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West Coast USA Family Roadtrip Route

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Dec 2014; updated May 2023.

Planning a USA fly-drive road trip with the family? Read the route we took for a fantastic trip that takes in a lot of the West Coast.

Thinking of taking your family to tour the west coast of the USA? Here's the route we took for a fantastic fly-drive holiday.

West Coast USA Fly Drive Route

The idea of this trip was to show the kids a bit of the USA, things they wouldn't have experienced before, and take in some sights Mum and Dad wanted to see too.

As a family, we decided to see:

  • San Francisco
  • Yosemite and the giant redwoods
  • The Pacific Coast Highway
  • And Disney.  Though that changed!
  • Some rest and beach time. Travelling every day with a family can be tiring!

One of the great things about visiting California is that there are many very different things to see.

The Pacific Coast Highway - North to South, or South to North?

Bixby bridge on the PCH

The much-photographed Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as the PCH, is Highway 1 that twists and turns around the dramatic coastline on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Although you can take the freeway between North and South California, the slower Highway 1 is much more scenic and part of our route.

The important thing to consider is which way you are going to travel. Are you going to start in the South and head North, or start North and head South? This will determine which airports you fly in and out of.

The answer was simple: travelling from the North to the South would give you better views as you'll be on the right-hand side of the road, right next to the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco and Yosemite

We took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridget from the rec yard on Alcatraz

We took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridget from the rec yard on Alcatraz

It's possible to fly to San Francisco, hire a car, drive to Yosemite, and then double back to the PCH. This was an option we considered but rejected.

There's a lot of driving between the city and Yosemite, and you would have to retrace your steps if you wanted to start the PCH from San Francisco.

Instead, there's a much better option, not to fly to San Francisco at all...

Via the Dessert

Welcome to Death Valley

What a scorcher! Death Valley certainly was HOT!

There's plenty to see on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains.

Travel a bit further southeast, and you're into the California desert and Death Valley. Travel a bit further SE again (avoiding Area 51!), and you're in Vegas.

Remember that a big part of this trip was to let the kids see some very different aspects of the USA, and by starting in Las Vegas, we certainly were going to do that!

The Route

West Coast USA Roadtrip Route

West Coast USA Roadtrip Route (via Google Maps)

We had 16 days off work to fit it all in, and we saw many more things than that list above. The trip far exceeded our expectations.