Seattle to LA Photography road trip

Started Jun 1, 2013 | Discussions
Rami77 Regular Member • Posts: 228
Seattle to LA Photography road trip

Dear all,

As the subject clearly indicates, I am planning to drive from Seattle to LA starting June 20 or 21 (TBD). I must reach LA on the 25th, as my flight across to the other side of the world leaves on the 26th.

The main goal of this trip is landscape photography. I do not mind missing some stops as long as I hit the high points. I have come to realize I do not have much time to stop at many places, so I need help to plan and prioritize stops and plan the route. I plan to cover Mount Rainier during my stay in Seattle, so I do not need to include it in my itinerary.

Many thanks in advance for all your tips and suggestions,

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'The only real valuable thing is intuition.'
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drcPhoto Contributing Member • Posts: 611
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

Certainly plan to see as much of the Oregon and Northern California coast as possible, but then if at all possible some of the inland mountain areas.  Crater Lake, any of the Sierra Passes (they are all different and beautiful),  also check out any and/or all National Parks (they are all spectacular).   Unfortunately to do it right involves a creative and at times interesting zig-zag routes that when avoiding freeways provides the best results.   I've done this for years on more often than not a motorcycle, so cramming it into 5 days is still going to miss a lot of amazing sites, but you will still have the potential for some interesting photo opportunities.  Have fun!


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OP Rami77 Regular Member • Posts: 228
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

Thanks a lot Dale. If you do not mind elaborating further and given your experience in the area, what would be your top 5 do-not-miss.

minniev Senior Member • Posts: 2,680
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

My favorites along the way from North to South, using coast roads as much as possible except for Crater Lake, where you have to veer inland a little (but it's worth it):

Ecola State Park & Cannon Beach

the wonderful lighthouses along the Oregon Coast (pick any one or more)

Crater Lake

Redwoods National Park

Point Reyes National Seashore and surrounding area

Muir Woods & Golden Gate recreation area

Point Lobos state reserve

Big Sur, especially the lighthouse area and Pfieffer Beach

There's lot more, but your time is pretty tight. Thankfully you have long days and if you get up early and drive and shoot like a maniac, you can get a lot of wonderful pictures.

Ken Gosden Senior Member • Posts: 2,595
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip
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kayaker353 Contributing Member • Posts: 924
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

The Oregon coast is stunning.

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Everhandy Regular Member • Posts: 223
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

A trip down the PCH is in order. Plenty of opportunities for snap shots. However, if you take that route, you're looking at a 4 day trip and hardly any time to explore anything off the path.

I would stop at the small towns along the coast for some street shooting and squeeze in a few landscapes along the way.

Have fun.

Leswick Veteran Member • Posts: 3,102
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

I've done the coast up/down several times...and IMO 4 days is not that much  There is just way too many things to see down the road.  Hope you thought about how far you wish to travel per have appx 1350 miles if you take the slower Rte 1 (and more picturesque).

Oregon Coast is great and so is No Calif or Central Coast from Monterey to San Luis Obispo.  You do have a bit of a conundrum, since going inland to Crater Lake (beautiful) you're simultaneously depriving yourself from enjoying the coast (and cooler weather)...but, that's for you to decide.

Multnomah Falls is worth a stop

Cannon Beach would be great, particularly if the tide is out....and you can get relatively close to the stacks and use the reflections...stunning around sunset

The sand dunes could be interesting

Several parks to pull Beverly Bch or Nehalem camp (?)


Cape Sebastian St PK has great views at both directions

Redwoods National Park....and that includes several smaller areas.  Prairie Creek St PK has some interesting that is really twisted.  I could easily spend 3 days there.

Like the overall quiet of the No Calif (and you'll appreciate that when you get to LA :-D)....if it's too quiet, you can go inland and jump on Rte 101 and pick up some speed.

Point Reyes is real nice and I'd stay on the No side of SF in Petaluma/Novato/S. Rafael area or camp at Samuel Taylor St PK.  Since you have to trudge through SF (Golden Gate Bridge has a toll of X-dollars), try to veer off to the Highlands just before you get on the bridge - cool view of SF.  Keep in mind rush hour....this area can seriously bottle-neck on you.

OK, I'll stop at this point...and there is much much more.  If you do go inland to check out Crater Lake, you might as well could see Lassen natl PK, while you're at it.   Keep in mind the tourist season and try to set up lodging few days in advance, particularly if you have a laptop with you.



Paul Donaldson
Paul Donaldson Contributing Member • Posts: 519
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip


Love your planned trip, as all have said not enough time for what your doing, we did a stop off at a little place called Otter cove, about 9 miles north of Newport good hotel and great beach at low tide.


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kayaker353 Contributing Member • Posts: 924
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

If you just drive I5 from Seattle to LA, it will take about 2 days.  Based upon that, you should probably stick to attractions near I5 or go strictly coastal.  While I enjoy the coastal route, it is slower than I5.  A four day window requires you to keep moving as any of the side trips could take a half day or more.

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bosco1955 Regular Member • Posts: 117
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

If you take I5 going through Redding CA...make sure you have good AC in your car.

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Bob Greenberg Regular Member • Posts: 206
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

Shocked no one mentioned Yosemite!  It may be a bit out of your way but it can't be beaten, Ansel Adams spent most of his career there.

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bedhead Regular Member • Posts: 363
Re: Seattle to LA Photography road trip

oh jeebus this isn't easy...

1.  Go to Mt. Rainier national park.  lots to shoot.

2. Drive south on I5 and cut over to the oregon coast at Cannon Beach.

3. Drive Oregon Coast south until Florence.  (You'll have many amazing sights such as Haceta Head and many other lighthouses.) You'll also get to see the huge dunes at florence if you want.  You'll get to go thru many great places.  Another reminder, all beaches are public in Oregon.  Any entrance to the beach is LEGAL.

4. Head back inland to I5 (from florence) and drive south to Grants Pass. (lock up your gear.)

5. Cut back over to the coast again and head southwest into Redwood National Park. Die and go to heaven.

7. keep heading south on 101 until you can cut over to hwy 1 at the 'drive thru tree'. (South of Garberville.

8.  you now have 900 miles of desolate costal driving ahead of you, with great shots every quarter mile.  The Medocino coast.  The sonoma coast.  The jenner coast.

9. I encourage you to keep going and get through SF.  The next 100 miles are fantastic. Get to Santa Cruz or Monterey  and head east over to Yosemite.  You'll miss Big Sur, but i gotta say, the photos don't come easy in that place.  They just don't.  Up in Northern CA, you can spend a lot more enjoyable hours on spectacular rocks and cliffs and tidepools and beaches than you can n 'big sur'.

I'm not sure you can get this done in 6 days.  Given your chance though, i would favor the coast for the mountains.  (even tho i'm a mountain guy.)

here's another try...

1.  Go to Mt. Rainier national park.  lots to shoot.

2. Drive south on I5 and cut over to the oregon coast at Cannon Beach.

3. Drive Oregon Coast south until Florence.  (You'll have many amazing sights such as Haceta Head and many other lighthouses.) You'll also get to see the huge dunes at florence if you want.  You'll get to go thru many great places.  Another reminder, all beaches are public in Oregon.  Any entrance to the beach is LEGAL.

4. Head back inland to I5 (from florence) and drive south ALL the way to Sacramento, where you will head east into the foothills and gold country, and catch hwy 395 which will take you along the eastern and possibly most spectacular part of the sierras.

5. You could then hook into yosemite, death valley, mojave, and then actually make your flight.

I DO think you will have to choose mountains or ocean for this trip.  Dang i want to do it all.



OP Rami77 Regular Member • Posts: 228
Thank you all: Itinerary draft

Dear all,

As always, members of dpreview never fail to help. Plenty of suggestions, tips and comments. Thank you all so very much.

I have tried to take it all in and I think I came up with a draft itinerary having secured a couple of more days for the trip. I decided to sacrifice the columbia river gorge and norther CA for the portland coast, Crater Lake and Yosemite. Here is the itinerary first draft:

18 June pm: Seattle to Portland

19 June: Portland - Cannon Beach - Yachats.

20 June: Yachats - Gold Beach.

21 June: Yachats - Crater Lake via Brookings & Grants Pass.

22 June: Crater Lake - Redding CA.

23 June: Redding - Yosemite.

25 June: Yosemite - LA.

Besides Yosemite, do you recommend advance booking for lodging at any of the overnight stops? Would you recommend another town just before / after the suggested sops for any reason? I tried to keep the "theoretical" driving times at about 4-6 hours a day (in reality more like 10 with stops and all).

Any other suggestions are also very welcome and thanks again.

KENTGA Veteran Member • Posts: 5,497
Re: Thank you all: Itinerary draft

I realize that you're from the UK and it's a long way to the Pacific Coast. I you don't know when you'll be back in the area, here's what I'd suggest:

1. After Portland, pick 2 or 3 beaches to visit along the Oregon coast and then head for Crater Lake. As pressed for time as you are, you can see most of it in 2 or 3 hours, preferrable the afternoon. Then head south as far as you can go (to Redding if possible).

2. It's 340 miles to Yosemite from Redding and then 350 miles from Yosemite to LA. LA will be crowded. You're not doing Yosemite justice, but you could spend a couple of hours in Yosemite Yalley and then go to Tunnel View afterwards and then drive to the end of Glacier Point Road for late afternoon shots after Tunnel View. Then go back to the Valley for AM shots the following morning.

A possible alternate if you think you'll ever come back to the area.

Seattle > Portland > 2 or 3 beaches in OR > Crater Lake from the north then drive to the south end and night in Medford or Brookings. (Be careful on Hwy 140 from Crater Lake to Medford. You will get a speeding ticket. I got one and there were very few cars on the mostly straight road.) Then to one of the Redwood Parks and Hwy 101 to Marin County (north of San Fran) or San Fran. Stay off Hwy 1 along the northern CA coast north of San Fran. It's very curvy and you can barely go over 35 mph and most of the beaches look the same.

Just before the Golden Gate Bridge, take Conzelman Road to the west and make photos of the GG Bridge (hopefully it will be in the afternoon and you'll have some sun. Then take Hwy 1 south to at least Big Sur country and see anything else on the way to LA.

On your return trip to the western US:

Fly into Denver and go to Rocky Mountain National Park to the North and then head Colorado National Monument and take the 23 mile loop and then to Moab Utah and Arches National Park, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point.

Or fly into Salt Lake City and do the above but skip Rocky Mountain National Park.

Then go to Capitol Reef Park, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

Drive from Zion to Las Vegas and then Death Valley and Hwy 395 to Lone Pine, Bishop and Lee Vining and Mono Lake and the eastern entrance to Yosemite. Visit east Yosemite in the afternoon and overnight in Lee Vining. If you like ghost towns visit Bodie CA State Park. Drive Tioga Road to Yose Valley (Hwy 120). This road may be closed until early June.

Link to Bodie:

After Yosemite fly out of Sacramento or San Fran.


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ktownbill Senior Member • Posts: 2,191
Re: Thank you all: Itinerary draft

Since you are going thru Portland you should at least stop at Multnohma Falls.  It is only a 20min drive from Portland and only a 3 min walk from the car. Absolutely do this, it's a no-brainer.

Allow yourself ample driving time to Yosemite. The last 80mi is all twisty-turny roads which will slow you down.  When you leave Crater Lake drive as far as you can before stopping for the night. This will maximize you time in Yosemite the next day.

You will be in Yosemite at the most crowded time of year. Find a place to park your car and take the shuttle-bus. June is still a good time to see the waterfalls before they dry up at the end of the summer.

Yosemite Falls is only a 10 min walk from the bus stop. You will also want to view the Falls from across the river. It is about 2500ft tall but in 3 sections. You can walk right up to the lower falls. Skip the hike to the top since you are pressed for time. Not to mention it is a gain in elevation of 3000ft. That will kill you.

After Yosemite Falls take the shuttle-bus to Vernal Falls trailhead. It is a very short but very steep walk to the Falls. This is a spectacular waterfall. Do not miss it.  It is the epitome of Yosemite. I was just there 2 weeks ago. The trail has steps to the top of the falls but the viewpoint is at the base and maybe halfway up.  Be extremely careful. A 20 yr old went swimming a few weeks ago above the Falls and went over. It will take several weeks to find the body. Last year 3 people went over the falls. Just use common sense.  They think Yosemite is Disneyland with trees.

You can easily do both of these Falls in 4-5hrs leisurely. A short distance from Vernal Falls is Nevada Falls. It is 600ft tall.

If you have time you can drive to Glacier Point and see the entire Valley from there. A bit further from there is a grove of giant Sequoia trees. (Redwoods)   Also on the way to LA is Sequoia NP. If you have time you might include this. Be aware that it is side-roads NOT Freeway to get to Sequoia NP from Yosemite. But it is basically on the way to LA.  I think seeing the giant trees at Yosemite is your best option in terms of maximizing your time.

If you start at 8am in Yosemite you can do both waterfalls, Glacier Point, and the grove of Redwoods w/o rushing.

Enjoy your trip!


bedhead Regular Member • Posts: 363
Re: Thank you all: Itinerary draft

Ah!  First day I can help.  You can drive straight from Seattle to Cannon Beach / Newhalem the first afternoon.  (unless you want to do Multnomah falls as suggested.)  It's only 4, 4.5 hours and you won't get 'stuck' in Portland.  Just an FYI.

You'll get a great sunset on the coast (it stays light quite late), head down the coast the next day, and then cut back inland.

Ron P Regular Member • Posts: 419
Re: Thank you all: Itinerary draft

Ram 77, I did a trip from LA to Monterey a month ago, two favorite spots were Point Lobos SP in Monterey and Yosemite. I spent a day at each place both breathing. Have a great trip Ron P

Point Lobos

Point Lobos


Yosemite Valley

Approx 200 miles from Yosemite to PT Lobos.

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