Best Road Trips from San Francisco (Itineraries Made for You)
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Choose from four incredible road trips from San Francisco, depending on how much time you have.
Our HUGE San Francisco road trip guide is complete with all you need to know including drive time between stopovers, where to go, what to see and do, and the best places to stay overnight.
ROAD TRIPS FROM SAN FRANCISCO – CONTENTS
San Francisco is a truly beautiful city, possibly one of the best in the whole US. And there’s so much to do there as well. When you visit, you probably won’t need to go somewhere else, you’ll be too busy exploring everything that this city has to offer.
But just because you don’t have to go anywhere else, doesn’t mean you won’t want to. You’ll have access to some of the best drives from San Francisco in the USA. So, whether you’re a local looking for a spectacular weekend trip or a visitor who wants to travel around for a couple of weeks, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Want to go straight to the best road trips from San Francisco? Jump using this link.
Who is this article for?
If you’re looking for a San Francisco road trip, then this article is for you. But you shouldn’t expect the same destinations, activities, and attractions as you’ll find in the thousand other similar articles on the internet.
This is an article for people who like to do something different, who like to get off the beaten track and enjoy unusual, slightly weird, and wonderful attractions. If you’re a bit of a maverick and want to see a side of the US that few people ever see, then keep reading.
What type of road trips do we suggest?
We love to take all kinds of road trips, the main defining factor is that it’s about the journey, not the destination. So make sure you enjoy the journey by taking a lot of sightseeing stops and overnight in interesting places.
Don’t be too rigid with your road trip itinerary that you can’t stop or do an impromptu detour whenever you see something that interests you. Freedom and flexibility are two of the best features of a road trip.
A road trip can range from a two-day trip based in a single location to a two-week (or more) ramble across the landscape. You’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to San Francisco road trips, all you have to decide is how long and where to start driving to!
Car or Campervan for a Road Trip from San Francisco?
This is probably the first decision you need to make when you’re planning your San Francisco road trip and the answer is simple. The truth is that this choice is completely up to you and how you want to travel.
Are you planning to enjoy some day trips outside of San Francisco? Then a car will probably be the best and easiest choice. Want to enjoy the freedom of taking your time and save a bit of money on accommodation? Then plan on a campervan. It’s that simple.
Where to Rent a Campervan in San Francisco
If you are planning on renting a camper van in San Francisco, then Travellers Autobarn is a solid choice. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they also offer a range of bonuses that will make your trip smoother and more enjoyable including:
● 24/7 Roadside assistance
● Free unlimited miles
● A 10% discount on campgrounds
● Free campground app
● Free extra drivers
Plus one of their three US locations is in San Francisco, so they’re local and convenient!
San Francisco Road Trip Map
This custom-made San Francisco road trip map is split up into colored sections with a San Francisco itinerary, our 4 best road trips from San Francisco, things to do, sightseeing stops, and where to stay for a night or two along the way, and finally a Portland itinerary.
To open and save our road trip maps into your own Google Maps app on your phone, simply tap the small square frame icon on the top right-hand corner of the map, when looking at this article from your phone.
The map will automatically save into “Saved” > “Maps” with the title Road Trips from San Francisco. You can then select an area to download and use offline, ready for any time you don’t have access to mobile data in the remote areas of the states.
All of the road trips we write about in this post start from San Francisco. Want to skip over our San Francisco itinerary and go straight to the best SF road trips instead?
San Francisco Itinerary
Suggested Stay: 2 days
San Francisco is vibrant, exciting, and has an amazing food scene. It’s also friendly and has an unusual climate that can change from moment to moment and neighborhood to neighborhood.
On this road trip, you will, of course, start in San Francisco. If you are a visitor to the area, make sure you plan time to see the cool sights of this amazing city.
What to do in San Francisco
There’s so much to do in San Francisco that I could spend the whole article talking about it. But I’m only going to mention my favorite, unique San Francisco activities though.
Spot seals at Fisherman’s Wharf
While you’re in San Francisco, make sure you spend an evening at Fisherman’s Wharf. This waterfront neighborhood sells some of the best seafood you’ll ever taste, all of it fresh from the ocean. You can either eat at one of the fine dining restaurants or grab food from one of the stalls, it’s all good.
At some point, walk over to Pier 39 to spot the local “sea-lebrities” that often hang out on the docks on Pier 39’s marina, a group of around 300 California sea lions.
Get spooked at Alcatraz Island
You’ve probably seen this famous prison island in movies, but it’s something else to see it in real life. Alcatraz prison was in operation for 29 years and not a single prisoner ever escaped, probably because of the rocky shores and violent waters surrounding the island.
Today, the prison is now a National Historic Landmark and you can wander through the famous corridors and see the prison cells that once held America’s most notable prisoners like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.
Marvel at a mosaic tiled staircase
In the Sunset district in a quiet area of San Francisco, you’ll happen upon a hidden staircase decorated with brightly colored mosaic tiles. The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps was created by artists Collette Crutcher and Aileen Barr and all the mosaics were donated by the community.
The views from the top of the staircase are amazing, but the colorful trail is the main event in this unique San Francisco attraction!
Take a Bridge to Bridge Cruise
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s most iconic sights. You can walk across the bridge, ride a bike, take a bus, or drive yourself, but one of the best ways to see the bridge is on a cruise.
A San Francisco Bridge to Bridge Cruise will take you all across the bay through to the Oakland Bay Bridge. You’ll get to see some of the city’s best sites and maybe even take a photo of the bridge at sunset.
Lose hours at the California Academy of Sciences
This incredible museum is all about changing life on Earth to be better for everyone. It is an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum which focuses on regenerating the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration.
Step inside a lush, four-story rainforest that’s teeming with life – from enormous Amazonian fish and free-flying birds and butterflies to exotic reptiles, colorful amphibians, and tropical flora. Be sure to dive into the depths of one of the most biologically diverse and interactive aquariums on Earth too.
Skip the lines and pre-buy your California Academy of Sciences ticket here.
Relax in the Japanese Tea Garden
There’s nothing like a garden in the heart of the city, and this is an unusual one. Located in Golden Gate Park, the garden has stood for more than a hundred years and is an oasis of peace in the center of the city.
Visit the interesting Albion Castle
Did you know that there’s a castle in San Francisco? Albion Castle was built in 1870 by an English immigrant who modeled the building after the Norman castles back home. He originally planned for it to be a brewery, which was why he built extensive cisterns underneath the castle.
The site has changed hands several times over the years, and it now offers natural spring water reserves in Hunter’s Point.
Cruise down the windiest street in the world
Ok, it’s not the most crooked street in the world, but San Francisco has that one too! Lombard Street is, however, the prettiest and most crooked street in the world, featuring 8 tight switchback turns on just 600-feet of road!
Flanked by well-maintained gardens of flowering hydrangeas and views over Coit Tower and Bay Bridge, driving down the road in your fresh rental vehicle is a must-do in San Francisco.
Or, if you don’t have your wheels yet, take a GoCar Tour down Lombard Street!
Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Headlands
Located just 20 minutes drive from San Francisco, the Marin Headlands is a place of unparalleled national beauty. While you’re there, take in the views from Hawk Hill, stop at Black Sands Beach, and explore the iconic Point Bonita Lighthouse.
Camping near San Francisco
If you’re looking to camp in or near San Francisco, then you’ll have several good choices, many of them making the most of the gorgeous natural landscape.
● San Francisco Camping: Rob Hill Campground ($125 per site as of Feb 2022) – The only legal campground in the city sits atop the highest point in the Presidio, overlooking Baker Beach and the Pacific Ocean. No RV/motorhome sites are available.
● Marin Headlands Camping: Kirby Cove Campground (from $40 per tent as of Feb 2022) – Located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge visitors are awarded breathtaking views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the rugged Pacific Coast. No RV/motorhome sites are available.
● Half Moon Bay Camping: Francis Beach Campground (from $35 as of Feb 2022) – Close to 5 sandy beaches along the San Mateo County coast. Most sites can accommodate RVs, trailers, and tents.
Where to stay in San Francisco
If you’ve just landed in San Francisco, you likely don’t have your wheels yet, and you’re looking to stay somewhere special.
The following accommodation options are unique, central, and also have parking options so you won’t have trouble parking once you hire your vehicle.
This quirky, French-style B&B is located on Nob Hill, just a 5-minute walk from some of the best dining and shopping in the city. It also has a BBQ area and antique décor with lots of unusual, charming features. Valet parking is available for $51.
Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast
Located in the Noe Valley neighborhood, this B&B is in a lovely Victorian home with uniquely decorated guest rooms and private bathrooms. It’s just a few minutes from local shopping and eating areas and serves a great breakfast every morning. Free restricted on-street and public parking nearby.
HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
Located in a gorgeous waterfront national park, within walking distance of the Marina District with breathtaking views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fort Mason Park. This hostel features dorm rooms, theatre, pool table, cozy lounge, and fireplace plus free onsite parking.
4 Awesome Road Trips from San Francisco
Ready to hit the road? We have more than enough San Francisco road trips to keep you busy no matter how long you have in California. All you have to do is calculate how much time you have and what you want to see and do the most!
❶ Yosemite Road trip (2-4 days): Wilderness, hiking, scenery, and culture
❷ Lake Tahoe Road Trip (3-5 days): Fun water activities, spectacular vistas, and relaxation
❸ Mountains Oregon Road Trip (5-14 days): Adventure activities, volcanoes, hiking, and hot springs
❹ Coastal Oregon Road Trip (7-14 days): Sunny beaches, beautiful coastline, and small towns
How many days do you have for a road trip from San Francisco?
Here are some San Francisco road trip ideas based on how long you have for travel.
Weekend road trips from San Francisco
Some of your best memories can be made on a 2-day road trip from San Francisco. There are some amazing sites, cities, and areas not far from the heart of the city and you can see them without having to tolerate long, boring drives.
If you can’t get the time off work or just want to travel for a short break, then we recommend short road trips from San Francisco to Napa Valley or the Sonoma Coast. You can also squeeze in a very quick road trip to Yosemite National Park or Lake Tahoe, but be warned, you’ll feel like you didn’t get enough time there!
3 day road trip San Francisco
So you need to do a 3 days road trip from San Francisco? We recommend you take either a road trip to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite National Park. You will be able to fit a few activities in 3 days, but you’ll likely be left wanting more!
5 day road trip from San Francisco
Or you could do an extremely quick one-way road trip to Portland via the mountain areas of Lassen, Crater Lake, Smith Rock, and Mount Hood, skipping over Napa Valley and the Painted Hills.
7 day road trip from San Francisco
If you have time for a 1-week road trip from San Francisco, you could quickly visit both Yosemite National Park or Lake Tahoe on a road trip together, or thoroughly explore either of them alone including a small stop to Napa Valley on the way).
10 day road trip from San Francisco
To get the most of your 10-day road trip from San Francisco you have a few really good options. The first is to combine the Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe road trips, thoroughly exploring both areas before returning to San Francisco.
2 week road trip from San Francisco
You could also combine all of the inland California/Oregon road trips together by visiting Napa Valley first, then Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe, before continuing on with the rest of the road trip to Portland on the mountain route.
3 week road trip from San Francisco
Amazing! You have time to road trip from San Francisco to Portland going via the mountain route on the way there and returning via the coastal route road trip from Portland to San Francisco (or in reverse, it doesn’t really matter).
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best road trips from San Francisco to help you decide which one to take.
Road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite
Distance Covered: 170 miles, 4 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 2 – 4 days in total
● Best short San Francisco road trip to get out into the wilderness
Yosemite is one of the most famous national parks in the US and for good reason. It’s stunningly beautiful in every season and boasts everything from great hiking to waterfalls, nature experiences, horse riding, skiing, and snowboarding.
You’ll probably want to leave early and spend at least two days in Yosemite. The best route from San Francisco to Yosemite is along the amazingly scenic Highway 140, where you’ll see the towns of Fish Camp and Mariposa and enter the park through the Arch Rock Entrance.
You can also take Highway 120, which is faster and goes through orchards and the old gold mining town of Groveland. This road is prone to landslides throughout the year though, so check the local warnings before you set out.
Things to do in Yosemite
Most Yosemite trips from San Francisco are based on outdoor experiences. And this park is so beautiful that you’ll quickly understand why so many people have it on their bucket list!
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Yosemite National Park:
Go hiking on bucket-list trails
There are numerous amazing hiking spots in the park. Try hiking near Mirror Lake, the Yosemite Falls Trail, or the Taft Point Loop for absolutely incredible views and sights.
Explore the past at Ahwahneechee
Yosemite has been inhabited for around 8,000 years. The original inhabitants of the park were mostly Southern Miwok and Central Miwok people, many of whom were killed or forced to leave the land.
Today, you can explore a reconstructed Miwok village behind the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Keep your eye out for regular demonstrations on arts and crafts that were significant to the Miwok culture.
Climb or hike El Capitan
El Capitan is a 3,000 sheer rock face, 2.5 times as tall as the Empire State Building that dominates views of the Yosemite Valley. It’s been gaining popularity in the climbing world ever since Alex Honnold became the first person to climb the cliff face without ropes or assistance.
This activity is obviously only for climbing pros, but you can also do a difficult full-day hike to the top of El Capitan for unmatched views and self-satisfaction.
If you’re a climber, then you’ll probably want to stay at Camp 4 campground. This campground is on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to climbers and climbing, and it has boulders in the campground to practice on.
Wander through the Ansel Adams Gallery
Ansel Adams was a famous photographer best known for his images of Yosemite. So, you absolutely must learn more about his work while you’re in the park. In Yosemite Village, you’ll find a small gallery that sells artwork as well as Ansel Adams photos and reproductions.
Camping in Yosemite
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a San Francisco to Yosemite road trip and accommodate RV/motorhome, trailer, or tent camping.
Just remember that you aren’t allowed to sleep in your campervan in the parking lots inside the Yosemite National Park, you must be in one of the designated lots like the Pines Campground.
● Yosemite Valley Camping: Pines Campgrounds ($36 per night as of Feb 2022) – Three popular centrally-located campgrounds Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines along the Merced River all offer RV parking, while only Upper Pines and Lower Pines offer tent sites.
● Yosemite Camping: White Wolf Campground ($26 per night as of Feb 2022) – A popular base for hikers who like to explore the nearby wilderness areas, one hour driving from Yosemite Valley. The Middle Tuolumne River flows right past the campground.
● Free Yosemite Camping: Sierra National Park, Wild Camping (FREE) – 15-minutes driving from Yosemite National Park this free campsite is a beautiful, quiet spot to park your RV or pitch a tent.
Where to stay in Yosemite
Not up for camping on your road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite? Here are the best Yosemite accommodation options with parking.
Groveland: Echo Adventure’s Yosemite Basecamp
Just five miles from Yosemite National Park, this hotel has rooms with patios, private bathrooms, and seating areas. It’s budget-friendly and has its own garden, BBQ facilities, free on-site parking, and really good breakfast options too.
Coarsegold: Yosemite RV Resort
This campground offers all the comforts of home for RV drivers, cabin, and yurt lovers, some of them with their own kitchens, mountain views, and terraces. It has an outdoor swimming pool plus free on-site parking.
Road trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe
Distance Covered: 199.3 miles, 3.5 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 3 – 5 days total
● Best San Francisco road trip for water activities, spectacular scenery, and lakeside stays
Lake Tahoe is a good idea for long weekend getaways from San Francisco. It’s a popular trip too, passing through the Tahoe National Forest and offering sandy beaches, lots of outdoor activities, and a beautiful lake within a few hours from the city.
To get there, take the I-80 E and if you have time, you can always stop along the way at popular spots like Napa, Berkeley, or Sacramento.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is one of the best places to visit outside San Francisco because of its proximity and amazing nature experiences, so make sure you spend most of your time outdoors!
Marvel at Emerald Bay State Park
Located on Lake Tahoe’s western shore, the Emerald Bay State Park offers beautiful natural sights and a shallow bay with a small islet in the middle. The water is a beautiful blue-green color, and the waters are overlooked by a Scandinavian-style castle, which is a summer vacation home.
Emerald Bay is the best place in Lake Tahoe to swim if you can stand the freezing cold waters!
Discover hidden graves in a lost cemetery
If you’re looking for something unusual to do in Lake Tahoe, this would have to be at the top of your list. The Al Tahoe neighborhood is one of the oldest in the area with history dating back to before the first European settlers. By 1870, it was a thriving community with its own cemetery.
Over the years, grave markers in the cemetery were stolen or damaged, houses were built too close, and the deed to the cemetery was actually lost during the city’s incorporation. For fifty years, the city didn’t even realize they owned the property!
Now, some 110 likely graves had been identified, yet still unmarked. Visit the Historical Tahoe Cemetery on Alameda Street in South Lake Tahoe to gain a fascinating glimpse into Lake Tahoe’s unexpected past.
Go hiking on spectacular trails
Getting outdoors is one of the best things you can do in Lake Tahoe, and there’s no better way to enjoy the scenery than on foot. Lake Tahoe has several famous hiking trails including the family friendly Cascade Falls Trail, the Fallen Leaf Lake Trail, and the more rugged Rubicon Trail.
Scuba dive to giant sunken fir trees and shipwrecks
Did you know you can actually scuba dive in Emerald Bay? Designated in the 90s, the Emerald Bay Underwater State Park is now the number one underwater state park in California.
While you’re submerged in the blue-green waters, you’ll get the chance to explore a variety of sunken ships left behind by time, as well as giant fir trees, boulders, and the 1,000 ft deep edge of Rubicon Wall.
Camping in Lake Tahoe
There are some great campgrounds in Lake Tahoe, so you can enjoy nature even while you sleep.
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a San Francisco to Lake Tahoe road trip and accommodate RV/motorhome, trailer, or tent camping.
● Emerald Bay Camping: Emerald Bay State Park Eagle Point Campground ($35 per night as of Feb 2022) – Few campgrounds in the world have such a magnificent setting, situated right on a point visitors can see views of both Emerald Bay and the expanse of Lake Tahoe. Renovated in 2015.
● Lake Tahoe Camping: Meeks Bay Resort Campground (From $35 per night as of Feb 2022) – Luxurious camping with amenities, the resort is owned by the Washoe Tribe and offers camping sites close to the marina. Campsites are so popular that many are reserved more than a year in advance.
● Free Lake Tahoe Camping: Luther Pass Dispersed Camping Area (Free) – A few developed campsites suitable for RV or tent camping with pit toilets and bear boxes around a 30-minutes drive from Lake Tahoe.
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
Not up for camping on your road trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe? Here are the best Lake Tahoe accommodation options with parking.
Emerald Bay: Fireside Lodge
Just five miles from Emerald Bay and one from Pope Beach, this B&B has large yet cozy rooms, some with kitchenettes, and all with private bathrooms. The lodge also offers a tasty continental breakfast every morning.
Tahoe City: Cottage Inn at Lake Tahoe
Just a mile from the beach at Lake Tahoe, this is an adults-only B&B with its own private beach. The studio apartments have a garden or partial lake views and are decorated with wood furnishings. There’s also a delicious country breakfast served every day.
Two Road Trips from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon
It’s a long trip from San Francisco to Portland by car, but it’s well worth the trouble.
The quickest and most direct route to drive between San Francisco and Portland would be to stay on the I5 Corridor the whole way. This route is about 635 miles and takes at least 10-hours of drive time in total.
But you’re doing a road trip, so you don’t want to take the shortest route, you want to do the most adventurous, picturesque, and fun routes.
The mountain route from San Francisco to Portland
The mountain route takes the I5 inland and stops in at Napa Valley, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Bend, and Mount Hood National Park before arriving in Portland. This route is around 900-miles and takes a minimum of 16-hours of drive time in total.
The coastal route from San Francisco to Portland
The coastal route hugs the spectacular coastline between San Francisco and Portland with stops at Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg, Redwoods National Forest and State Parks, Cannon Beach, and Astoria. The coastal route is around 850-miles and takes a minimum of 18-hours of drive time in total.
You choose which road trip to Oregon from San Francisco based on your main interests, the seasons (some of the roads on the mountain route close over the winter months), and the weather predictions (the coast can get very foggy, windy, and miserable at times, especially in early summer).
If you have the time, do a big loop and road trip from San Francisco to Portland via the mountains route on the way there, and back via the coastal route (or in reverse).
Mountain Route: San Francisco to Portland Road Trip
Distance Covered: 1,003 miles, 19 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 5 – 14 days total
● Best San Francisco road trip for adventure activities, spectacular views, hiking, and hot springs
If you have your own wheels and a bit of time on your hands, doing road trips north of San Francisco by going inland is a fantastic way to explore some of the best scenic areas in the USA.
There is simply so much to see and do on this road trip, from sampling world-class wines to exploring volcanic mountains and stunning lakes and staying overnight in scenic campgrounds.
San Francisco to Oregon road trip highlights
● Taste world-famous wines
● Marvel at the volcanic landscape formations
● Drive past spectacular lakes and mountains
● Go mountain biking on a world-class trail
● Visit one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon
● Soak in hot springs
● Watch salmon spawn during the Fall
● Get immersed in the hip culture of a green city
Places to visit on the mountain route
● Napa Valley, CA
● Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
● Crater Lake National Park, OR
● Smith Rock, OR
● Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, OR
● Mount Hood National Park, OR
● Oxbow Regional Park, OR
● Portland, OR
Stops along the San Francisco to Portland Oregon road trip via the mountain route
This road trip features fewer stops than the coastal route. However, each location requires at least a day to explore properly. We have specified how long to stay and where to camp in each place below.
Premium wine tasting in Napa Valley
Distance San Francisco to Napa Valley: 59 miles, 1 hr
Suggested Stay: 1 day
California’s most famous wine country is home to over 500 wineries and countless wine experiences. But tasting wine isn’t the only reason to visit. The setting and views are also beautiful, especially driving through the valley on a California road trip from San Francisco.
Unique cellar door tastings in Napa Valley include:
● Domaine Carneros, Napa
● Mayacamas, Napa
● Stags’ Leap Winery, Napa
● Grape Stomp at Grgich Hills Estate, Rutherford
● Cave Tour & Barrel Tasting at Rutherford Hill, Rutherford
● Stony Hill Vineyard, St Helena
● Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga
● Château Montelena, Calistoga
Make your way through the entire valley if you please, finishing up Calistoga before driving to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Skip the Napa Valley if you’ve visited before and go straight to Lassen National Park which is around 4-hours driving from San Francisco.
Dip into a lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park
Distance Napa to Lassen National Park: 231 miles, 3.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
Located around 3.5 hours drive from San Francisco, this park is a must-see in any season. In the warmer months, you can enjoy endless meadows filled with wildflowers. And in the summer the skiing and snowboarding are outstanding.
The park is volcanically active, and the animal and plant life is rich and varied, so if you’re a nature lover then you’ll find a lot to enjoy! And don’t be afraid to take a dip in a lake either, so long as you can stand the smell!
The Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway does sometimes close due to snow in the winter months. Make sure you check the road log for more info.
Marvel at the views at Crater Lake National Park
Distance Lassen to Crater Lake: 207 miles, 3.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
Even if you don’t visit any other parks, you need to see this one. Crater Lake National Park is located around 444 miles or 8-hours driving from San Francisco and is home to the deepest lake in the USA.
It’s also a famously pristine natural area that has to be seen to be believed and the views of the lake are absolutely spectacular.
The Crater Lake National Park is technically open year-round, but in the winter can be closed because of the snow. Check the current conditions before your road trip.
Explore Bend and Smith Rock
Distance Crater Lake to Bend: 90 miles, 1.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 4 days
Bend is a small town that packs a punch. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise and a dog-friendly city. Located in the center of Oregon, it boasts volcanoes, rivers, and national forests.
While you’re there, go on a rafting trip on the Deschutes River, mountain biking on a world-class trail, rock climbing or hiking at Smith Rock, explore the Willamette National Forest, or visit in winter for skiing at the Mount Bachelor Ski Area.
Uncover the Painted Hills, one of Oregons national monuments
No need to travel all the way to Peru to see rainbow hills, when the high deserts of central Oregon hold an equally as impressive version called the Painted Hills. Here, you can see millions of years of history in each colorful layer of earth.
This stunning geological formation is one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon and forms just one section of the equally as fascinating, John Day Fossil Beds.
Since the John Day Fossil Beds are quite the detour from Bend (almost 2-hours driving), and you’ll have to come back towards Bend to continue north to Portland anyway, we recommend you base yourself near Bend or Smith Rock for a few nights and take the Painted Hills as a day trip.
Soak in hot springs in Mount Hood National Park
Distance Bend to Mount Hood: 113 miles, 2.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
Mount Hood is Oregon’s most prestigious landmark, and the surrounding national park can’t be missed. It offers great hiking, amazing views, pristine lakes, waterfalls, and even hot springs you can soak in. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the historic town of Government Camp.
Cool things to see between Mount Hood and Portland
Portland to Mount Hood is around a 1.5-hours drive. Be sure to stop over at Oxbow Regional Park Campground if you are doing this road trip in Fall as you’ll be able to see salmon spawning!
Another cool sight to see on the way from Mount Hood to Portland is the Multnomah Falls bridge. Best done via the scenic route from Hood River along the Columbia River Washington/Oregon State line.
Camping on the Mountain Route from San Francisco to Portland Road Trip
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a San Francisco to Central Oregon road trip and accommodate RV/motorhome, trailer, or tent camping.
● Napa Camping: Ritchey Creek Campground ($40 per night as of Feb 2022) – In the heart of Napa Valley, only a few miles from Calistoga. Visitors enjoy swimming in the park’s pool, hiking, the Native American garden, and picnicking.
● Lassen Camping: Manzanita Lake Campground ($26 per night as of Feb 2022) – One of the most popular Lassen Volcanic National Park camping destinations, all sites are within walking distance of Manzanita Lake.
● Crater Lake Camping: Mazama Campground ($21 per night as of Feb 2022) – Open only in the summer, all Mazama Campground sites have a picnic table, fire ring, and bear-resistant food locker.
● Bend Camping: Tumalo State Park Campground ($23 per night as of Feb 2022) – Resting along the spectacular Deschutes River four miles north of Bend. An ideal base camp for any outdoor activity you could dream of.
● Mount Hood Camping: Trillium Lake Campground ($23 per night as of Feb 2022) – A beautiful, popular campground not far from the quaint town of Government Camp provides spectacular views of Mt Hood set on the edge of the lake.
● Camping between Mount Hood and Portland: Oxbow Regional Park Campground ($25 per night as of Feb 2022) – Take a detour on your way into Portland to camp in the woods, float down the river in a tube, go hiking or even watch salmon spawn during the Fall.
See the best Portland camping options under the Portland Itinerary below.
Coastal Route: San Francisco to Portland
Distance Covered: 868 miles, 19 hours driving
Total Time Needed: 7 – 14 days total
● Best San Francisco road trip for summer beach getaways, beautiful coastline, and small towns
If you gravitate towards the beach, or you’re traveling when the weather is fine, taking a road trip to Oregon from San Francisco via the coastline is the perfect way to spend your time.
On this road trip, you’ll travel through ancient forests and national parks, past fascinating little seaside towns, over historic bridges, and along some of the most spectacular coastlines in the USA.
San Francisco to Oregon road trip highlights
● Go boating on Bodega Bay
● Photograph the famous Glass Beach
● Marvel at two grand Victorian mansions
● Hike the ancient, giant redwoods
● Fly around the sand in a dune buggy
● Visit Oregon’s most photographed lighthouse
● Discover mythical, mystical ocean attractions
● Uncover a ghost forest on the beach
● Watch sunset dip behind Haystack Rock
● Step inside the Wreck of the Peter Iredale
● Wander charming, artsy city streets
● Visit famously beautiful city parks
Places to visit along the Coast
● Sonoma Coast, CA
● Fort Bragg, CA
● Eureka, CA
● Redwoods State and National Park, CA
● Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, OR
● Heceta Head, OR
● Cape Perpetua and Otter Rock, OR
● Neskowin Beach, OR
● Cannon Beach, OR
● Fort Stevens State Park, OR
● Astoria, OR
● Portland, OR
Stops along the Coastal Route from Portland to San Francisco
This road trip really is about the journey. Some stops along the way can be visited in an hour or less, while others might be best experienced over a number of days. We have specified how long to stay and where to overnight in each section below.
Get active on the Sonoma Coast
Distance San Francisco to Sonoma Coast: 67 miles, 1 hr 45 mins
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
The Sonoma Coast must be on any itinerary for the best road trip from San Francisco. Located about three hours from the city, The Sonoma Coast stretches from San Pablo Bay to Gualala River and is known for its wine, regional parks, and outdoor activities from hiking to horseback riding.
Here are some cool things to do on the Sonoma Coast road trip from San Francisco:
● Hike the Kortum Trail or Bodega Head
● Go fishing or boating in Bodega Bay
● Spot wildlife at Goat Rock Beach
● Have a meal at The Tides Wharf Restaurant, made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds
● Taste the best wines from local vineyards at Sonoma Coast Vineyards on Bodega Bay
We have listed a good campsite below to overnight around Bodega Bay. It gets a little foggy and chilly in autumn and winter, so make sure you pack for the weather.
Relax on white sandy beaches in Gualala
When driving between Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg, make sure you stop to visit the white sandy beaches of Gualala on the Mendocino coast. Gualala is around 1.5 hours north of Bodega Bay, so you’ll be ready for a break anyway.
Cooks Beach usually boasts the whitest sands, but other beautiful beaches in the area include Fish Rock Beach at Anchor Bay Campground or the local’s secret Hearn Gulch Beach.
Your arrival in Gualala marks the pass over from the Sonoma Coast to Mendocino County. This stretch of the coast is extremely windy, with many hairpin turns. Bring Dramamine or another motion sickness medication if you are prone to car sickness.
Photo ops at Fort Bragg’s Glass Beach
Distance Bodega Bay to Fort Bragg: 107 miles, 2 hours 45 min
Suggested Stay: 1 day
Fort Bragg is home to an abundance of harbor seals, bird species, beautiful beaches, and scenic overlooks. And Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is a photographer’s dream!
Imagine tiny pebbles made of glass covering the whole beach, creating music as the waves roll over, pushing the smooth glass pieces back and forth in an endless cycle.
There’s a dark reason that the glass is found here, though. Over a long period of time, the glass pebbles were created when dumping garbage including glass into the waters north of town was not only legal but also popular. Now, it is actually illegal to take the glass away from the beach.
If you have some spare time on your hands, drop in for a visit to the impressive Mendocino Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg as well.
Marvel at exquisitely detailed mansions in Eureka
Distance Fort Bragg to Eureka: 133 miles, 2 hours 45 mins
Suggested Stay: 1 day
Not only is the larger town of Eureka a welcome stop after so many tiny coastal towns, but there are also two other really cool reasons to visit. And no, we aren’t talking about the two Eureka Starbucks coffee chains. We’re talking about the two impressive Victorian-era mansions found right across the road from each other!
Carson Mansion, considered the grandest Victorian home in America, is also one of the most photographed and written about Victorian houses in California. The exquisitely detailed mansion is currently a private club that requires membership to enter. But who needs to go inside when the outside is the main event anyway?
Directly across the road from Carson Mansion, Pink Lady Mansion impresses visitors with her ornate details, stained glass windows, delicate cornices, pale pink paint job, and lacey gingerbread trim.
Now known as The Pinc, with the “c” honoring cancer survivors, this mansion hides many stories and an interesting history that you can discover when dining, staying, or simply going inside for a visit.
Overnight north of Eureka right before starting your San Francisco to Redwood National Park itinerary at a cute campground in the spectacular Patrick’s Point State Park.
Get your hike on in the wondrous Redwoods Parks
Distance Eureka to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: 83.4 miles, 1.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 3 days
The US has some of the most astonishing national parks in the world and the Redwood National and State Parks come very high up on the list. The complex of one national park and three state parks is over 139,000 acres of virgin forest, hiking, and walking trails.
It is home to ancient redwoods nearly 1,000 years old and also the tallest trees on Earth.
You won’t have time to do every single hike in this gigantic area, so here are some of the best hikes in Redwoods State and National Parks:
● Trillium Falls Trail in Redwood National Park, Orick
● Fern Canyon Loop Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
● Big Tree Wayside Circle Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
● Damnation Creek Trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
● Stout Grove Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
If you travel in the summer, you can swim in one of the swimming holes on the Smith River and even camp beside the river at the beautiful Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground.
Next, you’ll be crossing state lines where you’ll continue on your San Francisco to Oregon road trip itinerary.
Slide, ride and explore the Oregon Sand Dunes
Distance Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park to North Bend: 132 miles, 2.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Oregon Coasts’ sand dunes are an ever-changing, otherworldly collision of forest, ocean, and desert. This long stretch of dunes reach around 45 miles between North Bend and Florence and are the perfect place to explore, slide down on sandboards, camp overnight, and pick up speed in a dune buggy.
The Oregon sand dunes have loads of different types of campgrounds to overnight at depending on your mode of transport. We have suggested a great campsite below that accommodates both RVs and tents, but if you prefer to stay in the actual sand dunes, try Hauser Sand Camping Access in North Bend, or Siltcoos Sand Camping Access in Westlake.
Do a tour to a sea lion cave in Florence
Just in case you haven’t had a proper sea lion fix yet, only 15-minutes outside of central Florence is America’s largest sea cave and sea lion sanctuary.
In winter, discover the loud sounds and smells of hundreds of wild sea lions catching waves into the cave.
There are educational videos, signage, and real skeletons set amongst the kitschy-colored lights in the privately-owned wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary. Skip this activity if you’ve seen enough sea lions.
Visit the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon
Perched atop Heceta Head, this 19th Century lighthouse is one of the most photographed on the coast. A half-mile trail to the lighthouse begins in the parking area and passes the Lightkeeper’s cottages on its way up to the lighthouse and viewpoint.
Park at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint car park, right near the Sea Lion Caves, and take a half-mile trail to the lighthouse passing by the Lightkeeper’s cottage on the way. You can also view the Cape Creek Bridge, a quaint concrete arch that is the perfect photo opportunity, from the car park. From Heceta Head to Cape Perpetua is only 30-minutes of driving.
Marvel at the power of the ocean in Cape Perpetua
Distance North Bend to Cape Perpetua: 69 miles, 1.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 – 2 days
Each day at high tide, the jagged headlands of Cape Perpetua on the Wild Oregon Coast put on a performance of mystical sights, all within a similar location.
Along the 3/4-mile Captain Cook Trail at Cook’s Chasm, Thor’s Well is an opening in the volcanic rock which puts on a violent spray show at high tide. Created by the waves rolling underneath which fill it from the bottom until it bubbles or bursts up out the top. Come back at low tide to peer inside and see for yourself how the show is created.
Also on the Captain Cook Trail, visit Sprouting Horn during high tide to see the “ocean geyser” explode water into the air after incoming waves create pressure in the cave below.
On the 1/2-mile Trail of Restless Waters loop, you can get up close to Devil’s Churn, a chasm created after the roof of an ocean cave collapsed. Feel and hear the force of nature as waves smash into the jagged rocks creating a thunderous roar.
Check the tides before visiting as all 3 sights are best seen within an hour before and after high tide. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, don’t get too close or turn your back on the waves, and avoid the area during storms or dangerous swells.
Overnight in Cape Perpetua for a full day of sightseeing stops while on the road tomorrow.
Visit the impressive Devil’s Punchbowl in Otter Rock
Sticking with our mythical oceans theme, Devil’s Punchbowl is a 50-minute drive from Cape Perpetua. The yellow sandstone bowl was formed by the convergence and collapse of two caves and the relentless beating of the ocean’s powerful waves.
During winter storms, water from the restless ocean slams with a thundering boom into the rock formation, surf churning, foaming, and swirling as it mixes a violent cocktail.
While there, visit the tide pools on the north side of Devil’s Punchbowl, or look for whales on their migration from the cliff’s edge.
Take the Otter Crest Loop scenic drive to stop and admire the breathtaking historic Rocky Creek Bridge arch too.
See the haunting Neskowin Ghost Forest
You’d be forgiven for thinking a ghost forest might be found inland, but this oddity can actually be seen right on Neskowin Beach at low tide!
From afar, they look like hundreds of piles of ragged, leftover manmade building materials. Get up close and you’ll be face-to-face with 2,000-year-old tree stumps, stuck in the ocean after landscape changes and the sand and sea choking the forests, preserving the stumps so they can still be seen today.
Enjoy Pacific City views from the giant sand dunes of Cape Kiwanda
Distance Cape Perpetua to Tillamook: 95 miles, 2 hours
Suggested Stay: 1 day
In the heart of little beach town Pacific City, seen from the beach is the lesser-known but actually larger Haystack Rock, plus the fun Cape Kiwanda sand dunes.
This is a great area to come to with youngsters or the young at heart since you can run all over the dunes finding many different viewpoints, discover critters in the tide pools, and even witness whales feeding right off the cape at the right time of year.
Be sure to drop into Pelican Brewery for a tasting paddle of the local brew too!
Pacific City is only an 18-minutes drive north of Neskowin Beach and is an incredibly fun and very scenic stopover on your San Francisco to Portland road trip. Overnight near Tillamook before spending the day at Cannon Beach tomorrow.
Soak up the sunset behind Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach
Distance Tillamook to Cannon Beach: 41 miles, 1 hr
Suggested Stay: 1 day
Cannon Beach is a famous tourist spot due to Haystack Rock, a 235 feet tall sea stack, which is also a seasonal haven for tufted puffins. Cannon Beach is expansive, with gentle waves and soft sand, perfect for relaxing after a lot of driving.
From Cannon Beach, it’s a nice easy 30-minute drive to the wreck at Fort Stevens and another 10-minutes to Astoria. Afterward, it’s around 2-hours driving to Portland from either Cannon Beach or Astoria.
Step inside the rusted skeleton of Wreck of the Peter Iredale
Distance Cannon Beach to Fort Stevens State Park: 23 miles, 30 mins
Suggested Stay: 1 day
The eerie, ghostlike steel frame of the shipwreck juts out of the sand and looms overhead, ever-changing with the sand and seas in Fort Stevens State Park.
The ship ran ashore in 1906 and is slowly being swallowed by time and tide.
Visit during sunset or sunrise around low tide for the best photos. We recommend overnighting in a Fort Stevens State Park or a campground on the US-26 highway between Cannon Beach and Portland.
Wander the old-timey, seaside city of Astoria
Located in Oregon’s Northwest corner, this charming city was made famous by the 80s movie, The Goonies. It also has simply beautiful views of the seaside, which probably contribute to the city’s charm and friendliness.
While you’re there, delve into the thriving local art scene, learn more about its Hollywood past at the Oregon Film Museum, and wander around the beautiful riverfront area.
Camping on the coast between San Francisco and Portland
All the campsites listed below are perfect for you to overnight on a coastal San Francisco to Portland road trip itinerary and accommodate RV/motorhome, trailer, or tent camping.
● Bodega Bay Camping: Bodega Dunes Campground ($35 per night as of Feb 2022) – Located beside Bodega Harbor, within walking distance of ocean beaches and the town of Bodega Bay. Make sure you book early as it sells out fast.
● Mendocino Coast Camping: MacKerricher State Park Campgrounds ($45 per night as of Feb 2022) – The park extends for 9 miles along the ocean north of Fort Bragg. Enjoy great beaches, tide pools and seal watching stations, bike trails, and a lake.
● Camping near Eureka: Agate Campground ($35 per night as of Feb 2022) – Located in the spectacular Patrick’s Point State Park, some campsites have views of the ocean and Agate Beach. Stay here before exploring the Redwoods Parks.
● Redwoods Camping: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Campground ($35 per night as of Feb 2022) – Camp beside the Smith River in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in well-spaced sites with exceptional facilities.
● Oregon Dunes Camping: Lakeside Eel Creek Campground ($22 per site as of Feb 2022) – Sitting among peaceful coastal shrubbery on the edge of the sandy dunes within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
● Yachats Camping: Cape Perpetua Campground ($28 per site as of Feb 2022) – Nestled between the forest and the beach in Cape Creek, each site is equipped with a picnic table and campfire ring.
● Newport Camping: Beverly Beach State Park Campground ($21 per night as of Feb 2022) – Close to Otter Rock, this creekside campground is sheltered by the forest and features a playground, RV hookups, toilets, and showers.
● Tillamook Camping: Cape Lookout State Park ($23 per night as of Feb 2022) – Located near Tillamook, between Neskowin Beach and Cannon Beach, this scenic campsite offers RV hookups, tent sites, yurts, and cabins.
● Cannon Beach Camping: Cole Mtn Ridge Campground (FREE) – Basic campsites only 17 miles from Cannon Beach in the Tillamook State Forest. Use your satellite GPS as they can be hard to find.
● Fort Stevens Camping: Fort Stevens State Park Campground ($32 per night as of Feb 2022) – Right near the Wreck of the Peter Iredale and Battery Russel, this is one of the USA’s largest public campgrounds with clean facilities, hot water, kids park, and stellar reviews.
See the best Portland camping options under the Portland Itinerary below.
Distance from Mount Hood: 69 miles, 1.5 hours
Distance from Cannon Beach: 79 miles, 1.5 hours
Suggested Stay: 2 – 5 Days
An up-and-coming, Portland is becoming known for its hip culture and an incredible range of activities and tourist sites.
Portland is the largest city in the state and one of the most popular cities in the US. It’s also one of the greenest cities in the world and is known for its innovative and eco-friendly dining scene.
Unique things to do in Portland
Portland residents like to keep things weird, so while you’re visiting make sure you do something unique like a foodie tour, hike in the largest park in the states, relax in Cathedral Park, or check out the weirdly wonderful curiosities at the Zymoglyphic Museum, created by artist Jim Stewart.
Soak up some rays in Cathedral Park
This unique park is not only special because of the gorgeous cathedral-like bridge footings of St Johns Bridge, but also because the area used to be somewhat of a junkyard!
Meander under the steel suspension bridge to spot the sun’s rays peeking through the splendid arches during golden hour, watch time go by on the banks of the Willamette River, or time your visit with one of the festivals or events that occur here.
Do a unique foodie tour in Portland
The best way to get to know a city is through its food and Portland is known for its famous food carts and donuts. Both of which you can sample on walking tours in the city.
Head to one of the city’s oldest food cart pods on the Portland Food Carts, Pods & Patios Tour, where you’ll get the chance to try treats from lots of different food carts. Or do an Underground Donut Tour to the famous Voodoo Donuts, as well as lesser-known, but no less delicious spots that locals love. Love craft beer? Portland is absolutely the place to sample the city’s most-loved breweries.
Get lost in Powell’s City of Books
This quirky Portland attraction is the world’s largest new and used bookstore. Get lost amongst the stores’ one million books on packed shelves, across 10 color-coded rooms, on 3 floors, which take up an entire city block!
Need a coffee? Head to Guilder Cafe inside the building. Need help? There are dedicated staff at the information desks on every floor ready to aid you in your search. This is a really unique thing to do in Portland.
Hike to the Witch’s Castle in the country’s largest park
Portland houses not only the highest number of parks in a city, the smallest park (Mill Ends Park, a colony for leprechauns) but also the biggest park (Forest Park) in the USA.
With 5,200 acres and 80 miles of trails to explore, Forest Park offers an opportunity to experience nature at its finest without leaving the Portland city limits.
While you’re exploring the park, make sure you drop in for a visit to the Witch’s Castle, a name dubbed by local youngsters due to the mysterious story that surrounds it. That of forbidden young love between a daughter and the family’s caretaker, ending in a murder AND a hanging. The witch in the story supposedly is the mother who likely encouraged the idea of murder into her husband’s head.
To get to the Witch’s Castle, take the Wildwood Trail from the Upper Macleay Parking lot near the Portland Audubon Society to reach the Stone House (that’s its official name) a half-mile from the road. From there you can choose to continue on several other decent hikes through the urban forest.
Challenge your imagination at Zymoglyphic Museum
This might just be the most curious museum in existence, possibly better described as the museum of really weird stuff! But what does “Zymoglyphic Museum” even mean and why have a museum about it?
Zymoglyphic is a made-up word by museum creator, Jim Steward, to describe his unusual artistic creations. These creations feature natural or artificial objects arranged in dioramas (usually in fish tanks) creating surreal scenescapes so bizarrely realistic it is often difficult to tell where the hand of nature stops and that of the artist begins.
Camping near Portland
There are lots of campsites along the edge of Tillamook state forest, not far off the US-26 State Highway (Sunset Highway) which is the highway you would be taking to visit Cannon Beach and Astoria from Portland.
If you’re visiting from Mount Hood, why not head upstream to the Sandy River to experience the salmon spawning season!
● Camping Between Portland and Cannon Beach: L.L. Stub Stewart State Park Campground ($36 per night as of Feb 2022) – Whatever your preference, picturesque Stub Stewart has a campsite that fits your style with large tidy lots and clean bathrooms.
● Free Portland Camping: Clatsop State Forest (FREE Dispersed Camping) – Many campsites for RV or tents on a well-maintained gravel road. Shady and open sky sites. 2 weeks stay limit.
● Best Camping near Portland: Oxbow Regional Park Campground ($25 per night as of Feb 2022) – Camp in the woods and float down the river in a tube, go hiking or even watch salmon spawn during the Fall all from this awesome campsite just outside of Portland.
Where to stay in Central Portland
Rest your weary head in one of these comfortable hotels in Portland and have a break from being on the road. All the following Central Portland accommodation options have parking.
Royal Sonesta Portland Downtown
When you visit a famously unique city, you want an equally unique hotel to stay in. With tasteful yet bright vintage touches and playful décor at every turn, Royal Sonesta Portland offers the quintessential Portland experience with clean spacious rooms and super close to all the fun! Garaged on-site parking costs $25 per night.
Located in the center of Portland, this hotel is perfect if you want to explore the city. It has a fitness center and even allows pets. It’s also close to dining and shopping areas as well as to highlights like the Japanese Gardens. On-site parking costs $45 per day.
Driving in the USA: What You Need to Know
Do you need an international driver’s license to do a road trip in the USA?
You don’t need to have an international driver’s license to do a San Francisco road trip. However, you will need an open and valid license from your home country to drive and hire a car. You will also have to show your passport when you pick up a rental car, so don’t leave it in the hotel!
If your driver’s license isn’t in English, then you may need to get an International Driving Permit before you can drive in the US.
Do you need special insurance when hiring a campervan in the USA?
You won’t need special insurance when hiring a campervan in the US. However, you should make sure that you have insurance as part of your hire package, just in case something happens. You don’t want to be caught with a huge bill if something goes wrong during your trip!
What to expect when driving in the USA
Depending on where you’re coming from, you might find that the road rules are quite different in the US. Here’s what to expect during your road trip:
● Drive on the right-hand side of the road
● You must wear a seatbelt at all times
● Using a cell phone when driving is strictly prohibited
● You must carry your driver’s license, registration documents, and insurance documents at all times when driving
● The rules for drinking and driving vary by state, so it’s best to avoid drinking and driving completely
Rules for camping in the USA
Camping during a road trip can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and nature and to save yourself a little money. But when you’re camping during your San Francisco road trip, you’ll need to obey the local laws. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing some pretty substantial fines.
Here are some good websites that you can use to find free, RV, or tent campsites on your road trips from San Francisco:
As mentioned above, if you rent a campervan with Travellers Autobarn, you’ll have access to a Free Campground App as well as a 10% discount on campgrounds, unlimited mileage, and roadside assistance.
Freedom camping/dispersed camping rules
When you road trip in a campervan you can travel at your own pace and wherever you want. You can even save yourself a lot of money by trying freedom camping. This means that you camp outside of designated parking spots or in other places that are free of charge. If you’re on a budget, this is the best way to enjoy a road trip from San Francisco.
The most popular places to camp are usually lands that belong to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), where you can camp for 21 days. Camping in national forests is also a good option, though you can only stay there for 14 days.
Always make sure you do your research ahead of time to check the local laws and to ensure that you’re outside of designated campgrounds.
Here are some general free dispersed camping rules:
● Never camp on private land
● Obey all signage, so if it says not to camp then don’t
● Don’t leave any wastes or rubbish behind when you leave
● Look out for the time limits at free camping sites
● Don’t camp on the roadside, as there may not be room for cars to get around you
● Make sure you have plenty of water with you as free camping sites may not have water facilities
● Never leave food around as it may attract local wildlife
● Many free campsites have donation boxes, so donate when you can
The Best Time of Year for San Francisco Road Trips
San Francisco’s weather is actually fairly mild and pleasant year-round. However, it can get very crowded in the summer, which may decrease your enjoyment of your road trip. Traveling in winter, autumn or spring is a good compromise if you want to avoid the crowds.
In spring, the weather is mild, and it rarely rains while autumn offers lovely warm weather. In winter you can enjoy the cheapest prices on attractions and hotels, so long as they are still open.
What to Pack for a Multi-day Road Trip
The best San Francisco drives are the ones that are ready for anything to happen. A big part of that is the gear you bring. You don’t want to be on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere and discover that you’ve forgotten something vital.
As someone who’s been on numerous road trips, here’s what I never leave home without:
● Driver’s license, passport, and insurance
● Car manual, just in case
● A spare tire and jack
● A first aid kit for the car
● An emergency roadside kit
● USB car chargers
● Power inverter in the car
● Hands-free phone mount
● A car GPS system
● A detailed paper map of the Pacific Northwest for when your phone service stops working
● Dramamine, or other motion sickness medication
● A portable gas stove kit with cookware so you don’t have to eat out all the time
● A picnic backpack with plastic plates and utensils
● Reusable coffee mug
● Collapsible water bottle
● Garbage bags
● Toilet paper
● Hand sanitizer
● Bug spray
● Paper money and coins
● Body wipes
If you’re planning to travel in really isolated areas, make sure you also have other essentials to keep your car running like a jug of coolant or water, a quart of oil, and a container of gas.
Enjoy Your Roadtrips from San Francisco
We hope you’ve found this information on taking road trips around California and Oregon useful. Feel free to ask us any questions using the comments form below. And make sure you save this post for future reference!
Other road trip ideas from San Francisco
What are your road trip ideas from San Francisco?