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Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

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Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

HI all,

Landing in LA early May. Plan on catching the train down the coast to SD, where we'll hire a car and make our way up Cali, Oregon, Washington, ending up in Vancouver, BC.

We were planning on catching the train down to SD and hire a car for the rest of the trip. Then, we can drive from SD, through Escondido and San Bernadino, on the way to Sequoia/Kings/Yosemite and possibly Lake Tahoe. This way, we wouldn;t have to repeat the coast drive and would avoid going through LA again, however, would make it difficult to see Paso Robles without major backtracking.

We might even track across to Redwood NP and camp there for a few days.

Is this OK, or is it recommended to stick to the coast, and make a right after Paso Robles, on the way to Sequoia? (ie: Better driving/more interesting/pretty, etc?)

Any tips would be greatly appreciated. We have 5 weeks total for this trip, with a week in Vancouver (the rest in the States).

Thanks kindly for any advice! :-)


Marina, California
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1. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

As far as I understand your plan, you're not doing a coastal drive at all but, rather, a coastal train ride. It's really not the same as you can't stop and look at things, and it does not follow the coast for the entire route up (only on it from west of Santa Barbara to near Ventura). The best part of the coast is between Morro Bay and Santa Cruz, so you'd be missing that. But, if you want to see Yosemite and are not driving down, then that may be your only choice.

One option could be to stop in Emeryville (San Francisco), rent a car there and then visit Yosemite and Sequoia, then catching the train again to continue to San Diego. Amtrak lets you do multiple stop trips without adding any extra costs to the overall price. That way, you could still have the chance to see the best parts of the coast without having to go well out of your way. This would also be a good time to explore San Francisco, as having a car causes problems in that city and visiting it before you have rented the car would be advantageous.

Have you looked at the cost of renting a car one-way between San Diego and Seattle? It tends to be quite expensive and some agencies may not allow it at all.

western WA
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2. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

The main body of this question concerns California, so you should post on the state forum for those details.

SD is the abbreviation for South Dakota - an entirely different trip!

Edited: 24 April 2013, 16:55
Chula Vista...
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3. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

Colinaz and Ainwa,

I believe there's some confusion here. The OP originally posted this in the San Diego forum and I encouraged him to re-post here because he plans on driving through three states.

He intends on taking the train only for the portion of the trip from LA to San Diego. From San Diego, he'll drive all the way to Seattle, passing through not only California but also Oregon and Washington as well. (I agree he should also seek information from each of the local forums along the route he decides on.)


First off, one thing I didn't ask you in an earlier reply was whether this trip was for May 2013 or May 2014. If it's just a few weeks away, getting reservations this late will be tough.

Here's a possible route that may work for your trip (the stops are just to force routing; you can play with it to meet your needs):


A few comments:

- You can still encounter significant traffic concerns in the Riverside / San Bernardino area, so it's probably best to time your passage through the area for midday to avoid rush hour traffic.

- Near Techachapi, there's a railroad engineering marvel known as the Techachapi Loop. Because the climb up the mountains was otherwise too steep, the engineers had to form a circular loop where the train climbs in elevation at a more gentle pace and will pass over itself on the way up (or down).

- Entering Yosemite from the south is my favorite way to introduce first time visitors to the valley. You'll first pass by the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and then, as you get near the valley, you'll pass through a long tunnel. When you exit the tunnel, there's a scenic overlook with a parking lot where you can get the iconic view of the valley. (Also along that route, you can make a detour to Glacier Point if the road is open in May.)

- On my map, I routed you through Lake Tahoe because it was on your list. But if you're truly interested in seeing the most beautiful part of the California Coast, I would skip Lake Tahoe and head from Yosemite to Monterey. From Monterey you can take a short day trip down to Big Sur.

- I know that you plan on camping most of the trip, but to me, San Francisco is a "must see" city. A car really isn't needed there, and parking will be expensive, but it's got so much to offer that it warrants 2-3 nights.

- The northern California and Oregon coasts are beautiful in their own way. I'm a fan of the Lewis & Clark expedition and there's a lot of Lewis and Clark history at the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon and Cape Disappointment, Washington.

- Portland is an eclectic city that may be worth another night or two, and nearby are the Columbia River Valley with Multnomah Falls and Mount Hood. Just north of Portland is Mt. Saint Helens which erupted in the 1980's, of course.

That route gives you plenty of mountains and coast. I hope that helps as a starting point.


western WA
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4. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

I' say get the California stuff a little more settled, then we can help you travel up to Vancouver.

I'm no help with the CA routing, so it seemed like still a CA question.

There are three basic routes north through Oregon: 97 to Crater Lake and Bend, I-5 for fastest travel to Portland, and the highway up the coast, generally starting at the redwoods in CA.

In Washington, you can go straight up I-5 with possible side trips to Rainier and Mt St Helens. Near Centralia or Olympia, or skipping I-5 and the previously mentioned mountains heading from Astoria to Aberdeen , you can go out to the coast and up to Olympic National Park, Port Angeles and Victoria.

Otherwise, there are various routes which include the San Juans, Whidbey Island and more.

Edited: 25 April 2013, 00:01
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5. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

Adam, not exactly sure what your question is. I read your posts on the San Diego forum and see you asked there about camping. 5 wks of all camping maybe too much, depends on you and your group. Seeing a lot of the National Parks is a great endeavor, worthy of any traveler. I would suggest a few nights in camping cabins, spread out along your route, (as I assume you will be tent camping?). These are cheaper then motels, some have running water, but all have solid walls and a source of heat. Very welcome amenities in cold, wet weather, and in the high country at the time of year you'll be traveling.

As for places to visit, I'd suggest Death Valley National Park, at the beginning of your trip. It would be warm there, and you may get lucky with the wildflowers in bloom.


Crossing into Oregon, I'd swing inland to Crater Lake Nat. Park. It will still be cold at elevation, but well worth seeing.


If on the Oregon coast, stop in at Newport and visit one of my favorite breweries, Rogue, http://rogue.com/about/about.php

And have a Dead Guy Ale for me. There are also great vineyards in each of the states you'll be going thru.

Oregon also has some very nice state parks along the coast.

But my favorite coastline is in Washington state. Instead of the route Zed gave you, (taking I-5 up to Seattle), Cross into Wash. at Astoria, (eat lunch there), and follow 101 up the coast. Again lots of state parks here, but if you can get a reservation at Kalaloch Campground in Olympic National Park, you will see some of the best beaches in the region. You could easily spend 2 wks here and not see enough. Don't forget to hike down to Ruby Beach, as well as explore others.


Also in Washington, take the State Ferry system out to the San Juan Islands. There are state and county parks here as well, so you can take your car out, and camp there.


Don't know how many are in your group, or what your skill levels are, or your budget, but you could rent an RV. Just a thought.

Enjoy your trip, there is a lot to see along your route and you won't have time for it all. If you post more questions everyone will be glad to help you refine your itinerary, and cross off some places that are very similar.

Oregon Coast
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6. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

Important note about camping in Oregon and Washington in May -

expect RAIN. Maybe a lot of it on the coast!

As far as booking camping spots, other than during Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May) you should be able to find space without booking ahead.

Crater Lake will still be heavily snowbound and only the road up to the lodge area will be open. The rim road will be closed.

Redwood National Park is a must see...



…suddenlink.net/popenoe/scenes/Trinidad.htm (Trinidad)

http://redwoods.info/showrecord.asp?id=2464 (drive thru trees)




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7. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

Half Brit, your first line made me laugh, (What rain in the Pac NW?!), But then I realized that it is a great tip, as not everyone understands that the wettest part of our nation lies in that region. And not only could it be wet but also very cold, not so great a combination when camping. That's why I'd mentioned camping cabins. Here are two links to the state parks in Wash. and Oregon that offer them.

I'm sure there are many more, perhaps in county parks, or private campgrounds also.



8. Re: Road Trip (incl. camping) from SD -> Seattle

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