at a strong chance of rain on any given day (always carry an umbrella) and even worse odds in other seasons.

One way Californians can easily recognize that the new Planet of the Apes trilogy wasn’t filmed at the real Muir Woods is that the trees are way too mossy. British Columbia rainforests grow moss like crazy because they’re too wet. The real Muir Woods has some moss but not as much. Also, the trees in those movies are way too short. As you’ll see at Muir Woods, redwoods are more like on the scale of the giant trees seen in the Return of the Jedi film.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
32,771 posts
62 reviews
37. Re: West Coast USA Road Trip Itinerary (Seattle to LA)

I think your post #31 is a great compromise of hitting your main highlights and not rushing too too much. Yes, of course you could ALWAYS use more time and I think coolcaeser is doing you a bit of a disservice there by pointing out what you'll be missing. There's always long list of stuff you'll miss. You've nailed down what you have time for and what your priorities are.

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