Plan the Perfect West Coast Road Trip

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For as long as there’s been a horizon, the call of the open road and the great unknown has serenaded imaginations and enticed daydreams. The allure of the journey is at the heart of what drives most road trips—the intriguing pitstops and end destinations are just the proverbial icing on the cake. There’s no wrong way to enjoy driving off into the sunset… but not all road trips are the same. For one of the best that America has to offer, consider a quintessential West Coast road trip. Threading through deserts, along Pacific cliffsides and ancient forests, there’s little else like it in the world. For a smidgeon of what’s offered, read on.

Phoenix

Not explicitly the West Coast per se (you’re about three hours away from the nearest beach), but Phoenix is officially the unofficial best place to start a West Coast road trip. The surreal desert landscape surrounding the city has fostered a bevy of posh resorts, which subsequently has cemented an air of relaxation. But, beyond the spas and award-winning golf courses, discoveries abound. The Desert Botanical Garden gives you a firsthand introduction to what you’ll witness out your window driving west, while Vegas-style pool clubs conversely hold the key to beating the heat. Or, for mellower moments, pair the street art of Roosevelt Row with the sumptuous offerings of local wine tasting rooms. However you spend it, Phoenix is the perfect day one for a trip heading west.

west coast road trip

Los Angeles

While heading north from Phoenix may bring you to the neon-oasis of Las Vegas, the best bet for the next stop of your road trip is Los Angeles. Besides the fact that heading here includes passing through the ever-enchanting Joshua Tree National Park, Los Angeles offers enough to provide a getaway all its own. Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica beach, Universal Studios and Rodeo Drive are all quintessential staples to see for yourself, but lesser stars of the city are just as enticing. Somewhere between cruising Hollywood Boulevard and gawking at the mammoths of the La Brea Tar Pits, it’ll dawn on you that Los Angeles is a city of roadside attractions.

west coast road trip

Sequoia National Park

Sure, following the coastline north makes for an enchanting drive; few other coastlines could hope to compare to this stretch of the Pacific. But, before you put the pedal to the metal towards San Francisco, consider a detour to Sequoia National Park. Even if you’re not the typical outdoorsy type, this forest is certain to elicit goosebumps. The sequoia trees here are the largest in the state—and thus the world. With the capability of growing over 26 stories tall in a lifespan lasting 3000 years, just one tree is a sight to behold. Witnessing the entire forest-full of them is a rite of passage for passing through California.

Seattle

It’s a stretch from San Francisco, but the end of the road for a proper West Coast road trip should definitely be Seattle. Northern enough to feel noticeably different from most of California, but still southern enough that you’re not quite amongst the snowcapped mountains, Seattle is a port city nestled within the Pacific Northwest’s iconic forests. There’s no shortage of what to see when you get here: world-renowned Pike Place Market, the waterfront ferris wheel and Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery are all mainstays of the city’s intrigue. But, this is also the birthplace of Nirvana: the underground thrives to this day. Discover the real Sound Garden, the Museum of Pop Culture and Bop Street Records as just a few of the near-endless cultural touchstones offered here. With as much as Seattle offers, it’s entirely valid to consider cutting your stay at some of the previous destinations short to allow more time here.

Convinced this itinerary is the blueprint to your next great getaway? The proper preparation goes a long way. Take a moment to map out your course, as well as make a list of what seems worthwhile in each city. Look into renting a car—whether your dream car is a Tesla, Land Rover or Shelby GT-H, working with a company such as Hertz provides payoffs that are multi-faceted. Not only can they supply the perfect joyride, but also their recent partnership with CLEAR guarantees hitting the open road almost as soon as your plane lands.

But, above all else, give one of our travel agents a call. Despite conventional wisdom, a travel agent is a boon to a road trip. Not only can they offer insights into what to see and where, but also their professional relationships with the leading names in travel often make for exclusive perks and amenities tied in. Add in the fact that you can rest easy knowing the nitty-gritty of plane itineraries and car rentals is taken care of by a professional, and hitting the open road has never felt so carefree.