20 Places To Visit On A Seattle To Los Angeles Road Trip

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The US West Coast is one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline anywhere in the world. Stretching from Washington in the northwest to California in the south, there are thousands of towns, landmarks and attractions to visit when planning a road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Travelling the entire length of America’s West Coast will take road trippers through places such as San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Portland, Mount Rainier, and plenty more fascinating towns and cities along the way.

From world-class beaches to snowy mountaintops, the West Coast is fantastic to explore by car whether you’re driving from Seattle to Los Angeles or in reverse, from Los Angeles to Seattle. Either way, take it at a relaxing pace to truly marvel at just how stunningly beautiful this part of the world is.

Seattle To Los Angeles

20 Places To Visit On A Road Trip From Seattle To Los Angeles

1- Mount Rainier National Park

seattle to la
Mount Rainier is a stunning natural landmark to explore on a road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Mount Rainier is an iconic natural landmark in Washington state at over 14,000 feet (4267 m) above sea level.

Situated inside the magnificent Mount Rainier National Park, the peak is both an active volcano and the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States.

It goes without saying that wildlife truly abounds all around Mount Rainier, with hundreds of plant and animal species calling its slopes home.

With lots of things to do every season of the year, there’s no better place to stop in this national park in Washington state to bid the Evergreen State goodbye as you make your way further south and towards Oregon.

Mount Rainier National Park is 86 miles from Seattle (about 1.5 hours). 

2- Portland

Named after Maine’s Portland on the East Coast, Portland in Oregon started receiving large influxes of settlers and pioneers during the 1840s, ultimately growing into what is today.

The largest city in Oregon is a cosmopolitan and forward-thinking city packed with attractions and landmarks to explore, including the ever-popular Pioneer Courthouse Square, the scenic Portland Aerial Tram and the trendy Pearl District.

Nicknamed the City of Roses, Portland offers a healthy blend of urban and nature, making it the perfect place to spend a day or two before hitting the road to LA again. If you plan on staying longer, you’ll find plenty to do in Portland at night.

Portland is 138 miles from Mount Rainer National Park (about 2.5 hours).

Recommended tour: Portland Food Carts, Pods and Patios Tour

3- Cannon Beach

Seattle to LA Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock at low tide, Cannon Beach, Oregon.

80 miles (14 km) west of Downtown Portland, the idyllic seaside town of Cannon Beach is the go-to coastal getaway destination in Oregon and one of the most exclusive zip codes in the northwest.

The city is packed with unique attractions and views that’ll take your breath away, none more so than the town’s picture-perfect stretch of beach home to cascading waterfalls and unrivalled natural beauty.

Not only is Cannon Beach home to what National Geographic regards as one of the top 100 beaches in the world, but its proximity to Portland makes it great for a quick detour on your way to LA.

Cannon Beach is 79 miles from Portland (about 1.5 hours).

Recommended tour: Oregon Coast Day Trip: Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock

4- Lincoln City

Seattle to LA Lincoln City
The Oregon coast is a stunning coastline near Lincoln City to feel the ocean breeze on a road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Straddling the Pacific Ocean along Oregon’s northwest corner, Lincoln City is where world-class beaches, attractions and culture collide to create one truly spectacular road trip destination.

The city draws thousands of holiday-goers every year from all across the United States and the world and has an incredibly diverse range of attractions to visit and sights to see, some of which are world-renowned.

Featuring attractions that range from a popular glass bowing centre to a UNESCO-recognised reserve, visiting Lincoln City is a must during every Seattle to LA road trip.

Lincoln City is 83.5 miles from Cannon Beach (about 2 hours).

5- Crater Lake National Park

drive from la to seattle
Crater Lake and Wizard Island viewed from the west side at the watchman overlook trailhead.

One of the national parks in Oregon, Crater Lake National Park, features the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake, which was formed roughly 8,000 years ago when a violent eruption collapsed the dome of an old volcano that stood where the lake currently lies.

The centrepiece of a protected park area that includes age-old cliffs and otherworldly rock formations, Crater Lake is one of America’s most visually stunning lakes.

While the lake certainly takes centre stage inside the park, it’s by no means the only activity to partake in, as the park is home to numerous campsites and scenic hiking trails.

Crater Lake is 258 miles from Lincoln City (about 5 hours). Stop in Eugene for a night if you’d rather do a shorter drive. 

Recommended tour: Crater Lake Day Shared Tour

6- Lake Tahoe

Seattle to LA Lake Tahoe
The beautiful Lake Tahoe is a top spot to spend a few days travelling from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Neatly perched right on the Nevada-California border, the famous Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and a haven for all things outdoor related.

The lake is surrounded by a collection of stunning year-round snow-capped mountains, making this bright-blue lake one of the most scenic destinations in the United States.

Welcoming over 2.7 million visitors annually, Lake Tahoe is an incredibly popular destination for road trippers heading from Washington or Oregon to LA because of the lake’s world-class hiking, watersports, skiing and snowboarding opportunities.

While a slight detour from the main route to LA, it’s well worth the extra drive to experience all its majesty. Here are some things to do in Lake Tahoe for all seasons.

Lake Tahoe is 367 miles from Crater Lake (about 7 hours). If this is too long a drive, there are a few small towns to break your journey along the way, such as Redding or Chico. 

Recommended tour: 2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe

7- Yosemite National Park

la to seattle road trip
The stunning Cathedral Rocks is one of the sights in Yosemite National Park and well-worth a detour when driving between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Yosemite National Park, situated among the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains, is undoubtedly the crown jewel of California’s National Park system.

A sprawling 1,200-square mile (3,108 sq. km) area filled with breathtaking Californian scenery, the park features more than 1,000 waterfalls, near-vertical cliffs and verdant gorges stretching as far as the eye can see.

This UNESCO-listed National Park is located about 3 hours from Downtown San Francisco and is known around the world for its endless amounts of hiking trails, scenic lakes, ancient sequoia forests, and various plant and animal species.

Yosemite and nearby Lake Tahoe can be combined into a two-day excursion from the main route to LA to create an unbeatable outdoor getaway featuring some of the best attractions and scenery anywhere in the world.

Yosemite National Park is 185 miles (about 4 hours) from Lake Tahoe. 

Recommended tour: Guided Yosemite Hiking Excursion

8- Napa and Sonoma Valleys

The Napa Valley & Sonoma Valleys are two of California’s most prestigious and award-winning wine regions, producing everything from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

Napa is home to over 400 wineries and is an absolute dream destination for wine lovers, with most wineries opening their doors to teach visitors the wine-making process from vine to glass.

Sonoma is the smaller and less travelled of the two valleys, though in no way the lesser, treating visitors to a healthy mix of small-scale boutique wineries and large-scale vineyards producing globally available wines.

Sonoma Valley boasts some of the most idyllic landscapes in California and wine varieties that’ll rival even those found throughout the Napa Valley, all at a more affordable price than more travelled and more famous Napa.

The Napa Valley is 182 miles from Yosemite National Park (about 3.5 hours). 

Recommended tour: Napa and Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco

9- San Francisco

Seattle to LA San Francisco City skyline at night
San Francisco is one of the highlights on a driving trip from Seattle To Los Angeles.

Known around the world for its tech titans, steep streets and charming neighbourhoods, San Francisco and the Bay Area are some of the best tourist destinations in the world.

Situated smack-bang in the middle of some of Northern California’s most stunning natural scenery, San Francisco’s amazing experiences will leave even seasoned travellers struggling to decide what to see or visit next. This San Francisco itinerary may help.

Whether you’re a fan of idyllic seaside resorts or hiking some of the tallest peaks in the Golden State, San Francisco has you covered.

With plenty of scenic parks, historic districts and a cultural melting pot from every corner of the world just waiting to be discovered, there’s never a dull moment in San Francisco night or day.

San Francisco is 59 miles from the Napa Valley (around 1 hour 15 minutes).

Recommended tour: San Francisco Love Tour

10- Half Moon Bay

la to seattle distance
Admire the sunset over the ocean in Half Moon Bay.

Tucked away neatly between rustic farms and lush forests, charming Half Moon Bay is a serene countryside community dotted with pumpkin patches and ranches, situated less than a 30-minute drive away from busy San Francisco.

The entire region surrounding Half Moon Bay is renowned for its stunning beaches that stretch for miles on end and a lively culinary scene that keeps tourists flocking to Half Moon Bay all year round.

Although famous throughout California as a quintessential surfer’s paradise, the town’s many other amazing activities, such as horseback riding, seaside hiking and bird-watching, make it a great destination to visit no matter your travel interests.

Half Moon Bay is 29.6 miles (about 30 minutes) from San Francisco. 

11- Santa Cruz

Seattle to LA Santa Cruz
Enjoy the Pacific Ocean and beach in Santa Cruz while on a Seattle to Los Angeles driving vacation.

Dotted with world-class beaches and its famous Beach Boardwalk, sunny Santa Cruz is among California’s best seaside towns to stop by.

Located a mere 70 miles (113 km) south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is an immensely popular destination along the Monterey coast, thanks to its remote coves and great year-round weather.

Attractions to see in Santa Cruz include the Roaring Camp Railroads, a family-friendly railway journey that runs through magical redwood forests, as well as Downtown Santa Cruz’s Spanish Revival-style Mission, which was built in the 18th century.

Packed with plenty of nature and history to enjoy, not to mention the town’s varied mix of fantastic restaurants and cafes, makes stopping by Santa Cruz a fun and entertaining experience as you make your way down to LA.

Santa Cruz is 48.5 miles (58 minutes) from Half Moon Bay. 

Recommended: Beginner Surf Lesson in Santa Cruz

12- Monterey

Seattle to LA Monterey
Monterey is one of the places with plenty to do when driving between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Widely regarded as the go-to seaside escape in Northern California, low-key and absolutely spectacular Monterey will wow just about any traveller with its temperate climate, award-winning culinary scene and staggering cliffs.

Situated roughly two hours from San Francisco, Monterey provides travellers a much-needed break from the city while still being close enough so that city slickers won’t feel too disconnected from urbanity.

Monterey puts visitors on the doorstep of world-renowned venues such as Carmel, Pebble Beach and Big Sur, making Monterey the epicentre of some of the Golden State’s most popular destinations, ideal for an overnight stay on your way to LA.

Monterey is 91 miles (less than 2 hours) from Santa Cruz. 

Recommended tour: Half-day Whale Watching Tour From Monterey

13- Carmel-by-the-Sea

driving from la to seattle
Carmel Beach in the Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Located less than 5 miles (8 km) from Monterey and within 120 miles (193 km) from San Francisco, Carmel-by-the-Sea is among the Golden State’s most romantic destinations thanks to its stretch of fantastic white sandy beach and spectacular vistas.

The town is filled with whimsical cottages, amazing restaurants and boutiques to stop by, offering visitors a wide array of activities and things to see.

Home to some of the most picturesque natural surroundings in all of California, Carmel and next-door Monterey is the perfect place to unwind for a day or two before hitting the road again.

Carmel is 5 miles (10 minutes) from Monterey and both places can be explored in half a day if you’re short on time. 

Recommended tour: Scenic Carmel-By-The-Sea Guided E-Bike Tour

14- Big Sur

road trip from la to seattle
The Big Sur coast in California is an iconic drive and a highlight of any driving trip from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Big Sur is undeniably one of the most photographed and most recognised landmarks on the West Coast of the United States.

Big Sur and the Bixby Bridge, which spans the rocky, near-vertical canyon, stands over 260 feet (79 m) above the ground below, making it the perfect place to enjoy the majestic views of the surrounding hills and ocean.

The Big Sur area stretches for over 90 miles (145 km) from Carmel to Hearst Castle and encompasses a much larger area than just the often-photographed Bixby Bridge.

Built in 1932 for a mere $200,000, the landmark is still one of the largest concrete span bridges in the world and features sweeping, 360-degree views, perfect to drive across on your way to Southern California.

The Big Sur is 25.8 miles (40 minutes) from Carmel. 

Recommended tour: Big Sur Self Driving Audio Tour

15- Hearst Castle

la to seattle drive
An intriguing attraction to explore when driving from Los Angeles to Seattle is Hearst Castle, which has a swimming pool in the opulent mansion.

Hearst Castle is one of California’s most visited historical landmarks, built in 1947 by the first female architect in the United States, Julia Morgan.

The enormous 165-room Hearst Castle is a true memorial to the affluent and extravagant lifestyle of the industrial titan who commissioned it, William Randolph Hearst, covering an area of over 127 acres (51 ha).

The castle is conveniently situated roughly at the halfway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it a popular road trip destination to stop at for many curious travellers looking to stretch their legs a little.

This unmissable Californian landmark is always worth checking out on any West Coast road trip and is perfectly situated just off the main route to LA.

Hearst Castle is 178 miles (just over 3 hours) from the Big Sur. 

16- Pismo Beach

Seattle to LA Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a relaxing beach destination on Highway 1 on a road trip from Seattle To Los Angeles.

Pismo Beach is one of central California’s best beachside towns and is renowned for its fantastic eateries, chic boutiques and shops, and amazing stretches of golden sandy beach that are simply divine to lounge around on.

The town is very much a destination that should be discovered, enjoyed and fully explored at a slow pace, so it’s highly recommended to plan an overnight stay here before heading further south to Solvang and beyond.

Featuring plenty of hiking trails, scenic ocean views and some of the best wineries in California, Pismo Beach has something to do for every road-tripper.

Pismo Beach is 54 miles (about one hour) from Hearst Castle. 

Recommended tour: Pismo Beach Surf Lessons

17- Solvang

la to seattle
Exploring the Danish town of Solvang is one of the interesting things to do on a Seattle to Los Angeles trip.

Solvang is an authentic Danish-themed town nestled in California’s Santa Ynez Valley that was founded by Danish immigrants who fled the cold winters of the Midwest to settle in the Golden State.

Bringing their wooden windmills and charming houses along with them, the town took on a unique appearance, with colourful wooden houses and Danish shops lining virtually every street in Solvang.

Very few Danes still live in Solvang today, however, the town’s replica Copenhagen Round Tower, quaint Christmas shops, Danish bakeries and Danish cottages still exist for road trippers to enjoy, making it an absolute must-see destination.

Solvang is 53.9 miles (less than an hour’s drive) from Pismo Beach. 

Recommended tour: Private Guided Pedicab Tour of Solvang

18- Santa Barbara

Seattle to LA Santa Barbara
The historic Santa Barbara old Spanish mission in California.

Situated in what is colloquially referred to as ‘America’s Riviera’, Santa Barbara is a stunning seaside town famed for its palm tree-lined streets, Spanish Revival architecture and a star-studded line-up of famous Hollywood entertainers.

The entire city is dotted with Spanish Missions, world-renowned restaurants and endless amounts of nature to explore.

With plenty of stunning beaches and scenic hiking trails, it’s easy to see why so many fall in love with this stunning Californian town.

For great things to experience while in Santa Barbara, try taking a tour to the top of the Santa Barbara courthouse for unrivalled 360-degree views or stop by Stearns Wharf to marvel at the stunning display of boats.

Whatever you prefer to do in Santa Barbara, there’s never a dull moment in this amazing SoCal destination.

Santa Barbara is 33.3 miles (about 45 minutes) from Solvang. 

Recommended tour: Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

19- Malibu

Seattle to LA Malibu
Explore the rock sea stacks near Malibu during your Seattle to Los Angeles road trip.

Malibu is among the ritziest towns in America, with the Pacific Ocean bordering its west and the Santa Monica Mountains to the east.

Malibu is a popular California destination known for its 27 miles (43 km) of pristine coastline and large beachfront mansions near Downtown Los Angeles.

Malibu’s perfect sandy beaches are open to the public between sunrise and sunset every day.

The nearby mountains provide hikers with ample hiking opportunities and the ability to see several of SoCal’s native fauna and flora.

If you’re all done enjoying the town’s great outdoor attractions, try checking out Malibu’s fabulous restaurants and cafes, rated as some of the best in the world, before venturing further to our final road trip destination.

Malibu is 66.6 miles (1 hour 15 minutes) from Santa Barbara.

Recommended tour: Small Group Malibu Wine Hike

20- Santa Monica Pier

Seattle to LA Santa Monica Pier
Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier.

Complete with lively golden beaches and an incredibly vibrant nightlife scene, Santa Monica is the perfect destination to cap off your road trip from Seattle to LA.

Santa Monica and its famous illuminated pier west of Downtown Los Angeles and is widely regarded as the city’s surfing and skateboarding capital.

The Santa Monica Pier is littered with old-fashioned carnival rides, rollercoasters and several other carnival favourites to keep you royally entertained all day and night.

The pier is amazing to visit during the daytime but comes to life during sunset.

The unbeatable views across the Pacific Ocean create the perfect backdrop and final showcase to one of the world’s best road trips.

Santa Monica Pier is 18.5 miles (27 minutes) from Malibu. From there, the centre of LA is 17.3 miles (26 minutes if the traffic is good!). 

Recommended tour: 5.5-hour LA and Hollywood Tour from Santa Monica

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.