Pacific Coast Road Trip

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The Pacific Coast Highway is one of America’s most coveted road trips – especially for motorcycles. This journey from border to border showcases three states, almost endless miles of gently curving shore hugging highway, and with some slight detours, some of the America’s best national parks.

Although we didn’t hit the coast until Oregon, Jesse and I tried to see the best of the west when we traveled 2,500 miles from Kelowna, BC to San Diego, CA last month. 

Pacific Coast Road Trip | My new trip on Roadtrippers.com!

We saw waterfalls, whales, and redwood trees. We climbed Half Dome in Yosemite. We traveled through 3 national parks and on most of the Pacific Coast Highway. We saw my country from border to border on this beautiful coast, and boy, was it amazing.

We started by heading south through British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley into central Washington, all of it wine, apple, and peach country. It is rocky high country with beautifully irrigated orchards and vineyards lining rivers and lakes.

Then we cut west through the Columbia River Gorge and crossed the Bridge of the Gods into Oregon, heading to Multnomah Falls on our way to Portland. After meeting friends at the Deschutes Brewery Pub, our first coast destination was Cannon Beach – a quintessential Oregon Coast town.

From Cannon Beach we cruised through morning mist and lush forests on the gently bending coastal highway, with brilliant blue ocean, light houses, fields of cows, and beautiful bridges on the way.

At Bandon we strayed east to Crater Lake. We had a few hours of forest and a drive next to this jade river tumbling toward the coast, but closer to the national park boundary the landscape turned dry and hot. We climbed pumice fields and volcanic mountain to reach the summit where we stared down into the unimaginably blue water of the lake.

Bound for the coast again, our journey took us through 100-degree central southern Oregon before the misty relief of the Redwood Highway and California’s proud pockets of ancient giants. You could spend weeks, years, hiking these forests and basking in the presence of these enormous trees, but without days to devote exploring by foot, our favorite part was cruising the Avenue of the Giants. Wow. Oh, and sitting on Paul Bunyan’s shoe.

At this point our next stop would be San Francisco. We cruised the windblown Northern California coast and crossed the Golden Gate into one spectacular sunset over the city from my friend Emilie’s rooftop.

Then, off to Yosemite National Park again! Arriving in Yosemite Valley felt like coming home. After so much new territory, we were back with the mountains we met in May. We stayed two nights in the park and conquered Half Dome – a 19 mile 12.5 hour trek from our camp to the top and back.

Incredibly sore from the hike, we got back on the bike and made it to Monterey Bay & the greatest aquarium I’ve ever experienced – their kelp forest, jelly fish experience, mesmerizing schools of anchovies and massive tunas, otters, penguins, sea birds, and octopuses had me giddy with ocean love.

This next stretch was the pinnacle of PCH sections: California’s Highway 1 from Monterey to Morro Rock, through Big Sur across the Bixby Bridge and further, into the Southern California palm tree sunsets. We stopped just south of Santa Barbara for our last night on the road.

And finally, we made it to San Diego where my sister was waiting to celebrate with Old Town beers and tacos.

 

Check out a video compilation of our trip here.

5 Comment

  1. Rick says: Reply

    I have driven the Pacific Coast highway, many, many times. You did a great job covering the basics, but you could easily spend a day, drive 50 miles, repeat and never see everything there is to do.

    Every time I drive it, I see something new!
    Rick recently explored…Portland’s Best Donuts, or how to get fat in a weekMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rick! I know exactly what you mean. Although we saw a lot in this trip down the coast, we breezed through and definitely missed things. That’s the battle of covering a lot of ground versus sticking around to get to know places better!
      I would love to spend more time slowly traveling through. Being on a motorcycle instead of in a car, we were able to stretch this trip much longer than most people do. Even then it didn’t seem like enough, but we camped when we could, stopped often, hiked, avoided the freeways in favor of old highways and local roads, and tried to make the most of the time we had.
      What is your favorite section of the PCH? Any recommendations of places we should slow down and explore next time?

      1. Rick says: Reply

        Just one area? 🙂

        Astoria continues to be one of my favorite parts of the entire Pacific Coast. There is so much to do and see there that I always recommend people spend a week in the immediate area. That would effectively be the part of PCH between Seaside Oregon and Longbeach Washington.

        The Redwoods, especially the old Humboldt Highway is another area I always wish I could spend more time in.

        Last December, we went down to Eureka to spend a few days. Ended up in the Gingerbread Mansion in historic Ferndale (described as a Victorian town.) That was a fun area to explore for the three days we were there.

        And the ext three day weekend I have will be in the Coos Bay/Bandon areas. While I grew up there, it has changed so much in the past decade that I need to revisit it. There are massive coastal vistas in the area that are outstanding, lighthouses, the new Cheese Factory, historic gardens, etc.

        I’d also recommend staying in the Napa valley area for a while, especially if you’re into wine and good food.
        Rick recently explored…Everything Mickey Guest PostMy Profile

  2. Jocelynn says: Reply

    Was googling basically this exact trip and came across your blog. How many days did you guys take to get to San Diego with all the stops?

    1. Hi Jocelynn! We took it slow, and spent a total of 11 days on this trip. I think the RoadTrippers map I include in the post has via-points for every place we stayed a night (two nights in Yosemite!). We maxed out around 200 miles a day on the motorcycle, but could easily have gone longer had we been in a more comfortable vehicle! Going slow was nice though. We stopped at every place that looked interesting, hiked quite a bit, visited friends, and didn’t rush from place to place. Let me know if you have any other specific questions! I loved this trip and I’m excited you get to experience it too 🙂

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