Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary: Yosemite to Mt. Hood
By Dawn S
The Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the west coast of the United States From Southern California to the Olympic Peninsula in Northwestern Washington, is a road-trippers dream. You can pick up your Escape Campervan in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, options include driving from one end to the other, or just covering just a portion of this iconic route, and you can travel it in either direction. Our family trip started in Yosemite National Park in California, we journeyed north along the Pacific Coast Highway, 101, and ended at Mt. Hood in Oregon. You can do this same route by picking up your campervan in San Francisco, and dropping it off in Portland.
Yosemite National Park
Highlights of our three days in Yosemite included an adventurous horseback trail ride across rocky streams, and up and down steep mountain trails. Next, we spent time mesmerized by the giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa grove. Taking in the views from Glacier Point was our favorite, and so worth the drive.
We camped in Yosemite Valley, hiked to Lower Yosemite and Bridal Veil Falls, and took a tour on the green dragon tram. There were wildflowers, lots of deer, and we even got to see a mamma black bear keeping watch on her two young cubs that were climbing a tree behind her. El Capitan towered above and we watched the rock climbers going up and coming down. Tunnel View is another must-see, with its iconic overlook of Yosemite Valley with Half Dome, El Cap, and the waterfalls all in one shot.
The route between Yosemite and San Francisco rolls along golden hillsides dotted with windmills. Our goal was to get into the city after morning rush hour, see the few things we wanted to see and leave after the evening rush hour. We hit the touristy spots along the waterfront, did a bay tour under the Golden Gate Bridge an around Alcatraz Island. Drove down the steep windy Lombard Street, and lastly explored and ate dinner in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. We headed north on Hwy 101 just as the thick fog was rolling in.
Avenue of the Giants
I had waited my whole life to see giant trees, and I was getting my fill during this road trip. We drove through California’s towering Coastal Redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants. We stopped to check out some unique trees like the corkscrew tree, and the drive-thru tree (I do not think an Escape Campervan would have fit, so please don’t try it).
Pacific Coast Highway: California
The small towns, beaches, and bays that dot the coast are fun to stop and explore. We enjoyed the murals in Eureka, and a cool, foggy morning spent at Moonstone Beach near Trinidad Bay. We saw giant driftwood logs, sea caves full of mollusks, and surfers braving the crashing waves.
Our favorite day on this leg of the trip was our hike through Fern Canyon. As we drove down the long gravel road to the trailhead, there was a large herd of Roosevelt elk lying among the driftwood logs on the beach. The hike is along a shallow stream on the canyon floor, so wear appropriate footwear. There are some boards to traverse as bridges in the deeper places. The canyon walls are close and steep and covered in ferns and moss. It’s easy to understand this setting was chosen to film a scene from one of the Jurassic Park movies. This is a side trip that is worth the time, and highly recommended.
Pacific Coast Highway: Oregon
We spent about four days heading north along the Pacific Coast Highway and eventually crossed into Oregon. A fellow traveler told us one evening about the baby tigers they got to play with that day, and we had to check it out. The West Coast Game Park Safari in Bandon has a program that allows visitors to pet and play with some of the animals. The smile on John’s face as that baby tiger jumped in his lap made my whole day. The sea stacks, sea lions, and lighthouses along the Oregon coast were beautiful.
Mt. Hood National Forest
We could have spent another week exploring the coast, but we already had reservations in Hood River, Oregon for the last few nights of our vacation. So, we had to head inland and say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean that had been our constant companion for so many days. We drove along the Columbia River Gorge and explored several hikes and waterfalls including Multnomah Falls. We could see Mt St Helens off in the distance.
The day we drove up to Mt Hood, John was wearing flip flops. He hadn’t realized they have year-round skiing and snowboarding, so he had his FL toes in the snow, and we had a snow ball fight. We warmed up and ate at the Timberline Lodge.
The day we had to fly home out of Portland came much too soon. This 11-day trip was just enough to make me dream of coming back for more. I would love to return with more time and start in Washington and travel south along the Pacific Coast Highway in an Escape campervan. Book your Escape campervan for your Pacific Coast Highway road trip soon and enjoy your trip as much as we did.