Welcome to the Ultimate 3-week West Coast Roadtrip travel guide! The USA is one of our favourite countries in the world thanks to the diversity of landscapes, which amazes us every time. From big cities to some of the most beautiful National Parks… this country won’t let you down.
Planning a roadtrip in the USA can be difficult sometimes, especially when you have a tight schedule and you want to see as much as possible! But this 3-week roadtrip schedule will help you tick all the must-sees of your list and at the same time you’ll get to explore some hidden gems you didn’t even know existed.
If your boss won’t let you leave for 3 weeks, or for whatever reason you only have 2 weeks, the following itinerary might be better:
A 2-WEEK WEST COAST USA ROADTRIP
But if you have 3 full weeks and you’re not afraid to add up some mileage, this 3-week West Coast Roadtrip is perfect!
The best way to explore this beautiful part of the world is by car or by campervan. Although we personally opted for renting a car with t USA and sleeping in motels, renting a campervan can be amazing, too. The freedom of stopping everywhere you want is just the best feeling there is!
We have done this 3-week West Coast Roadtrip two times now, and both times we opted for an SUV (Mercedes-Benz GLC or BMW X3). It’s important to have a quality car that’s plenty comfortable because of the many miles you will be driving. While the higher clearance of an SUV was useful once or twice, it’s definitely not necessary and a regular car will do just fine.
For our hotels and motels, we always booked very last minute (like 8pm the day itself) and booked everything through booking.com, which always has great prices and an easy reservation system. We never had any problems finding accommodation this last-minute and for us the total freedom of booking our rooms this late was much more important than the few dollars we could’ve saved by booking months in advance!
WHAT DO I NEED?
While the obvious things like a car, a credit card and some cash come to mind, what you will definitely need on this 3-week West Coast Roadtrip is a pass to visit the National Parks, as you will be doing plenty of those. Luckily, the ‘America the Beautiful National Parks Pass’ is very easy to purchase. At the welcome booth of the first park you visit, you can ask for an annual pass. It costs 80$ and will give you and up to four people in your vehicle access to over 2000 sites! The pass has space for 2 signatures, so once we get back home for our 3-week West Coast Roadtrip we mostly give it to a relative or friend who’s traveling to the USA in the upcoming months and who can re-use it! You could even re-sell it to a stranger theoretically, although we’re not sure that’s allowed.
For additional items you definitely should have with you, we created a list of things you need for a USA roadtrip.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW
This itinerary is just an indication. Note that in every national park you can spend days or just a few hours, the same as for cities. This is completely up to you! Some people will want to do every single hike and some will only do the viewpoints and stay in their car most of the time. What we always do: choose one hike and do all the viewpoints. That way we have seen every major view and we’ve still done a hike!
If you decide to do some medium to long hikes, especially during summer, make sure to always bring lots of water with you!
WHAT WILL YOU SEE?
This 3-week West Coast Roadtrip will take you to all the highlights of the West Coast! Be prepared to drive each day, but don’t worry, it will be worth it. The views alone will make the drives feel much shorter than they actually are.
The trip includes the following highlights:
– Los Angeles
– Palm Springs
– Joshua Tree National Park
– Grand Canyon
– Antelope Canyon
– Monument Valley
– Arches National Park
– Canyonlands National Park
– Bryce Canyon National Park
– Las Vegas
– Death Valley National Park
– Yosemite National Park
– Sequoia National Park
– Napa Valley
– San Francisco
– Big Sur
DAY 1 – 3: LOS ANGELES
Let’s start our 3-week West Coast Roadtrip with a place you either hate or love and we LOVE IT! There is so much to see in and around Los Angeles: from hiking to the Hollywood sign, to the beautiful beaches of Malibu, the most luxurious shops on Rodeo drive and the vibe in the Venice Beach Area. Depending on how much time you have, we really recommend to stay at least 3 days in (and around) Los Angeles. We would even recommend to stay a full week, but on a roadtrip, you have to keep going ;-). PS: don’t forget to try Inn-n-out burgers!!!!
Just pick up your rental car at the airport and start discovering the city of angels!
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DAY 4: PALM SPRINGS
Drive time today: 2 hours – 130 miles
Today you will drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs. Spend some time driving around the 60’s neighbourhoods of Palm Springs to see all the cool houses and get an ice cream at Shop(pe).
Depending on how important accommodation is for you, you can stay in Palm Springs in a nice hotel, or drive towards Joshua Tree National Park in the late afternoon, which is a 50 minute drive and where you won’t find many good hotels.
READ: Things to do in Palm Springs (Coming Soon)
DAY 5: JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Drive time today: 6 hours – 350 miles
Today you will wake up early to start driving through Joshua Tree National Park. Stop wherever you want and don’t forget to take lots of photos!
Continue the drive towards Sedona. Make sure to drive through Prescott National Forrest, it might take a little longer than the fastest road, but the views and landscapes are beautiful! Try to arrive in Sedona right before sunset to see the sky light up (Sedona is known for its beautiful sunsets) and stop by ChocolaTree for dinner, which is an amazing vegan restaurant.
DAY 6: SEDONA
Drive time today: 50 min – 30 miles
Rise and shine! Sedona is full of incredible hikes! It’s hard to choose which one to do but we would suggest the following two: Cathedral Rock and Devil’s Bridge Trail.
Make sure to stop at Bell Rock as well! The views are amazing!
After a long day of hiking, drive to Flagstaff. In Flagstaff there’s this small bar where we always go, The Annex! The live music and the cocktails are amazing and the food is quite decent, too! If luxury accommodation is important to you, stay another night in Sedona, as you won’t find much in Flagstaff.
Budget accommodation – Little America Hotel
DAY 7: GRAND CANYON
Drive time today: 1h30 – 75 miles
One third of our 3-week West Coast Roadtrip is now done!
Wake up early (again) and have breakfast followed by a little walk around the town of Flagstaff. This will only take an hour or so, just to feel the vibe.
Drive towards Grand Canyon. Ready for a hike?
There are a lot of hikes you can do and depending on the weather (if it’s too hot, don’t take risks!) you can go for a long or short hike. Even if you decide to just do the viewpoints, Grand Canyon is amazing and you will definitely like it!
A hike that we can definitely recommend is the South Kaibab Trail! The views are incredible! Don’t do the hike all the way down if you’re not an advanced hiker because a lot of people don’t make it back up on the same day. We did only a little part of the hike and we both absolutely loved it!
Little reminder to bring LOTS of water!
Budget accommodation – Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squirre Inn
DAY 8: ANTELOPE CANYON, HORSESHOE BEND AND LAKE POWELL
Drive time today: 2 hours – 110 miles
Drive towards Page. This is the place where you can see the famous Antelope Canyons, Horse Shoe Bend and Lake Powell.
This place used to be so empty! I remember visiting this place over 6 years ago, there were no fences ruining the beautiful nature, ‘waiting lines’, or big groups… a lot has changed unfortunately! I used to be completely alone at Horseshoe Bend, this is unthinkable these days. But don’t worry, even with the hordes of tourists these spots are still breathtakingly beautiful.
Start your day by visiting Antelope Canyon. We highly recommend booking your tour through Antelope Canyon as far ahead as possible, because tours fill up quickly these days, especially in high season! If you get the chance, definitely do both upper and lower canyon! Just beware that Antelope Canyon is a Navajo site, which are not included in the national parks passes, so you’ll have to pay an additional entrance fee. The best timing is when the sun is at it’s highest, to see the light rays in the canyons but these are also the most crowded times…
Now drive to Lake Powell just to see the views, and if the weather’s nice and you like what you see, you can rent a boat for a couple of hours and just enjoy the lake.
From there, it’s just a 5 minute drive to horseshoe bend, which is absolutely stunning and just a very short hike from the parking lot! Ideally you’ll be here a little before sunset and watch the colours of the rocks change while the sun is setting.
Luxury accommodation – Amangiri (the most expensive resort in the USA)
DAY 9: MONUMENT VALLEY
Drive time today: 4h30 hours – 270 miles
Drive towards Monument Valley and stop at the famous Utah sign on the road! After a quick photo, continue driving towards Monument Valley. You will have to pay an entrance fee here as well as this is Navajo land. Only cash will be accepted, so make sure you have some $$$ with you! The 17 mile loop is a drive in Monument Valley that will take about 2-4 hours depending on how long you stop everywhere. It’s a 100% dirt road, but accessible with a regular car if you don’t drive too fast. Should you wish, you can also ride a horse in Monument Valley if you like! We haven’t done it yet, but it would definitely make for some stunning pictures.
After Monument Valley you will be going to a lesser known but VERY beautiful ‘small’ Monument Valley: Valley Of The Gods! Way less crowded and maybe equally as beautiful, it’s also a self-drive loop on unpaved roads that will take you about 1 or 2 hours.
After all this beauty, it’s time to drive to Moab, where you’ll be staying for the next 2 nights and more beauty awaits.
Luxury accommodation – Sorrel River Ranch
DAY 10: ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Wake up early (here we go again…) and have breakfast at Moab’s diner. Please do us, and yourself a favour and order pancakes: they are THE BEST we ever ate! (According to Laura – Nicolas decided the ones at Hotel Café Royal in London were even better)
Drive through Arches National Park. Like in any national park you can spend days or just a few hours, up to you! Again, it’s Team Hike vs Team Viewpoint.
We would highly recommend hiking to ‘Delicate Arch’. It’s only a 3-mile hike with 500ft. elevation changes but it’s an incredible one. Just don’t do it when temperatures are too high because there’s no shade at all! And make sure not to miss all the incredible viewpoints!
Depending on how many hikes you did, you can always choose to visit Dead Horse Point State Park if you have the time. Please note that this park is not included in the National Park pass, so you will have to pay an extra fee of $20. But similar to almost everywhere else, it’s definitely worth it!
Make sure to check out some of the beauty of Arches NP in our USA vlog!
DAY 11: CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Drive time today: 5 hours – 270 miles
Today we’re visiting Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon! For Canyonlands NP, we mostly did the viewpoints, which include a few very short hikes (10min) to places like the famous Mesa Arch.
Drive to Bryce Canyon in the afternoon and make sure to drive through Capitol Reef National Park, which has to be one of our favourite drives!
When you arrive in Bryce Canyon and you’re settled in your hotel, drive a little bit into the park to watch the stars, as it is one of the best places to do some stargazing together with Death Valley!
Budget accommodation – Bryce Canyon Inn Cabins
Luxury accommodation – Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (calling it luxury would be a stretch)
DAY 12: BRYCE CANYON & LAS VEGAS
Drive time today: 4 hours – 260 miles
Start your day very early, just like every day on this roadtrip 😉
Make sure to do all the viewpoints but you definitely also need to hike in Bryce Canyon! Seeing it from the top is a totally different experience than actually walking between these unique rock formations.
A hike that we can recommend is the combination of the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail. It will take you about 2 hours and it’s one of the most beautiful hikes!
Try to leave Bryce Canyon around 1pm and drive to Las Vegas, where you will spend your evening/night. To be honest, we are not big fans of Las Vegas but everyone needs to see this just one evening. During the day there is really nothing to do in Vegas, unless you want to lay by the pool (which you can do anywhere). So just one evening is perfect in Vegas!
We recommend you to just walk the strip and enter as many different hotels/casino’s as possible! Especially The Venetian is incredible! Oh, and try to get a table at TAO for dinner!
DAY 13: DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Drive time today: 2 hours – 120 miles
After a long night in Vegas, you will probably wake up a little bit later 😉
Try leaving Sin City before noon and drive towards Death Valley National Park. Make sure to enter the park at Shoshone!
Death Valley National Park is probably one of the most underrated parks in the USA. Because of Instagram, it’s becoming more popular but I remember visiting this place over 6 years ago and not seeing a single person all day!
Make sure to stop at: Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, Devil’s Golf Course and Mesquite flat sand dunes.
In the evening, sleep at Stovepipe Wells, in the middle of Death Valley if you just need a place to sleep. Do NOT expect anything luxurious! This is the real deal 😉 The only thing there is a general store and one place to eat, that’s it. But it’s one of the best places on earth to watch the stars!
When it gets dark, drive towards the Mesquite flat sand dunes and park. Watch the incredible sky full of stars…
Budget Accommodation – Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel
Luxury Accommodation – The Inn at Death Valley
DAY 14: SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
Drive time today: 8 hours – 450 miles
We now reached the last week of our 3-week West Coast Roadtrip!
Get up because it’s another early wake up call and a looooong day in the car! Ideally try and get up for sunrise and watch it at the Mesquite Sand Dunes right next to the hotel. If you don’t like to get up for sunrise, just make sure to leave your hotel around 9am and drive towards Sequoia National Park for the first 5 hours.
Sequoia NP is the famous park with enormous trees. While it’s not our favourite National Park but it’s definitely impressive! Try to do the following drive through the park: enter The Foothills, drive through Giant Forrest towards Grant Grove. This will take about 2 hours and you will see all the highlights!
After your stop at Sequoia, drive to Yosemite West for another 2 hours.
Budget accommodation – Sierra Sky Ranch, Ascend Hotel Collection
Luxury accommodation – Autocamp Yosemite (sleep in a luxury tent or an Airstream)
DAY 15: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Drive time today: 4 hours – 200 miles
Yosemite is a world famous National park and is definitely worth a stop! You don’t have to hike a lot to see the most beautiful views here.
Things you definitely need to do in Yosemite:
– stop at Tunnel View
– hike the Mist Trail (if you’re in for a hike)
– stop at Glacier Point
– stop at Yosemite Falls
– roadtrip on Tioga Road (inform yourself if the road is open, during the winter months this road is full of snow and so it will be closed)
After this exciting day, drive towards Napa Valley for a few well-deserved glasses of wine and a good night sleep
DAY 16: NAPA VALLEY
Drive time today: 2 hours – 60 miles
Time for some relaxing wine tastings after a busy 2 weeks!
Napa Valley might be the most famous place, but we can definitely recommend Sonoma Valley as well. Drive the beautiful wine country and visit as many wineries as possible 😉 Don’t forget to take a little stroll in the cute town of Napa in between two wineries!
After a day of wine tasting, have the designated driver drive towards San Francisco and settle into a nice hotel or airbnb for the next 2 nights.
Budget accommodation – The Metro Hotel San Francisco
DAY 17-18: SAN FRANCISCO
Time to discover San Francisco and there is so much to see!
If you don’t have lots of time, we definitely can recommend the ‘hop on hop off’ bus! I know it sounds silly but it can be easy sometimes to get around and see all the highlights in one day!
Definitely make sure to see the famous Lombard Street, the Fisherman’s wharf and of course Golden Gate Bridge! A nice place to see the bridge and take some pictures is from Baker Beach or Marshall’s beach.
Don’t forget to cross the bridge and head into Sausalito, which is a cute little town just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, definitely worth the visit!
Another must: go to Black Sands beach in Sausalito! The views on the city of SF are also incredible from here!
DAY 19: BIG SUR
Drive time today: 4 hours – 180 miles
Roadtrip heaven today! Start your drive down Big Sur, which is a very exciting drive and one of the most beautiful scenic routes in the world!
Because of all this beauty, you should definitely stop at the following places:
– Monterey/Carmel-by-the-Sea/17 mile drive/Pebble Beach
– Montana De Oro State Park
– Morro Bay
– McWay Falls (hike) /Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
– Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
You will probably stop along the way a hundred times because every view is so beautiful, but don’t worry about it because today you’re in no rush.
Budget accommodation – Treebones Resort Big Sur
DAY 20: SANTA BARBARA
Drive time today: 3 hours – 160 miles
Continue driving down the coast and end your drive today in Santa Barbara! Do some shopping and eat some amazing sushi at Arigota Sushi.
Budget accommodation – Marina Beach Motel
DAY 21: LOS ANGELES TO CATCH YOUR FLIGHT
Drive time today: 2 hours – 110 miles
This is the end of an amazing roadtrip! Drop off your rental car at LAX airport and off you go home!
Sleep in: Your own bed or… on the plane 😉