One of the best road trips in the pacific northwest is a coastal Oregon and Redwoods road trip. Some of the most iconic images of the west coast can be seen on this trip and it is one of my favorite trips close to home. This trip is packed with towering trees, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful coastline. Follow along on this epic four day road trip down the coast of Oregon and into the California Redwoods.
In this guide you find stops for each day of the trip, optional add-ons, a packing guide, and helpful tips! I completed this trip in a Cabana Van during the spring and thought it was the perfect way to enjoy a dry camping experience and avoid large crowds. This is how I would prefer to complete the trip. There are so many great ways to do this trip so I hope this inspires your planning!
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Table of Contents
Map of Stops
The Pacific Northwest Coast is filled with epic terrain. Visiting in the spring is the perfect time for moody coastline and minimal crowds.
Day 1 - Coastal Oregon
Check out a list of stops along the way!
Stop 1: Haystack Rock
Haystack Rock is an extremely popular destination in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Located just off the beach is a towering stone that is widely recognized along the west coast. Even on rainy days, the beach is busy! Dogs are allowed off leash and are free to run and play with their owners and other furry tailed friends.
One of the coolest parts of Haystack are the tide pools that exist at low tide surrounding the stone. This is the only area your furry friend is not allowed. While visiting tide pools, be mindful that these are living communities and to practice caution. Never pick up anything out of a tide pool and do not step on any of the specimen that live in this fragile ecosystem.
The parking lot for Haystack is on the opposite side of the street from the beach, about one block over. It’s free to park there but parking is limited. They do have oversized parking in this parking lot. On sunny days it will be challenging to find a parking space! There are also public restrooms!
After visiting Haystack, be sure to stop in Pelican Brewing Company for a bite to eat and a refreshing brew!
Stop 2: Hug Point
Just like all coastal areas, keeping track of high and low tide at Hug Point is imperative. While a stop at Hug Point is still worthwhile at high tide, there is plenty more to see at low tide.
At high tide, the beach directly accessible after the parking lot provides ample space for exploration. There is a small cave off to the right that provides views of the entire beach.
At low tide the accessible beach area is much more extensive. There are more caverns to explore which provide unique views of this carved area by the sea.
The parking lot is sizable and has a pit toilet.
Stop 3: Cape Kiwanda
Probably one of the most picturesque stops of this day’s journey is Cape Kiwanda. Located in a small beach town, this area had a large beach with plenty of places to roam, run, lay, and play. Driftwood shelters and seating was arranged all along the beach area.
One of the draws to this cape is the large sand dune directly north of the beach entrance. Many people sled and shred these steep dunes. A short hike to various vantage points provides hikers a birdseye view of the shore below.
Dogs can play off leash here just be sure to pick up after them! There is a parking lot at the beach entrance that requires a $10 parking fee. If visiting this area, you may even get a chance to see a Dory boat. Be on the lookout! This parking lot is right next to another Pelican Brewing Location!
The downtown area of seaside just north of Cannon Beach, roughly 15 minutes away, is an extremely cute Pacific Northwest beach town. With cute boutiques, historic buildings, and niche restaurants, it’s a great stopping place. The city has been growing and undergoing some development so there might be some construction in the surrounding areas, but don’t let that deter you from stopping!
In the city of Tillamook is the Tillamook Creamery connected to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It is definitely worthy of a quick stop in for a short self-guided tour of the cheese factory, a bite of creamy ice cream or delectable cheese curds, and a visit to the gift shop for cheese and cow themed items for your family and friends. My quick twenty minute stop at the creamery was full of smiles, laughs and dairy!
Where to Stay
Devils Lake Recreation Area
Oregon State Park Campgrounds are elite. Whenever I am traveling in Oregon I love staying in their campgrounds because they are so well taken care of and have so many nice facilities. Some of the facilities included heated bathrooms, showers, and a sink for washing dishes. Devils Lake Recreation Area was no exception. Devils Lake had a large lake you could walk around and a boat ramp. While I was visiting they were experiencing a hydrologic event and needed to close different sites for flooding but kept open the sites that were in good shape.
Oregon State Parks also offer really neat yurts that people can stay in! So if you’re traveling by car and don’t want to set up a tent, you could always stay in a yurt!
Day 2 - Oregon Coast Aquarium to Natural Bridges
There is so much to see on day two! When I completed this part of my itinerary, many of the stops were improvised because they caught our eye along the way. If you see someone on the drive you think might be fun or cool STOP.
Stop 1: Oregon Coast Aquarium
One of my favorite aquariums to date is the Oregon Coast Aquarium. This beautifully crafted aquarium combines indoor and outdoor exhibits to share the full story of coast life. Providing visitors an up close view of estuaries, an immersive experience with open ocean, and live enrichment for their animals makes this aquarium a true educational facility.
I spent about an hour there and saw every exhibit. It was somewhat rushed but still worthy of a stop! If you do go to this aquarium be aware that you will need to go outside to see some of the exhibits and should dress according to the weather!
Stop 2: Thor's Well
Thor’s Well is a quick stop that demonstrates just how beautiful and unforgiving the rugged Oregon coast can be. A small inlet on the rocky coast, carved by crashing waves, has created a splashing pool for incoming ocean water. As waves come into the pool they explode upwards. A short trail leads hikers to the well where there is an overlook. If you are hiking out into the rocky coast, be cautious not to go too far out as crashing waves can pull you out to sea.
While visiting Thor’s Well be sure to stop in the visitors center across the street. There is a wonderful museum about the history of the land and there are regularly scheduled nature talks by park rangers!
Stop 3: Face Rock & Oregon Island National Wildlife Refuge
A quick and worthwhile stop down the Oregon Coast is Face Rock. This secluded beach area had inspiring rock formations and plenty of sea birds. This understated beach is a perfect stopping point to watch crashing waves and avoid large crowds. There is a short paved trail along the top of a cliff overhang where walkers can get the vantage point of the beach below as well as read information about birds and tide pooling on the beach.
During low tide, extensive tide pools are visible for exploration. Be mindful not to disturb these habitats as well as any nesting seabirds. During nesting season, disruption to nests causes significant stress and utilizes significant energy of the bird. While dogs are allowed on the beach, just be mindful around wildlife.
Stop 4: Prehistoric Gardens
A stop that most people make because of the life sized tyrannosaurus rex statue just off the road, Prehistoric Gardens is a must stop for anyone who enjoys dinosaurs and a little bit of fun. A quick stop off the Oregon Coast Scenic Route in an old growth forest is a short trail that weaves through life size replicas of famous dinosaurs.
Each dinosaur has a plaque that provides pronunciation assistance, meaning behind the name, and facts about the dinosaur. Follow the dinosaur tracks to each dinosaur and learn some information along the way!
This was a great pit stop that took about 30 minutes to complete. Might take longer with children. The cost for an adult ticket was $10.
Stop 5: Natural Bridges
While rain had finally subsided, the fog had rolled in so views were limited. Just a short walk from the pull off is a landing with views of the natural bridges on the Oregon Coast. However, what impressed me about this stop was the short trail past the landing.
It was 0.5miles round trip with minimal elevation gain. The lush forest was beautiful and was a great way to see a section of the Oregon Coast Trail. If you have a minute and just want to see a beautiful forest, this 15 minute walk is well worth the time.
If you have the time on day two, consider adding these stops to your itinerary!
I love cute coffee shops and Salt Coffee shop is a great one! Located in a small strip mall, Salt Coffee has delicious coffee in a small boutique. The boutique has gifts from local artists and cute areas to sit.
Oregon is known for having fantastic food trucks. Pine Dines is a small area with permanent food trucks and a large seating area. It’s a nice place to stop with food for everyone!
Another stunning pull off down the Oregon Coast. With a large parking lot and a tiny visitor center, Battle Rock is another quick stop for beautiful views.
Harris Beach State Park
Another fantastic campground, this campground had expansive views of the ocean. Each site had an electric hook up and plenty of space.
Day 3 - Enderts Beach to Fern Canyon
Leaving the Oregon coast and entering into the Redwoods was mystifying. The contrast between misty coasts and ageless forests made for a great day 3.
Stop 1: Enderts Beach
A secluded beach off the beaten path, Enderts Beach was a great start to the day. This 2.5 mile trail leads down to a beach for some tide pooling.
The short trail begins along the side of a cliff providing glimpses of the beach below. Meandering through coastal forest, hikers eventually emerge onto the beach.
With striking rock formations and impressive tide pooling, the amount of time you spend at this beach is entirely up to you. Whether you just want a quick look or are interested in spending more time exploring the area, the beach is almost entirely your own to explore.
Stop 2: Ossagon Trail to Gold Bluff Beach
An exquisite combination between land and sea, the Ossagon Trail is truly wonderful. Listed as one of the 100 Classic Hikes of California, it’s easy to see why it is such a beloved trail.
Beginning in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, hikers are immediately immersed in old growth forest. It was wonderfully encapsulating to be surrounded by such magnificent trees.
Starting to lose elevation, the descent to the ocean begins. There is roughly 1000’ of elevation loss to get to the beach which means that needs to be gained back on the way out. The trail is not very steep and the elevation is gradual. Reaching the beach feels so rewarding. It stretches for miles and there’s plenty of areas to explore.
Take your time going back up. I was again struck by the magnificence of the redwoods the same way I was on the way in.
Stop 3: Fern Canyon
My favorite stop of the day and honestly the entire trip is Fern Canyon. This small canyon trail is filled with cascading ferns. Walking between these impressive walls of flora it feels other worldly.
The trail loops through the canyon and brings you back to the trailhead, or you can explore the canyon as much as you’d like and go back the way that you came. The canyon can have varying amounts of water in it so be sure to wear waterproof shoes!
There is a day pass fee in this area of $10 and in the summer it is permit entrance only. During periods of heavy rain the area is sometimes closed due to the road conditions leading to the canyon. So be sure to check the day before. It’s a rough road and when the potholes are filled with water it’s hard to tell how deep they are, take it slow. There is also a stream crossing you might have to do with your vehicle during periods of high rain.
Where to Stay
If provided the opportunity, Gold Bluff Beach Campground is a small, lovely campground in Redwoods State Park two miles from Fern Canyon. The campsite only has 25 spots so they are hard to come by in the summer. The sites are situated right on the beach and are perfect.
The sites are remote and there are no electric or water hook ups. It is also not accessible to RVs or trailers. They do have flush toilets for campers!
Because the area is secluded and only accessible via a dirt road, check road conditions frequently before your trip because there are instances of road closures leading to the site.
Day 4 - Avenue of the Giants to Founders Grove
The furthest south Redwoods State Park should not be missed! I was encapsulated by the forests in this park.
Stop 1: Auto Tour
Upon exiting Redwood highway to begin driving on Avenue of the Giants, pick up a pamphlet for the Auto Tour. The Avenue of the Giants is a 32 mile stretch of road that runs parallel to Highway 101 and is engulfed in Redwoods.
Along Avenue of the Giants there are eight designated stops that tell the story of Redwood Growth, Survival, and Conservation. Some of the stops include a short hike. The pamphlet also includes a map, brief descriptions of each stop, and relative distances between each stop.
The pamphlets can be picked up at the north or south end of the Avenue. The first stop on the north end, Drury Chaney Grove – Stop 8, is considered one of the nicest trails in the park and is a must see. Even on a sunny day the tree cover provides so much shade it feels like you’ve lost track of time.
Stop 2: Humboldt Redwoods State Visitor Center & Gould Grove Nature Walk
I’ve always been a big fan of stopping at the visitor centers for both state and national parks. The Humboldt Visitor Center, which is a stop on the Auto Tour, has a wonderfully curated museum and nice gift shop. There is a small picnic area and restrooms.
Across the street from the visitors center is the Gould Grove Nature Walk. The nature walk is a great way to enjoy some fresh air before driving to the next destination. The short 0.6 mile trail weaves through old redwoods along a glistening river. The ground cover is a sea of clover giving the forest a vibrant green color. Be on the lookout for large nurse logs on this hike!
Stop 3: Founders Grove
Founders Grove is not a part of the auto tour in Humboldt State Park but it is a beautiful hike. Situated at the trailhead is the founding tree, the largest tree in the grove.
For $1 there are pamphlets to read for a walking tour around the numbered plaques on this trail. Within the hike the process of recycling life is everywhere. Fallen trees are providing nutrients for new growth and clearing a way for young saplings to capture the sun’s rays. This is a magnificent stop.
Coastal Oregon Road Trip Packing Guide
Your packing list will vary slightly depending on the time of year, but remember, coastal areas tend to be chillier and rain is inevitable! The following items should be on your packing list any time of the year!
For outerwear, a rain jacket is a must as well as an insulated jacket. The jackets below are jackets I love and use both for hiking and everyday use. If you’re doing this trip during an especially rainy time, consider bringing a second rain jacket as it might be difficult for your jacket to dry off between uses. Rain jackets are great for both rain and wind!
The shoes you bring on this trip should reflect the activities you plan on doing. However, the following suggestions are based on the need for waterproof shoes in a wet, rainy climate, wanting sandals on the beach, and believing that campshoes are a necessity. If you’ll be spending time in town and cities my favorite travel shoes are blundstones because they can also be worn on short trails!
This again will vary depending on the time of year that you complete this trip. If you’re hiking every day, comfort will be important. Whether you love leggings or hiking pants, tank tops or t-shirts, layers will be valuable all year-round.
Whenever you’re hiking along the coast or in temperate rainforest, it is essential that you’re wearing wool socks to avoid blisters and that you have a rain cover in your backpack.
Coastal Oregon and Redwoods Road Trip Tips
Road trips are my FAVORITE way to travel and site see. The following list is a variety of tips for a successful Coastal Oregon Road Trip but can be applied to any roadtrip you may take!
- Download the offline maps to the areas you’ll be traveling in. You never know when you’ll be without service.
- Print off your itinerary or take a screenshot of it on your phone so you have easy access.
- Create a longer list of possible activities than you can complete so you can choose in the moment! It makes your trip feel more authentic to how you’re feeling rather than regimented.
- Have a plan for wet/damp clothes. Set up a makeshift clothesline in your car for wet jackets and pants to dry.
- Screenshot the trail/activity name/city name ect. before you take pictures so you know exactly what the pictures are when you check them later. This is especially helpful if you’re making a lot of stops in a short amount of time.
- Check the road conditions along the coast the day before traveling. Road closures can change quickly during periods of heavy rain.
- Research hikes in advance. There are some hikes along the coast that require a permit.