Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Northwest: Seattle to San Fran

See the northwest coast with this leisurely road trip through three states and wine country! Starting in Seattle and heading down the coast to San Francisco, the highlights of this trip are the wonderful cities of Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, and the wine country that is the Napa Valley area.

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Day 1: Seattle to Portland

Seattle is a beautiful city based around the Puget Sound, and you will pass through several other urban centres on the way out, such as Tacoma and Olympia. If you have an extra day, you could use it to drive the Olympic Loop, a trip full of forest and coastline scenery. This also passes through the famous (or infamous) Forks, the town in which Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series is set. This loop could also be fit in to the same day as driving Seattle- Portland, if the trip is a little less leisurely!

by Jessica Spengler Flickr Creative Commons

 Olympic National Park
by Joseph Novak Flickr Creative Commons

Further south, you will pass through Longview, nicknamed the 'City of Trees.' This pretty town by the river is home to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, an area around Mount St. Helens which is set aside for research, recreation and education. This beautiful part of the country has a Visitor's Centre and great walking trails.

Mount St. Helens
by Ewen Roberts Flickr Creative Commons

Portland is a unique city, straddling the Willamette River, with Mount Hood to the east. It laid-back and feels like a smaller city than it is, and has an alternative vibe- often touted as being very 'hipster!' There are a lot of microbreweries to visit, and lots of parks and gardens around the city. The hub of activity is Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.

There is ample opportunity to park up your motorhome in Portland: try Fairview RV Park or the Roamer's Rest RV Park which is not far out of Portland.

Day 2: Portland to Medford

See some more of Oregon on this day with only 5 hours driving. One of the first places you will pass through is Salem, a farming community which grew during the gold rush. Though small, it is the capital of Oregon, and home to the Oregon State Fair in September and August. There is a lot of history on display in the town, such as the Downtown Salem Historic District, the Mission Mill Museum, the Discovery Village, the State Capitol Building and several other museums and estates.

Salem State Capitol Building
by Doug Kerr Flickr Creative Commons

If you want to see the Oregon coast, Newport would be a great side trip to make- come off the I-5 onto US-20 and head westwards. You could add in a day here, or make it a quick detour just to get your toes wet! Newport is a charming seaside town with some lovely beaches close by, and the route there will take you through Corvallis, home to the Oregon State University which is known for marine research.

As you continue towards Medford, you will come across Eugene. As with much of the Pacific Northwest, this is a city of people who love their microbrews, coffee and ecologically-friendly lifestyles. Sport is big here, and there are also a lot of hiking and mountain biking trails.

by Scott Batchelar Flickr Creative Commons

Medford is just above the Oregon-California state border, and is a diverse city with many historical and cultural attractions. Rafting and Salmon fishing in nearby rivers are also popular pastimes! Find an RV Park in the area to spend the night- Medford Oaks, or the Holiday RV Park are some options.

Day 3: Medford to Redding

This is not a lot of driving, so that you can enjoy the beauty of northern California! The I-5 will take you through the towns of Ashland, Yreka, Weed and Mount Shasta. However, the biggest attraction along here is nature! You will pass the Klamath National Forest, encompassing nearly 1.7 million acres.  Turn off around Yreka to explore this amazing forest.  There are 5 different wilderness areas, and plenty of trails to walk.

by Michael McCullough Flickr Creative Commons

Near the town of Mount Shasta is Mount Shasta itself, a stunning mountain surrounded by the  Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Some attempt to climb the peak, but it is a real climb to be undertaken by real climbers! The Hirz Mountain Lookout is a great way to get views of the area, and there are campgrounds should you decide to stop for a few days.

Just before you get to Redding you will come across Shasta Lake, created by damming the Sacramento River. it is the houseboating and wakeboarding capital of the world- how's that for an interesting combo?

Shasta Lake
by Renee V Flickr Creative Commons

Redding is a great place to shop, with many specialty shops.  There are plenty of places to park up and rest before heading in to the coast the next day!

Day 4: Redding to Fortuna

The best way to get the most out of this part of California is to head out to the coast from Redding, so instead of continuing on the I-5, take the CA-299 out to Arcata and Eureka on the coast.

You will pass again though the Trinity National Forest, and the small town of Weaverville, a small town where the history of California's gold Rush era lives on. This charming town is a very charming spot, relatively undiscovered as a tourist destination.

by Eric Fredericks Flickr Creative Commons

There are some wild and scenic beaches out this way, and Eureka's Old Town is worth a look! One of the prettiest parts of the coastline is just north of Eureka at Trinidad State Beach. Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University and, seperated from the rest of California by the redwood forests, has somewhat of a counterculture going on, with many hippies in residence!

Trinidad State Beach
by Erik Fitzpatrick Flickr Creative Commons

Fortuna is a little further south and inland, on the shore of the Eel River. A lot of festivals take place here, such as the Daffodil Festival, Art and Wine in the Park, the Fortuna Rodeo and many more, so check out what's on while you're visiting! Try the Riverwalk RV Park for the night.

Day 5: Fortuna-San Francisco

This day covers wine country and is over 5 hours of driving, so split it in two if you have the time! Head south on US101 and soon you will come across the famous Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It is the last remaining area of old-growth redwoods, and as such is a crucial part of the natural history of the area. Running parallel to the main highway for 30 miles is the Avenue of the Giants, where the road is flanked by giant redwoods. A must-see! There are also several Drive-Thru trees off this road, but be warned that many motorhomes will not fit!

Avenue of Giants
by Doug Kerr Flickr Creative Commons

The road passes through Garberville and Willits, and passes the beautiful Lake Mendocino just before arriving in Ukiah. Now you're starting to get into a bit of wine country! Clear Lake is another large lake which requires a bit of a detour off the main route, and is the largest natural freshwater lake in the state.

Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Napa are all centres for exploring the picturesque vineyards, hills and countryside of this part of California. You will find all sorts of wine tours leaving from these places, and it is a good idea to do these rather than drive around wine-tasting in a motorhome! Often you can go on a tour right from an RV park- try the San Fran RV resort, Wine Country RV Park or Vineyard RV Park.

Wine Country
by Derek Key Flickr Creative Commons

San Francisco is a liberal, hilly and fascinating city! It has great Victorian architecture and huge ethnic and cultural diversity- as well as a true American landmark in the Golden Gate Bridge. Spend a few days getting to know the city if you can.

See here for some great deals on USA RV Rental!

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