Our Cross Country Road Trip From Seattle to Atlanta: Part 2 California
By Dawn S.
Our two-week road trip from Seattle to Atlanta in a Mavericks model Escape Campervan took us down the Pacific Coast Highway through Washington and Oregon, and into California. Check out the list of the places we went and where we camped on our road trip through the Golden State. Read the blog Our Cross Country Road Trip Part One: Along The Pacific Coast Highway – From Washington to Oregon. It details our adventures during the first leg of the trip.
Stop at Fern Canyon
Getting to Fern Canyon by campervan is almost as much fun as hiking through it. The windy gravel Davison Road takes you past massive trees and across shallow streams. The easy ¾ mile loop trail through Fern Canyon is short but very sweet. Be sure to wear proper footwear, you will be walking through water and across slippery rocks in a beautiful canyon with 50-foot walls covered in moss and fern. Gold Bluffs Beach is a great place to relax and picnic after your hike, they even have a campground if you are inspired to stay and catch a Pacific Ocean sunset. Keep an eye out, you may be lucky enough to spot or hear the elk that live in the area.
Don’t miss The Avenue of The Giants
Don’t miss a trip down the 31-mile scenic drive, Avenue of the Giants, in northern California. This is the place to get up close and personal with towering redwood trees. There are some fun hikes, and unique trees to check out as you explore this area. Even if you are short on time, take this chance to get out and walk among these giants in at least one grove, such as The Founder’s Grove, with its massive downed tree.
Mendocino Headlands State Park
We traveled through groves of Redwoods in Jackson State Forest along the twisty and turning highway 20, on our way to Russian Gulch State Park. We arrived after dark only to find it closed. Weary, we continued south along the coast looking for a place to park our campervan for the night. We ended up boon-docking on the outskirts of a small town, on a street where a few other vans and cars were parked. We woke up before dawn to discover that we were parked right along a bluff with a beautiful overlook of the ocean.
We stopped at a nearby park to make coffee and breakfast, when a woman pulled up, and got out with her trekking poles, and headed into the tall grass on a hidden trail. As I followed the path she took, several other trails appeared, crisscrossing through the tall grass. We discovered trails that led to bluffs and coves and secret beaches. As the sun rose, the rocky walls by the crashing sea were slowly lit up with color, and we could gradually see beautiful arches and sea stacks. This hidden gem that we stumbled upon, Mendocino Headlands State Park was a highlight of our entire trip. Be sure to add it to your trip itinerary!
When stealth camping, or boon-docking, the goal is to blend in and be unnoticed. This means no lights, no noise, no hanging out; Just quietly crawl into the back of your van with the curtains drawn, and sleep for a few hours. It’s best to stop and have dinner, setup up the bed, and get things ready ahead of time, so you are all set when you find a place to park for the night. Please obey all “No Camping” and “No Overnight Parking” signs.
Enjoy scenic California via Highway One
We continued our road trip from Washington to Oregon by heading south down the steep, twisting Scenic California Highway One along the coast all the way to Sausalito’s Marin Headlands Vista Point for epic views of San Francisco, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Golden Bridge. Definitely gas up and use the restroom when you can, take your motion sickness meds, and allow plenty of time to stop and take in the views and explore the small towns on this epic coastal route. We spent time hiking, picnicking, and exploring the lighthouse, museum, and trails at California Coastal National Monument’s Point Arena-Stornetta area, and enjoyed an afternoon at Stinson Beach north of San Francisco.
Stop and camp at Big Basin Redwoods State Park
On our way to Santa Cruz from San Francisco, we camped right in a grove of giant redwood trees at California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Be sure to call ahead and make a campground reservation that fits your van size before heading down the narrow mountain road to this special place with hiking trails that take you through forests of ancient trees, past waterfalls, and to scenic views of the Pacific Ocean. Watch out for logging trucks, and keep a “crumb clean” camp.
Restock on supplies in Santa Cruz
This is a fun surf town that has great food, art galleries, vintage clothing shops, a boardwalk with a rollercoaster, and is a good place to stock up on gas and groceries on your way to Big Sur. Your Escape campervan will fit right in with all the other surfer vans in town and at the beach. You can take surf lessons, rent a kayak, or enjoy a picnic and butterflies at Natural Bridges State Beach.
Spend the day relaxing in Big Sur
We spent an afternoon looking for sea urchins, mussels and limpets in the tide pools at Point Lobos Reserve and camped at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which made a good base camp for exploring the area. Check out these other Escape blogs for more inspiration when planning your campervan trip to Big Sur:
- 24 Hours In Big Sur
- Monterey to Big Sur: The Perfect Day Along the Mid-California Coast
- Guest Blog: Everything you need to know for a Big Sur Road Trip!
Kings Canyon National Park and Giant Sequoia National Monument
Big Sur was as far south as we wanted to go along the Pacific Coast Highway, though you could continue all the way to Los Angeles. It was time for us to turn east and start our cross country road trip from Washinton to Oregon toward our home in Florida. The goal of our trip was to explore new places that we had never been to before, so this time we skipped Yosemite and headed past rolling fields of cattle, orchards, windmills, and vineyards to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, with one of the nation’s deepest canyons.
The Park contains giant sequoia groves, miles of trails, climbing, fishing, horseback riding, winter sports, and a cave to explore in this gorgeous wilderness. We were in awe of one of the world’s largest trees, a giant sequoia named “General Sherman.” We drove The General’s Highway from North to South into Giant Sequoia National Monument and stayed at the Potwisha campground. Sequoia National Forest land surrounds the national parks and is a great place for free dispersed camping.
BE BEAR AWARE – Keep a clean camp and follow all posted food storage regulations. Please do not leave any food, trash, or scented items unattended or in your vehicle overnight.