Roadtrip SFO - Yosemite - PDX - SFO

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Jan 8th, 2018, 09:51 PM
  #1
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Roadtrip SFO - Yosemite - PDX - SFO

My wife and I will be taking a 16 day honeymoon this summer (June 29th - July 15th), and our plan is to drive in a camper van from San Francisco out to Yosemite and up to Portland by way of Lake Tahoe and Bend and then all the way back down the coast.

Currently our plan is to try to do a mix of camping and outdoor activities and also get in some R n R and try to enjoy PDX and SF. We are more interested in spending time outdoor than anything else, but we do want to enjoy one of the wine regions (thinking Willamette Valley) and stay at a nice spa style resort.

My main concern is whether the driving is too much to enjoy certain places, we are certainly not road warriors and I think we can handle a couple of extended drives but I want to make sure we are getting enough time where it counts and also not killing ourselves.

We don't have anything set in stone but really want to do a good deal of hiking including half dome, a day of whitewater rafting and a day of wine tasting.

Day 1 - Arrive in San Fran around 2 pm
Day 2 - Drive down coast to Big Sur, one night at Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park
Day 3 thru 5 - Yosemite
Day 6 and 7 - South Lake Tahoe
Day 8 and 9 - Bend, OR
Day 10 and 11 - PDX
Day 12 - Yachats, OR
Day 13 - Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP
Day 14 and 15 - Guerneville
Day 16 - Dropping of van and San Francisco
Day 17 - AM flight

Thanks in advance for any and all tips!

- Jack
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Jan 8th, 2018, 10:58 PM
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Day 8 is insane -- it would be at least a 9 hour drive (probably closer to 10 hours) in a camper . . . without any stops.

Days 2/3 total about 9 hours drive time so you'll be in the van a lot for just a few hours at Pfeiffer.

Then on days 12 and 13 you have a 4+ hour and 6 hour drive back to back.

Do you have to do this by camper? A car would make it easier/faster driving and you could still camp here and there and stay in hotels/motels where it makes more sense.

This would be a fun road trip in a convertible with camping equipment in the trunk . . . slogging in a camper not so much IMO.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 04:43 AM
  #3
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Janisj, thanks for the response! We were looking at camper vans versus car rentals and liked the camper for the fact that it’s self contained and would give us some flexibility on meals and where we can stay. Is it easier to rent camping equipment than a van? We are flying in from the East Coast so my thought was to get a camper because it has everything we need to be mobile.

I realize day 8 is a lot of driving but we really would like to do Bend and I’ve read that it’s pretty scenic. Do you recommend a halfway point to stay at? My thought was that maybe we could motor through that day as the one pretty intense day of driving by I do have my reservations.

Thanks!
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Jan 9th, 2018, 05:06 AM
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Also, just to clarify, we are renting a converted Ford Econoline from one of the chain camper rentals. I’ve read that it’s actually not too bad to drive, not like a big RV at least.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 06:39 AM
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I'm going to reveal some biases in the course of commenting; you're free to ignore everything, of course.

My recommendation: Skip Tahoe and use those days in the Portland/Columbia Gorge area instead.

My reasoning: The whole region is so full of scenery, wonderful towns, and fun activities that you have to pick and choose, and you still will be driving past places that are worthy of whole days, never mind "drive by" hours.

Yes, the area around Bend is scenic. Is it as scenic as other areas you'll pass through or pass by? In my view, and no offense to Bendites (Bendians? Benders?) the answer is "not especially."

Have a look at this map - https://goo.gl/maps/HQFd37rVmmE2 . It bypasses Lake Tahoe but instead follows CA Hwy 49 through the wonderful gold rush country of the Sierra foothills. This area is not only wonderfully scenic, but the towns you pass through - Columbia, Mokelumne Hill, Sutter Creek - are picturesque and historic, and they're right on the way.

Heading up US 97, you'll pass close enough to Crater Lake to make a short detour to the rim. There will probably still be snow on the ground on parts of the rim, but spending time to see this scenic wonder rather than the casino-littered south shore of Lake Tahoe is (in my mind) a superior use of the same hours.

Then take one of the extra days to explore the Mount Hood/Hood River Valley/Columbia Gorge area. US 26 will take you right past Mount Hood and its iconic Timberline Lodge, from which OR 35 will take you past orchards and quite respectable vineyards in the spectacular Hood River Valley down to the Columbia at Hood River with its windsurfers, wineries and craft breweries waiting.

From there you travel past waterfalls and vista points along the Historic Columbia River Highway through the Columbia Gorge to Portland. Then it's through the Willamette Valley vineyards and out to the coast, then south past rocks and beaches to the redwoods and back to SF.

Even with these modifications I'd be concerned that you're biting off a lot to chew in your relatively limited time. I personally might investigate some options, even if it sounds like too much reduction in your plans. For example:

- Google Point Lobos State Reserve, a stunning coastal area just south of Carmel. Along with the Big Sur coast, this might be an acceptable substitute for the Oregon coast.

- Consider making this an all-California route by adding the Calaveras Big Trees (giant sequoias) then cutting across California to the "Lost Coast" near Victorian Ferndale, then through the Humboldt redwoods, and out to the coast, following CA Hwy 1 south along the Mendocino and Sonoma County coastline, inland to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and back to the Golden Gate. You'd get mountain and coast scenery, historic towns, wine country (there are also LOTS of wineries in the gold country; it's a rapidly emerging and important wine-producing area) and you'd spend a lot less time in the vehicle.

Here's a revised map showing these alternatives, just for your consideration. https://goo.gl/maps/AfDSUXiDgTK2

The Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington and British Columbia) is very deserving of a trip just to see that region, and it's not going anywhere.

Just my opinion of course.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 07:21 AM
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Thanks Gardyloo! We're commited PDX for a couple of days, we really want to see the city and explore Willamette valley wine region if we have enough time but at least do the city.

We could take out Bend if there are other "outdoorsy" type areas on a more direct route that we can do some white water rafting.

We do not have to go back down the Oregon coast but we definitely would like to see the Redwoods in Northern California, so I thought that it would make sense to follow the road down the coast and take a few extra hours. Is the Oregon to California leg not doable in 3 - 4 days of driving?

Jack
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Jan 9th, 2018, 07:34 AM
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I agree- skip Tahoe. End day 7 near Mt. Shasta/McCloud.
Detour over to see Crater Lake. There are 2 campgrounds in Crater NP. The north entrance of Crater Lake NP is 90 miles from the south end of Bend. There is a nice campground in LaPine State Park. There are 2 campgrounds out near East Lake in the Newberry Caldera.
While in the Bend area see the High Desert Museum and the Lavalands Visitor Center.
Leaving Bend, take 97 north to Madras and US 26 up to the Mt. Hood area. Try to visit Timberline before going north on OR Route 35 to Hood River on the Columbia.
West of Hood River be sure to see Multnomah Falls and maybe a couple of other waterfalls along the the Old Columbia Gorge highway. PDX is an airport on the east side of the city of Portland.
For the WV wine country, the campground at Champoeg (Shampoo-EE) State park would work pretty well.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 07:38 AM
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>>would give us some flexibility on meals and where we can stay. <<

Just a quick comment -- having a camper van doesn't really give you more flexibility where to stay. You will still need to pre-book ahead for many places (especially in Yosemite, Big Sur and popular parks. And for Yosemite -- one needs to book far ahead.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 07:41 AM
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Bend is a fantastic area and not to be missed, IMO. We really enjoy the whitewater rafting here, and use Sun Country Tours.

The gorge is as well, but one thing to consider is the massive fire this past summer has closed many of the trails on the OR side and they are not due to reopen until sometime this summer, hopefully. The trails on the WA side were not affected. So just keep that in mind with planning as your options might be limited. You would need to check back closer to the time and see what the trail hands have been able to get done.

As for the Willamette Valley, yes this is a wonderful area! For a spa style resort, The Allison is a must. It is located in Newberg, which is prime area for wine tasting. Basically Newberg to McMinnville is the heart of wine country. The Allison has a great spa, and I have been a regular there since they opened
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Jan 9th, 2018, 07:49 AM
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For your thrill on the water, try kite surfing at Hood River. I have seen dozens on the Columbia at the same time on a nice day.
On the Oregon coast there are quite a few Oregon State Parks that have campgrounds. Many of them have yurts as well.
Champoeg only has 5 yurts but most on the coast have 20 or more.
The advantage of the yurt is an available shower without filling the holding tank.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 08:02 AM
  #11
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Thank you all for the great information! I think you have convinced me to bypass Lake Tahoe and choose somewhere more midway between Yosemite and Bend with a possible stay or half day at Crater Lake.

Thanks Janisj, what I meant by "flexibility" was not necessarily that we won't prebook the large majority of our stays (we already have, in fact, but many are still refundable).

It was more that we will have a sweet spot between being able to get a genuine camping experience, aka cooking our own meals, sleeping under the stars and not having to stay at pricey cabins or hotels in or around the parks, but also not having to drive a 30ft bus in between locations and cities.

If you think a rental car and camping equipment is cheaper/easier/more doable then I would welcome suggestions.

MMS, thanks for the recommendation of the Allison, it looks fantastic!
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Jan 9th, 2018, 08:21 AM
  #12
 
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If you want the "camping" experience, go with the van.
You do not want to set up a tent at the end of a long day of driving. You do not want to take down a wet tent in the morning if it rains during the night. That is one of the reasons I like staying in a yurt or a cheap motel.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 08:50 AM
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Since you aren't talking about a full sized RV you'll be OK. You will be able to move almost as easily as w/ a car.

You still have a lot of driving - long days. You say you are 'wedded' to Portland. Could you maybe consider doing the Oregon coast /Portland/Bend/Mt Hood/Crater Lake on some future trip???

Because your timeframe is good for EITHER just CA or Just OR and bit of WA. It would give you time to actually enjoy the different areas. Like Big Sur . . . With Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur/wineries/camping/Point Lobos/Kayaking . . . it is easily worth 3 full days.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 10:38 AM
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I'd add a night to Big Sur or skip it. By the time you pick up the van, you'll be hitting Friday afternoon traffic to get out of the Bay Area and down to Big Sur just to spend one night and then turn around and drive at least 5 hours to Yosemite the next day.

I also agree to eliminate Tahoe. Lassen and Crater Lake are possibilities along the way keeping in mind that the roads through either may not be fully open if this turns out to be a big snow year. If that's the case, you'll still be able to access some parts of the park but perhaps not make a through drive.

I'm actually a big fan of the area around Bend. The town itself isn't particularly scenic but there's a lot to do in the surrounding area if you're outdoorsy like Smith Rock, Newberry Crater, etc.

Campground reservations at Yosemite and Pfeiffer Big Sur booked up very quickly.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 10:55 AM
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I misread your itinerary and see that you're driving down to Big Sur on Saturday. That gives you at least the majority of the day to see Big Sur if you leave early though I still think it's somewhat rushed.
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Jan 9th, 2018, 12:19 PM
  #16
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Thanks Patty!

OK, so here's the updated itinerary based on all the awesome feedback. We are going to stick with our guns on doing Portland and we are going to come back down the 1-5 corridor instead of trying to "force" it by taking in the entire Southern Oregon coast.

Day 1 - Get into SF at noon, pick up van and gear up
Day 2 and 3 - AM departure for Big Sur
Day 4, 5 and 6 - Yosemite
Day 7 - Stay overnight Mount Shasta Area
Day 8 and 9 - Bend by way of Crater Lake
Day 10 and 11 - Portland
Day 12 - Willamette Valley (Allison Inn)
Day 13 - Rogue River SP
Day 14- Humboldt Redwoods SP
Day 15 - Guerneville
Day 16 - Drive back to SF
Day 17 - AM flight
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Jan 9th, 2018, 12:47 PM
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OK -- fast but doable.

Day 7 will be a loooong drive -- at least 7 hours car (van) time. More if you detour to see MacArthur-Burney Falls (REALLY worthwhile)

Day 8 will be quite long too -- before you decide on Crater Lake see what the conditions are and if the whole rim road is open.

Days 14-15 - either on day 14 or 15 you need to allow time for the Avenue of the Giants.
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