Los Angeles to Portland: Road Trip Guide

A few months ago, I saw a photo of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon and told Bassam we HAVE to go so that I can frolic in a field of tulips. I had always wanted to visit the tulip fields in the Netherlands and had no idea there was one closer to home. I immediately started looking up flights and found that each of the weekends we were available the flights were $400 per person rather than $90. Undeterred, we decided to rent a car and go for an impromptu road trip. We left Friday afternoon and got back Monday morning, without missing any work time. We fit so much adventure into that short time frame that we still can’t believe it. We were majorly exhausted for the rest of the week, but it was so worth it.

Along the way to Oregon, we made sure not to make any pit stops unless it was a fun location. This strategy paid off. Even thought we drove 3,000 miles in the span of about 3 days, we didn’t really feel it because we were having so much fun. Here’s our guide to road trip from Los Angeles to Portland. You can be crazy and do it in 3 days like we did, but if you have more time, we think this itinerary will be a lot more fun!

Los Angeles to Portland:

Stop 1: Morro Bay

Heading from Los Angeles to Portland, there are SO many fun places to stop almost right away. There’s Ojai, Santa Barbara, SLO, and much more. We decided to stop in Morro Bay, mainly because we were starving and really needed a pit stop at that point. We had never been to Morro Bay and so it seemed like a great option. Morro Bay is an idyllic waterfront town. It’s very quiet with friendly residents and beautiful views. We spent about an hour exploring the shops, feasting on freshly caught fish and eating salt water taffy.

Stop 2: San Francisco

San Francisco is a must stop on your LA –> Oregon journey. It’s also a good spot to sleep for the night if you’re not planning on driving in one straight shot. We’ve been to San Francisco many times and usually do the more typical SF things like Little Italy, Chinatown, and Union Square. This time, we wanted to get a bit more of a nature fix and I was itching to check out a spot I had seen on Instagram.

We hiked the mild 2 mile Kirby Cove trail which leads to a cove on the beach with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Locals will often hang a swing there and people line up to swing over the Golden Gate Bridge and take an Instagram worthy shot. Park rangers will take the swing down whenever they discover it’s there, so it’s not guaranteed it’ll be there if you go. We got very lucky and the swing was there, but we heard it was taken down later that day. To find the swing for yourself, go to the Marin Headlands and park wherever you find parking. Walk down to Battery Spencer and look for the “Kirby Cove” trail sign. Follow the trail to the beach. If the swing is there, you’ll find it on the left side of the beach.

Although we originally hiked Kirby Cove for an Instagram photo, it ended up being our favorite thing we’ve ever done in SF. The entire walk was lined with the tallest trees you can imagine and views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The air smelled so piney and fresh with just a hint of sea salt. Ahh we couldn’t get enough of that air. We felt so alive! This is why we love Instagram. We are often motivated to go places we might not necessarily go and we end up having beautiful experiences in the process.

Stops 3 and 4: Olive Pit in Corning, California and In-N-Out in Redding, California

At this point we were determined to make it to Oregon without any stops. This of course didn’t happen as we needed a restroom break and more food. These stops were perfect for us because they met our needs, were very clean, and still on the fun side.

  • Olive Pit in Corning, California: there are not a lot of options along this stretch of the road. Olive Pit was perfect for us because it’s open late and has VERY clean restrooms. {This is an important requirement for me}. They also have tons of flavored olive oils and vinegars. As we were stretching our legs, we had fun trying out the different oils and vinegars, as well as perusing their other gourmet pantry foods and kitchen supplies.
  • In-N-Out in Redding, California: This is the last In-N-Out you’ll find on the way to Portland. We absolutely love having In-N-Out on road trips and refuse to eat any other fast food. If you’ve never had In-N-Out, it’s a California MUST!

Arrival at destination:

Portland, Oregon

Whoohoo, we made it to Portland! There’s SO much to do in Portland that it would be ideal if you had a few days {more time than we had}. Here are the top 4 things we enjoyed:

1. The food

We were surprised by how amazing the food is in Portland. We actually thought it was better than the food in NYC and that’s a high compliment! We wished we had more time to eat, but here are our top recs based on what we had:

  • Tasty n Alder {best breakfast we’ve ever had}
  • SuperBite {especially amazing if you love making a dinner out of tapas}
  • Ava Gene’s {try all the salads and the fresh cocktails!}

2. Powell’s City of Books:

This bookstore is every book lover’s dream! I could have spent a whole day in here if we had time. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have more time to spend here because I probably would’ve spent an entire paycheck. The store is 1.5 acres!! Can you imagine how many books are stuffed in here? It’s no wonder they call it a “city”. Each genre has a giant section dedicated to it and it’s pretty amazing how large each section is. I love bookstores that provide bookseller recommendations and Powell’s has recommendations all over the store in every single section. There’s also a whole section of recommended new books that are being sold at used prices. There’s also a used books section. And there’s a floor where you can publish your own book and sell it! Basically anything book related you can dream of! I seriously could live here.

3. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden:

Oh this garden is so serene and so pretty. It’s 9 acres of beautiful flowers, ponds, and bridges. It’s so pretty that many people get married here. We could not stop taking pictures, everywhere we looked was just so pretty. It’s such a perfect spot for a romantic walk or just to come and sit for some alone time reflection.

4. Forest Park

This probably isn’t the BEST hike near Portland, the Multnomah-Wahkeena hike probably is, but we didn’t have much time and so this is what we did. Even though it wasn’t our first choice, we absolutely loved it! Forest Park is 5,100 acres of forest in the middle of a city. We thought this was so cool! You’re right in the middle of a city and yet it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. At certain points of the hike you can actually see the city and it’s surprising because it feels so unexpected. The forest is so lush and green. I felt like little fairies were going to come dancing out of the trees at any given moment.

Portland to Los Angeles:

Stop 1: Eugene, Oregon

On our way back to LA, we stopped a bit earlier in the journey and grabbed dinner in Eugene. We ate at the Board Restaurant and loved everything we tried.

Stop 2: California Coastline

We decided to drive along the California coastline on our way home, even if it did add a bit extra time to our journey. The views were so beautiful the whole way that it made it so worth it. Here’s where we stopped:

1. Pigeon Point Lighthouse

We had never seen a lighthouse in real life, so this was high on our list. It was extremely windy when we stopped, so it wasn’t too enjoyable, but it was still cool to see a lighthouse. There’s a working hostel in the lighthouse, so you can spend the night if needed. Super cool!

2. Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a fun and laid back beach town. We probably spent too much time here that we didn’t have, but it was so fun and we really want to go back. Here’s what we did:

  • Mystery Spot:

Mystery spot is a gravitational anomaly located in the middle of a forest. The 45 minute tour takes you though a few real life optical illusions. It was a bit silly, but fun. Not worth it if you’re limited on time.

  • Downtown Santa Cruz

Downtown Santa Cruz was really fun to walk around. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, and shops. We had coffee, checked out a few stores, and grabbed a bite to eat.

  • Hidden Peak Teahouse

Hidden Peak Teahouse is in Downtown Santa Cruz, so maybe it’s a little redundant to list it on it’s own, but that’s how much we enjoyed it. The tearoom is strictly digital free. That means no phone, under any circumstances. This was initially really difficult for us, but after awhile we relaxed, enjoyed our tea, and had great conversation with each other. Tea is served in a traditional  style. It was very meditative to pour the tiny cups of tea and brew it in the ceremonial style. The whole experience made us want to learn more about tea traditions.

Arrival at destination: Los Angeles, California

Well, we made it back home! Can you believe how much we fit into our short trip? We still can’t believe it! We had a wonderful adventure and can’t wait for the next one.

We hope our experience inspires you to go on your own road trip and try to fit as much adventure as possible into one weekend!

Don’t forget to check out our post on the Tulip Festival! {aka, the whole reason for this crazy trip!}

16 Comments

    • Aw thank you Keegan! We looove California Coastline road trips too! There is so much to do in this amazing state. You can never get bored!

    • Oh you gotta do an SF to Oregon road trip! It’s not that far from you and so gorgeous! You would take incredible photos I’m sure!

    • Thank you! You totally should, it was so much fun! If you can swing an extra day or two, it’ll be a little less exhausting!

  1. I am going to have to do that hike and search for the swing the next time I am in SF. I wish the rangers would just leave it alone! Your pictures there are amazing!

    • Thanks Anisa! I know, right? They spoil all the fun! I think they worry it’ll be a liability for them. Let me know if it’s there when you go!

  2. This is incredible! I’ve always wanted the road trip the California coast, but I never really thought about anything north. This sounds like the perfect itinerary.

    • Road trips along the California Coast are always a good idea! There’s so much to do in California that you really can’t go wrong, but we did really love driving up North and experiencing a bit of PNW.

  3. Great run down of your trip, Lena and Bassam! I may have to steal this itinerary for a future trip. Never been to Portland and now I’m excited about the food!

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