Coastal Hwy, National Parks and Wine Country

Old Mar 20th, 2021, 06:02 PM
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Coastal Hwy, National Parks and Wine Country

We are hoping to make the most of a California trip and are looking for itinerary recommendations to visit the national parks and some wine country while traveling parts of the coastal highway. My preferred parks are Redwood, Yosemite, and Sequoia, but would also love to see Point Reyes, Death Valley and Lake Tahoe. We also would like to do a couple of wine tours. We have about two weeks and are hoping to go in May. I know lodging inside the parks will be full at this late date. We won't be doing long hikes. Any recommendations or insight is appreciated.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 06:53 PM
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That's a lot of territory in two weeks but semi doable.

One thing to note re Redwood National Park . . . many of the Calif State parks are superior to the National park. They were established before the Nat'l park and got most of the best bits.

For Yosemite - yes, lodging inside the park is booked up. But there is a LOT of availability at Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. It is 4 o 5 minutes from the west entrance and less than 25 minutes to the Valley/30 mins to Yosemite Village.

One way to squeeze all of that in would be to fly into SMF and immediately head up I-5 to Hwy 20 at Williams then west to 101 and north. To say Garberville takes around 4 hours from SMF so with a morning arrival you could be there by early afternoon. There you would be near the south end of the Avenue of the Giants. Spend two full days 3 nights exploring various redwood parks, Ferndale etc.

Then you could head down 101 into the Napa/Sonoma area. Better yet would be to take Hwy 1 from Ft Bragg through Mendocino, Ft Ross, etc down the coast to the Sonoma/Marin coast but that would take an extra day or two so you'd have to figure out your priorities.

Redwood/coast/Napa area would take about 5 days total if you rush a bit, 6 would be better.

Then after the coast/wine country you could take I-80 east to Truckee/Tahoe but that does complicate things because in May the route from Tahoe to Yosemite would probably require you to drive back down into the Central Valley and then into YNP from the west. But assuming you do 2 days at Tahoe (preferably at north shore) we're up to 8 days leaving you 5 or 6 days for YNP/Sequoia and Death Valley. Doable but I'd probably drop Death Valley and do 3 days for YNP and 2 for Seq/KC then fly home from a choice of airports. The Seq. Foothills Visitors Center is less than two hours from FAT, about 4 hrs to ONT, 3-ish hours to BUR, 4 hrs to LAX, 4.5 to SBA and 4-ish hours o SJC
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 07:28 PM
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janisj thank you for the information. Would the following itinerary be more doable: Fly into Portland and came down the coast to Redwood NP, down the coastal hwy to Sonoma and Napa then over to Yosemite and down to Sequoia? Fly home from Fresno. Thoughts? I will definitely research the state parks. Thank you in advance.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 09:42 PM
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Sorry but flying into PDX would complicate things even more and add a lot more drive time to an already busy itinerary. And especially if you mean actually exploring some of the Oregon coast. PDX to someplace like Newport or Coos Bay or Bandon and then down into the Calif coast/redwoods would add at least two full days of travel time over just flying into SMF and over to the coast from there.Confine your planning to airports in California.

You could do the itinerary in either direction . . . South to north FAT or one of the Bay area airports to Seq/KC to Yosemite to Tahoe to the wine country to the redwoods and home from SMF or the reverse north to south sort of like the first itinerary I suggested.

*** (BTW - a completely different option to think about: There are a lot of other wine regions in CA besides Napa Sonoma. A few include: Amador County and other foothill regions which are on one route from Tahoe to Yosemite and are terrific. Or in Mendocino county near the coast. Or all over Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Any of these could be worked into a reasonable itinerary. IF coastal redwoods are a 'must' but 'national redwood park' isn't, there are two terrific state parks between San Francisco and Monterey -- Big Basin and Henry Cowell. So you could get your redwood and wine fixes without having to go north of the SF Bay Area at all. Which would then make Death Valley a possibility because it would cut hundreds of northern miles out of your itinerary. Starting at one of the Bay area airports head down the coast (redwoods/ vineyards/Carmel/Pt Lobos, etc) then over to Death Valley, up to Seq/KC > Yosemite > Tahoe then fly home from either RNO or SMF or SFO or OAK. Currently Hwy 1 is closed south of Big Sur but there is a get around so that wouldn't seriously impact this sort of route)
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 07:35 AM
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Having two weeks available, your list of desired destinations would mean you're on the go pretty much nonstop, and I'd be concerned that many visits would be relegated to "fly-by" status. Maybe that's okay with you and compatible with your style, but if not, I'd look at ways to reduce the range without overly reducing the variety of experiences.

To echo in part the point made by Janis just above, one way to do this might be to look at possible "swaps" of landscapes that still fit your wishes. By this I mean looking for environments or natural features that can stand in for comparable destinations in more distant locations. For example, there are stands of giant sequoias in Yosemite (like the Mariposa Grove) or at, say, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, on CA Hwy 4 just east of the marvelous gold rush town of Murphys. In fact, the whole gold rush country along CA Hwy 49, which runs along the west slope of the Sierras and also gets very close to Yosemite, is not only spectacular in the spring, but is also home to a very rapidly growing and well-regarded wine-producing region, with numerous wineries all over the place. Wineries of Historic Hwy 49

Or for coast redwoods (which are a different species than giant sequoias) have a look at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz at the north end of Monterey Bay. And for wild and beautiful coastline, the Big Sur coast and Point Lobos just south of Monterey/Carmel hold their own against anything the Oregon coast has to offer.

So what about a loop like this - https://goo.gl/maps/CMmytkc7wfkpPPes8 - followed by a quick flight down to Las Vegas ($50 or so one way from SFO) then a couple of days to visit Death Valley and back, then home from there. I suspect that shortening the California loop would allow you to spend more quality time seeing things than driving between them, and returning rental cars to their point of origin will save major bucks compared to a long one-way rental. Google the places on the map and give it a think. .
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 07:44 AM
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If the objective is to see big Coast Redwoods, I agree with janisj. Visit Henry Cowell SP or Big Basin. If Death Valley is a must see, you could fly into Las Vegas and go from there. Car rentals are much cheaper from Las Vegas than from any California rental center. You can get from Fresno back to Sacramento by using the Amtrak San Joaquin trains. I have taken the train to Fresno and taken a taxi to get to the airport to rent a car to go into Yosemite via the south entrance. Not far inside the south entrance is the turn to go to the Mariposa Grove. You don't have to go to Sequoia/Kings Canyon to see big Sequoias.
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 09:11 AM
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Just FYI Big Basin is still closed from fire damage.
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 09:40 AM
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For 2 weeks it's just too ambitious to cover all that. It's a huge state with spots of traffic all over and mountain ranges that complicate cross-state movement. There are several logical ways to break the trip up into halves or smaller pieces. Since you are not interested in the cities, look at the many other airports you may not be familiar with. If you can get a nonstop to Sacramento that's an easy gateway for your trip and an easy airport to use and exit. There are many smaller airports that may mean a connection in Denver, Phoenix, or Salt Lake City, I don't know where you are coming from. Death Valley is I think hard to fit it with the rest without several days allowed to get there and explore it, although if you are set on it then open jaw into Las Vegas and return from California somehow. Sixt does not charge a one way fee between LV and California. California to me is a lot like France, it's large and there are so many things to see that just covering a small area in 2 weeks is a satisfactory experience.
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 11:11 AM
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Thanks Patty -- I didn't realize Big Basin was still closed. But Henry Cowel is just about as good IMO.

And the suggestion to fly to Vegas and do a short 2 day trip from there to DV and back is perfect. Not sure why I didn't think of that -- DV is a beast to get to from the west side / Yosemite but easy peasy from Las Vegas. Just about every airport in California has cheap/frequent flights to Vegas.

Gardyloo's map is like something I envisioned being doable in your short time frame and cutting out Seq/KC helps even more. Between Mariposa Grove and Calaveras you can definitely get a Sequoia fix (the tree - not the park ). I'd only add a very tiny extension instead of stopping at Sutter Creek on the way up hwy 49 I'd continue just 10 miles farther into Plymouth and the Shenandoah Valley wine region -- that is one of my favorites in the entire state. Sort of what Napa was 30+ years ago. Good to great wines, low or no tasting fees, and often you are talking to the actual wine maker in the tasting room.
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Old Mar 21st, 2021, 01:46 PM
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Good advice here so far. Fly to Vegas, rent a car do Death Valley, back yo Vegas, turn in the car, Fly to California and rent a car and do a loop from there.

Or fly to Vegas for Death Valley loop at the end of the trip.
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Old Apr 4th, 2021, 01:01 PM
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Thank you all for the suggestions. Does this sound more doable: fly into SFO - Sonoma/Napa - Yosemite - Kings Canyon/Sequoia - Big Sur/Coastline - Back to SFO
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Old Apr 4th, 2021, 03:27 PM
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That is definitely better but still pretty busy for two weeks, In your OP you mention 'about two weeks'. The devil is in the details - about 2 weeks could mean 10 or 11 days, 14 days, 17 days or anything.

But to give you and idea:
Sonoma/Napa = maybe 3 nights/2 full days
Yosemite = 3 nights/2 full days minimum (four nights would be much better though)
Kings Canyon/Sequoia = 3 nights/2 full days

Big Sur/Coastline - this part is complicated a bit by the closure on hwy 1 . . . but driving Seq/KC to say Carmel takes about 4 hours. From there you can do a day trip into BigSur plus all the things to do in and around the Monterey peninsula (Pt Lobos, the Mission, Aquarium, kayaking, Fisherman's Wharf, historic adobes, etc) Because of the long drive - I'd really want 4 nights/3 full days.


So depending on how long you decide in each place that is 13 or 14 nights plus your flight days and omits Coastal redwoods. If you wanted to visit Santa Cruz and Henry Cowell that would add one more day.

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Old Apr 7th, 2021, 05:04 PM
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Thank you. Tentative plan:

fly into Sacramento
3 nights in Napa/Sonoma area
2 nights in Yosemite Lodge (already reserved)
3 nights in Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite (already reserved)
2 nights in Kings Canyon/Sequoia (1 night reserved, trying to get a second - hoping for a cancellation)
3 nights in Monterey
fly home from SFO

Thoughts? Should I try and add on Redwood NP by eliminating some nights in Sonoma and Monterey? I can add on one more night for a total of 14 nights. Thank you in advance.
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Old Apr 7th, 2021, 06:44 PM
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"Should I try and add on Redwood NP "

Absolutely not IMO. Napa to Redwood NP is a 5.5 to 6 hour drive without construction slow downs. So adding more than 12 hours extra drive time up and back. Plus, as I mentioned up thread, several CA state redwood parks are better/bigger.

But in any case you really don't have time to head that far to the northern state parks.

What I might do is take 1 night from Monterey and visit Henry Cowell State Park on your way back to SFO.

(IF you can't nail down a 2nd night at Sequoia -- I'd drop the whole idea. Yosemite Valley to Se/KC is a 4 hour drive and Seq/KC to Monterey is another 4+ hour drive so w/ just one night you'd be spending more time in the car than in the park.)
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Old Apr 8th, 2021, 08:01 AM
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For a winery with a view, check out Pacific Star Winery, just a little bit north of Fort Bragg. The wine is fine, but the setting, as Nat King Cole might say (if he were still alive) is, "Unforgettable."


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Old Apr 8th, 2021, 09:38 AM
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Maitaitaitom's recommendation is one of my favorite viewpoints in NW CA (and the wine is good too) -- unfortunately it is 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Napa.
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