1,800 miles in 3 days: An Epic Roadtrip
If you’re like me, you probably spend 40+ hours a week at work dreaming about an escape to somewhere exotic and beautiful. To add insult to injury, you can easily jump online at any time and live vicariously through people who spend their life knocking off places on your bucket list, while getting paid to do so (goals). But, just because you’re not a full-time paid adventurer or photographer, doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Even with a full-time job (and some adult responsibilities), I’ve managed to master the art of being a weekend warrior.
Today, I’ll be sharing our recent 72-hour trip from Southern California up to the Oregon Coast. All it requires is a lot of coffee and a little less beauty sleep than you might be accustomed to. Also, you should probably be comfortable with being in a car...for long periods of time. Pro tip: Go with someone you will want to spend A LOT of quality time with. If not, after hour 4, you might have a few regrets (jk! but really, choose wisely). Hopefully after reading this you won’t just consider us crazy, but will be also be inspired to get in the car and go!
Stop 1: Yosemite National Park [Miles: 342 / Est. Time: 6.5 hrs]
No impromptu road trip in California is complete without a visit to Yosemite National Park, period. Now, there’s no way for me to cram all of the reasons you have to visit Yosemite into one blog (at least not this one), so we’ll stick to the cliff notes version.
Our first stop was Tunnel View. The poster child of Yosemite, Tunnel View is more than likely the first thing you’ll hear/read about when researching the park. This is easily the most photographed place in the park (for a reason) and its popularity is entirely justified. From this viewpoint, you’ll be able to hop out of the car and catch a glimpse of some of Yosemite’s most famed attractions: El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridevail Fall. If you’re lucky (or do a lot of preplanning) and arrive in the middle of the night like we did, this is a great place to catch the Milky Way sprawled across the valley. Though we didn’t catch the Milky Way on this particular trip, we enjoyed a beautifully clear star-filled night. If you choose to stick around for sunrise, you'll be blessed with less crowds and a jaw dropping sunrise.
Our next stop was Vernal Fall via the Mist Trail. This is easily Yosemite’s most popular hike, so I recommend you brave this hike as early as you can…don’t hit snooze, you’ll thank me later. Hiking at sunrise allowed us to experience Yosemite’s famed Vernal Fall, alone. In fact, it didn’t appear that anyone in Yosemite woke up until after 9 a.m., when we were ready for our 5th round of coffee. Aside from letting out the occasional “hey bear,” we hiked to the sounds of a rushing Merced River and songbirds. The hike to Vernal is only 3 miles round trip and is a moderate to strenuous hike. You can also continue beyond Vernal to Nevada fall, which adds about 4 miles. Regardless of how far in you hike, you’ll experience some of Yosemite’s most tranquil vistas. At the footbridge, you’ll see the boisterous Merced River and catch your first glimpse of Vernal. I personally wanted to climb out onto a rock overlooking the river, but don’t be like me, this hike claims the most victims in all of Yosemite, every year. If you choose to continue from the footbridge, you’ll steadily climb until you reach the iconic stone stairs that hug the side of the mountain.
Unfortunately for us, this is where we ended our initial hike. The early morning mist turned the granite stairs into a solid sheet of ice and turned my boots into ice-skates. After nearly ending up at the bottom of the Merced River and having to slide my way down the granite stairs, we opted to backtrack slightly and travel (slightly) off trail to find a different vantage point to hang out and enjoy breakfast. Though we didn’t quite reach our destination, one of the most amazing things about Yosemite is that regardless of where you end up, you’ll be blessed with a beautiful view.
After our hike, we cruised around the valley, stopped for (of course) more coffee, took a power nap and continued on our adventure! It wasn't until after our nap that we decided to leave Yosemite (we had planned a weekend there), so everything after Yosemite was completely unplanned. Eek!
Stop 2: Point Reyes National Seashore [Miles: 239 / 5 hrs]
Point Reyes is certainly gaining popularity and rightfully so. It's iconic Cypress Tree Tunnel and San Agustin Shipwreck are just two of the area’s popular charms. However, what was even more memorable for us, was the stunning drive through the park and surrounding area. An unexpected mix of sprawling ranches and forested peaks, coupled with magnificent ocean views. If I had to describe Point Reyes with one word, it would be…FOG. This popular spot on the California Coast feels a lot like the Pacific Northwest. The entire area was blanketed by fog and had a dreary/dreamy feel to it. I felt myself instantly feel the calm of this sleepy town.
After taking a nap in the car and listening to the not-so-subtle sounds of Elk in the distance, we woke up and headed over to the Cypress Tree Tunnel at sunrise. Talk about perfect timing! We drove into the tunnel just as light beams started to force their way through the trees. Aside from a few distant cows, we had this area to ourselves (wake up early!). After spending some there and soaking up the first light, we headed to the Shipwreck.
The San Agustin Shipwreck was a delightful surprise. I'm not going to lie, I had seen the shipwreck photographed 100 times and it wasn't one of the highlights of the trip for me, initially. By the time we reached San Agustin, we had already decided that our travels would take us up the coast into the Redwoods, so I was ready to go! But this location delivered more than I could have imagined. The minute we walked onto the beach, behind an old quaint supermarket, I was captivated by the history and location of the wreck. HOW did this happen? WHEN did this happen? The light, the fog, the quiet; it all added up to the perfect morning. And even though this part of the trip ended with me dropping my iPhone into the ocean, it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our weekend getaway.
Stop 3: Redwood National Park [Miles: 224 / 4.5 hrs]
Anyone that knows me, knows about my obsession with big trees. I don't know how else to say it, I LOVE the redwoods. If you’re looking for a dose of humility, this is where you’ll find it. Redwood National Park is unique, because it isn’t marked by a park entrance. You just sort of drive into them (trust me, can’t miss them). We spent most of our time in the Southern portion of the park and spent a great deal of time travelling up the Avenue of The Giants. This road is about 31 miles and is packed full of redwood groves. There are too many hiking trails to name here, so I’ll keep it simple: just get out of the car and hike. I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed, regardless of where you decide to stop.
We drove a few miles, parked, hiked for an hour, got back in the car, drove a few miles, parked and got out again (repeat, repeat, repeat). It’s almost impossible not to stop, stare, walk and just get lost in the towering coastal giants. We also made an attempt at visiting Fern Canyon, but (again) we were not prepared enough to finish the trek. If you visit Fern Canyon early in the year, just be prepared to drive on a dirt road that,depending on the amount of rain, will be covered in giant potholes and small bodies of water. My pour little Mazda couldn’t make the last two miles, but with a truck or SUV you’d be good to explore Fern Canyon. Needless to say, you cannot go wrong with Redwood National Park and the Humbolt area. We stopped at the little visitor center and ate peanut butter sandwiches. Though we were slightly exhausted, yet again, we were blessed with no crowds and miles of beautiful scenery. It rained, frequently, but that didn't stop us from continuing to get out and seek shelter under the trees. I would say the most memorable part of the Redwoods, on this trip, was that we had absolutely no plan. We had no idea where we were going or what we were going to see. That left the entire trip free to just be in the moment. I guess that would be my pro tip for this entire trip - leave enough time for the unknown, it'll always be worth it.
Stop 4: Oregon Coast [Miles: 170 / 2.5 hrs]
And that leads me to our fourth and final stop, Oregon! The Oregon Coast has been on my bucket list for years, so on a whim I threw the coordinates into maps and discovered that it was only about 2 hours away – what?! So, without a second-thought, we made a quick trip up to the Oregon Coast to catch the sunset. Yet again, unprepared, we had little to no knowledge of where we would go or what we would see (all a part of the adventure!). We decided on traveling along the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor and it turned out to be the best decision we could have made. We stopped at a few turnouts and hiked in, looking the perfect spot for sunset. We explored parts of Natural Bridges and Arch Rock, but opted to hike down a small unmarked parking lot between Spruce Island and Thunder Cove (just before a guardrail). The hike was a quick, but rugged, steep drop into what felt like a tropical paradise. We ended up at a secluded area overlooking forested sea stacks and what I presume is “secret beach.” Again, not knowing much about the area, I was intrigued by the thought of hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, which spans the entire Oregon Coast. We spent a few hours here, getting lost (literally) on trails and hiking through the forest, unsure of what to expect. As always, our decision paid off. We closed out the day watching the sun drop below the ocean horizon and made our way, exhausted, back to the car.
For those of you that are adding the miles I listed above and thinking, "Wow Morgan, you really aren't good at math" - Keep in mind that we did A LOT of driving and exploring in-between these four places. The purpose of adding the miles and number of hours is to help you get an idea of what IS possible. We clocked a total of 1800+ miles by the time arrived back home. Everything we accomplished, we did in 3 days. Of course, you can easily take your time and spend weeks traveling up the coast (you don't have to do it the way we did). But, for the lifestyle we live and the amount of time that we had, this made for one of the most EPIC 72 hours we've experienced.