California National Parks 5 week Road Trip

Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 09:04 PM
  #21  
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Gardyloo - If we add that in, it makes the most sense on the way between San Francisco and Yosemite. Do you have any suggestions for what we should do in the Gold Rush Country with kids? I saw Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and Columbia State Historic Park. Would you suggest those areas or others? Do you think Calaveras Big Trees State Park is worth it if we are going to Sequoia later?

Tomfuller - I will definitely only plan for one full day at Lassen. Thanks!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 10:03 PM
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"If we add that in, it makes the most sense on the way between San Francisco and Yosemite. Do you have any suggestions for what we should do in the Gold Rush Country with kids? I saw Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and Columbia State Historic Park. Would you suggest those areas or others? Do you think Calaveras Big Trees State Park is worth it if we are going to Sequoia later?"

Actually visiting the Gold Rush country makes more sense between Yosemite and Lassen as Gardyloo suggested. There is soooo much for kids in the region -- #1 would be Columbia State Historic Park. Plus RailTown State Historic park in Jamestown, and caves and caverns, and lakes, and gold panning, and neat little towns. Sutter's Mill (the Gold Discovery site) is OK but Columbia would be better IMO.

. . . Different strokes . . . I personally prefer Lassen to Crater Lake. Crater Lake is 'pretty' whereas Lassen is unique with all the weird and different geological, volcanic, and other features.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 10:46 PM
  #23  
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Our current plan has us going from Great Basin to Lake Tahoe, to Lassen, to Crater Lake, to Redwood, to San Francisco to Yosemite to Kings Canyon and Sequoia to Pinnacles. So in this case, adding the Gold Rush Country would have to be between San Francisco and Yosemite, right?

We could alter our plans to go Great Basin to Yosemite (advantage we could go over Tioga Pass and maybe stop in Bodie State Historic Park if we have time), then go to Gold Country and up to either Lake Tahoe and then to Lassen or skip Lake Tahoe and just go on to Lassen (is Lake Tahoe worth it?). Then continue on to Crater Lake, Redwood, San Francisco and then cross over to Kings Canyon and Sequoia before we hit Pinnacles and go back to the coast near Carmel.

Either option is doable at this point because Yosemite still has availability. But I obviously have to decide soon. Thanks again!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 06:39 AM
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by jenmarkolson View Post
We could alter our plans to go Great Basin to Yosemite (advantage we could go over Tioga Pass and maybe stop in Bodie State Historic Park if we have time), then go to Gold Country and up to either Lake Tahoe and then to Lassen or skip Lake Tahoe and just go on to Lassen (is Lake Tahoe worth it?). Then continue on to Crater Lake, Redwood, San Francisco and then cross over to Kings Canyon and Sequoia before we hit Pinnacles and go back to the coast near Carmel.

Either option is doable at this point because Yosemite still has availability. But I obviously have to decide soon. Thanks again!
Generally, the earlier you can visit Yosemite the better, and the later Crater Lake, owing to persistent snow that can hang around the crater rim.

Is Lake Tahoe "worth it?" Impossible to answer. It's beautiful in places, tacky in others, and pretty much full of people all the time. Personally, I'd skip it, but I don't want to repeat the same points I made in an early post on this thread. If seeing Lassen and Crater Lake are bucket list things, then go for it, but I'd make the visits brief and in passing, and focus more on national (and especially state) parks farther south. I'd also pass on Sequioa/Kings Canyon to reduce the number of hours spent criss-crossing the hot, boring central Valley of California, but, again, same thing. If it's on a bucket list, so be it. But if I had to pick between two days fighting the crowds to see the General Sherman tree for 20 minutes, vs. having a couple of days around Monterey Bay - maybe visiting some redwoods like Henry Cowell, or letting the kids hang out at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, or go whale watching from Monterey, or tide pooling at Point Lobos... well... your call.

So yes, if you can't rearrange things to hit Yosemite first, I'd skip Tahoe, head quickly to Lassen and Crater Lake, then out to the coast. I'd stop at Crescent City or Brookings (OR) for a day or two, during which you could drive north along the Oregon coast to Bandon then back to your base, before heading south into the main redwood groves. Again, remember that Redwood National Park is lines on a map; the real glory (IMO) are in the state parks bracketing and surrounding it.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 4th, 2020 at 06:42 AM.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 06:55 AM
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With your current itinerary, Gold Country makes the most sense between SF and Yosemite.

If you alter your itinerary to go from Great Basin to Yosemite Valley, I'd break it up with one night on the eastern side of the Sierra range and then take your time exploring the high country of Yosemite when you enter the following day. The drive from Great Basin to Yosemite Valley would take more than 8 hours. Bodie is very interesting and worth a stop. You could even spend a couple of nights in this area around June or Mammoth Lakes. It's a beautiful area with diverse geology. If you do that, I would skip Tahoe.

I think Mineral is a good base for Lassen. That's where I'd choose to base ourselves if we returned. Unfortunately our only trip was cut short due to an early snowstorm so we were limited in what we could do but what we did see was very interesting. There are also parts of Lassen that are not along the main park highway.

If you end up putting Yosemite at the beginning, I'd probably skip Sequoia & Kings Canyon and see sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees (or the groves in Yosemite). I love SeKi but it would be a big detour across the state and back at that point.

Last edited by Patty; Feb 4th, 2020 at 07:00 AM.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 07:30 AM
  #26  
 
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I have no suggestions, but simply salute you on taking your kids to see our beautiful national parks! Have a great trip(s).
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:52 AM
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Yes, 2 nights and one full day in Crater Lake is ideal (weather permitting). One of the most gorgeous places I've been to in the US . . . a place that is so magical on a clear night with more stars you'll see in a lifetime. And one must take the trail down and back up to the lake and do the boat ride. I hate to hike, and even I didn't have a problem going down the trail or back up with all of the switch-backs.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 08:14 PM
  #28  
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I am definitely dropping Lake Tahoe. It wasn't one of our initial priorities and there is too much else to see.

Now I am considering another route. Kings Canyon and Sequoia are a priority. So what if we move them first? We could drive through Death Valley after Great Basin (we'd plan for evening or early morning driving through the park). Then the next day drive to Sequoia NP and stay two nights, one full day. Then stop at Kings Canyon for the day before we drive to Yosemite. Then continue the route I said above after that, but we don't have to cut inland to see Sequoia and Kings Canyon. The pro's: we would be at Yosemite on weekdays instead of a weekend, we can just stay along the coast on our drive down which would be nice for the second half of the trip, the drive times are similar according to google maps (I know - not completely accurate, but should be close) and mileage is only 40 miles more with the Southern route (I had to change dates to allow travel through Tioga Pass otherwise that way would have been further). Con: we don't get to visit the East side of Yosemite or Bodie (we have been over Tioga Pass before and stayed with family near Mammoth so we have seen that area).

Let me know what you think of this option. I think I would still be able to give 5 nights to the Redwoods area (spread out among a couple of locations), and some time on the central coast too.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:32 AM
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This is a much better plan.
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Old Feb 11th, 2020, 07:51 PM
  #30  
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I have a couple questions. I still have one more day to add that I am taking away from Los Angeles.

I can add it to Gold Rush Country (I only have one night right now), the Redwoods / Coast area (I have 5 nights right now - I am thinking 2 in Brookings, OR, 2 in Trinidad, one in Garberville), Mendocino (have one night right now), Carmel (have 2 nights but will drive to Pinnacles on the full day - we have been to this area before). Where is the best use of my time?

I currently have one night in Auburn. We will explore some of Gold Rush Country after we leave Yosemite (Columbia and Railtown State Historic Parks) and the drive up 49. The next day we are thinking of going whitewater rafting before driving up to Lassen. Is there more to see in North of Auburn that I want to make time for?

Plans for Redwoods area - spend two nights in Brookings and drive up the Oregon coast one day then explore Jedidiah State Park the next day. It seems like most of the stuff people have mentioned are close to Trinidad - (Tidepooling at Patricks Point State Park, Fern Canyon at Praire Creek Redwoods State Park, Tall Trees Grove, Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Trees of Mystery) so I was thinking 2 nights there. Are there more things in this area or further South? Gardyloo had mentioned drive the Lost Coast Highway South out of Ferndale. Can that be done as a trip from Ferndale to Garberville and not as a loop? Or is there more to see along the 101 going back to Ferndale? We planned to see Humboldt State Park and then the Avenue of the Giants. I also read that the road along the Lost Coast Highway can be rough. We have a minivan - will we be able to do this? If I added a night here it could be 2 nights instead of one in Garberville, or 3 nights in Trinidad. Or I could do 2 nights instead of one in Mendocino.

Once I decide where to add this day, I can finalize all of my reservations. Thanks for your help!
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Old Feb 11th, 2020, 10:30 PM
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"Is there more to see in North of Auburn that I want to make time for?"

Not essential stuff -- Nevada City is nice but that's not very far from Auburn and you'll want to get up to Lassen. There IS more south of Auburn from YNP all the way up hwy 49. Actually I don't think I'd stay in Auburn but in Nevada City instead. But Auburn is OK

"Gardyloo had mentioned drive the Lost Coast Highway South out of Ferndale. Can that be done as a trip from Ferndale to Garberville and not as a loop?"

The Lost Coast is hard to do as part of a loop -- it is basically one way out and the same route back. There is a road (Mattole Road) you can take from the Lost Coast > Petrolia > Garberville but it is EXTREMELY winding and slow. It is less than 60 miles and would easily take 2.5 hours from the Lost Coast to Garberville

Ya know -- I do love the Lost Coast but it is remote and getting out there and then getting south from there is not a fun ride for anyone sitting in the back seat. I drive a Mini Cooper Roadster (2 seater) and love those roads but I usually drive them solo and don't have to carry sick bags I might (reluctantly) think about dropping that detour. It would definitely simplify things.

I'd also try to fit in two nights in Mendocino -- there is a lot to see/do in the area Glass Beach, the Skunk train, the botanical gardens, beaches, pygmy forest, state parks around every bend in the road, etc.

IMO one night in Garberville and two in/near Mendocino is a good division of time.

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Old Feb 12th, 2020, 12:25 AM
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The Lost Coast is hard to do as part of a loop -- it is basically one way out and the same route back.

Not quite. There is a turn off (Usal Rd.) shortly after CA1 north of Fort Bragg turns inland to rejoin US101 which takes you into the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, from which you can keep on driving north to Honeydew and Petrolia and then on to Ferndale via Cape Mendocino. Eventually there is a beach and meadow where one can camp but the water needs to be boiled. Probably a little too much for the OP. However, there is a road from US101 through the Rockefeller Grove that goes to Honeydew and rejoins the itinerary to Ferndale. All one way. This second option is probably a better choice as it goes through some impressive redwood groves.



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Old Feb 12th, 2020, 06:59 AM
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"Not quite. There is a turn off (Usal Rd.) shortly after CA1 north of Fort Bragg "

BUT the OP wants to get to Garberville and Usal Road is of no use at all for that. And it is not a road for a family in a mini van . . . Not really a practical suggestion.

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Old Feb 12th, 2020, 03:32 PM
  #34  
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Gardyloo had posted this: "Lost Coast loop" - https://goo.gl/maps/BFyeANZGhqxJawqq6
I was thinking about doing it as a day without the return from Myers Flat to Ferndale. Then continue from Myers Flat to Garberville for the night.
Is that not doable?

Mendocino sounds like it might be a good option for an extra night.
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Old Feb 12th, 2020, 03:45 PM
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Mendocino is lovely but it takes a long time to get there, and many places require 2-night minimum stays, so make sure before committing.
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Old Feb 12th, 2020, 03:48 PM
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"was thinking about doing it as a day without the return from Myers Flat to Ferndale. Then continue from Myers Flat to Garberville for the night.
Is that not doable?"

Doable w/o returning to Ferndale - yes. Enjoyable in a minivan -- not IMO. The drive alone with no stops will be about 4 hours of VERY twisty turny roads. Unless you minivan handles a lot better than any I've been in this will not be a fun drive. It would be gorgeous but these are REALLY remote areas and the roads are not fun for anyone but the driver (assuming the driver likes this sort of drive)

The Lost Coast is a remarkable area . . . But I am just giving you my honest opinion. IMHO it is not a good fit for your specific vehicle/kids (or anyone) in the backseat. You will see TONS of great scenery on the rest of your itinerary . . . and all of it will be easier/more accessible that these roads. To give just a bit f an idea -- enlarge Gardyloo's map and concentrate on the bit just north of Honeydew or the stretch just west of Bull Creek.. Even in my Cooper roadster those are 15 mph territory.
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Old Feb 12th, 2020, 04:01 PM
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and in case you think I'm just an overly cautious driver . . . check my profile photo.

I've autocrossed and raced cars all my adult life
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Old Feb 13th, 2020, 05:34 AM
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I've been following this Lost Coast conversation, remembering our trip last fall. We, too, thought we'd enjoy this drive and completely underestimated it. We drove from Ferndale to Garberville. It took the better part of the day, left us exhausted and our rental car filthy. Yes, it is an amazing drive. No, I would never consider it in a minivan, and probably not with backseat passengers. It is definitely not a casual drive.

Editing to add - that time would be better spent driving the Avenue of the Giants. There are some beautiful trails where you could stop and take some walks, maybe an hour or two at a time. Amazingly gorgeous.

Last edited by sludick; Feb 13th, 2020 at 05:48 AM.
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