The beautiful and iconic Golden Gate Bridge, rolling hills with amazing vistas of the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, lovely parks, cultural attractions, interesting architecture, and eerie fogs, all create a mystical ambiance in San Francisco, California.
Known for its counterculture and natural beauty, San Francisco's location on the Pacific Coast of California is the perfect starting point for a road trip north through the fertile agricultural region of the Napa Valley and mountain parks to Portland, Oregon. While staying in San Francisco, RVers can avail themselves of the urban Rob Hill Campground or cross the Golden Gate Bridge to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where further camping opportunities abound.
If you don’t like the weather in San Francisco, just wait a minute, or head to another area of the city, the weather will probably change! San Francisco is known for its microclimates, and it can be sunny and hot one minute, foggy somewhere else, and cool and rainy in another section of the city, all in the space of a few hours.
Heading north to Portland, you will take Interstate 80 across the Oakland Bay Bridge to Interstate 505, then continue northeast until the route becomes Interstate 5 north to Portland, Oregon, a total trip of 633 miles. You will find traffic in San Francisco may be rather heavy for driving with a large RV unit or tow-trailer, and there are tolls on the bridges. A moderately-sized RV may be a better choice for this busy urban center and the well-traveled route up to Portland. Don’t rush though, there is plenty to see heading through the valleys and historical locations north of San Francisco, and through the glorious mountain parks up towards Oregon. Take your time, and stretch the trips over three to five days to take in some history, culture, and natural beauty along the way.
Whether you are traveling with children or just a kid at heart who loves animals, you will want to check out the Oregon Zoo when you arrive in Portland, Oregon. The zoo is situated in Washington Park, just outside of the downtown area, covers 64 acres, and is run by the municipal government. Here you will find over 230 different species with 1800 individual animals, many of which are endangered or threatened species. The Oregon Zoo attracts 1.6 million visitors annually and is one of Oregon’s most popular attractions.
Don't miss the opportunity to explore this excellent, state of the art zoo while staying in Portland, and visit the surrounding Washington Park which boasts a Japanese and rose garden, and a children's museum. The zoo features a tourist railway, gift shop, art works, summer concerts, and amazing animal exhibits. Parking on-site for large RVs is limited, so you might want to leave your unit at a nearby campground, and visit Washington Park and the zoo in a passenger vehicle.
Once you cross over the state border into picturesque Oregon, you will find yourself surrounded by spectacular national forests that provide beautiful wilderness areas as you proceed up the interstate. From Medford, Oregon, take route 62 for 80 miles northeast to reach Crater Lake National Park and discover a collapsed, and now dormant volcano crater, which forms the deepest lake in the US, at just under 2000 feet in depth.
The lake is surrounded by old-growth forest that harbors abundant wildlife and creates a scenic backdrop Although open year-round, the park is subject to drastic climate changes and conditions in the offseason so peak season may be a preferable time to visit the park when the weather is more stable, and you are less likely to experience inclement weather conditions.
Visitors to the park will enjoy hiking, wildlife watching, and sightseeing opportunities, while the lake provides boating, swimming, and fishing activities. There are RV campgrounds in the park that accommodate moderately sized units. You may want to book ahead, as sites can fill up fast at this national park destination.
Continue north to just south of the Oregon state line on Interstate 5 to the Shasta Trinity National Forest. Here, northern California forests encompass a vast area of 2210485 acres, and comprise the largest national forest in the state, with five wilderness areas, over 6000 miles of streams, and hundreds of lakes that dot the mountainous area. Mount Shasta towers above the wilderness area at over 14000 feet in elevation.
Enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, and cycling in the peak seasons, and winter sports including snowmobiling, nordic sports, and alpine adventures in the off-season in this incredible national forest. Campgrounds in the area include first-come, first-served sites, and reservation campsites that accommodate moderately sized RV units.
There are no hookups or services but there are plenty of amenities such as flush and vault toilets, boat launches, and drinking water supplies. Wildlife abounds in this wooded mountain park, so keep an eye out for large mammals and predators. RV Campers will want to take precautions to have bear-proof containers for food storage.
As you head north on Interstate 80 to Interstate 505, consider continuing east on Interstate 80 for a short detour to the historic California State Capital of Sacramento. The city has numerous historical and cultural sites, parks, interesting architecture, and scenery, just waiting to be discovered.
Visit the Old Sacramento Historic Park which is a National Historic Landmark, and dates back to the 1850s. The site is situated on the east shore of the Sacramento River in the heart of the city. Many of the buildings in this waterfront area date back to the 1850s, during the building boom created by the Gold Rush.
The Eagle Theatre is one of the most interesting historic buildings and is a popular attraction at the park. The Old Sacramento site has been through a lot over the years, with incidents such as fires and floods. The Old Sacramento site is now a 28-acre park with plenty to see. While visiting historic sites in Sacramento you will find RV camping about one hour north at the Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area which provides ideal, quiet, RV camping for Sacramento visitors, about an hour north of the city.
As you head north of San Francisco, along Interstate 80 and 505, you will pass through rich agricultural lands and the world-famous wine country of Napa Valley which is situated just to the west of the interstate routes. Napa Valley is the location of more than 400 wineries that dot the fertile region and produce internationally renowned and prize-winning wines.
Take a stroll through vineyards, taste award-winning wines and food, and enjoy the views of the vineyards in the valley below from scenic overlooks. Enjoy fine dining available in the region, as well as luxurious resorts. Or for the truly adventurous who are not afraid of heights, take a balloon ride for incredible views of the Napa Valley.
Numerous private RV parks and campgrounds are situated in the area around Napa, and provide sites appropriate for all types of RVs, with amenities and services. Traffic in this area of California can be heavy, so don’t be in a hurry, sit back and take your time as you meander through the Napa Valley winery sites, and remember if you are sampling the local wares, take a tour, see Napa Valley Wine Tours for local tour companies, or have a designated driver!
Before leaving San Francisco, don't miss the fascinating tourist destination of Alcatraz. The site has been famous, or rather infamous, for over 150 years. The site is located on an island off the coast of San Francisco, and throughout its history has been a military site and prison, a dreaded inescapable maximum-security penitentiary, disputed Native American territory, and a national park site. It's popular with tourists who want to see the site of the now-defunct, but nevertheless chilling prison, known as “The Rock”.
Allegedly no one ever escaped from the prison, although this is in some dispute. You can hear more about Alcatraz’s fascinating stories on a local tour. To visit “The Rock” you will need to book with Alcatraz Cruises several days in advance. Choose from several tour options at your time of booking. Cruises depart from the North Beach area piers, just east of Golden Gate National Park camping locations, where RVs can be left and passenger vehicles or public transportation taken to the departure site.
It's an informative tour and must-see attraction while in the San Francisco area for history buffs or just the insatiably curious!
You will start your journey at one west coast city, famous for its counter culture, and end it in another west coast city, with a creative, free-spirited vibe! On the way, you can explore Napa Valley wineries, historic sites, natural mountain parks, and fantastic scenery. An excellent trip for people of all ages, with a little something to interest everyone.
During the peak season, road conditions along Interstate 5 are amenable to travel for RVs, but inclement weather in the off-season can create hazardous road conditions. National park campsites along the way may limit the size of your unit with most national park campgrounds accommodating moderately sized RVs. However, numerous private RV campgrounds can be found en route, that will accommodate larger units. Traffic in San Francisco and Portland, and along the interstate can be heavy, and traveling at off-peak times of the day can mitigate how much traffic you will have to share the road with! Once you arrive in Portland, a favorite camping spot for visitors is Mount Hood National Forest which is about one hour southeast of the city and offers natural wilderness and well-appointed campgrounds for RVers.