The ultimate 1-month West Coast USA itinerary
If you ever want to plan an epic road trip: the US is your probably your best choice! It’s clear that it offers much more than just an interesting food culture: within a few hours you’ll travel from snowy mountain tops to the middle of the desert, and after the cosmopolitan city experiences you can get to the beach in no time to relax for a day. Not to mention the feeling of freedom a road trip gives you! To help you plan a road trip I’ll be sharing our one month itinerary along the west coast of the US!
Day 1: Amsterdam – Las Vegas
Exciting! After a 4 hour delay we got onto our plane to Las Vegas. Or, I should say Houston, where we changed flights to Las Vegas. Regarding booking your tickets: six months in advance apparently gets you the cheapest ticket to the US. I tried to stick with this rule and bought a return ticket for €620.
Day 2 & 3: Las Vegas
What a magical feeling… waking up in a gigantic hotel bed after a long day of traveling (24 hours!) with the sun shining through the window. Our holiday has started! We discovered Vegas by doing a bit of everything: a little bit of sightseeing in the casino’s, a little bit of delicious food (having burgers for breakfast, just because we could), having a bit of a gamble, melting away a bit in the burning sun. Vegas is a party, but a crazy party though, and after two days I had seen enough to know I wanted to move on.
Day 3 & 4: Zion National Park
Then it was time for the first real part of our trip: the part with lots of nature parks. We started out in Zion National Park for two days. If you just want to get an impression of the park and check out the highlights, one day should be enough, but we decided to go for a hike on the second day: The Narrows. Just ridiculously beautiful. After an intensive hike of six hours with worn out ankles we still had to drive to Grand Canyon for six hours… not really a smart choice. We were in the dark, in the absolute middle of nowhere, with no cell reception. So take it from me: don’t plan a hike and a long car drive on the same day!
Day 5 & 6: Grand Canyon
Bucket list material, that Grand Canyon: if you’re just after an impression, you can visit the bad boy in one day. But since it was quite the drive to get there (6 hours), we decided to stay a bit longer. The first day we mainly checked out the east side, the second day the west side. If you’re there, try to watch a sunset as well: the sun gives the canyon a truly magical color.
Day 7: Death Valley
After again a few hours of driving (the US is HUGE!) we arrived at Death Valley. Americans repeatedly laughed at us when they heard we were going there. Because who in their right mind would want to visit a desert? Well, um, people who have the nearest desert on a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONTINENT – that’s who! I had to drag Mr. out of his bed because he’d rather spend the day at the pool, but in the end he was just as excited as I was about the raw nature. The sun was setting while we were driving and the desert turned yellow, orange and red. It was gorgeous.
Day 8: Death Valley – Yosemite
It’s starting to become a bit of a cliche, but this too was a long drive. One where after half an hour we had to turn around because Mr. was having doubts if we would make it out of the desert with half a tank of fuel. Turns out: no, we probably wouldn’t have. Us Dutchies can’t believe it, but it’s true: you can drive through the US and not see a petrol station for hours. Isn’t that a bit dangerous? Yes, but I don’t think the US government cares. In Yosemite we were staying in a camp. This was my ‘gift’ for Mister, because he wanted to camp in Yosemite. It turned out to be extremely cold and very noisy. Did I mention I don’t like camping?
Day 9 & 10: Yosemite
Yosemite was amazing. What a huge park… it took us two to three hours to drive from one side to another side. By reference: it takes you the same amount of time to drive from one part of the country to the other part in the Netherlands (where we are from). We visited the waterfalls, Mirror Lake and we even went horse riding. At night we ate pizza with other travellers who were spending their holiday there. There was no wifi. This is normally enough to make me freak out, but it was so refreshing!
Day 11 & 12: Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe was supposed to be our moment of relaxing after visiting nature parks and travelling for 1,5 weeks. A place where we wouldn’t do anything else than swimming in the lake, eating and walking around. Once we got there the hotels turned out to be super expensive, and the lake turned out to be too cold to have a swim. But geez, it’s so pretty there. In the end we still relaxed and we even went kayaking for a day.
Day 13, 14 & 15: San Fransisco
From Lake Tahoe it’s only a short drive to San Francisco, where we spent almost three full days with wandering through the city, cycling on the Golden Gate bridge and getting some fresh air at the beach.
Day 16: Big Sur
The day after we had another long drive ahead, but this time the drive itself was our goal: Big Sur. Big Sur is seen as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. I can confirm it’s definitely a jaw dropping drive with rough coast lines, impressive valleys and at the end even manatees!
Day 17 & 18: Santa Barbara
After Big Sur it was time to really relax: Santa Barbara. My family in the US won’t stop talking about what a nice city Santa Barbara is, so I decided it would be the perfect place for us to unwind. We didn’t do anything else than wandering around at the pier and the beach, driving around for a bit and lying by the pool. Bliss.
Day 19, 20 & 21: Los Angeles
From all the cities we’ve visited, Los Angeles was definitely my favorite. I had been there before and knew exactly what to expect. It is not a city with lots of sightseeing, but it’s full of completely different neighborhoods which all have something to offer. We laughed at the sadness of the Walk of Fame, drove through the hills and the neighborhoods full of villas, hung around at the skate park at Venice Beach and spent a day at Universal Studios. I absolutely loved Los Angeles.
Day 22 – 28: Vista/San Diego
Our last week in the US we spent with family in southern California. Our first night we were just outside of Anaheim and the other nights we were in Vista. Our week consisted mostly of having breakfast in the sunny backyard, family visits, dinners, shopping, driving along the coast, the 4th of July, surfing, whale watching and relaxing. What a great feeling to feel so welcome with your family. We felt completely at home.
Day 29: Vista – Las Vegas
The day before we flew back home we got in the car and drove to Vegas. In a sad casino somewhere on the border of California and Vegas we watched how Argentina beat The Netherlands at the World Cup 2014. The screen stopped working halfway trough and we were surrounded by Mexicans (who could drink our blood). Best day. In Vegas we booked a hotel that was a bit more expensive to celebrate our last night there.
Day 30 & 31: Las Vegas – Amsterdam
The next day was a really sad day: our flight back home. I felt a deep sense of sadness because our incredible trip had finally come to an end, and that’s something I still can’t handle very well (the end of trips). Because of the time difference we arrived the next day.
We were traveling quite quickly on our itinerary, but apart from the fact that I’d love to have had an extra day to drive from Zion to Grand Canyon we had a great holiday. Not only did we see a lot, but we still managed to relax too. We had a lot of quality time and created some beautiful memories. This was our route along the west coast of the US, I hope it’s been useful!
What would you like to see during a US road trip?