May is here and Summer is just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to start planning a road trip to explore this great country of ours and see sights you have never seen before, or perhaps visit some old favorites. With some patience and some planning, you can have an incredible time even when things don’t turn out quite like you thought they would.
Why A Road Trip
Road trips allow you to find things you never even knew you wanted to find. Be it strange roadside attractions, great diners, fantastic art, sunsets or sunrises, there is a lot to be said when you are forced to slow down and take a look around. Driving provides an opportunity to choose when to stop and smell whatever it is that is around to smell (don’t breathe too deep next to a hot spring).
We always try to find the route less traveled and do our best to stay off the major freeways as soon as we get out of the Los Angeles Basin. Find the route through the mountains and in to the small towns. If you like camping, find a campground a half hour off the road instead of on the road. If you are going to hotel it, find an eclectic motel in a small town instead of the major chain right at the freeway entrance.
Here are a few ideas within a 2-day drive just to get the wheels turning:
Activities: Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Tumalo Falls, Deschutes River, Lava Tube hike, Smith Rock State Park, western town of Sisters, brewery tours.
Suggested Route: 15 North to the 395 North to Valley Falls, Oregon where you get on the 31 North to La Pine where you get on the 97 North just a short drive from Bend.
Columbia Gorge, Oregon
Activities: Multnomah Falls (re-opened after fires), Bonneville Dam (where you can take Dam pictures, buy Dam memorabilia and take a Dam tour), Lewis & Clark Trail historic points, Portland, Mt. St Helens.
Suggested Route: 15 North to the 395 North to Valley Falls, Oregon where you get on the 31 North to La Pine where you get on the 97 North to the 84 West. The 84 West is the Columbia Gorge.
The Redwoods, CA
The Redwoods are not a single location. In fact, doing them right requires covering some ground both in the car and on foot. The best single resource we have found for discovering the Redwoods is here: https://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/index.htm
Favorite activities: Hiking Stout Grove in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods, swimming in the Eel River in the Humboldt Redwoods, Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods, driving the Del Norte Redwoods coastal drive with huge trees right on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Avenue of Giants in the Humboldt Redwoods.
Suggested Route: 5 North to the 101 North which is in downtown Los Angeles. Eventually you can decide between the 101 North and the 1 North in San Luis Obispo. The 1 always merges back with the 101 it just depends on how long you want to be on the 1. Incredible drive on the 1, just check the route to make sure roads are open before you go. We suggest staying with the 101 if your main goal is the Redwoods.
Explore the Eastern Sierra and Old Route 395.
The Eastern Sierra’s are a gem. Most of us in Southern California hear of the region because of two primary destinations – hiking Mt. Whitney and snow activities in Mammoth Mountain. There is so much more. Bodie Ghost Town is our favorite ghost town in the entire country and it is located north of Mono Lake which is an incredible sight in and of itself. In fact, Mammoth Mountain in the summer might be better than in the winter. You can take the old 395 all the way up to the Reno/Tahoe area. Explore the Bristlecone Pines. Stop in the Manzanar National Historic Site. Eat at Eric Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, CA. So much to do.
Suggested Route: 15 North to the 395 North to wherever you want the 395 North to take you.
For the Storck Family, the summer road trip has become a part of our family identity. It is a given that “like a band of gypsies we go down the highway” every summer and find a place where cell phones don’t work but the subtle magic of nature does.