This action-packed road trip from San Francisco has it all. The adventure starts with a visit to Lassen National Park before taking you across the Oregon border for one of the most classic multi-day whitewater rafting trips in the West. After ditching the car for a few days, you’ll return to the road to explore California’s iconic Highway 1 back to San Francisco.
With nearly 1,000 miles to cover, you’ll definitely want to carve out a week or more to escape the city and enjoy this route. Below you’ll find a 10-day itinerary and ideas for how to make the most of your time on the road.
Explore the Best of Northern California & Southern Oregon on This Epic San Francisco Road Trip
Day 1 – 2: Lassen Volcanic National Park
From San Francisco, it’s an approximately 5-hour drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park, an underrated gem of the National Park System that features interesting hydrothermal areas, crystalline lakes, jagged peaks, and more than 150 miles of hiking trails in California’s Cascade Range.
For a lunch break in route, head to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s world headquarters in Chico. If it’s too early for a brewery tour, stop by their Taproom for a delicious burger or woodfired pizza to fuel up for a hike when you get to the park.
Arriving from Lassen’s Southwest Entrance along CA-89, you’ll be set-up well to experience Bumpass Hell. The 3-mile round-trip hike not only offers spectacular views of Mount Lassen but also takes you along elevated boardwalks as you wander through colorful geothermal pools, steaming fumaroles and boiling mudpots in the park’s largest hydrothermal area.
There are several first-come, first-serve campgrounds, but if you want to ensure a place to stay overnight in this remote park, make a reservation well in advance at Drakesbad Guest Ranch (the only lodge in the park) or at one of the Lassen’s eight campgrounds like Summit Lake, which is well-situated in the middle of the park. From here, you can set out for another day of exploring.
If the conditions are right (snow and wind can be a challenge), don’t miss the chance to summit 10,457-foot Lassen Peak, or opt for the hike to Mill Creek Falls, a paddle session and picnic at Manzanita Lake, or head to the lesser-visited Werner Valley for a trek to Devils Kitchen.
Day 3: Explore Ashland + Wild & Scenic Rogue River
Plan to leave Lassen early, and continue on CA-89, the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, toward Mt. Shasta. Here, take I-5 north to Ashland just past the Oregon border.
Ashland, which is best known for its world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is also a bustling outdoor adventure hub. Before you hit the trail, grab a bite at the popular Morning Glory Cafe. Then head over to Lithia Park in the heart of town to stretch your legs. If you have some flexibility to extend your trip, consider spending the night in Ashland to better enjoy its vibrant downtown scene and extensive trail system in the adjacent Siskiyou National Forest. There are 53 miles of trails in the Ashland area, including a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, prime for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.
Leaving Ashland, continue on the road for another hour to the Galice Resort, nestled along the Wild & Scenic Rogue River. At the Galice Resort you can unwind along the banks of the river, cast a line or catch some live tunes and burgers on their expansive riverside deck. Spend the night at this rustic lodge and you’ll be in prime position for a Rogue River rafting trip in the morning.
Day 4 – 7: Rogue River Rafting Trip
Spend the next four days on river time, soaking in idyllic forest scenery, sunshine and splashy, fun whitewater. A multi-day Rogue River rafting trip offers beautiful river camps, adventurous side hikes, inflatable kayaking, waterfalls, warm water for swimming, and abundant wildlife for first-timers and experienced paddlers alike. After several days in this pristine wilderness (3- and 5-day trip options are also available depending how much time you have), you’ll be recharged and ready to hit the road again.
Arrange to have your car shuttled from the Galice Resort to the Foster Bar take-out so after the rafting trip you can drive to Crescent City, CA and be well-positioned to explore California’s majestic Redwood Coast. After a long day, grab a room and a shower near the city’s Harbor District and dive into a cup of clam chowder at the Chart Room Restaurant while watching the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.
Day 8 – 10: Crescent City, Redwood National & State Parks + Mendocino
From Crescent City, California’s Highway 1 (CA-1/US-101) winds nearly 400 miles back to San Francisco. The sometimes thrilling, always magnificent drive is teeming with majestic groves of coastal redwoods, mesmerizing ocean vistas, and quaint oceanside towns. Be sure to save some time for the last leg of this journey so you can slow down and experience some of the highlights. Here are few ideas for what to do along Highway 1:
- Hike below 300-foot-tall redwoods on the Boy Scout Tree Trail and visit Fern Falls in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
- Search for sand dollars at Crescent Beach in Del Norte Redwoods State Park
- Walk through 50-foot fern-covered walls on the Fern Canyon Loop Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
- Hunt for agates and watch for wildlife on serene Agate Beach in Patrick’s Point State Park near Trinidad
- Stroll along the dramatic Mendocino Headlands Trail in the idyllic coastal town of Mendocino
- Nosh on fresh oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. on Tomales Bay
For more road trip inspiration, check out our library of itineraries from some of the West’s biggest travel hubs.
Please remember to travel responsibly & always Leave No Trace in any area you’re visiting.
Photos: Golden Gate Bridge – Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash; Bumpass Hell Trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park – Priya Karkare/Unsplash; Trail running in Ashland – Momentum River Expeditions; Rogue River rafting in southern Oregon – Adam Edwards; Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park – by Nate Wyeth/Visit Del Norte County