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The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip, Part 2

07.13.15

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The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip, Part 2

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The first installment of the Ultimate West Coast Road Trip took you along the Cascade Range in Washington and Oregon and pointed south to Los Angeles along the California coastline. Here is another route worth considering for those able to free up a few weeks to see the best of the West Coast, and this time we'll take you from south to north for a round trip adventure of a lifetime.

Day 1: Los Angeles to Sequoia National Park

Distance: 218 miles + Drive Time: 4.5 hours

Photo by Shane Kucera.

It doesn't take long to leave the concrete of Los Angeles far behind. This drive finishes at Sequoia National Park, where you'll get a first glimpse of the Sierra Nevada that'll be home for the next few days. Once you arrive at the park, take the opportunity to visit Giant Forest or Moro Rock. Camping is available at the Lodgepole Campground, or you can start the trip off in style with a room at Wuksachi Lodge.

 

Day 2: Sequoia National Park to Kings Canyon National Park

Distance: 61 miles + Drive Time: 1.5 hours

Photo by Aron Bosworth.

This short day continues the journey through the incredible landscape that makes up Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. One insider tip is to get up early and snag a camping spot at one of the many first-come, first-served campgrounds in Kings Canyon such as Sheep Creek Campground or Sentinel Campground, and then go for a full day of exploration from there. Zumwalt Meadow Loop, Road's End and the Kanawyer Loop Trail are highly recommended stops.

Day 3: Kings Canyon National Park to Yosemite National Park

Distance: 219 miles + Drive Time: 5 hours

Photo by Agnieszka Wojtowicz.

Today's drive takes you through some amazing parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, ending in the titan of U.S. National Parks. A true West Coast road trip is incomplete without a journey through Yosemite National Park. Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows and Cathedral Lakes Trail all are worth visiting, and depending on your chosen route through Yosemite, a few are doable following this itinerary. Camping in the Yosemite Valley in the summer is not recommended because it is so busy and almost impossible to reserve a campsite. Instead, opt for a first-come, first-served campground such as Porcupine Flat, or try to snag an advanced reservation in the slightly less-trafficked Tuolumne Meadows Campground.

Day 4: Yosemite National Park to Tahoe

Distance: 185 miles + Drive Time: 4 hours

Photo by Brandon Katcher.

The west shore of Lake Tahoe has some great destinations to visit, including D.L. Bliss State Park, Sugar Pine Point State Park, Eagle Lake, hiking on the Rubicon Trail, or floating the Truckee River. If you are planning to camp in Tahoe, reservations are strongly recommended. Two campgrounds to consider are at D.L. Bliss State Park and the General Creek Campground in Sugar Pine Point State Park. However, there are also a number of hotels in the Tahoe area if you're ready for a shower and comfortable mattress to sleep on. Another option is to continue driving the additional hour to Sierraville to soak and camp at beautiful Sierra Hot Springs.

 

Day 5: Tahoe to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Distance: 157 miles + Drive Time: 3.5 hours

Photo by Aron Bosworth.

Lassen Volcano is the southernmost mountain in the Cascade Range, and the hiking and camping options in the national park are amazing. If you plan to explore Brokeoff Mountain or Ridge Lakes, snag a campsite at Lassen Southwest Walk-in Campground, which is first-come, first-served. Alternately, if you want to explore Bumpass Hell or plan extra days for a summit of Lassen Peak, Summit Lake Campground or Manzanita Lake Campground are great options.

Day 6: Lassen Volcanic National Park to Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park

Distance: 280 miles + Drive Time: 5.5 hours

Photo by Aron Bosworth.

After five days in the mountains, it's time to cross the state and head to the ocean by way of the redwoods, the crown jewel of West Coast forests. With the long drive, the best way to make the most of the remaining day in the redwoods is to explore the Damnation Creek Trail, Battery Point Lighthouse, or to walk through the giants found in the Stout Memorial Grove. Florence Keller County Park + Campground is a good place to snag a campsite, or if you're ready for nicer lodgings, book a room in one of the many hotels in Crescent City.

 

Day 7: Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park to Cape Lookout

Distance: 287 miles + Drive Time: 5.5 hours

Photo by Tyson Gillard.

Welcome to the Oregon Coast. Today's journey crosses almost the entire length of Oregon's stretch of Highway 101 heading north from the California border and ends at Cape Lookout, where you can camp and hike on a promontory that juts out over 2 miles into the Pacific Ocean. If you are going to camp or rent a yurt, reservations are highly recommended (as is the case with all campgrounds on the Oregon Coast). The road follows the shore for almost the entire drive, and small coast towns and adventures dot the way. You'll encounter ample coves to explore, Sitka spruce forests to wander through, and giant sand dunes to roll down in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

 

Day 8: Cape Lookout to Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park

Distance: 250 miles + Drive Time: 5 hours

Photo by Tyson Gillard.

Kalaloch Lodge has been a welcome refuge for visitors to the Olympic Peninsula since the 1920s, and it is now officially run by the National Park. From the lodge, the quintessential beaches of the Olympics, such as Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Beach, are a short drive away, or take the short hike to see the Kalaloch Big Cedar Tree Grove. Once you leave the Oregon Coast, the drive through southwest Washington goes through a number of clearcuts that can be avoided by detouring to Highway 105 at Raymond, Washington, and rejoining Highway 101 at Aberdeen. Along the detour, stop by Westhaven State Park if you've brought a surfboard on your journey.

Day 9: Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park to Seattle, Washington

Distance 172 miles + Drive Time: 4.5 hours (and a ferry trip)

Photo by Tyson Gillard.

All great trips must come to and end, but not before an amazing last day circling the Olympic Peninsula and taking a ferry ride across the Puget Sound from Bainbridge Island into Seattle. Along the way, take a short detour out of Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge for unrivaled views of the Olympic Mountain Range. Or, if your trip won't feel complete without a visit to the westernmost spot in the lower 48, extend it with a visit to Cape Flattery. And if you want one more day of camping and nature before returning to urbanity, snag a campsite at the first-come, first-served Fay Bainbridge Park Campground.

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