It was the experience of a lifetime! We drove our RV down the Pacific Coast Highway from Alberta, Canada to sunny Anaheim, California. Along the way we experienced breathtaking scenery, wonderful campgrounds, and delicious food. If you’re thinking about taking an RV trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, then this blog post is for you! I’ll share our tips on where to park your RV, how to drive on this winding road, and what to do with kids along the way.
For a couple of years, we’ve been yearning to travel down the Pacific coast in our RV and take the kids to Disneyland. We’ve been saving and planning for the trip for quite some time, and this Spring we were finally able to embark on our adventure!
Why drive down in our RV?
Of course, it’s a lot faster to fly down to California from Edmonton area, Alberta. We chose to drive down with our fifth wheel for a couple of different reasons:
- we wanted to experience the beauty of the pacific coast
- to see some cities that we’ve never seen before like San Fransisco and Las Vegas
- we wanted to save (a little bit?) of money
- we wanted the comfort of our RV that feels like home for restful sleeps & familiar meals
When did we go?
We chose to do this pacific coast RV trip from May 9th to May 24th. During this time of year the driving conditions are much better than the snowy months, and Disneyland isn’t quite as crowded as it is in the summer. Minus a little bit of snow in Jasper and ton of rain on the Oregon coast, we thought the rest of the weather was perfect (about 20-25 degrees celcius in California). We were happy with this choice!
Our Pacific Coast RV Trip Route
Much to my husband Sean’s slight annoyance, I carefully planned our route. (He’s more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy!) I wanted us to see a lot of the gorgeous Oregon coast, but also wanted to avoid the extreme cliffside roads with our 30 foot fifth wheel.
Here’s the route we took from Edmonton, Alberta to Anaheim, California with the places we stopped to stay in red letters:
Edmonton, Alberta to Jasper, Alberta
Because I couldn’t find a nice place to park the RV for a night in the Kamloops, BC area, we ended up starting our trip with a shorter 3.5 hour drive to Jasper, Alberta. We love Jasper for its mountains and cute shopping, and we stayed at Whistlers Campground. We much prefer a more treed campground like Pocahontas, but Whistlers was fine for one night.
In Jasper, we recommend taking a hike around the lakes by Jasper Park Lodge, walking around town and visiting all the shops and bakeries, and eating at restaurants like The Raven Bistro.
Jasper to Hope, British Columbia
Our next stop was Hope, BC and the 7 hour drive there was gorgeous through our Rocky Mountains. Even though it was cold and rainy in early May, we loved the lush greenery of Hope. We stayed for one night at the Coquihalla Campground. It had beautiful treed lots, lovely walking paths nearby, and a breathtaking river valley to explore.
Hope to Astoria, Oregon
Next, it was time to cross the border to the USA! The border crossing was a little taxing, but we eventually made it over. (Bring EVERY bit of paperwork you can, folks, and DON’T bring firewood…). We drove 6.5 hours to Astoria, Oregon, however it was more of an 8 hour experience with the border crossing and our stops. The drive to Astoria over the Astoria Bridge was absolutely breathtaking. I’d love to visit the area again one day soon! We stayed for two nights at the Astoria KOA, and it was our favourite campground of the trip. Not only did the KOA have a fantastic indoor pool, hot tub, mini golf, bounce pillow, and gorgeous greenery, but it was a 30 minute hike to the ocean.
At this campground, we highly recommend taking the hike across the road to Fort Stevens Park. You can go through the park to the ocean to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck! Even though it was rainy and windy, we loved this stop.
Astoria to Crescent City, California
After this stop, it was time to drive down to California! We drove 7.25 hours to the Crescent City KOA. I wish we would have stayed here for 2 nights because we loved the Redwoods so much, but we were only here for one. We enjoyed a quick hike in the forest behind the campground, and loved the drive to and from this area. If we would have stayed longer I would have liked to explore Crescent City area a little more!
On the way, however, we did enjoy stopping at Newport, Oregon and checking out the Aquarium and having clam chowder on the ocean shore!
The drive down HWY 101…
While STUNNING, the drive on Highway 101 from Astoria to Crescent City was my least favourite drive of the trip with an RV. It was POURING rain, windy, and having the 50 + foot long rig on the narrow cliffside roads had me a little panicky. Sean enjoyed the challenge, but I did NOT. I was happy that we didn’t choose to do the 101 (and then the even scarier HWY 1!) the whole way down. I know we missed a lot of gorgeous scenery and beautiful little towns on the California coast HWY 1, but I think that trip is better suited for a smaller vehicle!
My advice? Leave a lot of time to travel down HWY 101 in an RV. A lot of the highway is very curvy, mountainous, and narrow. You might get stuck behind vehicles, and you might have to slow down for inclement weather. The ocean view is incredible, though, and 100% worth the drive. I also recommend NOT taking HWY 1 in California if you’re not a fan of the 101 coastal drive like I was. I did some reading and research to come to this conclusion, and I’m glad I did!
Crescent City to San Fransisco, California
A 5.25 hour drive continuing down the 101 then led us to San Fransisco where we spent two nights at the San Fransisco KOA. We enjoyed the outdoor pool here as well as the goats and friendly staff. It was a bit of a jaunt from here to downtown SF, so we took the truck in the next day and parked at a parkade down by the harbour. WE LOVED San Fransisco! The Pier area had a lot of fun shopping and restaurants, and we even took a tour of Alkatraz which we all enjoyed. The weather was perfection, and we all loved the architecture and greenery. We also toured the Japanese Tea Garden, and took Ubers from one place to the next. San Fransisco was a city we all agreed that we’d love to visit again!
San Fransisco to Anaheim, California
At this point we were definitely ready for a break from driving, so after driving 7 hours on the I-5 we arrived at our stop in Anaheim, California. This drive was HOT and the scenery was a little barren, but the highway was fast. In Anaheim, we stayed for 6 nights at the Anaheim Harbor RV park which is walking distance to Disneyland. Like all the RV parks, I booked this one about 4 months in advance and got one of the last spots.
This was your typical parking-lot-like RV park, but we did love that it was only a 15 minute walk to Disney, and it had great laundry facilities, washrooms and an outdoor pool. We could also see the Disneyland fireworks right from our camper, which was amazing! The walk to the park was over a busy road and up hill on the way back, but it still beat paying for parking.
While staying in Anaheim, we went to Disneyland, Great Wolf Lodge waterpark, and Universal Studios, Hollywood.
Our family spent 3 days at Disneyland and opted for the Park Hopper pass to hop between Disneyland Magic Kingdom and the California Adventure parks. I also paid extra for the Genie+ pass to get into the (quicker) Lightening Lane lines at the rides. Even with the Genie+ pass, we still would have had to pay $20 per person (!!) to get into the LL lines at the new rides like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. For that one, we waited until just before the ride closed at 10pm and only had to wait 15 minutes in the standby line. (It was an amazing ride!)
Even though it was more expensive than I’d like, we all loved Disneyland and 3 days there was just about right. We were able to go on all the rides we wanted to, and we enjoyed a mix of dining in the park and eating in our RV. We didn’t wake up early to go to the park, but rather slept in, went mid-morning, and then stayed late into the evening when the weather was perfect.
All-in-all, though, we all agreed that Disney World was a better experience with more parks, and everything more spread out. You can read about our Disney World trip of 2019 right here.
Universal Studios Hollywood
In addition to Disneyland, we also spent a day at Universal Studios. One day was enough at this park. I also paid extra to get the quick lines (Universal Express) for the rides so that we could experience them all within the day. Most of the rides weren’t exciting enough for my kids, but we did LOVE Harry Potter World! The ride was fantastic, and the world itself was amazing. We also much preferred Universal Studios’ lighter crowds and better express lineup system.
We also visited Great Wolf Lodge one day for the waterpark. This was a request from my 8 year old; she’s always dreamed of going after seeing it on YouTube! We all enjoyed it, and the tube slides there were a lot of fun.
Anaheim to Las Vegas, Nevada
We’ve never been to Vegas, so that was our next stop after our week in Anaheim. It’s an easy 4.5 hour drive, and we stayed in the Las Vegas KOA (also a parking lot style place). Since we were only here for a night, we took advantage of it and drove down to the Strip to walk it for a couple of hours with the kids. The girls loved the big Hershey’s Chocolate store, the Hello Kitty cafe, and all the lights… but that was about it. The air everywhere seemed so heavy and thick, and it stung Sean’s and my eldest’s daughters eyes. We’re glad we got to experience Las Vegas once, but it’s probably not a place we’d go to again.
Las Vegas to Provo, Utah & Helena, Montana
The next couple of stops on the way back up home on the I-15 were short and sweet. First, we drove 5.5 hours from Vegas to Provo, Utah. The scenery was more beautiful that I thought it would be with all the red canyons, mountains and greenery! We did some shopping on the way and stayed at the Provo KOA for one night. Then, we drove from Provo to Helena, Montana (8 hours). We stayed the night at the Helena KOA. From Helena, we did one last final 9 hour drive up through the border of Canada and to our home West of Edmonton, Alberta! The I-15 was super-fast at 130 km/hr. The mountains were lovely, and the highway was straight and smooth.
Would we do this again?
There’s no denying that this was an INCREDIBLE trip and one that we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives. In total, we spent 64 hours driving and a LOT of money for gas and theme park tickets. I’m not sure if we’d do this exact trip again, but now I do know that our kids are able to do a 16 day road trip. We might consider doing a cross-Canada road trip in a couple years! We’d also consider flying to San Fransisco to enjoy that some more, or driving to Oregon and enjoying the coast in the summer one year.
I hope you enjoyed this look at our Pacific Coast RV trip! If you have any questions as your planning your own trip, let me know in the comments below.