Hi friends! Many of you have asked about our recent family trip to the northwest coast. My husband planned out this vacation for our family, so I asked him to blog about it. He’s going to take you along the whole mapped out trip, including stays and eateries. Enjoy!
Trip Numbers: July 24, 3:30am -> August 1, 1:30am (7 days, 21 hrs, 30 minutes door to door), 1,878 miles flown (TUS->LAS->SJC and PDX->LAS->TUS), 1399 miles driven, 28 hours and 15 minutes on the road, 49 hours and 58 minutes rental car running. We loved this trip so much that I thought I would map out our exact route, including the main attraction stops that we made. Each day’s map is separate from the others…just click the Day Number and you can follow our route! Sadly, we didn’t get to go to many of the places that were suggested by so many of you! Next time, be assured we are going to ask for recommendations before we go, but so many of the areas we visited could have literally been a week-long or weekend vacation on its own!
It would be an huge understatement to say this vacation was the most incredible vacation we’ve done as a family! The sights, sounds, smells, and climate were simply amazing…left us awestruck and speechless so often. Six of the eight days on this journey, the temperature never broke higher than 67 degrees…considering it was 108 in Tucson the day before we left, it was an incredibly welcome change of pace! We didn’t have rain, but daily we watched the fog and cloud cover roll in and out on the Pacific. Most days we ate a hotel breakfast, lunch in the car (bought a cooler when we got to Cali), and grabbed dinner in a local hotspot, depending on the town we were in.
Day 1: Tucson International Airport -> San Jose International Airport-> Golden Gate Bridge -> Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt’s Redwood State Forest) -> Arcata, California (6 hrs drive time, 335 miles) Night 1: Hampton Inn & Suites- Arcata, CA (3 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Meals: Breakfast in the Airport, Lunch in the car, Dinner snacks in our hotel room.
We flew out of Tucson and into San Jose, CA at 10am and drove to (and across) the Golden Gate bridge. TIP: Going north across the Golden Gate Bridge, there are no fees. Free parking abounds on the north side of the bridge…our best views were from the northwest, high up on the ridge looking down on the partially cloud-covered bridge. It was an incredible scene, with Alcatraz Island in the background and ships coming in and out of the San Francisco Bay!
Next we drove north 5.5 hours to Arcata, CA, in the heart of the Redwood National Forest Area. On the way, we made sure to jump on the “Avenue of the Giants” and take in the amazing sights in the heart of Humboldt’s Redwood State Forest! It was incredible, with towering redwoods all around us and the road following and crossing (several times) the South Fork Eel River. At numerous points, we just had to pull off and get up close to the trees. It was late on a Tuesday afternoon…just the Kolters and the forest…it was so peaceful and quiet as the sun was starting to fade. We were all speechless and in awe with our first ever experience in the Redwoods.
Day 2: Arcata, CA -> Patrick’s Point State Park ->Humboldt’s Lagoon State Park -> Big Lagoon County Park -> Arcata, CA (1.5 hrs drive time, 65 miles) Night 2: Hampton Inn & Suites – Arcata, CA (3 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Meals: Breakfast at the hotel, Picnic Lunch overlooking the Pacific, Dinner at Valley Azteca Restaurant in Arcata (good Mexican food)
After a long drive and amazing day in the giant redwoods, we headed for the beach and ocean. We kept it (relatively) close to our hotel and visited Patrick’s Point State Park. We did two short hikes, one to the breathtaking Wedding Rock (MUST SEE and OVERALL TRIP FAVORITE SPOT) where we were mesmerized by the waves crashing into the rocky shoreline over and over. A separate switchback hike to Agate beach on the north end of the park exposed a seemingly endless beach, where we searched for agates and driftwood in the sand and watched the waves chase our kids (or soak our kids!) for over an hour.
Humboldt’s Lagoon State Park was a short stop and we didn’t spend much time here, as the beach was dotted with a herd of nearly 100 Roosevelt Elk! It was so neat to see these beautiful animals right against the ocean. Our kids MAY HAVE gotten a little too close to the elk. Lesson learned. Chester would have loved to create a stampede! Big Lagoon County Park was another great beach we visited this day, to search for agates and just soak in the sights and sounds of the Pacific!
Day 3: Arcata, CA -> Redwood National Forest -> Prairie Creek Redwoods State Forest (Fern Canyon) -> Del Norte Coast Redwood State Forest -> Crescent City, CA (2.5 hrs drive time, 92 miles) Night 3: Oceanview Inn (not our favorite hotel by any means) – Crescent City, CA (2 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Meals: Breakfast at the hotel, Lunch in the car, Dinner at Seaquake Brewing in Crescent City (great pub food)
We started this day by stopping by the Redwood National Park Kuechel Visitor Center. I asked a park ranger for some inside tips on things to see and routes to take, given our limited amount of time in this area and parks we wanted to visit. This was extremely helpful and we got some great maps and information here. The most highly recommended spot for our day was Prairie Creek Redwood State Forest’s Fern Canyon…this was our first stop and it was simply amazing! We literally walked into a canyon with nearly 50′ walls, covered in numerous varieties of ferns, dripping with water, teeming with birds, where we zig zagged back and forth across Home Creek. We spent several hours here exploring and soaking in the beauty around us. Side note: parts of the movie Jurassic Park 2 were filmed in Fern Canyon
Next, we drove through Del Norte Coast Redwood State Forest. Of course we had to make several stops again, for a short hike and to simply soak in the majestic Redwoods all around us!
Finally, we finished our day with a drive up the coast to Crescent City, where we hit up the local SeaQuake Brewery for carry out and crashed in our hotel room!
Day 4: Crescent City, CA -> Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Forsest -> Whales Head Beach, OR -> Gold Beach, OR/Nesika Beach, OR -> Bandon, OR (2.5 hrs drive time, 120 miles) Night 4: Best Western Inn at Face Rock – Bandon, OR (3.5 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Meals: Breakfast at Chart Room in Crescent City (amazing breakfast and seafood), Lunch in the car, Dinner at Broken Anchor Bar and Grill (great pub food…can you say Peanut Butter Bacon Jalepeño Burger…YUM!)
We started Day 4 with a quick breakfast at a local seafood restaurant…this was the best breakfast of our trip (thank you Chart Room), right on the ocean, with sea lions swimming in the harbor beside us! From egg white omelettes with fresh Dungeness crab meat to the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had (and I’ve eaten lots of B&G), this breakfast was the best of the trip! Crescent City was such a neat little Pacific town…lighthouse, pier, fog horn (every 10 seconds) and all!
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Forest was the last stop on our Redwood Tour! Speechless and breathtaking again. We took a two mile loop hike here and enjoyed every minute of the Redwood forest. We saw everything from the hundreds of years old trees to 20′ root clusters to wildlife…we even saw a gorilla (photo below)! 🙂
The second half of this day was a beach day…we were so fortunate as we drove out of the fog and into the sun to have a couple hours at two beautiful Oregon Beaches. Whales Head Beach and Nesika Beaches were both incredible. We chased waves, soaked in the sun, built sand forts and even buried our kids…don’t worry, we didn’t leave them that way!
Day 5: Bandon, OR -> Twin Creek Ranch Blueberries -> Umpqua Lighthouse State Park -> Sea Lion Caves, Florence, OR -> Thor’s Well, Yachats, OR ->Newport, OR (3 hrs drive time, 135 miles) Night 5: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites – Newport, OR (4 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Meals: Breakfast at the hotel, Lunch in the car, Dinner at The Deep End Cafe
Day 5 started with breakfast at our hotel and a 3 minute walk to the beach to see the Facerock Viewpoint on the Bandon State Beach. After our beach walk, we drove to the Twin Creek Ranch just down the road, where we picked 11 pounds of fresh, organic Oregon blueberries! They were such a great snack and breakfast food for the rest of our trip! Best of all, they encouraged us to “eat as you pick, otherwise you won’t know which ones are the good ones!” Before leaving Bandon, we visited the old downtown marketplace, next to the wharf and the Coquille River, for some sightseeing and souvenirs. Bandon was such a fun little town, where we easily could have spent a couple days!
We continued up the Oregon Coast, taking in breathtaking forests, beaches and rock formations, sometimes in full sun…sometimes socked in with fog. We stopped at the Sea Lion Caves near Florence, OR to see the largest natural ocean cave in the world (home to hundreds of sea lions and thousands of birds). From the caves, was a great view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse, claimed to be the most photographed lighthouse in the world! An hour or so up the 101, we stopped at Thor’s Well, which was one of the top attractions of the trip! Here, the ocean waves pounded into the rocky shoreline formations spraying and geysered water, sometimes 25+ feet in the air. It was a reminder of the power of the ocean and simply an amazing sight!
Day 6: Newport, OR -> Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Newport, OR -> Yaquina Head National Park, Newport, OR -> Munson Creek Falls State Park -> Manzanita Beach, OR -> Canon Beach, OR -> Astoria, OR (4 hrs drive time, 150 miles) Night 6: Hampton Inn & Suites – Astoria, OR (4.5 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Breakfast at the hotel, Lunch in the car, Dinner at Fort George Brewery (one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had…both GF and regular crusts were homemade and amazing!)
This day was packed with activities and with driving and we wished we had more time on this day as we moved quickly from one attraction to the next. We started with two different and incredible lighthouses in Newport, the most amazing being the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, surrounded by rocky shoreline. Next we drove inland a bit, to visit the tallest waterfall in Oregon Coast country. At 319′ tall, Munson Creek Falls was at the end of a short .2 mile hike. Even though we couldn’t walk up to the base of the falls (trail closed), it was a spectacular sight!
Next we headed back to the 101 and onward up the Oregon coast. We visited Manzanita Beach, which was a nice, quiet, sandy beach community. It would be a great beach to spend a weekend at to just get away from the hustle and bustle. Just up the highway another 20-30 minutes, was Canon Beach, which was booming with people and activity. Amazing rock formations dotted the beach, including Haystack rock…made popular because of the movie, Goonies…Canon Beach was the pirate ship beach in Goonies! It was a beautiful beach and another location that would be a great week or weekend vacation in and of itself! We finished off the day by driving further north into Astoria, OR, which sits on the south bank of the Columbia River. A massive bridge spans 4 miles between Astoria (Oregon) and the state of Washington! It was a really cool little town with an amazing brew house (Fort George Brewery).
Pics of Manzanita Beach, Canon Beach, Columbia River in Astoria
Day 7: Astoria, OR -> Astoria Column -> Mt. Ranier National Park -> Kelso, WA (6 hrs, 275 miles) Night 7: Guesthouse Inn & Suites – Kelso, WA (2.5 of 5 on the MVPorch Scale)…Breakfast at the hotel, lunch in the car, Dinner carry-out from Juniors Tacos (local Mexican food, and highly recommended with awesome food)!
Our hotel was literally on the riverbank, so day 7 started with breakfast on a table outside our hotel on the banks of the Columbia River…the air was chilly and the coffee was hot…a fun way to kick off the day! Before heading out, we drove up the 600′ hill in town, so we could climb the 164 steps of the 125′ Astoria Column. The column was plastered with Murals telling the story of Astoria and provided amazing panoramic views of the Columbia River Valley below. Prior to climbing the tower, we purchased our wooden gliders in the gift shop (part of the experience) so we could throw them off the top of the column and watch them glide in the breeze.
We hit the road shortly after and headed inland to Mt. Ranier National Park. Once again, our family was astounded at the beauty in nature all around us. The park contained waterfall after waterfall, river after river, and stream after stream, all coming from the perpetual snow melting glaciers that cover the +14,000′ mountain and surrounding white-capped peaks. Other highlights of the park included Reflection Lake, which provided views of the mountain and its reflection simultaneously and the cool mist from Narada Falls. The mountain itself was slightly hazy, due to the smoke from fires all around Oregon. Nonetheless, the majestic peaks and the park as a whole was a reminder of the amazing creation all around us!
Day 8: Kelso, WA -> Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks, OR -> Blue Star Donuts, Portland, OR -> VooDoo Doughnut, Portland, OR -> Petunia’s Pies and Pastries, Portland, OR -> Portland International Airport -> Las Vegas, International Airport -> Tucson International Airport (2.75 hrs drive time, 125 miles)
Our last day was truly a full day, as we had an evening flight out of Portland. So, we took full advantage, hitting the road early. We drove east of Portland to Multnomah Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the 2nd highest year-round waterfall in the United States. A combined 620′ tall, it is a two-tiered waterfall, where a short hike leads you up to a bridge overlooking the top tier of the falls.
As we made our way back to Portand with a few hours to kill, we decided to go for a donut/pastry tour of downtown, by visiting Petunia’s Pies and Pastries (a gluten-free bakery), Blue Star Donuts and VooDoo Doughnut (for a little donut tasting contest). In the end, many delicious pastries were consumed and we each had our own opinions about our favorites!
In the end, our trip was one for the Kolter record books and filled with memories of amazing sights, funny stories, and family mischief! Exactly the kind of fun a family vacation should be! Northwest Coast, thanks for the memories. I’m sure we’ll visit again…who knows, maybe sooner than later!
Thank you to my hubs for planning this whole trip and for writing up this post! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the West Coast and getting ideas of places to visit. Thank you so much for joining in on our trip in my IG stories! It was so much fun to bring all of you along!!