Welcome to part 2 of my Summer Road Trip series – this post will focus on the first half of California including the Redwood National Forest, Napa and Yosemite.
NATIONAL REDWOOD FOREST
After leaving the Oregon Coast, our next stop was the National Redwood Forest in California. We left Gold Beach bright and squirrely and arrived in the park a little over an hour later. It was a foggy morning which made for a really cool drive with the huge trees lining the highway.
What we did
JAMES IRVINE TRAIL
This hike was perfect for us as it allowed us to hike through the towering Redwoods and see Fern Canyon, which was a filming location for Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.
The size of the trees were truly mind blowing – the pictures barely do them justice. The trees can reach heights of up to 350 feet and can live up to 2,000 years.
This was a 4.5 mile/7.2 km hike one way that lead us Fern Canyon; we opted for the round trip so it ended up being a 9 mile/14.4 km hike. It was described as an easy hike but I’d say it’s better slated as borderline moderate. There’s a lot of tree roots to hike over and more elevation that we expected. Regardless we really enjoyed this hike!
A blatant tourist trap but when were we ever going to get the chance to drive through a tree again?
Where we stayed
Eureka is a city located about 45 minutes from the Redwood Forest; we were looking for a place to lay our heads for the night and this hotel fit the bill. It’s brand new hotel and everything was bright and clean. Holiday Inn Expresses are our go-to hotels if we are in need of a one night stay as they’re reasonable priced, consistent and clean. Plus their complimentary breakfasts are actually decent and very convenient.
When I was researching Eureka online there were a lot of comments that it’s not always the safest place. I usually like to make up my own mind about that type of thing and on our way to “dinner” we came across a man who was shooting up behind the hotel parking lot. He was gone by the time we got back but that was the extent of the sketchyness we experienced, however we were there for less than 24 hours.
Speaking of dinner, there are little to no restaurants open on Sundays in Eureka (beyond odd for us city folk) but there was a Costco a few blocks from our hotel so we went and picked up a pizza from their food court and brought it back to our room. That was our cheapest meal of the trip and it actually wasn’t half bad!
Just being in the presence of the redwood trees was definitely the highlight; if you want to feel really small and gain a new appreciation for nature, it’s a good place to visit.
The drive from Eureka to Napa took us about 7 hours – we took the scenic route along the coast which was nice and very diverse – we drove alongside the ocean, and amongst some very windy, almost nausea-inducing roads that snaked through forests and then vineyards. While the scenic route was nice I think it could probably be skipped in lieu of more time to spend a few more hours in Napa.
What we did
This was a small winery located in an industrial area of downtown Napa; it was a cool little place with a lovely patio that is surrounded by their gardens where they grow and use their own veggies and fruit. We had a wine flight tasting and cheese plate here and it was great to experience a small winery in a unique environment.
As our time in Napa was limited to one full day, we figured a guided tour was our best and most economical bet. The wineries are spread out amongst a huge area so it’s not possible to walk to them and driving yourself defeats the purpose of going. The trolley seemed like a unique way to experience a few wineries but unfortunately on the day that we were booked the trolley required “maintenance”. I actually think it had more to do with the fact that there was only one other couple booked on the tour with us but it worked out okay as we were picked up in a comfortable bus. Our driver was
a little a lot odd which kind of made for some awkward moments throughout the day but thankfully the other couple we were touring with were friendly (and normal) which helped a lot. As part of the tour we visited the following wineries;
This is probably viewed as one of the biggest tourist traps in Napa but we were tourists and I don’t regret it one bit! We had a guided tour and a tasting in the basement tasting rooms. The castle itself is insanely beautiful and magical and we picked up a few wines from her to take home with us!
This was our stop for a light lunch and tasting session. Unfortunately we learned nothing about the winery which was a little odd and disappointing; we sat down to eat meh food and were served wine in intervals. It seemed a little rushed and it felt like a waste of a winery stop if I’m being honest.
If you’ve ever drank wine you’re likely familiar with Berringer, it can usually be found at any liquor store. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this winery but it was pretty neat – unfortunately we didn’t have time to do a tour so we just did a few tastings. They carry a lot of wines that are exclusive to the winery itself and aren’t available in-store.
Where we stayed
We were so pleased with this hotel! It was beautiful and had a perfect location; we were a 10 minute walk to downtown Napa and a 5 minute walk to the Oxbow Public Market.
We were upgraded to a suite that had a separate bedroom, a large bathroom, living room, dining room, and kitchenette.
Where we Ate
Napa has a lot of great restaurants so it can be difficult to decide where to go; this one had some good reviews online so we gave it a try. We shared a whole BBQ Beer Can Chicken with a side of corn on the cob; it was good but I’ve had better BBQ elsewhere.
After a disappointing breakfast at the Oxbow Market, I stopped in this bakery for a cookie prior to our wine tour. I left with a lemon bar and O.M.G, I have NEVER had a lemon bar this good in my life and I’m not sure I ever will again. I can’t even describe it, except to say if you are ever in close proximity to one, get in there and get one. Apologies for the lack of a picture but I totally forgot to snap one before I devoured it.
Also, Castello Di Amorosa had a small area with farm animals and one of them was a goat. #yesssssss
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Following our two night stay in Napa, we drove 4.5 hours to Yosemite National Park.
Where we stayed
There are only 2 hotels that are right within Yosemite and this is one of them; the rooms were pretty basic and rustic although they were functional. My complaint was the lack of air conditioning or at the very least, a window that opens. When were were there the temperature was in the low 30’s (celcius) and it made it pretty much impossible to sleep. They had a double set of doors that opened up onto a small patio but there was no screen and I wasn’t chancing leaving those open in the middle of night.
One important thing to note is that the food here is really expensive and not great. We were really glad we had stopped at a grocery store before leaving Napa and had essentials for breakfast (fruit, granola bars, etc.) and snacks to keep us going throughout the day so we only had to eat in the Village for dinner.
What we did
The views from up here were absolutely amazing and terrifying – it felt like you were standing on top of the world. I couldn’t even get close to the edge without my knees feeling shaky. There was one guy who was literally sitting on the edge of the rock in the picture above with his legs dangling over the edge – I had to look away.
This was a tour of the Valley Floor via an open air trailer pulled by a semi-truck. A Forest Ranger provides commentary as you drive through the mountains, it was very informative and interesting to learn some of the history of the area.
We rented bikes and rode around the Village and beyond for about an hour. The rentals were not cheap $12/hour per bike) but it was a nice way to explore the area, particularly on a hot day.
There were so many amazing sites in Yosemite it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to I’d have to go with Tunnel View; this is a lookout point that showcased views of the some of the most popular sites including Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and Half Dome. If you only have time for one thing to do in Yosemite, this would be it. The views were spectacular.
My favourite spot on this leg of the trip was Napa, followed closely by the Redwood Forest. I would love to go back to Napa and do more wine tours and tastings.
Yosemite was really cool and I’m glad we visited but I probably wouldn’t go back there for a while. The ideal time to visit is in the Spring when the snow melt is taking place; there are many spectacular waterfalls to be seen but at the end of Summer not of them were “operating”, for lack of a better word.
Next up on Big Sur, Monterey, Paso Robles and Huntington Beach.
Thanks for reading!