Any road trip has the potential to be the vacation of your dreams. However, getting the most out of a journey requires careful planning and a developed itinerary. Your road trip from San Francisco to Portland will take you through Northern California and along the Pacific Coast of Oregon to the Beaver State's border with Washington. Along the way, you will travel through areas with rushing rivers, towering mountain ranges, various types of forested landscapes, exciting urban settings, and other interesting aspects.
Any road trip worth taking should include visits to U.S. national parks. The states of California and Oregon have many national park sites that are located close to the route you will travel. Depending on how much time you have, you could incorporate one or more of these parks in your road trip itinerary from San Francisco to Portland. Each of these national parks has amazing features you won't want to miss.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a unique volcanic site near Redding, California, that features all four types of volcanoes: plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and composite. It also has hot springs, mud pots, and steam vents. While there, visitors can enjoy the mountain lakes, meadows, and awe-inspiring mountain peaks of the Cascade Range. The road at the peak of Mount Lassen is the highest-elevation road in the Cascades, and there is often snow in the area until July.
Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park has some of the tallest trees in the world. Redwood National Park is part of a consortium of four parks located in Del Norte and Humboldt counties in Northern California and is managed by the National Park Service. The parks contain 139,000 acres of old-growth temperate rainforests and protect 45% of all existing coastal redwoods. Visitors are always amazed by the staggering size and height of these majestic trees. You will also find diverse habitats of prairies, oak forests, rivers, and coastlines.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park was formed during an eruption 7,700 years ago, an event that collapsed a mountain peak into a valley. This is the deepest lake in the U.S., and it's one of the most pristine since it's fed entirely by rain and snow. The water is a deep, sparkling blue that holds reflections of the Cascade mountain peaks.
California and Oregon both possess a large number of state parks, which range from large recreational areas to natural preserves to historical landmarks. Many of these lie very close along your route from San Francisco to Portland.
Angel Island State Park
Angel Island State Park is located on the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay. It has some of the best views of the bay in the area. While on the island, you can hike along the many trails and fire roads and visit Perle's Beach for spectacular views and interesting beachcombing adventures. Angel Island was formerly an immigration station, and there is a museum with interesting historical information.
Castle Crags State Park
Castle Crags State Park is named for its 6,000-foot-tall crags, complete with glacier-covered peaks. Visitors can hike the more than 28 miles of trails, which include the strenuous 6.5-mile Castle Dome Trail for an amazing view of Mount Shasta. You can also fish in the Sacramento River. This park is conveniently located 40 minutes north of Redding, California, and is directly on your route to Portland.
Shasta State Historic Park
Shasta State Historic Park is a historical landmark near Redding, California, that features restored buildings from a large 1800s business district in Shasta. There are historic artworks, artifacts, and re-created business processes, such as a working Victorian-era bakery. Visitors can visit restored buildings, ruins, gardens, orchards, and more. There is an original stagecoach in the hay barns, and you will enjoy the nice picnic area for taking a restful break from your trip.
Silver Falls State Park
Located near Silverton, Oregon, Silver Falls State Park is around 20 miles east of Salem. It is the largest state park in Oregon, covering more than 9,000 acres. There are more than 24 miles of hiking trails, a 4-mile biking trail, and 14 miles of horse trails. Of course, you should also hike the South Falls trail to view the 177-foot waterfall, which is part of the larger Trail of Ten Falls hiking trail.
Golden Gate Bridge
No trip through San Francisco is complete without visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll first want to visit the Welcome Center for orientation, information and stories. You can also check out the original 12-foot bridge "test tower" that was used in 1933. Just outside the center, you'll find several on-site exhibits. There are free walking tours with the City Guides on Thursdays and Sundays. Both ends of the bridge feature beautiful trails and vistas, and the new Golden Gate and Pacific Overlooks are close by.
Dunsmuir is a former railroad town that is located near the snowcapped peak of Mount Shasta in California. It's home to a number of historic buildings as well as unique shops and eateries. You can access many outdoor activities in the area from Dunsmuir, and beautiful Mossbrae Falls is just a mile hike from the town.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area runs alongside the Columbia River as it courses through the Cascade Range in Northern Oregon. Located close to Portland, this is a popular destination for the views and the waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls, the highest waterfall in Oregon. There are many hiking and biking trails and camping sites. You can opt to travel through the gorge on the Historic Columbia River Highway instead of on the interstate.
While Vacaville is a small city, it has a rich history and character. You'll enjoy stopping at the famous Nut Tree, a former restaurant complex that's now a unique shopping area on 71 acres. It has interesting shops, eateries and a mini-amusement park. Besides visiting the Nut Tree, you can hike or picnic in Lagoon Valley Park, enjoy wine tasting in Suisan Valley and shop at various farmers’ markets. You can opt to stay at Vineyard RV Park while in Vacaville; it's a small and relaxing local RV park that is attractively landscaped and has many amenities, including a public, fee-based dump station for your convenience.
Redding is a Northern California city that's nestled on the Sacramento River. You'll want to check out the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which has an arboretum, gardens, and a natural museum to explore. Another popular local spot is the Sundial Bridge, a unique suspension bridge that also acts as a large sundial. If you're looking for a campground in Redding, you can stay comfortably at Mountain Gate RV Park, which is just minutes from Redding and offers a dump station for registered guests.
Grants Pass, Oregon
Located on the Rogue River, Grants Pass proudly boasts the motto of "Live Rogue." You can experience wild water adventures with various outfitters in the area or have fun on the river in any number of ways through your own efforts. There are museums, shops, hiking trails and pleasant parks in the area. You can visit or stay at Schroeder Park on the Rogue River. This is one of the best local campgrounds, and it has a dump station as well as RV sites with sewer hookups.
A successful San Francisco to Portland RV road trip is best accomplished through careful planning and research. Knowing your options helps you plot your trip within your time limits. Of course, traveling in a recreational vehicle is the best way to see and do everything on your itinerary. An RV will give you closer access to many of the sites you will be visiting. With RVshare, you can find a rental in San Francisco or Portland. Fun and adventure await as you embark on your journey from San Francisco to Portland.