One of the reasons that the west coast is the most well-known place of the well-known of America road trip. It is large and unique. And while that means a lot of opportunities for fun and new experiences. It can also be very good planning. (Who are they?)
So we have put this article together to help guide you through an amazing endless peaceful west coast journey. We will point out some of the impossible-to-miss western destinations. 16 days we’ve visited 4 states and drove more than 3.000 kilometers.
This was our itinerary for our road trip:
Grand canyon national park (1 night)
We started our trip immediately with one of the highlights and a must-see for everyone. The only bad thing… it rained and was stormy when we were there, but then again, it is still a natural wonder.
Page Arizona (1 night)
On our way to Page, we stopped a few times to witness the beautiful nature along the way. The whole time I had the feeling that I was on the moon or something. I had never seen such nature before.
A place where you definitely need to stop when driving is the famous Horseshoe Bend. I was amazed by this place and I’m still impressed by it.
Once in Page, we checked in in our hotel for that night and went to Lake Powell, which is an artificial lake on the border of Arizona & Utah. There we took a boat trip on the lake and watched the stunning scenery along the way.
The next day we wanted to visit the Antelope Canyon. For me as an amateur photographer, it was one of the things I really wanted to see. Too bad for me, the weather put a stop to it. It was raining and the storm was coming, therefore they closed the canyon because it was too dangerous as it could get filled with water. We waited for a few hours hoping it would stop raining, but luck wasn’t on our side. Off to Las Vegas then!
Las Vegas the USA (3 nights)
A city that fires the imagination of a lot of people and is a city that everyone needs to experience once in their lives. The best way to do that is with people over 21 years old (because that is the only way you get into the fun stuff) and your friends, not parents. When we were there, I was the only one over 21, and okay my mom and her best friend were there too… but not really the party crowd you want in Las Vegas. So I saw it, but I didn’t get to experience it the right way.
Walk on the strip and be amazing by all the crazyWest coast of America there and by the huge hotels they created. Really every hotel has a casino… how much money is going around there, seriously?! Then again, they imitated Venice, Paris, New York,… but if you have seen the real thing, it is not really impressive anymore. Everything is over the top there, and I mean, really over the top.
death valley national park California (1 night)
After visiting the Grand Canyon & Lake Powell, Death Valley was again something totally different. We were so surprised that nature and the environment could change so much. So again we were really impressed with this place, which is also one of the hottest places in the world. Lucky for us, it didn’t get too hot that day (only 40°C). There are a few spots you really need to see in the park West coast of America:
- Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point (855m below sea level) in Death Valley. This place is peaceful and something you have probably never seen before! White salt flats as far as you can see.
2. Zabriskie Point, where you have a beautiful lookout over the breathtaking landscape
3.Artists Drive. This is a road full of loops along with the beautiful rock formations of the Black Mountains. It is a unique trip through the rocks because it is so colorful. The rocks aren’t only orange and brown, but also green/blue due to oxidation, so it is all-natural.
4. Mesquite Sand Dunes. Before coming to the West coast of America I had never seen a desert.. but okay it is just sand, a lot of sand…. To be honest, I was really impressed by the dunes. We had a lot of fun there playing around like kids in the sand.
5. Ghost town. Before entering Death Valley you pass a ghost town (I forgot the name, I’m sorry). We stopped the car and looked around in the empty town. It is a pretty weird experience walking around in a dead town…
Yosemite National Park (2 nights)
Before entering Yosemite National Park we stopped at the famous Mono Lake. According to our travel guide, the lake arises more than 1 million years ago and is one of the oldest lakes in North America. The special thing about it is the towers of limestones, called tufa.
Only two days in Yosemite National Park is definitely not enough to see the whole park, but we got a very nice glimpse of the park.
We entered the park in the East at the Tioga Pass Entrance (which is only open from June till November). Taking this road leads you to some beautiful places and viewpoints along the way to the valley.
We didn’t have the time to go to the Sequoia National Forest West coast of America, which must be very impressive, but along the way to Yosemite Valley, there are some of these giants to admire (Tuolomne Grove Loop Trail). After a walk of half an hour bumped into one of this Sequoia. People told me they were huge, but seeing them myself, it was even bigger than I imagined… To give you an idea; they grow up to 83 meters and have a diameter of 31 meters at the bottom.
The drive to the valley is so gorgeous and you get treated to some breathtaking views.
Once in the Yosemite Valley, we visited of course the famous Yosemite Falls, which is the fifth-biggest waterfall in the world. A little disappointment for us there, because it was summer and during the summer, the waterfall is rather dry… so it wasn’t as spectacular as I hoped it to be. Also, there are numerous tourists there in the water of the waterfall… so it didn’t do the scenery much good, to be honest.
West coast of America After that, we hiked up to another waterfall, called Vernal Fall. It is a hike of around 4,8km or even further if you also want to go to Nevada Fall (11km). This trail is also called the Mist Trail and is one of the most popular hikes in the park, so expect a crowd here. The hike itself is not too difficult, but the views going up are spectacular! The waterfall wasn’t too impressive, but again it was rather dry during that period in the summer.
San Francisco (3 nights)
After the nature in Death Valley & Yosemite Nation Park, we headed towards San Francisco. The city is known for the free spirits, beautiful architecture, and a lot of diversity. What I remembered the most is the poverty here… on every corner of the street, there were beggars, asking for money, food, drinks,… anything they could get their hands on. Automatically I started eating a bit less and asked for a doggy bag, so I could give it to one of the poor people on the streets.
These are a few things we did during our days in the city:
Pier 39. One of the most fun things we did was stroll at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s wharf. Cozy streets, little shops, cute restaurants with delicious seafood. At the end of the pier there are some seals (if you are lucky!). During our visit, there were only two of them sunbathing on the docks.
Alcatraz Island. I’ve never visited a former prison before, so this was a somehow weird experience. Shut down in the 1970s but it used to be the place where they locked up the worst criminals in the US. When we were there we had the weird opportunity to meet an ex-offender who had been locked up in Alcatraz for several years… Together with an audio guide, you can walk around the jail and the island and you’ll be provided with a lot of historical information and stories. West coast of America From the island, you also have a stunning view over the skyline of San Fransisco.
Golden Gate Bridge & Golden Gate Park.
As this is the landmark of San Francisco, you cannot skip a short visit close to the gate to take some pictures. The bridge itself is actually huge (2,7km long, 27,4m wide, and 227m high). Golden Gate Park is a huge park (don’t underestimate the distances in the park-like we did), but beautiful and a nice place to hang out on a sunny day.
Lombard Street is something you’ve probably heard of before. It is a street with so many curves, you will get sick watching it, haha :D.
Pacific coast highway California (1 night)
From San Francisco to Monterey and then to Santa Maria. West coast of America The road next to the coast is super beautiful and there are several places where you can stop to enjoy the views and nature.
The first thing we did was the 17-mile drive, a scenic drive through Pacific Grove and Pebble beach close to Monterey. The road leads through some fancy neighborhoods with big and expensive houses and that is probably why you will need to pay a fee to start the 17-mile drive. Unfortunately, it was rather cloudy and cold that day, so our pictures are a bit grey, but it was still a beautiful drive along the coast. These are few stops along the way
Bird Rock. Obviously, this is a rock, with a lot of birds on it… If you are lucky there might be some seals or seal lions laying on the rock.
The Lone Cypress. A rare cypress standing alone on the rock… it is perfectly placed for a beautiful picture.
After the 17 mile drive, we drove further on the Pacific Coast Highway towards Santa Marta where we booked to stay the night. Along the way, we stopped at some amazing viewpoints.
Another great stop is the sea elephants at San Simeon. Never before have I seen such a funny animal… really it is huge, silly, they stink very very badly and they make some weird noises. We watched them laying on the beach and there were hundreds of them.
Los Angeles (4 nights)
And then… Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the USA. Either you hate it, or you love it… I guess I disliked it actually. It is a vibrant city full of actors, models, singers, musicians, surfers, and a lot of fake people. I really didn’t get the fuss about LA… I just think I don’t fit there 🙂
The only place I liked there was Venice Beach and Santa Monica because it has that holiday vibe. Here are some things we did there:
walk of fame Hollywood. Of course when in LA, you need to see the walk of fame with all the names and stars.
Hollywood sign prank.
The Rose Bowl Card Stunt of 1961 was the greatest. It beautifully mixed elements of finesse, brute force, and social engineering. Especially significant was the phony high school newspaper reporter who convinced the pep squad to reveal information about their card stunts. Other great pranks, such as the Hollywood sign, lacked this degree of social manipulation.
Venice Beach Los Angeles.
It is nice to spend a day here because there is so much to see. There are the skaters, basketball players, fitness guys showing off, street performers,… There is also a market with several stalls where you can buy some nice souvenirs for the home front.
Santa Monica Beach is most famous for its pier, which is full of old fairground attractions
Old city. We took a hop-on hop-off pass for a couple of days because the city is huge and it was for us the easiest way to get around. One of the tours is through the old city of LA.
Now I’ve seen a glimpse of the beauty of the USA, I definitely want to go back there in the future, because there is so much more to see.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my fantastic trip West coast of America. If you have any questions, please let us know, maybe we can help you!
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