Approximate Mileage/Time: Around 1300 miles, 12 days.
View this route on a map.
Northern California Road Trip starts in San Francisco, California. We start our road trip in the beautiful city of San Francisco, California. If you have never visited this city, we recommend taking some time to explore before you head off on your journey. Some of the many famous points to visit in San Francisco would be the Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Chinatown and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Once you have taken some time to visit San Francisco, it is time to start your road trip by heading to Muir Woods National Monument.
As John Muir eloquently stated about Muir Woods, "This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world." In the early 1900's Muir Woods was declared a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. When you head into the park, start early as parking lots fill up early here. There is no lodging available inside Muir Woods and the closest town is that of Mill Valley. Visit our Mill Valley Lodging page for options. For more options about lodging near this park, see our Muir Woods Lodging Page
We continue our road trip along the coastline to Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes contains unique elements of biological and historical interest in a beautiful scenic panorama of thunderous ocean breakers, open grasslands, bushy hillsides and forested ridges. Take some time to watch the ocean as you are likely to spot a variety of marine mammals and birdlife. This might be a great place for a picnic to relax and enjoy the scenery. Point Reyes is a little more remote off the main road so nearby lodging is approximately 20 miles away. As there is no lodging inside Point Reyes National Seashore, you might want to consider Novato Lodging.
After your visit to Point Reyes, we take a beautiful drive up the California Coastline heading to Redwood National Park. There are no National Parks or Monuments along this portion of the road trip but the coastline is well worth the trip. There are various State Parks along the way for a lovely picnic or just great for rest stops. Mendocino, California is a popular place to stay for the night along the coast. This is even a hot spot for many California natives. Mendocino, California
Moving along with our journey north, we arrive to Redwood National and State Parks. These parks are home to some of the world's tallest trees, the old-growth coast redwoods. They can live to be 2000 years old and grow to over 300 feet tall. Plan your route through Redwood park as there are several routes you can take. Don't forget to visit the shoreline area for an evening stroll along the beach. You may want to stay an extra night here to fully explore the park. There is no lodging inside Redwood National Park so some towns to consider would be: Crescent City (approx 38 miles), Trinidad (approx 12 miles) or McKinleyville (approx 20 miles) or Arcata Lodging (approx 21 miles).
Drive from Crescent City to Crater Lake on a road that takes you through more redwoods and other tree scenery. Crater Lake National Park is most famously known for its spectacular blue color and gorgeous views. A summer visit, allows visitors to navigate the Rim Drive around the lake. Other opportunities for visitors include activities such as; boat tours on the lake surface, stay in the historic Crater Lake Lodge, camp at Mazama Village, or taking a hike on some of the park's various trails including Mt. Scott at 8,929 ft. If you are unable to stay inside the park at Crater Lake Lodge, you might want to consider some of these towns outside of the park: Klamath Falls (approx 50 miles), Medford (approx 54 miles), Ashland (approx 60 miles) or more. Klamath Falls Medford Ashland
Once you have wrapped up your stay at Crater Lake, we take our road trip to Lava Beds National Monument. Lava Beds is rich with geologic history that spans over the last half-million years. Volcanic eruptions on Medicine Lake created an incredibly rugged landscape punctuated by lava flows, cinder cones, lava tube caves, pit craters and spatter cones. The lava tube caves, of which there are more than 500 in the Monument, are a favorite underground destination for visitors to explore. If you stayed in Klamath Falls (approx 37 miles from Lava Beds) for your Crater Lake visit, you could stay there an additional night to include a visit with Lava Beds National Monument or you might also want to consider Altamont, Weed or Mount Shasta Lodging. (Each a little over 50 miles) Weed Mount Shasta
Next stop along our journey is Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen became a national park in 1916 because of its significance as an active volcanic landscape. All four types of volcanoes in the world are found in the park. Over 150 miles of trails and a culturally significant scenic highway provide access to volcanic wonders including steam vents, mudpots, boiling pools, volcanic peaks, and painted dunes. Lodging is limited in the area around Lassen so it may be worth driving into Redding, Susanville, Red Bluff for your stay. For more ideas, see our lodging page. Redding Susanville Red Bluff
Last stop along our road trip is Lake Tahoe. 10,000 Years Ago - The Lake Tahoe Basin was a summer gathering place for three bands of Washoe Indians, favoring the area that is now Camp Richardson's. 1890s - Lake Tahoe became a popular retreat for the wealthy from San Francisco, Sacramento and Virginia City to popular hotels such as the Tallac House, the Tahoe Tavern and the Glenbrook Inn. Tourism became the only industry to flourish. Today - Lake Tahoe is still a thriving destination for millions around the world.
Head back to San Francisco for a final stay in this spectacular city or take an evening flight out to return home. Northern California Road Trip: Northern California Road Trip, Muir Woods Road Trip, Redwoods Road Trip, Lake Tahoe Road Trip, Lassen Volcanic Road Trip, Lava Beds Road Trip, Crater Lake Road Trip