Seattle to LA (or not).

Old Mar 26th, 2015, 10:11 AM
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Seattle to LA (or not).

I'm from the east coast and want to explore the west coast. Will be alone. Blindly decided to start in Seattle and drive south to LA. Allocated 2-3 weeks. Ocean vistas calm and rugged, redwoods, rainforests, mountains, nice towns & people, maybe vineyards... but I also don't like places that could trigger anxious discomfort (like thoughts of possibly encountering a bear alone, or crowded tourist traps, rowdy drunks, claustrophobia-inducing tunnels).

Just came across this site (and particularly some very detailed responses from "Gardyloo") on similar trips/topics and sense that advice from folks here would be very valuable (and much appreciated). But many provided pointers seem date/weather-oriented and I didn't find a forensic approach for a April-May trip like mine.

I have one way booked into Seattle week of April 19. Nothing else is booked - not car or hotels or return date/place. (First surprise is that a one-way car rental is going to be more that I thought).

My initial research gleaned interest points of -
Port Townsend, Sequim/Dungeness, Olympic Nat'l Park, Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch, Lake Quinault.

Astoria, Gearhart, Ecola Natl Park, Cannon Beach, Neahkahnie Mountain, Cape Kiwanda, Cape Prpetua, Samuel Boardman Park

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Klamath, Praiare Creek Redwoods, Patrick's Point State Park, Arcata, Scotia, Humboldt Redwoods, Ave of Giants, Mendocino, Van Damme State park, Anderson Valley, Point Arna, Salt Point State PArk, Jenner, Sonoma Coast Beach State Park, Point Reyes, Bolinas, Mt Tam, Marin Headlands, San Francisco, Santa Crus, Monterey, PAcific Grove, Big Sur, Point Lobos State Reserve, Bixby Bridge, Lucia, San Luis Obispo, Cruystal Cove State Park, San Diego, La Jolla,

Oh yeah. And then there's Yosemite and Palm Springs.

So it's beginning to dawn on me that there's too much even for three weeks and wish I had someone to help me sort my desires/priorities and then help create an optimal (best bang for time/buck) road trip sprinkled with walks, hikes, meandering... I'm not looking to get breathless from exercise or fear, just from awesome sights and experiences.

I don't know the next time I'll allow myself this type luxury/experience.

Thanks (for even reading).
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Old Mar 26th, 2015, 10:58 AM
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Hi Rainshine,

I have a couple of recommendations for you. For the car rental, if you happen to be a Costco member or AAA member (it may behoove you to become one just for the savings) they will no doubt be your cheapest option for a one-way rental. You can look up their pricing online to see how it compares to your current figures. I tend to have slightly better luck with Costco. And, don't forget to recheck periodically as I almost always am able to snag an even cheaper rate as my travel dates approach, just by checking back. If you find one way rentals too steep, you can consider renting and returning in one city, and taking the train south to your next city/sight to see. The train runs a very scenic route from Wa to Ca.

We did a trip last April from SF to Monterey that you might find a few helpful notes from.

So, sights that I would pick out from your list as must do's. Point Lobos State Reserve - We spent a day hiking (and picniking) around and through this reserve (last April) and was the highlight of this area for us, amongst others (as you will read).

Crystal Cove State Park - our favorite beach in SoCal (where we were born and raised) and is still possible to avoid the crowds. Enter the parking lot at "Reef Point" (there is a Trader Joe's across the street where you can stock up on some beach food/snacks). You will love it!

Yes on Yosemite! The Grove of Giant Sequoias is phenomenal, and should be opening right around the time of your trip (we went in mid-April and it was open - dependent on snowfall for the year) Myself, I would probably choose to skip San Diego/ La Jolla / Palm Springs, or simply group them together for a separate trip if there is something you really have your heart set on seeing there.

Your Washington choices are good ones, but do come back for a summer trip to see Mt. Rainier - it is amazing! I love Port Townsend and other small towns like Poulsbo. Since we've had a warm winter you may or may not be in time to see the tulips in bloom in Skagit Valley. The Hoh is spectacular, rain or shine. Happy trip planning!
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Old Mar 26th, 2015, 03:12 PM
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>>Yes on Yosemite! The Grove of Giant Sequoias is phenomenal, and should be opening right around the time of your trip Oregon > NorCal > Big Sur > Yosemite > and out of SFO. I'd consider stopping there and not trying to squeeze in Palm Springs/San Diego/La Jolla.

More later . . .
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Old Mar 26th, 2015, 03:40 PM
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You'd need 2-3 months, not 2-3 weeks, to include all the places you list in your actual itinerary!

Why not just continue to research, map it out, and try to figure out which places are more important to you.

I've driven Seattle to Los Angeles but it was just to get there, so I did the (very boring) freeway drive all the way. I live in Seattle and was born in LA.

Some ideas would be to tour Seattle upon arrival, then FLY to San Francisco, and rent the car there to drive the coast to Los Angeles. Or other way around drive Seattle to San Francisco the scenic route and skip southern California. Like that.
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Old Mar 26th, 2015, 03:50 PM
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With your time frame, I'd assign more time for the Oregon Coast than Washington, and I think California definitely deserves the lion's share, if you want to go all the way down to la Jolla. If you are warm weather person, you also have a higher chance of catching sun there.
However, as the previous poster mentioned, the hoh is amazing and I wouldn't skip it.Washington and Oregon are both likely to be rainy or
foggy, but spring is a good time to visit the Oregon coast if you don't like crowds. It's been pretty warm in western wa recently, too; spring seems to have finally sprung!

A good place to stop in Oregon is Multonomah Falls. You can hike to the
top and it's beautiful any time of the year. I'd skip Astoria, it's not one of my favorite places, but Cannon Beach, Ecola, Gearhart are all beautiful. south of there, the sea lion caves are touristy but a good place walk around, and you
should check out the Devils punch bowl natural area in Newport, OR. It's definitely an awesome sight.

101 along the Oregon coast is definitely worth the drive, but I'd cut over to I5 for Washington as it would cut down on your driving time.

If you have time, columbia river gorge area is also beautiful.

Be sure to bring a rain jacket and clothing you can layer. It's been both rainy and weirdly warm in Seattle area recently, and you also might start a hike cold but heat up really fast.

Are you camping? Staying at resorts or motels? That might make a difference on your route. Some campgrounds may not be open yet. Attractions may also have shortened hours because it's not high season. It probably won't matter to you, but be sure to check the hours of anything touristy you are interested in before you go.
Also on any scenic routes, I'd recommend checking road conditions and Google actual traveling times. I've done the Oregon coast 101 several times and it always seems to take longer than I think it will. I feel like the average speed of 101 is like 45 miles an hour because you are constantly going through towns or around curves.

I'd make a list of the sites you really want to see and then how long you want to stay in each place and then Google map a few routes between each place. I did this with the trip I'm planning, and it really helped give me an idea of how much driving I would need/want to do each day. Then figure out how much time you have left over for meandering I'm a world class meanderer, and I know that, so I always build extra time in for my exploring. Only you can know that about yourself. Additionally, you didn't mention how much time you want to spend in each city, and I think that would make a huge difference on what parks you can hit and whether or not San Diego would be worth including. Good luck!
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Old Mar 26th, 2015, 04:05 PM
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Also meant to say, for all three states I think 3 weeks is the minimum! I wouldn't want to do your current list in 2 weeks at all. Washington and oregon together are at least a week and a half.

On interstate, seattle to San Diego is about 20 hours. I bet the scenic route is easily twice that, and you aren't going in a straight shot, anyway, if you hit outlying areas like Port Townsend, the hoh and Yosemite.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 08:29 AM
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Thank you cory/janis/suze/mouse for your responses. I'll reread 'em with map in hand. Probably with more q's to follow. But I'm so pleased to have found this site that has folks like you willing to thoughtfully respond. Later.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 10:22 AM
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I' m typing this response from the Pacific Parlor car on the Coast Starlight. Rather than a one way rental, rent and return in Seattle then take the Coaat Starlight south to Sacramento and take the YOLO bus out to the Sacramento airport (SMF) to rent a car in the eatly morning. By all means see what you can in Yosemite and the coast north of Monterey.
Return the car to SMF and then train againb town to Sabta Bartbara. Rent and return a car in SBA for the southern CA coast etc. rather than LAX.
I left LA this morning and will be home in Oregon tomorrow morning.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 11:25 AM
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Well, tough question. Your list of places is pretty long.

Just as a thought experiment, what if you did a big loop in the Pacific, touching Olympic National Park, Cape Disappointment, Ecola State Park, and then back to Seattle via the Columbia Gorge and the "dry side" of the Cascades? Like this -

Then fly ($100 or less) to San Francisco, get a car, and do a second road trip that starts by heading north through the redwoods to the southern Oregon coast, say as far north as Gold Beach or Port Orford, then back south and across northern California to the Gold Rush country along CA 49 (marvelous in the spring) and to Yosemite. Then you'd continue south to Palm Springs and LA. Like this -

Or, skip Yosemite and the southern Oregon coast in favor of the Sonoma/Mendocino coast, followed by the Monterey Bay/Big Sur coast south to PS/LA, like this -

In my mind it's all about tradeoffs. First, and I know this will probably offend somebody or other, but how much rugged coastline is enough? In my view, the Olympic National Park beaches, such as Rialto or Ruby beaches, are visually more exciting than most of the Oregon beaches. The coast along the Big Sur coast is just as spectacular as the coast in southern Oregon, and the southern Oregon coast is more spectacular than either the northern Oregon coast or the Sonoma/Mendocino coast north of SF.

Or, the giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite are bigger around than the coast redwoods in Humboldt County, but the coast redwoods are taller and in more impressive groves, plus they have the advantage of being available to visit this year, unlike the Yosemite big trees.

Speaking of Yosemite, it's drop-dead gorgeous, but one of the main attractions is the wonderful waterfalls that characterize the valley. But wait, there are several splendid waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge, as well as stunning vistas, orchards in bloom, vineyards, and all that, without Yosemite's crowds and without the long drive to get there and back.

So you need to edit somewhere, and I might suggest looking at places or experiences that would "stand in" for other, more distant or expensive places, in order to make more sense out of your route given the time you have. I'm certainly not of the Ronald Reagan "seen one redwood, you've seen 'em all" camp, but just to illustrate, one of these pictures was taken on the southern Oregon coast, and the other near Big Sur, 500 miles apart. Which is which?

This may or may not be of any help, but just raising the thought.
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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 07:44 PM
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You can't do all you want to do in two or three weeks. If you have not been to this part of the world previously, here are some modifications to consider:

Olympic Nat'l Park, Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Marymere Falls, Ruby Beach, Kalaloch, Lake Quinault and Quinault Rain Forest.

Mount Rainier and Columbia River Gorge

Astoria, Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, Newport, Yachats, Cape Perpetua, the Oregon Coast from Port Orford to Brookings.

Jedidiah Smith Redwoods, Del Norte Coast Redwoods, Humboldt Redwoods, Avenue of the Giants

Sonoma Valley and/or Napa Valley,

San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Big Sur, Cambria

Whatever else time permits

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Old Mar 27th, 2015, 08:39 PM
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A quick search on kayak showed me that cars from Seattle to Los Angeles were going for $55 per day while cars from Seattle to Portland, and then from Portland to LAX, go for about $40 per day.

So if you search a bit you might find some "hidden city" connection that will work out to your advantage....spending an hour switching off the car somewhere might save you $15 a day or $400 for the trip.
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Old Mar 28th, 2015, 07:11 PM
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If you are driving down I-5 from Seattle to PDX during April, take an hour and stop in Woodland,WA (exit 21) and go the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. It is a National Landmark historical house with a garden filled with many many different varieties of Lilacs, and the house should be open during that time period.
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Old Mar 29th, 2015, 06:49 PM
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I love Port Townsend but it might be sleepy in April/May. Could be a good thing? Still Fort Worden State Park is great (about an 8 minute drive from main street). Sequim can be done in a few hours (I mean you could spend a day as well) and the whole Olympic National Park area is beautiful. I think the drive to Kalaloch and Lake Quinault is also very pretty but long. We did it once heading to Oregon from Seattle. Gearhart is tiny, really tiny and I prefer Cannon Beach but Astoria is a fast and interesting drive through as it's at the mouth of the Columbia. I think there are nicer beach areas along the Oregon coast--including Cannon Beach, Cape Perpetua, Florence, Newport. I grew up going to Cape Kiwanda to climb the dunes, so I like it there too. The entire area is beautiful, you can't go wrong!
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