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The United States is a country full of awe-inspiring natural wonders, and come April, we take to the road to experience them all (well, those situated on West Coast anyway)! Offering travelers an incredible variety of diverse and inspiring landscapes, breathtaking locations, and powerful panoramas, America truly is the land of dreams.

A land offering “a thousand shades of something new”, America’s true beauty lies beyond the famed city skyscrapers, landmarks, and monuments, and outside of the city limits.

And while we will be taking in iconic cities like San Fransisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver along our way, we’re excited to experience North America’s true beauty – the beauty which lies in it’s abundance of National Parks, preserves and protected wildlife sanctuaries.

As such, here are 10 spectacular west coast destinations to visit before you die. Add them to your bucket list, test your US trivia, and why not combine them all into one amazing US road trip itinerary in a drive from the bottom to the top just like us?!

North America: 10 Spectacular West Coast Destinations to Visit Before You Die

La Jolla Cove, San Diego

La Jolla Cove is San Diego’s most desirable spot for kayaking, snorkeling and diving, and has become home to California’s largest seal and sea lion population! La Jolla Cove is free and completely open to public access – no trip to California will be complete without visiting, and I guarantee you will never see a seal and sea lion colony anywhere like this in the world!

Visually, the cove is breathtakingly. Somewhat hidden with alluring curves and caves, it is often cited as the most photographed beach in San Diego.

La Jolla Sunset by Joel Olives via Flickr

Redwood Forest, California

California’s redwood forest is home to the tallest trees on Earth. And while the redwoods rule the forest, also protected by the National Parks Service are the vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild rivers, and nearly 40 miles of wild, rugged Pacific Ocean coastline.

The redwoods have been known to reach heights of over 370 feet (113 m), and average a lifespan of 500 to 700 years. The location of the tallest, a 379-foot Hyperion, is a secret very few are privy to in an attempt to keep tourists away.

Photos: Rob Shenk & Benson Kua via Flickr

Channel Islands, California

Close to the California mainland, yet world’s apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five remarkable islands in the Pacific Ocean, completely isolated from the congestion and clamor of urban life.

With a wide variety of recreational opportunities on offer, visitors can enjoy kayaking, hiking, wilderness camping and wildlife encounters. Preserved over thousands of years due to their isolation from the mainland, a visit to the park is a great way to experience coastal southern California as it once was.

Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands are the most accessible from the coast, and these are the more popular tourist spots.

Photos: David Wan & NOAA via Flickr

Yosemite Valley, California

With glaciers reaching back over 30 million years, ten waterfalls over 500 feet, yellow pine and oak forests and open meadows on the valley floor, Yosemite Valley is one of the most beautiful, and most photographed places on earth.

Enchanting and majestic, this magnificent panorama includes El Capitan, “the world’s largest monolith of exposed granite, the distinctive Half Dome granite formation, and Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America, measuring 2,425 feet from top to bottom.” Scenic trails for hikers abound.

More info.

Photos: Giuseppe Milo & Jason Jenkins via Flickr

Sequoia National Park, California

The land of giants, Sequoia National Park is known for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, one of the largest in the world. Reaching 275 feet into the sky, this iconic natural attraction is believed to be roughly 2,500 years old.

Though the park is known for so much more than just being home to the world’s largest trees. Huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, and vast caverns spanning over 404,064 acres, this is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the United States.

Photos: Indrik myneur & Miguel Vieira via Flickr

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Easily one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world, this is “an exhilarating driving experience, this twisting, cliff-hugging, 123-mile (198-kilometer) route along the central California coast takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace.”

Stops along the highway include both the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway. Take in spectacular destinations like Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Point Lobos State Reserve, Big Sur, Garrapata State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Cambria and Morro Bay.

This is the drive of a lifetime.

The US was made for iconic roadtrips. Anyone with a car can go anywhere, and the nice thing about this mode of transportation is that the journey is the destination in itself – a road trip is an adventure!

Crater Lake, Oregon

Like no place else on earth, Crater Lake has inspired visitors for thousands of years. “No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past.”

Immeasurably beautiful this is the definition of a spectacular west coast destination you should visit before you die. If you want to stay, check out this review of Crater Lake Lodge.

Crater Lake, Oregon. Photo CC by Cyril Fluck.

Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Cyril Fluck via Flickr

Thor’s Well, Oregon

Cape Perpetua’s Thor’s Well is a saltwater fountain driven by the power of the Pacific Ocean tide.

A natural spectacle which is most beautiful to watch at high tide or during winter storms, visitors should proceed with caution as it is highly dangerous at these times due to sharp rocks, and the danger of a strong surge which could sweep you out to sea.

Mendenhall Glacier Caves, Alaska

Those who travel to Juneau are in for a treat, as underneath the ground in Mendenhall Valley stands a 12-mile glacier that is home to an amazing network of glacier caves.

Follow the West Glacier trail to arrive at the entrance and trek through these caves yourself.

Photos: Andrew E. Russell & Joseph via Flickr

Denali, Alaska

“Denali is six million acres of wild land in the heart of central Alaska, bisected by one ribbon of road that takes visitors into the Denali National Park and Preserve.

Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,320 foot-high Mount McKinley. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility and wilderness abound.” (Source: National Park Service)

Images: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith & Nic McPhee via Flickr


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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Previous Pinterest image credits: Thors Well by Bill Young.


  1. Nice list, but you totally neglected Colorado which has plenty of worthy locations. This was too heavy CA and AK.

    • True! Our upcoming road-trip starting Wednesday is largely California, Oregon, Washington and AK, so I guess that’s where my head has been at with research recently :D! So many amazing destinations to name, thinking I might just have to do state by state guides for each individual state!

  2. My apologies, I saw West and not Coast…Great List :)

    • No worries! I’ll start putting together another post for more inland attractions and trips :)

  3. I am a little sad Washington didn’t make your list. Though, it is OK. Let the tourist swarm to Cali and we will enjoy the peaceful wilderness ;)

    • We’ll be going through Washington for sure, so if you know of any amazing places we should visit let us know. Will be spending 3 nights in Olympic National Park so really looking forward to that :)

  4. I think the whole of California would be on my bucket-list! I find it the prettiest part of North America.

    • Absolutely – we were thinking of including a bit of time overseas in the 3 months we had for this trip, but there really is just so much to do in California alone that you could spend that whole period of time!

  5. Many of these are on our route for our upcoming USA road trip!

    • Excellent, glad to hear! I look forward to trading photos and stories!

  6. This is a great list! On of my big bucket list items that’s been pulling my heartstrings lately is a Pacific Northwest Roadtrip. Love that you are taking it all the way up to Alaska too! The only thing I think you forgot was a stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on your way along PCH.

    • Thanks for the tip – I have actually read that we need to take in the Aquarium, and since it keeps popping up in everyone’s recommendations I think we’ll definitely make the time.

      Will let you know how we like it! I hope you can make your own Pacific Northwest Roadtrip happen soon Megan :)

  7. Great list! Alaska is a personal favorite of mine. I think its the vastly different range of landscapes as well as so much untamed wildlife that makes it so alluring.

    • Glad you enjoyed it John! I can’t WAIT to get to Alaska, seriously it’s been on the top of my bucket list for the longest time, so I’m psyched that we’ll be there in a little less than a month now!! The wildlife is the biggest draw for us as well :)

  8. Looks amazing!I’m from Northern California and if you are looking for a few more places to visit, San Francisco is my favorite city in the world and also Napa Valley is amazing! Cheers and enjoy your travel. I’m excited to follow your adventures!

    • Thanks for the recommendations Elizabeth! We have a full week set aside right now for San Fran and Napa, just still throwing around the dates as to when we’ll be in each and trying to sort out our accommodation. I guess we’re traveling during a peak period :D

      But can’t wait to get up there and indulge in some world famous wine!!

  9. I was born in Newport Beach, California and also lived in Oregon. I love the Pacific coastline an truly enjoy this post.

    • Ooooh we’re spending 3 days in Newport beach right on the next next week. Can’t wait! Great place to call home. Can’t wait to get to Oregon either.

      Thanks John, so glad you enjoyed the post!

  10. Absolutely stunning landscapes and examples of the wonders of nature that deserve all the fantastic treks people make to venture out to photograph them.

    Thank god they all do too otherwise my wanderlust would be asleep.

    • Well we’re glad to keep your wanderlust alive :D So glad you enjoyed the post Dale :)

  11. Great list – but you missed Canada! ;) Vancouver, Tofino, Vancouver Island, Whistler are all great options.

    • Very true! We are actually heading up through Canada on our trip, we have time planned for vancouver and Vancouver Island – I’ll have to make a Canadian only version of this post because I’m sure it’s going to be just as spectacular!

      Can you do day trips to Tofino from Vancouver? A number of people have been recommending it, I just haven’t looked into it yet :)

  12. Sometimes Americans forget the beauty that lies in their own backyard. Great list, Megan!

    • Absolutely! I don’t think that’s just limited to Americans though, I think it’s a worldwide thing lol I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t explored nearly as much of Australia as I could have!

  13. Amazing list! Makes me want to just sell everything I own or take out a loan, pack up, and get on the road. I didn’t even know a couple of these places! I’m smitten.

    • Woohoo so glad you’re inspired :) And that sounds like an awesome plan – I try and live my life by the motto “you only regret the things you didn’t do”; so go for it!

  14. You’re getting to see some of these spots now! Awesome list

    • Woohoo I’m so glad! We’re in the middle of our US road-trip right now and have been checking each of these off as we go – you’ll have such an amazing experience doing the same!

    • Thanks for the tips. My friend and I are leaving on a road trip in a couple of weeks. Leaving from Michigan and heading west, South Dakota, Washington, Vancouver, Oregon, California are on our bucket list and wherever else the road may take us. It’s going to be an adventure of a lifetime and can’t wait to get started.

    • Have a great trip Sharon!

  15. A wonderful selection – many of the places you’ve included in this article are on my travel list!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Loredana! I hope you can get to the US soon; why not plan an epic roadtrip and tick everything off in the one go :D

  16. Very true! Makes a change to see somoene spell it out like that. :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Dayana :)

  17. hi,
    we are a family of 6 two children of 10,7 respectively and parents of 70 and 65. we are travelling for the first time to west side . can you please guide us as we looking for fun for kids , shopping , night life . dont mind using the roads and local transport. we dont want to have a expensive trip.
    the trip would be likely for 15-20 days .
    please help.

    • Hi Kunal, thanks for reaching out. If you are traveling for 15-20 days with a group of 6, I would recommend hiring a car and planning a Californian road trip.

      Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) is a classic road trip which winds up the west coast, there are a lot of natural attractions that the whole family will love, like beaches, redwoods, and those attractions mentioned in the post above.

      Stops along the highway include both the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway. Take in spectacular destinations like Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Point Lobos State Reserve, Big Sur, Garrapata State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Cambria and Morro Bay.

      You can choose to stay in bigger towns overnight for your shopping and nightlife. Consider starting in San Diego, and driving up to San Fransisco, taking in Los Angeles along the way.

      Great combination of nature and city life.

      Hope that helps! Have a great trip :)

  18. So many of these things I am wanting to see when I come over in June next year. I am a little nervous about driving, as I live in New Zealand so we drive on the other side of the road (as you do in Australia). How do you find it changing over, especially on the Pacific Coast highway?

    • Hi Sarah, it’ll take a little bit of getting used to and will feel a little weird for the first day or so, but I found it was pretty easy to get into the swing of driving on the opposite side of the road. Go a little slower if you’re uneasy at first, but it’s pretty straightforward as to turning lanes and which lane you should be in as everything is very well signposted.

      Also the Pacific Coast Highway is a really popular driving route, so you’ll be able to go with the flow of traffic, and will see traffic on the opposite side going in the other direction, so it’s reasonably straightforward to figure out your lanes.

      Hope you have an amazing time! Truly is a spectacular part of the world! … I recommend picking up a GPS if it’s your first time driving :)

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