3-Day Road Warrior: Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California
Why leave the same way you arrived?
If you’re flying to Portland, Oregon, whether on business or for pleasure, and want to see some of America’s most beautiful landscapes, then follow these simple steps to make the most of driving the Pacific Coast in road-warrior fashion.
1. Rent a car: All the major car rental companies are in the Portland International Airport and offer competitive rates for a three or four day rental. Starting prices are around 85.00 dollars per day.
2. Drive northwest towards Astoria: Bordering the Columbia River, this 79 miles scenic drive follows the river all the way to the Pacific Ocean where the state of Washington can be seen just across the flowing waters.
3. In Astoria: Take a late lunch or early dinner break at the Fort George Brewery for fresh seafood (after all, you can’t get seafood this fresh in land-locked states) and a local brew.
4. Head South on Highway 101: Coming out of Astoria, the road bends to the south and before you know it, the ocean is in view. With a full stomach, you are now on your way.
5. Head to Newport: This short 35 mile drive, with plenty of side stops and oceanic beauty (it is possible to spot whales from any of the several overlooks along the way) with sandy beaches, mountain sized rocks in the water, and cliffs, is a great way to complete your first day. Stay at the Shilo Inn in Newport. Every room has an ocean view and it’s just about 50 steps down to the beach where you can build a fire and sit around enjoying the sunset while listening to crashing waves, or take a casually long walk.
6. Wake up and smell the ocean air outside your door and leave Newport: Head south on Highway 101. Today’s drive to Crater Lake totals 190 miles and is worth every mile. Drive 86 miles to Coos Bay, Oregon where you can decide if you want to see the world’s 7th deepest and America’s deepest lake at Crater Lake or just continue heading south. (If you’re a nature lover or photographer it is worth the drive as the water is some of the purest on earth and surrounded by cliffs of up to almost 2,000 feet high). If so, after Coos Bay, drive 11 miles south and head off on State Road 42. Drive 77 miles to Highway 5 and head north on Highway 5 a few miles and exit onto 138 east. About another hour and a half of driving will take you to Crater Lake National Park. Once inside the park, it is only 9.2 miles to the rim of Crater Lake.
7. Drive the rim of Crater Lake: This drive is a mere 33 miles around the rim of the lake (and only open in the summer due to an average of 44 feet of snow each year) and back to your starting point. I would suggest going to the left (you can only go left or right) to start so that you can wind down your experience at the Crater Lake Lodge. With plenty of scenic overlooks to take pictures from, it can take about 1.5 to 2 hours to circumnavigate the rim. Make sure to stop at the Crater Lake Lodge or neighboring campground for a quick bite to eat and possibly some relaxation on the lodge’s back porch, where wooden rocking chairs provide rest for your back while offering a grand view of the lakes’ blue waters. Visit www.nps.gov/crla/ for park updates and weather.
8. Leave Crater Lake National Park: Taking Route 230 south, which becomes Route 62, back to Medford, Oregon. In Medford, there are plenty of hotels and inns to choose from to recover from all of today’s driving. Get a good night sleep.
9. From Medford, get on Highway 5 North and exit onto Route 199 West: This drive takes you through parts of the Siskiyou National Forest and into Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This drive is approximately 78 miles and lands you on the California Coastal Highway 101. Be sure to stop along the side of the road to gawk at the Redwoods shouldering the pavement. (The coastal redwoods are the tallest species on earth).
10. Continue heading south on Highway 101 and stop in the town of Eureka for a nice lunch. With many great restaurants to choose from, (I’m a fan of the Hurricane Kate’s on 2nd street), you’re sure to leave this area satisfied. Besides, the drive ahead is a lengthy stretch and filled with ‘ess’ turns. It is important to reach the upcoming road only after first digesting lunch.
11. Leave Eureka, California: Head south on Highway 101. Drive 51 miles to Garberville, California and then another 14 miles to exit onto Route 1. Route 1 is full of ‘ess’ curves and requires any driver to pay close attention. Especially if the coastal fog shelf is crossing over onto the land. However, after 22 miles of curves, you awaken to the beautiful ocean and majestic scenery once more.
12. Follow Route 1 down Ft. Bragg and into Albion, California. Be sure to snap photos along the way. Once in Albion, you can decide if you have enough time to continue on Route 1 the rest of the way through Pt. Arena, Bodega Bay, and into San Francisco or, take the exit after Albion and drive onto Route 128 back to Highway 5. (This short cut saves about an hour of drive time). Once on Highway 5, head south towards San Francisco for approximately another 90 miles. Soon, you will enter San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge.
13. If you have time, stay at a hotel in the center of the city where you can walk to just about anywhere or catch a trolley to the wharf to eat and take a boat tour to the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz; walk to Lombard Street, the curviest road in the world; or head over to Ghirardelli Square on Larkin and Beach Street; or just sit at the amphitheater up against the bay, or just about anything else you want to do.
14. Once you’ve had enough fun or if your time is running short, enjoy a last night in the city or make your way to the airport with a big smile on your face because you just accomplished an 1,100 mile scenic road trip in a very short period of time.
Nicely done, Road Warrior!
By: Jaymes Ian Woode