HELENE’S TRIP TO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

15 DAYS/7 STOPS 

 

Mountains, volcanoes and the Pacific Coast
Helene created a beautiful 15-day family road trip with 7 stops for her husband, their twin boys Edouard and Cedric (12), and their daughter Julie (14). Grandparents, Jacques and Françoise, also joined the trip. The purpose of this trip was to discover natural parks and the wild coast of California while going a little of the beaten path. They wanted to experience the natural beauty of the mountains and beaches and hike in the magnificent surroundings without the crowd. They ended with a city trip in San Francisco and Carmel. The family lived in NY for 5 years, but they are originally from Belgium. They love nature, enjoy beautiful landscapes and hiking. Location and comfort were key when they selected the lodging for this family road trip, where they stayed an average of two nights per location. In 15 days, they drove a total of 2,225 km and spent 28 hours on the roads. They travelled in June-July 2016.
Discover Helene’s travel profile and all her favorite trip itineraries.

Arrival and departure airport: San Francisco

5h30 hours flight from NY. 
 More than 10 direct flights/day
Wide choice of best fare & timing.

Rental cars
2,225 km in 15 days
28 hours on the road
7 stops
 
Total/person: 2,350 $ for 15 days 
Lodging: 1,500 $/pp for 15 days, flights : 650 $/pp

Local transport (rent a car): 200 $/pp

Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic Park :
2 hidden gems of Northern California


All the details of the trip
Lodging and activities

Good to know and pictures
Watch them

A snapshot

A snapshot

1GrnCircleSAN FRANCISCO AIRPORT TO
YOSEMITE NP


315 km/4 hours

Yosemite

Yosemite

Half Dome
2 NIGHTS
  • Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders in Yosemite West : we rented a very confortable chalet (Yosemite Crossroads) in this village just off Wawona Road (South West of the Park). It was about 20 minutes from Yosemite Village and close to the Glacier Point road.
  •  
    It is a good 4-hour drive from San Francisco airport to Yosemite West. Don’t forget to stop at a supermarket on your way as there are no in the park. There is a Trader Joe’s in Pleasanton, just of the I580.


    After a good night of rest, we started our day early (before it is too hot) and hiked to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. Leave your car on the parking on Glacier Point road (approx. mile 13) and take the trail to the right. From the top of Sentinel Dome you have a 360-degree view on just about the whole park. We continued the loop to Taft Point and the Fissures where another magnificent view of the valley awaiting you. After the hike we continued the road to Glacier Point for another stunning view. 
     
    The next day we drove the Tioga Road and stopped at different point of views (Olmstead Point, Pothole Dome) on our way to Mono Lake and Lake Tahoe. 

YOSEMITE NP TO
LAKE TAHOE


340 km/4h30

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Lake
1 NIGHT
  • Cedar Crest Cottages in Homewood (on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore): 8 luxurious cottages renovated in 2015 (from 1 to 4 bedrooms). There is a fire pit for s’mores and access to the neighborhood’s sandy beach just across the street.
  • This was a 1-night stop on our way to Lassen Volcanic Park, we relaxed, had some s’mores and spent the next morning on the beach before getting back on the road.

LAKE TAHOE TO
LASSEN  NP


250 km/3h15

Lassen Volcanic NP

Lassen Volcanic NP

Snow!
2 NIGHTS
  • Highlands Ranch Resort (10min from the southwest gateway of the park): 7 newly built elegant cottages (2015) on Childs Meadow. There is a fire pit for s’mores and a delicious restaurant. You can order lunch packets to take on your hikes in the park.
  • Our initial plan was to go to Bumpass Hell (because of the hydrothermal area, mud pots, colored pool and hot steam) but unfortunately the trail was closed because of the snow and ice. We hiked to Echo Lake. On our way back we stopped at Helen Lake so the kids could play in the snow. The views of the frozen lake and Lassen Peak were beautiful.

    On the second day we crossed the park on route 89 and stopped at the Northwest park gate and hiked to the Lily Pond Lake and Manzanita Lake.

LASSEN VOLCANIC NP TO
MOUNT SHASTA


215 km/2h30

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

Breathtaking
2 NIGHTS
  • Gilden Lodge in Mt Shasta : stunning 5,000 square foot hand crafted log cabin which can accommodate up to 10 people with view on THE mountain. Sunsets are incredible, lots of hummingbirds at the end of the afternoon. We booked it through VRBO.
  •  
    On our way to Mt Shasta we stopped at the McArthur-Burney Falls. The falls are stunning (Teddy Roosevelt once described Burney Falls as the “eighth wonder of the world” and he was close !). If you are not afraid of cold water (the falls are coming straight from the mountains), don’t forget your swimming suit !

    The choice of hikes around Mt Shasta is tremendous. We chose to go to Heart Lake and Castle Peak and we were so right ! Few trails offer as much alpine terrain and tremendous vistas for such little effort. We would have loved staying 1 or 2 other days to discover other hikes. 

MOUNT SHASTA TO
FORT BRAGG


420 km/5h15

Fortbragg

Fortbragg

Pacific
2 NIGHTS
  • We stayed in an old little cabin (north of Fort Bragg) set in a private meadow surrounded by tall pines. There is a private path that will take you from the house to a secluded area of sand dunes. Walk across the dunes (15 minutes) to a miles-long stretch of sandy coastline rarely visited by others. House booked on VRBO.
  •  
    In the morning we walked around in MacKerricher State Park at Lake Cleone and Laguna Point (where you can see seals). In the afternoon we hiked through the dunes (from our cabin) to the beach and strolled on the beach. It was a little misty, then the sun came through. Beautiful. We didn’t see anybody on the beach !

FORT BRAGG TO
SAN FRANCISCO


280 km/4h15
San Francisco

San Francisco

Foggy
3 NIGHTS
  • We stayed in a classic Edwardian house in the Cole Valley neighborhood. The house had a garage and was close to public transport. The real San Francisco experience ! We found this rental on VRBO.
  •  
    On our way we drove down Route 1. We weren’t very lucky because it was a typical summer day on the Northern Californian coast : very misty and cold. We stopped at the Point Arena Lighthouse and Salt Point State Park where we hiked on the Salt Point Trail (very nice view and lots of seals).
     
    We spent 2 full days in SF and did all the classics (Golden Gate, Baker Beach, Lombard Street, Fisherman’s wharf, Alcatraz, Wells Fargo Museum,…) . It was foggy. On the second day we crossed the bridge and went to Sausalito where it was sunny ! When it is foggy, the best time of the day to see the bridge coming out of the fog is 3pm-4pm.

SAN FRANCISCO TO
MONTEREY


150 km/1h30
Monterey

Monterey

Missiom
2 NIGHTS

GOOD TO KNOW

 

  •  VisitCalifornia is a very good website to plan your vacation and road trips in California (available in about 10 languages).
  • www.roadtrippin.fr is an excellent french website to help you plan all your road trips in the US National Parks.
  • We chose to spent most of our nights in rentals, it is cheaper than hotels, you have more space and you can cook (and eat healthier!). VRBO is, from our point of view, the best website for vacation rentals.
  • End of June was the perfect time to go to Yosemite, it’s not too crowded. It is sometimes a little too early for Lassen Volcanic Park as there still can be a lot of snow (we couldn’t do some of our planned hikes because of it), but on the other hand it was great to see all this snow.
  • It can be very foggy in San Francisco and on the Northern Californian coast in the summer… 
  • Mount Shasta is mindblowing, if we had to do this trip again, we would stay 3 or 4 nights.
  • Be aware of the wildlife and especially the bears in the parks.

MY PICTURES

 

Photo ©helenedwds

TOGETHER WE WILL TRAVEL THE WORLD!