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4 Frugal West Coast Road Trips


Nothing says “American dream” quite like blue skies, majestic mountain ranges, and long strips of open road. If you’ve been dreaming about exploring the western United States, think about renting a fuel-efficient vehicle and going on a good, old-fashioned road trip. If you’re worried about the high cost of gas, remember one thing–fuel is always expensive, but road trips place an emphasis on the journey rather than the destination. Aside from gas costs, your trip can be as frugal or luxurious as you’d like. Now, let’s choose a highway, check out a road trip checklist, and hit the road.

1) The Grand Canyon to Las Vegas

The journey from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas spans more than 860 miles and crosses six national parks. Start your trip on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon–it’s much more enjoyable than the crowded South Rim. If you like hiking, visit the North Kaibab Trail and make the trek to Ribbon Falls. On the way out of Utah, you’ll pass the red cliffs of Zion National Park and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. Your next stop is Capitol Reef National Park in the heart of red rock country. This area offers colorful canyons, rocks, and domes. The last stop on your journey is Arches National Park, home to more than 2,000 natural stone arches.

2) San Francisco to Big Sur

California’s Pacific Coast Highway is known for its awe-inspiring scenery. In fact, the 23-mile stretch from Monterey and Big Sur is considered one of the best scenic drives in the entire world. This strip of road features steep seaside cliffs, roaring waves, and towering redwoods. Pull over when you reach Pfeiffer Big Sur Park. This state park is home to an exotic purple sand beach and a majestic waterfall that cascades onto the sand. Other notable recreational areas include Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Andrew Molera State Park. The last stop on your journey should be Hearst Castle, one of most famous castles in the United States. Stop by to tour its historic architecture and collection of art

3) Durango to the Million Dollar Highway

Start your journey on Highway 550 in Durango, Colorado. This popular resort town is home to two state parks and several ski lodges, including the steep slopes of the Purgatory Resort. When you’re ready to depart, head north through the San Juan National Forest. When you reach Silverton, you may notice an increase in the number of twists and turns. Welcome to the Million Dollar Highway. Be warned. This 25-mile stretch of road has fewer guardrails than you might hope for. Nevertheless, the breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountain range make the drive worth the risk.

4) Portland to Redwood National Park

The last road trip on this list will take you through the heart of Redwood National Park, home to the tallest trees on planet earth. From Portland, drive south on I-5 until you reach Grants pass. From there, continue on Highway 199 until you cross the border into California. Once there, think about pitching your tent in one of the Jedediah Smith Campgrounds. On the other hand, you can also make a reservation at the Requa Inn, the only historic bed and breakfasts in Redwood National Park.