The western part of the United States is home to expansive forests, huge mountains, and beautiful lakes and rivers. What better way to explore all these natural wonders then by packing up the car for a road trip? When you’re traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles, there is definitely going to be some stops along the way. We recommend taking a couple of days to make this long journey and really taking advantage of all there is to see and do while you’re out west.
We’ve highlighted some amazing places to get out of the car and visit while on your way from Seattle to LA, so pack your bags, fill up the gas tank, get your map and let’s get this road trip started!
305 Harrison St. | Seattle, WA | chihulygardenandglass.com/
Whether you are a big fan of art, or just want to see something a little out of the ordinary, consider stopping at the Chihuly Garden and Glass while you have some time to explore Seattle. This internationally renowned artist is a master in glass blowing, and his designs are in art museums all over the world. People love to admire how he is able to bend color and form into painstakingly created sculptures.
Visitors are so impressed with this museum that it is often listed as one of the must-see locations in Seattle-- second only to the Space Needle! Not only can you walk through the center and the gardens to admire his work, but you can often view a glass blowing demonstration as well!
39000 State Route 706 E | Ashford, WA | www.nps.gov
Just a short drive out of Seattle and and you’ll find yourself up close with the impressive Mt. Rainier-- which is very visible in Seattle as it rises 14,410 ft above sea level! Here you can learn all about this active volcano and the surrounding glaciers, forests, and meadows. Depending on your ability, there are all kinds of trails you can hike to get an even closer view of this majestic peak. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for native animals on your walk as well. The weather can change suddenly, so if you plan to do a hike, make sure you’re prepared!
This is such a popular place to visit because the rangers and staff are incredibly helpful, and the visitor’s center is full of information regarding the history of the mountain and the surrounding park.
3029 Spirit Lake Highway | Castle Rock, WA | parks.state.wa.us/
Before leaving Washington, stop by the Mount St. Helen’s popular visitor’s center to learn all about this once dormant volcano, as well as what changes the surrounding environment underwent after its eruption in 1980. Visitors to the center find the staff very helpful, who engage with people to help them understand the history of the volcano, as well as the science behind the ecological impact that the eruption caused in the area.
Although the mountain is over 30 miles away, there are fantastic views from the center, and even walking trails so you can capture some photos of the mountain as well as the wildlife in the area. There is even a seismograph that accurately tracks the current seismicity of the volcano!
Cannon Beach, OR | traveloregon.com/
As you enter into Oregon on your journey south, make sure you head for the scenic coast and stop at the popular town of Astoria to visit Cannon Beach. Astoria is a quaint sea-side town, and due to its picturesque nature, has been the backdrop for many popular films, including The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, and Free Willy. You can visit some locations made famous by the movies, or just enjoy the local shops and dining.
One place that should definitely be on the list of sites to see is Cannon Beach. Here on this beautiful and sweeping beach you can put your toes in the (cold!) surf and gaze out at the endless Pacfic horizon. Haystack Rock and Tillamook lighthouse are recommended stops by visitors, and be sure to bring your camera!
611 SW Kingston Ave. | Portland, OR | japanesegarden.org/
The Japanese have a concept of “forest bathing,” which means taking a walk through a wooded area to undergo the restorative effects of nature and stillness. This is exactly what you can expect that this serene garden located in Portland. Portland is a fun and interesting city in and of itself, and perhaps you’ll want to spend a day or two here while on your trip. The Japanese Garden should also be on your list of things to see, so you can fully take in how beautiful the natural scenery really is.
In addition to the garden, there are also many cultural activities, performances, and other events throughout the year onsite for visitors to experience. Come here to feel an extra dose of peace and serenity!
Ashland, OR | blm.gov/
Before you head out of Oregon, there is one more place of stunning natural beauty that is a must-see. Stop over at this national monument, which is the crossroads of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges. This federally protected area is home to some amazing biological, historical, and geological wonders, and is worth your time exploring! Here you can feel free to roam the area, either on foot, or where vehicles are allowed.
There are some unprecedented opportunities for wildlife viewing, as eagles, deer, bears, and other mammals all call this land home. Snowmobiling is also a popular activity here, so if you’ve never done it before, consider trying it out here!
5001 Northstar Dr. | Truckee, CA | northstarcalifornia.com/
As you cruise along through northern California, your road trip should most certainly take you in the direction of Lake Tahoe, which is the largest alpine lake in North America. The views of this lake are stunning, and there is definitely a lot to do while you’re there. Many visitors come to Tahoe for the unbeatable skiing and snowboarding, and if this sounds like you, you’ll want to check out the Northstar California Resort. After a day on the slopes, make sure to enjoy a bite at their famous Bourbon Pub!
Visitors love that it’s one of the few ski resorts in the area that cater to all levels of snowboarders, and have different courses depending on level of skill. They also appreciate its family-friendly appeal of this place as well as the great slopes, and the helpful and courteous staff members.
Bodie Rd. & Bypass Rd. | Bodie, CA | parks.ca.gov/Bodie/
This interesting ghost town is located in Bodie State Historic Park and was once a part of the booming gold rush of the 19th century. This town once boasted a population of over 10,000 people, but today it still stands as it did when the last inhabitants left. You can take a tour of the town or explore on your own if you choose. There is also the option to tour the Stamp Mill, which was where the gold found here was extracted from the quartz.
This is an amazing opportunity to step back in time, and learn how the people of this town lived their everyday lives. Everyone who visits seems to suggest taking a couple of hours at least or even half a day to explore. Certain times of year there are even ghost walks and tours, because a town like this is certain to have some resident ghosts!
Village Dr. | Yosemite, CA | nps.gov/yose/
One of the first areas in the United States to be protected for posterity in 1864, this beautiful park is an extremely popular spot for tourists from all over the world. Where else can you see mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls on such an enormous scale? This park is also home to ancient forests of sequoias, rolling meadows, and deep valleys and caves. As a stop on your road trip, this would be a great place to explore during the day and then camp or get lodging nearby. According to past tourists, you could visit this place every year and still not see all it has to offer!
The must-see spots to visit while you’re here are Mariposa Grove, Hetch Hetchy, and Glacier Point. Although, there are many waterfalls and imposing rock formations you’ll want to see as well. Bring your hiking boots and prepare to experience nature on a completely new scale!
5021 W Shaw Ave. | Fresno, CA | undergroundgardens.com/
If you’re looking for something a little different as you drive through the Fresno area, you’ll want to stop at the Forestiere Underground Gardens. This interesting area was the dream of a Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere who was looking for a way to grow crops in useless farmland, as well as escape the blazing sun of California’s Central Valley. What developed over 40 years was a series of underground tunnels, rooms, and courtyards that hold fruit producing trees and vines that are still going strong today!
The tunnels are almost reminiscent of the Roman catacombs, and some of the tunnels go 25 feet underground. Each area seems to have its own climate control as well and can range in temperature, based on the needs of the plants and trees that are there. Visitors appreciate that the tour guides really seem to make this unique attraction just come to life! Make sure to stop by the gift shop after your tour as well.
107000 W Escondido Canyon Rd. | Agua Dulce, CA | parks.lacounty.gov
The Vasquez Rocks are 932 acres of interesting-- and hikable-- rock formations located just north of your final destination of Los Angeles. The rocks arrived at their jagged angles due to being uplifted eons ago, and now at certain times of day show their famous red features. This area arrived at its name due to the legend that notorious bandit Tiburcio Vasquez was able to elude the authorities by hiding out in these intricate rock formations.
Today, visitors like to come to this area to explore all the different rocky areas, as well as enjoy hiking, biking, camping, and equestrian trails. The center also has regular informational presentations on the local plant and animal life you might encounter on your visit.
125 Paseo de la Plaza | Los Angeles, CA | elpueblo.lacity.org/
Los Angeles is a huge city, and there are so many things to do, you might need a day or two to see all that you want to see. After visiting the beaches, doing some shopping, or maybe even stopping into one of the numerous fantastic dining options, stop off at where all those things got their start. This historic plaza is where Los Angeles began, and there are many historical buildings to tour and learn about. This area also contains the oldest structure in Los Angeles, known as the Avila Adobe, which was constructed in 1818 and is still here today.
In addition to historical churches, houses, a firehouse, and great halls, there is also a thriving market district where locals have been opening their shops to customers for over two centuries. People love the small town feel of this ethnic area, where there is no shortage of fun community events-- and the food vendors simply can’t be beat!
Taking a scenic road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles is a special way to see some amazing places in the western part of the United States. If you have a couple of days to spare, we highly recommend it! Where are your favorite places to visit along the road from Seattle to LA? Let us know in the comments!