We've recently visited Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and now our Cruise America Trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. I can't say enough how much fun we had and how renting an RV is just an amazing option when you are bringing along 3 little humans! ; ). If you've never taken an RV trip or gone camping in an RV you can read all about that here and why it's now one of my favorite ways to vacation. But let's talk about the itinerary. This is a very important topic when you will be driving for two weeks straight.
We actually started in Salt Lake City, UT because we have family there. From there we headed straight up to Olympic National Park, then slowly worked our way down to Big Sur, CA. I'm going to be sharing some of our favorite stops and why we stopped there, but just keep in mind that this whole vacation is about the view and all the things you get to see along the way.
Olympic National Park
Our very first stop was Olympic National Park where we stayed at the Hoh Campground. This was honestly one of my favorite stops. When we got there I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was. There's a river that runs right alongside the campground that our kids loved splashing around in. It was a little cooler when we were there, but that didn't stop us from throwing on our rainboots and splashing around, skipping rocks, and just enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of nature. Our original plan was to stay here two nights, but we passed an awesome looking place on the way in that we knew we'd be driving by again so we decided to head down there. We try to balance planning and spontaneity when we travel which you can read more about here.
Our next amazing stop was called the Kalaloch Campground, and might've been my kids favorite stop of the entire trip. The campground sits right on the beach, but it also has amazing sites with these incredible curvy trees. Literally like a jungle gym made out of trees. My kids were in pure heaven, and when we wanted to take a stroll on the beach it was just a few steps away.
When you are up in this area, you definitely want to make sure you are stocked up on food and drinks because there wasn't many places to stop. But this is the best part about having an RV, you have everything you need right where you are.
Seaside and Cannon Beach
This was our first stop after we crossed the Washington/Oregon border and it did not disappoint. Seaside has this gorgeous boardwalk, which is called the promenade. It's an adorable town with all kinds of little shops along the way. I definitely suggest stopping by Mo's to grab some seafood. We really did try to cook in the camper as much as possible, but some places we just couldn't resist. : ) Seaside also had gorgeous wide open beaches where the kids just ran and ran, which was greatly appreciated when you're spending lots of time on the road. We were able to find a very nice RV resort right across from Cannon Beach which was a great place to do some laundry!
My oldest son is absolutely obsessed with animals. Sometimes he's like speaking to an animal encyclopedia so naturally we had to stop by an aquarium like the Newport Aquarium. I'll be honest, I really wanted to go to the one in Monterey Bay, but the cost was significantly more, and after reading through the reviews we decided we'd give this one a shot. If your kids are in to animals I'd definitely recommend it. When you're doing lots of camping, it was a nice change of pace. They had plenty of parking for our 30' RV and we were able to eat lunch right there in the parking lot. Our favorite part was the "Passages of the Deep" exhibit which was a walk-thru tunnel surrounded by sharks, manta rays and other sea creatures. It was wonderful!
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Highway
This is a gorgeous stretch of Oregon. Here's the website for this area, we only stopped and got everyone out at the natural bridges because unfortunately there just wasn't enough time to see everything, but wow is it a gorgeous drive!!
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
We didn't spend the night here, but it was an amazing drive and we stopped briefly at a few different spots just to take in the breathtaking views. We also took opportunities like this to eat and stretch our legs. You can find so many hikes and trail heads on this road. One of my favorite apps to use is All Trails. You can search by an area, or just use the map feature to figure out where you are. You can use this to see pictures of the hike, know how hard it is, and any issues you might run in to. For me this is SO helpful considering we have 3 younger kids. I'd never want to get stuck on some hard trail with a 5 year old that I have to carry all the way back!
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway)
The Redwoods are seriously some of the most gorgeous things we saw on this whole trip. It's amazing how big they are and really put into perspective how small we are in the grand scheme of things. In this State Park we stopped to look at The Big Tree. The good thing about all these trail heads is there's usually good parking. There's definitely a few that are just pull off's, but we were lucky enough to find big parking lots along the way for our 30' Cruise America RV. I was a little concerned about that aspect because you can't just whip those around anywhere you want, but we really didn't have any trouble at all.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park & Avenue of the Giants
Humbolt was for me the prettiest part of The Redwoods. We were able to drive down the Avenue of the Giants, which is a slower, curvier road just off of highway 101. It's a little longer, but OH SO WORTH IT! Don't skip over this. Humboldt is also where we decided to spend 2 nights at the Burlington Campground. At this campground we were lucky enough to grab a spot right next to a little bridge and creek where the kids loved playing! There were a few hikes connected to the campground and we wondered down to South Fork Eel River where we let the kids splash around. I won't lie, it was pretty cold, but not too cold to get your feet wet and enjoy, granted it was very sunny while we were there.
We didn't stop long in the city of San Fransisco as our primary objective was spending time in nature. We did grab some amazing Thai food while we were there though! And of course we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. The architecture and engineering that went into that bridge was just a gorgeous result of some seriously hard work! If you're going here in an RV we found an amazing place to park and walk around and take in the sights of the bridge. It's right next to this old wartime historical site and my boys had the time of their lives running through there. It's like a level in a video game with stairs and ladders and little spots to hide. They burned lots of energy here!
By the time we got to Santa Cruz we had been camping the majority of the time. We were ready for a few of life's modern conveniences and pulled in to the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA. This stop was definitely a little pricier than other campgrounds on our trip (camping is pricey in this area in general), but it had SO many amenities for the kids and it was a very relaxing time for us. We got a spot that backed right up to this blob jumping trampoline type thing and a whole area for the kids to play. And with Cruise America you get a discount at participating KOA's so that helped with the cost!
Big Sur, CA is well-known for a reason. This is such a gorgeous stretch of highway. We were just in awe of ever turn on the curvy cliffside road. My favorite stop was this waterfall that flowed right out onto the beach. Let's just say if I was to ever be stranded on a beach and I could choose it, I'd choose this one! We ended up spending our last night here and staying in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Some amazing spots to see in this area are the Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and all the surrounding state parks. It's truly a magical area!
Tips for Taking a 2 Week Road Trip on the Pacific Coast Highway
On this trip we definitely stayed in lots of campgrounds and a few RV Parks. However we also did some boondocking. If you aren't familiar this is where you spend the night in a parking lot that legally allows it. When we were doing big parts of driving this was a very affordable (umm free) way to get through a few of the nights and save some money. We always did lots of research the safety of the area. You can also use the website Free Campsites to read some reviews on different places. It's a great resource when you are exhausted and just need a place to sleep.
With that said there are basically NO free places to camp in California. They have very strict laws about overnight parking, and while we did risk it one night because everything was full and we had nowhere else to go, I wouldn't suggest it. (Shh... don't tell anyone though!)
Which leads me to my next point - Make Reservations. We made a few, but we also just went with the flow a lot of the times and it can get a little stressful, especially if you have kids in tow. We went during a slow season for camping so we literally only had one night that was an issue, but if you go during the busy times I'm told things fill up quite quickly.
Rent an RV with a reputable Company
We felt so at ease renting an RV through Cruise America. If anything were to go wrong they gave us all the information we needed, phone numbers to call, and we felt very secure heading out on such a long trip. You can pretty much rent everything you need from Cruise America including personal kits, bedding, camping chairs, etc. All we really had to bring was our personal clothing and toiletries, and then anything else we picked up along the trip. For more Information check out this post which talks all about planning a 2 Week RV trip and how to make it successful!
To see more of Ashley's adventures visit her on Instagram @cherishedbliss or on her blog www.cherishedbliss.com.
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