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Return to Nature: Unforgettable West Coast Getaways
Live Life Outside

Return to Nature: Unforgettable West Coast Getaways

If you love to live your life outside, and find yourself recharged by the glow of the sun, you might frequently daydream about your next weekend getaway. And you’re not alone! At Sunski, we’re constantly picturing sunny days of adventures and time in nature. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, planning a return to nature in the form of a weekend trip and a mini digital detox can help keep us sane.

Woman in cap and sunglasses throwing up a peace sign at the beach

 Basking in the sun is the best way to live out your long weekends

When planning your weekend getaways, whether or not it’s a long one, sometimes the hardest part is picking where you want to go. The opportunities are endless, so how do we decide? Especially as we face the age-old question: beach or forest?

Well, who says you have to pick just one. We’ve pulled our three favorite West Coast destinations, all of which are a combo of forest and beach. Now, you can get the best of both worlds and combine all your favorite adventures into one epic weekend!

Pacific Northwest: Olympic National Park

Across from the Puget Sound on the western coast of Washington lies an absolute must-see for nature lovers. Olympic National Park, totaling about 1,400 square miles, hosts a unique and stunning combination of natural features and adventure possibilites. From old growth forests to rocky ocean cliffs to rugged mountains and a literal rainforest, there’s something to satiate your quench for the great outdoors.

You can camp in the park at places like Heart O’ the Hills, which is open all year and lies a quick drive down the mountain from Hurricane Ridge. If you head to Olympic, Hurricane Ridge is a gorgeous summit that overlooks the peaks and evergreen forests that help define the park. You can take any number of day hikes around the area, on paved or dirt trails, or simply picnic and bask in the classic PNW view.

Trees and mountains of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic, photographed by Brewing Cats

Or if you’re looking to go off the grid a little more, you can always opt for the park's backcountry. You can traverse the coast for a one-of-a-kind backpacking experience that requires tide maps and climbs over cliffs. The coastal trail combines sandy beach treks with forested trails up on the bluffs.

Olympic is marked by rad natural wonders, but one undeniably cool thing about this park is the Hoh Rain Forest. This part of the park receives over 140 inches of rain every year, and is a lush, enchanted-feeling forest with draping moss and dense canopies of trees. If you make the trip out to Olympic, you’ll want to experience the awe of Hoh.

Backpacker on a weekend getaway looking at the coastline by the forested seacliffs

Toleak Point on the Olympic Coast, photographed by Barrie Johnson

California’s Central Coast: Morro Bay

The central coast of California has that laid-back beach vibe that feels reminiscent of 1950s Southern California. It’s peaceful and defined by rolling green hills and rocky cliffs that feed right into the ocean, and in the town of Morro Bay, you’ve got a sweet view of it all.

Giant rock in the ocean guarding the estuary

Morro Rock and Estuary, photographed by Earthly Beauties

Morro Bay is named for the massive rock that sits out in the water, Morro Rock, a former volcanic plug formed millions of years ago. It’s a pretty cool feature, especially if you’re into geology, and it’s one of the Nine Sisters: a line of morros extending from Morro Bay all the way inland to San Luis Obispo. You can hike to the top of several of them, like Cerro Cabrillo or Cerro San Luis Obispo (more commonly referred to as ‘Madonna’ for the eccentric hotel at the base of it).

You can find some cool Hipcamp spots in the area for a quiet retreat, or you can camp at Morro Strand State Beach for a spot right on the coast. Morro Strand is a long, sandy beach that curves along the ocean, right up to the iconic Morro Rock.

Surfer on the beach with horseback riders and smoke stacks in the background

Beach near Morro Bay, photographed by Katie Rodriguez

If anything, you should head to Morro Rock for the wildlife. Tons of birds live on Morro Rock, including a few peregrine falcons (the fastest land animal, FWIW). Otters and seals love to hang out at the mouth of the bay too, so if you keep an ear out for high-pitched squeals, you may be able to spot baby otters laying on their mothers!

Another hidden gem is Montaña de Oro State Park, about twenty minutes south of Morro Bay. There are summit hikes like Valencia Peak with killer views of the Nine Sisters and the coastal mountains, but you can hit the beach for tide pooling and sandy lounging. For a little extra thrill, you can also crush the waves on a surfboard or bring along a small board to sand surf the dunes. After a day of some rejuvenating sun worship you’re bound to be hungry, so top off your tank at Sylvester’s with a droolworthy burger and milkshake.

Rocky cliffs lining the tidepools and the ocean

Cliffs of Montaña de Oro, photographed by Ronan Furuta

Bonus: Morro Bay is just south of Big Sur, so if you’re coming from the north, you can take the mega scenic route down this winding, beautiful coastline. Just be sure to check the conditions on Highway 1, because it is frequently closed due to landslides.

California’s Northern Coast: Humboldt County

Depending on who you ask, the Norcal coast feels like the start of the Pacific Northwest. It’s trees, water, more trees and more water. There’s something pretty magical about towering trees that meet the ocean: two majesties coexisting. Aside from its reputation for a cold ocean and foggy days, the Humboldt coast is perhaps most known for the redwoods.

 Highway through the Redwood giants, the perfect west coast weekend getaway

Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt, photographed by Bruno Wolff

Redwoods are so plentiful in this region that there’s both a state and national park devoted to them. These parks offer a serene escape from the modern world, I mean, some of them are so old they even pre-date the Middle Ages, so you can totally unplug among these trees! The middle of a redwood forest can feel otherworldly, and there’s no better spot to perch with your nature journal, a good book, or a can of your favorite beer. If you head to the redwoods, make sure to carve out time to sit and bask in the magnitude of the trees.

Camp right by the coast at Sue-meg State Park (previously called Patrick’s Point). Here, you’re a quick drive from the redwoods, and along the way up north you’ll want to keep your eye out for elks crossing the highway. It’s not uncommon for them to create a little traffic! Plus, from this campground, you can walk down to Agate Beach and spend a morning scavenging for colorful little rocks, an act that’s surprisingly meditative.

Ocean sunset through the feathery grass

Sunset over Trinidad State Beach, photographed by Helena Luce

South of the campground is the town of Trinidad and the sprawling Moonstone and Clam Beaches. Moonstone is one of the most popular surf spots in the county, but don’t forget your wetsuit: this water is chilly! If you prefer the land-side of the water, you can explore this beach for hours and check out the hundreds of sand dollars that pepper the sand. You can also post up anywhere, as it’s hardly ever crowded, and pass the day by building sand castles and taking it easy with your favorite snacks and drinks!

 

Packing a Sunski travel case for a weekend getaway

 

Sunski's travel case can fit all your sunnies and adventure essentials safely in one place!

If there’s anything the West Coast has in abundance, it’s gorgeous beaches and forests. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it can spring new ideas and inspo for your next weekend adventure. You never know where the road will take you, but this is your sign to try somewhere new on your next getaway.

Making the most of your weekends can feel like a refresh button, prepping you to take on another week with a little extra pep in your step. At Sunski, we believe that returning to nature can fuel the soul, whether you prefer to hop off into the backcountry or chill out with your feet in the sand, any kind of time outside is the perfect way to unwind. Soak up the sun on your next weekend!

Meet the Author

madison author bio

Along with writing blogs for Sunski, Madison creates nature books for kids. She grew up with BLM land in her backyard, which fueled her affinity for adventure and epic stories. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, camping, and reading under the sun.