Los Angeles to Portland Road Trip
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- Los Angeles to Monterey
- Monterey to Mendocino
- Mendocino to Brookings
- Brookings to Portland
- Roadside assistnace
- Cheap insurance
From sunny coastal to rainy urban climes, the Los Angeles to Portland road trip is one of the most beautiful and dramatic routes in the country. It’s a 15-hour nonstop trip, so we recommend allowing four days to get the most out of your California to Oregon experience.
Adventurers, take heed—the weather can be tempestuous and the roads winding. It’s wise to make sure your car insurance includes roadside assistance, or to enroll in Jerry’s $6.99 membership program.
Ready? Here is your itinerary for the road trip from LA to Portland.
Day 1—Los Angeles, CA to Monterey, CA
Travel time: 6 hours nonstop
Whether you’re a California resident or not, it’s impossible to get enough of the gorgeous Pacific coastline. On Highway 101, the route from Los Angeles to Monterey will meander through cheerful seaside towns and hilly vistas. Take Highway 1 if you have an extra hour to spare and you want to literally hug the coastline north.
From seafood to baked goods, hiking to sunbathing, this leg of your trip has it all.
Where to stop: If you’re in a rush, you can take I-5 straight through to Monterey from Los Angeles, peeling off at the 152. But we recommend stops in Bakersfield (off I-5), Soledad (off 101), or Pismo Beach (off 1).
Where to eat: Bakersfield is part of California’s breadbasket, so look for farm-fresh goodies and agricultural treasures. The city also has a strong Basque culture, which you can sample at Wool Growers Restaurant or Chalet Basque Restaurant.
Off Highway 101 is San Luis Obispo, where you can slurp the sea at Morro Bay Oysters or head to Cayucos for smoked fish tacos at Ruddell’s Smokehouse. In Santa Barbara, we recommend Bettina for wood-fired pizza and Dune Coffee Roasters for a sticky roll and coffee. If you find yourself in Santa Maria, try Jaffa Cafe for Mediterranean eats on a lovely patio.
Closer to your final destination, there are good options in Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea. Enjoy world-class seafood on the bay at Schooner’s in Monterey, or stop in Carmel-By-The-Sea and eat at Portabella or Dametra Cafe.
What to do: We’ll let you in on a little secret: this leg of the trip ends in Monterey so you can avoid the hotel prices in San Francisco. But you don’t have to miss out on any of the activities on the way!
If you love exploring local food systems, then Bakersfield’s farmers markets are a good stop. If you like to hike, then stop in Soledad on the 101 and head to Pinnacles National Park. On Highway 1 you’ll pass right by Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, home to tons of coastal and forested trails and a guest lodge.
This part of the world has a rich Spanish and Mexican history, too. There are various Missions, gold mining towns, and historic ranches on the route between Los Angeles and Monterey. Here’s a list to get you started.
You have three routes to choose from on this leg of your road trip. For maximum efficiency but less time oceanside, choose I-5. To enjoy both forested country and coastal views, opt for Highway 101. For the slowest but most beautiful route, take the classic route on Highway 1.
Key Takeaway To save some money, try booking your accommodation outside the major hotspots.
Day 2—Monterey, CA to Mendocino, CA
Travel time: 5 hours nonstop
You can drive from Monterey to Mendocino in five hours, but that leaves no time for enjoying San Francisco. If you want to complete this section in one day, wake up early in Monterey and head into the city. San Fran is the main attraction on this route, as there’s plenty to experience—and eat—here. Leave time to visit Santa Rosa if you’re a wine aficionado (just be mindful about imbibing, obviously).
Where to stop: You could spend weeks exploring San Francisco and Oakland. To get the most out of your visit, park and take public transit and hit up Haight Street, Chinatown, Ghirardelli Square, and the wharf. On your way out of town, drive Lombard Street (the most crooked street in the world) and then stop in Santa Rosa if you still have some energy to burn.
Where to eat: It’s a Herculean task to pick the best eats in the Bay Area, but here are a few places to start you off.
El Techo in the Mission has great views and tasty tapas. Gracias Madre has vegan Mexican food around the corner. Ghirardelli Square is all about chocolate, of course. Tarantino’s by the wharf has famous clam chowder. The Fortune Cookie Factory offers free tours, and Outerlands has mind-blowing savory dutch pancakes.
Once you get to Mendocino, head straight for the Fog Eater Cafe (or Ravens Restaurants for eco-minded, vegan food).
What to do: Obviously, eating should be your number one priority in San Francisco. But in between bites, play tourist and visit the Golden Gate Bridge. Ride a cable car and visit the wharf! Be sure to bring sturdy footwear and a rain jacket.
There are some gorgeous hikes in the Oakland hills if you have time to spare, too.
Download an offline map of the city before you explore—and plan for the worst kind of weather. It’s definitely possible to have a great time in San Francisco when it’s foggy, but not if you get lost! We recommend parking your car and sticking to an itinerary to be sure you get the most out of your visit. It’s easy to get distracted by all the amazing activities on offer here.
Day 3—Mendocino, CA to Brookings, OR
Travel time: 5 hours nonstop
Brookings is just across the California/Oregon border, and it’s unquestionably a better stopping point than Crescent City. The highlight of this stretch of road is hiking. From Fort Bragg’s glass beaches to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, the only problem on this route is choosing which natural wonders you have time to explore.
Where to stop: Leggett, Weott, Eureka, and Klamath are all worth a stopover.
Where to eat: At first glance, The Peg House in Leggett is a common shack on the side of the road. But enter the back patio and be astonished: salmon burgers, blackberry sundaes, BBQ oysters, and grass-fed burger patties await.
In Eureka, you have more options. LoCo Fish Co. Eureka has fish tacos to die for in a casual setting, and Cafe Waterfront offers great seafood in a gorgeous architectural gem. For upscale, head to Five Eleven. In Klamath, the quirky Forest Cafe offers hearty American-style food and there’s plenty of parking.
At your destination in Brookings, head to Khun Thai for a fresh, satisfying meal. You can get diner-style breakfast with a seafood twist at Beachcombers, or hit Mattie’s Pancake House if you’re an early riser (they open at 6 AM). Coffee can be found at Bell & Whistle Coffee House.
What to do: Your first stop should be Fort Bragg, just north of Mendocino. The glass beach is gorgeous in the morning light, but please note that removing glass from the beach is against the law.
In Leggett, stretch your legs by the South Fork Eel River bridge. There’s also a drive-through tree here in case you missed one of the others (fee is $10 to drive through). Confusion Hill, just north of Leggett, is a bizarre gravity-inspired roadside attraction with wood carvings, oddly tilted buildings, and a gift shop.
For hiking, stop by Humboldt Redwoods State Park to visit Avenue of the Giants. After passing through Eureka, look for Fern Canyon (turn left on Davison Road off Highway 101). The stone walls are 15 feet high and covered with lush ferns, and the short trail takes you by a shaded creek.
An hour north is another great hiking option, the Yurok Loop Trail just past Klamath. It’s coastal and secluded if you time it right. Brookings has great hikes too, like Chetco Point Park and Harris Beach.
The ancient trees and plethora of trails on this route require more than a quick stopover. Leave as early as possible to allow plenty of time to soak up Mother Nature’s glorious display.
Key Takeaway There is no shortage of amazing state parks along your route—just pick one and you’re guaranteed a beautiful view.
Day 4—Brookings, OR to Portland, OR
Travel time: 6 hours nonstop
We recommend taking the slower coastal route until Tillamook or Cannon Beach, and then driving east through the forest to Portland. Another option is to go coastal until Reedsport and then head east on the 38 to meet up with I-5 for an inland finish.
Where to stop: Going coastal all the way? Hit Gold Beach, Bandon, Devil’s Punchbowl in Otter Rock, Neskowin, and Cape Kiwanda. The inland route takes you through Eugene and Salem, and both cities have lots to offer.
Where to eat: In Coos Bay, 7 Devils Brewing Co. has a gorgeous outdoor patio and good eats. If you eat in Newport, go to Tables of Content at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. In Depoe Bay, you’ll get the best views at Horn Public House and Brewery.
Of course, once you reach Portland you’re in for a treat. Food carts and fusion food abound. Head to the business district to snag something from a food cart. Downtown offers expensive and high-quality eats, but there’s more parking across the river and the food is just as good. Try Nacheaux on NE Fremont or Lovely’s Fifty Fifty.
What to do: The Heceta Head Lighthouse is near the halfway point on your journey and it’s also a perfect place to stretch your legs and take in the coastal scenery. It’s a functioning B&B but you can check out the views and gift shop.
Cape Kiwanda is known for offering the best hikes in Oregon with a view of the ocean. Keep an eye out for kites and hang-gliders! Stop here for a final communion with the sea before you hit the highway and head east.
Don’t be discouraged if the weather is rainy on your drive. PNW residents have a saying: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! Our advice is to pack your rain jacket and hiking shoes and prepare to enjoy the sights no matter the weather. Since it’s the last day of your road trip, you can afford to get soaked and then warm up with a hot shower in Portland.
Why you need roadside assistance
Even safe drivers make mistakes—or mistakes find them. No matter how safely you drive, it’s a simple fact that the road is unpredictable.
Roadside assistance is a great way to buy peace of mind so you can drive boldly. With lockout assistance, fuel delivery, flat tire help, towing coverage, and more, Jerry’s roadside assistance membership is only $6.99.
We all need help sometimes. It’s easier to get help with your car problems if you already have roadside assistance. We promise you’re not failing at adulting if you need help with a flat tire!
Finding cheap car insurance
Jerry can help you find out if you’re overpaying for car insurance.
Whether you’re looking for a new provider or just want to save some money, we can help. The app is free, and you won’t have to fill out annoying paperwork or sit through lengthy phone calls. We help drivers from every state—with all types of records—find a great car insurance policy.
The average user saves $879 a year on their car insurance. That could cover the cost of a road trip or two!
“I had two accidents in three years and no one would cover me. Jerry was amazing and I got coverage in two hours.” - Jerry User
Is it legal to sleep in my car?
Yes, in many places it is legal to sleep in your car so long as you follow posted parking guidelines. Rest areas typically allow you to stop for eight hours, but you can also car camp at a campground.
How dangerous is Highway 1?
Highway 1 is a very safe road as long as you are well-rested and driving cautiously. There are guard rails between you and the ocean, and often there is farmland or forest as a buffer, too. It is a twisting road which means you should exercise extreme caution in windy conditions or when passing other vehicles.
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