You might remember that I posted about planning a road trip here. Well, road trip is now done, so I thought sharing the details of our drive route might help some of you out for planning a future trip. Soon I will share specific details for each stop as well.
So, we decided that we would fly into San Francisco. California is just too far to drive in just a week ~ which is about all Mr. LouiseMarie can take all at one time. We knew that there is SO much to see in the northern part of California. There are National Parks, state parks, touristy destinations, and just flat out gorgeous scenery. There really is no way to do it all in one trip. We decided on a route first, deciding on what we really wanted to see for this trip.
Using Trip Maker by Rand McNally we mapped out our route. We entered the cities we were going to visit and then it gave us step by step directions to each stop. It gave us how many miles and how much time it would take to get to our destination. This was super handy to have on paper since there were areas where we lost cell service. Here is a screen shot of the map that we printed along with our driving directions for the trip.
Based on our desire to see the coast and drive on Hwy. 1 and Crater Lake in Oregon, we decided to drive from San Francisco north on Hwy. 5 and loop around to the coast in Oregon and then drive back down Hwy. 1 (the PCH) to San Francisco to fly home. Now we’ve got our route. The next step was to decide how to break up our days and fit in all we wanted to see.
Since our flight to S.F. was an evening flight, we decided to stay in downtown S.F. for night one and see as much of the city as we could during the day of day 2. In the evening, we drove 215 miles north on Hwy. 5 and stopped in Redding, California. This was really just a place to stay overnight so that we could get to our next site. Our drive time was approximately 3 1/2 hours.
On day 3 we visited Mr. Lassen National Volcanic Park, which was a short 43 mile trip. The beauty of this place is stunning. However, the snow on the ground at the end of July baffled us! The park is amazing. I could have spent all day taking in the views. However, my boys wanted to hike up the mountain. Therefore, we spent the majority of our time at the park hiking up Mt. Lassen. This is a 5 mile round trip hike. More on that later, however, for now, let me just say…not all 5 mile hikes are created equally.
At the end of the day, we travelled from Mt. Lassen north on Hwy. 5 past Mt. Shasta (beautiful!) into Oregon. We overnighted in Klamath Falls so that we would be ready for day 4 of our adventure. This trip was about 160 miles. On day 4, we drove about 96 miles to Crater Lake National Park. Be aware, if you are planning a trip to the lake, you need to verify that all the roads are open. A good amount of the year the roads close due to snow.
It’s not even possible to find words to describe the beauty of this place. We hiked a bit, climbed on some rocks, visited the visitor center and overlook site, and drove around the perimeter. At the end of the day, we headed west toward Oregon coast. We stopped in Roseburg for a late lunch. As a side note, plan accordingly for Crater Lake. There are no nearby places to eat. If you eat in the park, your selection is very limited and expensive. We were starved by the time we reached Roseburg. We ate at Brix. The food was delicious and the wait staff was very attentive. I highly recommend this spot for lunch or dinner.
We arrived late that night in Coo’s Bay for a two night stay. This was 190 mile drive and the scenery is lovely. Beware of going through the small towns along the way. Speed limits change at those spots. On day 5 we got to the coast as quickly as possible. We visited the coast and climbed rocks on the shore, explored tide pools, and watched waves crash. I could have stayed all day. Instead, we left to find some local seafood for lunch and explored the area.
Day 6 we spent the day driving south along Hwy. 101 to experience the Redwood Forests. All I can say here is that we felt incredibly small and insignificant among these giants. The views are spectacular. There are plenty of hiking trails and photo ops to keep you busy all day. Following our day among the giants, we decided to make it as far south as Eureka, CA for the night. The drive was only 220 miles; however, it took more than 4 hours even without stops.
Along the way we stopped in Arcata for lunch at Arcata Pizza and Deli. We all enjoyed our lunch there and our walk along the shops at the town square. Later we arrived in Eureka, a small Victorian town with some very neat architecture. There is a boardwalk in town as well. However, we were disappointed as many stores were closed and there were a lot of vacant storefronts. It was a very sleepy feeling town without a lot of traffic. I’m glad we hadn’t planned to spend any more time there.
On day 7 we hit the road fairly early to drive once again through the Redwoods. However, this time, we wanted to drive the Avenue of the Giants. Again, words will fail to really paint a picture for you as to the size of these trees. Many are 500-600 years old. Some can be as old as 2000 years old! During this drive, we stopped often, got out and hiked a few trails. The boys loved this as well as it was as if they were visiting the land of Endor. For those of you, like me, who don’t know…Endor is the forest in Star Wars where the Ewoks rode speeders through the forest. Well, this IS that forest as this is where the movie was filmed.
Ultimately we drove all the way to Ukiah that day. That was a 159 miles of driving. Although the drive time would be less than three hours, allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the views, explore the forests, and maybe even stop in one or two of the small towns that pop up along the highway. For dinner, we ate in Ukiah at the Ukiah Brewing Company. They do have their own beers for those of you who like craft beers. The food was also good there. We felt like the prices were a little high for what you actually got; however, there weren’t a lot of options on a Sunday evening.
Day 8 we devoted to the Anderson Valley to find some wineries and see amazing scenery and exploring Mendocino. This was another beautiful drive. We stopped in Boonville for a quick look around town and then northwest on Hwy. 128 for tasting at some of the wineries. After that, we headed on to the coastal town of Mendocino. Although this was a short drive, it was a LONG drive due to the winding roads that go over the mountains. Then back to Ukiah for one more night.
On day 9 we returned to San Francisco to try to fit in some of the things we missed on day one. We toured Chinatown, went back to North Beach for Italian food, and drove down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in America. It was a super fun day.
While I am sure there are still so many things we missed and could not fit in, we managed to see so much. Our pace was such that we had down time to relax and lots of together family time. My boys loved the trip and now we all know where we would like to return to spend more time.
On another topic…we did notice a LOT of homeless people in each town we visited. This is something that is not foreign to us; however, it was much more prevalent in the places we went. People approached us for money many times along the way; however, we did not feel it was in any way threatening. Still, all of us commented on how sad this was. It was a whole other level from anything we’ve ever seen. Just be aware if you plan a trip to the area. We were told these areas are economically depressed and it did in fact seem that way. Still we had a ball and these places could certainly use our tourist d
All in all, this road trip was fantastic. We did spend a lot of time in the car (I think about 24 hours and covered about 1220 miles; however, no one complained as the view is nothing short of spectacular. Each day the scenery amazed us more and more.
While today I am sharing the basic route we took, I will be posting more details about each city and site soon. In the meantime, I will leave you with this thought. If you’ve thought about seeing this part of the county, you absolutely should. No one in our family was disappointed. While I shouldn’t speak for Mr. LouiseMarie, the road trip was easy and very enjoyable. We had a fantastic time!
If you want to know any more about the route or the sites, please comment below and let me know. I am happy to share what we learned along the way. Also make sure to join my mailing list here so that you get the rest of the details as soon as they are posted – delivered right to your inbox.
Until next time~