West Coast USA Road Trip: 7 States. 21 Days. 3,440 Km
We did it. We quit our jobs, moved out of our apartment, sold all our belongings and left Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, and off to the USA we went for our Great American Road Trip, the first part of our 8-month trip around the world.
For the first leg of our big adventure, we started with a 3 week-long Epic West Coast USAroad trip and tried to hit all of the US National Parks we could.
What you'll find below?
You will find a step-by-step breakdown of our full road trip, followed by our favourite apps, tips and tricks to plan your own West Coast USA Road Trip. The map above includes all the stops we made, placed we stayed, hiked, ate and drove through.
Remember to bookmark this page and share with friends who might be planning their own epic Great American Road Trip! Enjoy!
After our direct flight from DXB to Seattle with Emirates, and more than 14 hours in the air - which honestly, wasn’t enough to catch up on all the movies/series Emirates' ICE offers! - , we landed in Seattle Airport and went to pick up our trusty car at Hertz.
The Emirates direct flight from Dubai to Seattle is a dream because it leaves Dubai at 8:35am and lands in Seattle at 10:55am the same day, wasting no time and allowing for a good nights sleep before exploring all you can in the US.
We had no idea that Emirates flew this route but were thankful to find it as it proved to be the perfect launching city from which to start a great American road trip - and the stunning nature, ocean, and scenery was the perfect beginning to our amazing adventure down the west coast of the USA.
Now that we'd sorted the flight and arrived to Seattle, we had to find our home for the next three weeks - time to get our rental car!
Since we registered in advance for the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty programme, we didn’t have to queue and could directly select our car on the spot at the airport in Seattle - with an additional driver for free! #WIN This was a huge benefit after a long flight and allowed us to get right on the road. It's the little things like this that make such a huge difference on a trip like this.
Tip: Register for the Hertz Gold Plus loyalty programme to benefit from awesome features too!
Once we picked up our car, we headed directly towards Seattle city center for a quick visit to Pike’s Market on Elliott Bay, one of the oldest in the USA, where you can find fresh produce, independent businesses, the most amazing seafood in the US, and specialty foods.
We then had to stop for a coffee at the world’s oldest operating Starbucks on Pike Place, a classic! (we're so white...)
After this quick visit to Seattle, we had to continue towards Portland, where we spent the first two nights of our West Coast USAroad trip - in one of the funkiest cities in America.
We woke up early on the second day (thanks, jet lag!) and went for a morning workout in Forest Park, which ended up being absolutely beautiful and we finally could breathe real oxygen and see greenery and trees, which we missed so much living in the desert for so many years! Forest Park is the largest urban park in the US and goes on forever with endless amazing hikes and trails.
After a lunch at Whole Foods (you know it), we visited Powell’s Books, the oldest independent bookstore in the world. We could have stayed for hours - the bookstore is huge, has all genres imaginable and is such a cozy place!
Just a 30-min ride outside of Portland, we explored Multnomah Falls - a truly spectacular sight, and a little walk in nature that we thoroughly enjoyed!
We stayed at the motel Park Lane Suites and Inn, which was centrally located and we could park right by the door to our room, a great perk when all your own is in your car!
Crater Lake, Oregon
On the way from Oregon to California, we made a stop at Crater Lake, and we’re thrilled we did! Upon entering the Crater Lake National Park, we bought the $80 America the Beautiful pass, which allows you unlimited entry to all National Parks in the USA for a year - super worth it if you’re doing a West Coast USARoad Trip as each individual National Park pass is around $20-$30.
Crater Lake is so worth a stop - a blue lake like you’ve never seen before! You can get a little walk or hike in around the lake, and the colour is really insane. We found ourselves wondering how does this shade of blue exists in nature, and how come we’ve never seen it before - make sure you have your camera at the ready!
There are hikes of anywhere from 1 miles to 20, so make sure to plan out the one that is best for you, and again, get there early or stay late! It is amazing how lazy most tourists are and of course the silence and light of early morning and late afternoon is so much more magical in places as stunning as these national parks.
And even though it was the end of June, there was snow on the ground in some places which really added that special touch!
Note: Drones are not allowed inside Crater Lake National Park.
Redwood National Park, California
While driving down from Oregon into California, we stopped by Redwood National Park, as Jeff had never visited - even though he lived in California for years! (what an idiot)
We picked a trail on the Alltrails app (see our selection of apps for this trip below!) and headed onto the Boy Scout Tree trail. This was a major highlight of our trip, the huge trees, the absence of tourists, the cold, crisp air and the scenery so unreal we kept “ooh'ing and “aaah'ing all the way throughout. We finished the trail by running it, and felt like we could have gone on forever! A real refreshing moment, really recommend you stop if you pass by Redwood National Park - it's one US National park not to miss!
That night we stayed at the Redwood lodge in Crescent City, California for $79+ tax.
San Francisco, California
This was our second time in San Francisco together, and we decided to start with a bang and run a 5k on the Golden Gate bridge to kick-start the day! What a feeling, to be on one of the (if not THE most) iconic bridges in the world, running and feeling great!
We then met with a friend of Jeff’s and enjoyed the San Francisco Gay Pride, which happened to take place on the same weekend we were there - lucky! Direction Mission Dolores park for drinks and people watching. What an incredible atmosphere.
We stayed in Van Ness Inn, a perfectly located motel in the center of the city.
After a breakfast and walk down in the Fisherman Wharf, we headed out again!
See our 48 hours in San Francisco video and written guide for more tips on SF!
Ventura has a particular importance for Jeff as he used to study and live here, and his grandmother and many of his family and friends live here.
After an amazing hike up Lizard’s Mouth and a great meal at the Cold Creek Tavern, we explored the city on foot and went to the beach. After catching up with family during a great meal in Santa Barbara, we met up with friends at the coolest brewery in town, Topa Topa.
We stayed at the Mission Bell motel on the Main Street of Ventura which was simple, rustic, close to everything and had all we needed for about $80/night.
Topanga Canyon, California
On the way between Ventura and Los Angeles, we stopped at one of Jeff’s favourite hiking trails in Topanga Canyon, in Malibu, Eagle Rock trail. An amazing, deserted, hike up to the top of the hill, offering amazing views and a true feeling of nature and freedom - how we missed these!
If you have the time while driving down the coast (make time if you don't) you MUST take the Pacific Coast Highway down through Malibu and stop for a hike or a stroll on the beach, you won't regret it. You'll know you've made it to Los Angeles when you hit the world famous Santa Monica Pier, the end of history Route 66 after it's 4,000km trail from Chicago.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is difficult to cover in a few days as it’s so massive and spread out. We managed to see a lot of Jeff’s friends, do some amazing hikes to Griffith Observatory and up Mount Hollywood and even watch a Dodgers baseball game (I am yet to fully understand the game, but it was an incredible experience with an unparalleled atmosphere!).
A restaurant to check out of you’re in Los Angeles is Home in Loz Feliz, we went back twice as we loved the vibe, food and beers so much!
We stayed at the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Midtown at USC, which was an absolute godsend after staying at motels for so long - an actual business center for us to do some work, and the legendary Radisson Super breakfast, was exactly what we needed!
For more Los Angeles tips, check out our Visit LA Like a local article!
Las Vegas, Nevada
We made a quick detour by Las Vegas, since I had never been. We stayed right on the strip in the Treasure Island hotel, and as soon as we passed the California border into Nevada, there were casinos everywhere!
Since gambling isn’t exactly my cup of tea, we ended up walking around the strip a lot and basically being horrified at human beings. We did some slot machines and made the money we spent back before going for dinner - a win in my book!
I’m sure Vegas has some amazing things to offer, shows and concerts, but at this time we were looking for something different, so we didn’t stay too long and were gone in the morning: direction the Grand Canyon!
Grand Canyon South Rim, Arizona
After arriving into the Grand Canyon and setting up camp at the camp ground we stayed at on Mather Campground (reserve your slot in advance!!), we went for a walk alongside the South Rim from Mather Point - what a beauty! My fear of heights was fully there, but I tried to fight it and soak in the incredible views that Grand Canyon offers. The morning after, we went for a sunrise 11.3km run along the Rim, and it was once again surreal to run in such an iconic environment. The Bright Angel trail is definitely one to explore too.
The good thing about waking up early is also to avoid all tourists, who show up a bit later, once it gets very warm. Win-win for us!
Route 66: Seligman, Arizona
We stopped on our way from the Grand Canyon to Page in Seligman, Arizona to see the old iconic Route 66. A 6.4 square mile city, Seligman is now a legendary Route 66 town, and it does feel like you’re transported back in time while driving through it's Main Street!
Page is known to be close to three amazing sightseeing spots that you can’t miss while passing through Arizona: Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend.
We really recommend you check out the three, they are all amazing!
To visit Antelope Canyon, you must book through a tour agency - we did the Lower Antelope Canyon as it was less touristy, and booked through Ken’s Tours and it was good, but still packed. The colours and light in the canyon are truly mind blowing - even better than you can see in pictures!
We then drove to Horseshoe Bend for sunset and it did not disappoint! This is such an amazing place!
A quick 15-minute walk into the site, and you discover one of the most amazing natural sights we’ve ever seen. As there is no fence, this can also be quite unsettling sometimes, especially with kids running around/ people with tripods, so be careful if you’re with little ones. The view is incredible and as the sun sets, the colours become stunning.
We stayed at the Rodeway Inn motel, very conveniently located right in the city center.
After a quick swim and chill time by Lake Powell right by the Utah border (we recommend following directions to Wahweap Marina for the best spot!) we were back on the road, direction Moab, Utah.
Moab is also centrally located conveniently between Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Monument Valley. A must stop by when road tripping through Utah!
We did an amazing -and quite difficult as Moab is 4,026ft high! - sunrise hike up to Delicate Arch, the iconic arch present on all Utah license plates and Utah postal cards. So worth it for the silence, incredible light, and lack of tourists!
On that same day, we witnessed an unreal sunset at Dead Horse State Park - the colours were out of this world!
We stayed in Silver Sage Inn in Moab city center, where Zach, the owner, was really helpful with tips on where to hike and when to avoid the most touristy times and places!
Driving through Monument Valley while leaving was stunning as well- we couldn’t get enough of the view.
Glenwood Springs Canyon, Colorado
On the long car drive from Moab to Colorado, we stopped for a very invigorating hour-long hike on Grizzly Trail in Glenwood Springs Canyon. A welcome hike after so long in the car, the trail offered amazing views and a real forest feeling right by the road - welcome to Colorado!!
Estes Park, Colorado
We really wanted to spend some time in the Rocky Mountains, and found a great spot to stay around it with reasonable driving time to the Rocky Mountain National Park: Estes Park, Colorado!
This became one of our favourite parts of the trip. Estes Park is located 7,500 feet high, and we felt it when we went for a run in the morning!
After checking into our motel, the Rodeway Inn, we went to explore this cute city and fell in love with it - we might have even looked for jobs there for a minute!
There are SO many trails and places to see in the Rockies, so we used AllTrails and figured we’d want to do a long forest hike and see Bear Lake, of course.
We started the 17.5km Sky Pond trail hike, and we literally saw all types of environments from Christmas trees to Hogwarts deserted forest, from rocks to trees - one of the best hikes we’ve ever done!
An amazing sunrise over Bear Lake the next morning and an arduous hike up to Gem lake later that day, we treated ourselves to a great dinner at the Twin Owls Steakhouse - really recommend it and started to wrap up our Great American Road Trip!
Since we visited family friends in Boulder, we stayed put for a bit. We got the chance to participate to an amazing yoga class at the Yoga Pod in Boulder, and have some drinks while watching France win a World Cup soccer game in The Attic, a downtown Boulder sports bar.
Make sure to walk around Boulder, what an amazing city with such a great and chilled vibe, welcoming people and nature all around.
We also might have looked up jobs there too….
It only took us 2 minutes to check back in our rental car with Hertz and bam, flew out of the Denver Airport and were on our way out of the US. We often think back to our West Coast USA Road Trip and realize how incredibly amazing it all was. We kept healthy, hiked, woke up early, avoided most tourists, took incredible pictures, blasted music, and had the best time ever.
If this is an adventure on your bucket list, and it should be, please send us any questions you may have as we'd absolutely love to help you plan your own West Coast USA Road Trip in the future!
For Jeff, this was an amazing time for him to explore so much of his own country he had never seen while finding new reasons to fall in love with the USA and for me, it was an amazing chance to see further into life in the US, what makes it so diverse and unique and gave us both so much more to plan and come back to see and explore on another trip!
Our favourite apps
Because we didn’t book in advance, we ended up on Booking.com everyday! The one-click booking made it super easy to find where we’d stay that night.
Since you can download maps when you get WiFi and use it offline, this app is always useful, especially if you’re driving! If you have access to WiFi, Google Maps is always a safe bet as well.
We used that app so much to find the best trails to hike and run on! You can find any trails all around the world for any purpose (mountain biking, hiking, running etc), and the interface is really easy to use.
America the Beautiful
Get the America the Beautiful pass if you’re planning to visit 4 or more National Parks or Forests. It costs $80, is valid a year and can be bought at any National Park!
Download podcasts! You will spend a lot of time in your car, and sometimes without WiFi or reception, so podcasts are a godsend! Our favourite were Serial, Death in Ice Valley, My favourite Murder, Radiolab, Comedy Bang Bang and the Joe Rogan podcast.
If you have a drone, BRING IT! Note that you can not fly it within the limits of National Parks, but there are so many incredible spots along the road where you should fly it (California Coast, Oregon forests, etc). Be always careful to check the zone you’re flying it, and make sure all updates are done. Investing in a car charger also saved our lives a few times!
You might have noticed that we don’t recommend a lot of restaurants in this article - the reason being that we bought a coolbox, and stored food in our car to limit costs and try to be as healthy as possible! Even if you decide to eat at restaurants mainly, it’s always good to keep snacks in the car, especially if you’re going camping. We bought our coolbox for $49 at Target, and it was perfect!
The camping system is amazing in the USA - everything is planned for a smooth experience, and it’s always a good option, especially with family. However note that temperatures can drop quite a lot at night, in Northern California for example, even in July. So plan to buy sleeping bags and blankets! Make sure to reserve your spot in campings in advance through https://www.recreation.gov/ as it fills up quickly in summer.
We hope this will be useful for you if you’re planning your own West CoastUSA Road trip - don't forget to bookmark this page if you are, and share it with friends who might be planning their own!
Let us know in the comments if you’d like to see a full budget breakdown, and we can put this together for you. As always, any questions just shout, and make sure to follow our #WDSRTW round the world trip on social media and our Instagram @whatdoesntsuck for daily stories!