The Pacific Coast Driving Route – Olympic National Park to San Diego

This road trip starts near the Canadian border and winds its way south along the coast to San Diego, over 2500 kms away. A good place to start this trip is Seattle, which is in the US state of Washington, about 220 kms south of Vancouver. The city is probably best known for being the host city for the TV shows Frasier and Greys Anatomy. There is obviously a lot more to the city than that. Some important attractions to visit include the Space Needle, the Smith Tower, the Monorail and the Seattle Aquarium.

Located just 100 kms to the west is the Olympic National Park, which is the true start of the Pacific Coast Route. The Olympic National Park is a wonderful area of natural temperate rainforest. The park became an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage Site in 1981. While in the park you can take some time to have a look around the Hoh Rainforest or if you only want a quick visit than a stroll through the Hall of Moss Trail.

Moving south along the US-101 will have you briefly head inland to circumnavigate the Quinault Indian Reservation. In the south-western corner of the Olympic National Park you will find Lake Quinault. This area belongs to the Quinault Indian Nation. The area around the lake offers some magnificent hiking opportunities. In the area you will also be able to check out the World’s Largest Spruce, a 191-foot giant.

Continuing south for about 350kms on the US-101, you can head inland for a quick detour to Portland. On your way there you will pass by Cannon Beach where can go hiking in the Ecola State Park or have a look at the worlds 3rd largest monolith in the Haystack Rock/Tolovana Beach State Recreation Area.

Portland is Oregon’s largest city and is sometimes called the City of Roses. It is called this due to the large number of rose gardens to be found here, the most prominent of which is the International Rose Test Garden found in Washington Park. There are a few other garden attractions as well such as the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, the Chinese Classical Garden and a few others. Some non-horticultural based attractions include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Velveteria: Museum of Velvet Paintings.

Just 80kms south of Portland is the city of Salem, the capital of Oregon. This isn’t the same Salem of Witch trial fame but it definitely has character of its own. Be sure to check out eh Capitol Building and if you have time the Mission Mill Museum.

To get back onto the Pacific Coast Route after that little detour you will need to head south for about 30 kms before turning west at the town of Albany and then when you get to the US 101 turn south once again. After about 30kms you will arrive at Cape Perpetua.

This area along the Oregon coast has vast stretches of national forests, state parks, and spectacular viewpoints. The highlight of this area is probably Cape Perpetua with its high concentration of beautiful sights. The Siuslaw National Forest visitors centre is one of these, and from here you can head out to explore Spouting Horn and the Devil’s Churn.

Continuing south you will continue to past many national parks, any of which are worth visiting. Crossing the border into California after about 300kms. When you get to California you many more national parks and there is also the Yurok Indian Reservation which runs along the Klamath River.

In this area you can drive through the Avenue of the Giants. This is part of the US101 that runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There are a number of nice sights worth visiting such as the Immortal Tree, which is a 950 year old Redwood that is over 76 metres tall (it is called Immortal because it has survived many recent natural disasters).

Driving on again your next major stop on the US 101 would be San Francisco some 350 kms later. San Francisco is one of the most famous cities on the west coast, it is known for its liberal culture and as the gay capital of the USA. You will get to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge on your way into the city. As you pass over the bridge you should be able to see Alcatraz on your left which is definitely worth a visit. Other attractions in the city include the iconic Transamerica Pyramid, Fort Point, the Coit Tower, the Presidio of San Francisco, and many other sights.

You will also have the opportunity for a detour on Highway 80 to go visit Sacramento. Sacramento was founded in 1849 after there was a major gold rush in the area. There are a few nice buildings worth checking out such as the Ziggurat, and there is also Old Sacramento which has all the museums dealing with the Gold Rush era.

Continuing south from San Francisco you can pass through San Jose. San Jose is sometimes called the capital of Silicon Valley, being home to such big firms as Cisco, Ebay, and Adobe, the area is a real Mecca for IT people.

If you keep driving south on the US 101 towards Santa Barbara, you will have the opportunity to give a quick visit to Hearst Castle, which is located about 30kms off US 101 near the coast. This palatial estate was built to resemble a Spanish Cathedral and it is now a National Historic Landmark, open to the public.

200kms further to the south you will arrive at Santa Barbara. This area is a popular get away spot for people from Los Angeles who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. This, along with the large number of tourist resorts has led to Santa Barbara to sometimes be called the American Riviera. In addition to the many fine beaches and other activities, the city has many museums and other sights that are worth visiting.

Leaving Santa Barbara behind you can get back on the US 101; you will arrive in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is definitely best known for Hollywood Boulevard and Beverly Hills. In addition to these two, you might also like to visit Rodeo Drive to do a little window shopping, take a drive down Mulholland Drive, or any of the many museums located throughout the city.

And finally onto San Diego, this is the last stretch and is only about 200kms from LA. On the way down you might be passing through Anaheim, where you can go visit Disneyland.

San Diego is located very close to the border with Mexico, its just 30kms from Tijuana. This is a great city to area to rest and relax after this epic journey. There are many beaches, surfing spots, sailing and boating opportunities, hiking and biking trails, golf courses and whale watching spots in the area. There are many more attractions worth visiting in the city as well.

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