Top 10 West Coast road trip destinations for 2021

The arrival of vaccines — and expanded eligibility — means our pie-in-the-sky travel dreams are beginning to sound like something that might actually come true-ish in the near-ish future. Maybe?

We’re at least able to contemplate aspirational vacation destination lists once more without shrieking, “Too soon! Too soon!” When Travel+Leisure’s 2021 list of top travel destinations first came out, it might as well have included Mars and the equally feasible forest moon of Endor.

Now, though, Astoria, Oregon — destination No. 2 out of 50 in the U.S. — doesn’t sound that far-fetched. The seaside filming location for “The Goonies” is drivable, for one thing. Alaska, in the top spot, not so much.

So we’ve condensed the travel magazine’s list into a top 10 road trip destinations, with tips for each. (You’ll find the full list at

1 Astoria, Oregon

Expect plenty of seafood and “Goonies” lore in this Victorian-era town, which sits above the mighty Columbia River just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean. (Road tripping? Astoria is 12.5 hours from the Bay Area by car.)

2 Big Sky, Montana

This Alpine stretch of the Rockies offers uncrowded skiing in winter and fly fishing in summer — and it’s an hour from the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

3 Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah

The Under Canvas Lake Powell-Grand Staircase encampment is perched on a canyon rim plateau with its own slot canyon and views across Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. (Courtesy Under Canvas) 

This National Monument boasts deep canyons, rugged rock formations and plenty of outdoor recreation possibilities. Camping? Under Canvas Lake Powell-Grand Staircase has just opened its safari-style glamping accommodations, which include private bathrooms, dining options and an adventure concierge.

4 Las Vegas, Nevada

You don’t go to Las Vegas for the wilderness and wildlife. You go for the wild life — casinos, shows, swanky restaurants and plenty of glitz.

5 Lopez Island, Washington

Escape to this island in Puget Sound for a vacation filled with bike rides, hikes and foodie adventures, just a ferry ride from the mainland.

6 Los Angeles

Los Angeles offers terrific restaurants, beach action and some incredible museums, including the coming-soon Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

7 Palm Springs

When you tire of Palm Springs, with its swaying palms, buzzy nightlife, icy cocktails and mid-century mod swimming pools, Joshua Tree is right nearby.

8 Santa Fe, New Mexico

It’s hardly surprising that the arts would be an even bigger draw than wilderness hikes and horseback riding here. Santa Fe is a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art.

9 Sonoma

New wineries, restaurants and hotels — including the new Montage Healdsburg — put this wine country star on the big list.

10 Tucson, Arizona

Boutique hotels, outdoor recreation and Saguaro National Park combine to woo visitors to this desert city.