2011 Vanlife Sprinter "Ladybird"
2011 Vanlife Sprinter "Ladybird"
Seattle, WA is the crown jewel of the US Pacific Northwest. This large metro area is wedged between the Puget Sound to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east. It offers exceptional cultural diversity, incredible nightlife, fine dining, first-rate museums, excellent shopping, and first-rate entertainment facilities. They have several professional sports teams including football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. There is a good chance you will be able to catch a game regardless of the time of year you visit.
Downtown there are several must-sees. The Space Needle is an iconic fixture of the Seattle skyline and you can take an elevator to the observation deck for some fantastic views of the surrounding area. Right next door is the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum which showcases the incredible blown glass artwork of Dale Chihuly. A couple of miles south and a couple of blocks closer to the shore is the famous Pike Place Market which is one of the oldest continuously operating public markets in the US. It is also home to the original Starbucks Coffee Shop.
The Waterfront area has several great restaurants, The Seattle Great Wheel, The Seattle Aquarium, and the ferry terminal. There is also an open-air entertainment area adjacent to the great wheel that often hosts DJs and live music during the summer. This area provides a great place to spend a warm summer day by the water.
There are a couple of ways to get from Seattle to Eureka. The route you choose will depend on the amount of time you have, the type of vehicle you are driving and your comfort level driving more difficult roads. All routes start by heading south on I-5 out of Seattle and end on US-101 entering Eureka. They differ in where you cross over from I-5 to US-101. The fastest route is to take US-199 between Grants Pass, Oregon and Crescent City, CA. This is also the most difficult. The road is pretty easy until you enter California, then it's (literally) all downhill from there. This is a two-lane road that winds through the canyons with some steep declines and sharp blind corners.
When you get to the Redwood National Park you also have to be careful of huge trees very close to the roadway. Many of those trees bare the scars of previous encounters with travelers. It is doable even with a large trailer or motorhome but you have to be extra careful and vigilant. On the plus side, the scenery is absolutely amazing.
Easier crossings can be made on US-126 between Eugene and Florence, US-20 via US-34 from Corvalis to Newport or even US-30 from Longview to Astoria. Each of these is further north and requires more travel in US-101. US-101 along the Oregon coast is beautiful, but slow. Astoria to Eureka on US-101 is at least a ten-hour drive and that doesn't leave any time to really enjoy the beauty of the coast.
For the purposes of this trip guide, we're assuming you are taking the US-199 route. It is important to note that when entering California your vehicle will be subject to inspection for invasive species. You cannot transport live plants, fruits or vegetables into California from surrounding states.
Redwood National Park is wonderful park located in northwest California. The park itself is broken into two regions. The north unit is located around Crescent City, and the southern unit is located along US-101 just south of Klamath, CA. Both units have numerous hiking trails through several Giant Redwood groves. Two of the best hikes are located in the south unit. The Tall Trees Grove hike is a permit only hike to limit the number of people on the trail per day. Permits are provided on a first come first serve basis at the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center. They go quickly so get there early. The other great hike is Fern Canyon which is actually located in the neighboring state park. This hike takes you through a 60 foot deep ravine with vertical rock walls covered with lush green ferns. Half of the hike is up the creek which runs through the canyon. The water is shallow, but you will need appropriate footwear to stay dry and comfortable.
The best place to stay is in Klamath, CA. There are several RV parks in the area. Chinook RV Resort is a great choice. The park is well run, has level sites and beautiful access to the river which runs along the backside of the park.
Crater Lake National Park surrounds the crystal clear, deep blue waters of Crater Lake. This lake fills the collapsed cone of a volcano and is one of the deepest lakes in the world. The water in the lake comes exclusively from rain and snowmelt. The pure source of water combined with the rocky geology of the area combines to create the super clear water found here. The depth and clarity combine to create the lake's famous deep blue appearance.
While there are many things to do in the park, including many great hiking trails through the forests surrounding the lake, the main highlight for most visitors is the loop road around the park. When you visit, make sure you drive the entire loop road. It will provide great views of the lake from many perspectives. Also, make sure you stop in the visitors center to learn about the lake and how it was formed. It is quite fascinating.
There are two great places to stay in the area. There is a campground with RV spaces off the main south entry road. If that campground is full, or if you are looking for a cheap option then try Annie Creek Sno-Park. This is located on RT-62 about a mile south of the park property line. During the summer months, you can camp for free here in the huge paved parking lot. There are no amenities (water, electricity, bathrooms, etc.) so your rig will have to be boondocking capable.
The Eugene Saturday Market is a weekly open-air market featuring crafts and products from local suppliers. It is open rain or shine every Saturday from 10am to 5pm from April until mid-November. Each week about 200 local artists set up shop to offer their craft for sale to the public. These artists cover a broad range of disciplines including painters, printers, basket makers, books, clothing, jewelry, leather, metal, wood, photography and much more. There is also an international food court serving up great food and live music performances throughout the day. Across the street, there is also a farmers market. While not part of this market, it does offer many great farm products to enjoy during the rest of your trip.
The Deerwood RV Park is a great place to stay in the area. It is located just 15 minutes south of the city off of I-5. That's close enough to be convenient while being far enough away to provide a quiet, relaxing stay. At 10 acres in size, it has lots of spaces and plenty of room for modern large RVs.
This area of the country is known for its outstanding climate for horticulture. The Pacific Ocean regulates temps here so summer highs are not too hot and winter lows are not too cold. It also brings consistent water through regular rainfall. All these factors come together to produce an exceptionally long and stable growing season. This is showcased by places like the Portland Japanese Gardens which are considered by many to be the best gardens of their type outside of Japan in the world.
The Gardens are open year-round and each season brings new looks and highlights to enjoy.
Jantzen Beach RV Park provides a decent place to stay for a garden visit. It is located near the gardens and convenient to I-5.
4x4 Ram 2500 w/ 2019 Capri Camper Retreat
Eureka, CA is a historic industrial port city on the northwest coast of California. The main attraction in the city is the Historic Old Town District which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This area showcases numerous homes with stunning Victorian architecture dating back to the 1850s. Many of the buildings in the area are now home to restaurants, boutique shops and pieces of modern art. On the bay side, there is a boardwalk that makes for a great summer stroll where you can enjoy great views of the bay, or stop in one of the many seaside restaurants or an ice cream shop for a bite to eat.
Surrounding Eureka are the vast expanses of the coastal mountains. This lush forested area is home to many parks, Giant Redwood groves and great places to hike. You can get a taste of this in town at the Sequoia Park Forest and Garden. This 67-acre park is open to the public and includes beautiful gardens, hiking and biking trails and a grove of Giant Redwood trees. Outside the city is the much larger Humboldt Redwoods State Park. At 53,000 acres, this park provides excellent opportunities to explore the natural environment that supports the growth of the Giant Redwood trees.
To get away from the forest and city, try going for a walk on Trinidad State Beach. This park is located in the town of Trinidad about 30 minutes north of Eureka. The shoreline here features the beach contrasting against the ocean and neighboring rocky cliffs. This is a particularly good place to watch a sunset before heading back to your campsite.
The best place to stay is Mad River Rapids RV Park in Arcata. This park provides a quiet, clean and well managed environment that is close to to both Arcata and Eureka.