When I first moved to Salt Lake City, I was nervous for multiple reasons: new city, new job, first time truly living on my own, and to top it off, I didn’t know anyone. This was a big risk, but I knew it was something I needed to do for myself and my career. Turns out, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love where I work and what I do, and as a bonus I’ve met some great friends. One day I went on a hike with a nurse I work with (who you’ll see in a lot of my pictures), and through chatting we figured out that we had very similar travel goals- one in particular, to travel to all the National Parks in the United States. This Oregon and Northern California trip was the first trip we planned together, and turns out we travel really well together (thank goodness, haha). Our favorite thing to do is trip plan on trips, so we basically always have an adventure planned 😉
This trip was initially planned with the intention of going to Crater Lake and the Redwoods, but with a little further research, we added in Lassen Volcanic National Park, which is also located in Northern California. We scored cheap flights from Salt Lake to Medford, OR for around $115. Believe it or not, this is how we plan the majority of our trips- we follow a few Instagram accounts that post about cheap flights from Salt Lake City to around the country (and world), and then check to see what national parks are by these cities. Grouping parks together is an added bonus if you can swing it!
Crater Lake is truly one of the most beautiful lakes on this planet. Its stunning blue color is mesmerizing. It reaches a depth of 1,949 ft, which makes it the deepest lake in the United States. The airport in Medford, Oregon was just over an hour drive from the park, so we made it a day trip. Unfortunately, when we planned our trip, we didn’t realize that so much of the park would still be closed mid-June. Many of the park’s roads, trails, and facilities are closed until mid-late July depending on snowfall, so we were a few weeks early. With our time, we drove as far as we could along the scenic route and pulled off at the various overlooks to get different perspectives of the lake. After exploring the park, we made our way back to Medford, stopping at a few local parks along the way and eventually eating dinner at a local brewery.
Although Crater Lake National Park is open 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year, if you want to take advantage of everything the park has to offer, I recommend going in mid-July through August! Here are a few things you can do during peak season:
- Park Ranger programs
- Driving all the way around the lake (there are 30 different pull-off spots for photo opportunities)
- Swimming (although it’s most likely REALLY cold!)
- Biking along the paved roads
- Boat tour
The next day we drove south from Medford to the Redwoods along the Pacific Coast Highway (US Hwy 101). If driving along this highway isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. So beautiful and highly recommended!!
The Redwoods National and State Parks are known for housing some of the tallest trees in the world. However, in the park there are also prairies, rivers, and miles of beautiful coastline. Once we were in the Redwoods, we did a few hikes- Big Tree and Lady Bird, as well as a few other shorter nature trails, and otherwise just drove in awe of these giant trees.
After exiting the park, we continued along our scenic route to Arcata, California, which was our final destination of the day. We grabbed an early dinner and asked our waitress where we could find the best beaches. She gave us a few to choose from, Moonstone Beach being one of them, so we ventured that way after dinner. Moonstone beach was beautiful, but it was a bit crowded for our liking. We decided to pull up our map and drive along a more secluded road in search of more beaches. Well, after driving along a more hidden and winding road, and hiking down a steep trail (these should’ve all been signs), we found ourselves the most beautiful, secluded beach that just happened to also be an undeclared nudist beach. As you can imagine, this was quite the surprise… but it has made for such a funny memory and great story.
The beautiful, infamous beach we stumbled upon.
The next day we ventured towards Lassen Volcanic National Park. Even though Lassen Volcanic is one of the oldest parks in the U.S., it isn’t one of California’s more well-known parks. This park was established in 1916, and it is one of the only places in the world where you can see all four types of volcanoes (plug dome, cinder cone, composite, and shield) in one place. At Lassen Volcanic you can also find hydrothermal areas, meadows of wildflowers, and crystal-clear mountain lakes.
This is where we did the majority of our hiking. As a fun incentive, after you complete three different hikes in the park, a Park Ranger will reward you with a bandana at the visitor’s center. We hiked King’s Creek, the Sulphur Works area, Lake Manzanita, and then explored Lake Helen. Unfortunately, one of the main areas we wanted to hike was closed– Bumpass Hell was closed for a multi-year trail reconstruction project. I guess we’ll just have to come back 😉
After our day at Lassen Volcanic, we drove to Redding, California and found the BEST pizza buffet ever. Market Street Pizza is the place to go– $7.99 for gourmet pizza buffet! Since this trip, it has been our goal to find the best pizza buffet’s in all the towns we stay… spoiler alert: so far, none have compared to Market Street Pizza!
The vibe of southern Oregon/northern California is unmatched. Even though we drove almost 1,000 miles in a long weekend trip, I felt relaxed the whole time. Plus, the beauty is truly remarkable- seriously, driving the Pacific Coast Highway needs to be on your bucket list!