Planning an American Road Trip
This trip originated in Los Angeles August 2020. An additional unexpected road block (besides Covid 19) was dodging the wild fires ravaging California and the Western portion of the country.
I traveled with my longtime friend who shares the love of camping and an adventurous spirit. Traveling with a roady companion can be tricky. It is different than traveling with your significant other or a family member. It is important to understand each other’s budget and travel style. Offering each other some time alone during the trip is helpful.
My friend works remotely, so she was able to get online and work while I stepped out for some solo side trips. We had a blast for 7 days, and then my daughter joined me on the next leg of my summertime journey to Zion National Park for 3 days.
Our road trip was originally planned for California staying along the CA Pacific Coastal Highway and Tahoe. Most of our accommodations were booked a few weeks prior.
A good portion of the State Parks in CA were closed for camping due to Covid, so we chose private campgrounds and motels. We utilized this interactive fire map InciWeb to change plans on the road, and choose our new locations away from the smoke.
The Road Trip Map
Stops Along the Way
- Truckee, CA – 2 Nights
- Fort Klamath, OR – 1 night
- Crater Lake National Park, OR
- Visit Route 138 Umpqua National Forest, OR
- Visit Coos Bay, OR – 3 nights
- Sunset Bay State Park, OR Visit
- PCH 1 through the Southern Coast of OR
- PCH through the Northern Coast of CA
- Redcrest, CA visit
- Avenue of the Giants, Humbolt County, CA
- Visit Mendocino, CA Visit
- St. George, UT – 2 nights Zion National Park
Truckee, CA - Stop 1
We started early on a Thursday morning to head to Truckee, CA (12 miles from Tahoe). The rented mini van was packed with all types of gear for the road.
The first leg was an 8 hour drive from Los Angeles. We headed towards Truckee, CA knowing that a local fire was causing smoke.
We were invited to stay in the stunning home of a friend. As expected, upon arrival the smoke was heavy in the air and the magical views were non existent.
But…incredible hospitality, stunning accommodations and delicious California plant based cuisine, wine, and the charming town of Truckee more than made up for it.
Road Trip Necessities
- Camping gear
- Tent sleeping bags
- Coleman camping stove
- Beach chairs
- Clothing for the many micro climates
- Rain gear – not needed this trip with the dry weather conditions
- Lots of healthy snacks
- 2 coolers
- More wine
- Solar lights
- Cute table cloth and anything else to stage our pictures for cute images:)
Who doesn’t love a good ACE Hardware?! The ACE Mountain Hardware in Truckee does not disappoint! Great merchandising from outdoor gear, clothing and gorgeous home decor. A must stop.
The town of Truckee is an adorable stop. Unfortunately it is know for the Donner Pass named for the Donner Family who were lost in a blizzard in 1863. You can google to read the details on that crazy saga..make sure your stomach is not upset prior!
Definitely add it to your road trip list, as it is charming. The views in normal weather conditions are stunning and there are a plethora of unique shops and restaurants.
Crater Lake National Park
On our route Northwest to Oregon from Truckee, California, we stopped near Crater Lake National Park.
This National Park was founded in 1902 and is home to the collapsed volcano Mount Mazama. The lake is 1,954 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the USA and 9th deepest in the World! Don’t forget to stop in to get your National Parks Passport.
Fort Klamath, OR - Jo's Motel & Campground
Joe’s Motel & Campground was one of our favorite stops along the way. A true motor court that takes you back in time. No wifi, no online reservations and an organic market.
The motel was not fancy but was oozing with charm. Knotty pine paneling, wood burning stove and cabin decor. Not fancy, but spacious and comfortable with 2 bedrooms.
The motel’s motto is ….“No Wifi, No Pets, No Cable, No Crowds and No Kids”. I’m not sure how they get away with the “no kids”, but it worked for us. Behind the motel are several unbelievably scenic camping sites along the river.
Umpqua National Forest, OR - Route 138
Next stop Crater Lake National Park. We travelled West on Route 138 towards Coos Bay, OR.
We travelled through the Umpqua National Forest and explored some of the stunning trails and waterfalls.
Be sure to stop at The Steamboat Inn for a delicious lunch on their charming brick patio. The historic restaurant is located in Idyleyld, OR.
Coos Bay, OR - Bastendorff Beach
The trip continued West to Oregon’s rustic and scenic coast. This stop would entail camping in a tent.
Our tent site was located at Oceanside RV Resort in Coos Bay. This RV and camping resort is one of a kind. The location is incredible with ocean front tent sites, pristine bathhouses, and adorable mini cottages available to rent. The price was reasonable and the beach was a beautiful cove. I highly recommend for your next visit to the Oregon Coast.
Plant-Based Camping Meals
Dune Buggy Ride at Oregon Dunes Recreation Area
A fun afternoon outing is a dune buggy ride at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This is 20 miles North of Coos Bay. Check out the outfitters on the main road. You can rent your own, or take a ride. A must see and do!
Southern Oregon Coast South to Northern California
After our incredible stay in Coos Bay, Oregon we continued South along the coastal highway with a goal of reaching Mendocino, CA. This is one of my favorite coastal drives…up there with Ring Road in Iceland, The Road to Hana in Maui and the drive to Amalfi Italy. It is so rustic, natural and untouched.
Sites & Stops Along the Way
- Dramatic Pacific views
- Secret coves
- Port towns
- Picnic stops
- Sharp curves on the PCH
- Scenic bluffs
- Hiking trail heads
- Rogue rivers
- Sand dunes
- Cute inns & restaurants
- State parks
- The Lost Coast
- Large elk on the road
- Tasty seafood
- Big foot statues
- The Avenue of the Giants
- Artisan gift stores
- Historic Victorian homes
Add Overnight in San Jose and back to Los Angeles
It was a long day meandering down the Coastal Highway to Mendocino. A combination of a marine layer and the smoke obstructed the views in the charming rugged coastal town. We were able to spend an hour walking around admiring the mix of historic eclectic homes ranging from bungalows, cottages, Victorians and New England style architecture.
We had a bite to eat at the Fog Eater Cafe. The vegetarian cuisine was unique and delicous. The best part was the cozy slate patio and a gorgeous garden.
We headed East on route 128 towards the 101 at dusk which was a bit nerve wracking. I recommend driving route 128 in daylight without a haze of smoke.
We ended up in San Jose in a Fairfield Inn by Marriott and fully enjoyed the modern conveniences of a hotel room. The final day, we made our way back to Los Angeles with a quick stop at more farm stands near the Grapevine.
Zion National Park - Next Stop
This was my second visit to Zion National Park. My first visit was during a holiday weekend in 2017.
Zion is a VERY busy National Park for good reasons. It is dramatic and scenic. It is extremely hot during September, but very manageable.
Here are some suggested items/planning for a comfortable trip
- Book your shuttle tickets in advance as they are sold out daily during Covid. If you miss the shuttle plan on walking 8 miles up the canyon to begin the narrows hike and 8 miles back afterwards.
- Pack UPF clothing, hat, and sunscreen
- Bring a light polar fleece. The narrows hike is in the 50-60 range before the sun hits and you will get wet.
- Most of the trailheads are closed during Covid
- The crowds are light as the park system is only letting 1500 people in per day. It’s a great time to visit as long as you have your shuttle pass.
- Bring hiking poles and water shoes (Tevas, Keens, Chacos) for the Narrows Hike
- Plan to stay outside of the park during Covid unless you have made reservations well in advance.
- If possible do not leave on a Sunday if you are driving back to Southern California as you will hit the Las Vegas traffic and sit for hours.
- A hydration bladder is a great option for hiking in the desert. You can place in your back pack and it is a convenient way to carry 2 plus liters of water.
- Bring snacks and electrolytes.
- Travel in the shoulder season if possible to Zion. The crowds are much lighter.
- The ropes portion of Angel’s Landing is closed due to Covid, but that’s okay because 10 people have died since 2004 attempting that part of the hike. It is approximately 2 miles and 1200 feet elevation. Basically straight up. Views are incredible
KOA St. George Utah
This campground is located 40 minutes away from the park in St. George Utah. I am a big fan of Kampgrounds of America.
Many of them offer small cabins with bathrooms. We opted for the cabin due to the hot temperatures. I would highly recommend this KOA, but if you can get accommodations inside the park…go with that for convenience.
America The Beautiful!
Wow!! I was ready to get out there again, and this trip was a dream. One of the best parts was that it was not a budget breaker. If you are not a camper, you can always research fun bed and breakfasts, and short term rentals. Although, be sure you read the fine print during Covid.
Now is the perfect time to visit the Parks in the United States. They are magical and spectacular. You do not have to be a nature or history nerd. The small towns, nature, fun food options, incredibly unique topography and people along the way are why I love it.