Our Cross Country Road Trip Part One: Along The Pacific Coast Highway – From Washington to Oregon
By Dawn S.
To celebrate 30 years of marriage, and as a fun way to get back home to Florida after working all summer in Alaska, John and I road tripped from coast to coast in an Escape Campervan. We started our trip in the Pacific Northwest picking up our Big Sur model campervan from the Seattle depot and then dropped it off two weeks later in Atlanta. You can book your Escape Campervan from Seattle or Portland to do a similar itinerary.
Quinault Rain Forest
When picking up, “Linear”, our colorful Escape campervan, we “shopped” the pantry of free items left by previous travelers and scored some bear spray, a shopping tote, food storage containers, clothespins/clips, paper plates and paper towels! Next we stocked up on groceries, and hit the road, down the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 101) to Quinault Rain Forest. We camped lakeside in a lush forest of giant trees at Willaby Campground. Don’t miss the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree, the scenic auto drive, and a hike along the nature trail while in the area. Lake Quinault lodge serves a scrumptious breakfast.
Kalaloch- Wild Pacific Coast
The next day we headed to Ruby Beach for a picnic, checked out the tide pools at Beach 4, and the Tree of Life, tree root cave at Kalaloch beach. This was a great place to start our cross country roadtrip south along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Cape Disappointment State Park- Washington
The Columbia River collides with the Pacific Ocean at the historic Cape Disappointment State Park. Take time during your visit to explore the military ruins, the Lewis & Clark interpretive Center, and learn more about the maritime and Native American history of the area. There is a lighthouse, boat ramp, good fishing, clamming, and hiking, a campground, and cabin rentals. We sat on driftwood logs on the beach with our beer to take in the breathtaking Pacific Ocean at sunset.
Oregon Coast- Grey Whale Sighting
As we continued south on our road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, crossing into Oregon, a hill with a giant white arrow and the words “SCENIC VIEW” painted on the pavement caught our eye. It led us to an overlook, where we gazed out at the ocean and waves in the first cool hour of daybreak. A white spray on the water’s surface caught my eye, and then I saw it, the dark back of a grey whale! I grabbed my binoculars for a closer look, and to watch the whale blow and swim along close to the bay. What an incredible way to start the day! I was stoked!
Umpqua National Forest- Waterfalls and Hot Springs
The next morning we left the Pacific Coast behind and headed inland through mountains with forests of red and orange fall colored trees, across fertile valleys, orchards, and ranch land. We turned around and took a side road to get a closer look at a herd of elk before they disappeared into the fog. John made friends with a mean old blind cat while getting a coffee refill at a small town country store. In Eugene, the largest city we had seen in days, we restocked on groceries, and John got a haircut, which had been hard to get back in Alaska.
After reaching Umpqua National Forest, we walked along the short trail to beautiful Tokeetee Falls, where there is an interesting old wooden elevated water pipe line at the trailhead. Next we climbed the steep trail up to Umpqua Hot Springs for a soak. If you are into the hippie vibe check it out, but it’s small, and can get very crowded by afternoon. We camped beside a stream, in the shady Tokeetee Lake campground and enjoyed a small campfire as the temperatures started to drop after dark.
Crater Lake National Park
We hit the road before daybreak and stopped at a parking area overlooking Diamond Lake to make coffee and breakfast and watch the alpenglow turn to dawn on the nearby peaks. I wish we would have pressed on to Crater Lake for the sunrise, don’t make the same mistake I did! When we arrived at Crater Lake and scurried up the ashy hillside to the rim, that first look left us absolutely speechless. The unexpected beauty, and peacefulness of that brilliant blue water, perfectly reflecting the sky like a mirror, literally stopped us in our tracks.
As we traveled along the scenic rim drive, the rising sun shining on the opposite crater walls created an ever-changing view at each overlook. As we got to the east side, we found ourselves in snow and a forest of spruce. The film at the visitor center is definitely worth the time. Ask a ranger for the best picnic spots and trails to hike during your visit. There is even a seasonal boat tour of the lake.
Rogue Gorge and Natural Bridge
Our next stop was at Natural Bridge where a short paved walkway overlooks the Rogue River flowing underground for 250 ft and then bursting forth again out of the lava tubes.
Bullard’s Beach State Park-Back to the Pacific Coast Highway
Our two day side trip to Umpqua National Forest and Crater Lake was a refreshing change of scenery, but then we headed back to Coos Bay Oregon and continued south along the Pacific Coast Highway once again. During our stay at Bullard’s Beach State Park, we took the long Bullards Pearl’s trail from the campground through thick sand, coastal forest and grassland to a secluded beach to spend the evening and catch another epic Pacific Ocean sunset. Washington and Oregon did not disappoint, I couldn’t wait to see what we would find in California.
Want to explore the Pacific Coast Highway, too? Book your Escape Campervan today! Please watch for a future blog post to learn more about our coast to coast anniversary campervan cross country road trip as we travel from Seattle to Atlanta. Safe travels.