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Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

Seattle, Washington
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Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

Hello I am trying to plan a road trip from Seattle to San Diego around mid June for about 1.5 to 2 weeks potentially. I will be going with my best friend, after graduating high school. I am trying to keep the budget as low as possible, so I was thinking about camping options, sleeping in the car, packing food, etc. I am from Seattle, so we don't need to spend time exploring the town on this trip. We are into photography especially. Trying to see as many breathtaking places as possible. Some areas I had an interest include: The Gorge, Oregon Coast, Redwood forrest, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, California beaches, LA., etc. However, we want to utilize our time effectively and not waste time zig zagging driving. Our interests include music, fashion, nature, etc. I am having the hardest time trying to figure out a timeline, how to decide where and when to sleep, and the tiny details. This will be our first major road trip so I am trying not to go into it blindly. Is it good to plan out everything to a tee, and if so what is the best way to do it? Any tips or resources would be very welcomed, thank you in advance :)

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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1. Re: Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

Hi Alex O and welcome to TripAdvisor. You may also wish to post on the Oregon forum, since you'll be traveling there ;-) You'll find it here:


Given your list, there is really no way to avoid zig zagging. From Seattle, I might suggest you head southeast to The Dalles, then west through the Gorge. Then south along the Oregon coast to Redwood National Park. From there, go inland, maybe seeing Lassen on your way to Tahoe, then you'll need to head west to SF and continue south from there to LA.

Is this a round trip? Are you returning straight up I-5?

Keeping in mind that most of the posters who will be answering are old enough to be your parents or (yikes!) your grandparents, bear with us if we may sound a wee bit concerned with your overall safety.

What was your plan for staying in the big cities? Are you both over 18?

Do you have a solid running car?

Camping will cost about $25 - $35 per night in campgrounds that have flush toilets and hot showers. There will probably be a slight charge for showers. Rustic campgrounds with no showers and pit toilets will be less. Once you are south of SF, you may have trouble if you don't book ahead as there are so many people camping.

You can bring a cooler and buy ice at grocery stores, as well as inexpensive food.

Planning is good, very good, but you don't have to try to schedule every minute :-)

Fremont, California
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for San Francisco
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2. Re: Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

st include: The Gorge, Oregon Coast, Redwood forrest, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, California beaches, LA., etc

A few suggestions (take them or leave them)

1) Cascade Locks see


You can do the loop easily in 2 days with one overnight.

1) Along the Oregon Coast I would camp at Florence - great sand dunes place, and also a campground there.


2) Continue along the coast into California. While the coast is fun, it can be cooler at night. Stay 6 miles or so inland in an excellent river area for swimming, redwood trees, etc.


3) Drive through redwood area, next possibly staying in Avenue of the Giants. There is a nice campground area there called

Humboldt State Park.

4) Continue down the coast possibly stopping for one night in nearby Mendocino. Nice ocean campground there called



Continued below.

Fremont, California
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3. Re: Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

5) From Mendocino, continue down the coast and for seeing San Francisco, suggest two nights camping in Half Moon Bay. Wonderful beach side setting - yeah, its a drive into San Francisco (but there is no good campgrounds in San Francisco). Half Moon Bay State Beach. This state is great to wake up and enjoy the morning before going to San Francisco (Check Union Square area for shopping). Or if you prefer staying in the city, choose a hotel with parking included such as Columbus Motor Inn for the night.



6) From this area, head south to Santa Cruz - fun surfing area, as well as free Santa Cruz Boardwalk area. You just pay for any rides you do. There is a nice state park just south of this area called New Brighton State Park.



7) Then continue to Big Sur - Limekiln is a state park you might want to stay there.


8) Head to LA area -(Note: If you do want to include Santa Barbara - Refugio State Park there is in a great setting with camping.)


but since you want to go as far as San Diego you might want to just drive on through to LA. Stay the first night on the west side of LA - Leo Carillo State Park is good there.


(Note: For Fashion in LA see Melrose Avenue area as well as the various shopping areas in Santa Monica, The Grove, etc. See Top questions for that area s their DEs have a lot of knowledge in this area.)



9) Decide how many nights you want to stay in west LA area and then move to Orange County (Disneyland, Knotts, theme parks...if so inclined). For camping in that recommend Doheny State Park.


continued below.

Fremont, California
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4. Re: Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

9) For San Diego, I would probably opt for a night in a motel....either Motel Circle area or in Gaslamp area...since camping is a bit limited here. but do take a look at options on YELP


Now for the drive up look at a map (google maps, mapquest) and since you are young, plan on a drive day from San Diego to the Sierra Mountains. Head to Mammoth Lakes for camping. (Miles: 417 miles). the drive will take you through the eastern side of the Sierras (you will get a glimpse of Mt. Whitney around Lone Pine area).

In Mammoth Lakes or at nearby Convict Lake (5 miles south of Mammoth Lakes), see camping




10) Next day drive to Lake Tahoe - its about two hours drive from Mammoth Lakes - however things to see along the way are June Lake Loop (4 lakes, hiking trails, also camping here), Mono Lake, possibly Bodie, perhaps stop at Grover Hot Springs in Markleville, and then to Lake Tahoe. Several camping opportunities here.






11) When you leave Lake Tahoe head north - note: There is some lakes north of Lake Tahoe that also has camping at Boca


12) Then drive north to Mt. Lassen National Park Its a 2 hour drive or so from North Lake Tahoe area.


There is some camping in the park.

13) North of Mt. Lassen National Park is Burney State Park. This park has waterfalls, and also a good camping area, as well as a swimming beach.


Note: In the Hat Creek area, there is an interesting cave called Subway Cave.


14) From Burney drive to Shasta area to put you on highway 5. Shasta Lake has some very good camping areas around it.


From Shasta back to Seattle then is 600 miles - not knowing what you have seen along the highway 5 route, you decide. You could break it up by also driving inland to possibly see Crater Lake or Bend area and then complete your drive back to Seattle.



Note: If you do do Crater Lake and no place to camp, there is camping north of Crater Lake in such areas as

Diamond Lake


Just some ideas......take what information you would like, toss the rest

and have a wonderful trip......

by the way the camping areas above will RVS there but selected those that are also good for just tenting, or just parking the car, putting together some meals, and sleeping outside if the weather is right.

have fun - its illegal in many areas just to park your car and sleep the night (i.e. outside a camping area in California). Some do - but police are usually looking for them. Most of the areas not for camping along the coast for example have hours where you are not allowed on the beach if you are not in a campground.

Since there are so many wonderful campgrounds in California be sure to also see



Also if you do do the eastern Sierra side to return - its an easy day drive from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite are return for the night. Camping reservations in Yosemite are a MUST MUST MUST - so staying on Eastern Sierras will make for a good alternative stay if trip is when Tioga Pass is open (usually sometime May through mid to end October).

Other place if you want to upscale a night for camping is to check KOA of America - good places in California to stay at


Edited: 10 April 2014, 20:34
5. Re: Road trip from Seattle to San Diego

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