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Seattle to San Diego Road Trip August/September Itinerary Help

Hi All.

My husband and I are planning a three week road trip from Seattle to San Diego. We have never been to the west coast of the United States and need help planning a realistic itinerary. We want to see "everything", but realize that three weeks isn't enough time. This, most likely, will be our only trip to this region, so we want to make sure we don't miss out "must sees/dos" and want maximize our time there.

So, for West Coast virgins.... what stops do you recommend? We are in our early forties, active, love nature but are not hardcore hikers or into camping. We prefer laid-back environments. We really have no interest in shopping or Beverly Hills or places like that. We live in the tropics, so we are so excited to experience something other than palm trees, humidity and sunbathing. We love wine, good food, coffee and beautiful scenery! We don't have a strict budget.

Help me plan the perfect trip!

Posted by
5687 posts

I'm a little biased because I live here, I guess, but the Oregon coast is stunningly beautiful. I would include a drive up US 101 at least partially on your itinerary for sure. The southern Oregon coast is a tad more scenic than the northern part, just because some of 101 is inland up north so there is less great scenery to take in as you drive. You could drive from Brookings north as far as you want to go. You could drive up to say Coos Bay or Bandon then head inland and see Crater Lake. Then head north to Portland. On the way, you could stop at Silver Creek Falls State Park near Salem (lovely park with several waterfalls). To the east of Portland is the amazing Columbia River Gorge area with more waterfalls plus Mt. Hood.

Posted by
6788 posts

Driving round-trip or one-way?

Agree (mostly) about the Oregon Coast. I've traveled the world a bit myself, and I've seen no place more beautiful than the Oregon Coast. My only disagreement with Andrew's post above is about the north coast versus south. Both are beautiful. I'd advocate driving it's whole length if you can (takes a while though).

The dilemma then is how to also do the inland parts of Oregon - Crater Lake, the Columbia Gorge, etc. (there's more, too). If you're driving both ways (round trip), there's your solution. If one way...tough call.

It comes as a surprise to many, but the Washington Coast is not nearly as accessible. A few parts are reachable by car and are beautiful, but it's not nearly as easy to get there or to make a convenient routing.

Posted by
3961 posts

As a native of the Pacific NW (WA State), can't agree more with the previous contributor. Mid July brings lovely weather. What a better way to start your journey in Seattle! Good food, wine, coffee and scenery. A stop in Portland Ore. brings a delightful vibe as well. For wine you can't beat the amazing wines of the Wilamette Valley. The Oregon Coast along highway 101 is exquisite and a relaxing drive. More wine? Napa Valley and Sonoma....

Posted by
11481 posts

As a resident of the beautiful central Oregon Coast, I have a few ideas.

  • Pizza at The Cafe on Hawk Creek in Neskowin (the best we have found outside of Italy)

  • The lovely hike out of Lincoln City called Drift Creek Falls

  • Fly a kite on the beach in Lincoln City

  • Have a beer at The Black Squid

  • Eat at The Blackfish Cafe or the Side Door Cafe in Gleneden Beach

  • Depot Bay for Pirate Coffee and spotting resident whales in the bay

  • Cape Foulweather overlook - magnificent!

  • Try Green Salmon Coffee in Yachats. Best pour-over I've ever had and lovely baked goods too.

  • The Smelt Sands Trail in Yachats for spouting horn action

  • Cape Perpetua for dramatic ocean views, easy hikes, and a wonderful visitor center

Posted by
283 posts

Yes, yes and yes to the above posters. Full discloser I'm a biased local. But I have done this drive a few times and it is great! Seattle has everything--food, wine, coffee, beauty. Take a ferry ride and maybe you'll see some whales. Portland is just a great and entirely different. Definitely see the Oregon coast and Wine country in the Willamette Valley. For sure take the 101 from Medford, Or area down into California through the redwoods down to Sonoma Valley (you could scoot over to Napa, too.) If you can, take the drive down 101 from Monterrey, through to Pebble Beach (I think it's called 17 mile drive.) We drove from Carmel to San Simeon (through Big Sur) and it was lovely but I'm not sure the whole road is back open between that stretch. And from San Simeon down, well, there's just a lot more! Santa Barbara, Ojai, Malibu, Santa Monica, etc.

Posted by
377 posts

The Oregon Coast is stunningly beautiful. Cannon Beach is gorgeous with large rock formations on the sand.

While heading south in California, try a stop in Paso Robles for wine. The wines produced west of the 101 are influenced by the cooler nights due to the marine influence while the wines east of the 101 are influenced by the hotter and drier climate. Hearst Castle is worth a stop to tour the home.

Posted by
16871 posts

That is a great time to visit the West Coast.

For starters, you may need to choose between Mt. Rainier NP and Olympic NP for your first stop after leaving Seattle. Both are spectacular, but Olympic offers more variety and takes more time. If you go that way, I would suggest taking the Bainbridge ferry from Seattle and spending your first night in Port Townsend, where you find nice restaurants, charming boutique hotels, and the possibility of a whale-watching tour for the afternoon.

Next you loop around the Olympic peninsula, maybe spending a night in Port Angeles to visit Hurricane Ridge, the alpine zone of Olympic NP. Then out to the coast, with a night at Lake Quinault Lodge and one at a coast side lodge (Kalaloch?).

Mt. Rainier is a beautiful mountain and the flower fields should still be in bloom in mid-August. You could visit the Paradise area on a daytrip from Seattle, or make it your first stop on your way south. Ias much as I love Rainier,, I am ambivalent about recommending this, as the Paradise Inn is undergoing renovations and has few rooms available. So it is unlikely you could get a room there. You can stay outside the park at Crystal Mountain or the little town of Ashford.

Whichever national park experience you choose, you would follow with I-5 to Portland. Then I recommend you cut over to the coast and drive the whole way, spending 2-3 days. If you want to include Crater Lake,, you can leave the coast at Coos Bay, head to Roseburg and then east to Crater Lake. But if you do that, younwill miss what some consider the most beautiful part of the Oregon Coast. Choices, choices. Of course Youncould retrace your steps and return to the coast at Coos Bay, but that will add time. If you choose not to do that, Head to Grants Pass and take 199 into California and the redwood country.

The route through California I would suggest is this:

Down 101 through the redwoods as far as Leggett. Then Highway 1 down the coast to Mendocino. Spend two nights here and visit the Anderson Valley for wine tasting, or just relax and enjoy the. Past. Continue south to Jenner or Bodega Bay and leave the coast, heading to Healdsburg. I suggest this town as a base for wine tasting in the Dry Creek Valley. The town is charming and the wineries unpretentious. (We avoid Napa as overpriced and overrated. )

Next stop San Francisco. From there, head across the state to Lake Tahoe for a few days, then down Highway 395 to Yosemite. (Lodging will be tough inside the park, but there are other options).

From Yosemite cross back to the coast, heading to Monterey or Carmel. You can visit Big Sur from here but you cannot drive down Highway 1 to Hearst Castle, as it will be closed just south of Big Sur through September for road repairs. So take 101 instead. There are some nice beach towns for an overnight where 101 approaches the coast just south of San Luis Obispo. We like Avila Beach and Morro Bay (where you may see sea otters around the piers).

An alternative route for California would be to visit Carmel/Monterey after San Francisco, then drive across to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. From Yosemite continue down Highway 395 (very scenic, with gorgeous views of the Sierras). Then cross the desert to reach Los Angeles. This route will allow you to skirt LA to the east, via Temecula, to reach San Diego if you do not want to actually visit Los Angeles (not my favorite place).

Posted by
1834 posts

I agree with everyone who has touted the beauty of the Oregon coast.

I am less familiar with the California portion of the itinerary, but here's roughly what I'd try to do after leaving Seattle and heading south:

  • Mt. Rainier
  • From Portland, head east on the Columbia River Gorge as far as Hood River, and spend the night there.
  • Then head back toward Portland via Mt. Hood.
  • Then drive west to Cannon Beach
  • Drive south along the coast as far as Bandon
  • Cut east using one of the small two-lane highways like State Route 42
  • Visit Ashland and use it as a base for a day trip to Crater Lake, and take in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Also, if time allows before starting south, take a couple of days from Seattle by heading north on I-5 to Burlington, then east on Route 20 through the North Cascades. I think this is the most beautiful part of Washington state. If you do this, spend the night in Winthrop, and then head south and return to Seattle on Route 2. (You could do this leg in either direction.)

Whatever you do, you'll have to skip some great things, but it will be an amazing trip! Enjoy!

Posted by
6788 posts

One or two flies in the ointment (sorry...).

First, while many of us have idyllic memories of care-free trips wandering through this region in years past, the reality today is that parts of this region have become as crowded as Cinque Terre. Seattle has some of the worst traffic in the world, and it's getting worse every day. Places long the Oregon Coast get completely clogged with tourists, too. "Dry season" in these parts brings lots of tourists from far and wide, and the swelling population of the region is out there too. Doesn't mean you can't/shouldn't go there, but you need to go with your eyes open and plan accordingly.

You're talking about a trip that spans the end of August and the beginning of September. Summers are busy. But the long Memorial Day weekend is especially busy.

The infrastructure in many of the areas on your trip, while pretty and quaint, were built for the relatively gentle local/regional tourist pressures of the early- to mid-twentieth century. These are mostly very small towns. The supply of accommodations has been greatly outstripped by demand. Accommodations in particular, fill up quickly in popular places.

If you are planning this trip for 2018, you are late to the game. If you're picky about where you sleep, you will want to book things ASAP. At least in some places. And watch out for the week on either side of that Memorial Day weekend...busy busy busy.

Posted by
135 posts


If you like wine there are some "Don't miss" opportunities. The first one of those is the Willamette Valley. This is Pinot Noir country. Take Hwy 99 south from Portland and start looking around - there are over 200 wineries. Suggest you check out Domaine Droughin, Anam Cara, Carlton Cellars, Cristom, Brooks. These are some of the ones I like. From that area there a couple of choices to cut west to the Oregon coast as previously suggested and proceed south to the California redwoods. No wine there but loads of scenery. Stop at the ranger station in Eureka and get instructions for the back way into the redwoods - good one lane dirt road and you are right in the middle of the redwoods.

The above misses the Columbia Gorge/Hood River wineries and southern Oregon wineries but, so be it, Willamette is the star. Besides, the southern Oregon coast is spectacular.

In California - the Anderson Valley has already been suggested. As you go south Healdsburg is a great place to stop. Lovely town with tasting rooms around the town square. Lots of Zinfandel and Italian varietals - try Segasio and Dry Creek. West of there along the Russian River there is a lot of Pinot Noir. If you are really into wine and this is a once in a lifetime trip you should not miss going over the hills (on the scenic local roads) to Napa Valley. This can be pricey but worth it if you pick carefully. A can't miss is Joseph Phelps winery. Really good wine and a lovely tasting experience. Also consider Pine Ridge (tour in the caves), Maybe Krug for similar experiences. Schramsberg for sparklers. Reservations would be needed. Check their web sites.

From Napa you can check out San Francisco. Your choice from there but the Paso Robles area has good wineries and, further south, around Solvang, there is another cluster of good wineries.

I also suggest you accept that you cannot see everything! Take your time to enjoy what you do see.

Posted by
10 posts

It all sounds so lovely! I’m so excited!!

There is so much to see. I wish I could find an exact itinerary/schedule to follow: “West Coast for Dummies Who are Easily Overwhelmed”. ;-)

I never even thought of Lake Tahoe or Yosemite!

I’d definitely prefer to bypass LA.

I’m nervous about hotel accommodations now. I wonder if there are travel agents that can put together a complete trip?

Thank you everyone for your recommendations! Keep ‘em coming please.

Posted by
6788 posts

I wish I could find an exact itinerary/schedule to follow: “West Coast for Dummies Who are Easily Overwhelmed"

If there were, there would be a two-year waiting list to use a bathroom in Canon Beach (actually, there might be such a thing - that would partially explain the crowding). Be glad it's not so simple. The complexity keeps the numbers down (a little).

Don't freak out about the crowds. The worst will be around the Memorial Day weekend, and at other times around well-known places. My advice would be to rough out an overall plan, make reasonable guesses for how much progress you'll make in a day, but keep in mind that 101 is a two lane road for most of its entire length, and you share the road with RVs, logging trucks, locals, and everyone else. When there's traffic, the going is s-l-o-w.

And driving the length of the Oregon Coast, the road generally hugs the coast - like, it's literally right there out the passenger side window (going south). And in some stretches, there are parks, scenic turnouts, etc. every few yards (I'm not exaggerating - look at a map - the symbols for parks etc overlap) so you will spend a lot of time pointing out the window going "ooooh ahhhh..." admiring the view and and stopping to get out and look. This can slow you down a lot - but that's why you go.

If it were me, I'd consider this: as a rule, stick to 101 and follow the coast south. Plan a few strategic detours inland (don't miss Crater Lake) but maybe just come back to the coast. Try to time it so you can avoid the most popular places during/around the holiday weekend. You will have to make some painful trade-offs, but we all have to do that for every trip anywhere. If you plan to do any camping, anticipate campgrounds filling up sooner than you expect - the most popular places (anyplace with a view of water) fill up early. Less well-known places fill up sometime around dusk. Earlier on weekends. When car camping, in places that aren't super-popular, I like to grab a campsite by 4 or 5 pm. Same with motels.

Posted by
1836 posts

We lived many years in Monterey, California and now live near Seattle. I am going to tell you some of the possibilities, you will have to pick and choose. Check out the Moon travel guides which are excellent for the Pacific coast.

Seattle area - drive around Mount Rainier, stopping at least at Sunrise and Paradise. (Google maps won't currently show you all of this road because some of it is still snowed in, but the excellent road does exist! )
Spend another day exploring Seattle's harbor area and Seattle Center. The Chuhulily Museum of Glass is interesting and the museum has a very good cafe. For an "up top" view you can choose between the Space Needle, Columbia Center, or Smith tower.

You could drive late afternoon to Anacortes. Spend the night at the Ship Harbor Inn and next morning take the ferry (leave car at Ship Inn) through the San Juan Islands. The view from the water is the best part, actually visiting the islands is lovely, but your time is limited. After your ferry ride, drive down Whidbey and take the ferry to Port Townsend and overnight.

Olympic National Park - drive up to Hurricane Ridge, drive to Lake Crescent for a late lunch and visit the waterfall. Drive to Olympia for an overnight. If you had more time and had reservations, it would be ideal to have an overnight at Lake Crescent, next day visit Hoh Rain forest and one of the beaches, overnight at Lake Quinault. Next day drive to Astoria.

Oregon - If you overnighted in Olympia or somewhere else near I-5, you could detour to visit Mount Saint Helens. (Another good highway that may not show up on Google maps before all snow melts.) As you get near Portland, take 205 instead of 5. From 205 you can drive part of the Columbia Gorge and see Mulnomah Falls, You could drive farther east down the Gorge if that were a priority. A fun place to stay in Portland is the Kennedy School which is near the airport.
From Portland you could head to Astoria or head more directly to Cannon Beach which is a pleasant town geared towards tourists - lots of good restaurants, but no gas stations. (There are some a few miles away.) Drive down the Oregon Coast as far as you wish - we have only gone as far as Florence. From Newport or Florence, you can drive back to I-5.

Crater Lake is gorgeous, but there isn't much to do there except hike or admire the view. There may be a boat ride? It's definitely a detour.
Ashland is a great town for theatre and an overnight.

California - we have only visited the far north coast once. Redwoods National Park is worthwhile, Mendicino is another pretty town for an good overnight (It looks a bit like a New England village - they filmed the old TV series, Murder She Wrote there.)
Another opportunity to see redwoods is Muir Woods, north of San Francisco. You could stay in Sausalito and take the ferry into San Francisco.
Yosemite is also a detour but definitely worthwhile. You probably won't be able to book accommodation in the park, especially Labor Day Weekend, but you might get lucky. There are some large hotels at El Portal.
From Yosemite, drive to Monterey. Pacific Grove and Carmel are also right there.
After Monterey, stop at Point Lobos (gorgeous) and drive the Big Sur Highway. Have lunch at Nepenthe. You could visit Hearst Castle. Overnight at Cambria or San Luis Obispo.
We rarely visited southern California.

Posted by
7050 posts

I lived in Southern California for over 25 years (it's still one of my favorite places in the whole world) and the coastline from North to South is absolutely gorgeous and unrivaled (driving along the Pacific Coast Highway is a dream). There are many, many places to stop that I won't bother to name them all for fear of forgetting some. I wouldn't skip LA unless you are really out of time - it's chockfull of things to do and has fantastic food and culture all of it's own, very multi-cultural as well (unfortunately it does have a lot of traffic). Go online and order a California Visitors Guide or stop at one of the Welcome Centers. The folks manning the desks there are very helpful and you'll get great maps and tips. Also, there is an overabundance of books in any library on California from which you can pull together an itinerary (Lonely Planet has sample road trips, for example). Although three weeks sounds like a lot, you could easily spend that time just in CA and never run out of things to do. If I were to mention some "must sees" that are unique, I would say Mendocino, Carmel, Point Lobos State Park (close to Carmel and mind-blowingly beautiful), San Francisco, checking out any of the CA Missions, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica/ Venice, and any redwood forest you can find. In the LA area, Huntington Library and Gardens is exquisite, especially the cacti collection.

This, most likely, will be our only trip to this region,

If you're only in your early 40s, why would you say that? Wait till you see how beautiful the West Coast is, I bet you'll be back for more! One trip will just scratch the surface.

I don't think you need a travel agent just to book lodging. Look on There will be plenty of choices but of course some areas will be fairly pricey, especially if you're looking for very special or B & B type of accommodations along the coast of CA.

Posted by
28 posts

I have been thinking about a reply to your question. My family has been in California for 94 years and it is hard to narrow it down! I will skip Oregon and Washington since you have received good advice for that portion. When you enter CA take the 101 to Legget and then head to the coast. Visit Mendocino!! We lived there for 9 years. Then take 128 through the Anderson Valley. Make a short visit to San Francisco or at least stop and view the Golden Gate Bridge. Then head east on highway 80 to Lake Tahoe! Then east on 50 to 395 and south to the Bridgeport/Lee Vining area. Take a day trip to Bodie State Historic Park. Americas most authentic ghost town! Many europeans visit Bodie! Then travel east on highway 120 through the high country of Yosemite National Park over Tioga Pass. Them head west to Monterey and visit the aquarium and Point Lobos. Hwy One in is still closed but may reopen. But you can take the 101 south to Paso Robles then over to the Pismo Beach area. Then skip LA and make a bee line for San Diego! Dont miss the San Diego Zoo! San Diego has a lot of open space with Mission Bay and Balboa Park. Also the Midway aircraft carrier! Stay near Little Italy and you can walk to the Midway or take the trolley to Old Town. So many places i have skipped! My favorite drive is highway 395 between Carson City NV and Lone Pine CA along the east side of the Sierra Nevada range of mountains!! The inland areas will still be hot in Aug/Sept! Enjoy the Golden State! We have the tallest trees, Coastal Redwoods, largest, Giant Sequoias and the oldest, Bristlecone Pines!!!

Posted by
6670 posts

I agree with almost all the above, and of course it will be impossible to do all that's been suggested. It's also true that you'll be in the height (or depth) of the summer tourist season including Labor Day weekend. When I drive to California it's usually to get somewhere fast, so straight down I-5. But for your purposes I-5 is almost irrelevant.

Washington's ocean coast doesn't compare to Oregon's. We have some beautiful beaches in the north but no coastal highway connecting them. So I'd suggest some time in Seattle, maybe a ferry ride across the Sound and back (sans car), then south to Olympia (where I'll give you a tour of the state capitol if it's a Friday morning) and on to Portland. Mt. Rainier and/or Mt. St. Helens would also be worthwhile along the way if time allows.

Portland is great, then head southwest to Lincoln City and 101 down the coast (good aquarium in Newport OR). Stay on the coast highway (101 or 1) all the way to San Francisco, spend some time there, then back down the coast to Monterey (great aquarium), Carmel, the Big Sur coast, down to Morro Bay. By the way, don't bother bringing your bathing suits, the water's too cold even in late summer. No Gulf Stream to warm it up.

After that your choice is whether to drive into and through LA, which has many attractions, or bypass the most urban parts by heading inland through the desert. Joshua Tree National Park is one of our favorite places though it will be hot in summer (like Florida but dry). There are routes from that area down to San Diego through the desert and mountains, but I don't have much experience there. San Diego is certainly worth several days.

That's a very coastal way to get from here to there, missing mountain areas like Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite. They could be the highlights of a whole different route farther east. But I'd caution against "trying to do both" by zigzagging east and west. That's a lot of extra driving, some through good scenery and some not, for limited reward. One other thought -- I like road trips, but on a trip like this I'd definitely try to make a few multi-night stops, probably in bigger cities, just to get out from behind the windshield. Portland and San Francisco have great mass transit, and I think San Diego's is also OK.

Posted by
16871 posts

I usually agree with Dick’s advice but here I will diverge from his California itinerary. You cannot drive from Monterey down the coast to Morro Bay because Highway 1 is closed just below Big Sur. One must detour away from the coast, and I believe that for people coming from Florida where there are no mountains, it is well worth driving a few hours across California to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, some of the finest mountain scenery around. And then drive down 395 for more mountains. They expressed no interest in Los Angeles, so could avoid driving through the heart of the city by going this way to San Diego.

We make this trip two or three times a year from Seattle as most of my family ( siblings, kids, and grandchildren) live in California. It was my home too, but I chose to leave after college.. I still love to visit, but have my biases when it comes to driving routes, and stops along the way.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you all so much! You’ve been so helpful! We love seeing mountains, so I think we will definitely visit Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.

We love road trips! We’re very content driving and looking out the window at beautiful scenery. Florida is flat, so even a big hill is a big deal to us.

Maybe someday we will be back to the area. I just triumphed over a 20 year phobia of flying, so there’s so much I want to see. I’d like to start exploring Europe.

Posted by
1062 posts

I am writing this response from Yosemite. If you plan on staying in Yosemite Valley during the summer months, lodging will be difficult to obtain. Lodging reservations can be made a year in advance and so many people come every year and make their reservations for the next year while they are in the park. You can get cancellations, but you need to stay on top of it. Don’t expect to show up and get a room. Campsite reservations are even harder to get. You can get lodging outside the park rather easily, but staying in the valley is a far better experience. Definitely plan on spending at least two days in Yosemite.

Posted by
6788 posts

Per Tom_MN's comment:

You do need some kind of plan B for fog along the coast...

Yes, but probably only for a few hours of any day. At this time of year (mid-August to mid-September) the weather along the coast is highly predictable. You can expect either: clear sky and sunshine all day, or fog (sometimes intense fog) in the morning which burns off completely revealing clear sky and sunshine all day. In that time of year, any fog usually burns off by late morning, almost always by noon. The weather is quite nice.

The above applies to almost all of Washington's and Oregon's coast. Can't speak to California's (I understand parts of the northern California coast sometimes stay shrouded in fog for longer periods).

Posted by
16871 posts

Regarding Yosemite, yes it is very difficult to get room reservations inside the park, but cancellations do show up on the website.

If coming from Tahoe on 395 and then continuing down 395 after Yosemite to avoid LA, they could simply book two nights in Lee Vining at the base of Tioga Pass, and day trip to the Valley from there. It is a gorgeous drive, and they would see both the high alpine country around a Tuolumne Meadows and the iconic Valley sights.

Posted by
6670 posts

Thanks, Lola, you're right about the Big Sur closure. I remember when it closed but didn't realize how long it would take to reopen -- currently scheduled for mid-September and then only one lane.

So maybe after San Fran or Napa or wherever the OPs turn inland, they could take I-80 east and turn south to Lake Tahoe, then 395 and 120, or some other route combination, to Yosemite. Then 41 to Fresno and I-5 to Bakersfield, with a detour into Kings Canyon if time allows, and 58 to Barstow. Or back across Tioga Pass to 395 and down through Bishop and the beautiful Owens Valley to 58 to Barstow. Then 247 and on south through the desert to one of the inland routes to San Diego. That's some of the best mountain and desert scenery to add to the coast they've experienced. It will all be very different from Florida (which I love in winter).

But, Nancy, you need to get specific about plans to nail down lodging, especially leading up to Labor Day. You'll have lots of company on all those roads!

Posted by
3992 posts

I can speak to Southern California and fog since we lived 1/2 mile from the beach for 34 years. Typically when the fog didn't burn off by noon, it would stay so covered that we would only get about a 30 minute dip of the sun right before it set over the ocean. While that would be happening on about a 2-3 mile stretch of beach by us it might be really sunny a few miles up or down the coast. I used to feel sorry for visitors who came to our city and rented contivertables until someone said have you ever been to Bakersfield? They come for the cool temperatures and fog. It's hard to make blanket statements though about the fog but everyone in our city called it June Gloom.

Posted by
11481 posts

Yes, but probably only for a few hours of any day. At this time of year (mid-August to mid-September) the weather along the coast is highly predictable. You can expect either: clear sky and sunshine all day, or fog (sometimes intense fog) in the morning which burns off completely revealing clear sky and sunshine all day. In that time of year, any fog usually burns off by late morning, almost always by noon. The weather is quite nice.

True, David. It also comes and goes and is patchy rather than covering miles and miles. It is also lovely in its own way as it shows then hides the rugged coastline.

Posted by
1062 posts

You don’ Have to worry about fog in Southern California in August or September.

Posted by
80 posts

When I first read you post I thought that three weeks was a lot of time. Then I started thinking of all the places I would go, and realized that I could spend three weeks in just one of those states, and I live in Portland!

I love the ferries on Puget Sound. I used to live in Kingston, which is on the ferry route, and even commuted by ferry (by far the best commute I've ever had!). I suggest a one day ferry road trip. Drive north of Seattle (45-60 min) to Edmonds, home of Rick Steves, and catch the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. If you have time, Edmonds is a cute little town worthy of a quick walk through. Kingston is super small, but if you like crepes, J'Aime les Crepes, right by the ferry terminal, is delicious! Drive from Kingston to Poulsbo (about 30 min) which is a charming water front town with tons of Scandinavian influence, particularly Norwegian. Grab some goodies at Poulsbo bakery, get a coffee at the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse, wander past the Sons of Norway community center, check out the park on the waterfront, get chocolates at Boehm's. Then go south towards Bainbridge Island. If you are interested, Chief Seattle was buried in Suquamish, a short detour from Highway 3. Continue on to Bainbridge. Winslow is the town with the ferry dock, but nobody actually calls it Winslow anymore. There are some nice parks on the island, downtown has a good vibe, and then you can catch the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry back to the mainland. It is a fairly long, but doable day that gets you on the water and into some small towns. If you want to see more of the Peninsula, Port Townsend is awesome, and I love Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake, and the Olympic Rain Forest!

Oh my gosh, just talking about it makes me want to go! Load up, dogs...ROAD TRIP!!

Posted by
15675 posts

I lived near San Francisco for 8 years and had the opportunity to take many road trips, both north and south. The best stretch of the coastline is the entire Oregon coast - lots to see, lighthouses, sea lion caves, Fort Clatsop, Astoria spring to mind immediately. It's worth a short trip inland to visit Crater Lake and see a play or two in Ashland. Then head back to 101 and take the detour to drive through the Redwoods (I think it's the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway).

3 weeks sounds like a lot, but there is so much to see and do, you will have to choose carefully.

Posted by
2252 posts

As I know nothing about Oregon or Washington other than "I have visited both", I am going to say in my opinion, Lola has suggested a wonderful itinerary. I grew up mostly in Central CA and the Bay area and I would have suggested the same route(s) she has. Also agree with her assessment of Napa (adding Sonoma, too!). Healdsburg is a wonderful little town (or at least it used to be...). Northern California is gorgeous but everyone has given you many terrific ideas about what to see in WA and OR-you'll only need a few months to see it all! Good luck with the planning and choosing what you might have to leave out, and do plan to come back. It's not really that far by air! Whatever you decide, have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
706 posts

I'm an Oregonian, but I'm late getting here so will skip all that. I've also lived 5 years in central CA. Consequently, my advice is to skip all of central CA, from Redding to LA other than maybe Yosemite. It is unbearably hot that time of year. You'll enjoy the coast--Mendocino, SF, Monterey, Santa Barbara, etc. etc.-- much more. Have a great trip.

Posted by
2386 posts

If you love the mountains you would love my hometown of Bend, Oregon. From Portland head east along the Columbia River Gorge through Hood River, then south to Mt. Hood, continuing to Bend. Stay a couple of days, float the river, fall in love with it and plan to move here like everyone else does! Then head south and west to Crater Lake. Continue to the coast and explore the Redwoods near Crescent City.

I would avoid driving through Central CA. I grew up in San Diego and drove it many times -wouldn’t wish that drive on anyone! There’s nothing scenic along the 5 south of Shasta lake, until San Diego.

In San Diego, check out Balboa Park (next to the zoo) and La Jolla. The zoo has summer night programs, when it’s less crowded and not as hot. Coronado Island is fun. Check out the Hotel Del Coronado. Near the airport they have repurposed an old navy training center into shops, restaurants and hotels (Liberty Station). Great views of the harbor and downtown from there.

Posted by
10 posts

If I skip central California, where would be the best cities to catch a flight? From where to where?

Thank you all so much for your replies.

Posted by
54 posts

You could fly from SF or San Jose to LA, but I think people are just recommending that you either drive down the coast or down 395 through the eastern Sierras rather than going through the central valley. If you'd like to take the coast route, Highway 1 will now reopen by July 20th, which fits your timeframe, so you could drive from Monterey all the way along Hwy 1 to San Luis Obispo, then take 101 to Oxnard where you pick up 1 again and continue on down to San Clemente. It's a gorgeous drive, and weather will most likely be sunny and not too hot. You're unlikely to see much fog on the coast in Aug/Sept.

Alternatively, if you are going to Lake Tahoe and want to take the inland route south, you would drive down Hwy 50 to Carson City, NV and pick up Hwy 395 there and take that south all the way until it ends at I-15 in the Mojave desert. I-15 will take you to San Diego, or you can go west to LA. On 395, you have Mono Lake with its tufa formations, a couple of beautiful mountain passes and pretty lakes, then some charming small towns. Then you get to the Mojave desert is miserably hot, dry and desolate at that time of year.

I live in San Diego and have family in the Bay Area and Reno, so I've done both drives (and every other variation including I-5) many times. In August, I'd choose the coast every time, but if this is your only trip and you won't otherwise see the Sierras or the desert, I'd say go as far as Monterey then head across the state to Tahoe and then come south on 395. You can enjoy the So Cal coast once you reach Orange County or San Diego.

Posted by
2223 posts

Truly, I would only do half of your itinerary in a three-week trip. Probably the northern half would be better at that time of year (though crowds are a definite). We just returned from Oregon, spending six nights on the coast just from Newport to Coos Bay (a distance of 100 miles), and we didn't see "everything." Trying to drive 1200 miles in 21 days and doing much sightseeing is going to be difficult. I personally would get very tired of changing lodging. Even if you spend two nights in each place, that only gives you ten places to visit over three states. There are just too many great places for that! Going to Yosemite is pretty time-consuming. Ditto for going inland to Crater Lake/Ashland (both places that I love, incidentally). Really, Portland to San Francisco would be a better plan (but still not really enough time). Then, when you come back, you can do Vancouver/Seattle/San Juan Islands/Olympic National Park on one trip and San Francisco/Monterey/Carmel/Santa Barbara/LA/San Diego on another trip.

Posted by
245 posts

A great way to get to or from Crater Lake National Park is driving on the North Umpqua Highway from Roseburg. This is a beautiful drive with lots of waterfalls to visit. The first link is a Scenic Byway map and the second is an interactive waterfall brochure.

Sisters and Bend, Oregon, are on the Eastern side of the Cascade Mountains and have superlative views of the Three Sisters volcanos. Century Drive and the Cascade Lakes Highway get you up close to the volcanos and many scenic lakes. But, this is the fastest growing area in the U.S. and the congestion is atrocious. However, Hwy 97 gives you another way to get to Crater Lake.

From Bandon, Oregon, Hwy 101 South will take you down the wonderful drive along the Oregon Coast and lead you into the California Redwoods. Prairie Creek Redwood State Park and the Avenue of the Giants are the two must not miss places to go. California's state parks preserved these redwoods over 90 years ago, long before there was a National Park.

Posted by
559 posts

So much good information! An October trip just along the Oregon coast is on my radar. :)

Posted by
10 posts

I’ve been back and forth with this trip and changed my itinerary a million times. Here’s what I have:

Aug 23-27 Seattle and surrounding areas- San Juan island whale watch, Mt Rainer, exploring Seattle.

Aug 27-29 Sequim

Aug 29-30 Cannon Beach

Aug 30-31 Depoe Bay

Aug 31- Sept 1 Klamath Falls

Sept 1-3 Carmel

Sept 3-4 Santa Barbara

Sept 4-7 Del Mar

Sept 7-9 San Diego (we have a conference on the 8th and fly out on the 9th)

I really wanted to try and get to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, but I’m afraid the wildfires won’t make that possible.

After Carmel, I am able to change up my itinerary a bit. All rooms are refundable for a few weeks.

Thoughts? I am purposely avoiding most cities. I will go back and do long weekends someday.

Posted by
46 posts

I don't know about that long in Sequim (pronounced Skwim BTW). I would also check out Port Townsend. Going from the OP (Olympic Peninsula) all the way down to Oregon sounds like a lot of driving.

Posted by
10 posts

I’d like to visit Hurricane Ridge, ONP and Hoh rainforest. I thought Sequim would be a good base? I’m unfamiliar with the area, but it seemed to be a good place. I’ll be staying Juan de Fuca cottages. It looked decent enough. Pickings are slim since I booked so late.

I was looking forward to the drive down the coast for the scenery. Is there a different preferable route option?

Posted by
1321 posts

If you haven't already - place the towns on this last itinerary into a google maps scenario so you can see what the distances are between say Sequim and Cannon Beach or Depoe Bay to KFalls.

It would not be an easy drive and may help you decide for sure how much you want to see the Olympic Peninsula. It is a favorite place of mine but it is a time consuming drive.

Posted by
369 posts

Another vote for Port Townsend.

Some notes about roads in Oregon and Washington. Other than I-5, most of the roads you will be on are two lane, slow and winding. You will be here right before the kids go back to school after Labor Day weekend and lots of folks will be taking that one last trip to the coast. Your drive from Sequim to Cannon Beach will take the best part of a day.

Depoe Bay to Klamath Falls is another full day. Not sure why you chose Klamath Falls other than to visit Crater Lake. I've lived there and I would visit Crater Lake via 138 from Roseburg along the North Umpqua River. Then 62 out of the park to Medford and pick I-5 back up - maybe overnight at Ashland. The next day to Carmel will also be a long day driving, too.

Del Mar is okay, but we prefer the Pacific Beach/La Jolla area. We stayed right on Mission Bay in a condo on our last visit and it made a good base.

Looking at your itinerary, it appears you really only have about 4 days in Oregon - a good chunk of that will be in the car. If I'm reading it right you have one night each in Cannon Beach, Depoe Bay and K Falls.

As much as we like the San Diego area (we like it in January), it will be hot, multi-lane freeways and lots of traffic.

Good luck with your trip!

Posted by
10 posts

Sequim to Cannon Beach is about a five hour drive according to Google. I don’t find that to be a long drive if there is good scenery. Is it not a pretty drive? I mentioned in my original post that I am from south Florida. Anything other than flat land, turquoise beaches and palm trees is exciting to me. :-)

I’ve never been to the pacific coast. I’ve never gone further than Las Vegas.

We will be driving all the way to San Diego,. We love road trips!

Posted by
369 posts

I would take all google map times with a "grain of salt". In the Northwest, we tend to do our road repairs/upgrades during the summer months when it's usually not raining. in Oregon works well for road conditions and traffic updates.

Do you plan to take 101 from Sequim to Cannon Beach, or 101 to Olympia and down I-5 to Portland then out 26 to Cannon Beach? 101 along the Hood Canal is pretty, but slow. IMHO, the Oregon Coast is much more spectacular than the Washington Coast. You can also cut over at Longview/Kelso from I-5 and take 30 west to Astoria along the Columbia River and then south on 101 from Astoria. Since you are not visiting Portland, I would avoid I-5 through Portland.

Posted by
2455 posts

Breaking News, Nancy: Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) just re-opened this past week, ahead of schedule, after a year-long closure due to a major landslide. Since people were not planning on the coastal route during the time you will be traveling, lodging was not reserved and should be available. There are limited lodging establishments between Carmel and Cambria, but they do span the entire range from very fancy to fancy to moderate to funky to campgrounds. Also various restaurants and endless viewpoints. For beauty and safety, keep your driving to daylight hours, except maybe for dinner, if you are staying along the way.

Other random thoughts:

Seattle: I was there in January and just loved the Chihuly Glass Center, almost unique, although I understand his other museum is in Florida, so that might impact your choice. The Olympic National Park is wonderful, the greenest place I have ever been, and that includes Bali and Kuaui, and the coastal area beyond the Park is wild and scenic too, look into Kalaloch Lodge to stay and for a meal or two, great restaurant there.

Oregon: I agree that the Oregon Coast is very beautiful and very diverse in terms of landscape, seascape and eating and shopping possibilities. I only drove it once, years ago, but found myself stopping every 15 or 20 minutes for varying reasons.

Northern California Redwoods, certainly. Spectacular and shouldn’t take much of your driving time.

I won’t get into the Bay Area and other areas nearby, including Napa, Sonoma, Muir Woods, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, all wonderful and each different. Keep track of the location of all these wildfires though, they could impact some areas and routes.

Monterey Peninsula, great place where I live. Monterey Bay Aquarium is very special, but entry has also gotten quite expensive. Some hotels or inns may have guest passes, certainly inquire. Be aware that Aug 17 to 26 is “Car Week” here, with a series of classic car events culminating with the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach on Aug 26. Great if you love classic cars, up to million dollar cars, but lodging will be extra expensive and mostly full up, and traffic can be paralyzed during that period.

San Simeon, south of Big Sur near Cambria: Hearst Castle is a unique, over-the-top experience, and I recommend a visit, even if Art Deco castles are not your thing. Hearst Castle is incredible, with a choice of at least 3 tour experiences. Cambria is a nice place to spend a night, lots of hotels and restaurants along the coast there.

Santa Barbara is very nice too, and i’ll leave further south for others (or, you might want to end your trip around here, and leave LA-San Diego areas for later in life!

Posted by
369 posts

With Larry's great news about Highway 1, I'd take a couple of days from the San Diego area (drop Del Mar completely) and plan on more time north.

Posted by
7050 posts

Sept 7-9 San Diego (we have a conference on the 8th and fly out on the

It seems like the OP's comment above is being missed. It doesn't make sense to me to drive all the way down to San Diego and just skip it or give it short shrift. There is plenty to do in both north and south San Diego (several beaches, Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, La Jolla, San Diego proper). I think the bottom line is that 3 weeks is not enough time to cover the entire Pacific Coastline and 3 states, one of which (CA) has more than 3 weeks worth of stuff along its coastline alone. Three weeks seems like such a long time in concept but this trip itinerary covers a really long distance and there are so many sites competing for attention. I'll throw one more in because it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to - Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Carmel.

Posted by
11485 posts

This routing is the more scenic, but longer travel time route, from Sequim to Cannon Beach.,+WA+98382/Cannon+Beach,+OR/@46.96186,-125.5295227,7z/data=!4m19!4m18!1m10!1m1!1s0x548fb8dcc2878457:0x7adc8aefce83b180!2m2!1d-123.1018438!2d48.0795365!3m4!1m2!1d-124.2283092!2d48.0651861!3s0x548e60006d1b67a1:0x126825e396b32f9b!1m5!1m1!1s0x5494a52740cfce5d:0x1bfe4f4cea593a21!2m2!1d-123.9615274!2d45.8917738!3e0

The default that google displays, while quicker is not the 'scenic' route.

Hopefully while you are in Sequim you will make time to got to Hurricane Ridge. No palm trees and not flat!

Posted by
10 posts

I definitely want to see hurricane ridge!

I really wanted to see crater lake, but now I am second guessing myself and wondering if it’s worth the drive?

Is it worth the drive?

I can maybe bypass that and hopefully get a refund for the hotel.

Where would be a good stop between Depoe Bay and Carmel? It would only be for one night. I need to be in Carmel for Labor Day weekend.

Posted by
11485 posts

If you already have a hotel reservation at Crater Lake, use it!

( if you can cancel penalty free and need the time else where, I will give you a 'mulligan', but Crater Lake is fabulous)

Posted by
2455 posts

Gee, I see that Depoe Bay to Carmel is about 12 hours driving time if you go inland on Highway 5, thus missing all the coast and the redwoods, or 16 hours or more driving time if you take a nearer-the-coast route, depending on traffic during rush hours. An actual coastal route would take considerably longer. This “Depoe Bay to Carmel in 2 days” requirement would eliminate many of the suggestions mentioned so far, including most of the Oregon coast, California redwoods, Napa, Tahoe, etc. etc. halfway on this route would appear to be near Redding, CA, currently the site of the huge, and growing, Carr Fire, now about 1000,000 acres.

Posted by
5697 posts

One note on Highway 1 along the California coast -- you will be driving south, so the amazingly beautiful (and possibly frightening) ocean view with cliff drop-off will be on your right.

Posted by
11481 posts

I think your itinerary makes a lot of sense since you like car trips. You are stopping in some lovely places. You cannot see and do everything everyone has mentioned, so go with your plan and know you can go back in future. Buon viaggio!