The west coast of the United States is one of the most beautiful, dynamic and interesting places to visit in the entire country, and one of the best ways to see the entirety of this area is by planning a Seattle to Los Angeles road trip. Spanning three states and nearly 1,200 miles, there is so much to see when driving from Seattle to LA and it is the perfect way to experience some of the best places the West Coast has to offer.
While one could hypothetically complete the Seattle to LA drive in about 18 hours, or two long days of driving, the route is best experienced if you take the time to get off of the interstate, hop on the PCH and see some of the highlights of one of the most iconic road trips in the world.
So if you’re planning a Seattle to LA or even a Seattle to San Diego road trip, then make sure to follow this two-week itinerary. It will take you past some of the highlights of the west coast including vibrant cities, stunning mountains, world-renowned wine country and pristine coastal scenery. So if you want to go on the ultimate US road trip, you really cannot go wrong with an LA to Seattle drive.
Planning a Seattle to Los Angeles Drive
Before I get into the day-by-day logistic of your Seattle to Los Angeles road trip itinerary, we need to discuss a few things about planning your trip first. And more than anything, we need to discuss how you’re planning on getting around.
If you’re not driving your own vehicle while on your west coast road trip, you’re likely going to need to rent a car. While most major car rental companies have offices in Seattle and Los Angeles, we would actually suggest booking your car hire through RentalCars.com. This platform aggregates all of the best prices across most major rental companies, ensuring that you can get the best deal on your car hire.
Once you’ve got your wheels sorted, you need to think about how long you have to devote to this road trip. While you can certainly just drive from Seattle to Los Angeles or San Diego in a couple of days, if you want to make a proper road trip out of it, we would recommend spending a bit longer on the road.
This entire Seattle to LA road trip itinerary spans about two weeks and it actually doesn’t contain the time that you should be spending in both Los Angeles and Seattle. It also doesn’t cover even a fraction of the amazing places that you could step, however, it does cover the absolute highlights. Of course, if some of these stops don’t interest you, you can absolutely do this road trip in a shorter period of time, it’s just important to know that you won’t be able to see and do everything on this itinerary.
2 Week Seattle to Los Angeles Road Trip Itinerary
Without further to do, these are the best stops to make on a Seattle to Los Angeles or a Seattle to San Diego drive!
Days 1-2: Seattle to Portland
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Leaving Seattle, your first stop on your road trip to California is at the incredible Mount Rainier National Park. A true paradise for outdoor lovers, this national park is home to one of the highest peaks in the United States and is littered with incredible natural scenery and countless hiking trails.
You can easily stop off at the national park and go for a day hike before continuing further south into Oregon, or, if you have more time on your hands, you can always opt to spend longer around Mount Rainier to really do this incredible national park justice.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
From Mount Rainier, it’s time to continue further southwest into Oregon and to visit one of the most beautiful coastal towns in the state, Cannon Beach. Located close to the border with Washington, this city is known for it’s incredible beach and beautiful scenery.
Make sure to get out of the car and go for a long walk down the expansive beach and take in the iconic Haystack Rock, which is a massive rock formation just off of the beach and what Cannon Beach is famous for. Make sure to take the time to explore the main town of Cannon Beach, as well, as it is absolutely charming.
End your first day on your Seattle to LA drive in the cool, hip city of Portland, Oregon. As Oregon’s largest city, Portland has a lot to offer visitors including interesting sites, a very cool culture, great restaurants and cool bars.
Make sure to take the time to spend at least one full day in Portland itself on this west coast road trip, however, we would suggest spending at least two or three nights here in order to use it as a base to explore the towns and sites nearby.
Where to Stay in Portland
Airbnb — In Portland and really on the entirety of this Seattle to Los Angeles drive, Airbnb is a fantastic option for accommodation. Whether you’re on a budget and looking for a private room in a local’s home or want to stay in unique lodgings like this urban treehouse in central Portland, Airbnb has got you covered. Click here to browse Airbnbs in Portland.
The Society Hotel — Centrally located within close proximity of all of the best sites in Portland, this hotel is an excellent option for those looking for a comfortable place to base themselves in the Oregon city. They have an array of rooms available and a tasty restaurant on site. Click here to see their availability
Travelers House — If you’re on a budget or travelling solo, then this hotel is a great option for you. They have both dorm and private rooms available, self0catering facilities, and good commons areas that make it easy to meet other travellers. Click here to see their availability
Day 3: Portland Day Trips
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Located just east of Portland, this makes for an excellent first stop from the Oregon city on your third day of this road trip. The Columbia River Gorge is a top sight in the state of Oregon and is absolutely beautiful and worth a stop. Make sure take the time to go for a walk and enjoy the gorgeous scenery that you’re about surround yourself with.
If you’re a cheese-lover, then you absolutely cannot go wrong with a stop in the charming little town of Tillamook. Known for its dairy, you can tour the Tillamook Creamery, sample its iconic sharp cheddar cheese or even get a scoop or two of delicious Tillamook ice cream.
Lincoln City, Oregon
If you want to experience more of Oregon’s beautiful coastal regions, then make sure to head west to lovely Lincoln City. Boasting a gorgeous beach and charming main town filled with kitschy shops, local artists studios and great food, Lincoln City makes for a great day trip from Portland while driving south to Los Angeles or San Diego.
Days 4-5: Southern Oregon
Willamette Valley, Oregon
From Portland, it’s time to head south and to experience the wonderful Willamette Vallery or Oregon — the state’s premier wine-growing region! Oregon wines are gaining renown and have achieved some critical acclaim in recent years, however, this region isn’t nearly as well-known as the California regions that you may be visiting later in this Seattle to Los Angeles road trip.
You can take the time to hop from winery to winery and do some tastings (just make sure that you have a designated driver!) or just enjoy the gorgeous scenery while driving through and maybe stop in at one of the many fantastic restaurants in the valley.
South on the I-5 of Portland lies the city of Eugene, a bustling university town with a hip environment and a great atmosphere. Packed full with fantastic restaurants, cool bars and a bustling craft beer scene, there are also lots of outdoor activities near Eugene that make the city worth visiting, as well.
And your final stop for the day — and a wonderful place to spend the night — is the charming city of Bend. Located just east of Eugene, Bend is known for being an outdoor lover’s paradise and is surrounded by countless hiking trails and beautiful natural spots to visit. The town itself is also worth exploring, with lots of cool shops an great restaurants.
Where to Stay in Bend
Hampton Inn & Suites — If you’re looking for a consistent and comfortable chain hotel in Bend, then this is a good option for you. They have myriad clean and comfortable rooms on offer, good amenities and facilities, and a central location perfect for exploring Bend. Click here to see their availability
Oxford Hotel — This boutique hotel is an excellent place to stay if you’re looking for a cute, locally-run and eco-friendly place to stay in Bend. They have a range of rooms available, fantastic amenities, a central location, and a great breakfast sourced from local farmers offered in the morning. Click here to see their availability
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
The second of the national parks to visit on this Seattle to Los Angeles road trip, Crater Lake National Park is an incredibly beautiful natural area located in the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon. Surrounded by stunning forest, this lake is formed by a collapsed cinder cone volcano.
There are countless hiking trails in the national park that are great if you want to get out and stretch your legs, however, there are also viewpoints that are easy enough to access if you don’t want to go for a hike.
Crescent City, California
A Washington to California undoubtedly takes you by some of the most incredible natural scenery that the west coast has to offer. And some of these world wonders include the incredible California Redwoods — the largest trees in the world.
While you can begin seeing these gigantic trees from this point until you reach Big Sur in California’s central coast, Crescent City is one of the best places to go for a walk amongst these giants. The town itself also boasts a historic lighthouse, a lovely beach and charming main area filled with cute shops and great restaurants.
Where to Stay in Crescent City
Lighthouse Inn — This quaint hotel boasts spacious rooms and a great, continental breakfast each morning, making it an ideal place to base yourself in Crescent City. They are centrally located and have numerous rooms available. Click here to see their availability
Travelodge Crescent City — Another fantastic option if you’re after a small yet basic hotel in Crescent City. Centrally located, they have a number of clean and comfortable rooms to choose from and an option to include breakfast. Click here to see their availability
Days 7-8: Crescent City to San Francisco
Fort Bragg, California
Northern California doesn’t get near the amount of recognition that everything south of San Francisco does, however, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas that aren’t worth visiting in the north of the state.
Begin your day working down to San Francisco in the charming coastal city of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County. The city boasts a wonderful beach and a lovely city centre that is very much worth exploring before hitting the road and continuing south.
Napa & Sonoma, California
Next stop on this Seattle to San Diego or Los Angeles road trip is one of the premier wine regions in the world, and certainly in the United States — Napa Valley and Sonoma. Located directly next to each other, Sonoma is known for being a bit more laid back and cool than it’s more well-known neighbour of Napa, however, both are very much worth visiting if you’re interested in sampling some of the best wine in the world or sampling some world-class cuisine.
This area of California is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants, including Thomas Keller’s famous The French Laundry.
Just north of the Golden Gate bridge before you properly enter the city of San Francisco lies Sausalito, a charming little city with a great maritime history in Marin County. The city itself has absolutely incredible views of San Francisco itself, along with the Bay and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. There is also a lovely town centre to explore coupled with some great restaurants.
San Francisco, California
Of course, no Los Angeles to Seattle road trip would be complete without spending time in one of the most iconic cities in the United States — San Francisco. This dynamic metropolis has so much to offer visitors that it is very much a destination in its own right, however, on this road trip, we recommend planning to spend at least two full days exploring the city itself.
There is so much to see in the city from historic neighbourhoods to beautiful architecture to fantastic museums that you’re sure to be taken by this fantastic city by the bay,
Where to Stay in San Francisco
USA Hostels San Francisco — An excellent option for solo and budget travellers in San Francisco, this hostel has a number of dorm and private rooms on offer and great common areas for meeting other travellers. Click here to see their availability
Golden Gate Hotel — A quaint hotel close to Union Square, this is a great centrally located place to stay in the city. They have a number of great rooms available and breakfast (and parking!) is included in the room rate. Click here to see their availability
Days 9-10: San Francisco to Monterey
Half Moon Bay, California
Leaving San Francisco, you don’t have to drive far before you reach the lovely coastal town of Half Moon Bay. Located about an hour south of the city, Half Moon Bay makes for a pleasant place to stop and wander around before hitting the road once more. There is a gorgeous beach and a lovely main street packed with cute shops and restaurants that are worth browsing.
Santa Cruz, California
Making your way to California’s central coast, you will reach one of the most iconic CA surf towns on the PCH — Santa Cruz! Famed for its seaside boardwalk complete with a classic wooden roller coaster and other carnival games and rides, there is also a wonderful seaside promenade that you can walk along here and watch the surfers hit the waves.
Monterey & Carmel, California
Your final stop on this day of driving is in the city of Monterey and the nearby charming town of Carmel. These central coast towns are the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the wonders of Big Sur, however, they have a lot to offer as destinations in and of themselves, as well. Monterey is famed for its world-renowned aquarium and the iconic Cannery Row — it was also the hometown of legendary American writer John Steinbeck!
Carmel has an incredible charm and small-town feel. It is packed with great restaurants, lovely shops and countless wine tasting rooms showcasing vintages from nearby wineries. It is also worth it to explore the state parks near Carmel, particularly the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and, of course, going for the scenic 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.
Where to Stay in Monterey & Carmel
Carmel Green Lantern Inn — If you want to stay in Carmel, this boutique bed and breakfast is a great option for you. They have a handful of cosy rooms with private entrances and a fantastic location close to Carmel Beach. Click here to see their availability
The Stevenson Monterey – If you’re looking to stay in Monterey, then this budget motel is a fantastic choice for you. Situated just off the Pacific Coast Highway, they have a number of rooms available that are fantastic for those looking to explore the splendours of the area. Click here to see their availability
Day 11: Big Sur
Big Sur, California
On day 11 of your Seattle to LA road trip, spend the entirety of it exploring the absolute jaw-dropping beauty of Big Sur. This is definitely one of the highlights of the San Diego to Seattle drive and it may truly be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Big Sur boasts incredible coastal vistas, stunning Redwood forests, interesting waterfalls and iconic feats of architecture.
Make sure to stop off at any of the countless vista points along the road and take in the beauty — you’re sure to see some otters floating around in the surf! If you’re up for it, we would also readily recommend that you go for a day hike in the surrounding area to really garner a great appreciation for just how lovely this land can be.
Days 12-13: California’s Central Coast
Pismo Beach, California
The drive between Monterey and Santa Barbara is one of the prettiest stretches of this California to Washington road trip as it takes you past some truly incredible landscapes along with some quintessential beach towns. And one of these such towns is Pismo Beach.
If you’ve ever wanted to see what an iconic California surfer town looks like, then Pismo is the perfect place for you. The town has a charming centre and a wonderful pier that makes it ideal for observing the countless surfers vying to catch the perfect wave.
A bit of a detour from the coastal highway but a great stop on the drive between San Francisco and LA nonetheless, the town of Solvang lies in the Santa Inez Valley and the road there will take you through hills of farmland and wine country that will have you thinking that you’ve been transported to Tuscany. However, the town of Solvang will leave you thinking that you’re in an old version of Copenhagen.
This town was incorporated by Danish settlers and it still holds onto some odd Danish charms that seem a bit out of place in the hills of central California — especially with the mild climate! However, Solvang is filled with cute shops and restaurants and, as it’s situated in the heart of central coast wine country, there are lots of tasting rooms, as well.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is a small city in southern California and it is well-known for being one of the premier destinations for Los Angelenos looking for a weekend getaway — and it’s not hard to see why! Santa Barbara is incredibly charming, has a great laid-back vibe and is filled with interesting things to see and do.
Known for its beautiful beach, there are also myriad wine tasting rooms in the city that the tourism office has put together something is known as the Urban Wine Trails that can help you walk between them — no designated driver necessary! The iconic Stearns Wharf also has some great restaurants and shops to browse and, because it is a student city, Santa Barbara boasts a vibrant nightlife.
Spending at least one day in Santa Barbara is an excellent last stop on your drive before you reach Los Angeles.
Where to Stay in Santa Barbara
The Presidio Hotel — A lovely boutique hotel, this is a great place to stay for couples in Santa Barbara. Centrally located, they have a number of clean and comfortable rooms to choose from and a great location to explore the majority of the city on foot. Click here to see their availability
Cheshire Cat Inn — A charming B&B in central, downtown Santa Barbara, this is another great choice to rest your head in the city. They have a number of fantastic rooms available and hearty and healthy breakfast available each morning. Click here to see their availability
Day 14: Santa Barbara to LA
Located just north of Los Angeles and the last stop on your road trip (or your first stop if you’re doing a LA to Seattle drive!), Malibu is one of the most iconic Southern California beach settlements in the world. Known for it’s dramatic scenery, beautiful beaches and million-dollar homes, Malibu is really an interesting place to drive through on your route down south.
Some of the best beaches in LA county are in Malibu and, if you’re up for it, I would recommend stopping at one or two, squinching your toes in the sand and watching the surfers come and go.
Los Angeles, California
And that’s it — you’ve reached your final destination! Los Angeles is the United State’s second-largest city and it is eclectic and incredible dynamic. There are lots of cool things to see and do in LA including taking in some of the main sites like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, or browsing the designer shops on Rodeo Drive.
If you want to experience something kitschy and weird, make sure to head to Venice Beach for some of the best people-watching in the city or if you want to get active, take a hike in Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon for incredible views of the city. LA can be a difficult city for tourists to digest, however, it is worth spending the time to get to know it.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles
Hollywood Inn Suites Hotel — Located in Hollywood, this hotel is a perfect place to stay in LA. They have a number of great rooms available and fantastic amenities to ensure that your stay is a great one. Click here to see their availability
Freehand Los Angeles — If you’re on a tight budget while in Los Angeles, then this hostel is a fantastic option. Perfect for both budget and solo travellers, they have both dorm and private rooms available and good common areas for meeting other travellers. Click here to see their availability
Have more time? Make it a Seattle to San Diego road trip!
If you want to make your road trip an entire drive down the west coast of the United States, then you’re going to have to continue down south form Los Angeles to San Diego. This Southern California city has a completely different vibe to LA and there are lots of things to see and do on the drive from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Make sure to take in the sites in Orange County like Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, the historic mission in San Juan Capistrano or even the pier in San Clemente. In San Diego County before you hit the city proper, make sure to take in the beauty of La Jolla — one of the most expensive areas in the USA. The cliffs and scenery in this posh town is second-to-none and there are lots of cool shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities to enjoy.
All in all, embarking on a Seattle to San Diego road trip is one of the most epic drives that you could do in the entirety of the US!
Where to Stay in San Diego
Urban Boutique Hotel — A cool boutique hotel located in Little Italy, this is ideally situated to exploring the best of Downtown San Diego. They have a number of stylish and comfortable rooms and a number of amenities to make your stay fantastic. Click here to see their availability
USA Hostels Ocean Beach — Located in the cool, sleepy beach suburb or Ocean Beach, this is one of the top-rated hostels in the entire world. Perfect for both budget and solo travellers, they have both dorm and private rooms available and great common areas and self-catering facilities. Click here to see their availability
Planning a Seattle to LA drive is one of the best ways to see the highlights and beauty of the American West. Taking you through countless different landscapes and incredible towns and cities, there really is no other road trip quite like it.
When travelling in the USA, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a Seattle to Los Angeles or Seattle to San Diego road trip? Have you visited any of these areas before? Let us know in the comments!