Crater Lake, Redwoods and Highway 101
May 30, 2013 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan three days between Oregon and San Francisco: in particular, Crater Lake, the Redwood National/State Parks and a route down highway 101 to SF.

As part of an extravaganza trip this summer -- I'm off to grad school in the fall! so I'm taking a nearly four-week trip through the West/Pacific Northwest -- I will be driving from Portland to San Francisco. After perusing related questions, I have come up with these three days as part of my trip. This would be midweek in mid-July. I am most likely traveling solo, and don't really have wiggle room on time as I am renting a car for exactly a week and the rate will go up significantly if I add extra days.

Day 1. Drive from Roseburg, Oregon to Crater Lake. Take a boat tour of the lake. Drive around the lake, and then drive to Grants Pass. Spend the night there.
Day 2. Drive from Grants Pass to the Redwood National/State Parks. Spend day in park. Drive to Arcata or Eugene and spend the night.
Day 3. Drive from Arcata/Eugene to SFO, probably via 101, where I have to drop off the rental car by 11 pm.

- Is this feasible/realistic, especially for a solo driver? My rationale for splitting the time this way was to be able to spend more time in nature on days 1 and 2, and have day 3 be more of a straight-out "driving day."

- I could use a little bit of help planning a route on day 2, on which I'd like to see both redwoods and the ocean coast. In terms of redwoods, I am trying to heed the warnings not to hike solo (AKA, hiking alone into the backcountry is probably not on the agenda) so I'd appreciate any advice on which trails/spots will maximize both safety and scenery. I am not a hardcore hiker although I run regularly so medium-level trails should not be a difficulty.

In terms of ocean views, I would love to be able to see views like this (note: I know this is not on the route in day 2) if there are good lookouts/stopping points.

- Finally, on the drive from Arcata to SFO, where would you recommend stopping? I was planning on 101 as it's faster to the Bay and seems less stressful/tiring than southbound highway 1 for a solo driver. I like architecture, history and good food. Not into sports or fine arts.
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Go to Fern Canyon/Gold Bluff State beach north of Arcata. I grew up in Arcata, and its my favorite place for nature. Being water shoes/sandals and hike up the canyon.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:12 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can pick up route 1 at Drive-Thru Tree Park and take it down to route 128 (south of Ft Bragg), and follow 128 through the Anderson Valley to Cloverdale, where you can get back on 101. 128 is a gorgeous drive, and there are wineries where you can stop for a snack and a pee. You can also stop at Anderson Valley Brewing Company!
posted by rtha at 11:16 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, the Arcata Community Forest trail is a really nice stroll through the redwoods, and not backcountry at all.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:22 AM on May 30, 2013

If you do rtha's section of route 1, and you like beer, you can also stop at the North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg.
posted by jon1270 at 11:42 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I forgot to mention, I do like beer and breweries are great! Obviously won't be partaking in huge quantities on a solo driving trip, but it'd be great to pick up some beer for friends I'm staying with in SF.
posted by andrewesque at 11:44 AM on May 30, 2013

Arcata and Eugene are very far apart. You might mean Arcata/Eureka. Of which Arcata is the nicer place.

101 in Northern California is a small sample of infinity, but HWY 1 above SF is infinity itself. It is very beautiful, but takes a LONG time.
posted by Danf at 11:48 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

And, the Ferndale Cemetery is well worth stopping at, at least once. Just south of Eureka.
posted by Danf at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2013

Response by poster: Yes, *headdesk*. Definitely meant Arcata/Eureka, but it seems like Arcata is more charming.
posted by andrewesque at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2013

Yes, yes, North Coast Brewing! Give yourself some time there so you have have an Old Rasputin.

And on 128, you'll drive through some redwoody parts (Navarro State Park - might be the wrong name - and also Hendy Woods) that are just gorgeous.

....And depending again on how much time you feel like you want to take, you can stop in Healdsburg and go to Bear Republic and hope that they have Racer X on tap.
posted by rtha at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2013

In Redwood National Park, the Prairie Creek part has the James Irvine trail (and related trails)... they are more or less right off of the 101, and are a fantastic opportunity to walk through a number of old-growth Redwood groves and really get a feel for the forest. At the little visitor's center by the trailhead, they will kindly advise you. These trails are in no way to be considered "backcountry," and are very safe; you can organize a loop that fits your timeframe and endurance... but if you're coming from Grant's Pass and you want to do a hike in Humboldt County, you should get moving pretty early in the day.

I agree that Fern Canyon is pretty stupendous (it is on the other side of the ridge that Elk Prairie abuts), but driving to and from it will add another 1.5-2 hours onto your already pretty drive-heavy day.

The coastal views you are looking for are all along 101, really. But some particularly lovely spots are Patrick's Point State Park, College Cove/Elk Head at Trinidad (Take the Trinidad exit into town, then turn right onto Stagecoach Road in approx. 1/4 mile. Follow about 1/2 mile to the parking area on your left.), Luffenholz Beach (just South of Trinidad), Moonstone Beach at the Westhaven Road exit is also nice (find the little cave!). College Cove is probably my favorite, what with the starfish and all (go at low tide)!

If you just want to look, and don't have time to actually go to the beach, you will find a number of vista points/obvious awesome spots along the route.

I would vastly prefer staying in Arcata to Eureka; it's a far sweeter place, provided you have patience for hula-hoops and jester hats, etc. Saturday morning, if it works out like that, boasts a very seriously rocking farmer's market on the main plaza. Badass ice cream at Scoop, and soak at the Finnish Country Tubs and Sauna
(DO THIS in the nighttime after you hike (call the day before to make a reservation; they are open late).

If you're staying in Northern Humboldt, and it's beer you want, it's beer you shall have. Personal favorite is the Mad River Brewing Company, located in sunnier-than-the-coast Blue Lake (about 7 miles East of Arcata on 299). They have a tasting room and outdoor beer garden there, and they pretty much clean house in terms of GABF medals, etc. Get a growler for your friends. (Memail me if you go there!) Also Redwood Curtain in Arcata, which doesn't sell bottles anywhere, specializes in Belgian-style beers.
posted by eyesontheroad at 12:03 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

And on 128, you'll drive through some redwoody parts (Navarro State Park - might be the wrong name - and also Hendy Woods) that are just gorgeous.

That is indeed the right name. I camped at Navarro last summer -- right where 1 meets 128 and across a bridge, you can catch a road down to the beach where the river meets the ocean. It's just one of many pretty places around there, but I liked it. If you do stop by there, head to the north end of the beach where the cliffs rise up. When I was there, somebody had built a little house made out of driftwood that was fun to hang out in.
posted by invitapriore at 1:12 PM on May 30, 2013

I lived in Crater Lake for half a year. Did the boat tour once, and yes, it's absolutely worth it. As I remember it though, during peak season you had to be there pretty early in the morning in order to guarantee yourself a ticket for that day...I think I got to the Cleetwood Cove parking area around 7am (there was no reserving tickets, at least not in 2007). I highly recommend calling the park to to find out about this year's boat tours. How many will there be per day? What times? How do you go about purchasing tickets? Can they be reserved? A vendor known as Xanterra will probably still be running the tours, but the rangers at headquarters can fill you in on the details.

Worst case scenario: you can't get a ticket so you just hike down to the lake (1 mile on Cleetwood Cove trail) and maybe even jump in, drink the water straight from the lake, etc.

Day 1 sounds like a long-ass day of driving (especially with the Rim Drive, where you'll be stopping on a regular basis to gasp at the views I can pretty much guarantee you). But it's do-able.
posted by bennett being thrown at 4:03 PM on May 30, 2013

If your friends really like to check out different beers, find some in Oregon that aren't distributed in California.

Avoid restaurants in Crescent City.

If I could see only one thing in the redwood park, I'd make it Fern Canyon. In the summer, you're likely to see other people on that trail, just don't go stomping off into the woods, footing is uneven at best with slippery fallen redwoods around.

Ukiah is an interesting little town with a very compact "downtown" around the town square.

Last time I drove 101 I lost about an hour to traffic (not in the bay area where you would expect that) and construction. Allow extra time, especially for construction, as much of 101 is one lane each way and they use a pilot car. I've eaten dinner waiting for the pilot car, or gotten out and walked around a little.
posted by yohko at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2013

Response by poster: bennett being thrown: is there anywhere closer to Crater Lake I could stop than Roseburg? The day before (day 0, I guess) I will be driving from Portland and can leave anytime in the afternoon.

And it does look like you can make reservations for the boat tours, now!
posted by andrewesque at 7:37 PM on May 30, 2013

I live in Eureka and the others are correct about staying in Arcata. Lots of nice room offers on Airnb.

Coming across Hwy 199 from Grants Pass is a beautiful drive. Crescent City is one of the ugliest cities in America but surrounded by incredible beauty. The options for enjoying the redwoods on this stretch of the 101 are endless and the beaches are also awsome. Prairie Creek, Patricks Point, Fern Canyon and Trinidad are all great choices. The community forest in Arcata is behind HSU and also very beatiful but not full of tourists so I would be careful in there.

You can cut across to Hwy 1 at Leggett, about an hour south of Eureka. Depending on the month you are doing this in, don't be surprised if you can't see the ocean that you can hear on the passenger side of your vehicle. Summer fog in June can really suck.

It is a long, long, long drive to San Fransisco on this road. If you could spilt it into two days for this part you could have a really great time. Or only do the upper part to Fort Bragg and the cut back across to Willits or drive down to Willits and then shoot across to the coast.

It is all beautiful in my opinion so you will have a great time no matter what route you take.
posted by cairnoflore at 8:09 PM on May 30, 2013

Have to chime in here about breweries and suggest the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka. I also highly suggest Patrick's Point, Trinidad, Moonstone Beach, and Fern Grove as being insanely beautiful parts of an amazing part of California. Bonus points: Fern Grove is where the Ewok Forest from Return of the Jedi was filmed!

One suggestion that no one seemed to offer is that driving on the Avenue of the Giants is only a small detour on 101 and a really lovely drive. Highway 1 is incredibly beautiful but from Arcata to SF it will probably take you around 10-12 hours. 101 will probably take around 6-7ish.

Augh this is making me homesick for Arcata.
posted by ruhroh at 11:11 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I suppose you could drive a bit farther and stay at the Diamond Lake Resort (never stayed there myself). Roseburg is probably a good bet if you're just looking for a standard hotel room though. I think you'll be in good shape either way.

Glad to hear you can reserve boat tour tickets--you will not regret it! Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes for the hike down (which is somewhat strenuous, mainly because you're at 6500') + sunglasses and sunscreen--it's very bright down there. Have fun!
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2013

is there anywhere closer to Crater Lake I could stop than Roseburg? The day before (day 0, I guess) I will be driving from Portland

You could go to Bend, or one of the towns between Medford and the park, or the closest town (with nothing whatsoever of note) is La Pine.
posted by yohko at 9:59 PM on May 31, 2013

There is also much National Forest land where you can camp nearby.
posted by yohko at 10:01 PM on May 31, 2013

Response by poster: Just wanted to say, I'm currently in Arcata (although, sadly, not in the city center, I ended up staying in a hotel on the outskirts because it was cheap) and so far these suggestions were fabulous. I ended up modifying my itinerary so:

Day 0. I left Portland early, hiked near Multnomah Falls, then drove and stayed at the Diamond Lake resort. The motel room was utilitarian but perfectly useful. I don't think this would have worked so well if the north Rim Drive/access road had not been open.

Day 1. Drove to Crater Lake (under an hour) then took the boat tour. Hiked to Garfield Peak in the afternoon for spectacular lake views, then drove to Crescent City. I lingered a little bit too long at Garfield Peak, then took tons of time trying to take a picture at the Oregon-California state line, so I did all of US 199 in California in the dark. It looks like it would've been a gorgeous daytime drive but for a first-time solo driver it was not ideal, to say the least.

Day 2. Hiked the Miners' Ridge and James Irvine hike (thanks eyesontheroad for the suggestion and link to that site!) Beautiful redwood groves and peaceful for miles. Then drove to Arcata (stoppin at some viewpoints to snap shots along the way) where I'm staying the night.

Tomorrow's plan is to drive down to San Francisco and I'm currently revisiting this thread to plan my itinerary. Thanks for all the tips!
posted by andrewesque at 10:54 PM on July 17, 2013

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