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Suggestions needed for a Road Trip (LA to Oregon and back)


Jul 1st, 2010, 07:44 AM
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Suggestions needed for a Road Trip (LA to Oregon and back)

Hello all,

We are planning a trip to the west Coast end of July. We will spend 4 days in LA and then want to drive to Portland and back in 8 days. I was told that the drive from North to South is better along the Coast. So we want to take I-5 and go up to Portland and drive back along the coast. Main focus on this trip is Nature. We would like to cover some National Parks and enjoy the drive.

Are there any trip reports that someone could direct me to or make suggestions on what we should see and what could be avoided.

We will be traveling with my 12 yr old. He has a lot of patience.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 08:09 AM
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The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in California is rather spectacular. Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Santa Cruz.

Then cut in to I-5. Mt. Shasta is on your way and interesting.

The National Parks are not really convenient to your short time frame. Lassen Volcanic and Crater Lake would require side trips of up to a day. The other National Parks, are not really on your way, and you would need to have made reservations to stay anywhere near them.


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Jul 1st, 2010, 10:12 AM
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Your strategy is sound. I would leave LA at the earliest time possible; in fact if you're up for it, a middle-of-the-night departure is great (makes it quite adventurous for kids) with the aim being to get as far up I-5 as possible that day, avoiding the heat and boredom of the Central Valley, both of which occur in abundance.

The drive on I-5 is very fast (too fast in places, especially given the quantity of big trucks) but there's very little visual interest until one is around Redding, after which it's pretty decent until you get to the Willamette Valley around Cottage Grove. I would absolutely try for one and only one en-route stop northbound; you want to conserve your days for the southbound return.

Regarding national parks or other scenic/natural areas, this too should be conserved for the Portland area and south.

With eight days overall, two of which are spent roaring north, and not knowing if you need to allocate some time in Portland itself, I'd spend two days in the Portland and northwestern Oregon/SW Washington area before heading back.

The first day should be a loop consisting of a drive up the Columbia Gorge to Hood River, then returning to Portland via the Hood River Valley and Mount Hood. The second day I'd leave early and head up to Mt. St. Helens in Washington, around 2 hours from Portland, then following MSH I'd return on I-5 only as far as Longview, then follow WA Hwy 4 out to the mouth of the Columbia, following the north shore of the river much of the way. I'd make Ilwaco WA, Astoria OR or Cannon Beach OR my stopping point for that night.

Then you'd have four days to make the drive down the coast back to LA. The first day I'd aim for Brookings or Gold Beach OR for the night, taking my time to pull off at various state parks and beaches along Hwy 101. I'd pre-book a place to stay so that I could spend the full day doing so (it's a longer drive than it looks on paper) and not have to scramble for accommodation at the end of the day. Highlights along this route (and there are so many) include great coastal scenery around Cape Mears, Depoe Bay, Newport/Yachats, Heceta Head lighthouse, the sand dunes around Florence and Winchester Bay, Bandon, and umpteen pull offs and state parks from Bandon all the way to the California line.

The next day, the distance isn't great but the scenery is eye-popping. The coastal Redwood groves start around Crescent City and continue past Eureka. It's worth your time to explore as many as possible - IMO this is the real highlight of the drive. Once past the trees, push the right pedal and aim for the Golden Gate. Spend the night in San Francisco or the suburbs; if the next day is a work day rely upon the HOV/commuter lanes until you're south of the City.

The next night I'd aim for someplace around San Simeon on the southern stretch of CA Hwy 1. A visit to the Hearst Castle is a must. If time allows en route (it will depend how fast you exit the SF Bay Area) I'd stop at the aquarium in Monterey, Point Lobos State Park near Carmel (lots of wildlife) and Big Sur.

The final day (I think I've counted correctly) just keep on going south on SR 1 to the junction with 101 at Morro Bay; but again if time allows I'd exit 101 at Ventura and follow the coast all the way into LA - through Malibu and Santa Monica. It's a much more pleasant way (IMO) to enter LA than the Ventura and other freeways.

Heading back and presuming you have four full days (and they will be) I'd head out to the coast on
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Jul 1st, 2010, 10:13 AM
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Oops - sorry for the sentence fragm
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Jul 1st, 2010, 11:03 AM
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Whatever you do, do not miss the opportunity to eat at In-N-Out Burger. A Los Angeles and Southern California Institution. Order it "Animal Style" and they will think you're a local. For other local LA possibilities check out my blog at:

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Jul 1st, 2010, 12:46 PM
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I'm 3 hours north of LA and can make it to Portland is 1 long day (about 14 hours) so you should have no problem with just 1 stop between LA and Portland if you just roar along I-5.
Best bet for park service spots are the Fort Clatsop Nat. Mon near Astoria, Oregon Dunes Nat. Rec. Area, Redwoods N.P. north of Eureka and Point Reyes Nat. Seashore. Also when you down to Oxnard or Ventura in CA and you have time, you can do a 1/2 day boat trip out to the Channel Island Nat. Park. If you want some really interesting nature, try to take that trip.
IMO, skip Clatsop and head for the Orgeon coast at Tillamook via Route 6 from Portland and then it is 101 or Route 1 all the way south.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 01:11 PM
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There are some of our favorites between Los Angeles and Portland

• Highway 1 between Carmel and Moro Bay
• San Francisco
• Napa Valley
• Sonoma Valley
• Healdsburg
• Mendocino
• The Redwoods
• Crater Lake NP
• Highway 101 between Eureka and Port Orford and between Florence and Lincoln City

Our favorite towns to stay on the Oregon Coast are Cannon Beach, Newport, Yachats, Bandon, and Brookings.

Favorites in the Portland area include:

• Vista House on the Columbia River Historic Highway
• Multnomah Falls
• The town of Hood River
• Highway 35 between Hood River and Timberline Lodge
• Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood
• WA-14 between Washougal and Maryhill

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Jul 1st, 2010, 01:31 PM
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I love Lassen National Volcanic Park. It's an hour east of HWY 5 near Red Bluff.

If you don't want to make a long stop, Shasta is a good place to stop for lunch or dinner. We found an unexpected gem of a restaurant there called Trinity Cafe. A little more upscale and pricey than other places in town, but well worth it.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 01:45 PM
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Since Nature is the theme, a kayak ecotour of Morro Bay is great.

A hybrid kayak/hike tour can include a picnic lunch on the sand dunes. There's cheaper options (like just renting kayaks), but we loved this one: http://www.centralcoastoutdoors.com/...-eco-tour.html

Our guide was Mark Kocina.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 01:50 PM
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Is there any way you can fly to Portland and then take your full 8 days driving back down (in a rental car, I'd assume.)

The drive up I-5 is long and boring until you hit the Shasta/Redding area, then it gets pretty like another replier noted. I live in the Sacramento area and recently moved from Portland. The drive (going pretty fast, I have a lead foot..) from Sacramento at I-5 to Portland is 9 - 9 1/2 long and tiring hours, with just gas/quick potty stops. Absolutely exhausting, especially since I always have an eye in the rear view mirror looking for Smokies!!! From Los Angeles to Sacramento it's about 6 hours, depending on where in L.A. you start.

On the drive down, I'd stay on the 101 around Santa Rosa and thru San Francisco and down to Highway 68 in Salinas and cut over to Monterey/Carmel there, then stay on Highway 1 the rest of the way back to L.A.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 02:22 PM
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A memorable stop for our family when the kids were young was Oregon Caves National Monument. It is northeast of Crescent City between Crescent City and I-5. The old lodge held some magic for my kids as the banisters were made of tree branches, there were little waterfalls everywhere, and the creek ran right through the restaurant on the lowest floor! The cave tours began just across from the lodge entrance, and it was especially startling when the tour guides turned off the lights for a brief moment so we could all experience true darkness.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 02:36 PM
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I agree with the person who suggested you fly to Portland and drive back. I flew into San Fran from UK and spent 14 days driving to Portland and back, it is a lot of boring miles on I - 5. I drove up coast until Redwoods and then went inland and took 1 -5 into Portland and then did Portland coast and inland half way down. Beware the coast road does not look too long but it winds back on itself and takes much longer then you would think. I loved every minute, Portland was a real find, but we took 14 days and less miles to cover.
Hope you do not mind a Brit giving advice on your country.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 02:56 PM
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Given your parameters, I don't know that anyone could map out a better itinerary than the one Gardyloo's provided. But give it to your son to read; I bet he becomes impatient before finishing it. Then, add the sights and attractions mentioned by others not included in Gardyloo's itinerary. The point being, you will likely see and experience more nature by limiting your focus. I'd suggest to just Oregon, but a central or northern California itinerary could be just as interesting.
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Jul 1st, 2010, 08:25 PM
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Thank you for responding to my request. Now that I have a starting point, I am going to research more and come with an itinerary and post it for more advice.

Thanks again.
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 04:09 AM
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Have you seen much in California? You could just make it to San Francisco and see plenty. If you have never seen Sequoia National Park or Yosemite, there would be a good start. If you drove the coast between LA and San Fran, you could see Channel Islands and then the Muir Woods which is just outside San Fran. San Fran itself requires a few days.
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Jul 2nd, 2010, 04:10 AM
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The average person spends 3-4 hours in a national parks. Don't make that mistake. We usually spend 3-4 days at a minimum in most of them.
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