Road trip on the US West Coast in 15 days. Itinerary

The West Coast of the United States is a blast, and it’s the perfect mix of big cities, national parks, and beaches. In a week, you can ski, surf, hike, swim, go to a large shopping center, and try all – or almost all – the flavors of the world.

In this post, you will find all our recommendations to travel the United States and travel as far as possible from the West Coast of California, its parks, you will also get to Las Vegas in Nevada and a few more tips to extend your road trip. Let’s start!

Itinerary Map

West Coast Itinerary (summary)

Here is the summary of the itinerary on the California West Coast, and below I show you the itinerary day by day.

  1. Los Angeles: Arrival by plane and car rental at the airport. Recommended to read: What to see in Los Angeles.
  2. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas on Route 66
  3. Las Vegas: 4-day base of operations
  4. Death Valley: Visit California Death Valley National Park from Las Vegas.
  5. Grand Canyon: Visit the Grand Canyon National Park in one day (or 2) from Las Vegas
  6. Sequoia National Park: Here, you’ll find the world’s largest sequoias.
  7. Yosemite National Park: a spectacular national park
  8. San Francisco: one of the coolest cities in the United States
  9. Route 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles
  10. San Diego: the city of festivals and comic-con
  11. Hawaii: beaches and nature

Where to start the West Coast Road trip

When you plan your road trip on the West Coast of the United States, one of the first questions that arise is where to start or where to get to.

It’s best to get to cities with many flight volumes, such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or San Francisco. Since you will find flights every day of the week and low-cost companies arriving in these West Coast cities.

Another point to consider is whether to make the route circular or linear. My recommendation is to make a circular itinerary, that is, start and finish at the same airport.

Advantages:

  • Flights to and from the same airport are cheaper than to different airports.
  • Returning the rental car to a different office usually has an extra cost.
  • Cities with cheapest flights: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco.

How to get around America

The easiest way to make a road trip in the United States is with a rental car or motorhome (van or campers). U.S. roads are easy to drive.

Most rental cars already have a GPS integrated with updated maps. But if you rent one without GPS, my recommendation is to have the internet on your mobile to use Google Maps.

If you don’t want to drive, you have two options:

  1. Travel the United States by bus. They have a system of buses that take you to the most important points of this itinerary.
  2. Get to a big city like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or San Francisco and do excursions/guided tours with Get your Guide. You can find excursions with or without a guide.

The disadvantage of these two options is that you depend on a third party’s schedule for your trip. And it’s all slower than if you were in your own car or vehicle.

How many days do you need to go across the West Coast?

To tour the West Coast of the United States, there are several possible itineraries. Depending on your interests you can tour it in 10 or 30 days.

We offer you a 15-day road trip where you travel through California’s most important places and a visit to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon National Park.

But at the end of the post, I’m going to leave an itinerary for those interested in touring the entire West Coast of the United States from Seattle to San Diego. For this tour, you will need at least 30 days.

California West Coast Essentials

  • San Diego
  • Los Angeles
  • Santa Barbara
  • St. Luis Obispo
  • Big Sur
  • San Francisco
  • Sacramento
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Death Valley National Park

Do you have more time?

  • On your way to Las Vegas, deviate and visit Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve.
  • Continue to northern California to Redwood National Park.
  • Visit Crater Lake National Park
  • Klamath Falls

Average Daily Costs on the West Coast

  • Coche de alquiler: $30 - $100

  • Autocaravana de alquiler: $100 - $300

  • Litro gasolina (nafta): $0,75 (galon: $3,40)

  • Airbnb: $120

  • Hotel: $140

  • Hostel / motel: $25 - $35

  • Camping: $5-$20

  • Sandwiches: $6-$9

  • Cerveza en un bar: $5 - $8

  • Café: $2 - $4

  • Cena para dos: $35 - $75

Major West Coast cities

  • Los Angeles (California)
  • San Francisco, California
  • Las Vegas (Nevada)
  • San Diego, California
  • San Jose, California
  • Sacramento, California
  • Fresno, California
  • Seattle (Washington)
  • Portland, Oregon

National Parks on the West Coast

The west coast of the United States is full of natural parks, one more beautiful and impressive than the other.

There is an annual pass to visit them, which costs $80 and allows you to enter more than 2000 national parks in the United States.

Besides, in parks that charge per vehicle, all passengers can enter with 1 annual pass (except commercial vehicles).

When you have to buy the annual pass? When you go to visit more than 3 parks or when traveling with more people. This is the official website.

Here I leave you a list, and so you can choose according to your preferences the ones you want to visit.

  • Yosemite National Park (charge per car)
  • Sequoia National Park (charge per car)
  • Death Valley National Park (charge per car)
  • Grand Canyon National Park (charge per car)
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Antelope Canyon (not included in the annual pass)
  • Valley of Fire (not included in the annual pass)
  • Monument Valley (not included in the annual pass)
  • Yellowstone National Park (charge per car)

U.S. West Coast Route Itinerary

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a huge city with many things to see, do and enjoy. Without a doubt, it is a must-stop on your route on the West Coast and a city to know.

Number of days: 2 or 3

Essential visits:

  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory
  • Hollywood
  • Chinatown
  • Los Angeles Farmers Market
  • Downtown Los Angeles
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Beaches: Santa Monica Beach, Malibu Beach, and Venice Beach. You may also be interested in seeing El Matador Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Hermosa Beach.
  • Take a dip in the Pacific

Where to sleep in Los Angeles

What to see in Los Angeles, detailed information.

Los Angeles to Las Vegas Road Trip Itinerary

To make this section, you have several possible routes. We propose two, one short, by the highway, and a longer and more picturesque one on Route 66.

  • From Los Angeles to Barstow and there take I-15 to Las Vegas. (you can make a very short stretch on Route 66)
  • From Los Angeles to Kingman on ancient Route 66, leaving the Mojave Desert on your left. In Kingman, go north to Las Vegas. This route is the one we recommend.
  • You can also continue on Route 66 to Flagstaff and visit the Grand Canyon first and then go to Vegas. Like once, you have a lot of alternatives.

Number of days :1 or 2, depending on the visits you want to make.

Essential visits:

Miles traveled: approximately 500

Barstow

On the way, between Victorville and Newberry Springs is Barstow, where you can find the so-called “House of the Desert” or “The House of the Desert,” part of which has become the “Mother Road Museum.”

It is part of a chain of luxury hotels that thrived while still traveling by train or wagon. They are an example of the lifestyle lived before the automobile boom.

There are several distributed in California, New Mexico, and Arizona, three of the states you will cross.

If you want to visit the museum, go ahead, depending on how long you go.

Calico

Close to Barstow is Calico, which is a ghost town. If you’re going to go along Route 66 too, I’m telling you, this isn’t going to be the only ghost town you’re in.

Amboy and Joshua Tree

Just after passing Ludlow, Route 66 and I-40 separate, you continue on Route 66 to Amboy.

In this section, you will see a detour to Joshua Tree National Park. It is 49 miles away. It’s a nice place to visit.

The Joshua Tree (besides being the title of one of U2’s best albums) is a very special indigenous cactus that practically only grows in this area and gives its name to the national park.

In Amboy, it’s where you can do a night at Roy’s Motel & Café or nearby.

Needles

In Needles, you can walk through the village down the main street called Broadway. Be sure to visit the Old Trails Inn, a 1930s hotel that was initially called Palms Hotel.

You can also see a former women’s club (Historical Women’s Clubhouse) and the Needles Borax Wagon.

Oatman, Route 66

Oatman, the donkeys village

Between Needles and Kingman is Oatman.

Oatman is a mining town that has been preserved as is since the times of the American West.

It is a rather curious village, where donkeys roam the street without problems, you will see many. You have to watch what time you get to Oatman, after three in the afternoon everything is closed.

You’re also going to meet people who emulate characters from the Old American West and a saloon that’s wallpapered with bills from an American dollar.

To get to Oatman, you will start to climb a path that goes up the mountains, and they are not very high.

When you leave Oatman, you will find on the side of the mountain some white crosses placed in the memory of the pioneers who have died in the attempt in search of gold and fortune.

You will also see an abandoned Goldroad mine. Until recently (I do not know if they will continue), two older men were still looking for gold in this mine and living there. Right after, you’ll see a pretty quaint souvenir shop called Cool Springs Cabin.

It only remains to cross the black mountains to reach Kingman. During the journey, you will find an ideal place to stop the car and enjoy the view.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas, the famous city, known for its huge and themed casinos, where what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, is a city that will dazzle you with its lights at night, its shopping centers by day.

And beware, you lose track of time inside casinos and no longer know if it’s night or day!

No days 4. (2 for Las Vegas and 2 for national parks)

Must-visit places

Miles traveled:

  • Las Vegas – Death Valley: 153 miles
  • Las Vegas – Colorado Grand Canyon: 281 miles

Where to sleep in Las Vegas

Vegas Poster

If the game doesn’t suit you much, spend fewer days in Las Vegas, and use its geographic location as a base of operations to get to know some of the most beautiful nature parks the country has.

Such as the Grand Canyon National Park, Death Valley, or Antelope Canyon.

I recommend that the stretch from Los Angeles to Las Vegas do it on the famous Route 66, I’m sure it won’t let you down.

Ideas for your trip to Vegas

  • Zipline between two hotels in VooDoo Zip Line del Rio
  • Visit the Mafia Museum
  • Go to a Cirque du Soleil Show
  • Tour Las Vegas Strip
  • Go to the fountains of the Bellagio and enjoy its spectacles
  • Take a walk in the Noria at The Linq

Grand Canyon National Park

On your road trip on the West Coast, you can’t miss a visit to the Grand Canyon National Park. It is one of the most spectacular national parks in the United States and one of the most visited.

No days 1 or 2 if you want to visit the south side and the north side.

Must-visit places

Miles traveled:

  • Las Vegas – Colorado Grand Canyon: 281 miles

Read: Visit the Colorado Grand Canyon for detailed tour information.

Some data

The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona and is the National Park of the same name.

It is 446 km long and 29 km wide, and approximately 1900 meters deep. Inside runs the Colorado River with murky, reddish-brown waters that give the river its name.

It is located about 450 kilometers from Las Vegas.

You can visit Las Vegas by helicopter or plane. Click on the link.

Where to sleep in Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park, United States, Route 66, USA

Which shore do you want to visit in the Grand Canyon?

If you’re going one day and don’t want to spend all day driving, you have to choose to visit the South Rim or the North Rim.

The Grand Canyon runs from East to West, so there is one North Rim and one South Rim.

The most famous is the south bank, which is the one with the glass platform, if you go in high season, there will be many people.

Death Valley

Death Valley is another national park near Las Vegas and a must on your West Coast road trip.

No days 1 or 2 if you want to take night photography.

Must-visit places

  • Mesquite Flat Dunes
  • Salt Creek
  • Furnace Creek
  • Zabriskie Point
  • Artist Palette
  • Bad Water Basin
  • Dante’s View
  • Devil’s Hole

Miles traveled:

  • Las Vegas – Death Valley: 153 miles

Read: Visit Death Valley National Park for detailed information on the visit.

In the United States, Death Valley is where the lowest point is located relative to sea level, reaching 86 meters below it. It is also the hottest spot in North America and one of the hottest in the world.

Arriving every summer at 50 Celsius temperatures and occasionally recorded 56 and 57 degrees (134 Fahrenheit).

Death Valley has an elongated and narrow shape. They are about 200 km long from north to south, while from east to west it ranges from 10 to 20 km wide.

Due to extreme temperatures and almost total water absence, the risk of death from heatstroke and/or dehydration is high.

Death Valley, Vero entrance

During the gold rush and migrations of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries this desert took hundreds of lives.

And I can’t wonder who the hell can think of crossing around here? First of all, the migrants didn’t know where they were getting into until there was no solution, and the same thing was turning around as trying to continue to get out of there.

On the other hand, it was a route little frequented by bandits and thieves (logically), so some ventured to avoid them, and if they were not prepared, they died in the attempt.

Another different thing was miners who were on purpose to establish extraction settlements to obtain minerals (borax above all). And on this, it’s simply a visit, which you shouldn’t miss if you go to Las Vegas or the West Coast of the United States.

Recomendación

Very close to the Death Valley is the Sequoia National Forest. We recommend that you go to Death Valley after your last night in Vegas, and after here, you go to Sequoia park. If you want to do like us and sleep in a cabin in the woods or a hotel in the area.

Sequoia National Park

After a few days in Las Vegas and visiting some of the stunning natural parks in the area, we head north to visit Sequoias National Park.

A vast natural park where one of its trees, General Sherman, will leave you speechless. Incredibly high, you’ll have a hard time getting it into the photo!

Number of days 1.

Must-visit places

  • Giant Forest
  • Kings Canyon Scenic byway
  • General Sherman Tree
  • Sequoia National Park Hiking
  • Crystal Cave
  • Moro Rock
  • Sequoia National Park Tunnel Log
  • Tunnel Rock
  • Hospital Rock
  • General Grant Tree

More information here.

We, on our trip, took advantage and made a night in the park. However, attention to directions, do not leave food in the car, which can attract bears!!!

The cottages are in the middle of the park, very well maintained and according to the natural environment surrounding you.

General Sherman Vero

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a special place for lovers of nature and photography, where you will find amazing landscapes. It is ideal for camping, hiking, and climbing.

The park’s most famous landmarks are Yosemite Valley. Here you can see attractions such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls.

You can visit Glacier Road and Tioga Road outside the valley, close depending on the season.

Glacier Road takes you to see views over Yosemite Valley, and Tioga Road crosses the park from east to west. You will see an alpine landscape, with many trails full of hikers. Due to the altitude, Tioga Road opens after Glacier road in spring.

You will find activities to do, from hiking trails, cycling, and climbing trails to visiting museums and art galleries throughout the park. There’s room for everyone.

Number of days: 1, 2, or 3 (depending on the activities you want to perform)

Must-visit places

  • Yosemite Falls
  • Half Dome
  • El Capitan
  • Tunnel View
  • Glacier Point
  • Bridalveil Fall
  • Tioga Road
  • Yosemite Museum and Indian Village
  • Ansel Adams Gallery
  • Hiking, Climbing, Bicycle
  • Camping

Where to sleep in Yosemite

Here I leave you three options with different accommodation types to enjoy your stay in the wonderful Yosemite Park.

San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the cities in the United States you have to visit. And it’s a must-see on any road trip on the West Coast of the United States.

If you’re going on a trip to Los Angeles or even Las Vegas, be sure to include San Francisco as a must-see because you won’t regret it. It’s one of my favorite cities in America, and it has it all!

If you go in summer keep in mind that it is not very hot and it is best to take a jacket!

Number of days: 2 or 3 (depending on the activities you want to perform)

Must-visit places

  • Walk the Golden Gate Bridge, the symbol of San Francisco.
  • Relax at Golden Gate Park.
  • Visit Alcatraz, book your tickets in advance because they sell out soon.
  • Take a ride on their picturesque tram.
  • See Victorian Houses
  • Visit Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Visit Union Square
  • Buy the Explorer Pass (free access to 28 attractions)
  • Visit Mission Dolores
  • Visit City Hall
  • Visit and eat in Chinatown and Little Italy.
  • Visit Grace Cathedral
  • Free walking tour of San Francisco

Best Day Trips from San Francisco

Excursions with a guide in your language.

Where to sleep in San Francisco

Check out the selected hotels. Prices range from $58 to $130 per night in a double room. Of course, there are more expensive 😉

Goden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate

Route 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego

Route 1 or Highway 1 is one of the most beautiful roads in California. Around here, you can get from San Francisco to Los Angeles or San Diego, bordering the sea, visiting very picturesque places and charming small towns.

Here are two lists of the most important places to visit and a list of the ten most instagramable places on California Route 1.

This stretch of road trip can be done in a day, but you can only stop to take “the photo.” If you want to visit and know more, I recommend you spend 3 or 4 days.

Number of days: 3 or 4 (or more, depending on the activities you want to perform)

Must-visit places

  • San Francisco
  • Santa Cruz
  • Carmel-By-The-Sea
  • Monterey
  • Big Sur
  • Hearst Castle
  • Cambria
  • St. Luis Obispo
  • Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country
  • Santa Barbara
  • Ventura
  • Santa Monica
  • Dana Point
  • Huntington Beach
  • San Diego

Excursions with a guide in your language.

Miles traveled: approximately 583 miles

Where to sleep on Route 1

Lugares más instagrameables

· Carmel by the Sea

· Calla Lily Valley

· Bixby Creek Bridge

· Point Sur Lighthouse

· Big Sur River Inn

· Pfeiffer Beach

· McWay Falls

· Limekiln State Park

· Big Sur Window

· Hearst Castle

In Los Angeles you have several options

  1. You can continue to San Diego, get to know this famous city on the west coast of the United States, and from there fly to Hawaii.
  2. Visit San Diego and return to Los Angeles for your trip to Hawaii.

This last option, I think, is the most viable, since on the way back you arrive in Los Angeles, you see the things that have remained pending or wanting to repeat, and already from Los Angeles, you fly home.

San Diego

Located in Southern California and very close to the Mexican border, San Diego is the oldest city in California.

It is a place with a natural charm, with good weather all year round and with various attractions for all tastes.

You can visit museums, gardens, get to know the colonial-style architecture of Balboa Park; you can go shopping, go to festivals, to comic-con. Of course, enjoy its beaches and sunsets on the more than 68 miles of coastline.

Recomendación

Buy Go San Diego Pass. Includes 39 free attractions

Number of days: 2 or 3 (one day seems very little to me)

Must-visit places

  • Little Italy
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • East Village
  • North Park
  • Old Town
  • Balboa Park
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • Pacific Beach
  • Kayaking or paddle surfing
  • Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
  • Seaport Village
  • Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
  • Take a boat ride
  • Legoland, ideal for going with children (and children ;))

Excursions with a guide in your language.

Where to sleep in San Diego

Hawaii

With a tropical climate and a relaxed atmosphere, Hawaii is one of the most special states in the United States.

These volcanic islands have a diverse and beautiful landscape ranging from the austere lunar surface of the Kilauea volcano to lush green forests filled with exotic flowers.

With waterfalls flowing down the hillside off the coast of Na Pali or rivers so old, they created Waimea Canyon.

The Big Island is home to an active volcano, and Oahu is home to Pearl Harbor and its rich history.

Surrounding them all, the imposing Pacific is home to a wealth of ocean life, providing endless opportunities for snorkeling, diving, surfing, or just swimming after sunbathing.

Perhaps the most special part of the islands, however, is its people, whose welcoming attitude makes you feel real as if you were in paradise.

Number of days: 2 or 3 (one day seems very little to me)

Must-visit places

  • Little Italy
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • East Village
  • North Park
  • Old Town
  • Balboa Park
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • Pacific Beach
  • Kayaking or paddle surfing
  • Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
  • Seaport Village
  • Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument
  • Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
  • Take a boat ride
  • Legoland, ideal for going with children (and children ;))

Excursions with a guide in your language.

Where to sleep

Extended itinerary

If you want to expand the itinerary proposed above, here are my recommendations:

  1. Start in Seattle
  2. 1 day on Bainbridge Island
  3. Washington Coast
    1. Hobuck Beach
    2. Shi Shi Beach
    3. Rialto Beach
    4. Copalis Beach
    5. Long Beach
  4. Tour the Oregon coast on US 101
    1. Cannon Beach
    2. Cape Kiwanda State Scenic Area
    3. Nye Beach
    4. Secret Beach
    5. Seaside Beach
  5. Explore Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
  6. Redwood National Park
  7. Start Route 1 (“Pacific Coast Highway)
  8. Spend a few days in San Francisco
  9. Continue Route 1 to Los Angeles (see stops above)
  10. Spend a few days in Los Angeles
  11. Continue Route 1 to San Diego
  12. Going to Las Vegas
  13. What to do in the Grand Canyon?
  14. Visiting Death Valley
  15. Return to Los Angeles to return home or depart from Las Vegas.

Where to search for flights for your trip to the United States

If you want to know how to find cheap flights, we tell you on this post (click on the link.

The two platforms with which it is easiest to find well-priced flights and to be able to search the cheapest dates easily are Skyscanner and Momondo. Please take a look at them!

What to wear on a road trip around the United States

  • First aid kit for people traveling in the car.
  • GPS or accessible maps without an internet connection. In many places, the internet is quite bad, so it is advisable to have a GPS and/or access to maps without internet or paper maps.
  • Car charger for your mobile phone
  • Your playlist for road trips
  • Raincoats and clothing for the time of year when you travel.
  • Comfortable and off-road sneakers. You’re going to walk a lot, so shoes have to be as comfortable as possible.
  • Flip flops for beach walks
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen and moisturizer.
  • Stainless steel water bottle.

What I need to know before I travel to America

Tell me, do you know the West Coast? What was your itinerary and experience?

Book Your Trip

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel, hotel, or apartments on Booking.com.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance.
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s your protection in case anything goes wrong. You never go on a trip without it.

Best companies for activities
Check out Civitatis.com and find the best tours in English (French, Spanish and Italian)

Are you looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too! (Is in Spanish yet)

Last Updated on 9 July, 2021 by Veronica

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.