I feel like Southern Oregon and the very northern areas of California are both places that are not as frequently traveled or easily accessible, so what better way to experience this slice of wild coastline than through a one-week road trip! I had planned this trip to revisit some of my favorite parts of Northern California, as well as see some new areas in Southern Oregon like Samuel Boardman, Umpqua, and Crater Lake.
Here is my entire itinerary, complete with some additional highlights I didn’t have enough time to check out.
If you decide to go, please always practice Leave No Trace and respect each spot. Many of these spots are highly sensitive to human traffic, so we should make it our highest priority to reduce our impact as much as possible.
Also if you don’t have a full week to make it all the way up to Oregon, I wrote a three-day variant of this trip that focuses on the redwoods and the coastal areas of Northern California.
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Download offline Google Maps on your phone for the entire area. Most of this route there is little to no service, so doing this will allow you to get directions to your next location even if you don’t have service
Consider getting a parks pass like the America the Beautiful Interagency Pass ($80 for a whole year of free admission into US National Parks). If you go to a lot of CA State parks, you could look into a CA State Park Pass too
Depending on the time of year, try to book as many campsites in advance as possible, as some of the more remote and best campgrounds can be reserved online
Bring lots of small bills in cash if you plan to camp. Many campgrounds operate on the envelope system (you put money in an envelope and drop it in a box), and there is no change
From: San Francisco, CA
To: Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, CA
Driving time: 3 hours
Today doesn’t count since it’s a straight shot up to the Humboldt area, the starting point for this entire road trip. We left on a Friday evening and took our time, stopping in Healdsburg for dinner and the best ice cream and pie bar.
This part of the 101 is great because you’ll pass lots of campground options (you can usually spot them with a brown tent icon on the side of the road). We didn’t make it all the way to Humboldt Redwoods and ended up spending the night at Standish-Hickey, a forested state recreation area.
From: Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, CA
To: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, CA
Driving time: 3 hours 30 mins
Today was our first real full day on the road, and jam-packed it was! After we woke up in the lush stand of redwoods of Standish-Hickey and packed up after breakfast, we continued north on the 101 to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I love taking the Avenue of the Giants, which runs parallel to the 101, as this side road will allow you to drive within feet of these towering giants!
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods has several hikes and points of interest to pick from. My favorites are the Rockefeller Loop (blog post for more hike details) and the Grieg-French-Bell Grove (blog post with location details). Once you’ve had your share of these redwoods, it’s time to get back on the road and head to the coast! On your way to Patrick’s Point State Park, you’ll pass Trinidad, a coastal town with coves, beaches, and picturesque rocks just offshore. Feel free to stop and explore whenever you feel like stretching your legs - we even found a swing on the side of a cliff!
Patrick’s Point State Park
We soon arrived at Patrick’s Point State Park, an easily overlooked area compared to California’s other more known redwood state parks. Wedding Rock (blog post here) is a landmark perched on the edge of a small rock outcropping where I love to stand on the edge and look out over the ocean to fully experience the magnitude and power of the northern Pacific Ocean. There are also lots of great picnic spots to enjoy the salty air.
If you’re a backpacker you can consider backpacking the Lost Coast Trail, the longest stretch of undeveloped California coastline. See my blog post on this three-day, 25 mile trip here.
Prairie Creek State Park
Only 30 minutes away, Prairie Creek State Park is one of the more well-known parks on this end of California. There is a whole network of trails here, and you can experience everything including redwoods, lush understory environments, sandy beaches, and even large elk sightings! Be sure to stop at Elk Meadow on your way in to see if the herds are hanging out in the open.
My favorite hike here is Fern Canyon (blog post here), a truly unique short hike through a canyon with walls covered in ferns! You might want to bring water shoes and take a high clearance vehicle depending on the dirt road conditions. If you have time, the 12 mile Miner’s Ridge and James Irvine Loop is the ultimate hike - it ranks up there as one of the best redwood hikes you can do.
After we were thoroughly pooped from a stimulating first day, we drove one more hour to Jedediah Smith Campground to stay the night.
From: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, CA
To: Brookings, OR
Driving time: 33 mins
Today was dedicated mostly to exploring some of the lushest and pristine Redwood stands on the west coast. Jedediah Smith is hands down my favorite place to experience the redwoods, and you’ll be able to notice a difference between the trees further south in the Humboldt area compared to these closer to the Oregon border.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
For some great redwood hikes, I recommend Stout Grove for a shorter excursion and Boy Scout Tree for a longer hike. Even getting to each of these hikes requires driving on the scenic Howland Hill Road, which will have you driving in between massive redwood tree trunks that I’ll bet you won’t mind slowing down to a roll just to marvel at the towering trees all around you.
The well-known Smith River also winds through this neck of the woods, and you’ll find some nice pebbly beach access points in Jedediah Smith State Park and around the town of Hiouchi. But my favorite way to experience the crystal clear Smith River is to head up the Highway 199 or the South Fork Road which both follow the curves of their respective rivers and offer random access points to the water. We even stumbled across a rope swing under a bridge!
After a full day in my favorite redwoods and an absolutely divine nap by the river, we headed across the California border to Brookings, OR. We got to catch the sunset from a stunning overlook of Secret Beach before heading to a motel in Brookings, OR for a welcome shower after two nights on the road.
From: Brookings, OR
To: Roseburg, OR
Driving time: 3 hours 15 mins
Today is a day relatively free of driving, as we let ourselves explore the area however we felt like. I was most excited for this day of the road trip, and we got an entire day just to wander around each of the viewpoints and short hikes.
Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor
This was a small stretch of PNW coastline I’ve been dreaming about visiting for so long and was a big driving force in making this road trip in the first place. I love how remote this small slice of rugged coast is - quite a decent from any large city in Oregon and California. I’ve already written a blog post about my favorite spots to photograph and explore, but as the scenic corridor is only 12 miles long you might not need the entire day to explore.
After we had exhausted most of the turnouts and viewpoints of endless sheer cliffs, frothy ocean waves, and offshore rock formations, we continued up the Highway 101. I really enjoyed stumbling across random pullouts and small parks on the side of the road like Sisters Rock and Cape Blanco - two small gems you would only stop for on a road trip like this! We spent the night in Roseburg, the last large city before the next couple of days in the forest.
From: Roseburg, OR
To: Diamond Lake, OR
Driving time: 1 hour 35 mins
Today we head into Umpqua National Forest where we found endless waterfalls and rivers.
Umpqua National Forest
The Highway 138 that winds through the Umpqua National Forest passes right by four stunning waterfalls, all worthy of visiting: Susan Creek Falls (2 mile hike), Fall Creek Falls (1 mile hike), Toketee Falls (0.8 mile hike), and Watson Falls (0.6 mile hike). We are now in National Forest territory, so that means there is an entire network of forest roads accessible from the main highway. You’ll find campgrounds, campsites, dirt roads, and numerous creeks and rivers.
My favorite waterfall of the day was Watson Falls, which is the highest waterfall in Southwest Oregon at 293 feet! The mist flying off the landing pool is quite impressive and is sure to jolt you awake.
Umpqua National Forest is also home to Umpqua Hot Springs, a well-known natural hot spring consisting of several pools, all perched on the side of a small cliff above the rushing river below. It’s a short hike to the springs from the parking area, and you should prepare to see plenty of people in the nude. As with any hot spring, don’t bring any glass, and please pick up after yourself!
Diamond Lake Campground
At the end of the day, we set up camp at Diamond Lake Campground, where we had the best camping views of the entire trip. You’ll have a great backdrop no matter where you camp at Diamond Lake since you have Mt. Bailey to the west and the dramatic, pointy Mt. Thielsen to the east. This spot gets crowded in the summer, so you’ll want to book ahead during peak months. We drove around the lake and found several docks to hang out and soak in the mountain views.
From: Diamond Lake, OR
To: Crater Lake National Park, OR
Driving time: 1 hour 10 mins
I was very excited to finally be visiting a National Park that has been on my list for quite some time now - Crater Lake National Park!
Crater Lake National Park
Depending on what time of year you visit, some lodging, roads, and hiking areas might be harder to access. When we visited in April, the Crater Lake Lodge was the only option for accommodation (other than snow camping). If you are visiting off-season, be sure to book early, as some of the more affordable rooms will book up. You can check road closures and conditions on the NPS website here.
Even though the North entrance and main rim roads were closed, there still was plenty to see and do. Crater Lake itself is the most intense, deep shade of blue - the kind of blue that makes you stop in awe each time you turn and look at it. It was a lot of fun getting away from the crowds and tourists at the main area by hiking on the snow around the rim to get different views of Wizard Island.
Some great trails to check out are the Discovery Point Trail, the Watchman Peak Trail, and the Cleetwood Cove Trail. Also, make it a priority to catch the sunset there! If hiking isn’t for you, you can still watch it from a rocking chair on the balcony at the lodge!
From: Crater Lake National Park, OR
To: Burney, CA
Driving time: 3 hours 40 mins
This day on the road will bring you back over the border to California. You have a couple options for where to stay this night. I opted to stay in Burney, CA to be closer to McArthur-Burney Falls, but Mt. Shasta has the widest offerings of accommodation and dining options.
If you’re an avid birder or wildlife photographer, Klamath Basin is home to the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles down here in the states.
Lava Beds National Monument
If exploring caves and tunnels that were formed by lava 40,000 years ago sounds intriguing, Lava Beds National Monument is only a slight detour on your way down south. This park gets few visitors, but I think that’s because it’s so far north that many people don’t know about it (…yet!). Click here for my favorite caves there. You could easily spend an entire day spelunking with the family and navigating some real lava tunnels.
You could spend days in the Mt. Shasta area alone, I love this area so much that I wrote another weekend itinerary full of activities. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s touring the McCloud Falls, doing some short hikes like Mossbrae Falls and Heart Lake, or backpacking through the Trinities. I even love just driving around exploring some of the roads, as you’ll get some great shots of Mt. Shasta in the distance like at this rest stop and this turnoff.
From: Burney, CA
To: San Francisco, CA
Driving time: 4 hours 20 mins
We’ve covered so much ground and experienced so much of the outdoors this past week, but it’s finally time to head home. The majority of the drive home is on the Interstate 5, an easy and straight shot home. We made one final stop for our last big waterfall before heading home.
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
California’s second oldest state park, McArthur-Burney State Park is small and remote, and during this road trip, I finally got the chance to see these stunning falls in person. The park is known for one particular point of interest - the majestic Burney Falls that cascades gorgeously from 130 feet up.
What makes these falls so unique is that the water comes from underground springs and flows year-round. Wider, more branched, and delicate waterfalls like these are my favorite kind of falls, as they have almost an ethereal and mystical look to them.
No matter what your itinerary says, try to still plan in some wiggle room to be flexible. You might find you are ready to move on from one spot, or you might find an area you want to soak in just a little bit longer. There’s so much to do all up and down the coast that you’re bound to have an incredible experience and perhaps discover a few hidden gems of your own!
Favorite gear for this adventure
Portable battery charger - I like to always have it plugged into recharge while driving so I’m never out of juice for my electronics when camping
Easy to inflate sleeping pad - the Sea to Summit ones come with a roll pump built into the sack, and even when I get too lazy to pitch a tent, I still use a sleeping pad when I sleep in the car
Travel towel - this many days on the road, you’ll never know when it will come in handy
Shower wipes - if you’re camping in an area that doesn’t have showers, these are a lifesaver. Sometimes I’ll even opt for one of these over actually using a public shower