San Diego to Portland Road Trip Guide


One of the best ways to experience a fulfilling family getaway is to go on a road trip up the west coast. Known for having one of the mildest climates in the country, San Diego is a beachside paradise that is the perfect starting point on your next RV road trip.

Recognized as the second most populated Californian city behind Los Angeles, San Diego offers visitors a great mixture of city life and outdoor recreation not too far from the city limits. Choosing San Diego as your departure point will give you a chance to enjoy the sun since the city experiences 266 sunny days a year.

Heading north up the west coast gives you a very flexible schedule of things that you can do and see. If you are a fan of the coast, you can take Highway Five up through Los Angeles and from there continue onto Highway One through San Francisco all the way up the coast. There is a reason why this is one of the most popular RV road trips in the country; it is simply fantastic. Don't be afraid to go inland either as there are plenty of attractions waiting for the whole family to enjoy, such as Death Valley and Yosemite National Park. There is also the option to combine the coastal destinations with the inland attractions so you can experience the best of both worlds on your trip.

San Diego to Portland may sound far, but the journey will fly by with all of the things that you can do on the way. Portland is known to be an alternative hub for all things cool, so mums and dads, take note! Whether you want to experience some classic Portland culture at the local coffee shops or explore the nearby forests, Portland really has something for everyone.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: motorhome
audience: family

Point of Interest

Hang out with the Seals and Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

It would be remiss of you and the family to kick off your RV road trip in San Diego and not say hello to the local seals and sea lions. While these gorgeous animals can be spotted all along the coast, La Jolla Cove is the place to check out if you want to see many of them hanging out.

As soon as you arrive at La Jolla Cove and see the rocks, you will start to hear the seals and sea lions as they go about their day chilling out and getting some sun. The sea wall at La Jolla Cove was supposed to be for a children's pool, but the seals and sea lions had other ideas! Watching these animals up close is so cool and something that your kids will have great memories of.

It will be hard to leave La Jolla Cove, but there are so many other great stops to be had on your road trip. A lot of the RV camping options in San Diego will be a little pricer since it is a major city, but the San Diego Metro KOA Resort will be a great value since you will be close to all of the major freeways to make your next day drive a little easier.

The Broad Museum

Los Angeles has so so much to see and do that you could spend a whole week in the City of Angels and still not check off everything on your list. A great family-friendly choice in downtown Los Angeles is taking a trip to The Broad Museum.

Opened by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the museum is a great place for the family to learn about modern art at any time of the year. The Broad is entirely free for visitors, but if you would like to see Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room Exhibits (which are the main attraction to the museum for many) it is recommended that you arrive early so you can enter into the online reservation queue.

Since The Broad is downtown you are only a few minute's walk from Grand Central Market where flavors from around the world unite in one large mall full of delicious food. RV camping in Los Angeles is a little limited, but there are several private RV campgrounds and the county-run Dockweiler RV Park.

Death Valley National Park

Your first big change in scenery will occur if you decide to head inland from Los Angeles and pay a visit to Death Valley National Park. Under a four hours drive away, Death Valley feels like a completely different planet. The park contains the lowest point in the whole country and the conditions can also be incredibly hot depending on what time of the year you are going on your road trip.

Despite the name suggesting otherwise, Death Valley National Park is full of diversity, a lot of which is smaller than meets the eye. Park staff offer guided tours if you want to learn more about this incredible area, and the Episode IV Star Wars movie was also filmed at the park, so if any family members are fans you can see these sights.

Death Valley National Park is best visited during the winter months when temperatures aren't over 100 degrees. The park has several campgrounds that offer RV camping, including the Furnace Creek Campground where you can reserve a site in advance.

Yosemite National Park

The next logical destination as you make your way up to Portland is to pay a visit to Yosemite National Park. One of the most well-known national parks, Yosemite feels like a world away from Death Valley even though it is only a four-hour drive.

Over four million people visit Yosemite National Park each year to witness its untouched beauty and for many, it is a dream destination. Waterfalls, mountains, lakes, and glaciers await you, along with plenty of opportunities to learn about the park through ranger-led programs. During the winter months, there are also some fantastic skiing opportunities thanks to the five lifts and 10 runs at Badger Pass.

Yosemite National Park has plenty of campsites available to rest at, but it is important to book a site in advance since this is one of the most popular camping destinations in America.

Lake Tahoe

One of the benefits of road tripping inland on your way to Portland is that you will get to see and experience so many diverse environments. Lake Tahoe is located around two and a half hours north of Yosemite National Park and is the perfect place for some lakeside relaxation.

The lake is massive and is located in both California and Nevada, so you do have the option to venture into Nevada if you are interested in crossing another state off your list. For those who want to have some fun in the sun, you can go boating, stand-up paddleboarding, or go swimming in one of the many designated areas. The winter months are also a hub of activity with snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding all possible due to the surrounding mountains.

Most of the campgrounds near Lake Tahoe are located at the southern end with many public and private campgrounds for you to choose from.


Following your trip to Lake Tahoe, it is time to head inland, with the small city of Chico being the perfect place to spend a day. Chico is only a few hours away from Lake Tahoe and is a great family-friendly destination no matter what time of the year you are visiting.

One of the main highlights in Chico is Bidwell Park, which is a historic area known as the largest City Park in the country. Encompassing 2,500 acres, the park has a fantastic education center where your little ones can learn about nature and participate in many programs and activities.

Chico also has a thriving craft beer scene, so if you fancy a drink this is the place to find a brew. The Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has a special tour that you can book in advance to make sure that you won't miss out.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Northern California is dominated by towering trees and large forests, so while you are on your way north it is a great time to check at least one of them out. Shasta-Trinity National Forest is the largest in California and is located nearly directly off the Cascade Wonderland Highway that continues on to your final destination.

There are over two million acres within the forest, along with over 6,200 miles of waterways. If you love to fish, Trinity Lake will be one of the best places on your road trip to cast out a line, especially if you are looking to catch bass. The kids can be entertained with the multiple easy hiking trails and the chance to explore the Lake Shastra Caverns.

Shasta-Trinity National Forest is also home to five campgrounds that are suitable for RVs so you will have plenty of choices when it comes to deciding where to park for the night.


As you are reaching the end of your trip, there will be several options of places to visit before you make it to Portland. Known for its friendly atmosphere, Eugene is a relaxed place that is great to unwind before you reach Portland. The city is known for having a great restaurant scene, specifically because of the farm-to-table method of sourcing ingredients that is common at most of the well-known restaurants. Check out Grit Kitchen and Wine if you are looking for a restaurant in the farm-house style or Akira for those craving sushi.

If the kids are feeling adventurous, there are also plenty of great kayaking areas along the Willamette River. Many companies run guided tours, so if you didn’t bring your own kayaks you will have no trouble finding a place to rent them from.


You might be sad that your unforgettable road trip is coming to an end, but Portland has so many great things going for it that your sadness will quickly turn into excitement. There is no doubt that the city lives up to its “Keep Portland Weird” slogan, but for families there some great activities that don’t involve anything odd.

During your time in Portland, this is the perfect opportunity to see some professional sports since the Portland Trailblazers compete in the NBA and the Portland Timbers play in the MLS. If you or any of your family need to stock up on some new books to read you should head to the famous Powells Books chain that is only found in the city and neighboring Beaverton. Feeling like a snack? Voodoo Donuts was founded in Portland, so be sure to head there for a tasty treat.

There are multiple RV campgrounds to stay at in Portland, all of which are privately owned and operated.

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