1 Week Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip (Oakland to Olympia)

Written By Sammi  |  USA  |  0 Comments

The Pacific Coast Highway is truly a bucket list adventure that offers arguably one of the best road trip experiences in the entire world. Spanning from Washington state to California, the Pacific Coast Highway takes visitors along rugged coastlines, through giant Redwood forests and past quaint coastal towns.

If you plan to do a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, then this post is for you. You will read about our own 1 week Pacific coast highway itinerary with information about places to see, where to stay, where to eat and other important details. We also made a map of our exact itinerary which you can click to see or read on below. You can adapt this itinerary to however you like and use it as a foundation to create your own dream Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

Our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

The PCH originally spans along the Californian coastline. However, it actually runs along two highways: the US 101 and the California Highway 1 to include Washington state, Oregon and California so the entire Pacific Coast Highway goes from San Diego to Olympia.

We unfortunately didn't do the entire PCH from San Diego to Olympia due to limited time. We drove from Oakland to Seattle so we got to see San Francisco, Oakland, the Redwood Forests, the Oregon coast and the Washington coast in one week. We did miss out on Big Sur and Monterey on the Californian coast but will save that for the next road trip when we have more days. The main goal of our trip was to see the Redwood forests.

Our road trip was the classic road trip. We drove and stayed in hotels. No camping, no off roading, no sleeping in the car. No excursions booked, just pure sightseeing and bit of light hiking.

We did our Pacific Coast Highway road trip in April 2022, when gas prices were insanely expensive. I will list how much we spent below for our Pacific Coast Highway one week road trip so you can have an idea of costs.

Which Part of the Pacific Coast Highway Should You Do?

Where you go, depends. If you have the time, you can drive the entire highway from Olympia to San Diego. If you don't have a lot of days, some people do just the classic Coastal Californian road trip, some people do Washington + Oregon + North California, some do just Washington + Oregon.

If you go up to Washington state, many people will start/end their trip in Seattle rather than Olympia since it is a very nice city with more things to do and see than Olympia. Plus the Sea-Tac airport is much closer from Seattle than Olympia. Likewise, you can start/end in San Diego or start/end in Los Angeles.

Popular sections are:

1. San Francisco to Seattle or vice versa

2. Seattle to San Diego/Los Angeles or vice versa (the entire Pacific Coast Highway and then some)

3. San Diego/Los Angeles to San Francisco or vice versa (just California)

Should You Go North to South or South to North for a PCH Road Trip?

You can do either, whichever one fits your itinerary best. However, I will say that if you go from north to south, you will be driving right along the coast as you'll be on the right hand side of the highway. Whereas if you drive south to north, you will be on the other side. You can still get great views but whenever you pull over for stops, it'll be easier to turn back onto the highway and you will be closer to the coastal views if you drive from north to south.

What Kind of Car to Drive for the Pacific Coast Highway?

We drove a Toyota Rav4 which was a lifesaver being a hybrid. Gas prices were at the highest during our trip so having a hybrid saved us a lot of money. We also had plenty of room for our luggage and other things as we did some shopping. 

However, you can get by with a sedan as well but don't get a convertible or tiny little speed runner. Some parts of the Oregon and Washington coast route are very curvy so it's better to drive safely and securely than zipping around in a roadster, especially if you're doing this drive in the spring, fall or winter due to weather. And since gas prices are still very high, you do want a car that gets good gas mileage so you aren't needing to fill up so many times a day and spending so much money on just fuel.

If you rent a car, you will have to do a one-way rental which incurs a fee (unless you plan to do the PCH drive two times). 

When is the Best Time to do a Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip?

The best time to do the Pacific Coast Highway road trip is during summer, June through August. The downside is that's when it is the most crowded. If you want to do the entire highway road trip with the best weather and less people, September is the best month. You will avoid any landslides or road closures due to winter weather.

We went in April and had classic spring weather. It did rain very hard on one day but the rest of the time, it was clear and dry, even in Oregon and Washington. However, temperatures were still mild, around 50s F and it was quite windy on the coast, making it feel even colder. Even though it was colder with one day of constant rain, we had a great time in April and went after spring break, so we didn't have any traffic or crowds.

What to Pack

It depends on when you do this drive but layers are your best friend. In April, we brought warm sweaters, long pants, t-shirts, waterproof rain jackets, long socks, a warm hat, hiking shoes and normal sneakers. I wore every single piece of clothing I brought.

Here were our staple pieces.

Samantha (me)

  1. Dakine Margaret beanie women
  2. North Face Venture Rain Jacket
  3. REI Fleece Jacket
  4. Kari Traa Rothe Hoodie
  5. Sherpani Cabo Travel Tote
  6. Puma Sneakers
  7. Merrell Hiking Shoes Mid WP

Yeison (husband)

  1. Arc'teryx Fleece Hoodie
  2. Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear
  3. Salomon Trail Running Shoes
  4. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
  5. Eagle Creek Wayfinder Waist Pack

We did not bring any hiking backpacks or camera backpacks as we didn't do any long hikes or photography sessions.

Other Tips

  • Download Google Maps to work offline. We did not have cell phone signal for long stretches of the drive, particularly in California by the Redwood State and National Parks. I downloaded all the maps offline, were still able to visit places and have navigation. (We had T-Mobile and service was sorely lacking). If I didn't download the maps to work offline, I would have not been able to navigate to many of the places we wanted to go.
  • Make a Google my map so you can save places you want to go and all your stops.
  • Fill up often. There were many stretches of the drive where we didn't see a gas station for a long time. This also accounts for bathroom breaks. Go when you can, don't just go when you need to go.
  • Bring your phone chargers, cables and battery packs because you will probably be using your phone as your navigation device and you want to it be charged at all times.
  • Expect your drive to take longer than planned because you will make lots of stops. 
  • I read a ton of Google Reviews to decide where to stop and where to stay. It was extremely difficult choosing which hotel/city to stay in since we had such limited nights but Google Reviews helped narrow it down greatly. Our post will help you too!

Day 1: Oakland/San Francisco - Trinidad (Patrick's Point) 5 hour drive


  • Leave Oakland, stay the night in Patrick's Point near Trinidad
  • Visit attractions around the Humboldt Redwoods State Park
  • Drive through Avenue of the Giants
  • Lunch at Avenue Café
  • Stay the night in View Crest Lodge

Stop 1: Drive Thru Tree (3 hours from Oakland)

Our first stop from Oakland was the Chandelier Drive Thru Tree. This is a road side stop (about 5 minute drive down from the turn off the road) and it takes you to a sort of park like area with a tree you can drive through. It's touristy and a little gimmicky but it was really fun, especially for Yeison's very first time ever seeing a Redwood tree. They have clean bathrooms, a large open green space, wooden statues and a small souvenir store. $10 USD fee per vehicle.

Stop 2: Lunch at Avenue Cafe

After a 3 hour drive from Oakland and about 30 minutes at Drive Thru Tree, we were ready for lunch. We stopped at Avenue Cafe in the cute little town of Miranda and had one of the BEST lunches of our trip. I got the turkey sandwich and Yeison got a philly cheesesteak, their pizzas also looked fantastic. There is an ice cream shop and coffee shop next door. 

$30.83 USD for lunch for 2 people at Avenue Cafe, $7.98 USD for ice cream at La Chaparrita.

Stop 3: Big Trees, Giant Tree, Tall Tree, Founders Tree

After lunch, head up north to drive through the incredibly scenic Avenue of the Giants, a road flanked by literally, giant trees. This scenic drive goes through old-growth Redwood forests of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Drive slowly and soak in all the views until you reach your next stop right ahead, to the Big Trees Day-use Area.

Here you'll walk the short trails to see the Giant Tree and Tall Tree. If the weather is good and you have more time, you can walk the longer Addie Johnson Trail.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Rockefeller Loop and Founders Tree as we headed back up north. Although we didn't stop here, another point of interest is the Chandler Grove, a very easy, short loop. To see the river, stop by High Rock River Trail.

All of these trails and loops are breathtaking beautiful so we highly recommend to soak it all in and go slow. Walking through these silent giants truly makes you feel so small and insignificant, especially knowing how many hundreds of years old some of these trees are. It really makes you appreciate life and makes you grateful for every minute you are alive.

All these stops were free.

Hotel for the night: View Crest Lodge

This hotel in Patrick's Point was super cute with standalone cottages, free parking, free laundry, free breakfast, Internet and a balcony. It was a 5 minute drive to the main market in town and some nice restaurants. Although it didn't have ocean view or beach access, it was very comfortable and cozy. The receptionist was really sweet and they also offered board games. 

One night: $126.50 USD

For dinner that night, we decided to grab food at the market instead of going out to eat. $40.11 USD

We also filled up on gas, $47.56 USD.

Day 2: Trinidad to Crescent City (1.5 hours)


  • Stop by the Prairie Creek Visitor Center
  • Drive through the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
  • See Corkscrew Tree, Big Tree Wayside
  • Check out Crescent City, visit the Battery Point Lighthouse, walk to beaches and see the Sea Lion Colony
  • Stay at Redwood Inn

Stop 1 on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway: Prairie Creek Visitor Center (40 minutes from View Crest Lodge)

Unfortunately day 2 was the day that rained a lot during our trip so we actually cut out a couple of stops, but we still had a great day. We had breakfast at our hotel and then left around 11 AM.

The Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is a detour off of the US 101 which every visitor MUST take. This drive took our breath away, even in the rain. The road runs parallel to the 101 but it goes through the actual Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. There are several places to stop along the way so do not miss this drive! This area does not have ANY phone service so remember to download your Google Maps offline!

Our first stop was the Prairie Creek Visitor Center to use the bathroom and check out their souvenirs. Yeison and I always like to purchase a refrigerator magnet from every destination we go to together so we were on the hunt for the magnet and anything else that caught our eye.

I had read that there were a lot of elk that live around the center and they were not wrong! Even in the pouring rain, there were a bunch of them right outside.

Souvenirs: $78.63 USD

Stop 2: Big Tree Wayside

Next, we stopped at the Big Tree Wayside, just 3 minutes from the visitor center. We walked like 2 minutes to Big Tree which was undoubtedly amazing to see. I had no idea there were trees in this world that were 1500 years old! There are also other short trails that crisscross through the entrance so we wandered a bit and then moved onto the next stop.

Stop 3: Corkscrew Tree

1 minute north is the Corkscrew Tree. After a 3 minute walk from the parking area, we came upon this really cool tree, aptly named due to the trees braiding up and around each other. Very cool to see!

Both of these tree stops were free.

Stop 4: Lunch at Log Cabin Diner

This was a quick lunch at a diner right off the highway. Typical diner food, nothing special but filling.

$33.50 USD for 2 people

Hotel for the Night: Redwood Inn in Crescent City (30 minutes from lunch spot)

Since it was raining so much, we decided to cut out the rest of the planned stops and check in to the hotel early, the Redwood Inn. This hotel is more like a motel, right in the heart of the town with a decent parking lot and friendly front desk lady. Rooms were basic but clean (no breakfast included). This was a budget hotel stay for $87.90 USD.

Crescent City

We checked in around 3 PM and spent the rest of the day driving around Crescent City. Thankfully it stopped raining around 5 PM. We walked up to the Battery Point Lighthouse, walked the Lighthouse Jetty, saw a ton of sea lions, watched the sunset and observed people attempting to surf at South Beach. Dinner was at Log Cabin Diner where I had amazing clam chowder, bread and salad.

$33.50 USD for dinner for 2 people.

Hopefully it doesn't rain much during your visit and you can visit more places on this day. Here were our other planned stops.

  • Ah Pa Trail
  • Redwood Creek Overlook
  • Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail
  • Klamath River Overlook
  • Crescent Beach Overlook

Day 3: Crescent City to Newport, Oregon (5 hour drive)


  • Leave California, enter Oregon. Byebye Redwood Forests, hello Oregon coast
  • Simpson Reed Trail and Hatton Loop Trail
  • Lighthouse and sealion beach vantage point
  • Stay at Ocean House
  • Dinner in Newport

Stop 1: Simpson Reed Trail (12 minute drive from Redwood Inn)

Hallelujah the rain stopped and the sun was out! It was our last time to see the Redwood Forests so we left Crescent City at 9 AM to check out the nearby forests. We drove to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park to check out the Simpson Reed Trail and Hatton Loop Trail. Both super easy trails, can take around 20 minutes each. At the Simpson Reed Trail, we discovered the coolest tree we saw during our entire trip. I know that all the trees in the Redwood Forests are huge but will never forget the feeling of walking up to this BIG guy!

For breakfast, we just grabbed some pastries and coffee from Starbucks, $16.60 USD and filled up on gas, $38.85

one week pacific coast itinerary simpson reed trail

This huge tree looks like it has toes - and I look tiny!

After a couple of hours exploring these trails, it was finally time for us to head to Oregon.

Stop 2: Driving Up the Coast to Oregon

We didn't do too many stops along this drive as we just wanted to cruise along and enjoy the views and each others company. As you cross the border, you'll start scenery changing from forests to rugged beach landscapes, jagged rocks and haystacks and crashing waves. Then as you cross the Oregon dunes, it is even more incredible to see this crazy contrast of beach on one side of the road, and then sand dunes on the other side of the road.

To stretch our legs, we did stop at the Lighthouse and Sealion Beach Vantage Point off the road.

Some other points of interests and places to stop are:

  • House Rock Viewpoint
  • Whaleshead Viewpoint
  • Natural Bridges
  • Cape Sebastian 
  • Kissing Rock (this was on our list but we zipped right by and didn't even realize)
  • Lunch in Port Ortford (highly recommend Golden Harvest Herban Farm and Bakery) or Pancake Mill Restaurant and Pie Shoppe in North Bend
  • Oregon Dunes (I was thinking about stopping here for a night but decided against it)
  • Heceta Head Lighthouse
  • Little Creek Scenic Point

Hotel for the Night: Ocean House

This was the hotel I splurged on for our trip. It was a small B&B with its own beach access, free hot breakfast, spacious rooms with balconies and free parking. The receptionist was incredibly sweet and they had fresh baked cookies and free coffee for us! Also a happy hour with free beer. The property was absolutely beautiful with gardens, sitting areas and a trail right down to the beach. I wanted to splurge on at least one or two nice hotels during our trip and this one was perfect for our stay. It was also just a 10 minute drive to Newport which was great as the hotel didn't have a restaurant.

Ocean House room for 1 night, 2 people: $193.81 USD

For dinner, we went to Gyro Guys in Newport, just a 10 minute drive away. Absolutely delicious and great service. $34.62 USD for 2 people.

Day 4: Newport to Canon Beach (2.5 hours)


  • Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area
  • Lincoln City Outlets
  • Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is a small but popular coastal town in Northwest Oregon. The beach is very long and is home to the impressive Haystack Rock, which is a seasonal haven for tufted puffins! There are lots of trails, coves and view points in this natural area as well as lots of cute souvenir shops, local stores and yummy restaurants.

Stop 1: Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area (10 minutes)

After a wonderful night of peaceful sleep, we had a delicious breakfast and coffee at the hotel, and I spent about 30 minutes watching two guys surfing. I didn't want to leave this beautiful hotel but it was time to move on. The first stop of our day was a place I had been wanting to visit for awhile, Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area.

Devils Punchbowl is supposed to be an old cave that collapse and during low tide, you can actually walk into the rock formation which was quite an experience. The area has picnic tables, viewpoints, a surf shop, cafeteria and winery. What a nice place to spend a couple hours as you can walk around the rocks looking in the tide pools to see sea stars, anemones and barnacles everywhere for a classic Pacific Northwest beach experience. 

Tip: The path down to the beach is not where the surf shop and cafeteria area. You need to go back out a bit and walk down to the right (with the Devils Punchbowl ahead of you) until you see an opening with a sign. There is not a ton of parking so you may have to park on the street. Please be considerate of the locals that live there as I can imagine it must get annoying in the summer when this place is packed with cars. Also please be extremely careful when walking on the beach and avoid stepping on any creatures.

If you want to walk into the punchbowl, you have to go in low tide. If you go in high tide, the water level goes all the way up!

There is no entrance fee to visit the Devils Punchbowl.

Stop 2: Lincoln City Outlets

Alright so I'm sure some of you are not doing this road trip to go shopping but if you want to do some shopping, the Lincoln City Outlets were a decent place to shop and eat. Oregon doesn't have sales tax so we very much took advantage of that! Along the way to the Outlet mall, you can stop at Rodea Point and the ORPD Whale Watching Center if you're visiting during whale season.

We had lunch at the outlet mall, $59.37 USD and filled up on gas, $35.08 USD

Then from Lincoln City Outlets, we drove to our hotel by Canon Beach.

If you don't want to shop, we recommend you to stop at the Tilamook Creamery to tour one of the most famous dairy factories in the United States. You can get lunch there and pick up some souvenirs/treats.

Destination: Canon Beach, Hotel Tolovana Inn (1 hour, 55 minutes from Outlet Mall)

Our hotel in Canon Beach was actually just outside in Tolovana Park. It was a 5 minute drive to the main strip of Canon Beach which is a super cute, small coastal tourist town. Our room was the cheapest, most basic room at the hotel but it was fine for what we needed. It was right at the beach where we saw the sunset and walked to the Haystack Rock, the third tallest intertidal structure in the entire world! This 245 foot sea stack was impressive to see, especially during the sunset with the sunset sky colors swirling around it and mirrored in the sand.

Room for 1 night: $111.77 USD

For dinner, we decided to buy food at the supermarket and eat in. Then we went to the town to check it out and we got some souvenirs and ice cream $54.37 USD for groceries, $11.50 USD for ice cream, $90.09 USD in souvenirs

Day 5: Canon Beach to Ocean Shores (3 hours)


  • Cross into Washington state 
  • Aberdeen
  • North Jetty in Ocean Shores
  • Barbecue from Ocean Shores IGA

Ocean Shores is a popular coastal tourist town in Washington state, it is similar to Cannon Beach but in Washington state. Besides the beach, there is a state park and wildlife recreation areas. It's close to Westport, a surfing summer resort town across Grays Harbor.

Stop 1: Breakfast at Lazy Susan, Cannon Beach Bakery, Crepes

Before we left Cannon Beach, we had breakfast at Lazy Susan Cafe which was delicious. We wanted to pick up some food to snack on the way so we stopped at Cannon Beach Bakery and then also grabbed crepes from Crepe Neptune since they looked delicious. $74.75 USD total for food

Before we took off, we stopped once more at the supermarket to grab some Pelican Beers which we really liked. $11.39 USD

Overnight: Ocean Shores (no planned stops)

We wanted to drive straight to Ocean Shores so we didn't really make any stops except for a bathroom break at a gas station. As soon as we got to Ocean Shores, we stopped at Ocean Shores IGA to pick up some barbecue from their deli. You can't miss this - it's seriously one of the best barbecue places around! They only sell what they have and they sell out fast so get there early.

On the way to Ocean Shores is Kurt Cobain's childhood home in Aberdeen, which is finally an actual landmark. The address is 1210 E First St. There is also a memorial "Kurt Cobain Under the Bridge Memorial" for something more formal. The house does offer small private tours.

Places in Ocean Shores to See: The Beach, North Jetty

After the barbecue, we stopped by the North Jetty to check out the views, checked into our hotel and went to walk on the beach to get some steps in. We also checked out a couple of surf shops in town for fun.


North Jetty

We picked a cute little chalet in town for $156.60 USD a night booked on Airbnb. 

Day 6: Ocean Shores to Seattle (2.5 hours without traffic)


  •  Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area
  • Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  • Seattle

Today is officially the end of the Pacific Coast Highway road trip as we were leaving the 101 to head up the I-5 to Seattle. Bye bye beaches, hello city!

Stop 1: Breakfast and Quick Walk through Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area

We slept in that day to take it easy as we were just driving to Seattle. For breakfast, we made coffee and munched on some pastries from the day before. After we checked out at 11 AM, we stopped at the Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area to walk the a bit on the beach and see if we could spot any birds. 

Then put our next destination into our GPS and said good bye to the Washington coast.

Stop 2: Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

On the way north, we stopped at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of my favorite places to walk and see birds as this refuge is home to many birds, even bald eagles thanks to all the protected estuaries. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier. We walked the entire trail out to the boardwalk and back, spending a good 2 hours here to stretch our legs. There is a $5 parking fee.

one week pacific coast highway itinerary nisqually wildlife refuge

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Although we didn't stop here since we weren't super hungry, the Medicine Creek Cafe is a great place for classic diner food and it's right outside the wildlife entrance off the I-5.

Overnight: Seattle, Hotel Max 

For our last night of our trip, we stayed in downtown Seattle at Hotel Max. This is a chic hotel a few blocks from the water with clean but tiny rooms. Seattle is such an expensive city and I'd rather spend more money on food and sightseeing than the hotel room. It was very clean and funky which was perfect for us even though the bathroom was the smallest bathroom I'd ever been in. I guess that's why they call it "mini full room."

One night at Hotel Max for 2 people: $113.78 USD

After we checked in, we walked down to Pike Place Market to grab some piroshkys, snacks and fruit. The Seattle waterfront is absolutely beautiful any time of the year. We wandered through the market and for dinner, got a hearty bowl of Pike Place Chowder, tortas and tacos from Los Agaves and gelato from Bottega Italiana. We found these places through a Pike Place food tour we did the first time Yeison ever visited Seattle and they've become our must visits whenever we are there.

End of One Week Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

And that was it! The end of our one week Pacific Coast Highway Road trip! We drove approximately 802 miles in one week, saw the Redwood trees, experienced the Oregon and Washington coast and stayed in a bustling city.

We hope this itinerary was helpful for your very own Pacific Coast Highway Road trip planning. I know there are a TON of places, cities and wayside stops to see so we hope this helped narrow it down a bit!

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