If you don’t have time to travel the entire Pacific Coast Highway, choosing a starting point in one of several travel hubs (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego) and venturing out from there breaks the trip into easily-manageable chunks.
This four-day itinerary starts in Seattle, a city where you’ll have no trouble filling two days of sightseeing. After that, it’s off to the harbor town of Port Angeles, the access point to the Olympic Discovery Trail. Finally, descend southwest through wooded lowlands and beaches toward the resort town near Lake Quinault for more hiking and a relaxing evening.
Spend two days in Seattle, a city almost entirely surrounded by water. Stunning mountain views from every direction are best spied from the top of the soaring Space Needle. Explore rock ’n’ roll history at the Frank Gehry–designed Experience Music Project (EMP). Then ride the Monorail downtown to Pike Place Market for lunch, shopping, and people-watching. Spend the afternoon exploring the city’s past (and underground with a guided tour) at Pioneer Square. Enjoy dinner in Capitol Hill and spend the night downtown at Paramount Hotel.
Seattle to Port Angeles
(82 miles/132 kilometers, 3 hrs)
Cross Puget Sound on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry (depart from Pier 52). Take WA-305 North to WA-104 West, crossing the Hood Canal Bridge to connect with US-101. Spend the day exploring tiny villages and rustic scenery. Tour the Olympic Game Farm or Dungeness Spit in sunny Sequim, where you can also stop for lunch.
Spend your afternoon enjoying spectacular panoramic views while hiking along Hurricane Ridge. Then continue on US-101 to end your day in Port Angeles. Enjoy a hearty dinner before spending the night at charming Colette’s Bed & Breakfast.
Port Angeles to Lake Quinault
(124 miles/200 kilometers, 3 hrs)
Rise early to continue your journey on US-101. Stop at the sapphire waters of Lake Crescent for an easy hike to Marymere Falls or take a dip in steamy Sol Duc Hot Springs. Plan on lunch in Forks, with a quick look at the logging artifacts at the Forks Timber Museum.
Then head for the highlight of your day: Hoh Rain Forest. Wander the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trails through a lush, canopied wonderland or stroll driftwood-strewn Ruby Beach, taking in views of its sea stacks.
Head south on US-101 to Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rain Forest, exploring more trails as time allows before checking in at historic Lake Quinault Lodge for a relaxing evening. Head for home the following morning.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip.