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Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

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Orlando, Florida
posts: 10
reviews: 54
Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

With help from this forum, I've detailed my trip a little more. We have 12 nights from May 12-May 24. We want to drive the PCH as much as possible from LA to Portland. My new itinerary is as follows:

May 12: LA-half day

May 13: drive coast from Long Beach and stay in Santa Barbara

May 14: Monterey/Carmel- check out Big Sur, Hearst Castle

May 15: head up to San Francisco midday.

May 16: SF

May 17: SF

May 18: Sonoma

May 19: drive up to Eureka and stay in Trinidad ?

May 20: Redwood National Park, drive up to Coos Bay, Oregon

May 21: oregon national dunes, drive up coast to Cannon Beach

May 22: Portland

May 23: Portland

Are there any must sees or stops along this route? Am I missing something or somewhere? Should I spend more time in some places versus others? We wanted to do Yosemite but thought it would be too hard to squeeze in.

17 replies to this topic
pasadena, ca
posts: 4,914
reviews: 22
1. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

Sounds like a great trip. Just going to comment on Day 1-3.

May 12 is a Sunday. Any thoughts on sightseeing and then heading out of LA to Ventura that evening, sleeping in Ventura? That way you'd miss LA traffic Monday morning. At the very least, stay in Santa Monica (on the Pacific Coast Highway) or near Calabasas/Thousand Oaks (on the 101) to avoid horrible morning traffic and get a head start on your drive. Staying in Long Beach will get you into the worst of the traffic leaving town on Monday.

I don't know exactly what you refer to when you say "drive coast from Long Beach". PCH in urban LA (Long Beach and points north) is not attractive, coastal or easy to drive. Just one long ugly headache. To go to Santa Barbara, I'd recommend one of the following two:

1. Stay in Santa Monica. Get on the PCH (Rte 1) near the pier in Santa Monica, drive north along the PCH in Malibu, then get on the 101 just before Oxnard (Rice Avenue) and continue north on the 101 to Santa Barbara.

2. Stay in or near Thousand Oaks area, on the 101. This will be a cheaper option. Take the 101 north to Santa Barbara. You'll hit the coast near Ventura. Me, I'd do this option as it jump-starts your drive to the good stuff, and you'll only miss the Malibu coastline, which I'm not enamored of. Malibu is mostly famous for being famous: you won't see any movie stars, but their homes will block the view of the ocean for miles and miles. The coastal drive further north is much more impressive.

May 13. Consider staying further north, near Cambria/San Luis Obispo/Pismo. I really love Santa Barbara, but it is so far south that it will compress your time the next day. Instead, spend most of the day there and head north either before or after dinner.

If you are still in the mood for driving and scenery when you get to Portland, the Columbia Gorge drive along the Historic Highway is beautiful, and is maybe 4 hours roundtrip from Portland at a leisurely rate, including stops. Some lovely hikes there too, so it best to make a relaxed day of it if you can. Spectacular area, great views and waterfalls.

Napa, CA
Destination Expert
for Napa
posts: 5,194
reviews: 22
2. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

Yes, stay the second night further up the coast. Cambria and Pismo Beach have places to stay that have ocean views and are cheaper than comparable hotels in Santa Barbara.

Sonoma to Trinidad can be done in a day if driving Hwy 101. If you want to drive the coastal route, Hwy 1, you should allot two days. Hwy 1 is much slower.

PCH is a term not used by locals in Northern California.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 51,269
reviews: 42
3. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

That's right. Santa Barbara to Monterey (via he1) already will take some 6 hours without stops and count on 3 hours for Hearst Castle plus the many other must stops along the route.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
posts: 37,189
reviews: 795
4. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

>> PCH is a term not used by locals in Northern California. <<

And not in Oregon either. If you asked about it here people would say "huh?"

Okay, terminology aside, are you intending to take CA Highway 1 north of San Francisco? It is incredibly scenic, but slower than 101.

Trinidad is very nice, very picturesque, very quiet. I far prefer it over Eureka.

But . . . Coos Bay is probably one of the least scenic towns along the Oregon coast :-( The waterfront park is worth a brief stop, though. Plan to stay in Bandon as it's just 25 minutes or so south of Coos Bay/North Bend and much more charming.

You'll see the dunes stretching along for about 40 miles. You can take tours in Reedsport and Florence - either sedate ones or 'wheeee' dunebuggy rides.

You *must* book ahead for Cannon Beach and it may take some research to find hotels that allow just one night.

Edited: 5:13 pm, February 02, 2013
Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,872
reviews: 3
5. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

May 14: Santa Barbara to Monterey. That's a minimum 5 hour drive WITHOUT stops!! Hearst Castle will take up at least an hour. Additional stops will lengthen your drive time. Expect a full day on the road.

Dallas, Oregon
posts: 5,254
reviews: 300
6. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

Definitely look at Pismo Beach or Cambria (or even San Simeon) instead of Santa Barbara for your overnight.

Then, for May 20, instead of Coos Bay, consider staying in Bandon as suggested, or if you wat to get a little farther up the Coast, Florence or Yachats. And instead of spendy Cannon Beach, there are nice beachside lodgings in Neskowin, Pacific City and Manzanita -- all cheaper than CB. If you want to save even more money, there are plenty of generic chain motels in Lincoln City,Tillamook or Seaside. The farther from the beach, the better the price (many will have no ocean view).

Most of those places have decent to excellent restaurants in all price ranges

Edited: 5:34 pm, February 02, 2013
Orlando, Florida
posts: 10
reviews: 54
7. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

Wow, thanks alot for the detailed advice so far! We've never been to California or Oregon so I need all the help I can get. I'll make the changes to the first few days.

May 12: arrive in LA before noon. Sight-see the rest of the day. Stay in Santa Monica.

May 13: take the 101 to Santa Barbara. Stay that night in Pismo Beach.

May 14- May 19: same as above

May 20: redwood national park, take hwy 101 up to Bandon or Florence.

May 21: Oregon Dunes, hwy 101 to Manzanita or Pacific City.

May 22: Portland

May 23: Portland

Any other suggestions or details I'm missing? Thanks for the insight!

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 51,269
reviews: 42
8. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

May13: Take hw1 (Pacific Coast Hw) via Malibu to 101 first.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
posts: 37,189
reviews: 795
9. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

Florence is not on the ocean as it's behind the sand dunes. There is only one motel on the beach there, so if that's important plan accordingly.

Yachats is a lovely little town but is 6+ hours from Eureka without allowing for any scenic stops. I drive it several times a year. I think you'll want to allow time to stop and look and explore a bit ;-)

Manzanita has only one motel on the ocean but is a very pleasant quiet small town without the congestion of Cannon Beach . . . and as mentioned cheaper too!

AAA maps are very useful and accurate and they have detailed ones for the metro areas. I think you can buy them if you are not a member.

Miami, Florida
posts: 5
10. Re: Driving California Coast from LA to Oregon

I'm flying in from Florida and want to drive along the coast of California starting on Saturday and ending up in LA the following Monday (about 8 days). I was thinking about flying into San Francisco or Seattle and drive south. I want to see the old growth forests (Redwood NP?), coastal/scenic drives, cute towns etc. Would it be too much to do if start from Seattle, through Portland and down the coast of California? Should I start in San Francisco instead and save Oregon and Seattle for another trip?? I'm not sure of the places to see and the travel times involved. I'm just trying to get the most out of my trip but don't want to ruin it with rushing. Any insight you can give would be greatly appreciated!!! thanks :)

Edited: 7:38 am, June 20, 2013
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