Hit the Road: 6 Days in Northern CA and Southern OR
When’s the last time you’ve been on a quintessential all-American road trip? The kind where you pack the car full of salty snacks and drive unhurried with the windows down and music blasting…truly taking in the roadside scenery and sights. A multi-day automobile adventure is good for the soul, especially when it entails witnessing two national parks, “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” the deepest lake in the nation, and a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Follow the itinerary below for an epic adventure that’ll feed your need for fun.
DAYS 1-2: LASSEN NATIONAL PARK
Bubbling lava pools, whitewashed cinder cones, and glacier-fed lakes are just a small sampling of Lassen National Park’s awestruck landscape. The best part? It’s only a three-hour drive from Sacramento and is one of the least-visited national parks in the U.S.
STAY: Up until a few years ago, lodging in Lassen was lacking, but visitors can finally find respite at Highlands Ranch Resort. Sited just 10 miles from the park’s southwest entrance, the recently renovated property is a destination in itself. Rustic yet chic with a cozy, 7,500-square-foot lodge that also boasts an upscale bistro and bar, guests have the option of bunking up in one of seven cabins whose amenities include a gas-burning fireplace, luxury linens, tastefully done décor, and sweeping views of the surrounding meadows and mountains. Come morning, fuel up with a hearty breakfast (I recommend the buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy) before embarking on your national park voyage.
SEE: No matter your level of adventure, opportunities abound here. From hiking the namesake Lassen Peak (five miles round-trip), to simply driving through the 30-mile park highway, and stopping at the route’s myriad scenic sites (Bumpass Hell, Lake Helen, Kings Creek Falls, Manzanita Lake, etc.), it’s impossible not to be blown away by Lassen’s raw, rugged beauty.
DAYS 3-4: BURNEY FALLS > ASHLAND
As you exit Lassen and make your way to Oregon’s cultural capital of Ashland, don’t miss the chance to stop at the “Eighth Wonder of the World”: Burney Falls. The mist-filled masterpiece is 129 feet of pure, free-falling beauty and makes other waterfalls pale in comparison. Pack a picnic and make the effortless 150-foot walk to the overlook for lunch with a view. As you continue en route to Oregon, make a pitstop at Mt. Shasta Brewing Company in Weed, before arriving in Ashland.
Southern Oregon’s humble hamlet that’s nestled in the picturesque Rogue River Valley isn’t only easy on the eyes but also offers a walkable downtown district full of creative cuisine, a bevy of boutiques, and the 93-acre Lithia Park; hot springs, award-winning wineries, and outdoor recreation (hiking, biking, rafting, etc.) are also abundant.
STAY: The historic Ashland Springs Hotel, first constructed in 1925 and lovingly restored as of late, is a downtown destination. The beautiful building has all the charms one would expect from an inn of yesteryear with the creature comforts of a modern property. Though dining options are bountiful in these parts, the on-site eatery, LARKS, shouldn’t be overlooked. Celebrating the farms and flavors of the region, dishes are scratch-made and creatively prepared with passion. Coupled with the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast, evening tea and cookie service, and convenient city center setting, it’s the perfect place to stay after a day of play (and plays).
SEE: Ashland’s claim to fame, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is renowned—and for good reason. With the season kicking off next month (it runs through October), you’d be remiss to skip out. This year’s shows run the gamut from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Macbeth; to popular plays like Alice in Wonderland and Hairspray; and thought-provoking productions including How to Catch Creation, Cambodian Rock Band, and Between Two Knees.
DAYS 5-6: CRATER LAKE > KLAMATH FALLS
One hour and thirty minutes from Ashland, and you’ll land in Crater Lake National Park—known for its namesake body of water that was formed by the eruption of Mount Mazama about 7,700 years ago. The 1,943-foot-deep crater that’s filled solely with snowmelt will instantly blue your mind with its crystal-clear clarity and cobalt color.
STAY: Sited at the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range, Running Y Ranch Resort has enough amenities that you’d never need to leave—think ice-skating, biking, birding, horseback riding, tennis, golf, and hearty cuisine courtesy of The Ruddy Duck Restaurant. The best part? Rooms are outfitted with plush beds and 300-thread-count linens, spa-style bathrooms, and views of the surrounding scenery.
SEE: The aforementioned Crater Lake is Southern Oregon’s shimmering masterpiece. If time is of the essence, cruising the 33-mile Rim Drive via car and stopping at the route’s multiple vista points is a completely carefree and acceptable way to take in the landmark. For those hankering to go on a hike, however, Garfield Peak is a must and one of the park’s prettiest, and tallest, points. The 3.4-mile out-and-back, heavily trafficked trail is rated as moderate and provides panoramic views of the six-mile wide lake and surrounding peaks. Pick up the path from Crater Lake Lodge and be prepared for the ultimate fresh-air fix.
As your road trip wraps up and you journey home via I-5, you’ll be reminded just how lucky we are to live within driving distance of multiple national parks, a world-class theater, and take-your-breath-away natural beauty. Happy travels!
by MEGAN WISKUS
ROAD TRIP TIPS
Pack smart. Bring plenty of music, snacks (including a car-sized cooler), water, car-friendly games, and audiobooks (bonus if they reflect the regions you’ll be driving through).
Squeaky clean. Tidy up your car before, and during, your trip. At each stop, throw away wrappers, receipts, and other unnecessary trash.
Get a check-up. A week before your trip, check fluid and tire levels, make sure you’re up-to-date on oil changes, and ensure the spare tire is fully inflated. It’s also wise to have jumper cables, extra wiper fluid, and coolant on hand.
Invest in a road atlas. In spots where GPS is spotty, you can always trust a good old-fashioned map. Learn the legend, highlight your route, and assign a designated copilot to tell the driver of any upcoming turns and/or exits.
Be flexible. Stay open to adventure and random detours. Remember: The journey is half the fun!